Education: Oversupplied Everywhere?

Contrarian libertarian economist (and Reason contributor) Bryan Caplan says that economic logic tells us education is oversupplied pretty much everywhere, the Third World as well as the wealthy West. His reasoning:

Education's a good like any other.  If people refuse to spend their own money for more education, then it's presumably just not worth it, right?  This is especially clear because governments habitually subsidize education.  Libertarians should believe that there's an oversupply of education for the same reason they believe there's an oversupply of sport stadiums: The status quo is desperately dependent on government funding.  

Note further: This analysis holds in the Third World as well as the First.  The fact that Nigerians and Bolivians don't spend more of their hard-earned money on education is a solid free-market reason to conclude that additional education would be a waste of their money.

Most people will naturally treat these conclusions as yet another reductio ad absurdum of libertarianism.  We can argue about whether the First World is overeducated; but how can libertarians deny that lack of education condemns the Third World to poverty?....If subsidizing domestic automobiles, semi-conductors, and movies doesn't make poor countries rich, why would subsidizing domestic education be any more effective?  Maybe people in primitive agricultural societies get little education because it's a costly investment that fails to noticeably raise agricultural productivity.

Of course, if Third World countries improved their policies and opened up to the outside world, workers might suddenly notice a higher return to education and crack open the books.

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  • hmm||

    Damn those evil uncaring libertarians try to kill poor stupid dirt farmers.

  • ||

    You know who else was for universal public education?

  • ||

    The Jews?

  • John Tagliaferro||

    One area they agreed with Hitler. Blondes is the other.

  • ben||

    douche much?

  • jtuf||

    Actually, universal public education was partly a backlash against Catholic and Jewish immigrants who were accused of not "Americanizing" themselves.

  • Tobias Funke||

    The Bilderbergers?

  • ||

    Isn't that like saying there's an oversupply of water and trash removal because governments subsidize them? I think it is more a matter of crowding-out, government subsidies undercut private investment and in some cases out right monopolize the industry. Given all of the distortion, I don't think we can say if there is an oversupply or an undersupply.

  • ||

    Yeah, Andrew's closer to correct anyway.

    It comes down to the amount of the subsidy that is wasted in bureaucracies, overpaying subsidized employees and creating absurd pension programs that is the problem.

    If the share of local, state and federal taxes that go to "education" were removed and people were able to pay for their kids educations..and choose the school their kids went to, then competition would create better teachers, schools and students.

    The poor return in investment in education stems from teachers unions playing their "for the childruns" card when they couldn't really give a fuck about the children.

  • Corduroy||

    what about higher ed? I would argue there's a college bubble that is ripe for bursting.

  • ||

    The college bubble needs to burst. I'm seriously afraid that the student loan takeover by Obama will only put it off and make it much worse...just like housing.

    Adjusted for inflation, it's still about twice as expensive to go to a state university as it was 20 years ago. Private schools are increasing rates even more dramatically than that.

    I believe the big problem is that everyone feels like they are entitled to a college degree. Look at some of the majors available now. You can actually get a degree in University Studies. I mean, isn't that what all college classes are? WTF? More of this "you're OK, I'm OK progressive bullshit.

    This is the most appropriate metaphor I can think of:

    Danny Noonan: "I planned to go to law school after I graduated, but it looks like my parents won't have enough money."

    Judge Elihu Smails: "Well, the world needs ditch diggers, too."

  • mad libertarian guy||

    The problem is not inherently too many college grads floating around, but that there are too many students who would likely serve themselves better by NOT going to college either because they don't belong in college,* or what they plan on doing doesn't require college. College is great for personal growth, but generally terrible as adequate job training,** especially the liberal arts (believe me, an MA in English lit qualifies me for absolutely nothing outside of a low level freshman composition gig with low pay).

    *As a freshman comp teacher at a major state university, I can assure you that many of my students didn't have the intellectual muscle for college, and that the vast majority of those who did weren't adequately prepared for it.

    **As a defense for the academy, their mission is not to train people for jobs. That was never its intention, outside of training religious scholars. It cannot help the fact that jobs which don't require a college degree in order to adequately do the job, require one in order to be hired.

  • ||

    The earnings gap between college grads and non college grads has also been growing. This makes college more expensive because teaching college education is intensive in college educated workers. It also means that more people want to go.

  • jtuf||

    Yeah. The average university is much more onanistic than my adult website. My friend called academia a giant intellectual circle jerk.

  • Paul||

    This.

  • ||

    Andrew -- I don't know about you, but where I live, we have to PAY for our water and trash removal. Those activities are not subsidized. When my community needed to build a new water cleaning facility, our water rates went up.

  • d||

    Absolutely. If water is free, it is overused. I know people who limit irrigation and the like because their wells don't produce enough water. They save it for drinking and the like.

    And garbage removal? If you had to handle your garbage on your property, don't you think you would produce far less? How many of you compost or don't because garbage removal is free or very cheap?

  • ||

    Wow, I never thought about it like that. Makes sense dude.

    www.real-anonymity.es.tc

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    ...but how can libertarians deny that lack of education condemns the Third World to poverty?

    I think it's but one of many, many contributors.

    What does the fact that some parents in the U.S. are willing to toss aside public education, for which they are already paying, in order to purchase private schooling tell us? Does that mean that there's actually a dearth of quality education? That public education requires subsidization to survive because it isn't very good, not because there's an overabundance?

  • hee||

    Yes, pretty much. So at the least, we need vouchers. Also, make the last two years of high school either college prep or explicitly vocational. And optional, to weed out some of the kids who diminish the quality of education for others.

  • Paul||

    I think you're always going to be faced with the argument that education for the sake of education produces positive, yet intangible results.

    Admittedly, it's a bit like defending acupuncture. But it seems reasonable that a society which is given educational basics such as math, science, critical thinking, reading etc., is going to be better equipped to improve their country than a completely illiterate society.

    Illiterate societies are vulnerable to wiley dictators and the like. Often why powerful dictators in third world nations are skeptical of education. They don't want to unwittingly give rise to an opposition movement with the tools to communicate their opposition.

    It can't possibly be coincidence that the Wahhabi regimes (for example)a take a dim view on women going to school.

  • ||

    Illiterate societies are vulnerable to wiley dictators and the like.

    Germany was one of the best educated, most literate countries in the world in 1933.

  • ||

    Also, years before focusing on their free(sic) health care, the commentariat inundated us with praise for Cuba's high literacy rate.

  • Paul||

    I'm not trying to suggest that with education, that dictatorships are impossible. But if you take a look at countries en masse, you pretty quickly find out that the most educated countries tend to veer towards democracy, and the least educated ones tend to lean totalitarian.

    I'm not trying to suggest that education in and of itself is a panacea, or even paying off where it's being forced down peoples throats. But I'm not sold that there's an 'overabundance' of it in the world.

  • ||

    Correlation causation is not.

  • tafurs delight||

    but in '33 it had yet to be sooo discredited

  • ListenEllipse||

    you're forgetting the opportunity costs. education for the sake of education causes students to waste years of their lives, human capital is squandered on teachers, and resources are used up building schools and such.

  • Paul||

    you're forgetting the opportunity costs. education for the sake of education causes students to waste years of their lives, human capital is squandered

    But this argument begs the question.

    To accept that students are "wasting years of their lives", we first have to assume that the education has no value.

    I don't accept the premise that education for the sake of education has no value.

  • ||

    That's not the premise. The premise is that people spend their own money on things that are valuable to them. You value education for it's own sake, therefore you would probably spend your money on it.

  • Paul||

    No, that's the premise of the blogpost, not the premise of ListenEllipse's argument. I don't completely value education for its own sake, I merely say that there is some merit for it-- most likely in intangibles.

  • robc||

    What intangibles? Of course, as soon as you answer, Im going to call them tangible. Or at the very least, measurable.

    In other words, the intangible argument is bullshit.

  • ||

    And Wahabbis would be skeptical of educating men too if your argument held water. Their opposition to womens' education has more to do with their rigid adherence to the Koranic doctrine (also found in other Semitic sacred texts, such as the Old and New Testaments) that women are inferior beings whose existences have no meaning beyond cleaning and producing children.

  • ||

    In the New Testament?

    Source?

  • ||

    ! Cor 11:2-7

    I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you.
    But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.
    Any man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head,
    but any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled dishonors her head--it is the same as if her head were shaven.
    For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her wear a veil.
    For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man.
    (For man was not made from woman, but woman from man.
    Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.)

    1 Tm 2:11-15

    Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness.
    I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent.
    For Adam was formed first, then Eve;
    and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.
    Yet woman will be saved through bearing children, if she continues in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.

    along with many others.

  • robc||

    I see nothing in those verses about cleaning.

    Also nothing that says women are inferior beings, just that they are different.

  • MNG||

    Yeah robc, saying men are the head of women and men were made first, women second and that women were the transgressors, but can be forgiven if they stay modest and have kids, no implication of inferiority there!

  • KPres||

    The attitude Paul is probably had some merit at the time he was writing. For all intents and purposes, men WERE superior, because they are physically superior. Obviously that doesn't apply today.

    The problem is that inferiority of women became an established ideal, disconnected from the reason it became established in the first place.

    Kinda like the ideal that "more education is always better" has recently become disconnected from the consequences that established it as an ideal in the first place.

    Yes, scarcity and proper allocation applies to education as well, and the market is signalling that we are devoting too many resources to it. That's why the price is going up. The invisible hand is trying to discourage it's overconsumption.

    The liberal response is typical: Nationalize it in order to circumvent the invisible hand. Keep the overconsumption going! Education is SACRED!

  • hee||

    "For all intents and purposes." Really? Please examine this idea more closely. It is an overly facile explanation for values that have far more complex origins. I believe those origins were material, but greater physical strength = superiority in all things = the development of misogyny is clearly a huge oversimplification.

  • Rrabbit||

    Even in Paul's time, women were "superior" at giving birth.

  • robc||

    I see nothing in those verses about cleaning.

    Also nothing that says women are inferior beings, just that they are different.

  • Paul||

    that women are inferior beings whose existences have no meaning beyond cleaning and producing children.

    And if we educate them, they might get to thinkin' fancy ideas that maybe they they have other opportunities than serving their husbands.

    Look, like I say above, it's not an absolute. I'm not trying to make an argument for subsidized education, I'm just skeptical of the theory that because education is subsidized, it means there is ipso facto, an overabundance.

    Why it's subsidized is because there are intangible benefits to education.

    I think a more straight-forward look at the market would prove that. If there was an overabundance of education, then a private school would be dirt cheap.

    Andrew G's point above hits this point home. It's not about overabundance, it's about government simply crowding out the private market because it wields the zillion pound hammer.

  • mr simple||

    You forgot wrapping gifts and baking cakes. Those are also valued services women provide.

  • KPres||

    "But it seems reasonable that a society which is given educational basics such as math, science, critical thinking, reading etc., is going to be better equipped to improve their country than a completely illiterate society."

    Duh. But I don't want an illiterate society. I want a private, competitive education because the quality will be better.

  • Wahhabi regime||

    It can't possibly be coincidence that the Wahhabi regimes (for example)a take a dim view on women going to school.

    Well, sort of. It's mostly that I'm scared shitless of women.

  • Tony||

    Well this certainly isn't an argument for libertarianism.

    If subsidizing domestic automobiles, semi-conductors, and movies doesn't make poor countries rich, why would subsidizing domestic education be any more effective?

    Because education isn't, as Caplan says, just a commodity like any other. Education increases prosperity and the quality of life in a long-term and collective way, in a way buying gadgets doesn't.

  • ||

    Education increases prosperity and the quality of life in a long-term and collective way, in a way buying gadgets doesn't.

    Educating a future office grunt about womyn's studies doesn't enhance her or anyone else's prosperity or quality of life, individually or collectively. Getting education that doesn't get used is money poured down a rathole that could be better allocated in ways that actually increase prosperity -- and said prosperity including the ability to buy gadgets, if that's what people actually want.

    The point of an education is to get the things in life you want, whether they be material goods or happiness from philosophical insights. Lots of people get that education on their own without going to a university, most of my self-educated siblings included.

  • Tony||

    So you're saying there's no correlation between having a high school diploma, or a college degree, and lifetime wealth?

    Education is a good unto itself, but it's also helps an economy--if you don't believe that then you aren't doing libertarianism much service, which relies on smart industrious people making a thriving market.

    Your flippant dismissal of higher education can only be evidence that you didn't go to college, or at least to a decent one. I can't say it'd been worth a hundred thousand dollars to me, but I was on scholarship, and it was not only the most enlightening time of my life, but also the most fun.

  • ||

    "So you're saying there's no correlation between having a high school diploma, or a college degree, and lifetime wealth?"

    There is, but correlation is not causation. The main reason an education is so necessary in the market place is because of government backed credentialism. Also, smart and hardworking individuals will be more likely to take the time to get degrees. Their lifetime success is largely due to their hardworking, intelligent spirit, not necessarily their education.

  • Tony||

    So why aren't hardworking, intelligent spirits in places with less access to education creating prosperous modern societies?

    Not that I totally disagree on credentialing.

  • Tony||

    Though the idea that intelligence and hardworkingness is something innate and not something to be learned (say in school) is both ludicrous and completely undermines the moral premises of libertarianism. You're essentially saying that those who are lucky enough to be intelligent and hardworking create prosperity, and, I dunno, fuck everyone who isn't so lucky?

  • ||

    "Though the idea that intelligence and hardworkingness is something innate and not something to be learned (say in school) is both ludicrous...."

    Did i say that they were "innate?" Nope. Sure, you have to learn those things. I'd question how well people develop those attributes in school, though. That is the point.

    "You're essentially saying that those who are lucky enough to be intelligent and hardworking create prosperity, and, I dunno, fuck everyone who isn't so lucky?"

    Did I say that? I would hardly argue that intelligence and a hardworking spirit are acquired through luck.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    Believe me, being hard working doesn't mean that you're fit for college. As a college teacher, I ran in to plenty of students who were not intellectually fit for a university education.

    I don't know whether luck of the evolutionary draw is responsible, or some other factor, but the fact remains is that not everyone is fit for college.

  • prolefeed||

    Well, in North Korea the hardworking, intelligent spirits utterly failed to create a prosperous modern society, and instead live in a nightmarish hellhole where mass starvation occurs often, because of the collectivist thinking that your highly educated brain keeps defending and advocating.

    While in South Korea the equally hardworking, intelligent spirits did succeed in creating a prosperous modern society because those who embraced individualism managed to beat back the collectivism you so admire.

  • MNG||

    Wow, fallacy of overgeneralization much prole?

  • ||

    I wasn't arguing that education plays no role. I simply agree with the idea that you can oversubsidize education beyond a point of usefulness. If people are going to college merely to prove that they are hardworking and disciplined rather than trying to gain actual expertise in a specific field, then it can be argued that college has become marginally less useful with every increased unit of "education."

  • mad libertarian guy||

    So many people go to college because too many jobs require a college education in order to be hired, even if the job does not require a college degree in order to do.

  • Fluffy||

    So why aren't hardworking, intelligent spirits in places with less access to education creating prosperous modern societies?

    Actually, the argument is that if people pay for education directly, they will be more likely to pay for the TYPE of education that will help them create prosperous modern societies.

    When the state provides education, the state provides the education it thinks is appropriate, and not necessarily the education that would be most useful for its society at any particular level of development.

    African schools, for example, tend to overfocus on the liberal arts, because they are heavily influenced by the British and French educational models. But in many, many areas Africans would be better served by education that focused on agriculture on our 4-H model. African nations don't have a shortage of murderous collectivist political theorists of the sort that an Oxford education is likely to produce, but they are short of modern farmers.

  • MNG||

    "When the state provides education, the state provides the education it thinks is appropriate, and not necessarily the education that would be most useful for its society at any particular level of development."

    Isn't this mitigated in a democracy by the fact that the people get to choose what kind of education is taught by choosing the administrators?

  • MNG||

    Granted markets treat any minority better than democracy probably would (suppliers can get rich keeping a minority of a market happily supplied).

  • Fluffy||

    It's probably mitigated somewhat, but you still have the problem of one-size-fits-all selections.

    Democratic choice will probably lead to your fellow citizens selecting the type of education that fits their aspirational vision of themselves and their country, without reference to or consideration of any value YOU might get from it.

    "We should have schools just like the ones in Paris!" I can see this being a powerful sentiment.

  • ||

    Isn't this mitigated in a democracy by the fact that the people get to choose what kind of education is taught by choosing the administrators?

    No.

    Calling the opportunity to rattle your chains every four years a choice is pretty cynical. Not to mention local boards are constrained by the preferences of state and federal education agencies as well as the courts, where the impact of individual choice (already dilute at the local level) is exponentially weaker.

  • KPres||

    "Isn't this mitigated in a democracy by the fact that the people get to choose what kind of education is taught by choosing the administrators?"

    "The people" don't choose anything, the majority does, usually between 50-55% of the population, who themselves are forced to adopt a unified idea they may have disagreements with in order prevent the opposition from gaining power.

    Some choice.

    The only way people (notice I didn't say "the people") make direct choices about their education or their children's is in a vibrant competive PRIVATE education market.

  • KPres||

    "Isn't this mitigated in a democracy by the fact that the people get to choose what kind of education is taught by choosing the administrators?"

    "The people" don't choose anything, the majority does, usually between 50-55% of the population, who themselves are forced to adopt a unified idea they may have disagreements with in order prevent the opposition from gaining power.

    Some choice.

    The only way people (notice I didn't say "the people") make direct choices about their education or their children's is in a vibrant competive PRIVATE education market.

  • Rrabbit||

    There is a flaw in this argumentation:
    predicting which education will be useful on the market a mere 10 years from now is pretty much impossible.

    Individuals who decide on the TYPE of education are likely to selection an education that is useful on the market when they make their decision. That results in an oversupply a few years later, as many individuals make the same decision. Moreover, demand can change quickly, too.

    Of course the government isn't better at making such decisions; my point merely is that individuals don't make good decisions their, either.

  • prolefeed||

    Your flippant dismissal of higher education can only be evidence that you didn't go to college, or at least to a decent one.

    I went to college. Dunno if it was what you might consider a "decent" one, but the bulk of my learning occurred after I left college. And, most of my siblings didn't go to college at all, yet wound up being well-educated people due to their own efforts at self-education once they left formal schooling.

    You, on the other hand, despite an apparently massively subsidized government education that sucked resources out of the economy, appear to be abysmally ignorant of basic economics and incapable of grasping rudimentary logic despite it being explained to you over and over, so I am going to question how useful your allegedly prestigious degree has turned out to be.

  • Tony||

    My scholarship came from private donations and I went to a private university. I'm not ignorant of basic economics, I'm dismissive of libertarian quack economics.

  • ||

    I'm not ignorant of basic economics, I'm dismissive of libertarian quack economics.

    That you call them quack economics is strong proof that you're ignorant of basic economics. That, and all the statist BS you spout.

  • ||

    Why either-or, Tony? You're ignorant of basic economics AND dismissive of libertarian "quack" economics.

  • KPres||

    "I'm not ignorant of basic economics..."

    Unfortunately, idiotic phrases like "education is a good unto itself" give you away.

  • ///////||

    Isolate the retards, make a better Terra.

    ===================================================

  • Fluffy||

    Your flippant dismissal of higher education can only be evidence that you didn't go to college, or at least to a decent one. I can't say it'd been worth a hundred thousand dollars to me, but I was on scholarship, and it was not only the most enlightening time of my life, but also the most fun.

    I had fun, too, babe, but that's precisely why I would flippantly dismiss it.

    I went to a top tier school and can state for the record that sitting in poli sci and philosophy classes and listening to frat boy assholes and cum dumpsters looking for Mrs. degrees talk about their opinions of the works of Marx really isn't any more valuable than reading Hit and Run comments or Volokh posts.

  • ||

    Your flippant dismissal of higher education can only be evidence that you didn't go to college, or at least to a decent one.

    And your indulgence in ad hominems indicates your college wasn't decent enough to provide courses on logic or persuasion, or perhaps you just slept through them. Not that that contradicts the impression one gets from your previous work here.

  • cynical||

    "So you're saying there's no correlation between having a high school diploma, or a college degree, and lifetime wealth?"

    The degree, sure. But, as a thought experiment -- if you gave student A an education but no degree, and student B a degree but no education, who would do better in life? At what point is "education" just an expensive version of social networking and status signaling?

  • hee||

    "Your flippant dismissal of higher education can only be evidence that you didn't go to college, or at least to a decent one."

    Ha! Prolefeed is stupid! He didn't have a 100K scholarship and go to a prestigious college like Tony did!

  • Tony||

    And by enlightening I don't mean I became a foot soldier in the communist revolution. Some of my best teachers were conservatives, one a renowned neocon actually.

  • ||

    I wouldn't wear that like it's a fucking badge of honor, Tony.

  • a||

    "one a renowned neocon actually"

    Oh, a right-wing communist.

  • ||

    Ah, so your professors were balanced in the way the New York Times opinion page is: big government conservatives and big government liberals.

  • Tony||

    Actually I don't recall a single conversation about the size of government in any of my classes. But I wasn't in the libertarian mental masturbation seminar.

  • ||

    That's sure a funny way to concede a point, Tony.

  • ||

    "Actually I don't recall a single conversation about the size of government in any of my classes. But I wasn't in the libertarian mental masturbation seminar."

    I'm sure you weren't. It's highly unlikely the size of government ever came up in any of your classes. That's because the profs at most colleges these day are in lockstep with the big government types on either side of the aisle (liberal OR neocon). Why bother teaching the status quo when people can simply open their window and see it in action, right? No, no. It freed them up to teach theory on bullshit systems like the socialist collectivism you stroke your dick to.

  • MNG||

    You mean professors like Bryan Caplan, Richard Epstein, Walter Williams, Gary Becker, etc., etc., ?

  • KPres||

    "Actually I don't recall a single conversation about the size of government in any of my classes."

    So I can assume that you're not aware that it's been empirically shown that maximum growth happens when government doesn't exceed appx. 20% of GDP?

    Or that even your boy John Keynes said that government shouldn't exceed 25%?

    I mean, trivial shit like that's not important to the prosperity of the society or anything...

    Dumbass.

  • Rrabbit||

    I deem 50% government way too much, but actually the Nordic countries do fine with that approach. Or, *eeech*, China.

  • hee||

    Echoing the others who commented on this point, I'd say that's they didn't bother examining the status quo because they were content with it, and treated it as a given.

  • KPres||

    "Education increases prosperity and the quality of life in a long-term and collective way, in a way buying gadgets doesn't."

    I have no doubt that the internet is providing both more and more relevant education than most people get in their undergraduate degrees.

    Petty gadgets...:rolls eyes:

  • KPres||

    "Because education isn't, as Caplan says, just a commodity like any other. Education increases prosperity and the quality of life in a long-term and collective way, in a way buying gadgets doesn't."


    Uh, how does this...
    "Education increases prosperity and the quality of life in a long-term and collective way."

    ...lead to this...?
    "Because education isn't, as Caplan says, just a commodity."

    You're getting "commodity" confused with "consumer good", no doubt. Education is clearly a capital good. (Predictably, Tony doesn't understand basic economic concepts, but I'm sure he can regurgitate the definition of "adverse selection").

    So my point is: What the fuck are you talking about, Tony? You clearly don't have a clue.

  • ||

    "If people refuse to spend their own money for more education, then it's presumably just not worth it, right?"

    Yes, and obviously they must not be having too many children either.

    Either that or you're getting into some qualitative waters here.

    I will say this--one of the big problems in China right now is the rising costs of employing factory workers. India would love to be part of the solution to that, but one of the problems they're running into is that the kind of education Indians have isn't necessarily what you're looking for in a factory worker...

    India's upper classes are some of the best educated people in the world--don't get me wrong. It's just that being on top in computer science, mathematics and engineering isn't about make you a good factory worker.

    When China set about educating their peasants, they didn't train them to become engineers--but they did all learn to read and write and do math. India's underclass doesn't have those skills. When Chinese peasant farmers were displaced to put up factories, they could at least get jobs in those factories. India's peasants aren't ready for prime factory work like that.

    We had that problem in the United States too, way back before World War I. Hence, part of the reason for the existence of company towns, where they had to educate the locals before they could work in the company factory...

    Anyway, the point is, just because people are getting educated doesn't mean they're learning what the market needs them to know. And markets may be the best means of dealing with inefficiencies, but just because people are being well educated doesn't mean they don't need educated people--to do things like factory work.

    We here in the US tend to think of factory work as being work for people who don't have an education, but that's a relative thing. Over in India, they have hundreds of millions of people who are truly uneducated--and educated them is not an inefficient waste of resources.

  • ||

    Over in India, they have hundreds of millions of people who are truly uneducated--and educated them is not an inefficient waste of resources.

    Relying on the government to educate them is problematic, since their government's policies are behind the uneducated villagers. They've had over a half century of relying on the government to educate the peasants -- rewarding the government with more power after fucking up so colossally is your idea of a rational approach to the problem?

  • ||

    "They've had over a half century of relying on the government to educate the peasants -- rewarding the government with more power after fucking up so colossally is your idea of a rational approach to the problem?"

    I'm not here to fix India for them, but in the case of the people formally known as "untouchables"? I'm not convinced that telling them to pull themselves up by their nonexistent bootstraps is the answer.

    Surely, India has all the engineers and computer scientists they need. Saturated as they are with computer scientists and engineers, someone should question why the government there would continue to invest so heavily in higher education when there are still millions and millions of Indian children out there who will never get a chance to learn how to read.

    The problem with rising labor costs in China is real. They have a Baby Bust Generation in China, in part due to the One Child policy, just like we have a Baby Boomer Generation... India could pick up a lot of that slack.

    The biggest obstacle to India doing that--so I've heard and read--is that so many people among their underclass can't read or do math.

    I would be surprised if most libertarians didn't support at least teaching every kid how to read, write and do basic math. Personally, I'd support a system where that's done privately--but it seems to me that if the market's goin' nuts across the border in China because they can't find enough people who can do factory work--and your Indian government is still churning out programmers and engineers?

    ...and your peasants can't compete with Chinese peasants for relatively high paying factory jobs because they lack the most basic skills? Then something's wrong.

  • ||

    I should say that this is one of the things we inherited from the Puritans--and I think they got it right.

    They thought everybody should at least know how to read--so that you could read the Bible for yourself.

    It morphed and changed, but that silly little idea really paid off. That's one of the few places where I tend to equivocate a little on my libertarianism...

    Educating kids is too important a job to be left to government bureaucrats, but even in Libertopia, every kid should have a shot to learn how to read and type crap on the interwebs.

  • ||

    Educating kids is too important a job to be left to government bureaucrats, but even in Libertopia, every kid should have a shot to learn how to read and type crap on the interwebs.

    The second half of your statement seems to be advocating for the first.

    If kids want to do stuff on Teh Intertubes, they'll do it, government schooling or no.

    Let people decide what level of education works for them. The problem in, say, Zimbabwe isn't a lack of education, other than the lack of economic and political education of the dictator fucking things up.

  • ||

    Don't get me wrong here. I didn't go to public schools, and if I could privatize them all tomorrow I would.

    Even if they were all privatized, I'm not sure I wouldn't support a law mandating that all children have to go to school until the 8th grade or so.

    And I'd understand that there are situations where some parents aren't gonna be able to afford that. In India, I think there are a lot of people who would send their kids to school if they could afford it--and if there's a parent out there who wants to send his ten-year old kid to school, but can't afford to...

    ...and at the same time the government is supporting other Indians out there getting degrees in engineering, etc... Then somethin's wrong. Especially if there's all that demand for factory labor.

    At some point, that stops being a market inefficiency and starts being a public policy failure.

  • ListenEllipse||

    You're saying we need public education for poor people. What about public housing, health care, or food for poor people? If you're concerned about poor children, donate to a scholarship fund, don't look to government socialism.

  • ||

    ^^this^^

  • ||

    "You're saying we need public education for poor people."

    I'm not saying we need anything.

    I'm saying that it appears that the Indian government is investing in the training of world class engineers and computer scientists--at the expense of leaving the poorest of the poor to rot, educationally speaking, and it's proving to be quite costly.

    I'm saying that India appears to be squandering education resources on the people who need it least.

    I'm saying that the people who needed it most, for whom it probably would have provided the most benefit for the Indian economy, appear to be losing out big time.

    I would certainly say that India is a poor example of the suggestion that the Third World is squandering too much money on education. On computer scientists and engineers? Yeah, probably...

    Squandering too much money on the poorest of the poor? Hardly. Does the world need those people? Hell yes. Markets may be the best solution to everything, but sometimes even the best solutions fall short.

    When intergenerational poverty is so pervasive and intractable--when people's output is so worthless that there are still 1.3 million "manual scavengers"?

    ...These are women who inherit the unenviable profession of emptying dry public toilets by hand--and the pay is? You get to keep what you find! And the reason that calling still exists is because, hey, manual scavengers are cheaper than digging a septic tank! That's pretty darn intractable.

    I saw a documentary once about an entrepreneur in Indonesia after the Asian Flu went through there in the '90s, devaluing the currency and wrecking the economy. He was looking to emigrate, and he wanted to come to the United States. A reporter asked him why he wanted to go to the US, and the guy answered something to the effect of, "I want to go somewhere where all the poor people are fat."

    When I think of an intractable poverty here in the US, I imagine someone in the inner city, who despite the poverty, probably has a pretty good shot at learning to read if he really wants to. I don't think intractable poverty in a place like India is like that.

    ...and anyway, it seems unconscionable to me that in a country that still has 1.3 million people working as manual shit collectors has any business squandering educational resources on those who probably have enough money to go become engineers anyway.

    Do I still get to keep my libertarian decoder ring?

  • trueofvoice||

    Yes, the poor deserve an education. Shocking, I know.

  • ||

    In some ways, in some places, it's almost like what I imagine the newly freed slaves running into once they were finally freed.

    Imagine their former masters saying to them, "You're free--so get the hell off my land!" They're free now, but they don't have any food, maybe they don't have any work--they can't read or write because no one ever taught them. So they end up working jobs a lot like the ones they were working before...

    There are people in the world now who are so poor that the idea of them participating in a market beyond their basic sustenance is just a sick joke. And, anyway, even if people don't support educating educating the children of such poor people at public expense--at least to the extent that they can read and do some basic math. ...then I would think such people could at least see that squandering money on higher education, when those dollars could have been better spent on preparing the Indian underclass to take relatively high paying jobs from demographically challenged China, would at worst make for an excellent example of government ineptitude.

    Here they could have spent money that would have benefited the Indian economy--from the bottom up--and instead they squandered it on more engineers and computer scientists.

    And I have to say, even as someone who very much supports the idea of giving vouchers to kids in public schools, so their parents can go buy a better education on the private market, I'm not sure I'd ever go so far as to cut off the vouchers themselves. Maybe there'd be enough in the way of charitable giving that poor people would be covered...

    ...but again, I'm not talking about something speculative or abstract here. There really are tens of millions of Indian kids who aren't being taught to read and do math--even as I type--'cause their parents are too dirt poor to educate them.

  • robc||

    The puritans favored education but not PUBLIC education. Why do you think there are so many private colleges and universities floating around New England?

  • robc||

    And by public, I mean state. To avoid any confusion.

  • ||

    Did you see the part where I said it morphed and changed?

  • KPres||

    "Educating kids is too important a job to be left to government bureaucrats, but even in Libertopia, every kid should have a shot to learn how to read and type crap on the interwebs."

    Why? When I was in college I worked at a golf course over the summers. One of the guys had worked there for 30 years, and lived a full and content life, despite being illiterate. Furthermore, I learned through conversation that he as good a grasp of the general principles of life as any college graduate I know, although he expressed himself in odd metaphors that probably had more meaning to him than it did to anybody else.

    Higher education is all marginal. 90% of what we really need to know we get through experience.

  • ||

    I didn't even say the government should guarantee that.

    I also think every kid should have a shot at enough food to eat--doesn't mean I necessarily want the government guaranteeing that. That'd be an excellent way to make sure some kids starve to death...

    I suspect in Libertopia? Every kid would have a better shot at a decent education than they have now*--but Libertopia wouldn't feature millions of people mired in system poverty anchored in class bigotry.

    *I say that as someone who left home at 14 and supported myself through boarding school doing farmwork and working in a saw mill. If those opportunities were available to me here in the US, they'd be available to kids in Libertopia too. Are those kinds of opportunities available to the children of untouchables in India today?

    The answer is no.

  • ||

    Was your illiterate friend given the opportunity for an education, ever?

    'cause passing something up and being happy about ain't exactly the same thing.

  • ||

    Meanwhile, 41 White House staffers owe over $800k in back taxes (LA Times) and 638 Capitol Hill staffers owed over $9.3m last year. Also, Obama extends the state of emergency from 9/11 to maintain extended executive powers to illegally wiretap, search and detain without warrant and use secret courts.

  • Almanian||

    ....and the band played on

  • Joshua||

    For me, I think of education subsidization at best as a form of paternalism. In the worst example: "oh you poor brown savages don't know what you need, so we will provide it for you"

    Regarding Nigerians specifically, these people are not ignorant savages. They are certainly less sophisticated wrt technology than Americans, but they are perfectly capable of understand what sort of tools they need to succeed - whatever success means to them. The biggest thing holding them back is not a lack of education, but a lack of freedom.

    Stossel had a good article regarding this here.

    At worst, of course, subsidized education ends up being a form of thought control.

  • ||

    Gee the per capita income in Nigeria is about 2k a year,Bolivia about $4500.and Im thinkin an education may not come in that handy when the jobs available dont require it?

    Why is the world you guys seem intent on bringing forth to the world looks alot like Bladerunner?

  • ||

    Did you have a point at all?

    Bladerunner is an image of libertopia? I hardly see how.

  • ||

    We wants launch the ICBMz

  • ||

    After that remark, I'm putting the lid on and cranking the burner up to maximum.

  • Sam Grove||

    Maybe institutional education is overpriced.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    Because there's flood of cheap cash in the education market.

  • johnl||

    The main occupations in America are retired, unemployed, educator, and incarcerated. Why spend so much educating people to be idle? Can't people learn all they need to know about that while they are in prison? Kids should spend some time in the sun, enjoying their youth.

  • alan||

    The main occupations in America are retired, unemployed, educator, and incarcerated.

    That line is gold.

  • Almanian||

    Ditto what Alan said - well done, johnl!

  • Dude||

    You forgot "student".

  • johnl||

    Ouch.

  • Drax the Destroyer||

    To be fair, Student = unemployed and incarcerated.

  • Irresponsible Hater||

    I have a vague recollection of reading Albert Jay Nock's account that his education as a young boy consisted of being taught to read, being taught geometry, then being set loose to spend his time playing at the docks and learning whatever he cared to from whoever he ran into.

    Reading this in college, 14 or so years into an utterly conventional education, I smacked my forehead and thought "why didn't my parents do this?"

    I also think of the Ingalls children, learning the basics while living in houses made of dirt and cow shit, and they seemed to turn out OK (aside from the blindness, bedwetting, early death, very-special-episode-opiate addiction, etc).

    With the internet, I can't figure out why anyone needs to even leave the house to learn every formal subject ever taught in any formal school anywhere in the world.

    So, whatever the nuances of the points above, yeah, conventional education is "over supplied", "over consumed", "over funded", "over shoved down our throats" and generally blows.

  • alan||

    Most valuable education I received was the summer between forth and fifth grade, when my maternal grandmother, think of a female Johny Cash, very stern, very protestant, made me spend my afternoons in her little backroom library where one wall was filled with every issue of National Geographic from around 1949 to whatever year in the mid 1970's that year happened to be. I poured through and memorized every article.

  • ||

    I also think of the Ingalls children, learning the basics while living in houses made of dirt and cow shit, and they seemed to turn out OK (aside from the blindness, bedwetting, early death, very-special-episode-opiate addiction, etc).

    You do know that was fiction, right?

    That's up there with people saying Star Trek proves socialism works, because the Federation was socialist and eliminated poverty and invented warp drive and stuff. And yes, I have met such people.

  • ||

    The TV show was fiction. The books were based on Laura's actual life, though she rearranged some dates and places and left out some personal, painful family details (death of her baby brother, for instance).

    The Ingalls' girls were taught by their mother in between periods of living in towns with what Ma considered proper schools. They really did live in a sod house under a hill, lived through one of the worst South Dakota winters on record by grinding seed wheat in a coffee mill to make bread and twisting hay into sticks to keep the house heated. Hers is truly a boot-strapping story of American success - not of wild wealth or extreme fame (that came much, much later on for her), but one of living life on her own terms and making the best of the situation she was in.

    She also gave birth to Rose Wilder Lane, one of the libertarian movement's early female pioneers. I suppose that might be a black mark on Laura's life for some, however.

  • David E. Gallaher||

    Big money-making idea: For a fee, explain what an education is and how much it is worth.

  • ||

    People who want to receive an actual education will spend their money on an education. People who don't want to receive an education will take free education money anyway and then demand something that resembles education, without all of the hard work and not getting trashed every weekend. See: Philosophy, Music Therapy, Communications, Master of Arts in Vampire Fiction, African American studies, etc...

  • mad libertarian guy||

    Yeah, because reading literature or philosophy is really easy.

    Dude, get a clue. Not being fit as job training does not inherently make something easy, or bad.

  • ||

    Well, it's not easy if your favorite hobbies include drinking and watching tv. But for many decades, people read literature and studied philosophy for FUN. Lots of people, including me, still read such things for fun.
    However, no one reads, say, the atomic electron configuration table for FUN. They may do it to learn. But it's not easy like reading a story or a summary of someone's idea.

    Hell, they make a series of books that tie philosophy into popular cartoons like South Park and Simpsons. They couldn't do that with advanced chemical engineering.

    As for job training, I never mentioned it. Obviously learning Latin is harder than it is applicable. But the kind of people who major in it are not the kind that major in Dance Therapy.

  • ||

    ...and I think it's generally bad, not because I have anything against *insert random art medium* therapy per se, but because I think the people who get a hokum major in some feel-good field would be better off learning on their own or creating their own job and not wasting time and resources under the false impression that employers are desperately waiting to snatch them up as soon as they're done.
    Mostly, I just think the Federal government shouldn't fund education.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    Only a concrete-bound barbarian thinks that philosophy is some kind of triviality. Ditto music and literature.

  • ||

    Other than logic, philosophy is a triviality in the same way that juggling is. Hard to master at a high level...but seriously, it doesn't do anyone any good beyond its entertainment value.

  • mr simple||

    Philosophy is the best degree for entering law school and philosophy majors continually get the highest scores on all post grad standardized tests. Not that we need more lawyers.

    I think a dual degree in math and philosophy is probably the best thing you can get out of college. Unless you are one of the few people who actually want to be an engineer or do research science.

  • robc||

    Philosophy is the best degree for entering law school

    You misspelled engineering.

  • KPres||

    Philosophy is incredibly important, in the sense that it's important to get your philosophy right.

    But the intricacies are irrelevant. For example, if your mother ever said to you "Don't do that! What would happen if everybody did that?", then you've pretty much grasped the Categorical Imperative, which Kant spent how many volumes on?

  • ||

    However, no one reads, say, the atomic electron configuration table for FUN. They may do it to learn. But it's not easy like reading a story or a summary of someone's idea.

    False. You're committing the "All men are Lisa" fallacy.

    And the pop-philosophy that people read for fun is probably more akin to memorizing the symbols for the chemical elements than electron configuration tables. Advanced philosophy texts are just as dense and impenetrable to a layperson as advanced chemistry ones.

  • Turnkey||

    The problem is.... education is more important at younger ages. And the kids who get the most benefit from education (say 1-8th or so) would not reasonably be able to pay for it.

    There is usually some resistance to basically condemning people to illiteracy for having bad parents. Although it still happens under the current system there is at least a chance for everyone to learn math / reading / writing basics.

  • trueofvoice||

    And this is exactly the point. Of course public education is inefficient. Of course it often fails. But it does create the possibility of giving every american a basic education.

    An entirely private system cannot do the same.

  • Leroy||

    "An entirely private system cannot do the same."

    Why not?

  • Drax the Destroyer||

    Because "being fair" is more important than not stealing. Or something like that. The funny thing is, when you factor in the time and life it takes to earn your money thrown at pathetic public education, it's almost like murder on a small scale when they take it away. People sue cigarette companies for shortening the lives of their customers, but they can't do shit when signifcant portions of their already spent lives are wasted on shit that sucks.

  • ¢||

    I have a vague recollection of reading Albert Jay Nock's account that his education...

    That's the kind of education that produces the occasional Albert Nock, and an audience for Albert Nock.

    Who's the last anti-establishment thinker America produced? (I mean actually anti-, not pseudo-critically establishment-aspirant, like all the '60s d-bags and academic libertarians were/are.) Can you even think of one who's arisen natively since the Nock/Spooner/Spencer era?

    We're past that shit. Very past.

  • ||

    I'd agree that there's an oversupply in higher education in a lot of places. But I'd argue there's also an undersupply of basic literacy. Or perhaps an oversupply of the wrong kind of higher education.

    Everywhere there seem too be people with Masters' in literary studies or some such that can't get jobs. While there is a shortage of people with technical skills.

    Of course, there are tons of people with engineering degrees in third world countries. But the US won't let them in.

    So this is largely an issue of restrictions on labor flows. If the higher educated people in the developing world were allowed to emigrate, there wouldn't be an oversupply.

  • ||

    bit OT but Hazel you touched on something that's been bothering me personally for some time now. I'm not disappointed I went to college, but I am not in a good spot to be employed at the moment. Teacher jobs are non-existent right now, for all intents and purposes. I could go back to get my special ed credential and increase my marketability, but I really don't want to teach special ed. I'm not sure I want to teach at all any longer.

    So, what to do? The relative haven of grad school only delays the inevitable return to the job market for a few years. I was thinking of taking advantage of a one-year certificate program in some tech field or other at my local community college, and kissing dreams of a Ph.D. good-bye in favor of more practical and immediate concerns.

    The hand-wringing I am doing over this is indicative of something, I'm not sure what thought. Perhaps that I've been conditioned to believe that more = better in terms of college? That I have my own prejudices and insecurities about the type of work people without college degrees do, and I'm afraid of being lumped into that category?

    We're potentially overconsuming education, but I wonder if the oversupply is due to over-demand. Why should some jobs require any college education at all, when a year or two of post-secondary courses and some OTJ training would be enough to get you started on a decent career?

  • Drax the Destroyer||

    Not to be devil's advocate or anything, but I'm an american citizen with two engineering degrees, and to be perfectly objective, I a worthless piece of shit. It's good to espouse the virtues of a technical education but when the wrong people are pushed/motivated towards such fields, it may produce nothing more than overeducated pieces of shit (like myself). Goddamnit, where are my pills. Anybody want a pizza roll(15 Dinar to the lucky winner who gets the reference)?

  • ||

    I'm sorry, but this is why I could never be a true libertarian. Public goods are real and they exist in the form of education and national defense. If left to the forces of the free market, both would be severely underprovided. I'm aware that libertarians, with their vast knowledge about economics, know about negative externalities, about how government subsidized health insurance or green energy or any other type of liberal crap leads to overproduction of a good. Well, there also exists positive externalities, where goods that benefit society are underprovided because individuals don't value them properly. If libertarians ever want to make a meaningful contribution to the political discourse, they'll have to accept that there are some basic things that government should provide.

  • CE||

    Really? Don't you think that "national defense" is just a tad (i.e. several hundred billion dollars per annum) oversupplied? And that much of the spending doesn't accomplish what it's supposed to, but in fact makes us all less secure?

  • Rrabbit||

    "National defense" is not oversupplied that much. It is overpriced - US taxpayers pay a trillion a year, and for that amount of money get maybe a 200 billion value.

  • CE||

    ...there also exists positive externalities, where goods that benefit society are underprovided because individuals don't value them properly...

    Ah, the old "we know better than you what you should spend your money on" argument, or "you might not spend it right" as Bill Clinton put it.

  • Zach||

    Let me rephrase my poorly worded statement. People value education, like all other goods, at the level of their private marginal benefit. Education, however, provides a social marginal benefit, in the form of a higher educated workforce (most important) as well as other smaller advantages. This means that education provides a social value that exceeds the value of its private consumption. For example, a person who becomes literate and learns math skills not only gains skills that help themselves, but also gain skills necessary to join the workforce, and this benefits everyone, not just the person with the education. Economic logic dictates that people will make decisions at the point where private marginal benefit equals private marginal cost, rather than where social marginal cost equals social marginal benefit, and thus, education will be underprovided in the free market.

    As for national defense, the same arguement holds, though I concede that current government policy has shifted the dynamics too far in the opposite direction, making a good that was formerly in undersupply into one that is in oversupply.

  • SIV||

    Millions for defense but not one cent for "public education".

    Hell, you get right down to it, I'm all for abolishing education in toto.

  • Drax the Destroyer||

    To clarify SIV, what we have is schooling and it only barely, on the periphery, mirrors what most of us conceive is an education.

  • Leroy||

    "Well, there also exists positive externalities, where goods that benefit society are underprovided because individuals don't value them properly."

    And what makes you think that your idea of value is better than mine, and that gives you the right to spend my money on something that I personally don't value?

    Or would you like to make the argument that each person exists for the betterment of the state and society as a whole, and not for the purpose of seeking their own individual happiness?

  • Max||

    "Most people will naturally treat these conclusions as yet another reductio ad absurdum of libertarianism..."

    No they fucking won't. Most people haven't heard of libertarianism and wouldn't know reductio ad absurdum from a cow's twat. The fact that you think so means your head is so far up your ass you fart saliva.

  • Reason Sit-Com Tagline||

    That's our Max!

  • ||

    HA-HA-HA-ha-ha-ha! That silly goose Max... *chuckle*

  • ||

    Saving the world from the libertarianism its never heard of...

    ...one comment at a time.

  • CE||

    You could even argue for ending government-run education from a public good perspective -- the current system costs society three times as much as a hypothetical free-market system that would supply the same quantity of education (at a quite possibly higher level of quality.)

    Liberals don't seem to think private charity would make up the difference for those whose parents couldn't afford much education, but so many people want to educate the young people that it would seem there would be enough money donated to do the job, with costs so much lower.

  • Rrabbit||

    This doesn't hold water. Education is expensive. People are not spending their own money on education because they cannot afford the combined cost of
    o the education itself, tuition fees etc.
    o the loss of income while studying
    o the interest to be paid on loans
    o their evaluation how much of that investment they will recover later.

    If you have a few hundred thousand spare dollars on your bank account in Switzerland, you'll probably sent your kids to college. If you have to go 150K into debt to be able to go to college, or send your kids to college, it is a totally different decision.

  • Xenocles||

    Why is education expensive? Today our kids, if they go into the public system, have 12+ years of spending 180 days with teachers who have masters degrees. For close to half of that time the teachers specialize by subject, so the kids have something like five different teachers each year. Yet, as Thomas Sowell once noted, we wind up with high school students who apparently need footnotes to explain words in the autobiography of Frederick Douglass - a self-educated former slave. Education is expensive because it's overpriced, and the education establishment has conned us into believing that more money is the solution.

    "If you have to go 150K into debt to be able to go to college, or send your kids to college, it is a totally different decision."

    It should be a totally different decision, and maybe the people who face it agonize over it more than the ones who can pay cash. Unfortunately, they seem to be picking the debt too often. Again, why does it cost $150k-200k to have grad students lecture undergraduates? (This isn't what happens in a lot of schools, but it's considered normal in college.)

  • Rrabbit||

    The US education system is expensive because it is inefficient.
    o the curriculum of the typical US school is absurd.
    o teachers should be treated like normal employees. Re-hire the good teachers, don't rehire the bad teachers, pay the very good teachers more than you pay the good teachers, fire the horrible teachers immediately.
    o teachers should not have to work a second job just to make ends meet.

    As to why a college education costs $150k to $200k: because sufficiently many idiots are willing to pay that much. It does not cost that much to create the good "college education". Not even close.

  • Leroy||

    I would argue that the education system is too expensive because it is (in a sense) required.

    Because jobs that don't require a college education to actually DO, require one to be hired, there is an artificially increased demand for college education. The trend has been if you want a good job, go to college.

    Once that trend ends, and colleges aren't a necessary step after highschool, the demand for a college education will drop, as will the price. (Higher Education Bubble?)

  • ||

    Yet, as Thomas Sowell once noted, we wind up with high school students who apparently need footnotes to explain words in the autobiography of Frederick Douglass - a self-educated former slave.

    1. Language changes over the course of 100+ years.

    2. Douglass was an old man when he wrote his autobiography, not 18 years old. You do tend to learn things in the intervening time.

    3. Most former slaves were not Frederick Douglass.

  • Xenocles||

    The examples he cited were the word "exculpate" and a reference to Job. One would hope that for the tens of thousands of dollars a year per student public systems spend, they would pick up vocabulary words (or at least the motivation to look them up) and basic Western cultural references.

  • ||

    Again, why does it cost $150k-200k to have grad students lecture undergraduates?

    That's extremely unusual for courses higher than freshman level. Frankly, people with doctorates are probably no better on average than grad students at teaching composition or calculus or freshman physics or whatever. Their value only becomes apparent in higher level courses, research apprenticeships, and recommendation letter writing.

  • Xenocles||

    Thanks for the pointer. I can't really speak to this; everyone in my circle of friends went to undergraduate-only schools with no TAs.

  • ||

    I probably shouldn't be so confident in my proclamation, given that I taught a junior-level course in linear algebra when I was a grad student -- but then I'm exceptional.

  • Rrabbit||

    Looks like a bit of confusion here. The $150k I listed are for the cost of the college or university education in a four year program (excluding loss of income, excluding interest paid on student loans). Tuition fees, learning materials, minimum basic living expenses.

    Depending on college, you might have to pay 40K per year in tuition fees alone, or just 10K per year in tuition fees.

  • Xenocles||

    I knew what you meant. In some cases it's even worse. I went to one of the most wastefully expensive institutions in the country - a military academy. If I had quit the service before my obligated time I would have had to pay back $250k. Even assuming some of that is just to make it an exorbitant penalty, it's still outrageous.

    (Having revealed that, I'm totally going to have to turn in my decoder ring. Would you believe I'm a subversive?)

  • mad libertarian guy||

    It's so expensive because of the influx of cheap cash flooding the education market.

  • ||

    How can libertarians deny that lack of education condemns the Third World to poverty?

    That's easy: it's defective culture, not education, that condemns them to poverty.

  • aureliano||

    Or defective political-economic system following getting bombed the shit out of for several decades. I'm thinking of a few countries in Southeast Asia here.

  • KPres||

    Ugh.

    It's defective GOVERNMENT that condemns them!

  • aureliano||

    I depart company with orthodox libertarianism in just a few areas, but this is one of them. The axiom that "if you are not going to pay for something that means you do not value it" is a reductio absurdum. It is not that the poor in third world countries do not value an education enough to pay for it; it's that they are struggling to pay enough for just three bowls of rice a day, and if they're lucky, some veggies and slices of meat to go with it.

    However, I would agree that *higher education* is oversupplied. Having taught in various countries around the world, it's my view that a good percentage of students have no interest whatsoever in reading or engaging in ideas to any degree.

  • ||

    "Education's a good like any other. If people refuse to spend their own money for more education, then it's presumably just not worth it, right?"

    It's a good, but not necessarily "like any other". As a participant in an interconnected economy I have no vested interest in ensuring everyone who might enjoy watching a flat screen TV gets one. If they can't afford one then they can't afford one; too bad for them.

    Education is different. If someone would become a valuable (potentially extremely valuable) contributor to society by virtue of additional education but is financially unable to acquire it then I have some interest in seeing him educated. Now, he should be the one to foot the bill since, presumably, he's also going to extract more benefit from his education than "society as a whole".

    Seems like merit-based loans might be useful.

  • Almanian||

    Great - just spend your own money on it, like I do when I contribute to my [private] Alma Mater's scholarship fund every year. Make loans out of that fund, but keep the gov't the fuck out of my pocket any deeper than they already are.

  • ||

    I have a vested interest in seeing people make more significant contributions to the economy regardless of which school they attend. And its not only me that benefits when they do; everyone does. That seems like a situation where one might wish to utilize government.

  • ||

    That's the problem. It is impossible for all colleges to be "good" at the same time. The collegiate system is based on credentialism, and you are not buying education, but rather a piece of the reputation of the school you are attending. You are simply buying a slip of paper. The cost of college education has been skyrocketing while the gains from a college education have been increasing slowly if at all. We are witnessing a bidding war, with those most capable of obtaining funds getting the piece of paper that earns them the most.

  • ||

    I'm aware of the issue of signaling and the attendant waste it involves. At the same time, that doesn't address the point I raised. If there are people who could be economic contributors but are stymied because they happen to be poor, then it behooves me (us) to create a system whereby they can fulfill their potential. Not because we want to be nice to them and help them "fulfill their dreams", but because it benefits us all.

  • robc||

    Since you value this "benefit", then you should fund it. The reason I oppose government doing it is that some one else might not agree on the benefit, or might want to handle it differently. Like, for example, only loan/give their money to students pursueing engineering degrees.

  • ||

    "Education is different. If someone would become a valuable (potentially extremely valuable) contributor to society by virtue of additional education but is financially unable to acquire it then I have some interest in seeing him educated."

    The same argument could be made for all government "investment/infrastructure" projects. However, this ignores the time preference. Sure, after 13 years of public education (total cost of 150,000 dollars) and 4 years of college (total cost 60,000) a person may be able to earn 40,000 dollars a year. That is a pretty good return since anything earned after 20 years is profit. However, there is no way to say that that same investment couldn't have gone toward something with a larger, more immediate benefit. Also, a lot of public school and college educated students stand a fairly good chance of ending up on their parents couch or spending years jumping from short term job to short term job with lengths of unemployment in between. You also have to factor in the income that the person could have been earning at a lower paying job if they hadn't given up that income to spend time in classes. You would also have to subtract the cost of government subsidy towards industries to "create" jobs for these college graduates, and the cost of the government providing jobs directly to graduates within the government itself (I'd assume that most government jobs provide less benefit than they cost, it is this difference that I am arguing you would have to subtract from any calculated gains from education). That 60,000 dollar figure doesn't include other expenses that the government incurs either.

  • ||

    Oh yeah, you also have to factor in the cost to society incurred when perfectly capable workers are denied a job because they don't have a slip of paper that gets them through the credentialist barrier.

  • Alice Bowie||

    In America, we live in a country where people take off their gold jewelry and mail it to a Post Office Box in Miami and expect to get a fair shake on the value of the actual gold. STUPID PEOPLE.

    We also have 67 year old people in the Tea Party Movement on MEDICARE that don't want Government Sponsored. STUPID PEOPLE.

    And of course, there's the people that believe that the September 11th attack by Muslim Extremist Criminals was an act of EVIL having to do NOTHING with American Policies. STUPID PEOPLE.

    Not to mention the Imaginary friend of STUPID religious American people that claim Just about everything under the name of their respective imaginary friend. You have BLACKS/LATINOs all over this country Voting in 2005 for GWB to their detriment in an effort to stop a couple of FAGS in San Francisco from getting married. A matter that is NONE of their business.

    I can go on.

    But the fact is, what ALL THESE people have in common is that they are CONSERVATIVES.

    And, the Conservative parties NEED STUPID people because there just not enough Mean-spirited Wealthy people to vote them in.

    STUPID STUPID STUPID STUPID.

    No wonder they (Conservatives/libertarians) are so against public education.

  • ||

    I agreed with you up to your last line. Yes, conservatives are stupid, but leftists are simply another kind of stupid. I could point to similar amounts of leftists who believe that 9/11 was caused by GWB. I could point to the leftists who think that we should adopt policies that have doomed other countries.

    You just threw libertarians in with conservatives in your last sentence, even though every belief you mentioned has nothing to do with libertarian ideology. That in and of itself is pretty stupid.

    Libertarians do believe in education, just not the technocratic/credentialist system that people like you believe is the only way to educate a person. Dumb fucking moron.

  • ||

    You paint in some pretty broad strokes there, Alice. It's good to know that every ill-conceived idea out there is claimed by conservatives and libertarians.

    I'm not gonna pretend that progressives have the market cornered on stupid, but they are certainly at the big table when the shareholders meeting comes to town.

    Hmmm, let's see: Corporations are evil.

    Gaia should be cleansed of the human stain.

    Government can do most things better than the private sector.

    The gummint can create and provide jobs better than the private sector.

    Public employees unions are a good idea.

    [insert multiple anti-corporatist, anti-free market gibberish here]

    Those are all progressive ideas and they are stupid as fuck.

    And to say conservatives, especially the crop of neocons you tended to describe above, are against public education is absurd. They are among the first groups to invoke the "but it's for the children!" argument into any conversation, so there's no way in hell or heaven they'd allow the sacred cow of public education to get touched. While teacher compensation is at issue with the tea party folks, it has more to do with inefficiency and bullshit public union compensation than education, and if you're smarter than a lump of dogshit then you'd know that. Of course, you already know that and were probably just being a contrarian asshat for kicks.

    Either way, your points are all well-taken and disregarded appropriately.

  • cynical||

    No ever taught me not to be a sucker in school (well, maybe the other kids did, through harsh experience. But it wasn't on the curriculum).

    Foolish and uneducated are very different things. You can find some canny illiterates out there, and some people with five PhDs who will fall for anything you want to sell. Although, given the cost/benefit on multiple PhDs, I guess that should be expected.

  • KPres||

    "No wonder they (Conservatives/libertarians) are so against public education."

    Uh, these people HAVE public education. Public education is the reason why they're stupid.

    BTW, regarding your gold example....The great Liberal thinker himself George Soros is saying gold is a massive bubble, which, if true means those "idiots" mailing their gold to a PO Box in Miami are selling high.

    Of course, if Soros is wrong, and gold isn't a bubble, that means Austrian economists are right, and the liberal keynesians have doomed us to an inflationary disaster.

  • Tony||

    Anyone who mentions George Soros is an idiot.

    Just letting you know.

  • Rrabbit||

    Do I understand correctly that in one sentence you just claimed that you are an idiot?

  • ||

    I agree that anyone who voted for Bush in 2005 is pretty stupid.

  • ||

    *guffaws*

    Nice work. :)

  • Rrabbit||

    Even more stupid are those who voted for Bush in both 2005 and 2006 :-)

  • MlR||

    Or voted against Bush in 2008.

  • ||

    That seems like a situation where one might wish to utilize government.

    "Seems like"

    The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

  • ||

    Lack of education does not condemn the third world to poverty. That is completely fucking retarded.

    MALARIA condemns the third world to poverty. Spraying DDT and yes, killing all the fucking birds is what will solve the problem.

  • el||

    speaking of retarded...

  • hmm||

    The DDT bird study was disprove to a significant degree.

  • robc||

    Education is different...

    Health care is different...

    Global Warming is different...

    Blah blah blah.

    Statism's primary strategy is to convince 51% of people that "this is different".

  • KPres||

    Liberal sacred cows.

  • ||

    At a rough guess, at least fifty per cent of the engineers I work with are doing work which could quite easily be done by a high school graduate with a good grasp of high school level algebra, geometry and trigonometry. And, in fact, in the firms I worked in in Canada (and ones I know of in Australia) that's exactly who they have doing those jobs.

  • Drax the Destroyer||

    I'm one of those "engineers". God I'm a fucking worthless piece of shit.

  • ||

    I am seeing oversupply in college educated engineers. There are more engineers than jobs. As of result many of us skilled electronics tech are push out by BSEE. Corporate America shares the blame, still who can blame them there thing they are getting good deal by government subsidizing higher education; corporations do not see the grown cost and waste of resources by putting a four degree person into a position that used to take vocational or high school education plus apprenticeship or military training.
    I also see this outside my field when I am note a large amount of college-educated workers in low to moderate wage jobs. These people are in low wage jobs and unable to make payment on their college loans. In addition, parents locking up huge amount of capital for college education that is better utilized, for example, helping the kid buy their first home.

  • ||

    The State is a good like any other. If people choose to spend their own money for more government and then borrow even more money for the bits they can't aford right now, then it's presumably totally worth it, right?

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