Redesigning Markets

In the age of the market religion– the Reagan age– corporations pretended that the “invisible hand” shaped markets becuase that allowed them to shape markets.  That underwrote market practices that in more ordinary times would be considered illegal or unethical or both.  Capitalism needs, well, capital, so allowing the  financial corporations to shape the financial markets doomed the economy.

It’s possible to imagine a ruling class/oligarchy that had very different assumptions but, at least in our time, the wealthy and powerful seem almost freakishly unconcerned with the long term. In the market that they shaped, the next quarter mattered and little else. This “damn the future” attitude isn’t just limited to finances. The university powers-that-be, e.g. the administrations, have no monopoly on long term thinking.

They shaped their markets by destroying full time employment, shifting costs to individual students via loans, and raising their salaries.  Greed is the order of the day. They loved the corporate marketing models that made athletic sports so important. They’re no better than the financial sector. This is the environment that birthed the for-profit universities and so it’s not surprising that they too created a market that lacked scruples.

Now that the regulatory machinery is starting to come alive again, we can at least  hope for some democratic input into the ways that certain markets work.  In Higher Education, the point of the  regulatory spear seems to be the for-profits, which makes a certain amount of sense, given the sentimentalism that tends to surround public education. The public universities, though, can’t expect to stay out of the fray for long.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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