After spending an afternoon having brunch at The Red Barn in Westport, Connecticut celebrating my mother’s seventy-fifth birthday, I came home to Oxford, took a dip in the swimming pool just opened for the coming summer, and as twilight kicked in at the seven o’clock hour, I watched the CBS news show, Sixty Minutes. Veteran anchor Morley Seifer covered a story where a wealth tech entrepreneur named Peter Thiel suggests young people with an idea or invention drop out of college. Since I cover the resurrection of The American Dream, I thought it may be good to put it into perspective.
Ironically, this Peter Thiel has not one, but two college degrees of his own. He is concerned about the dwindling job market, which even in a booming economy will unlikely reach the epic proportions of the 1980s for college graduates, and all they will accomplish is accruing debt and will take an entire career cycle to pay it off. Thiel is not going after the so called party animals of college campuses taking up space, their bodies and minds drenched in beer. He is taking the best of the best young scholars, with the exception of those planning to attend law or medical school to pursue those respective careers, to pursue their ideas and inventions. Some have succeeded, some have not, but either way, they do not enter the work force with huge debt.
I do not believe the critical mass has been reached where there is no connection whatsoever between education and income. But America is headed there. (1) A four year bachelorette education on average now costs nearly a quarter of a million dollars, still an income level if not for the so called one percent, the twenty percent on the old 80-20 scale for distribution of wealth. (2) We are outsourcing our jobs to foreign lands where taxes and required wages are less. Ironically, the most contributing factor is the state of our educational system. And even if we begin fixing it now and successfully making it a world class model, it would take a generation or two before America’s youth will be able to take advantage of it. And with no projected baby booms to the magnitude of post World War II now through the end of time, it will be a much smaller population to fill those jobs. Peter Thiel is in many ways this generation’s Timothy Leary without hallucinogenics, but suggesting dropping out of mainstream society in a different way.
One point in the man’s favor, work for a company and discover or invent something, the discovery of invention is property of the company. You may get the glory, but the company gets the money. Glory does not pay the bills. This situation exemplifies the crux of my fix for The American Dream, which for many will require just as much education if not more. In my youth when I attended the University of Connecticut at Storrs class of 1985, you spent time in senior year in something called a career placement center, interviewing for jobs with prospective companies hiring someone with your newly acquired skills from college major or field of concentration. Those who worked the hardest, sacrificed the partying, spent late evenings in libraries and computer centers, drank coffee instead of beer, graduated with the higher grade point averages, only to sell themselves into another form of slavery, a boss. Those at the top of their class in an academic field of concentration should be the business owners; that’s right, I said owners. Working of a boss (maybe a sub 3.0 GPA pupil working for you) should be the fallback. Unlike employees, owners have no set limits on their incomes and therefore can pay off loans faster. After the first generation, student loans may become obsolete as the owners can invest in the colleges for their future employees or network of independent business owners as venture capitalists to our higher education system.
Before the industrial revolution, American was mainly an agrarian society and most farmers owned their own farms. The industrial revolution saw wealthier people starting their own factories and hiring peoples at poultry wages, creating a large middle class. In the technology era of the twenty-first century, it is time to create more owners. To achieve this, we need less regulation and more limited government, we need to reform primary and secondary education in this country so that higher education can focus on molding owners instead of employees in specific academic disciplines, and we need to mold self-governing citizens across the board. Ultimately the government may be able to lend a hand, in the form of investing in America’s future rather than loans and handouts, but it first must balance the budget.
Perhaps Mr.Thiel is a man of good intention, just too eager to throw the baby out with the bathwater. With the Lord’s blessing and the creation of opportunities to replace entitlements, for America, the best is yet to come.