University or the Lotto?


  • Service Provider

    In discussions centered around the value of formal, advanced education people often ask me if I feel that university has such little average value, why does the government promote it so heavily or, at least, do so little to correct it. That's an interesting question and one that I'm confused by what would prompt it as this feels as those there is an implication that the government's primary consideration is doing what is best for the populace rather than what is best to maintain those that have been elected. The US is a Republic and runs under a mostly democratic style system and essentially precludes the idea that the government is solely motivated by the long term, overall interest of the people if this in any way does not support the elected government, the lobbies that maintain them or the implied benefit of the voting public.

    But confused questions aside, it is worth consideration. Why would the government allow formal education to continue recklessly destroying lives with mostly worthless education?

    Well, let's start by looking at a different system. The lotto. Most (perhaps all) US states run a state-sponsored gambling system called the lottery. While this varies by state to some degree, the basics are pretty much the same: buying lottery tickets is only for adults who are responsible for making their own decisions, buying lottery tickets is totally voluntary, there is almost no chance that buying a lottery ticket will be beneficial to the buyer, there is a small chance that the lottery ticket will be very beneficial to the buyer and no matter who wins the lottery the state wins by collecting money that is then used for the common good in things like education, infrastructure or retirement plans. Essentially it is a tax system but one that is entirely voluntary.

    Let's compare to the university system. Pretty much only for adults old enough to understand what they are doing, check. Purely voluntary, check. Little chance of being a good investment to the buyer, check. Small chance of big payout, check. Good for the general public, check.

    This last point is where people are confused. Most people assume that if education is bad for the individual that it is then bad for the public. But this is not the case. How does the university system benefit the public at large even when it hurts the average student?

    Welfare Proxy: The biggest benefit that the university system has is by functioning as a welfare system proxy. What is meant here is that it does roughly the same job as welfare programs - it reduces the number of people who are out of work in the general economy. Unlike welfare systems which do this directly by paying people who are out of work, universities do this more indirectly but very, very effectively:

    • They create jobs. Lots of jobs. Professors, teaching assistants, school administration, janitors, facilities people, lab techs, bus drivers, IT staff and more. All jobs that increase in abundance as more students attend university. If the government wants to lower the unemployment numbers in the country, it can do so by increasing the jobs in the university system. This is generally better than normal welfare because instead of paying those that are out of work, we pay higher end positions to remove those people from competition for other jobs and thus increasing the "vacuum" of employment to create more work for more people to move up into. A larger job market reduces the pressure on the welfare system no matter where the jobs are created in the system. This is just more like "trickle down" than direct assistance.
    • The reduce career lengths. This one is less clear but very powerful. The average worker who goes to university will reduce the length of their career from about 47 years (65 - 18) to 42 years (65 - 23.) This doesn't reduce the total number of workers that will ever exist, but it reduces the working lifespan of each one having the exact same effect as reducing the total number of people in the work force in any given year by roughly 10% (if all people went to university, because only 34% do, the effect is more like 3% currently.) Three percent is an epic number when we use that for reporting unemployment numbers and national economic health indicators. This helps older workers have less competition and be able to retain jobs more easily by removing energetic workers from the competition pool.

    Better Value for Less Cost This one is very hard to see but is important. By having students earn less over their lifetimes (as determined by US Labor Bureau statistics) but having them have more training means that companies get better overall value by increasing what the college grad can do while reducing what they can earn. It works much like a negative market pressure reducing the earning power of the workers to the benefit of the companies. This is good for the companies and their investors which are better representatives of the "overall economy" but at the expense of the workers.

    Financial. The economy gets a very direct benefit financially from students attending university - they borrow and spend insane amounts of money in a very short time at a time in their lives and careers where traditional and naturally they would spend very little. This takes the lowest "economic benefit" time period of a person's life and turns it into a huge benefit to the economy immediately through increased spending and long term through loans and loan interest. This may seem counter intuitive as loans and debt hurt individuals, but that pain to the individual means increased money to the overall economy. The big winners are banks here, and their investors (which include a large portion of the overall economy.)

    Control. Outside of economic factors directly, universities are, in reality, an extension of the conformity system that high school education provides. Students going through university receive many more years of "conformity training" helping to solidify what they have been taught to do in high school. Students continue to learn that "the system" is in charge, taught not to think for themselves, taught skills that the government deems useful and rarely taught skills that will help them individually while being overwhelmed with propaganda that convinces them that placating a professor's personal whims, obeying rules, following instructions, conforming to societal expectations, taking out loans from major corporations and doing what they are directed to do is how you become "educated" and "free thinking" by... conforming, obeying and following the crowd without thinking critically on your own.

    With a little examination it is easy to see why the government sees the promotion of university education as being highly beneficial to the government itself as well as to the general population. The number of people who benefit from the university system is staggering. And, like with the lottery, all of the people who suffer do so purely voluntarily and the general public benefits. The university system, as an average, turns into just a voluntary tax and the beneficiaries are nearly everyone in the economy.... everyone employed by the university system, everyone employed by those people and the economies that they create, banks, big businesses, employers, the governments and pretty much everyone who does not attend university benefits.


  • Service Provider

    What is additionally powerful about the university system is that unlike the lottery, we have made is socially acceptable for teachers, guidance counselors, parents, neighbours and more to not just promote and recommend children plan for college at any cost, but have made it openly acceptable to attempt to pressure and shame anyone who doesn't give in to the system. If we treated the lottery in the same way, we would be angered to learn that teachers and others paid to protect children through giving good information and advice were putting students "at risk", but because of the traditional goals and advantages of universities as used by the rich and amateurs in past centuries the social acceptance of pressuring students to attend university is widely accepted. In fact, it is so strongly promoted that it is not considered even socially acceptable to question university value, suggest to someone a less risky path or provide math to show the risks involved.



  • Cynic in me says that the government doesnt care how much debt youre in or how educated you are, they still get their pound of you.
    OTOH
    I get extremely pissed when im at 7Eleven and someone spends ten minutes buying lotto tickets in front of me... If they just took that money every week and invested it, they wouldnt need lotto tickets. It is also very uncourteous to sit there and spend ten minutes picking out lotto tickets while people are behind you in line, imagining you burning in a fire.


  • Service Provider

    @momurda said in University or the Lotto?:

    Cynic in me says that the government doesnt care how much debt youre in or how educated you are, they still get their pound of you.

    Is that cynical? What I'm proposing is that they do care... but not in a good way. Your debt generates tax revenue. Your debt makes the rich richer and the rich have the most power in government. They have incentive to put you into debt.


  • Service Provider

    @momurda said in University or the Lotto?:

    I get extremely pissed when im at 7Eleven and someone spends ten minutes buying lotto tickets in front of me... If they just took that money every week and invested it, they wouldnt need lotto tickets. It is also very uncourteous to sit there and spend ten minutes picking out lotto tickets while people are behind you in line, imagining you burning in a fire.

    See, I'd say you are looking at this all wrong. Just like college. For everyone ELSE that buys lotto tickets, you win. For everyone ELSE that goes to college, you win. Because they are all paying voluntary taxes into a system that you are not paying into. So you get the benefit of the taxes, but don't have to pay them yourself.

    Frustrating that they don't understand? I guess. But everyone knows, no one actually believes that the lotto is going to pay off. But they like the gamble. It's fun for them. So don't be upset. Be glad that they are playing a ridiculous game and the only guaranteed winners are those of us that refuse to play.



  • @momurda said

    while people are behind you in line, imagining you burning in a fire.

    That is very specific and ... personal. LOL.



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  • @mlnews said in University or the Lotto?:

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    This is an absolute truth.

    Learn to remember all of the things, and you're golden.


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