Phi Beta Cons

Rich Vedder on the Transformation of Economics

Richard Vedder has been teaching economics for a long time and in a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece published yesterday, he reflects on “The Transformation of Economics.”

Several of his observations pertain to higher education. The first is that academic research is subject to diminishing returns. Teaching loads have steadily fallen over the last 50 years so faculty members will have more time for research, but lots of it is little or no value. Second, Vedder argues that the leftist domination of American higher ed is largely due to academic rent seeking. The teaching of economics is now often “ideology in disguise.”

Another point he makes is that the federal government has been waging a “war on work” that has done enormous damage by (among other things), luring many young Americans away from work with government-subsidized student loans.

Now well into his 70s, Rich continues to teach students, and he does so with enthusiasm. “It is still satisfying,” he writes, “to counter ignorance and teach young people the logic of the price system, the importance of private property, and other institutions for freedom and prosperity.”

Vedder’s book Going Broke by Degree is now more than a decade old, but I still recommend it as one of the best antidotes to all our wishful thinking about higher education.


George Leef — George Leef is the director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

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