When Will Big Business Figure Out That the Education-Industrial Complex is Eating its Lunch?

Yves here. This post points out how parochial Corporate America has become in its looting. Look at how some not-very-large changes in approach would leave those fat cats much better off! And they wouldn’t be so terrible for the rest of us either.

By J. D. Alt, author of The Architect Who Couldn’t Sing, available at Amazon.com or iBooks. Originally posted at New Economic Perspectives.

The Washington Post recently reported that Day Care now costs more—in 31 U.S. states—than a college education. In a fit of logic rarely exhibited in today’s journalism, the article explains that since it takes the average family eighteen years to save enough for a child’s college education, that same child now needs to start saving for his or her own children’s Day Care beginning at age eight. The article didn’t mention—I suppose because they thought it was obvious—that this necessity is against America’s child labor laws. And, of course, Little League Baseball would be devastated.

Please consider for a moment the existential dilemma posed by this logical absurdity—and what it says about the American free-enterprise system we’re so genuinely proud of.

What’s great about America is that everyone has the chance to earn a good life for themselves. All that’s needed is to get a good job to earn the money to pay for the things that make a good life. Once you get that job you can start earning your good life. America’s Catch 22, however, is that you’ve got to earn that good job before you can start earning your good life. The education required to get a good job—beginning with the pre-school day care that prepares you to succeed in public school so you can then qualify to pay for college or culinary or auto-mechanic school—that education package is the first “commodity” your good life requires you to buy. As already noted, the American free-enterprise system gives this “education commodity” a price tag that takes the average family about eighteen years of earnings to set aside for.

If you’re lucky enough to have a functional family that can earn and save for you, by the time you’re eighteen you should have enough to meet college tuition payments. Except now we realize there’s a good chance you might not have graduated from high school because your mom couldn’t afford the pre-school day care that might have taught you the early reading and learning skills that would have gotten you off to a running start in second and third grade, but without which you struggled, fell behind, and finally decided that school itself was for the birds because you couldn’t learn anything no matter how hard you tried, and it was easier just to be cool, although that, in itself, was a challenge that seemed to require buying things, which you couldn’t do since you couldn’t earn because you had no hope, really, of getting a job—so you might have been forced to take up shoplifting or petty burglary or worse, just to be cool, because if you couldn’t get an education and therefore a job so you could earn money to buy things to create a good life, the only thing left to strive for was just to be cool. And meanwhile, the rest of us are having to pay good tax dollars to catch you, prosecute you, and incarcerate you, which simply transforms you irrevocably into an angry human being whose chance at earning a good life has been utterly destroyed and wasted.

Even luckier, your mom decides to stay home during your formative cognitive years so she can read you storybooks on the sofa, and help you play alphabet building blocks on the carpet. Except, in that case, she hasn’t been able to earn anything in the free-enterprise system enabling her to put aside for your college tuition, and so—even though you really excelled in public school and are all excited about going on to university—there’s no money to buy the tuition with, in which case you become a customer of one of the more lucrative operations in the American free-enterprise system (the student loan business) and borrow the dollars for your college tuition, which means that when you finally graduate and get that good first job and start earning, a substantial portion of what you earn will have to go towards paying off your $29,000 student debt instead of buying the things for your good life. If you happen to marry someone in the same boat, your young, starting out family now has a combined debt of nearly $60,000—and you haven’t even bought anything yet! Which you won’t be doing anytime soon, either, because not only do you have pay back the $60,000 (plus interest and penalties) you have to start saving immediately for the day care expenses for your future toddlers (what else did you get married for?) which you’ll be forced to incur because staying home to read them storybooks is not an option since it’s going to take all of two incomes to pay off your college debt while at the same time saving for your kid’s future college tuition.

And what if you’re not even lucky enough to have a functional family?

The point could be made that it’s surreally illogical that a nation whose free-enterprise system is based entirely upon its citizens being able to earn Dollars would so intentionally hinder and hamper their ability ever to do so. If the free-enterprise system were viewed as a business itself, and it had one of those “old time” CEOs—the ones who genuinely wanted to guide their business toward a path of sustainable profits instead of short-term, bonus-generating revenues—it would seem self-evident that the VERY FIRST thing that CEO would insist upon is that every citizen, as soon as they are issued a birth-certificate, is enrolled in a very focused, comprehensive and absolutely FREE educational process (beginning with pre-school, early-learning day care, and continuing all the way through college or trade-school) the goal of which (obviously) is to generate as many citizen-earners as possible. The business motto would be “Every lost citizen-earner is a lost free-enterprise customer!” And the very first act of the new FREE education process would be the immediate pay-off all existing student debt.

No doubt there would be some board members of Free-Enterprise Inc. (FEI) who would raise the following objections:

  1. Federal taxes will have to be increased dramatically to pay for the free educational services—or some other part of Federal spending will have to be reduced dramatically to make up the difference, neither of which is feasible.
  2. Getting something for “FREE”, without having to earn it, makes people lazy and dependent. Forcing people to earn their education builds character, motivates them to action, and teaches them the good business practices of borrowing and paying back their debts.
  3. Major subsidiaries of FEI—namely the student loan industry and the now burgeoning for-profit charter school industry—would likely be put out of business by a comprehensive and universal “FREE” education system.

To which the CEO might reply:

“No! No! And no! Don’t you get it? Can’t you see beyond the end of your noses? Heaven help us! First of all, eliminating the earning power of some vast percentage of our potential customers just so some minor FEI subsidiary can make a profit on their struggles and dilemmas is contradictory to our basic business mission—which is, repeat after me, board-members: ‘to sell as much stuff to as many people as possible’, right?—which requires those people to become earners. If you are unable to comprehend and stick to that basic mission, then you have no place on this board of directors.

“Second, becoming educated, itself, is a big enough challenge that it is unlikely to induce people to a lazy dependency. Learning itself motivates greater learning, and also motivates putting that learning into action. And the idea that you have “learn” to borrow so you can get really good at it is absurd on its face. You can’t be a member of this board and think trash like that.

“And finally, the proposed “FREE” education program can be fully implemented WITHOUT spending a single tax-payer Dollar. All that’s required is simply passing a law directing the Central Bank and the Treasury to issue the fiat currency as needed to pay for it—just like we (most recently) paid for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. And if the word ‘inflation’ is forming on your lips, please explain to me how helping more people to earn more Dollars by creating MORE goods and services is, in itself, going to lead to skyrocketing price increases. You can’t be a member of this board and think in such irrational ways as that.

“We’ll discuss sustainability and global warming at our next board meeting. For now I simply want to make sure we’re all on board with what our basic business mission is, and what the single most important component of that mission must unavoidably be.”

It would take a full generation for the CEO’s business strategy to produce the substantial results he (or she?) is envisioning. But much sooner than that—almost immediately, in fact—the lives of young American families would be dramatically improved: No longer burdened with the task of paying off their $60,000 student loans, they could start buying cars and refrigerators. They could even go ahead and start having children, secure in the fact that FREE early childhood learning and day care services would provide the option of continuing their young careers virtually uninterrupted. Best of all though: Our eight-year old little-leaguers will no longer have to start saving for the Day Care expenses of their future children. They can just focus on learning to catch fly balls.

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  1. JGordon

    As you said above, the same fiat generating mechanism that could fund education is the same one currently being used to fund the multiple voluntary wars that we are engaged in, not to mention the “war” on drugs, the NSA, the prison industrial complex, etc.

    In fact, when given the power to martial the finite resources of society, our corporate state government almost always makes the most boneheaded choices possible. Which seems to argue that giving government the unmitigated power to usurp and (forgive the word) redistribute all of a society’s finite resources at its own discretion, such as is the case where government is allowed to create fiat currency and enforce its use with liberal violence, is not a very good idea for the long term health of a society.

    This is relevant to the myth of infinite resources. A long standing and cherished myth of many pseudo intellectuals is that material wealth springs solely from the ingenuity of men (or women). But the reality of the situation is that wealth comes from the ecology and resources already present on the earth, and that the role of people in the process of “wealth creation” can be more accurately described as finding ever more efficient ways to tear through the earth’s precious biological and mineral capital as quickly and unsustainable as possible.

    Thus in advocating that more people have the opportunity to become educated and attain a middle class lifestyle, you are also arguing for making this resource extraction (and waste) process that much more efficient. In reality, the environment can not long sustain even today’s insane consumption binge–and proposing intelligent (in a very narrow sense) policies that are guaranteed to plop out even more aggressive and efficient consumers of (so far) finite seems to be rather counterproductive.

    I say, before we go about achieving your goal of universal free education (which is altogether laudable, absent the context of our diseased culture), we should first try to decide how people should be educated in the first place–since sending more people, even free, into today’s education system would only advance the cause of collective suicide. Which is why I applaud shrinking and slowing economies, and all the stupid policies that produce them. Like its commonsense that you don’t hand a gun to a preschooler, human beings at the present time should not be allowed “economic growth” or policies that promote it.

    1. reason

      “Government” isn’t government.

      Otherwise we wouldn’t even bother about elections, let alone get worked up about them.

    2. SAKMAN

      Oh, from where did all these thoughts come from brown eyes? Did you come up with them all on your lonesome, or were you educated?

    3. Chris S.

      Much of education now consists of trying to beat creativity and curiosity out of children, who are born with it naturally.

      Also, they must be educated about classes, so that the poor know their place.

      1. OIFVet

        When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful,
        a miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical.
        And all the birds in the trees, well they’d be singing so happily,
        joyfully, playfully watching me.
        But then they send me away to teach me how to be sensible,
        logical, responsible, practical.
        And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable,
        clinical, intellectual, cynical.

        The Logical Song, Supertramp.

    4. Chris S.

      This is really good, really true.

      We should aim for ramping down the level of consumption, and building a resilient sustainable society. Even if its possible to automate almst everything, another arguments could be made that its foolish to put all your eggs in one basket in such a way.

      Also, there is a lot to be said for the state of awareness that comes from not trying to do everything so hard. Our current economy seems set up to kill us all- the whole planet, in some kind of race to the bottom on wages.

      That is really stupid. We can do far better than that.

      >Thus in advocating that more people have the opportunity to become educated and attain a middle class lifestyle, you are also arguing for making this resource extraction (and waste) process that much more efficient. In reality, the environment can not long sustain even today’s insane consumption binge–and proposing intelligent (in a very narrow sense) policies that are guaranteed to plop out even more aggressive and efficient consumers of (so far) finite seems to be rather counterproductive.

  2. allcoppedout

    I don’t really agree JG – but this is the kind of argument we need to see more of. Groaf, groaf, groaf makes me sick. And tiny adjustments like wearing woolly sweaters and permagardens are all very well but hopeless. I’m totally against such as making education free in order to free up the young to buy cars and other toys. We need bigger thinking than that. I’m always dubious of ‘self-made’ stories too – they have rarely been true when I’ve been able to investigate them.

    We need some radical thinking from people who don’t have sunk costs in the education system. Too many of them think it’s a good thing because they did so well, but I rarely meet any professional who realises they education competition they were in was so narrow, poor even in facts and so skewed in favour of those with brains developing to its timetable. We start too early it’s child-minding until 22 for those who get to university. Pathetic. Where are the sample tests of what education actually enables? Why are we ‘discovering’ that providing decent meals raises IQ in poor groups? Watch a skilled worker like a joiner or sewing machine operator and try and do what they do. Is it less than lawyer bull or what we do?

    On the groaf side, we need some calculations on earth-burning and the amount of work we need to do and can afford to do. This is entirely absent from economics. There is a huge problem getting people to see the obvious and most people present a false picture of their intelligence. I’m as dumb as a turnip sometimes. I don’t know, but suspect we could all have much more satisfactory lives and get rid of poverty without groaf.

    Education, education, education, groaf, groaf, groaf. Pathetic non-thinking. The term consumption was reserved for a vile disease when I was a kid. We have habits to break and need to find ways to let people see the new. Human beings copy and we need some originals to copy from. The planet burns so make education free so the kids can consume more. Was education to the highest levels needed to come up with this stupidity?

    1. Chris S.

      If by education you mean training the workers in industry, we may do that completely differently in the near future.

      Persons who are extremely good at what they do will be able to participate in a process which captures all of the inputs and outputs that define their work and develops a picture digitally of that work and the decisions which go into performing it.

      Then that job will be able to be done with all the skill of the most skilled workers all the time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

    2. susan the other

      Alt kept my attention, depressed but hopeful, until he resorted to the same-old, same-old mantra about growth. Instead of analyzing this stuff from the top down, as above even tho’ the analysis is good to prove all the contradictions that make our society fail from the get-go, we should be going to the dump: analyze all this shit from the bottom up, from the detritus and the manure. What works, what doesn’t work. And when we are forced to look at that we are also forced to look at the basic tenets of capitalism which demand growth, however marginal. So because things are cut to the bone the new sticking point is “productivity.” But the thing to be argued in light of all the uselessness and garbage we shed to earn a dollar, is what kind of productivity? Should we have productivity only the bottom line, the profit of a business; or should be have productivity for a better society and world? That’s really the question and Alt just skirts it like skateboarder.

  3. Working Class Nero

    I live in a country with free preschool, free primary and secondary education (including the elite pubic and catholic schools) and more or less free universities and I wouldn’t want to trade my situation for anything that which exists in the US. But the article points out the internal contradictions within the MMT mindset, they are a bunch of left-leaners who take a nationalist point of view (sovereign issuer of currency) in a globalized world, but abhor nationalism and refuse the recognize that trade, immigration, and labor supply issues need to be coordinated with fiscal policy.

    The reason why CEO’s or other members of the ruling oligarchy in the US are not about to institute toddler-to-young adult free education is because through the process of globalization they have been emancipated from the yokes of dependency on their local populations — both as customers and workers. Big corps can scan the globe looking for pockets of affluence into which they can peddle their goods. They can blissfully ignore the local squalor around them just as easily as they do when they pass from the airport in other poor countries through the shantytowns or favelas on their ways to the posh part of the city where their customers are. And free trade agreements only help cement this access.

    The same is true for workers. On the one hand it is true that the higher the supply of locally educated workers in the pool, the more corporations could bargain and lower salaries. But given that the US is spiraling towards a Brazil-type social structure, there really isn’t just that much need for many educated workers. Sure, there needs to be a highly skilled managerial caste of say 20% of the population. But what better way to make sure they get the best and most dedicated workers than to raise such incredibly high financial obstacles in the way of the 50-60% of the population who are vying for these jobs? Only the most dedicated or those in the most privileged positions will make it over the hurdle And this helps reward and ensures obedience from the 20% caste since it is their children and grandchildren who will for the most part be locked into this privileged caste. Yes a few capable lower class people are left behind but the magic of globalization and H-1B visa inflation means that Big Corps can import the best and brightest from other countries to make up for any talent inefficiencies the increasingly professional caste-based system in the US brings to the table.

    Just last night on the French news they had someone quoted the President of the Republic defending how good French schools are by saying on a recent trip to California he met plenty of French workers in Silicon Valley working on the newest and most innovative products. I couldn’t help thinking that if the French system were really so good there would be a “vallée du silicium” on the Côte d’Azur and talented French students wouldn’t need to relocate to California. But it only reinforced the fact that US elites are now as free as a bird in relationship to their local inhabitants

    It wasn’t always this way. Of course Silicon Valley is indeed the fruit of a very wise universally accessible educational policy California implemented in the fifties and early sixties. But that was back in the days before globalization when elites were indeed dependent on the local population as both consumers and employees.

    So US companies and elites not only don’t need to increase the lot of their masses; with the growing crisis of global warming they have every interest in imposing austerity to lower the standard of living of the many so that energy consumption by the few can continue to grow.

    Globalization is a sort of reverse Communism where instead of the workers, it is instead the Bourgeoisie and Oligarchs of the world who unite and from this union the (ex)-workers can be slowly and safely oppressed into oblivion.

    But this is where MMT fails by refusing to recognize that it is basically a nationalist ideology and a good one at that. The problem is that an open fiscal policy needs to be combined with a tight trade and immigration policies. What good is it to have a guaranteed jobs program if any poor person in the world can move to your country and claim it? Would good is it to stimulate consumption if none of the product being consumed is produced in your country or by your fellow citizens? How can you have free universal education if any dreamy poor peasant in your neighboring countries can move to your country and take advantage of your system? In the long run you just cannot have both open borders and a healthy welfare state. It is no accident that about the only major political figure in the world pushing MMT is Marine Le Pen, the leader of the Front National. And with the austerity budget introduced in France yesterday by the Socialists, her numbers are only going up. But the trend of course in Europe under the influence of Globalization is that the free education systems are slowly being clawed back from the masses and replaced by more US-type for-pay systems. And the strongest defenders of this erosion are the bourgeois Left who are increasingly finding themselves comfortable in the 20% professional castes and don’t want their newly acquired privileges challenged by a bunch of know-nothing nativists.

    So if you want universal affordable education you need to first get the necks of your Bourgeoisie and Elite back under the yokes of the local masses — and the only line of defense against the elites are the nation’s borders. The basic formula is that for the most part, products sold in your country should be produced in your country by your citizens. One doesn’t need to go to the autarkic extreme of North Korea; just back to where the western countries were in the 50’s and 60’s.

    1. allcoppedout

      “Globalization is a sort of reverse Communism where instead of the workers, it is instead the Bourgeoisie and Oligarchs of the world who unite and from this union the (ex)-workers can be slowly and safely oppressed into oblivion.”
      Agonisingly true.

    2. cwaltz

      I’m going to take a contrary opinion, several states are already looking at creating free community college(and they aren’t necessarily the states you’d figure, TN, for example.) I suspect there will come a point where an associates will be as commonplace as a high school diploma. The truth is that states need an educated workforce or they end up being unable to attract businesses that want an educated workforce.

      It is sad though that it’s coming so late in the game. My oldest wanted to be a teacher. There was absolutely no way though that he’d put himself $50,000 in debt(I was group B of the above scenario) just to turn around and struggle financially everyday(the teachers in my region haven’t had a real pay raise in 5 years not counting the raise they gave them to cover the fact that they were going to have to pay more into retirement.) So the system is losing out on young, enthusiastic potential by creating barriers to jobs they want that might not pay a lot in terms of money but might be desirous for other reasons.

      1. Working Class Nero

        What’s interesting about the Tennessee proposal is that it is not exactly free JC; it’s limited to two years free instead of the usual $4000 a year. But after two years you have to pay. This proposal seems to be aimed at people seeking AA degrees is service / trade school type sectors like day care workers, mechanics, secretaries, etc. Typically using a JC to transfer to a four year college takes more than two years as there are a lot of remedial classes to take before taking the actual courses that give college credit, although the same could be said about the AA degrees as well. Still, saving $8000 isn’t bad either way.

        Obviously globalization has it limits and local businesses in Tennessee are probably not (yet) flooded with illegals looking to undercut the locals at changing tires and cutting hair so it makes a lot of sense for these business people to support socializing the costs of training their local workers. Besides salaries are already pretty low in Tennessee.

        In fact this kind of trade school training is incorporated into many European secondary school systems. Bright and/or bourgeois kids go to secondary schools that prepare them for university while less bright and/or working class kids go to a technical school where they prepare for a trade. Typically when they graduate at 18 they have qualifications to be hired into a trade.

        I would not at all be surprised to see more of these types of initiatives where businesses push to have their medium-skill workers trained at public expense. The only opponents would be the private trade schools and but they probably don’t have quite enough power to throw the balance in their favor. But these proposals are a far cry from free universal pre-school discussed in the article.

        As for your son, I’ve seen it the other way. I have two nephew-in-laws with college degrees (actually one was a few credits away but dropped out) but they ended up doing typical working class jobs (carpenter and nursery (garden) worker) where no degree is required. But they still have their huge loans to pay off, even the one who didn’t graduate. The choice to go to college doesn’t seem to make a huge amount of economic sense sometimes.

    3. Ben Johannson

      This an excellent example of Joan Robinson’ definition of a metaphysical argument. Who could have imagined that so shortly after the post we’d find someone arguing in the neoclassical style.

    4. John yard

      Absolutely correct. Completely free movement of labor completely undercuts labor’s economic position , both in the advanced and developed worlds. An example is US-Mexican labor migration. It has severly undercut both the possibilty of change in Mexico, and the living standards of the American working class.

      1. Chris S.

        Pervasive automation in manufacturing is making the differences in the costs of labor far less significant by reducing the need for it.

        1. Alejandro

          How do you reconcile a militarized border with “free movement of labor”? Have you considered that maybe the free movement of “capital” has done substantially more to undercut “labor’s economic position”? Does the idea of solidarity mean anything, anymore to working people? Is “universal” solidarity restricted by race, ethnicity, clans, borders etc.etc.etc.?

          This was a real eye-opener, from a very unlikely source;

          Without real universal solidarity, we’re all working “class” ZERO’s.

    5. Chris S.

      Silicon Valley is such an international place more from the fact that the sciences and technology are international, much more so than from people working on H1B visas.

    6. Calgacus

      Working Class Nero: But this is where MMT fails by refusing to recognize that it is basically a nationalist ideology and a good one at that. The problem is that an open fiscal policy needs to be combined with a tight trade and immigration policies. What good is it to have a guaranteed jobs program if any poor person in the world can move to your country and claim it?

      MMT & Functional Finance understand the international picture quite well. Although few understand or believe the theory sufficiently there. Everybody has Bright Ideas they KNOW must be added to MMT/FF to treat open economies. Ben Johannson and the discussion following his comment on the Richard Alford post was a breath of fresh air. There ain’t nothing to add to MMT. There is no case for concerted action. There is no need for legislatures, Treasury departments and central banks to consider anything but the domestic situation. A welfare state and open fiscal policy does NOT need to be combined with tight immigration and trade policies. A country might decide it wants them, or not, but they aren’t necessary in any realistic situation. Like Abba Lerner said, the theory requires “little or no modification” for the open economy case.
      A prosperous welfare state will provide the tremendous threat of a good example and sustaining demand that will bolster every country’s economy. Most people want to stay home. But the real point is that a Job Guarantee – does valuable work – so it pays for itself & more. So people want to come to the USA to work in its JG program? Fine, they will enrich the USA. It ain’t a gift, it’s a real job, like any other, and more beneficial than most. If you take care of unemployment, everything else takes care of itself very well. Contrary beliefs are invariably based on specious arguments, jumping to incorrect conclusions and ignoring evidence.

      “Globalization” has had destructive effects because that’s what the bad guys wanted. That was the plan. But such plans cannot work in a low-inflation, zero-unemployment MMT/JG living wage regime. But maybe I’m wrong. After all, remember that country which declared “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me.” Didn’t it go broke and disappear? :-)

  4. allcoppedout

    The points on childcare are vital. We presumably need people to have kids (we may shy away from some eugenics here). 19 – 28 are the best years, probably for both sexes, for the health of the child and mother. So why aren’t we organising that?

    The answer to why we aren’t organising pretty much everything sensible is economics used in the politics of control for the rich. The rich and their political vassals think everything is working for them. I think we’d be surprised what evil they are. Recognising there is little need for labour to keep them going, they intend to lay us waste. What this scum class cannot abide is living with equals. They are disablers.

    We need new data for new education and new economies. Could massive green projects actually provide work that makes us more secure and balanced? How can we educate against cars and toys as groaf, Women, apart from Russians, have more of less given up on fur coats. And as the self-enabling super-hero American thrusting with self-making bursts out wanting to do all this dynamic onanism, he or she needs an education in how damn selfish it all is. Groaf hurts everyone else. Why not try something adult, balanced, thought through, properly pleasurable? Have we forgotten that a couple of billion people not living in poverty is a good thing for us (we lack the calculations to be sure, but we surely knew before expanding manufacturing to Chindia the planet couldn’t afford the groaf). The danger, if we rely on anyone tarred by brush with economics, is groaf solutions.

    The answer is sensible quality of life solution.

    1. Chris S.

      Green projects could provide work to the low bidders, but thanks to the FTAs, whatever country the bidding firms are in, isn’t allowed to matter!

      They have not discussed this because they dont want Americans to know that there is no WPA-like escape valve for the formerly working class this time. They are on their own.

      However, the silver lining is that if they want to start a company and bid for jobs anywhere in the world, now they can be treated as a local supplier too.

      For example, if a GATS member puts out an RFP on a “green project” and a US firm is the low bidder, they have to let us do it! Just like US communities may eventually have to let foreign educational services firms staff our schools, if they are the low bidders.

      As a signatory to this important international “agreement”, US state and local governments and the US national government cannot discriminate against any capable firm from anywhere in the world in staffing these make work projects.

      US hotel firms will get their business too, while they do the work, unless they sleep in their trailers or a dorm.

        1. Chris S.

          Well, it is scary because these FTAs are trading “people’s jobs” for higher profits.. They have to give these countries something and that something will be jobs of people who aren’t even connected to them in contract form on a large scale. The era where it was the norm that teachers and nurses especially were US citizens or green card holders who work for the hospital or school that they work at may end and instead the new people would be foreigners employed by education or medical services corporations typically based on the other countries, who will take a good chunk of their salaries.

          They will be here for fixed periods of time, four years, say. Wages may be very low, relative to theose they replaced.

  5. Hugh

    Kleptocracy is about looting in the here and now. There is no tomorrow. To the kleptocratic mind, it makes perfect sense to steal the golden eggs the goose has laid and then eat the goose for lunch. Normal people have difficulty wrapping their head around this short-sighted destructiveness, but then normal people aren’t kleptocrats.

    1. Skeptic

      Excellent point. Money must keep increasing the speed at which it moves, thus the current discussion of High Frequency Trading. Nothing matters to the kleptocrats more than a quicker return on their (our) money. Add in the fact that many of these kleptos are sociopaths and you have a really toxic mix.
      One interesting facet of the above is that I have yet to see any elements of the 1% who actually have to make and sell some crap, like SADIOS, for instance, start to see the danger in all this. They form part of the Goose and will eventually be eaten. For instance, I believe many regional banks have disappeared since 2007. Many of those bankers shared similar values with the Wall Street Gang but are now only dissolved goose flesh floating about in the Parasite.

    2. Dan Kervick

      Right, “I’ll be gone; you’ll be gone” is still the word. The people who run the free enterprise system make enough money in two years to live a well-appointed lifetime. And they can park that money out of reach of Uncle Sam. What do they care about the future of quaint projects like “America”.

      1. James Levy

        I think Dan it is even worse than that. They are not satisfied with that huge pot of cash in the Cayman Islands–they want more. This obsession with making money leaves no time for other concerns. In short, greed blinds them to all future considerations, all externalities, all thought of legacy and dynasty, things that mattered to the rich even in the Gilded Age. The only thing that may save us from a permanent plutocracy is that most of these guys (very few gals) would rather surround themselves with valuable “comers” who will make them even more money and garner them even more power than family members. Unsuited children will be shunted aside like any other facet of business that doesn’t “perform.” Banger’s stress on narcissism really does apply.

      2. TimR

        Are you familiar with Carroll Quigley’s _Tragedy and Hope_ about long-term planning by elites? Full disclosure, I’ve only read/heard about it second hand myself, but apparently it suggests a great deal of planning and long-term thinking by the wealthy. (Quigley btw was a historian at some Ivy League college, and Bill Clinton claimed him as his mentor.)
        Putting aside Quigley though, just general reading will soon acquaint one with the CFR, Federal Reserve, and endless well-endowed think tanks and foundations (Rand Corp., Rockefeller Found., Ford, etc. etc.) other global governmental bodies, military planning bodies, on and on, that suggest the .01% are very much concerned with planning decades, if not centuries, into the future. Maybe some newly minted entrepreneurs and CEOs are trapped in a personal greed mindset, but the really established families have bigger fish to fry, it would seem to me.

      3. hunkerdown

        Money is just keeping score. What does one need an economy for if relationships to the means of production are assigned at birth and enforced forever?

  6. David Lentini

    “our basic business mission—which is, repeat after me, board-members: ‘to sell as much stuff to as many people as possible’, right?”

    Here’s your first error: Businesses don’t exist to sell stuff; they exist to maximize “shareholder value”. Whether that requires selling stuff is another question. As our bankers have shown, you can maximize shareholder value by destroying the economy and getting the government to subsidize your greed.

    “Second, becoming educated, itself, is a big enough challenge that it is unlikely to induce people to a lazy dependency. Learning itself motivates greater learning, and also motivates putting that learning into action. And the idea that you have “learn” to borrow so you can get really good at it is absurd on its face. You can’t be a member of this board and think trash like that.”

    Here’s your second error: Traditionally, business has looked at “education” as something only for the éites who will be our leaders. Everyone else gets “schooling” that amounts to a basic functional literacy needed to get as low-paying a job as possible. Well educated people (in the classical Western sense) tend to see through the consumerism and foolishness of neo-liberal capitalism; and they have a nasty habit of wanting their democratic right, thinking they have just as much right to political power as the éites.

    The educated are quite dangerous. If you read about the history of education reform in America, you’ll see that our current system was devised by the first generation of Robber Barons to produce exactly this result.

    “And finally, the proposed “FREE” education program can be fully implemented WITHOUT spending a single tax-payer Dollar. All that’s required is simply passing a law directing the Central Bank and the Treasury to issue the fiat currency as needed to pay for it—just like we (most recently) paid for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. And if the word ‘inflation’ is forming on your lips, please explain to me how helping more people to earn more Dollars by creating MORE goods and services is, in itself, going to lead to skyrocketing price increases. You can’t be a member of this board and think in such irrational ways as that.”

    Pumping “fiat currency” into the economy with the goal of increasing economic activity historically has led eventually to inflation. At some point, the taxes have to be raised, or the printing presses stopped, to compensate for the injection of money. As for our current situation, the government has compensated for our Afghan-Iraq spending by cutting back in other areas. And that other bit of largesse, known as QE, has not surprisingly led to asset bubbles&emdash;inflation, in other words.

    So, just printing money won’t come without a side effect. Why not just compare the tax increases needed for education, vs. the taxes needed without education and do a cost-benefit analysis. The results should speak for themselves.

    1. Chris S.

      Some fairly significant number of wealthy people think public education is no longer necessary and “only leads to unrealistic expectations” as someone put it to me once.

      Their logic is since jobs are going away, there is no longer any need to teach poor people how to be workers in those jobs.

  7. Moneta

    The education system is completely out of whack with the rest of the economy…

    Here in Canada, grade school and high school cost about 10K per child. If you have 2 children, then that would be 20K… 90% of families would not be able to afford this, especially if they have to buy houses at inflated prices, have to save for college and retirement. It’s a good thing government pays for this…

    It only works if you spread the cost cross the population and there are not too many children… that worked fine for the last 2-3 decades with the boomer worker bulge and the ensuing increase in workers per dependents. Plus the ability to tack on cost overruns to debts. But as the following baby bust picks up the baton (end of Gen-X and Gen-Y), the young ones only start paying taxes at 30 and the debt levels get capped, you know the education system will get clobbered.

    1. Moneta

      And thanks to suburban sprawl which has exploded over the last couple of decades, we have a load of half filled schools, a lot of them less than 20 years old, which is costly and wasteful.

      1. Moneta

        It’s about 50/50 infra and teachers.

        If the teacher is making 80K and there are 22-24 students in the class that’s about 3500$… and we have not yet paid for the other benefits and pensions.

      2. McMike

        Every human endeavor is captured and monetized: it’s all hamster wheels of rent extraction and Catch-22 debt traps.

        I can see how we got here, but I have a hard time picturing how we get out, short of some sort of massive “reset” button.

        That usually takes some major pain. And often the end product of the change is as bad or worse than the original.

        1. James Levy

          McMike, I have believed for a long time that in Europe World War II acted as just such a reset button. When the only institutions left standing with any access to money (often via transfers from the US) was the national government, it was relatively easy to put in place a welfare state. What else were doctors going to do when all their patients were living in bombed out shanties or returning war vets with no jobs but take money from the government? Old elites were compromised or disgraced, and the average person wanted a better life and now everywhere had the vote. Social Democracy was the natural outcome of that reset situation.

          This is why the “discredit the government” meme that floats around here I find so dangerous. We need much more to discredit the corporations, the university professors, the media and the think tanks, than the government, because the government will be in the end the only generalized institution that we can all grab hold of and use for the common good.

          1. hunkerdown

            Discrediting government is silly. Discrediting a system of representative democracy that was designed so as to *resist* resets, in particular, strikes me as necessary. Systems usually produce what they were designed to produce, and the historical record is clear that the US was designed so as to *minimize* popular influence on policy outcomes. And that Princeton paper going around shows that, indeed, it works.

            Do we really *need* an institution to grab? And would an institution whose design is completely unsuited to implementing the popular will or improving the general welfare be at all *helpful* to have in hand? A cartoon gag comes to mind in which the antagonist’s shotgun experiences an ill-timed transmutation into a snake.

  8. Jim Haygood

    ‘90% of families would not be able to afford this … it’s a good thing government pays for this … It only works if you spread the cost cross the population and there are not too many children …’

    This logic produces a couple of profound distortions. One is that since K-12 education appears to be free, people have more children than if they contemplated meeting the $120K+ cost of their primary and secondary education.

    Second, with near-monopoly educational supply via government schools, costs (unconstrained by any competition) balloon until even the shared burden (via property taxes in the U.S.) becomes intolerable.

    Many modest suburban boxes around here pay $10K+ annually in property taxes. That’s $120K+ in twelve years, not only when you have kids, but also when you’re old. It’s a fallacy of composition to imagine that what we can’t afford individually is affordable collectively.

    This system is not a recipe for either quality or productivity. Meanwhile, note the unsubtle up-selling campaign: ‘beginning with the pre-school day care that prepares you to succeed in public school’. In New York City, the involvement of teachers unions in pushing this meme is quite explicit. Too much ain’t enough …

    1. James Levy

      First, armies and dams and interstate highways are all assets that individuals can’t pay for but collectivities can and must pay for.

      Second, the problem is not teacher’s unions, it is the quest to administer and oversee everything. Businessmen and corporate types want “metrics”, they want oversight–the idea of leaving the workers (teachers) to get on with their business is anathema and flies in the face of the whole ideology that workers are sheep who need to be organized, led, and told what to do. This has led to an explosion of administrators in school districts and university campuses (who must all, by the logic of the system, make more than the drones they administer). Add the costs of technology that must be endlessly upgraded and replaced, and you have the recipe for today’s mounting education costs. Teacher’s salaries are but a small part of this, largely driven by the need to compensate teachers for stealth inflation in housing and education costs they must bear to raise their own children, exacerbated by the multi-tiered discrimination concretized by using local property taxes to fund education.

    2. Moneta

      You bring up many good points. When I wrote that it’s a good thing government pays for this, I was being sarcastic. It appeared affordable over the last couple of decades because of the increasing ratios of debt and workers/dependent.

      But when you consider that the average household income here in Canada is around 75K with about 15K going to provincial and federal taxes plus 3K in muni and school taxes = 18K. It does not even cover the cost of education for a household with 2 children… then what about healthcare, OAS, and all other public expenses…

    3. Alejandro

      “It’s a fallacy of composition to imagine that what we can’t afford individually is affordable collectively.”

      Q.: Why is this true?
      A.: “Because markets”-Lambert Strether and
      “Knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing”-Sir James Goldsmith

      Q.: Can you “afford” to collect rain water for your drinking needs? If so, what if it doesn’t rain where your modest suburban box happens to be?

      Q.: Why do “we” accept the presupposition that “Education” is for training on how to best serve the zero dot zero oners?

      1. hunkerdown

        Why do “we” accept the presupposition that “Education” is for training on how to best serve the zero dot zero oners?

        It’s very clear from the instructional methods, social structure, disciplinary philosophies, historical writings, time management, engagement of instructors, degrees of influence various interests have over education, and even the architecture of the physical plant.

        Also, I’ve been there and that was certainly my impression.

    4. reslez

      > One is that since K-12 education appears to be free, people have more children

      There are several countries in Europe that wish this were true. Unfortunately it isn’t. Cold hard facts on the ground, world wide, show that the more education you give people the fewer children they have.

      Putting aside the not-so-hidden subtext of this notion, which is to scare you that “those people” will start having more children, oh horrors. Rest assured hind brain, the exact opposite is the case.

      1. Chris S.

        How could anybody think that public education makes people have more children. That’s really ludicrous given the cost of raising a child has been estimated at around a quarter million dollars. Almost as much as health insurance in America.

  9. Chris S.

    A similar situation exists in education as exists in healthcare with GATS, and the pressure on countries to privatize all of education will be fierce in countries that any privatized education at all. The US would like to be able to use those teaching jobs in the US as bargaining chips to get access to overseas markets. So expect the next manufactured crisis after healthcare to be in K12 education. Its too big for them to just leave it alone, also since jobs – almost all jobs are going away due to automation over the next 20-30 year period, there will be fierce pressure on families to leave the US togo somewhere cheaper. So allowing in workers from other countries in these GATS Mode Four deals will be hyped as allowing families to afford to stay in the US and save the formerly working class neighborhoods from squatters and the bulldozers. Of course, it will just be a temporary fix.

    See the Public Services and GATS areticle I’ve posted before.

    1. Chris S.

      …Article, not “areticle”.

      Sorry about the spelling errors.

      I also wanted to qualify what I just said. It sounds extreme to say “almost all jobs are going away” and I wanted to say that that outcome is not a given.

      It will only happen if our so called leaders make a conscious decision to “give up, on most of society.

      Which is to say, stay on the path we’re on today, deciding to not really attempt to meet or even acknowledge that demand.

      We could do that handily if we invested even just a third of the money we spend on the military in education we could probably dramatically reduce the impact of the exponential growth of technology on our society – making it far more likely the human race would survive the coming century. (Right now I think our chances are about 50:50)

      We would also be boosting the average educational level of Americans substantially. We have to do it. I think its safe to say that by mid century, there will very few low skill jobs that aren’t done mostly by machines. (We’ll also be likely to have intelligent, self-aware machines by then)

      Since its inevitable, we should accept that most businesses will gradually no longer be job creators as they once were. The most we’ll be able to hope for is gradual reductions in employment. (which I think is far less likely than abrupt changes.)

      What’s required to keep a sizable workforce in the 21st century? A very high level of technical literacy compared to today, and thinking outside the box – we have to change our educational system so as not to stifle- creativity.

      All businesses will be likely to shrink, in terms of hiring, however companies that remain sizable employers will probably be the ones that are making substantial investments in research.

      The educational bar to employment will rise fairly steadily. Its rising rapidly everywhere, but that increase has been most obvious in the sciences (where entering many professions already requires a PhD or its functional equivalent.)

      Change will come faster and faster impacting almost every kind of work currently done by human workers.

  10. washunate

    A handful of observations from a different perspective.

    1) In general, having fewer kids is good. We have massively increased the human population over the past century or so, and this is causing a variety of challenges. Slower aggregate growth of our species – or even mild shrinking – is not something to worry about. Indeed, this is one of the ways that Millennials have already checked out of the status quo. They are getting married and having kids much later than earlier generations.

    2) The limitation of the federal budget has nothing to do with technical monetary constraints. Quite the opposite, the government spends every dollar it wants to. If you want to spend money differently, you have to figure out how to replace our current crop of leaders who much prefer the national security state and corporate welfare to investment in the public commons. Or shorter version: read any comment from Hugh on kleptocracy.

    3) One of the problems with JG is exactly the confusion between work in the formal and informal economy. Having a mother* work a crappy low-wage job while sending her kid to daycare is a worse outcome than having the mother stay home and raise her own kid. That’s one of the clearest ways where a basic safety net is superior to an employer of last resort model. Formal employment often is less productive than informal employment, with lots of additional externalities like the pollution created by transportation to and from said crummy job.

    4) Inflation is a huge problem for the bottom 80% or so of the population. It is hilarious to imply that inflation isn’t an issue. The median wage in the US is less than $30K.

    *And it is often the mother, because our friendly neighborhood police state likes to lock up low-income fathers.

    1. Chris S.

      Isn’t it fairly certain that population growth will be replaced by shrinking global populations within the next two decades or so? Which is good because as I stated above, the need for human workers, especially low and medium skilled workers, is declining very rapidly.

      We should do what some other countries do and actively support parents and young families aggressively. We have the most backward family leave policies of any developed country.

      It should go without saying that the United States, in particular, should stop its campaign of trying to punish single mothers. In that respect the US is behind most of the rest of the developed world with its antiquated view of what constitutes a “family”, deserving of help.

      1. Vatch

        @Chris S.:

        Isn’t it fairly certain that population growth will be replaced by shrinking global populations within the next two decades or so?

        No, it’s not certain that this will happen within the next two decades or so. It will happen if we fail to produce more food, but there are still plenty of forests that can be destroyed to create farmland. Peak oil will have an effect, but probably not until we also experience peak natural gas. So eventually, yes, the population will crash, but we don’t know when that will be. I hope the population diminishes slowly, but that will only happen if people do the responsible thing, and voluntarily have fewer children. Eventually, there will very likely be a catastrophic population crash, it won’t be pretty, and it will be the fault of today’s overly enthusiastic natalists.

        1. Chris S.

          Your information sounds old.

          People are naturally deciding to have fewer children. Most developed countries and some developing countries, are now shrinking. The US would be shrinking were it not for immigration. Look at Brazil, for example. A HUGE decline in childbearing over a very short period.

    2. Nobody (the outcast)

      I don’t understand where the belief comes from that having a JG means the end of all other forms of public assistance.

      1. washunate

        What is the point of JG if we implement universal health insurance and universal unemployment insurance?

    3. Calgacus

      One of the problems with JG is exactly the confusion between work in the formal and informal economy. Having a mother* work a crappy low-wage job while sending her kid to daycare is a worse outcome than having the mother stay home and raise her own kid. That’s one of the clearest ways where a basic safety net is superior to an employer of last resort model. That is a problem with a misunderstanding of the JG that wrongly pits “safety net” against “employer of last resort”, while ascribing a confusion to MMT that it has carefully considered and avoided. The society decides on the “safety net”. All the MMT writers support a better safety net. The JG provides additional freedom to the mother – when she wants it, not solely on the say-so of some bureaucrats, legislators & experts. Say grandma comes to visit for a couple months. Stay-at-home Mom can go out and earn some extra money for a while if she wants.

      And since a JG will create zero unemployment, increase social wealth, fight inflation & do lots of other good things, a society with a JG can afford a better safety net than one without. There is no even prima facie rational argument against the JG, except ones based on “I am a klepto-plutocrat, and enjoy seeing the lesser people suffer”. But that is not a rational desire.

      1. washunate

        Ah, that’s where we disagree. Unemployment and social wealth are not the problems we face. We have plenty of work and plenty of wealth.

        The issue is the distribution, not the aggregate.

        1. Calgacus

          The JG is not really about aggregates, but about a human right, a right to demand that societies not behave in insane ways towards their members. This insanity directly causes practically all maldistribution and poverty worldwide. The JG is about distribution – some of societies wealth should be distributed toward people who work / want to work to create that wealth. Wanting to fix distribution “instead” is wanting to cure a symptom, not the disease.

          Sure, the aggregate is big enough, at present. But only because societies have had something close to full employment – have dimly understood the full employment / JG logic – have acted insanely to only a part of the society. But progress causes this part to become ever larger. Systematically treat “the lesser people” as is fashionable nowadays and the aggregate will become smaller and smaller. Insufficient to support anyone but an ever shrinking elite if the elitist logic of “unemployment is not the problem” is taken to its limit. Keynes, Vatter, Walker, Wray have explained this dystopic effect of progress. It is not as tautological as the JG, but is well supported empirically and theoretically.

          People who say unemployment is not a problem usually know where their next meal is coming from and have a roof over their heads. If unemployment is not a problem – then why not ban employment? Force everybody to not work. But still demand that they use money, pay something that they cannot obtain. Treat everyone as the unemployed are treated.

          The Job Denial program – the idea to not offer a fixed wage government job to everyone, the amazing idea that the government has the right to impose debts which are unpayable as a matter of logic – is the problem. Nobody has a right to impose unpayable debts on anybody, on me. If they try, anybody has a right to self-defense – to “rob” this crazy Other if need be, to return violence with violence if it comes to that. I can understand why a person who enjoys seeing others suffer supports the Job Denial – but any other supporter simply isn’t thinking clearly, isn’t doing the accounting carefully.

  11. Banger

    Before we talk about education we need to decide not only what we mean by that term but who we are as a culture. What values do we want to transmit to the young? What sorts of skills sought to be taught? Why should all students be taught in the same way in the same place? Should we use learning theory, developmental psychology, neuroscience and other findings in developing methods of learning? The fact of the matter is that we are still stuck in 19th century ideas about education that ignore not only science but common sense.

    As for postsec education, it has proven to be highly inefficient in actually teaching anything and postgrad education involves highly specialized knowledge that discourages more inclusive approaches to knowledge and the idea that kowledge can be segmented off. We see that in subjects like “economics” which is seen as a discrete subject when such an motion is akin to studying the physiology of fingers and ignoring the nervous system. Economics, if you are even mildly sentient, cannot possibly be separated with politics or culture or history or metaphysics and philosophy. We can say the same about our obsession with genetic and the human genome project which makes all life reducible to some combination of DNA sequences without understanding how and under what conditions genes are turned on or off and so on.

    1. James Levy

      Banger, I am just not convinced that a traditional liberal arts education isn’t as appropriate today as it was in 1895 or 1955. If it teaches you to read, write, and reflect on things worth reading, writing about, and reflecting on, it’s a good thing. Macbeth, Moby Dick, Death in Venice, and Persuasion are all worth reading, writing about, and reflecting on. They do not present one coherent set of values, but they do offer up ways of looking at the world worth considering. If anything, students should be reading more of that and taking fewer courses in marketing and management and microeconomics and other pinched, stunted, ways of viewing reality. I’m an historian and I’d rather see students take more Lit and less of what I teach if there are only so many credits in a course of study.

      Oh, and the purpose of education: to create adult citizens who can understand and manage themselves and their society. A tall order, for sure, but one worthy of the efforts involved.

      1. allcoppedout

        I’d like to see more science, but not taught as now. Bildung didn’t save the Germans from the Nazis, and James’ more Lit stuff was taken much more seriously in German education for the wealthy. I believe educators have conned themselves into beliefs about education that cannot be supported. 50% of our populations are hardly going to benefit at all from academic education, and suffer a lot. We could shut the business schools tomorrow with no loss and I doubt we get much out of law schools. But why are we talking about the top end at all? The people who need education are the ones who are worst at it. We should redesign the system to give them more – but not of the dross they can’t do and is used to humiliate them. And what is wrong with work as education?

        1. Chris S.

          I think you’re grossly underestimating the rate of technological change and overestimating the need for workers with what sounds to me like just a two or four year vocational training kind of background.

          The numbers that would be needed to employ lots and lots of people like that just won’t be there.

          Now if you were talking about people having the equivalent of a MS, I think there will be a demand. But again, barring a huge shift in the ways we encourage businesses the numbers wont be there. Again, its a similar situation to the situation with single payer. There is a road through the madness to success but it requires our dropping our obsession with hierarchy.

          The special interests who want to keep things the way they are, their death grip on society wont let them do it.

          So, we’ll never admit that these changes are happening – leading to tragic outcomes as we try to understand the new events using the old model.

          1. hunkerdown

            The rate of technological change is entirely under human control, you are aware? I’ve watched it fairly closely over the past twenty years in software development, and I can confidently say that innovation is gratuitous bunk, moving things around for the sake of moving things. How else will you sell the same thing to someone twice?

        2. James Levy

          English and Irish working men in the 19th century were reading Julius Caesar and Macbeth (as was a poorly educated young man named Lincoln in the Illinois woods) without humiliating themselves, and they learned from it quite a lot. I’m all in favor of science education, but most scientists are not Carl Sagan or Jacob Bronowski or Richard Feynman or Stephen J. Gould and can’t translate the concepts for a large audience of non-specialists. I worked Janet Brown’s magnificent bio of Darwin into my Freshman “discovering history” class so they’d get Victorian Britain and the theory of evolution all together. I also taught “Tartuffe” and “Death in Venice” in my Western Civilization II class, and the students’ heads did not explode. They liked being treated as adults with the power to think and react in their own ways to the material. I didn’t care what they thought of it, just that they thought about it. I cannot see how this can hurt anyone, be they mechanic or millionaire. Work and vocational training are terrific, but that doesn’t preclude a broader education and exposure to science, art, history, music, and literature. But that’s the point of a liberal education in the first place.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            The Wright Brothers started as would-be publishers for their school chum and African-American poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar.

            1. Chris S.

              Thank you for passing that on. What a tragedy he died at 33.

              Also, understanding this different side of Orville and Wilbur Wright really makes their story come alive.
              Has anybody ever done a movie that really explores their story well?

              It would seem to be a story which would really make for a very good movie. I mean, look at who they were and what they did.

      2. Banger

        I’m grounded in traditional Western culture and the works you mention I treasure as well. We need, however, something more basic before students can fully grasp these works and we need to teach them, if we choose to teach them (again we have to answer the central questions I asked) in ways that reflect what we know collectively about learning and we start by teaching the whole person who is made up of all sorts of things that are systematically ignored in schools so that we have, as a product, the relatively narrow dimensions we see today. Our world is a result, in my view, of terrible educations.

        1. James Levy

          I’d start with a repudiation of the idea that the true value of education is instrumental. It’s about being, not doing. Doing comes out of being. And I understood that before I gleaned it (and little else) from trying to struggle through Heidegger. What we are comes out of a struggle with what we experience. The more different things we read and learn about, and learn how to do, the better we are able to determine who we are and what we want to do. This is what I tell my students is engaging the material; it’s the process of learning what a book, film, or play is saying to you and what you think about that. In old fashioned terms, it’s about character development. Some people are impervious to it, and many teachers will not approach learning in this way, either because they are pure technicians or because they refuse to take on the responsibility. But done earnestly it is still, in my opinion, the best way to help young people of all types to wrestle with growing up and assuming an adult role in the world.

          1. Chris S.

            That’s a very good way to figure out what you’ll be motivated to be your best at.

            I think.

          2. Banger

            Indeed, education is about, ultimately about being–I, however, got there differently mainly through esoteric philosophies of the East–but it comes to the same thing. In the Bible when Moses asked the Burning Bush what to call Him, God answered “I am that I am.” Strangely, most people of the Book don’t get it–mystics got it but some of them were killed for that. Al-Hallaj said “I am the truth” by which he meant pure being and was executed for it over a thousand years ago

              1. Banger

                Mansoor, without a grounding in what is good you cannot fully recognize evil. For me evil is that which move towards separation and evil is the force that moves us apart. Without a full understanding of that we face clashing values, customs, religious texts and so on which, ultimately lead to more separation.

                I don’t know if usury is fully evil but, at this time, its influence is as bad as you imply and we need, from a practical POV a debt moratorium and an alternate way of funding our political economy. Loretta Napoleoni has been an articulate supporter of Islamic finance–what I know about it I know from her.

    2. Chris S.

      Banger, we need to give people an (advanced) post-secondary education or there simply won’t be any jobs for them.

      What you’re saying is well and good and warm and fuzzy but you have to understand the need in society for large numbers of office workers warming chairs is ending rapidly. We have to create a society which supports the creation and rapid commercialization of new ideas (how we get new businesses) rapidly because the old businesses are vanishing rapidly and there wont be any way we can or should slow the changes down. (although they are trying to do just that, that desire is very real and although understandable, it is a mistake)

      We also have to realize that the demand for economists is limited and also that the entry level for economists is likely to be limited to people who have done significant work in the field and perhaps a few more, and that those people are likely to have advanced degrees. Simply producing more economists will not create more jobs for economists. (it will probably create less!) The same thing goes for all of the humanities. If we want a society that values the social sciences higher on its pyramid of perceived value, we are going to need to work to build that society, which I would posit is a society of highly literate people with stable communities. Something we may have had for some time in the last century but we clearly no longer have now. (although I could see it happening again in the not too distant future after we get some important problems sorted out.) In the meantime, only the wealthy and those who dont have a problem with funding their own education for eight years and some time after that, should attempt to make economics their profession UNLESS they absolutely cannot do anything else because they are drawn to the profession, by all means THEY should become the economists and our society hsould and indeed must find a way to support THEM.

      I see the future workplace as being far less motivated by money than workplaces today. There are far better motivators.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Jamie Galbraith debunks this idea in his book The Predator State.

        He says the return on eduction (higher levels of education) diminishes because you create workers whose resulting skills can be deployed only more narrowly. A college graduate can take (and afford to take) a wider range of jobs than a law school or med school graduate. Did you miss that law school enrollment has fallen by 15% because students have figured out the jobs aren’t there?

    3. washunate

      Excellent discussion Banger. I think a lot of folks who have been out of public education for a while would be rather shocked what the national bipartisan war on public education is doing to our local school systems.

      And our higher ed system is a joke. It really is quite funny if you can take a step back and just accept the humor of a system that’s so rotten it can’t explain whether its role is to promote intellectual exploration or provide pre-employment training.

      It’s funny when people talk about corporations not paying enough in taxes. Our nonprofit universities are tax drainers, both not paying taxes themselves and giving wealthy donors deductions off their own taxes.

  12. allcoppedout

    Got to agree all Wash’s points. I’m interested (as James) in what happened after WW2. We had the Marshal Plan – but aid is often nowhere near as generous as made out. I’d have to say I don’t know what either world war was about or what the real sides were, even though I’m sure I could pass a history exam. It was common to hear (UK, France, West Germany) that the US was ‘buying the world through dollar printing’. None of this had anything to do with not being grateful to those who came and fought or otherwise contributed to the production effort.

    One would think change based on using resources that already exist would be better than pulling everything down to start again. Why would Britain, France and Germany need any aid? They all had production systems with necessary skills to be reorganised. Who gave this money? I’m not sure countries were ever at war. The kleptos are so evil I don’t trust non-money-flow explanations of war. I can easily believe ordinary Americans sending aid and money. But as soon as the kleptos are involved I lose all trust. Where is the analysis of money before and after these wars?

    My guess is we’ve lost touch with what pirates and smuggling gangs really did, and what they changed into. I suspect the real origins of what we term money are in these vile practices. I’m clutching at straws but surely the stuff they give us on reasons for war is hopeless and always lied about.

    1. Chris S.

      Hannah Arendt masterfully lays out a very good explanation of the economic and socio-political dynamic in Europe during that period in “The Origins of Totalitarianism” which is free to read at Archive.org . Its a very good book if you want to understand the development of totalitarianism. The first chapter or two is not such great reading but the rest is, I think, really astute.

      1. allcoppedout

        Thanks Chris. I read a lot of Arendt in the past and we did a lot of talk on total organisations in the academy. It’s good to be reminded. I’m thinking more on how we can escape ‘groaf means jawbz’ and the way money gets bundled to the kleptos and becomes accumulated capital. I agree with a lot of what James says on education as an aim in itself, but I’m aware the history of this is very mixed. At the same time, the history of bundling the money to kleptos needs more of our attention. We might say the hermeneutics of suspicion butters no parsnips. We are still doing brain-jobs on Marx and even Nietzsche (think Derrida), and not much on creating a materially viable society that could lead to spiritually different humans with less of the barbaric tendency.

        We can bring jawbz by driving tractors over cliffs and issuing spades. I prefer moves towards robot heaven. Deep in there are issues about distributing wealth and questions on what wealth is. Idleness, if that’s what one wants is a form of wealth. I feel we don’t put the question marks in deep enough on these issues. And it’s very difficult to do so.

  13. Rosario

    Education today would be better termed “life training and orientation,” even at the college level. Wealth provides the possibility for a truly educated and curious life, not necessarily because it allows for the attendance of college, private school, ect., but because if frees one from constant toil in compartmentalized tasks that lead to mental/physical exhaustion. Capital is freedom in our culture, and it is a freedom that actually can be defined materially. Trying to live a life in constant curiosity is an annoyingly difficult task in our society. It seems the more things you want to do, the more you want to learn, the more you want to diversify your mind and spirit, the more difficult it is to survive.

    1. allcoppedout

      Yes. And presumably we wouldn’t want our curious and examined lives to be based on others doing the work as slaves or serfs.

  14. masaccio

    It wouldn’t really cost anything to get rid of most of the student debt: about $1 Trillion of the total $1.2 trillion is owed to the US Government. We just figure out a fair way to forgive it and do something for the people who have paid theirs.

  15. Noni Mausa

    Yes, you would think* the business community would insist on highly educated new worker/consumers — except for one problem: business isn’t a community, it is a collection of players in competition with each other.

    In a way, they are in the same situation as today’s living people. Wealthy people tuck away their earnings for leverage, because they don’t need to use it and it isn’t effectively taxed, and the biggest businesses are doing the same.

    Conversely, the poorest Americans, like the smallest businesses, have a serious cash flow problem. The big necessity/monopolies get to consumers’ wallets first, “upstreaming” disposable income, leaving crumbs for smaller, less urgent purchases.

    Like the poorest Americans, the smallest businesses try to cope by cutting their costs to the bone, delaying hiring and investments, and like the poorest Americans, going into bankruptcy and dying before their time.

    Neither the large nor the small businesses are going to step up to be taxed for the education of customers and workers who will only ripen in a generation’s time. The small businesses are struggling already, unlikely to ever see the results, and the larger companies are doing pretty well as things are.

    Plus, suppose a farsighted collections of companies did pitch in for US education? As with all generous charitable actors, they will be doing the weeding and fertilizing which will also benefit the lazy and the greedy businesses.

    It’s my belief that one of the chief functions of the government is to knock heads together for the greater good. Managing business interests is almost exactly like managing children: enforcing fairness and punishing mischief and nurturing the weaker ones and humbling the bullies. No wonder neoliberals complain so bitterly about the “nanny state.”


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