Thursday, January 31, 2013

The New Conservative Barbarians

Not too long after Bobby Jindal announced that Republicans need to stop being the "stupid party," a third Republican governor threw his support behind plans for higher education that base funding on the profitability of the different academic disciplines. Patrick McRory, North Carolina's governor, singled out the liberal arts—and specifically philosophy—as an example of the frivolities that did not merit state support.

This reflects a broader move among Republican governors. According to Inside Higher Ed: "McCrory’s comments on higher education echo statements made by a number of Republican governors – including those in Texas, Florida and Wisconsin—who have questioned the value of liberal arts instruction and humanities degrees at public colleges and universities."

It is perhaps difficult to avoid the self-inflicted label of the "stupid party" when one cannot come up with a good reason to support education apart from its profitability. Is there a reason to support literacy apart from the benefits an educated workforce provides? Is the ability to read and reflect something of great intrinsic worth or not? The trend on the right appears to be toward the latter.

Had McRory been competently educated, he would have been able to distinguish between intrinsic and extrinsic goods. An intrinsic good is something valuable for its own sake, while an extrinsic good is valuable for some further purpose. Money is an extrinsic good: it has value only because it secures further goods. Love is an intrinsic good: one seeks love for its own sake. Intrinsic goods are superior to extrinsic goods: a purely extrinsic goods is not valuable in its own right, but derives its value solely from its relation to some further good.

Education leads to a number of different goods. An education is valuable because it leads to a job. Jobs are usually extrinsic goods, valuable because they lead to an income (another extrinsic good.) Most jobs, unfortunately, are not valued in their own right: Were one not paid, one would not work.

But a liberal arts education also serves an intrinsic good: the intellectually fulfilled life. One who learns to reflect on human nature from the work of Homer and Shakespeare, or to pursue wisdom with Plato and Aquinas, or beauty with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci pursues these activities for their own sake. The intellectual life is perfect in the sense that it is its own primary purpose.

The public pursuit of intrinsic goods—truth, beauty, wisdom, the good, etc.—is central to Western civilization. It is very odd indeed to call a person "conservative" who struggles to find a reason to conserve our cultural heritage.

A civilization that only pursues material advantage, neglects the arts, and lacks intellectual vitality has nothing worthwhile to pass on to posterity. Those who have difficulty imagining why any great social energy ought to be expended on the higher things in life are simply barbarians. For what else is barbarism than the sort of cultural indolence that does not privilege intrinsic goods, chief among which stand the humanities?

35 comments:

Lee said...

> It is perhaps difficult to avoid the self-inflicted label of the "stupid party"...

That quote goes back, if memory serves, to something once said by conservative columnist M. Stanton Evans back in the Seventies.

The entire quote, I think, goes something like this:

"The Democratic Party is the evil party and the Republican Party is the stupid party, and that means a bill cannot pass unless it contains something that is both evil and stupid."

KyCobb said...

This comes from the GOP/Libertarian worship of the omniscience and omnipotence of the Free Market.

Jameson said...

Martin,

I agree wholly with your point; and in fact wish my education involved a fuller recipe of liberal arts in the classical tradition. But isn't that also a huge issue? The universities in large part "educate" people into these barbarians. Haven't they stripped much of the power out of liberal arts, and essentially completely lost that knowledge is not simply a means, but an end in itself?

If these politicians decide to not fund modern analytical philosophy departments that teach (objectively...somehow) that knowledge and experience are inherently subjective, perhaps we'll be better off. The less of that faded materialism and conceptualism going around the better, surely. Probably these folks don't have that in mind.... but I suppose there's a tertiary benefit to be found, if they get their way.

Martin Cothran said...

KyCobb,

I actually agree with you on that point.

Lee said...

You shouldn't overstate your premises, KyCobb and Martin.

> This comes from the GOP/Libertarian worship of the omniscience and omnipotence of the Free Market.

I don't think that's a good summary of the conservative position. It certainly isn't what I believe.

The free market isn't perfect. It's just better than the alternative.

As anyone who has studied the Soviet Union and North Korea can attest, bad things happen when you ignore the market.

But nobody said it was perfect.

Martin Cothran said...

Jameson,

This was actually Thomas' post, not mine, but I'll address it anyway.

Speaking as a graduate of an analytic philosophy department, I can tell you that I still got a very humanities-oriented education there. I learned how to think.

I realize that much of the conservative objection to humanities disciplines (I don't use the term "liberal arts" in this discussion because over half of the liberal arts--if you count music--are mathematical) is based on the mischief that postmodernists have made.

But the solution to the corruption of a discipline is not to eliminate that discipline, but to clean out the Aegean stables.

If our math and science departments were corrupted, would we say the best solution was academic euthenasia?

Lee said...

Except maybe Ayn Rand.

KyCobb said...

Except maybe Ayn Rand.

The guiding light of Paul Ryan, the Koch brothers, and Ron and Rand Paul.

Lee said...

> The guiding light of Paul Ryan, the Koch brothers, and Ron and Rand Paul.

Well, maybe my friends on the left can at least embrace her implacable atheism.

Lee said...

My own take is that much of what is billed as a liberal-arts education has become a political-liberal education. One can and perhaps should be unhappy that universities are becoming vocational schools, but one advantage they have is that it's certainly hard to impart a political slant to, say, the engineering disciplines. And thank God for that. That bridge is going to stand or fall based on what the designers knew when they designed it, and no amount of Marxist-Leninist spin or feminist-academic outrage will ever change that.

But part of the issue too is whether the person who foots the bill gets any say in what gets taught. Since universities have for dozens of years been the gatekeepers to the higher-paid professions, it's only natural that enrollments have increased, bringing with them the quite natural and bourgeois perspective that, you know, I want something in return for this expenditure that in later life will make my trips to the bank more pleasant.

(Maybe the liberal-arts disciplines should wean themselves away from the populist-university model?)

And that too is only a natural follow-on from politicizing the funding of universities. In a free market, everyone gets what he bargains for -- but in a state-run economy, everyone gets what the politicians decide. The politicians are, naturally, going to reward the fields of study that reward them. Why would a politician ever want to subsidize an education that helps the educated voter to think clearly? God forbid, said the politician. Much safer to subsidize a vocation, I think.

Lee said...

Would like to add: don't see why universities are needed at all for the vocational areas of study.

Back in the Forties, my dad quit high school in tenth grade and became a Chesapeake Bay crabber. (He could still write better than most college grads today.) He then went off to fight WWII, came back, went to a business college, and got a two-year business degree in accounting. Never did understand why you need a bachelor's degree to be an accountant.

Or take my example. I have a fine arts degree in music performance. Was able to get into an Air Force band -- where (at the time) you certainly didn't need a degree. Later on, I learned how to program computers, and have been doing that now for almost thirty years. I had some night courses and some Air Force training as a programmer, enough to say I earned an associate's degree, but I never earned a bachelor's in computer science.

I did have to go back to school though, because my employer (at the time) made it clear that my career progression was limited because I didn't have a "technical degree" at the bachelor's level. But fortunately, they counted a BA in math as a technical degree and I had a bunch of math credits already, so I earned another bachelor's degree (BA this time) in math.

But neither of my bachelor's degrees have ever helped me to do my actual job -- they're just something with which to appease HR. They've helped me to *get* jobs, but not to *do* the job.

Nobody needs to go to college to learn how to play trombone: just move to New York, Philadelphia, or Chicago, get a job as a waiter, and study trombone with one of the symphony players. Nobody needs to go to college to learn how to program computers: just take some night courses and take the first entry-level job you can find.

But that's only if credentials don't matter, for their own sake.

Maybe universities should just get out of that business altogether. My guess is they'll never leave of their own free will. Too much money at stake.

KyCobb said...

Lee,

One need only look at unemployment rates broken down by educational attainment to know how important college is to one's employment prospects today. In 2011 College graduates had a 4.3% unemployment rate, while high school graduates with no college had a 9.4% unemployment rate. There just aren't any jobs for high school graduates (much less drop outs), especially for men.

Lee said...

I'm not arguing that having a college degree is a bad thing. I'm simply pointing out that there is institutional bias in favor of hiring college grads when it isn't necessary to do so.

Of course, with the institutional bias firmly in place, of course it's a good idea to get a college degree...

...provided you study a hot field, one that will get you a job, which isn't guaranteed...

...and provided you didn't borrow $200 grand in college loans on a prospective income of $40 grand.

Read a study about twenty years ago that claimed it took twenty years for college grads to catch up with community college two-year-program grads.

That statistic is probably worse now, given the astronomical increases in tuition.

Lee said...

If I had it to do again, fwiw, I would not have gone straight to a four-year college after high school, which is what I did.

I would have enlisted in the Air Force and played in the band, like I wound up doing anyway.

And kept on reading the things that interested me.

But that's a personal decision. I'm not built to study things I'm not interested in. They didn't diagnose ADD when I was a kid, but I'm pretty sure I would have qualified. In grade school I was bored to desperation. That's affected my entire life and limited what I've been able to accomplish academically.

A person who got 1360 on his SATs (back in '72 before they dumbed them down) and 1330 on his GREs should have been able to pursue an academic career, like I originally wanted. But I just couldn't make myself do any work I wasn't interested in. Was too well-trained in daydreaming and wasting time, from elementary school on.

Whatever the reason, though I have an associate's degree, and two bachelor's degrees, with a GPA of 3.91, I couldn't make a go of it in grad school.

Finally, I decided I was a poor choice for college all along. Should have been a skilled craftsman of some sort. Which, really, as a trombonist and a computer programmer, is what I am.

Singring said...

'Of course, with the institutional bias firmly in place, of course it's a good idea to get a college degree...'

This has nothing to do with an 'institutional bias' in as much as there simply are not enough jobs available for everyone who is seeking a job. Therefore, there is competition for the jobs that are available - and if you are hiring, you have a choice between people with and without degrees. Who are you going to pick if you have the choice?

Secondly, Lee, the problem of having colleges teaching vocational degrees is again simply due the privatization of eductaion. If you are a college and you want to attract lots of paying students, what would you put on?

A degree in philosophical rhetoric? Or a degree in gastronomy & tourism management?

If the market dictates what is taught, this is exactly what you get.

So I'm really glad that you and Martin seem to be on the same page with us progressive in this case - and its something we can work together on. Let's take the privatization out of education, let's make it freely available to everyone, let's fund education by the government and therefore remove this pressure to offer vocational instead of 'blue sky' degrees.

Unfortunately, what i hear from martin in particular, is the opposite rhetoric: he demonizes public schools, attacks public teachers whenever and however he can and is advocating for school voucher systems which will do teh exact opposite of what he is advocating - they will create an educational free market. A complete disaster.

Lee said...

> This has nothing to do with an 'institutional bias' in as much as there simply are not enough jobs available for everyone who is seeking a job.

Sorry. There are many jobs that could be performed quite well by someone without a college degree, that are only offered to college grads.

But if you were concerned about the number of jobs... well, you wouldn't be a leftist, would you?

> If the market dictates what is taught, this is exactly what you get.

If you think the U.S. has a free market in higher education, then you don't understand what "free market" means.

> Let's take the privatization out of education, let's make it freely available to everyone, let's fund education by the government and therefore remove this pressure to offer vocational instead of 'blue sky' degrees.

It's worked so well with the public schools.

Singring said...

'Sorry. There are many jobs that could be performed quite well by someone without a college degree, that are only offered to college grads.'

Of course - but that is because companies can afford to offer them only to college graduates because there is a surplus of people looking for jobs.

If it was the other way around, companies would be desperate to hire anyone - high school graduates or otherwise - to do the job.

'If you think the U.S. has a free market in higher education, then you don't understand what "free market" means.'

I didn't say it had a free market - but it is certainly moving in that direction. The fact is that what you are decrying here is a symptom of privatization.

If you deny that - if you think privatization will be the cure, not the ill, then maybe you have some suggestions as to how non-vocational degrees would become more widespread in a private education sector. I'd like to hear some of your ideas here, as I'm in favour of anything that will bolster education and make all kinds of education more easily available.

And as much as I rag on philosophy and theology here, I'd much rather have people be able to take a degree (even if it's philosophy) than not get that higher education at all.

'It's worked so well with the public schools.'

It has. The problem is that public school budgets are being gutted, there never has been enough investment in education and teachers are not valued enough in their service to society.

There's two basic types of profession we should be showering with money, make their education and training as comprehensive as possible and give them a nice, comfortable salary with plenty of benfits (certainly more than they are getting now):

Teachers & emergency professionals (cops, nurses, doctors, firefighters, military etc.)

Education and health/safety are the two cornerstones to any healthy society that we should bolster, not tear down.

Lee said...

> Of course - but that is because companies can afford to offer them only to college graduates because there is a surplus of people looking for jobs.

So the solution is to get everyone a college degree?

> I didn't say it had a free market - but it is certainly moving in that direction. The fact is that what you are decrying here is a symptom of privatization.

Specify please how it is moving in that direction.

> And as much as I rag on philosophy and theology here, I'd much rather have people be able to take a degree (even if it's philosophy) than not get that higher education at all.

Not everyone is well-suited to receiving a college education. The idea that we can "smart-up" everyone by sending them to college is probably ignoring an equal-and-opposite reaction, namely, the dumbing-down of colleges. Hence, the phenomenon of grade inflation, cake survey courses, etc.

> It has. The problem is that public school budgets are being gutted, there never has been enough investment in education and teachers are not valued enough in their service to society.

The biggest school budgets in the country are places like New York City and Washington DC. By your logic, then, those would be our best school districts, right?

Singring said...

'So the solution is to get everyone a college degree?'

No, the solution is to generate more jobs. Obviously, getting more people a college degree - or at least the option to do one - isn;t such a bad idea, is it?

'Specify please how it is moving in that direction.'

Increasing tuition fees, loss of Pell grants and other government funding opportunities, intitatives in many states to create voucher programs. Homeschooling (see this blog).

'Not everyone is well-suited to receiving a college education. The idea that we can "smart-up" everyone by sending them to college is probably ignoring an equal-and-opposite reaction, namely, the dumbing-down of colleges. Hence, the phenomenon of grade inflation, cake survey courses, etc.'

I agree that not everyone is suitable for a college education. I teach at a university and that much is obvious. That shouldn't lead us to a defeatist attitude that we shouldn't be doing everything we can to make education more accessible and affordable for all.

The dumbng down problem is also linked to the private market aspect: If you are dependent on fees coming in from students, you will have to retain students - which means you will be tempted to lower standards.

If higher education were 100% publicly funded and funding weren't linked to student fees, there would not be as much pressure to retain students who aren't fit for their studies or to create nonsense degrees to 'give away credits'.

'The biggest school budgets in the country are places like New York City and Washington DC. By your logic, then, those would be our best school districts, right?'

That depends - just because a budget in district/state x is highest, doesn't necessarily mean anything. A more informative indicator would be per-student budget. Even that would be fairly poor, because in urban areas you may have a greater percentage of disadvantaged kids that make teaching more difficult. And the next thing to consider would be how much we should actually be spending, regardless of what the current level is. Then there's the whole issue of how efficiently and apropriately the money is being spent.

I know that in the simplistic, black and white world of the conservative dogmatist these things don't enter the picture, you'd rather have a a cheap talking point along the lines of 'New York has big school budget, bad results, therefore spending more on public education is not working'.


Lee said...

> No, the solution is to generate more jobs.

So how do you generate more jobs? Make investments and startups more attractive by lowering taxes and reining back on regulations? Or passing a law and making a speech?

> Obviously, getting more people a college degree - or at least the option to do one - isn;t such a bad idea, is it?

Why not let the market decide what "enough" is?

> Increasing tuition fees, loss of Pell grants and other government funding opportunities, intitatives in many states to create voucher programs. Homeschooling (see this blog).

Don't see how increased tuition is necessarily a sign of more privatization. For sure, somebody is going to have to pay the costs. As a general rule, my vote is to let the people who stand to gain from the education pay for it. That would be the ones who receive it.

Also, as a general rule, I'm against taking money from low-wage earners like waiters and cabbies and making them subsidize the education of the children of upper-middle-class college kids.

I would think even a leftist might be against such "rob the poor to pay the rich" schemes.

> agree that not everyone is suitable for a college education. I teach at a university and that much is obvious.

And thanks for sharing that with us. It's good to know you have a financial incentive to support more money for colleges. That doesn't necessarily void your argument but it's always good to know where people are coming from.

> If higher education were 100% publicly funded and funding weren't linked to student fees, there would not be as much pressure to retain students who aren't fit for their studies or to create nonsense degrees to 'give away credits'.

I think it would go the other way. That's what happens when politicians make decisions: they make the politically expedient ones. In American grade schools, poor students are promoted regardless of whether they can do the work and receive the same high school diploma as everyone else. Don't know why it would necessarily be different at the college level, or why the incentives would necessarily change.

> That depends - just because a budget in district/state x is highest, doesn't necessarily mean anything.

We agree on something.

> A more informative indicator would be per-student budget.

At $50,000 per student, Washington DC is one of the very highest. Their schools are so good, politicians and even presidents send their kids to private schools.

> I know that in the simplistic, black and white world of the conservative dogmatist these things don't enter the picture,

Yet I'm the one who has to keep pointing out complicating factors to contradict your simplistic analysis. Go figure.

Singring said...
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Singring said...
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Singring said...

'So how do you generate more jobs? Make investments and startups more attractive by lowering taxes and reining back on regulations? Or passing a law and making a speech?'

It depends on what kinds of laws we pass. Apparently, that kind of
nuance is lost on you. I'm all for lowering taxes, by the way - on the poor and low-income families and the middle class. I want to raise taxes on the well-off and the rich. I'd also like to drastically cut spending on the military, for example.

'Why not let the market decide what "enough" is?'

Because the market does not necessarily work toward what is best for society. What an employer deems 'enough' education probably isn't going to be enough to make that citizen an informed, intelligent, well-rounded individual capable of making decisions that tend to work to the benefit of everyone. Do you really want a nation of people who are educated just enough to operate a till at Wal-Mart or flip a burger at McDonald's? Is that all you think these people are capable of?

'As a general rule, my vote is to let the people who stand to gain from the education pay for it. That would be the ones who receive it.'

1.) Are you honestly telling me that you see no benefit in providing education other than that which goes to the individual receiving it?

Seriously?

Doctors do no good for society as a whole? Nor do scientists, lawyers, nurses, criminologists, economists...?

I think we've isolated the problem right there.

2.) I have a PhD in biology. I am now into my 30s, am a university lecturer and I have yet to own property or have any substantial savings. I have friends who never went to college or university who are now building three, four, five bedroom houses and have a family.

This idea that everyone who goes to college is going to be raking in the dough and therefore will be able to pay off $ 40,000 to $ 100,000 in student loans in no time flat is simply delusional - I wish!

Can you not see the absurdity of bemoaning the lack of non-vocational degrees at colleges and then suggesting that students ought to pay up for their own studees at these rates? How on earth is someone with a degree in Middle-English going to pay off that kind of debt?

'Also, as a general rule, I'm against taking money from low-wage earners like waiters and cabbies and making them subsidize the education of the children of upper-middle-class college kids.'

1.) If education was completely publicly funded, all the kids of cabby drivers and waiters would be able to go to college for FREE (after taxes). Ever think about that?

2.) I am a socialist. I am in favour of a strongly progressive taxation scheme. The rich would pay a much greater share of income in taxes than cabby drivers and waiters (they do so already, though not enough by far if you ask me). Therefore, proportionally, waiters and cabby drivers would get a superior deal - pay proportionately lower taxes, get the same FREE education for their kids.

Singring said...

'It's good to know you have a financial incentive to support more money for colleges.'

Ah yes, the classic argumentum ad hominem. I know how much you love it - almost as much as accusing others of resorting to it.

You know what I'm concerned about? I'm concerned about a generation of students coming out of college in sevre debt in a recession economy.

These kids are bright, intelligent, want to work - and this is the way they are being treated - pay a fortune for your education, then see how you get on in a stalled economy.

'In American grade schools, poor students are promoted regardless of whether they can do the work and receive the same high school diploma as everyone else.'

And you have evidence of this...where exactly?

'At $50,000 per student, Washington DC is one of the very highest. Their schools are so good, politicians and even presidents send their kids to private schools.'

So? That still gives me no information at all as to whether the public school sector there is working better than a voucher system would. What about all the other factors I mentioned?

'Yet I'm the one who has to keep pointing out complicating factors to contradict your simplistic analysis. Go figure.'

Says the guy who thinks that lowering regulations and 'passing a law' are the options we have in creating new jobs.

Classic.

Lee said...

> Because the market does not necessarily work toward what is best for society.

The market is simply a shorthand term for everyone's preferences. Give me a reason why we should prefer your preferences to everyone's.

> Classic.

There are none so blind...

Singring said...

'Give me a reason why we should prefer your preferences to everyone's.'

That's what I've been doing the last few posts.

I have yet to hear a single coherent argument from you how privatizing education partially or completely is going to a) reduce the number of potentially superfluous vocational degrees at colleges that you are against or b) reduce costs/improve education in general.

You like saying free market this and free maket that - but how is it actually going to address any of the issues raised in Martin's or in the comments?

Initially, you said this, for example:

'Maybe universities should just get out of that business [vocational degrees] altogether. My guess is they'll never leave of their own free will. Too much money at stake.'

So what will it be - if there's money in it, then clearly vocational degrees will flourish in a free market educational system.

You also said this:
'Since universities have for dozens of years been the gatekeepers to the higher-paid professions, it's only natural that enrollments have increased, bringing with them the quite natural and bourgeois perspective that, you know, I want something in return for this expenditure that in later life will make my trips to the bank more pleasant.'

So clearly, students paying fees will want to make sure that the degrees they are taking are highly vocational - that they will literally be able to walk out of college/university and right into the offices of a major corporation to get a lucrative job and fincancial security. 'Get what they bargained for' in your lingo.

How is that possibly going to help non-vocational degrees in a free merket educational system?

Lee said...

> That's what I've been doing the last few posts.

Then I am unconvinced. I should trade the preferences of the many for the preferences of one fellow whom I know casually via the web whose main contribution to any discussion is setting up straw-man arguments? I'm not a populist per se, but you have me leaning in that direction at least for now.

> I have yet to hear a single coherent argument from you how privatizing education partially or completely is going to a) reduce the number of potentially superfluous vocational degrees at colleges that you are against or b) reduce costs/improve education in general.

What you find to be coherent would be anyone's guess -- perhaps a physicist's, I wouldn't be surprised if the Uncertainty Principle were involved.

But the democratization of college necessarily brings with it the democratization of what college offers. That's what happens when you politicize anything.

I don't think I have even offered the opinion, or an argument, that a freer college market would necessarily lower costs, though I'm sure that case could be made. (And of course, I have opinions, but I don't think I've offered one on that subject.) But don't mind me, please keep the great straw-man machine rolling, by all means.

What has been happening in American higher education, though, is that tuition costs have skyrocketed, largely due to the increases in administrative overhead. Passing this on to college students, with government-guaranteed loans, has created another bubble. In many cases, kids are graduating college essentially paying off a mortgage-sized debt.

Add in the fact that there are far fewer jobs today, and the results are going to be interesting. What will happen to college payrolls once (most) students discover that they're borrowing $200 grand for the prospects of zero employment, or under-employment?

If something can't continue, it won't.

Maybe one of the results will be a devaluation of the arbitrary job requirements that "require" college-degreed folks to perform jobs that objectively require no such thing.

Notice I still haven't said anything about what would happen if we "privatize" higher education. I'm just noticing that we have now is not privatized.

Regarding costs, it's much easier to control prices than costs. You can shift the costs to the purchaser in the form of prices, or you can shift them to someone else, e.g., the taxpayer. And when you do so, yes, you have gained the love and political loyalty of the purchaser and the seller. Who should be unhappy? Probably the low-income taxpayer, or the taxpayer whose kids will become plumbers and secretaries, but nobody cares what he wants.

And as I've said, as a general rule, yes, I tend to prefer that the people who receive the benefit should pay the costs. I don't think it's fair to tax someone who works in a convenience store to send the child of someone who's already better off to college. I call that a middle-class subsidy. It's redistributionism, but probably not the sort that Marx had in mind.

Lee said...

> Regarding costs, it's much easier to control prices than costs. You can shift the costs to the purchaser in the form of prices, or you can shift them to someone else, e.g., the taxpayer.

Just wanted to clarify:

It's easy to control prices. The government decrees a price and lo! It happens.

It's not so easy to control costs. Costs cannot be decreed, but they can be shifted -- in a state-run enterprise, usually toward the person at the low end of the political-power totem pole.

The demand for more public money for education is simply a demand that we shift the costs of education from the purchaser toward the taxpayers. Since generally that involves taking money from low-income people to pay the costs of children of higher-income people, there is a social justice problem that I would have hoped people on the Left would be more sensitive to. But then again, many leftists are employed by universities and so they have skin in the game. They're not the first people in history to make decisions on principle just by checking their bank balance.

There is no talismanic property being ascribed here to the free market. I'm not a Randist, so I don't consider the free market to be holy. The best it can do is to provide some degree of protection from the injustices and compromises of quality and availability that you get from non-market-based systems. Such as this one.

Singring said...

Lee, a lot of what you have written there I could have written myself. We seem to be in full agreement on many of these issues, for example here:

'In many cases, kids are graduating college essentially paying off a mortgage-sized debt.

Add in the fact that there are far fewer jobs today, and the results are going to be interesting. What will happen to college payrolls once (most) students discover that they're borrowing $200 grand for the prospects of zero employment, or under-employment?

If something can't continue, it won't.'

I concur. This is an unsustainable situation.

'Notice I still haven't said anything about what would happen if we "privatize" higher education. I'm just noticing that we have now is not privatized.'

Well, it certainly isn't publicly funded either.

'You can shift the costs to the purchaser in the form of prices, or you can shift them to someone else, e.g., the taxpayer. And when you do so, yes, you have gained the love and political loyalty of the purchaser and the seller. Who should be unhappy? Probably the low-income taxpayer, or the taxpayer whose kids will become plumbers and secretaries, but nobody cares what he wants.'

If I didn't know any better, I'd read that and think you're as much of a socialist as I am. We both seem to be of the mind that it is not the poor and lower-income individuals who should be shouldering public costs for education.

'Since generally that involves taking money from low-income people to pay the costs of children of higher-income people, there is a social justice problem that I would have hoped people on the Left would be more sensitive to. But then again, many leftists are employed by universities and so they have skin in the game. They're not the first people in history to make decisions on principle just by checking their bank balance.'

Whoa...did you read what I wrote, Lee. As a socialist (or 'leftist' if you insist) I made a clear point as to where the money for this and many other government programmes should predominantly be coming from:

'2.) I am a socialist. I am in favour of a strongly progressive taxation scheme. The rich would pay a much greater share of income in taxes than cabby drivers and waiters (they do so already, though not enough by far if you ask me). Therefore, proportionally, waiters and cabby drivers would get a superior deal - pay proportionately lower taxes, get the same FREE education for their kids.'

So it is a bit disingenuous of you to accuse me of attacking straw men and the pretend I am trying to fleece low-income parts of the population for my own selfish gain. I'm sure that if you ask my students, they will confirm that I am not in this for the money. If you saw my paycheck, you would know.

I still don't see how a privatized educational sector could possibly help in any of the areas you have identified (rightly) as problematic, but then you seem to have backed off that idea anyway.

Lee said...

So we shift the costs to the rich and all our problems are solved?

And I'm the simplistic one. Go figure.

How do you plan to pull the money out of the rich?

Income tax? If you're rich, you don't need to generate a taxable income. It's always an option, of course, if there are investments worth the exposure and risk. But if you guys are just going to take everything they make, why not shelter it?

Confiscation of wealth? Want to just march through their assets and help yourself? How many times can you do that? Think they'll sit still for you to do it a second time?

Plan on abolishing emigration? One thing a rich person has is options. They can simply move to a country that's more hospitable to wealth.

> So it is a bit disingenuous of you to accuse me of attacking straw men and the pretend I am trying to fleece low-income parts of the population for my own selfish gain.

A conflict of interest is always fair game. Sorry it offends you.

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