Phi Beta Cons

The Man of System

You’ll enjoy George Leef’s hard-hitting essay at The American Thinker. He shows that President Obama’s push to graduate more students from college is just another illustration of the president’s failure to understand that society is made up of individuals, not collections of numbers.

The first point to observe is that “our” college graduation rate is just a statistical artifact, like “our” home ownership rate and “our” voting rate. To people imbued with a central planning mindset, such statistics betoken national success or failure. In fact, the nation isn’t doing anything. Millions of individuals are deciding whether or not to go to college and complete the course of study. Students and parents make those decisions with good (but not necessarily perfect) knowledge of the student’s capabilities, the costs of college, and the prospective benefits of doing so.

Therefore, when Obama pronounces America’s college graduation rate “unacceptable,”he’s saying that many of us are making the wrong decision.

Or as Adam Smith said,

the “man of system” [like our president] thinks that “he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chess–board. He does not consider that the pieces upon the chess–board have no other principle of motion besides that which the hand impresses upon them; but that, in the great ‘chess–board’of human society, every single piece has a principle of motion of its own, altogether different from that which the legislature might chuse to impress upon it.”

Jane S. Shaw — Jane S. Shaw retired as president of the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in 2015. Before joining the Pope Center in 2006, Shaw spent 22 years in ...

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