Economics, Competition and Academia

Economics, Competition and Academia

An Intellectual History of Sophism versus Virtue

Donald R. Stabile

Donald Stabile places current concerns over the commercialization of academia in a historical context by describing the long-standing question of the extent to which market economics can and should be applied to higher education. The debate between Plato and Aristotle on one side and sophists on the other provides a foundation for the modern debate of endowment versus tuition models. The author tackles the intellectual discourse over the mission of higher education and the effect markets and competition might have on it. The discussion encompasses the ideas on higher education of leading economic thinkers such as Adam Smith, Jeremy Benthan, John Stuart Mill, Alfred Marshall, Thorstein Veblen and John K. Galbraith and identifies them as supporters of either sophism or virtue. Included, too, are the thoughts of educators and policymakers influenced by free market ideas, such as Benjamin Rush, Francis Wayland and Charles W. Eliot, as well as those opposed to them. In addition, the author explores the development of collegiate business schools in the US and how they were justified on the basis of virtue. The book concludes with a section on for-profit colleges and their relationship to sophism.

Preface

Donald R. Stabile

Subjects: economics and finance, economic psychology, public sector economics

Extract

Many books have a link to the author’s background and this one is no exception. In my case these links are related to my experiences in academia. First, I completed my undergraduate education at the University of Florida during the ‘golden age’ of expansion in higher education in the 1960s. At that time, I recall, the cost of attending the university was so low it was not called tuition, but a registration fee; it was definitely not a market price. My entire life has been due to the public version of what I call in this book the endowment model of academia and I am grateful for it. Second, I started my education as an engineering major and halfway through my undergraduate days switched to majoring in business—two disciplines I would categorize as ‘sophism,’ to use the term employed in this book to designate practical studies. As a business major I was required to take economics and have been taking economics ever since. Hence, although I describe a free-market for requirements in this book, I recognize that required courses can be beneficial to students. Third, my graduate education at the University of Massachusetts/Amherst was also completed at a very low cost to me. In addition, it gave me a very sceptical attitude toward the ideology of the free-market. Since my career derived from a non-market education and my studies made me doubtful of free-market approaches to academia, one might readily suspect me of taking the side of what...