The Economic Value of Education

I know Bernie Sanders is, like, done for as a presidential candidate. But the Bern isn’t going away anytime soon. Bernie is like the Left’s Ron Paul. He ran on a message. He didn’t win; he was never going to win. (Ron Paul was even further from winning, but the point remains). He won a few states; he won many hearts and minds.

One of Bernie’s best ads was a story of a guy who turned his life around. It’s a moving ad because the guy is authentic, he has a tragicomic story, and it’s got a happy ending. The Bernie endorsement comes as a sort of afterthought.

My interpretation is that the Bernie endorsement is in conflict with the moving story.

After you watch the ad, read on.

Spoiler of the plot: The guy grew up in the inner city, committed a crime, served time, got an education in prison, became an entrepreneur, and made something of his life. (Now he’s voting for Bernie.)

How does the Bernie endorsement fit in? Bernie believes in the value of “education”? What is “education?”

I am an educator. But I would not say I believe in “education” in the abstract; I believe in the content I teach: philosophy, theology, literature, history, poetry. Education is a means, not a message.

To paraphrase a thought from Wendell Berry, there is an absurdity lurking here. It’s not clear, for example, why lack of education is increasingly blamed for crime in the same society that increasingly looks upon truth as subjective and the classical tradition of western civilization as morally bankrupt.

Better yet: “It is typical of our time,” Chesterton wrote, “that the more doubtful we are about the value of philosophy, the more certain we are about the value of education. That is to say, the more doubtful we are about whether we have any truth, the more certain we are (apparently) that we can teach it to children. The smaller our faith in doctrine, the larger our faith in doctors …”

Bernie talks a lot about college. But his policies betray an anti-entreprenurial view of life and economics.

The economic value of education is very low indeed in culture with no entrepreneurs.

The economic value of entrpreneurs, even ones who did not complete formal training, is still high.

So the bottom line message for me from the ad is that self-starters who take responsibility for making something of themselves can be successful, in America at least.

I’m not sure Bernie’s policies would make more or less of such people, even if his policies made more college grads.

Nevertheless, it’s a moving ad.