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Free Market Socialism

Before Obama got around to digging up his copy of last year's State of the Union address, crossing out a few lines, adding something about Iraq and Bin Laden, before heading out for another round of golf, David Brooks wrote a New York Times column urging Obama not to forget to mention the importance of promoting education for a free market economy. He titled it, Free-Market Socialism.

Now the idea that Obama or any Democratic politician running for the presidency would forget to mention what has become the chief talking point of their political class on jobs and globalization is about as likely as Bill Clinton taking a vow of chastity. When the working class timorously asks where the jobs are, that are always told the jobs are mostly gone and the only way they will ever come back is if they educate themselves for the better jobs that are out there somewhere.

Obama has added the refrain has added to it a warning that if we don't spend more money on education that China will out-compete us. Given that China's biggest asset is cheap labor and our assets are factories that are too expensive to run, natural resources we can't touch and a massive over-educated and over-entitled class that was promised jobs and instead got student loans, it's hard to see how more of the same will fix the problem.

If our chief competitors in the economic arena were Russia, Japan or Sweden, pushing college degrees might make more sense. Or at least engineering degrees, but we're not losing a competition for college jobs, we're losing a competition for industries. American manufacturing hasn't gone down the tubes because we don't have enough college grads, it's gone down the tubes because it became too expensive and too difficult to be worth the effort.

New York, Minnesota and North Dakota have some of the highest degree rates in the country. New York has 8 percent unemployment. North Dakota has 3 percent unemployment. Because as it turns out degrees do not magically create jobs. They can only fit existing jobs. New York has a surplus of graduates. North Dakota seems to have just about enough though I suspect a sizable amount of that 3 percent are degree holders too.

To prop up his thesis, Brooks reaches for an Atlantic article that studies the case of a South Carolina woman who works on an assembly line, who had to drop out of school due to a pregnancy and is raising two children as a single mother making it difficult for her to continue her education. Instead she makes 13 dollars an hour in a unskilled job.

Brooks expects us to see this as a tragedy when quite a few college graduates would kill for a 13 dollar an hour job. The woman had planned to go to a four year college to become an animal control officer. The website for one South Carolina county advertises an animal control officer position at 15 dollars and 28 cents an hour.

Would Brooks' victim really be better off if she had gone into debt for a four year college program only to earn less than 2.50 more an hour? And would anyone really be better off with another government employee on the payroll instead of a productive worker?

The ability to get a decent paying work in the manufacturing sector is what really built a prosperous middle class in the United States. The decline of that middle class has been proportional to the growth industry in bureaucratic activists. Take the factory that is the topic of piece. Why is it located in South Carolina? Among other things, South Carolina is a right to work state and a business friendly state. Moving to South Carolina is a patriotic alternative to moving to China.

Rather than ask why there's a factory in South Carolina that's operating close to the economic redline as a family owned business competing with international conglomerates, the Atlantic and Brooks wonder how the workers can be moved into better paying jobs. As it turns out they can't be because there is no money for it. And there's no money for it because the cost of manufacturing is too high.

For decades the Democrats have offered the same technocratic prescription, more education for the high paying technology jobs of tomorrow. Never mind that our technology revolution was the brainchild of college dropouts and outsourced to Chinese factories. The high tech jobs of tomorrow are still in Shanghai and technology has made outsourcing much easier than ever. The technology revolutions of tomorrow will only do the same thing. Americans can take the lead in innovation, but unless those innovations are translated into viable manufacturing jobs than all the brilliant ideas coming out of Harvard and Yale grads will still end up being assembled in Chinese factory towns.

When Democratic presidents went around touting the college mantra did they seriously believe that we could replace every lost job with a college job without further raising the costs to employees and employers resulting in a continuing diminution of purchasing power? And did they really believe that those jobs wouldn't be able to be outsourced either? If Clinton could have feigned naivete back in the nineties, today when radiology, records and programming jobs are being organically outsourced at the establishment level it's more ridiculous than ever for Obama to make the same old college pitch.

We already have David Brook's "Free Market Socialism" which has done a fantastic job of attracting unskilled workers who take jobs at lower rates than American workers do. All those policies have done is attract illegal aliens who want the benefits and are willing to work at illegal per hour wages and without the rules and regulations. They haven't empowered Americans to work, all they have done is expanded the underclass by undermining working class jobs.

The higher education boondoggle has done an excellent job of shifting jobs from the private sector into the public sector through government or government subsidized jobs. The shift is as much cultural as it is economic, its mainspring is the perception that ordinary jobs are worthless and the truly meaningful jobs are their kinds of jobs. The culture extends to the kind of people that they seek to create. Out with the working middle class, in with the college graduate who has spent an extra four years being programmed by the more sophisticated model of their indoctrination machine and who will think more like them and live more like them, who will share their values and politics.

Mass education also devalues the actual education being received. Today's college students know less than yesterday's high school graduates. Today's high school graduates know less than a middle schooler from 50 years ago. And there is no way around that. Tossing everyone into the same system and expecting the same results leads to a lower quality system. The more education is universalized, the more it is simplified.

Making matters worse is technocratic standardization which insists that the only reason some students fail is inadequate teaching or funding, which leads to more money being tossed into the shredder and more national standards that expect teachers to accomplish the impossible. Either the results have to be faked or the standards have to be lowered. Usually a combination of both which leads to a nation where everyone has a degree and no one knows anything.

Russia, which still leads the world in degrees, mastered this version of universal education in the Soviet period, pumping out degrees for everyone, while still lagging behind the rest of the world in every area that mattered. Like so many other collective efforts, its mass production and central programming did not lead to success, it led to worthless results and purely statistical achievements.

Like the Soviet Union we can push to be the nation with the most degrees dispensed, which will be a costly statistical achievement because our educational system costs a good deal more than the Soviet one did. The USSR could afford to process students like cattle, but trying to duplicate this achievement with a college education that often costs as much as a house, will lead to a huge burden on the taxpayers and on the students.

Obama's response to this economic reality was equally predictable. Faced with high costs, socialists demand that the producers lower their prices. Obama demanded that universities bring tuition down, which if he is really serious about it they will do. At a price. The cost of higher education may be inflated, but it's not going to be reduced by cutting the non-essentials, it's going to be reduced by cutting the essentials, which means an education that will be increasingly worthless as the mass production model is used to drive costs down.

In the State of the Union, Obama demanded that all states compel students to finish high school. And after that why not make higher education into a mandatory mandate as well? If everyone can be forced to buy health care, then the same economics can be applied to forcing everyone to buy a higher education as well. Sallie Mae will get more customers and colleges will get reluctant students that they can quickly dispense with at low cost and high profit. Call it ObamaEducation.

Will any of this help us beat China? About as well as the Soviet Union beat us with its degree mills. Our problems are not that we don't have enough education options, it's that we have a liberal elite with a disdain for traditional jobs and a conservative elite with a disdain for protecting American jobs. Combine the two elites together and you get the Free Market Socialism that Brooks is calling for. But there's no need to call for it, it's already here.

Between the socialists and the free traders, we're bleeding jobs and industries, we are overwhelmed by immigrants and the cost of subsidizing a post-American society on a post-American economy. And no amount of degrees is going to fix that as long as we have a surplus of ideologues talking about jobs, without considering the real world consequences of their policies.


  1. This is the first political article I've read that I could completely understand and relate to! Wonderful article! Absolutely wonderful!

  2. In Obama's scenario the entire US will have an edumacation.

  3. Higher education did nothing for Obama and his crowd.
    America is now bleeding to death. The candidates need to talk about bringing manufacturing back to the US and ending bad trade agreements.

    Their 'socialism' is a fast track to ruin.

  4. A good example was Japan in the 90ies where one could choose out of multiple Phd applications for a janitor job. Economies invariably work this way. They start out with inexpensive and relatively uneducated workforces who when paid sufficiently want their children educated and gradually one ends up with a workforce that does not want to do menial jobs anymore and unions that have outpriced the work that needs doing to foreigners. China will follow suit if given time, which due to their large population and lack of organized labor shall take some time but inevitably the tide shall turn and by that time America has impoverished to such an extent that the production jobs shall return.

  5. I caught onto the education sham or scam very, very early. In the early 1960’s, I learned absolutely nothing of value in a public high school reputably the best in Western Pennsylvania. After a short stint in the Air Force – which I would not have joined had I not been threatened by the draft – and with an ambition to become a writer that sprouted in grade school, I sampled “higher education” while working fulltime. After a few semesters I concluded that I didn’t need a degree to be a writer. No law mandated a college education to put pen to paper, finger to keyboard. And what I encountered “in college” were more gray teachers who seemed to be killing time or who made little sense. So, here I am, sixteen novels and two anthologies of my hundreds of published essays and articles later, and no college degree.

    Daniel wrote: “Today's college students know less than yesterday's high school graduates. Today's high school graduates know less than a middle schooler from 50 years ago. And there is no way around that. Tossing everyone into the same system and expecting the same results leads to a lower quality system. The more education is universalized, the more it is simplified.” Very true. In the 1970’s, The Wall Street Journal ran an article that featured questions from an entrance exam to a private high school at the turn of the century – the 20th century. It submitted those questions to modern college and graduate students. They flunked it. The answers to the questions required a working knowledge of mathematics, of history, of literature, of science. They were not multiple choice questions, either. They required reason and the ability to think and to write. I think one of the questions was: “Heraclitus placed supreme importance on which Greek word? Why?” Very likely a modern graduate student would believe Heraclitus was an Obama appointee or a disease he hadn’t heard about.

    The post-World War II G.I. Bill, passed by Congress to keep countless returning and unemployed soldiers busy and distracted while bureaucrats and policymakers regulated an economy which otherwise would have boomed sooner and faster than it did following the war, was the beginning of higher education’s addiction to federal money, whether those universities are public or private. It co-opted the “greatest generation” and set another precedent for government intervention in the economy and the culture, an unchecked intervention that inexorably led to control.

    And to the degree mills that exist today. Of course the greatest beneficiaries of a mandated college education are the very ones who are in positions of government power or who teach socialist economics, history and “diversity” in those very same institutions.

  6. By way of agreeing with Daniel’s points on economics and politics, it should be observed that Obama has a college education. Why, he was even a “professor” of Constitutional law at the University of Chicago. One imagines that this stint was on-the-job training for how to later usurp the Constitution. Doesn’t it show, though? Everywhere one looks in the news. Well, so did Bush, and Clinton, and Carter and virtually every president going back to the early 19th century have a college education. I think George Washington and Lincoln were the only presidents who lacked a college education. And except perhaps for the Adamses and Jefferson, those graduates invariably made a mess of things, or refrained from trying to apply their “learnin’” to policymaking.

  7. Anonymous29/1/12

    DG makes an exception for engineering or physics degrees. But even these are of a far lower standard then a few decades back. Too much is now left to simulation rather then thinking. Thats how the
    AGW/CC scam came about - a reliance on computer simulation, whose working process is not understood.

  8. I learned about Heraclitus in high school and learned Shakespeare etc. But I think my school was exceptional.

    Education has been dumbed down to a great extent and is one reason I choose home school over private religious or public education.

    I do not believe that the dumbing down of education in the US was an accident.

  9. Lemon: You raise an interesting point, whether or not the dumbing down of education (and of Americans) was an “accident.” I don’t think it was a conspiracy. It’s an issue of philosophical disintegration, aided and abetted by government intervention. Take the G.I. Bill I mentioned in my first comment. In order for private and public universities and colleges to admit hundreds of thousands of discharged G.I.’S to school – countless among them not really after such an education, but they couldn’t find work, so, what the hell – the schools had to lower their admission standards and settle for minimal criteria. Of course, there were exceptions to the rule, many veterans took to “higher education” like ducks to water and did well, usually in the sciences and in engineering. But, just as I had no use for a college education, I don’t think most veterans back then had a use for it, either. But the lowering of admissions criteria was the beginning of the dumbing down. And there was no mastermind or secret society conspiracy behind it, no government master plan to lobotomize Americans. There’s no such thing as an omniscient or omnipotent evil, just concessions by the rational to the irrational so as not rock the boat. So you wind up applying all sorts of car-making rules and the 1939 Packard ends up looking like a dog-cart. It’s a matter of cause and effect. Ideas matter, and have consequences. And the G.I. Bill, together with a government reluctant to relinquish control of the economy, were bad ideas that few opposed.

  10. dave s29/1/12

    A curious effect(I talk of England)of the obssession with higher education for all is that skilled craftsmen now come increasingly from what was called the educated middle classes. Usually men and women, often well capable of pursuing higher education. who have chosen a lifestyle that offers them the satisfaction of skilled work and the freedom it often brings.
    This is true of my sons. Their friends and fellow workers come from similar backgrounds.
    As the years pass and my generation ceases work they are finding themselves much in demand.The education system is oblivious to this change as is society in general.
    They also tend to be independent in thought and action far different from the liberal fodder turned out by our very second rate higher education factories.

  11. Education, real education is never a waste of time even if what you do for a living is raking leaves.
    A person is more than just someone who earns a living.
    In his book Closing of the American Mind , Alan Bloom makes this point very clearly.
    Education is for the whole man. Torah teaches this, Greeks taught it as well and American education was aimed at the first to aid in bible study.
    Grammar schools taught Greek, Latin and Hebrew.
    Education was not just for the purpose of earning a living but for the instruction of the entire person.
    It was meant to help build morality, character, etc.
    That has been lost.

  12. That was beautiful Lemon:) You're right.

    You wouldn't believe how many times people have said or implied that I wasted my college degree by not working in my field.

    I was fortunate to attend a small, private college where classes were small, the professors were full professors, not grad students, and we had to take many electives that at the time appeared to have little to do with our majors.

    I loved religion and science, religion and ethics, and religious art. We didn't just learn in the class room. Even at the college level we went out in the field (literally) for some classes.

  13. This is an excellent description, Daniel, of what has happened and is happening. I appreciate your insightful presentation on such a subject as this, especially when you write thoughtfully and analytically; it is much more effective, methinks, than when you get on a rant like you did a few issues ago and wrote facetiously in the faux-presidential persona and ended with the damnable phrase that went something like G-D D-m Am-ca.
    Such reckless rants can too easily be taken out of context, and do more damage to your public role than the venting can relieve your vindictive angst.
    Btw, I am a college graduate whose path as a family man required a lifetime of skilled craftsmanship, carpentry (not a trade I learned at university), a la the discussion with dave s above.
    Bottom line: Mr. Sultan, keep up the good work, but tone down the bitter rants a little bit whenever possible, so that you may actually have a greater impact on the thoughtful citizens of this misguided nation.

  14. Anonymous29/1/12

    Did Saturdays Round Up get deleted? The Gingrich post? I'm sure I saw it, but it's not there now.

  15. Anonymous29/1/12

    I meant Friday's not Saturday. Sorry

  16. TJmil3/2/12

    Why do you need to go to college to be a dogcatcher anyway?


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