Thursday, November 10, 2011

Occupy Harvard: Round Two

The Harvard Crimson Reports:  “If Harvard is going to be a place that produces people with power, then Harvard must be an institution where the public good is more important than private profit,” McCarthy said. Earlier, he told a crowd that “Harvard has economists that teach us that profits are more important than people.”

I have no idea what this 2nd quote means but permit me to offer a few thoughts.  Every econ 101 textbook has a graph depicting the efficiency vs. equity tradeoff.   A more equal society (in terms of resource allocation not personal freedom) will be a less productive society as there will weak incentives to exert effort (i.e if you face a 90% marginal tax rate).

If the "Occupy X" crowd want to change the world, then I suggest that they embrace a two issue plank.  They can join Simon Johnson and figure out how to diffuse "The Power" but they should also simultaneously read and think about James Heckman's policy push for early life interventions in investing in young children.

What does Harvard (and other leading universities) owe the nation?  Such institutions create new knowledge and educate the next leaders of the nation.  But, do these institutions also encourage "greedy" values and insular social networking such that this group only interacts with others like them?   Could such institutions ever inculcate "betterr" values?   How would this happen?  A personal field trip to live and work in a poor area or poor nation?  You are free to join the Peace Core.