A friend recently sent me one of those irritating articles purporting to lecture “liberals” about economic realities. This one was unusually smug. It was written by a self-styled “economist” and published by Forbes; titled “Ten Economic Truths Liberals Need to Learn,” it mostly rebutted “straw man” positions that no one–liberal or not–actually takes.
I won’t go through the whole list, because you can read it for yourselves, and because we’ve all heard these “truths” before.
“Government cannot create jobs” is an oldie but goodie. Like many of the others, it is “true” only in a very limited sense; obviously, government can and does create jobs for teachers, police officers, and other government workers, and when it invests properly in infrastructure, those investments also generate jobs.
What that flip formulation also misses is the essential role government plays in providing the infrastructures that make private enterprise and private job creation possible.
Several other “truths” on the list are equally wrongheaded: the author claims that low wages are not exploitative, for example–among other things, conveniently overlooking the fact that taxpayers are making up the (enormous) difference between low wages and living costs, and thus effectively subsidizing corporate profits.
I guess it depends upon what your definition of “exploitative” is.
But the “truth” that sent me over the edge was this one:
Education is not a public good. We provide publicly funded K-12 education to all (even to non-citizens), but the education provided produces human capital that is privately owned by each person. This human capital means more work skills, more developed talent, and more potential productivity. People with more human capital generally get paid more, collecting the returns from their education in the form of higher earnings. One common defense of education as a public good is worth refuting here. Yes, education helps people invent things that benefit society. However, they will expect to be paid for those inventions, not give them away for free in return for their education.
This betrays an appalling lack of understanding of both education and the public good.
READ MY LIPS: Education is not synonymous with job training. There is nothing wrong with job training–it’s essential–but a genuine education is far more than a skill set that makes someone marketable in the dystopic society idealized by the (presumably trained but clearly uneducated) twit who wrote this.
Job training produces people who produce things. Education produces people who create art and music and literature, who develop philosophies and political systems, who innovate and imagine and beautify cities and civic environments.
Job training allows people to be productive economic units. Education allows people to be responsible citizens.
If a polity consisting of thoughtful and informed and genuinely educated citizens isn’t a public good, I don’t know what is.