Friday, March 9, 2012
Libertarians for Social Democracy
Sign up Alex Tabarrok. He has an excellent piece in the latest Chronicle of Higher Education extolling the apprenticeship systems of Germany, Finland, the Netherlands, Denmark, etc. As well he should: they offer students from all class backgrounds a real opportunity to earn a middle class income, and they are central to the ability of these countries to maintain high standards of living in an even more open economic environment (Europe) than the one the US has to contend with.
Just one thing though. What makes these apprenticeships so valuable for the students? And why are employers willing to pay more for well-trained employees than dumbing down the jobs for minimum wages or simply outsourcing as much as possible? Each country is different, but they all share part of two answers—labor market regulation and stakeholder corporate governance. The first of these is especially crucial to mass apprenticeship: to maintain demand for high-end labor, there need to be rules mandating employment rights, credentials and, especially, unions. To minimize outsourcing, labor and the community need a strong voice in corporate management. In addition, the whole system is nurtured and nudged with multifarious forms of public subsidy.
To put it simply, if you want the social democratic educational strategy, you’re going to need a social democracy to go along with it. I’m happy to have Alex on board.
Incidentally, how about this for a political platform: no high school graduate left behind. There should be a public pledge, backed by dollars and ambitious programming, that every student who graduates from high school in America is guaranteed the opportunity to either earn a college degree or get placed in a job that pays a middle class wage. All access barriers to education, training and apprenticeship ought to be removed, with students enjoying these benefits as a matter of right. As long as a kid puts in the effort, public responsibility does not end until he or she has a solid foot in the door. This is a universal deal, for everyone.