The Hard Work Ahead

The indispensable Jim Manzi:

I believe that improvements to our schools are possible, need to be part of how we approach the problem of wage stagnation, and should be pursued aggressively. These reforms are almost certainly going to include dragging the education industry through the kinds of changesbecoming more entrepreneurial, flexible, and market-driventhat have transformed large-scale institutions throughout our society. This is not a matter of simply “being more like Apple” or whatever, and we don’t yet know the unique manifestations of this evolution in education. Rajan is right that it will require that we run experiments and “learn quickly from them and scale up those that are most promising,” But it is also the case that we will never really do that without a huge political battle to wrest authority from providers and give it to consumers.

And, more important, improving schools is not going to be close to enough.

I believe strongly, for example, that we need a new approach to immigration that reconceptualizes immigration as recruiting rather than law enforcement. Though it is unfashionable to say it now, we need to figure out how to extend the market revolution to sectors of the economy that remain protected from it by political power. We have to figure out some way to prevent the self-destructive spiral that limits the social productivity of a huge fraction of the American population. We need to understand the limits to American power and attempt to match our defense expenditures to finite, achievable goals, rather than imperial fantasies. These examples are obviously drawn from a right-of-center perspective, and the list could be extended, but I think it gives some idea of the scale of the challenge that we face.