I was down at the Occupy Wall Street protest today, and never has the divide between the iPhone world and the politics world been so clear: I saw a bunch of people very well-served by their computers and telephones (very often Apple products) but undeniably shortchanged by our government-run cartel education system. And the tragedy for them — and for us — is that they will spend their energy trying to expand the sphere of the ineffective, hidebound, rent-seeking, unproductive political world, giving the Barney Franks and Tom DeLays an even stronger whip hand over the Steve Jobses and Henry Fords. And they — and we — will be poorer for it.
The low quality of our government-run system of primary and secondary education is the biggest problem in our society. With the right tax and regulatory incentives, squandered investment capital and ruined plant and equipment can be replaced quickly if necessary, albeit at often high cost. However, damaged human capital in the form of inadequately educated and miseducated people can never be replaced. At best, lost human capital can be supplanted only with many years of effort by improving the education of succeeding generations. The long-term compounded aggregate costs in lost productivity for poorly educated individuals, not to mention disastrous unintended consequences at the societal level from the adoption of bad ideas by a voting population largely ignorant of basic economics and history, are staggering.