This idea that higher education should be driven by free market forces is gaining traction. And it has already had a detrimental impact on the quality of education as students and society at large value “job training” over a real education that prepares them to think critically and more broadly about the world.
The idea that institutions of higher education are and should be run like businesses is appealing . However, few Americans have really thought through the implications of this model of higher learning. As Paul J. Croce explains “education is more than a good-fitting pair of shoes; it can be a walk with towering and challenging ideas that can awaken to a mental map for understanding the world around us. Education can rouse us to support the world’s goodness and beauty, and also to tackle its problems, including those generated by the power of entrenched officeholders and the appeal of marketplace conventions.”
Read Croce entire argument here: History News Network | Should We Really Turn College Education over to the Free Market?
Inequality: “The godfather of free markets feared it would undermine the system he loved.”
Adam Smith has become such an icon that few venture to shatter the simplistic version of his ideas (outside of academia) known to most Americans. Few who hold this vision dear have actually read Smith’s Wealth of Nations, and if they have they read it from a modern perspective outside of the context in which Smith wrote it. And as a result, they misunderstand Smith’s ideas and his goals.
When it is read in context and with his other great work The Theory of Moral Sentiments, a different narrative emerges. David Lay Williams, in his article at Bloomberg View, explains some of the challenges to the dominate theory of Smith’s capitalism (self-interest, lassie-fare, the invisible hand, etc.) when the complexities of Smith’s worldview are factored in. In this article, Williams focuses mainly on Smith’s concerns about inequality.
What does Williams hope to accomplish by looking back on Adam Smith’s philosophy?
“First, it challenges arguments made by those who insist that inequality wouldn’t have been problematic for the intellectual founder of free-market capitalism. Second, Smith offers insights into the nature of economic disparity that should guide a more enriched contemporary discussion of the issue. Many of today’s critiques of inequality center on how it can stifle economic growth. This may be true. But as a professor of moral philosopher, this wasn’t the focus of Smith’s commentary. Third, Smith’s attention to inequality as opposed to poverty is a rejoinder to those who suggest inequality isn’t problematic in itself. Finally, Smith’s inability to offer a solution, one may argue, is manifested in our own failure to address inequality and its accompanying troubles. We have inherited a system that has made no provisions for a dilemma apparent at its very foundations.”
Please read the entire article here: Where Adam Smith and Occupy Agree: Inequality – Bloomberg View
In Richard Striner’s final post on the history of Libertarianism, he examines the influence of Ayn Rand and Friedrich Hayek. Then he briefly examines the rise of the current movement in the U.S. from Barry Goldwater to the present. In conclusion, he questions the viability of the rigid libertarian worldview that is based on an extreme form of individualism: “We prize our own liberty, true, and we will obviously struggle to defend it —— fiercely if we must —— when it is threatened. But to elevate government above all other possible threats to our liberty is hard to do when push comes to shove. When a natural disaster devastates the region in which we are living and reduces our homes to a shambles —— what then? If vicious thugs invade our homes, what instincts take over as we rush to respond to the invasion? Do we immediately think of warning all the agents of government to watch their step and avoid messing with us? Or do we call 911 and hope the agents of government arrive just as quickly as they can?”