« For an inheritance tax | Main | Over-estimating neoliberialism »

April 14, 2016


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


I'm genuinely amazed that Caplan considers this to be a new idea. I'm not especially well-read, but the idea that schools - with their uniforms and timetables and bells and communal eating areas - exist to prepare people for the experience of the modern(ish) workplace feels positively ancient.


Except obviously Marxists think this is a bad function of School. Real Education is not about being trained to be a wage slave for the ruling class. Or being a member of it in the case of Eton. Freedom begins when we escape ideology.

Paddy Carter

my favourite "new idea" is payment by results:



"School can have people practice habits that will be useful in jobs, such as showing up on time, doing what you are told…figuring out ambiguous instructions and accepting being frequently and publicly ranked…Schools work best when they set up [a] process wherein students practice modern workplace habits."

Indeed. Schools teach people to get a job. That is why we must create jobs. Most people are not self-starters by the nature of our education system.


The thoughts you claim for Marxism here are not original to it, they are common knowledge everywhere; totally non-ideological. It is widely known that the first public schools were specifically intended to teach factory-line mindset.

And the thoughts Hanson and Caplan are raising as novel are not those; they are noting a theory about how schools were sold to the poor, and suggesting, based on this theory, ways that schools could be reorganized sociologically to make them more effective in the present day.

Deviation From The Mean

Schools are designed to create a division of labour, capitalism requires so much unskilled labour, so much skilled, so much managerial etc etc. So school has to reproduce the class stratification of capitalist society. Which, despite the constant carping of the CBI, it does pretty well.

I don't get this article. Genuinely I don't get it. The right libertarians want a class of automated robots fit for exploitation, as Robins comment clearly shows. Marxists want the opposite. So rather than Marxists and right libertarians having something in common, thet are actually poles apart as usual. What am I missing here?

The other obvious thing to say is that in the private schools of the tax dodging anti social and sociopathic elite the opposite is true. Here the kids are taught to rule, to become tax dodging anti social and sociopathic elites.


«And for both of us, the ideal is a withering away of the state. In these regards, Marxists probably have more in common with right-libertarians than with social democrats;»

It goes much further than that.

Both Marxists and libertarians/objectivists believe that society is divided in classes depending on their economics role, that there is a class of parasites that exploit the producer class, stealing its surplus using the power of the state, and that the government is the managerial committee of the exploiter class.

Both believe in "false conscience" of the exploited; both want to end the exploitation of the productive class by ending the power of the parasite-controlled state apparatus that enables it; both believe in socialism defined as "the individual producer receives back from society — after the deductions have been made — exactly what he gives to it" as K Marx himself defined it, and Lenin expressed as "an equal amount of products for an equal amount of labor" plus "he who does not work, neither shall he eat". Plus many if not most libertarians/objectivists subscribe to a leninist political theory, where the party of the exploited is the vanguard of the producers, the leader of a popular front of the oppressed workers.

The most important difference is that libertarians/objectivists think that the exploiters who live in a grand lifestyle on benefits and the wages of state enforced intimidation and violence are the parasitical working and non working poor, while the exploited class who sees most of their added values stolen, are the productive, property owning, deserving rich; and that the popular front is for libertarians/objectivists composed of the parties representing the productive businessmen and property owners of the rich and upper middle class businessmen and professionals, while for the
marxists it is of the parties representing the interests of workers in the working class and underclass and the lower middle class employees and skilled wage earners.

The other minor difference is that while both marxists and libertarians/objectivists want to achieve a socialist system of income distribution based on "to each according to their contribution", marxists but not objectivists/libertarians want that to eventually become "to each according to their needs".


As to similarities, I Dzhugashvili, V Ulianov's successor, wrote "socialism: From each according to his ability, to each according to his work".

Similarly former USA Senator P Gramm wrote: "In economics, we define labor exploitation as paying people less than their marginal value product.
I recently told Ed Whitacre [former CEO of AT&T, who retired with a $158 million pay package] he was probably the most exploited worker in American history because he took Southwestern Bell, which was the smallest of the former Bell companies, and he turned it into the dominant phone company on earth. His severance package should have been billions."

Deviation From Mean

Blissex cannot say what he has said. I.e. Turn total opposites into identical categories. The very fact of the categorical differences fully illuminates the polar opposite in belief.

Blissex is probably speaking with bitter irony but it doesn't change the fact that what he says is theoretically false. I may be suffering from pedantry here but I am not sure.

I have always thought of Blissex as the sharpest tool in the box, but comments like this make me think twice about that.


«What am I missing here?»

The marxists say that the schools for the children of the hired help classes are *already* training camps to mould them into being cheap, zealous, obedient, know-your-place, servants while the rightists complain that training is not as effective as it could be and should be made harder.


BTW as to the theory of the exploitation of the libertarian/objectivists being (deliberately) a parroting (or a caricature) of the marxist one, there is another interesting side to this.

My impression is that a large part of the non-libertarian/non-objectivist rights have almost completely the same theory of exploitation as marxists.

The difference is not that it is essentially the same but with different definitions of "producer" and "exploiter".

Many right wing conservatives agree that the "producers" are the working poor, and that the "exploiters" are the rich businessmen and property owners, and the state the tool of that exploitation, the difference from the marxists is that they think this is as should be.

Usually on Spencerian or Spenglerian grounds that the predatory exploiters are therefore superior tio their exploited prey precisely by being able to exploit them, or that being superior for whatever reasons they deserve to exploit their inferiors, or simply, as the hymn "All things bright and beautiful" taught the opopulace for hundreds of years, that the superiority of the exploiters and the inferiority of the producers is ordained by God:

"The rich man in his castle
The poor man at his gate
God made them high and lowly
And ordered their estate."


«Bryan Caplan calls this a “bold new theory”.»

B Caplan seems to me a Social Darwinist or Spenglerian or Spencerian, and this seems to confirm it.

«it is, however, certainly not new»

For a much older and somewhat more extreme source, pre-marxist, but cited by the bearded man himself in chapter 25, appears in a tract against the provision of schooling to the servant classes, B deMandeville in "The Fable of the Bees: or, Private Vices, Public Benefits; With an Essay on Charity and Charity-Schools", from 1724:

«It is impossible that a Society can long subsist, and suffer many of its Members to live in Idleness, and enjoy all the Ease and Pleasure they can invent, without having at the same time great Multitudes of People that to make good this Defect will condescend to be quite the reverse, and by use and patience inure their Bodies to work for others and themselves besides.
The Plenty and Cheapness of Provisions depends in a great measure on the Price and Value that is set upon this Labour, and consequently the Welfare of all Societies, even before they are tainted with Foreign Luxury, requires that it should be perform’d by such of their Members as in the first Place are sturdy and robust and never used to Ease or Idleness, and in the second, soon contented as to the necessaries of Life; such as are glad to take up with the coursest Manufacture in every thing they wear, and in their Diet have no other aim than to feed their Bodies when their Stomachs prompt them to eat, and with little regard to Taste or Relish, refuse no wholesome Nourishment that can be swallow’d when Men are Hungry, or ask any thing for their Thirst but to quench it.»
«From what has been said it is manifest, that in a free Nation where Slaves are not allow’d of, the surest Wealth consists in a Multitude of laborious Poor; for besides that they are the never-failing Nursery of Fleets and Armies, without them there could be no Enjoyment, and no Product of any Country could be valuable.
To make the Society happy and People easy under the meanest Circumstances, it is requisite that great Numbers of them should be Ignorant as well as Poor. Knowledge both enlarges and multiplies our Desires, and the fewer things a Man wishes for, the more easily his Necessities may be supply’d.»

I guess that is the Tory policy manual, and R Hanson is just the modern successor to B deMandeville.

Overall it is quite interesting that B deMandeville's arguments were in many ways anticipations of some significant parts of both Marx and Keynes, and even includes a description of what today is called "Dutch disease".


Volume 1, chapter 25:

"this reproduction of labour-power forms, in fact, an essential of the reproduction of capital itself. Accumulation of capital is, therefore, increase of the proletariat.
[ ... ] As early as 1696 John Bellers says: "For if one had a hundred thousand acres of land and as many pounds in money, and as many cattle, without a labourer, what would the rich man be, but a labourer? And as the labourers make men rich, so the more labourers there will be, the more rich men ... the labour of the poor being the mines of the rich." So also Bernard de Mandeville at the beginning of the eighteenth century: [ ... ] but it is the interest of all rich nations, that the greatest part of the poor-should almost never be idle, and yet continually spend what they get.... Those that get their living by their daily labour ... have nothing to stir them up to be serviceable but their wants which it is prudence to relieve, but folly to cure. The only thing then that can render the labouring man industrious, is a moderate quantity of money, for as too little will, according as his temper is, either dispirit or make him desperate, so too much will make him insolent and lazy [ ... ].

Just the historical footnotes to chapter 25 amaze me with the richness of their sources. Spending a lot of time at the British Library was quite productive...


I think there is enough element to the Caplan analysis. Caplan probably cannot conceive of another form of education. He regards individuals as fixed assets incapable of growth and development. Schooling can only signal fitness for particular employment; it cannot transform the individual. Dewey's and Freire's conceptions of education are ruled out of order given an IQ-based hierarchical model of human worth.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Why S&M?

Blog powered by Typepad