Supply side edunomics

Secretary of State for Defence Phil Hammond (C) could be heard to say something quite extraordinary on a recent BBC News programme.  He declared that the Conservative Party was committed to a high skill, high wage economy, and had a “relentless focus on skills, on education”.

A relentless focus on destroying skills and education, more like.

The promise of a “high skill, high wage economy” has been, over the last four decades, associated with a collapse in incomes, job security, and manufacturing;  and the  consequential explosion of private debt. Yet it might be that such an absurdly undelivered objective, or promise, is perhaps not just another piece of political flimflam but a result of neoliberalism, and the “supply side economics”.

Tony Blair and New Labour coined and repeated the mantra of “Education, Education, Education”.  The logic is as follows:

  1. There is a correlation between  educational attainment (exam qualifications, degrees) and higher earnings.
  2. There is a correlation between higher earnings and higher skills
  3. Therefore, if you increase educational attainment (more people with exam passes, better grades, and degrees), you will increase the number of skilled jobs.

This is supply-side edunomics: the more people you have with higher educational attainment, the more skilled employment there must be.  As a result education in the United Kingdom (but most especially in England) has been forced into a project to supply as many people with exam certificates and degrees as possible.

The syllogism above is replete with logical fallacies, starting with the confusion of correlation with causation, and false assumptions. It shouldn’t startle anyone of reasonable intelligence and common sense to discover that while two decades of schoolchildren (our children) chased certificates which which to purchase “better jobs”,  governments set about creating the context for a catastrophic banking crash.

The inevitable result? Generations of children who did as they were advised, and chased the attainment which would bring them higher earnings: while governments promoted low skill, low wage service jobs and let manufacturing rot.  You need a less well educated workforce for service jobs than for manufacturing. You don’t need engineers and scientists to work a call centre or stack shelves in Tescos.

And government then added to the pain by making young people put themselves into debt peonage to purchase university degrees.

Perhaps Michael Gove is the first honest education secretary for  two decades. This attainment has inflated value. There are no skilled jobs, and never would be. The country needs debt slaves and not highly educated, highly skilled individuals to win the global race to the bottom.

Gove should tell Hammond to get on message.

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