Another intriguing Kevin Carey question:
The United States has historically been a leader among most nations in adopting policies designed to induce large numbers of people to pursue college degrees and to reduce the price of doing so. And the United States has the most productive, well-educated workforce in the world. In recent decades, many of our biggest economic competitors have adopted policies designed to cut into our lead in college education and produce more graduates and degree holders. As near as I can tell, none of our competitors are adopting the opposite strategy. Are all of these nations, including ours, just massively wrong about all of this?
This exchange is supposed to be about Murray, not me, but I can’t resist. As I argued in an earlier Cato Unbound, as well as in my book, The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies, inefficient policies are often popular because systematically biased beliefs about economics are widespread. In the book, admittedly, I picked the “low-hanging fruit”—popular policies like protectionism and price controls that almost all economically literate people think are a bad idea. In this forum, I’m making the stronger argument that even economists overestimate the social return to education. Why? Because education is more about showing off than building human capital. I may be wrong, but the fact that “all the other countries are copying us” hardly shows that we’ve got it right.