[Marxism] idiosyncratic take on defunding public education

Rakesh Bhandari bhandari at berkeley.edu
Sat Nov 28 19:50:44 MST 2009

Hi Michael,

As for the defunding of higher education, perhaps we should consider the 
problem in terms that even a neo classical economist such as Mankiw 
could understand: it's possible that students will not pay tuition that 
reflects the total social benefit of their education. If tuition and 
thus university budgets are however determined by what students 
calculate to be the value (discounted future income flow) of their 
education, then universities will be underfunded--classes and ta's will 
be cut, remedial services will be reduced, discussion sections will be 
eliminated, class size will increase. It's possible however that much of 
the benefit of an excellent higher education system is a positive public 
externality, and those positive spillovers range from raising the 
productivity, creativity, and coherence  of others in your work team to  
raising public empathy for others the burden of whose lives would 
otherwise remain a mystery. In short, we have to make a public or social 
case for public higher education. The market will under-provide higher 
public education, and society as a whole will be the loser.  It's not 
that this kind of talk of market failure is my favored approach, but 
perhaps it could strike a chord.

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