Saturday, October 25, 2008

In support of my economic theory in yesterday's post, I offer the following from an interview with Paul Volcker on Charlie Rose:
"It seems to me what our nation needs is more civil engineers and electrical engineers and fewer financial engineers."

The following is from an article describing "a decade of descent" in
And there you have it -- the United States' decade of descent, in a nutshell. Volcker's observation speaks volumes about where the United States economy -- and the nation, at large, for that matter -- is today.

For reasons that historians will undoubtedly debate for decades (globalization, automation, flawed public policies, inadequate regulations, overconsumption, the availability of foreign capital, greed) the United States embarked on a financing boom -- creating an increasing array of creative and untenable mortgage types, accompanied by an equally problematic set of mortgage backed securities. It generated an unsustainable housing bubble, which ended as all bubbles do -- badly -- triggering the global financial crisis.

And yet, all the while, as Volcker observed, public investment in infrastructure -- the physical backbone of the economy, of the nation, really -- declined. That infrastructure is now in a state of disrepair. The nation's schools, hospitals, roads/bridges/mass transit systems/air travel system and even our electric grid are inadequate to meet the nation's current requirements, let alone the requirements of an expanding, vibrant, dynamic, twenty-first century economy.
Our decision in 1916 (Smith-Hughes Act) to follow the advice of former Princeton University President Woodrow Wilson and separate the education of the hand from the "liberal education" of the nation's elite has come home to roost. We have hedge fund managers that can't turn a screw and financial managers and CEOs who let American manufacturing go down the toilet they can't fix.

And this leads me to the second part of my economic hypothesis:
Students will invest their lives and their educations only in economic sectors they understand and value.
By failing to offer a wide range of educational experiences to all students we have pushed our nation toward economic collapse.

In the meantime, the Mad Hatter Ball was fun. My hat was rather hard for the photographer from the Arkansas Democrat Gazette to get on film as it made me about 8 feet tall. And we raised some cash for craft education despite the gloomy economic conditions.

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