Jason Brennan and Phillip Magness, Cracks in the Ivory Tower: The Moral Mess of Higher Education
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Jason Brennan and Phillip Magness have written an insightful work on what is wrong with higher education. In 11 substantive chapters, the authors show how higher education problems can be explained in terms of misaligned incentives. Economists will not want to miss this entertaining application of their methods, especially if they are academics.
The first chapter, titled “Neither Gremlins nor Poltergeists,” uses these imaginary beings as a metaphor for wrongheaded explanations for why things go bad. “Gremlins” refers to bad actors; “Poltergeists” to bad ideas. Instead, Brennan and Magness “explain systematic behavior not by suggesting bad character or malicious intent, but instead by examining the incentives and constraints that individuals face.” (p. 2) Their method for explaining the “serious moral flaws” (p. 3) of higher education is a straightforward application of the economic way of thinking. The authors provide an overview of this way of thinking, as well as survey some problems...