A Simple Theory of Liberal Arts Education


Marginal Revolutionary and Inner Economist Tyler Cowen of George Mason University lays out some reasons to get a liberal arts education:

Information in the modern world is virtually free, and well-defined tasks can be outsourced very cheaply, if need be.  Don't specialize in those.

Bias is everywhere, and overcoming bias yields great gains.  Empirically, our biases stem strongly from our nationality, our language, and our cultural background.  (It is, by the way, remarkable how much libertarianism is an Anglo-American phenomenon.)

To overcome those biases we should travel, spend some time living in other countries, and learn other languages.  In other words, the more knowledge is held in the minds of other people, the more competent we wish to be in assessing who is right and who is wrong, and that requires exposure to lots of different points of view.

Judgment, judgment, judgment.  That's the scarce asset which most people underinvest in, and which yields especially high returns.  It can't be outsourced very well either.

Marketing is becoming all-important as well.  That also requires judgment and the ability to see things from other people's points of view.  Again, live abroad and learn other languages.

At the very least, date foreign women (or men).

More here. reason interviewed Cowen on his latest book, Discover Your Inner Economist (go here) and his most excellent Creative Destruction (go here). He's written for us over the years (not all his stuff is online, alas) and has had nice things to say about reason over the years, so you can benchmark his judgment, judgment, judgment based on all that.

I made the case for studying the arts here and, at longer length, here. That's not exactly the same as the liberal arts (though the overlap is significant) but the points are very similar.

Hat Tip: Saw Cowen's post first at the New York Sun's excellent Economics on the Web blog.