The Economy of Learning, Part 1


Furthermore, any institution that still stands must, by that very fact, be successful. When we say, as we seem to more and more these days, that education in America is “failing,” it is because we don’t understand the institution. It is, in fact, succeeding enormously. It grows daily, hourly, in power and wealth, and that precisely because of our accusations of failure. – Richard Mitchell, The Graves of Academe

In all the economics readings I did this term, I read broad vistas of discussion, from the rich and undeveloped Third World and how to create wealth there, to the depredations and inroads of socialism into America’s purportedly free economy, to the stereotypical power-mongering of Italian and German despotism. But one topic our class never considered, apart from a brief mention in Liberal Fascism, was the subject of education. And in the book Economics in One Lesson, we learned that economics may broadly be considered as the practice of looking at the long-term effects of any principle, applied to all people involved. If economics is as broad as that, it surely cannot be out of place to examine the effects of various economic theories on education. While this may seem unorthodox, I would wager that this is simply from its novelty rather than its inappropriateness to our discussion. We have, in the course of our class, already ackowledged that wealth is not sheerly a a material thing. It can be increased without adding material: mutually beneficial trade increases wealth without any additional item participating in the the interaction. Knowledge (or wisdom) is the material that education deals in. We pay for it just like any other good, reinvest it, create with it, and leave it to our children as an inheritance, hopefully more of it than we got ourselves: for intents and purposes, we may apply capitalistic principles to education.

In our exploration of this topic Continue reading