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March 11, 2004
Education is harder to steal (and therefore also to tax) than physical wealth

I went looking (i.e. googling) for "Blaise Pascal" and "Phonetics", in order to sort out the connundrum here (see comments), but without success so far. I have as yet found nothing except a string of links to writings about information technology which mentioned phonetic alphabets in connection with the rise of printing, and then later the fact that Pascal invented a primitive adding machine.

But I did chance upon this (where there is apparently some kind of phonetics/Pascal nugget that I have yet to find), a compendium of quotations. From there to another compendium of quotations about education was an easy step. Of these, this, from Benjamin Franklin, on the economics of education, was new to me:


"If a man empties his purse into his head, no one can take it from him."

How true. That would go a long way to accounting for the way that the graphs measuring education mania and measuring crime have both gone upwards together. The latter trend would intensify the former, as a method of protecting wealth.

For "crime", don't just read the private sector version. Although some of the means of acquiring education can be taxed, in a very crude and approximate way, the final state itself, of actually being educated, is far harder to tax educational attainment than it is to tax physical wealth.

This process makes itself felt most strongly in the relationship between parents and children. Handing physical wealth on to children is hard, in most parts of the world. So, handing on education replaces the handing on of physical wealth as the means by which our selfish genes assert themselves in the modern (i.e. heavily taxed) world.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 01:40 PM
Category: Economics of education

Searching for Pascal and phonics on Amazon.com, I get:

The Cambridge History of Western Music Theory
by Thomas Christensen
p. 557

Blaise Pascal (1623-62) evidently devised a mthod that began with the sounding of individual letters phonetically rather than by letter name.[7] This method was adopted in the Port-Royal petite écoles, probably between 1656 and 1661. Two of the Port-Royalists wrote about the method, notably Claude Lancelot (1615/16-1695), teach of Racine, who stipulates exactly the process described by Fux: letters->syllables->words.[8] Despite the "small schools" being closed in 1661, their influence was widespread, and long-lasting. Lancelot claimed that he could accomplish in six months what was achieved in three years by conventional methods. Fux makes a similar claim: "in adopting this practice while giving lessons, I observed that zealous students had in a short space of time made miraculous progress."

[7] Letter from Jacqueline Pascal, October 26, 1655; cited in Cadet, Port-Royal Education, p. 183
[8] Cadet, Port-Royal Education, pp. 183-85, 259-81

Comment by: Ken Hirsch on March 11, 2004 05:53 PM



That must be one of the classiest comments here yet.

Gotta rush out to do something now, but I think I'll copy that into a separate posting, what with this being a slightly odd place for it, which might cause some who would be fascinated to miss it.

As I say; thanks.

Comment by: Brian Micklethwait on March 11, 2004 06:06 PM
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