Yesterday was the Kindle publication date for my colleague Bryan Caplan’s new book The Case Against Education. The hardcover publication date is in nine days. It is an excellent book, on an important topic. Beyond such cheap talk, I offer the costly signal of having based an entire chapter of our new book on his book.
Robin - I heard you on Sam Harris' podcast and you mentioned that you had previously done research on how to improve education. Where can I read about your work there? Also, have you evaluated Direct Instruction methods, and if so, what do you think about them?
Maybe it's not a problem that will be unwound by grand managerial efforts. Maybe that's the point.
Decay will define the end of government education and education subsidies, as it does most other big government initiatives and big government itself.
Asked and answered. Maybe if Caplan gave more historical data about how the arms race arose, it would be more obvious how to unwind it. And maybe this is a topic more for your new book than Caplan's, but I wonder if there are historical examples of successfully unwinding other kinds of signaling arms races.
Then how is it a "problem" with Caplan's book that he points out a problem without giving, to you, sufficient solutions?
Also, note that if investing in education for poor students has such great personal ROI, then not only would charities be lining up to subsidize, but evil capitalists would be picking up all those $100 bills laying on the sidewalk -- i.e. making tuition loans to capture some of that ROI.
This is yet another instance of anti-market people not answering the question: if you're right, why aren't you (or people who think like you) rich?
If employers learn that lack of money is keeping children from poor families from achieving a higher level of school completion, wouldn't they be able to compensate for that?
There is also the issue that the amount of spending per student year can vary greatly with little effect, that is poor children could go to much much cheaper schools for the same amount of time and get out with as good a signal. Also charities seem to love to subsidize education (and health care BTW).
On the contrary, problems still seeking a solution are the most important to write about. With my oldest kid in her senior year of high school here in Palo Alto, I can report from the front lines that the signaling-arms-race is even worse than one might conclude from Caplan's book.
So people shouldn't point out problems unless they can offer a complete and convincing solution?
Perhaps the the biggest problem with Caplan's book is that his diagnosis is too convincing. Having skimmed his discussion of his (admirable!) prescriptions, I don't see a convincing explanation of how they would break us out of the current signaling-arms-race equilibrium. If everyone in the audience is standing to see better, it's not enough to remove the subsidy for platform shoes.
On the contrary, Caplan discuss in his book at length about how his thesis/prescription is independent of -- and in tension with -- standard libertarianism. Meanwhile, Yoram's comments are explainable as redistributionist mood affiliation.
As the author of a blog on "why we do what we do and why we pretend otherwise", it seems you are very incurious about why Caplan is proposing what he is proposing, and why he pretends otherwise.
Maybe the answer is too obvious to merit inquiry.
Seems that you are one of those folks who want to make every topic an occasion to argue about redistribution.
But would he, or you, support this as being as good as his proposal? According to his reasoning, it is just as good at promoting his declared goal (and differs only by not having the redistributional effect).
I can easily support that as better than the status quo, & I expect Caplan would as well.
The solution now seems obvious: educational subsidies should be converted to cash grants. Then everybody would use the money efficiently. This way, we keep the distribution of money unchanged.
So if we believe your argumentation, although the rich are more educated than the poor, the poor are more over-educated than the rich. In other words, the rich should be educated, the poor should not. It's good that we have that clear.