March 11, 2004
Education is harder to steal (and therefore also harder 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 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