David Henderson’s post on sayings from economist Dwight Lee is worth a read. This one is from the comments of that post:
You can tell for whose benefit an institution is run by looking at who gets the closest parking spaces. At universities the students get the most distant spaces, administrators and faculty the closest. At Wal-Mart, they ask the employees to park away from the entrance.
Update: Don Boudreaux also posted this at Cafe Hayek. In the comments of his post, someone points out that professors and teachers also get the good parking spots at his children’s private university and high school, implying that private doesn’t necessarily make the institution more likely to give better parking to the students.
I think it’s important to realize that the private/public distinction is not all that helpful in determining whose benefit the institution is run. Certainly, there are plenty of private institutions run for the benefit of their bureaucrats.
I think an interesting question is how and why such private institutions can get away with that?
One answer for universities may be that they aren’t really run for the benefit of the students, but rather for their parents, who don’t visit as often.
Certainly, all institutions have to try to please multiple groups of stakeholders. But, universities do seem a lot more focused on administrators and faculty than other groups. Tenure is another example.