Consider the Source

I WORK IN THE MUSIC BIZ. Have for over forty years, now. Back when rock bands first started taking home millions from touring, there instantiated the custom of gifting outstanding employees with silk tour jackets. Those things became very hip and inside for awhile. Until covetous types who wanted to look cool without actually — you know — doing the work got into them and they became so common that the actual road warriors lost interest in them. These days, crews still work in SWAG t-shirts, but you’ll rarely see anyone wearing so blatant a badge. More often, the real movers and shakers are in khakis and polo shirts. And the gifts get less obtrusive and of higher value — for those who really provide outstanding service to a tour. (Frex, I received a $700 wristwatch from one tour recently.)

Think of it as a cargo cult approach to accomplishment. The fans saw the real hipsters wearing the tour jackets and thought the jackets would make them cool, when it was really the hipsters who made the jackets cool.

For a long time, the wealthy and powerful of the world have gone to university. The University of Bologna was founded in 1088 and is credited with being the first degree-granting university. Prior to that, university-level learning was a bit more costly and ad hoc. Essentially, Papa bought you a Greek tutor. But you had to be very rich and powerful. After that, mere merchants could send their sons to college.

Fast forward to the 20th Century, when leftist demagogues tried to persuade working class folk that they, too, could enter the middle class (where they already were, being neither peons or serfs, nor yet hereditary nobility, middle class was all they could be). And said demagogues persuaded them that, because those wealthier and more powerful than they had been to college, so should they (the working class) go to, and they would become rich and powerful.

Not so fast, Guido. See, the wealthy and powerful never had gone to school to become rich or powerful, but in order to gain social graces that allowed them to fit in with their class. Wealth and power wasn’t the outcome, it was the cause, you see. But the leftist demagogues — being covetous sorts themselves — kept hammering on that point until the working class became persuaded that college was the highway to success.

It was a cargo cult approach to accomplishment. And, once again, they got it backwards.

Meantime, those who stayed and actually — you know — did the work got rich and acquired a power of their own of sorts, being one-eyed men in the kingdom of the blind. Carpenters, mechanics, plumbers, electricians became self-employed merchants and bootstrapped themselves into the true American middle class.

Now, we’re faced with the looming collapse of the higher education bubble and people are being forced to face the question: Of what worth is a college education? What price university?

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