Education And Capitalism


The following article was originally my comment on another blog.  Their post discussed how both republicans and democrats should get behind funding more “education” because it would both help people and would be better for the economy.  The author’s thought was that capitalism relies on educated people to excel, so its our collective duty to make that happen, because the current “capitalist” way of providing education is flawed.  If you’re a regular reader of this and other similar websites you’ll know this is full of a few fallacies.  So what follows will be some discussion on what education is and how we can get more of it in our lives; the moral issues of “providing” things for people, and what is the true nature of our “capitalist” system, and is it really capitalism at all. This will be lengthened and edited from my original comment, and will include many links for further reading into these topics.  You can read the original article I’ll be referring to here “Food For Capitalist Thought“.  I don’t mean to single out the author personally in any way.  I only found his blog yesterday when he was good enough to visit my page and like one of my posts.  My commentary should be seen more broadly, as much of society thinks the things expressed in his article.  And I appreciate him and other writers beginning these conversations, and bringing us ideas to consider from various perspectives.

For more information check out the links throughout the article and the resource list at the end.


I would first encourage everyone to broaden their ideas of what education is. Education should not just be thought of as classroom learning, government schools, colleges, tests, certificates, etc. Education can be a lot of things, and every individual in society ideally should encourage this and help promote a variety of ways to learn, gain skills, and seek self-knowledge. This could be reading books, traveling, tinkering, self-directed learning projects, apprenticeships, internships, on the job learning and training,combination skills/theory programs, entrepreneur courses, online classes, and a lot of other things I’m not thinking of or don’t exist yet.

When we think of education in only one paradigm as a public good that “we” need to divvy out in a certain way, it sort of distorts what learning is. The implication is that education is something that is done to you, rather than you doing it. Genuine learning is something that is self-directed. We learn best when we have an interest and we pursue it in some way. Also, this could happen for everyone at different times. We all learn differently and develop at different rates. Some might be ready at 16 to go start a little business, or work for someone. Some might do better in a longer structured academic setting. Some might goof off til they’re 30, then finally find their calling or interest, which might or might not include formal school. So society’s insistence that kids “stay in school” until 18, then all get funneled into some “higher” education at the same time, might not be the best thing to push for everyone.

In addition, it’s worth considering the moral and economic implications of providing things for people.  It sounds lovely to proclaim that “we” need to do more for this or that.  But in reality, where does the money come from? Who makes the plans? Who decides how it should be spent? Who dictates what is to be learned? How is the money going to be forcibly taken from all of us to provide these services? What if someone lives a rural self-sufficient lifestyle with no kids; why should they be forced by majority rule to fork over their money to “educate” kids in some city, if they don’t want to? Is it right to have one size fits all systems for 3.8 million square miles and 320 million people? Along the same lines, why should someone in say, Western North Carolina be stolen from (taxed) to fund some new public development hundreds of miles away on the Atlantic Coast? The point is, I think we should move away from the idea that we need to do this and that at the national level.  If there is any discussion of we at all, it should move all the way down to the city or county level, and decisions on how to run those communities and economies should be made there.

Also, it’s important to sort of question the notion of “getting an education” to become “qualified” for some job slot, then to be given the official license and certificate that says you’re good at and allowed to do that job category. Maybe things can be done differently. Maybe how we determine who is qualified for positions could be done differently. Maybe someone without any formal training or certification at all might be better in a particular job than someone with the formal education for it – and maybe government and employers need to start evaluating these things in different ways. And maybe we need to get away from trusting traditional systems to sort all of this out. What I mean is, often there are barriers to entry for most professions or for starting a business that are just artificial constructs by the powers that be and vested interests in various industries. The biggest impediment to starting a business for example probably isn’t that potential entrants don’t have money or education.

To illustrate this at the most basic level, a completely broke, poor, young, and uneducated person (a small child) can’t even open up a lemonade stand or mow lawns without running afoul of government laws and various business restrictions; and that trend continues throughout life and through all industries. Laws that limit food trucks are often proposed and favored by brick and mortar restaurants. Laws that limit Uber and Lyft are favored by taxi companies and unions. Laws for licensure and accreditation are not always promoted to raise standards, but are actually favored by the existing firms and vested interests in that industry because it keeps new competitors out of the market. Minimum wages are not always pushed to raise wages for everyone. It’s often favored again by existing firms, unions, vested interests, etc. – because it keeps out new employees, often new employees who might be willing to take the job for a lower rate than the existing ones (but now no one can hire anyone at a lower rate, creating more unemployment for the poor and uneducated.) And sometimes, they’ll try to get a law passed, then seek to get an exemption for themselves. Some regulations for safety or higher standards might not really be about higher standards. Often the biggest corporations, with the help of lobbyists and government, create certain rules that those biggest firms have no problem dealing with, but their smaller competitors, with smaller economies of scale, will have a much harder time with, and might go out of business. End result of all of this is more consolidation and centralization centered on government and the largest most corrupt businesses.


The second big point I would make is to question what we think capitalism is, as we each use the term. The problem is, everyone uses that term, but everyone has a different definition of what it is. It becomes a catch-all phrase. The “right” uses it as a catch-all positive term, like “our american capitalist system is strong, blah blah blah”. Most everyone else uses it as a catch-all phrase to point out anything they don’t like about the current system, just using one word to encapsulate all the problems. In reality neither one favors genuine free markets in any way at all.  We are taught to think there is a massive divide between the left and right; and each side ends up creating cartoonish versions of the other.  Republicans end up being portrayed as buffoonish, capitalism loving, warmongering people intent on pushing “profits over people”. Democrats end up being portrayed as pacifists, socialists, pie in the sky utopians, and control freaks. In reality, there is very little difference between them.  They are all flawed, power-hungry individuals, each using different rhetoric to achieve their goals. Reality speaks for itself.  They are all generally in favor of the current system of crony capitalism, fascism, and a mixed welfare/warfare economy.  Some might say they want to spy a little, some say a lot.  Some say 39% taxes, some say 40%. Some say invade that country with 10,000 troops, some say 12,000 troops.  Some say lets control and regulate all these things in this certain way, and others want to control and regulate a different set of things, in a slightly different way.  All in all, they’re all on the same team, just different heads of the same beast, working together and with other power-elite to dominate society.

Everything that was described in the article and in my comment so far is most definitely not capitalism in the classical sense. I don’t typically try to use or revive the word since it has been so corrupted. To get across my meaning of the word I use free society, markets, voluntaryism, anarchism, etc. In the classical sense, capitalism is these things. This is laissez-faire capitalism. It is equal opportunity for everyone. It is those who earn and deserve success getting it. It is freedom and respect for all people.

All the wrongs that people point out about our economy are not just not outgrowths of capitalism; They are the antithesis of free markets. All of the things people dislike about this system, would not actually be possible in a genuine, free market and free society. All of the things people fear would happen in a free market are in fact results of the market not being free in the first place.

Examples…Market manipulation, special privileges for corporations (in fact the entire concept of corporations, since it is a government created entity), tax loopholes for certain interests.  Inability to just work hard, be honest, and jump into starting a business or working in an industry. Yes, even high tuition rates; as government continues to subsidize college, colleges in turn keep raising rates because they have a guaranteed flow of new customers, who they know will keep paying the higher rates since government keeps subsidizing loans and mandating that they’re easier to get. Inflation, rising prices; restrictions on trade, wages, hiring, starting businesses. Favoritism, nepotism, and undue privileges. Restrictions, high costs of education, and other things that make success difficult; in a free market there would be a thousand different avenues to success and without the state/academic/corporate behemoth controlling learning, as I mentioned towards the beginning, there could be countless ways to learn and become skilled, and businesses would be fighting to provide these services at lower and lower prices, for in the absence of the state and the artificial economy, prices can work; supply and demand can work – what we want will become cheaper, not more expensive. In a free society where government “schooling” isn’t compulsory, young people can start to learn and mature into their full potential much earlier if they’re ready for it. Right now the primary education that everyone thinks is a right, is forced, controlled indoctrination during the prime years of learning and exploration, and children learn very little that prepares them for the real world. They learn to take standardized tests to get into another school where they take more tests.

These are all symptoms of a system where there is a monopolistic 500-pound gorilla in the room: the state, working hand in hand with banks, the media, and all of the largest corporations to work towards their own ends, at the expense of all of us.

In the article you say “Capitalism depends on the brightest and the most qualified to rise to the top and to produce what others cannot.” This isn’t necessarily always true. This is a sort of caricature of capitalism that its opponents have created to make it out like its “dog eat dog”, or some evil system of social darwinism. “Capitalism” doesn’t depend on anything. A free market isn’t a thing. It’s not even a system. It is not something that needs to be managed and controlled. Classical capitalism simply implies that we as individuals own ourselves, our property and the products of our labor, and that we are free to choose what we do with them. There is no implication or advocacy for control of economies, exploitation of workers, monopolization of resources, etc. Again, the negative aspects of the economy that people associate with capitalism are a result of capitalism not being capitalism anymore; of society and the economy no longer being free; and of the joining up and collusion between power-hungry people in government and business.

In other words, the capitalism that its real advocates are for is not the capitalism that its opponents think they’re fighting against. They’re fighting against cronyism and fascism. We’re fighting that too, and we’re fighting for voluntary, peaceful, free exchange of goods, labor, ideas, and services. We’re fighting for a free society without arbitrary restrictions, monopolized violence, or institutionalized corruption and control.

It’s not taught or widely known, but before the state starting taking over every function of private society, people did help each other, people did care about their communities, people did succeed to the extent that they deserved it. Anyone could gain an education (though not necessarily from an academic institution) and succeed, and with few barriers, anyone, regardless of their starting point, started businesses left and right. If we want to use the term, this is the capitalism that I advocate – a free society, but specifically laissez-faire capitalism, voluntaryism, and agorism. And in these schools of thought there are thriving discussions of systems of mutual aid, decentralized solutions, business ideas to revolutionize the way we provide goods and services to society. They’re discussing alternative forms of law and governance; free and open money and markets without the influence of the FED or wall street; voluntary cooperatives to provide health care and other services; alternative forms of education like free online learning, traveling, thinking and working outside of borders, unschooling, and more. They’re working on ways to rekindle community through local decentralized ideas like “free tiny libraries”, home or neighborhood gardens, local markets, and alternative business models that don’t involve getting the state benefits of incorporation or of IP protection or anything else. This is the free market we advocate. We are against what passes today for the market.

After all, a businessman in the classic sense does what he does to provide a good or service to customers who have a demand for his product. He works to improve his quality, retain the best workers through good pay, and improve efficiency to bring down prices over time. The modern so-called “capitalist” businessman is nothing like this though. This modern capitalist is an outgrowth of the state; he grew as the state grew. They are connected, linked, and share a symbiotic relationship with each other, while they both have a parasitic relationship to us. Many of these modern businessmen of the last hundred years or so – seek to get laws passed for themselves, seek to get exceptions for their benefit, seek to work the revolving door between government regulators and corporate executives. Rather than being honest in their dealings, they seek to get government to help them cover up their misdeeds, and government is more than willing because a problem in business would point to their own lack of “oversight”.

We have never seen classical capitalism, or a free market, not now, not anywhere in the world, not in America through its entire existence. It started off closer in that direction, hence the American boom of the 1800s and the countless examples of immigrants pouring in and starting businesses left and right. Notice I said closer. There were obvious exceptions (slavery and others), but it was closer. This was promptly halted by 1913 though. Within a couple of years there, we get the Federal Reserve takeover of the economy, government’s takeover of our property with the income tax, and the beginning of the modern warfare state, all of which still dominate our lives and the economy today. So call it what it is. Its fascism – not the absolute control of the economy by the state like communism, but the direct interconnection between the two, with corrupt business and corrupt (though I’m redundant here) government working together and feeding off each other to dominate.

This is important to me and should be important to everyone, because as long as everyone is railing against the system, in terms of it being “capitalist”, the cronies, oligarchs, bureaucrats, politicians, and bankers are cheering you on as you miss the real issues, and will keep laughing all the way to the bank, as they continue to centralize power and control, and further manipulate society and the very meaning of the language we use.

See the links throughout the article, below, and along the right side of the page for more information.  If you found this article helpful and informative please share it around.  Feel free to ask a question or comment, and thank you for reading!

[Image Credit]

7,999 total views, 4 views today

  • Classical economics has been highly twisted, especially Adam Smith’s ideas. The difference now being that, along with technological advances, the entropy of capitalism ensures that once a business (or even businesses) are large enough the no longer compete to offer the best prices and products, but the worst ones. Think of it this way: every time I go to the store the goddamn tubs of ice-cream I buy gets smaller and smaller every time and yet I pay the same price. This is with every brand because when one company does this to cut on costs and save on money, the other companies will do the same to save as much money. A third party is unlikely to come along, and even if it does it won’t be able to compete because they won’t have the resources to match their price. Of course this is just ice cream and I can simply stop buying ice cream, but this isn’t so with other products and services. For instance, this scenario can be applied to water or heating services. People can’t simply stop purchasing these and in these fields it’s even harder for a third party to come along.

    But now to get back to education. When I say “Capitalism depends on the brightest and the most qualified to rise to the top and to produce what others cannot” there is good amount of reason that is hard to deny. This is what leads to innovation in the market. Smart people getting paid to do smart things. And yes markets do depends on many factors, it is a thing in general. It depends on how happy the people are, are there any wars, are people paid enough to make purchases, are people satisfied with products, ect. There has to be innovation of some sort for the system to function properly. I ardently agree there should be a larger emphasis on self-education, but that doesn’t mean there should be no form of state education. Because while I practice self-education it is extremely helpful to have guidance in study and have a person in front of me I can ask questions to or engage in a sort of Socratic dialogue. It is more difficult for a company to judge someone’s self-education compared to them having a degree and is therefore more of a risk to hire someone on such. Considering this we can discuss the moral implications of providing an education to someone. Education is a key factor to a happy and prosperous life, but while self-education can make some happy, not being able to get a sustainable job can quickly degrade this. While money does not bring happiness, it is harder to reach such in an impoverished state compared to a sustainable one.

    It seems like were fervently disagree, perhaps wholly disagree, but it seems you have your ideology in mind with the best intentions. Therefore I respect your point of view. We both want the best for civilization it’s just the way we achieve this is what we disagree on. Thank you for taking the time to read my article, and for the even longer time it took to write this as a response. Best of luck on the writing and best of luck in life.

    • NPF

      Thanks again for dropping in. On the economic issues you raise, again, I agree. Those things are happening. Hard to enter a market, prices are rising, etc. The main point I was making is that the cause is not “unfettered” or even twisted capitalism. I’ll be even bolder than I did in the article. We have NO market at all in our modern economy, and that is what begins that process of entropy. As soon as you introduce some element of command and control, price signals and market forces cease to exist. Immediately when you introduce the ability of a government to grant favors, exceptions, and penalties as it sees fit (or is paid off to do), freedom to succeed does not exist. We have these issues, not because capitalism has such a strong hold on society, but because we have no market, and oligarchical/crony business forces have been in control for a long time. I would point much more to forces like the Federal Reserve than to an uncontrolled free market causing inflation and other woes of society.

      Also important to point out: notice the industries where there is the most control, regulation, and regulatory capture (i.e. – the most government involvement) – you see the most corruption, the most insane rise in prices, the most difficulty in entering that market (military, hospitals, insurance, colleges, banking, utilities, housing, etc.) Now notice industries or markets where there is very little government involvement and more face to face interaction between buyer and seller; you get steady price increases, rise and fall with supply and demand, ease of entry, etc. (a farmers market, eBay, other online markets, flea markets, auctions, technology, small retail stores, gyms, independent service providers like pet care, yard care, consultants, etc.) Those industries stay steadier, are easier to enter, and weather financial downturns easier than the more crony controlled parts of the economy. So what does that say about the nature of markets, rising prices, etc?

      I also agree on education; self-education is great, but we have to be able to feed ourselves. I get that. And in the present system, with the present way of doing things, I might not be able to just walk up to a potential employer and convince them I’m qualified for the job without some piece of paper saying so. That is why I was making a point to say, maybe we can do things differently; maybe in a hypothetical future, society will have more well-rounded ways of judging someone’s skills and character than a piece of paper from a state school, paid for by tax funded loans that put everyone in debt, with “money” created out of nowhere, where kids attend lectures and are “given” knowledge.

      I think we can all see some of those problems. Where we differ is I don’t think more government, more control, more centralization, and more taxation is the solution. For if we study economics and history, we see those things are the cause of our present woes, and the powers that be carefully craft a narrative to put the blame elsewhere.

%d bloggers like this: