Saturday, December 31, 2011

Achieving a College Education and Home Ownership

College educations and home ownership are often thought of as keys to enjoying the benefits of middle class life in America. We've dumbed down much of that through government intervention and "support."

Notable & Quotable in thought provoking fashion describes the differences between form and substance, and reality and make believe, in this straightforward way:

"The reason why a bachelor's degree on its own no longer conveys intelligence and capability is that the government decided that as many people as possible should have bachelor's degrees.

There's something of a pattern here. The government decides to try to increase the middle class by subsidizing things that middle class people have: If middle class people go to college and own homes, then surely if more people go to college and own homes, we'll have more middle class people.

But home ownership and college aren't causes of middle-class status, they're markers for possessing the kinds of traits—self-discipline, the ability to defer gratification, etc.— that let you enter, and stay in, the middle class.

Subsidizing the markers doesn't produce the traits; if anything, it undermines them. One might as well try to promote basketball skills by distributing expensive sneakers."

Subsidies can never substitute for hard work and persistent effort. Government "assistance" often has very negative and unintended consequences.

As always, we should be careful what we wish for.

Thanks. Bob.

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