This autumn, I started to consume increasingly more and more sweets, something that soon escalated into a full-blown sugar addiction. Generally, I allow myself significantly more treats than I did before my time in Lund, in spite of indebting myself. Through all these treats, I spend money that I have not earned, but rather loaned. Basically, I consume my chocolate and candy on credit.
Giving some thought to this, I find it ironic that in a time when a sugar-tax is being frequently discussed in Swedish politics, my candy and entertainment consumption is being financed through taxpayers’ hard-earned money. In fact, a very significant portion of Lund’s economy relies on the student consumption made possible by our beloved CSN (National Board of Student Aid). Student consumption finances jobs and revenue that create new tax revenue for the state and eventually more loaned consumption. All in a strange cycle of government-fuelled consumption.
Though, the cost of a degree is steadily rising in Sweden, one can still argue that students should be able to make it on less than the amount paid by CSN today. One might even say that the government is encouraging consumerism in student cities, artificially expanding their economies.
What are the gains and losses?
On one hand, I believe it is a good thing to help student cities such as Lund to create job opportunities and to help grow their economies. On the other hand, this is questionable both ethically and from an environmental perspective, since most of this consumption can be considered excessive and constitutes yet another strain on the planet. Rampant consumerism is definitely one of the first things that need to disappear in order to slow down global warming. It is more important now than ever to think about the way our lifestyle affects the planet and the generous amount, paid by CSN, will probably not help us change our habits in the right direction.
Besides the environmental aspect, the tax revenue spent on maybe 1500 kr extra CSN per student could surely be spent on something else, for instance teacher salaries. Alternatively, this amount could be kept in the taxpayers’ pockets and allow them to use it in whatever way they see fit.
Or perhaps many of us students would simply not make it through our degrees without allowing us these frequent treats.
There are certainly many implications of generous student loans, and how they affect attitudes and habits, that are worth thinking about. Though, regardless of whether the benefits can justify drawbacks, I still have to take my journey back to the state where I can write a decent text without a Snickers bar in my hand.