September 23, 2010

LAST NIGHT’S lecture on the higher-education bubble went well; there was a crowd of around 300, mostly students who probably would have preferred a more upbeat treatment. The Q&A lasted about as long as the lecture, which is always a good sign. One point that I haven’t blogged, but that is worth mentioning here: The government decides to try to increase the middle class by subsidizing things that middle class people have: If middle-class people go to college and own homes, then surely if more people go to college and own homes, we’ll have more middle-class people. But homeownership and college aren’t causes of middle-class status, they’re markers for possessing the kinds of traits — self-discipline, the ability to defer gratification, etc. — that let you enter, and stay, in the middle class. Subsidizing the markers doesn’t produce the traits; if anything, it undermines them.

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