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Alex Tabarrok Explains College... Libertarianism...and its Disco...

Foobarista writes on this post:


There used to be an idea that degrees are either academic or professional. The rise of "studies" degrees (and stuff like them such as "sustainability") are what I'd call "aspirational". If there's an employment market for these degrees, it's a very narrow one in some bits of academia and the "professional activist" sector, but they are powerful signalling devices as to one's aspirations to righteousness (or at least people who get them see them this way).


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George writes:

Certainly this is a testament to the relative prosperity in the developed world. What is the worst case scenario for students with less rigorous majors? Living in their parents' home or perhaps serving coffee at a starbucks? Compare this to an individual living in rural India or China. Education there is more transparently treated as an investment for financial independence a decent standard of living (not personal satisfaction).

I would encourage potential students considering these programs to instead buy a hybrid or electric car and adorn it with political bumper stickers. They can still signal their conscientiousness and commitment to delaying climate change, but they would be able to sell it if they change their minds to recover some value (something you cannot do with a degree).

Mike writes:

More like powerful signalling devices as to one's aspirations to unemployment

Foobarista writes:

On the one hand, these degrees definitely are a sign of affluence and confidence that "things will work out", no matter what happens. On the other hand, they're often a sign of extremely bad advice and counseling, particularly if a kid runs up a lot of debt getting one of these degrees.

In a more formally religious age, these kids would be in seminary school or taking holy orders.

Andreas Moser writes:

I am studying philosophy: http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2010/10/25/ma-philosophy/ - How do I justify that economically?

Glen Smith writes:

Andreas,

Many moons ago when I was in school, philosophy was an excellent degree but that was at a time when no one with STEM degrees wanted to work with to work with the toys we all use to type in things here. Desperate employers were looking to anybody who had a BA for "software engineers" to write software for those toys.

Foobarista writes:

My point in the comment wasn't to bash non-STEM majors as it was to discuss the various "studies" majors, and related stuff like "social justice" (yes, there are programs in it, whatever it is), "sustainability", etc. These aren't really "liberal arts" majors in the way that literature, history or philosophy are as much as they're a sort of aspirational degree indicating what sort of person the degree-holder wants to be. They're also a kind of professional major for aspiring activists (which seems to be the only "economic" use for such degrees: get one and a law degree and work as a lawyer/lobbyist for the relevant groups).

Glen Smith writes:

But the Church kind of paid for those guys "aspirational" degrees back in the day. They got their money from tithes and offerings. I guess since now we worship the State, the State pays for those guys "aspirational" degrees via tax money?

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