Edited by Neri Salvadori and Arrigo Opocher
Chapter 2: The Debate on Education Financing in the Classical Perspective
Mario Pomini 2.1. INTRODUCTION Reflection on the relationship between education policies and the conditions to promote economic progress and welfare is not new in the history of economic thought: it was a matter of considerable interest to the classical economists1 and in general to economists actively interested in social issues. The classical economists analysed education to some extent, and in some cases conducted in-depth treatment of the topic, while others considered aspects of economic reality of their time (Miller, 1966). The only notable exception was Ricardo, who neglected education entirely, even in his detailed treatment of work and wages (Blaug, 1975). Analysis of education, and of the various economic problems connected with it, by the economists considered herein largely developed within the general framework established by Adam Smith in the Wealth of Nations (1952), and it was distinguished by two main features. First, education was always regarded as the responsibility of the Sovereign, which reflected the importance of the role of the state in this sphere of social life. Indeed, it is a general characteristic of the nineteenth century that even the supporters of laissez-faire and the superiority of private enterprise realized that education had distinctive features which ill-suited it to the operation of market mechanisms. They were well aware that education was an economic good which by its very nature fell outside the pure individualistic logic of demand and supply. Secondly, the classical economists made only vague reference to the notion of human capital – which would instead become...
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