Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Great Comments at Forum on Education

I've been gone on vacation for a while, sorry for the break.

I love economists. There is no Hollywood actor, pop-star, comedian, or celebrity who so regularly blasphemes the mythologies of our times than economists.

This short forum which includes several economists and a few other "prestigious" people at the Chronicle on higher education should be read. Economist Bryan Caplan, makes a clinical, but very non-PC comment. Two excerpts:

"For whom is college attendance socially beneficial?" My answer: no more than 5 percent of high-school graduates, because college is mostly what economists call a "signaling game." Most college courses teach few useful job skills; their main function is to signal to employers that students are smart, hard-working, and conformist.

And another...

College attendance, in my view, is usually a drain on our economy and society. Encouraging talented people to spend many years in wasteful status contests deprives the economy of millions of man-years of output. If this were really an "investment," of course, it might be worth it. But I see little connection between the skills that students acquire in college and the skills they'll need later in life.

The whole article is filled with anti-college thoughts. The non-economists basically parrot myths and pablum. I generally agree that most of college is a status game where learning is secondary to "winning".

HT: Econlog


Anonymous said...

I somewhat agree. Higher education is basically a certificate for your employer to show that you have the discipline to stick with something for 4+years, and that you have given a couple years of thought into which field of work you want to spend your life doing. In reality a lot of these jobs could have trained you in 2 weeks and you would have been better prepared for the job and not have spent $30K+ on education. There are some jobs that do not apply of course.

It does help businesses weed out poor applicants. They couldn't handle the turnover of minimum wage employers.

Rational Education said...

Briefly reading the various economist views from the forum, I found not a single economist (including Caplan) speak from the premise of the individual,acting man (or as the case here: student). All of them viewed students as collectivist fodder that society will decide how it will best use and will give the best social benefits.
With rare exceptions economists start their examinations and analysis on any given issue not from the individual man as an end in himself, but from the tribal collective. Then they fight over which gang will force its particular views on this sacrificial fodder.
From holding such a metaphysics of their concept of man, it follows that they hold a screwed up epistemology, ethics, politics and aesthetics. If economists want to perceive reality, they first need to question and correct their metaphysics!

Brian Shelley said...


Excellent comments. I totally agree with you, but I still love the fact that they are willing to question an accepted myth of modern American society.

Yes, it took me a while after my undergrad and grad school years in economics to deprogram myself from utilitarianism. The trouble with economics, though, is that making policy specific commentary pays and gives status. Pure science doesn't. Thus, interventionism thrives and free markets suffer.