foolsguinea: (tragedy)
Look, I'm grateful for, oh, one of my college classes: Macroeconomics.

OK, I learned some cool stuff in English Comp (weirdly, not how to write, so much as that most everyone else doesn't know how to write either) & Geopolitik (which I flunked). But yeah, I'm grateful to those classes, but perhaps especially to Macro.

So when I tell you that college (at least in the USA) is kind of a scam, understand that I mean economically. If society really wanted you to get this education, they could be paying for it, the same as primary & secondary education. (That said, maybe you have a good reason, & society is just giving you a hard time when you're trying to learn something it's actually important for you to learn. If so, fine.)
If you have (or are currently attending college in pursuit of) an engineering, law, computer science, medical or any other kind of degree that qualifies you to do something with a tangible effect on the world, this is not the column for you. You're not going to get anything out of it. Well, maybe some well-earned Schadenfreude at the expense of all the little grasshoppers who didn't till for winter, but aren't you above all that? Why don't you go somewhere and understand some math, asshole.
For the rest of you, I need to tell you something, and it's probably going to hurt: All that talk about how a higher education improves you as a human being, instantly launches a stellar career and hurls you screaming into the transcendental nirvana of financial stability -- yeah, that was all bullshit. Unless you're going for a professional degree, you really should not go to college.


I'm not saying you won't get anything out of college: While I was there, I certainly felt like I learned and grew as a person...for about the first year and a half. I think everybody should go to a community college for a bit. Everybody needs some of those early mandatory classes and social experiences, assuming they didn't already get them in high school. You need to take at least up to Calculus in math, so you can immediately forget it, but insist to the IT guys that you totally understood it at one point in your life. You need the introductory writing classes, at least up until argumentative essays, so you can win fights on the internet. And you need all of the general survey history courses, with a few psychology and philosophy courses thrown in on the side, so you can see how fucked up our species is, and come up with some pretentious bullshit reasons as to why that might be. And by all means, if you have the money, audit any class that sounds interesting, but keep in mind that this is the information age: You can get an Ivy League education for nothing. All that knowledge is free now. If you're paying, you're paying for paper.

Yes, there is a link in that quote. Let's repeat it:

And another link from that Cracked article:
Since 1978, the price of tuition at US colleges has increased over 900 percent, 650 points above inflation. To put that number in perspective, housing prices, the bubble that nearly burst the US economy, then the global one, increased only fifty points above the Consumer Price Index during those years. But while college applicants’ faith in the value of higher education has only increased, employers’ has declined. According to Richard Rothstein at The Economic Policy Institute, wages for college-educated workers outside of the inflated finance industry have stagnated or diminished. Unemployment has hit recent graduates especially hard, nearly doubling in the post-2007 recession. The result is that the most indebted generation in history is without the dependable jobs it needs to escape debt.

I think college students should strike until they're getting paid. But of course we aren't teaching you economics in high school, you poor saps.

So, sure, go to college, take Macroeconomics, and maybe some class that you were bad at in high school only because your teacher was a jerk or you were distracted by whatever--you might like it after all. Arguably, you should do this after a year off instead of right after high school. (One year off. Maybe two. Longer than that is kind of much unless you're doing your national service first or something. [Or in my case, working through some massive mental health stuff; I did a lot better in biology stuff after being out of school for several years & working through some of my phobias.])

Then walk out and tell them to shove it, and if they want you to get a degree they can pay for it. Don't be they're profit center, be a cost. Being a cost: that means they're paying you money.

Of course, to do this effectively, you may need to organize, which means understanding collective negotiation power, which is why...

I've said for years that we need to teach kids macroeconomics (on a basic level, supply-demand stuff, not all the calculus a Doctor of Econ has to know obviously) in junior high. That's early enough to give you time (before the second time you vote in a Congressional election) to begin to recover from all the fiscal-conservative banana oil that Republicans will try to sneak into the curriculum. But mostly, it will give you some of the language and concepts to later understand that you're being taken by the present college system, not to mention the present so-called supply-side/"Austrian"/Reaganite tax structure. I mean, I didn't learn all that in freshman Macro, but I learned enough of the basic rules to later be able to see the landscape that was an utter mystery to me before.

Or, you know, try reading some econ stuff on your own. Beyond the basic stuff, I like Paul Krugman's columns. Although he's working from an expert level, he tries to put things in terms a layman may understand.

P.S.: Also, Austrian economics is considered non-mainstream for a reason. I'm no expert, but "Austrian economists" remind me of the sort of bizarre fear-of-reality thinking that plagued me when I was a high-school dropout & didn't want to learn things (& thus had no business being in school). So yeah, don't take them too seriously.
foolsguinea: (no one is illegal)


I've been trying to figure out what I think about this giant civil-servant union action. I believe that labor organization is good for the economy in a pragmatic sense. I think the governor is handling this whole thing in an antagonistic way because he's anti-union rather than because it had to be antagonistic. I think teacher's unions do ask too much sometimes, and get it--such as in tenure rules.

I can't say I'm completely on the union's side. Sometimes the union asks too much. But I won't take the union-busters' side.

I'd gotten as far as thinking that it's unhelpful for those who don't have financial security & good benefits to try to take them away from civil servants. But the combination of these two images helped me break through to this:

The striking teachers & state employees are in the wrong, not for demanding compensation for themselves, but for a sin of omission. What we're seeing here is the classic problem of craft unions: "We represent this group of people; if you're not in our group, oh well." The USA has an uneasy relationship with labor unions because we've always had craft unions arguing for their class within their industry. We need advocates for everyone's health care, everyone's financial security. We need something more like industrial unionism--no, rather, something that like communism agitates for the general populace.

That is a gross oversimplification of the problem. We demand a lot from teachers, a lot of them have master's degrees, and they expect a certain level of compensation and security. But job security in that business is not automatically nor easily deserved. But my qualms have to do with making sure educators are doing the job. Why get more offended at a public-sector worker, who does his job, demanding more from taxpayers, than at a private-sector worker, who does his job, demanding more from his employer?

Anyway, the political situation is a mess, & the fact that unions went the craft-union route in this country means that most likely they will be demolished. So I'm back to this: Because they didn't really stand for everybody, in the end the craft unions will come to ruin, & the poor working class will cackle over their destruction.


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