Equal access to the employment marketplace through educational access would help maximize free-market competition.
Very few people ever have the privilege to work for the sake of pleasure or passion. Work is something we pursue in order to sustain society and life, and in most systems this pursuit is considered a virtue. Realistically, this is a neutral concept; it is a simple fact of life that we must work to survive. However, in a Capitalistic system, the sanctity of work is perhaps its holiest creed. Individuals who work hard will prosper, and those who do not will fail. It is up to the individual to determine how hard they will work and, consequently, how much reward they will reap. The reasoning for this set up is simple; Capitalism postulates that society as a whole flourishes when the best and brightest are leading the way, and the only way to incentivize the cream to rise is to offer sufficient compensation for their efforts. However, what happens when these potential leaders are barred entrance from these positions due to lack of financial opportunity and no guarantee of fair compensation? Can Capitalism function as it should when most of the population cannot gain access to the education they need to secure the jobs that would optimally utilize their skills?
There is a reason most Westerners reject the notion of a monarchy. Being born to a leader doesn’t necessarily make you one as well. Free markets need innovators to thrive, and just as crucially, people to sustain daily life while they are out Captaining industry. Doctors, architects, dental hygienists, plumbers, lawyers, electrical engineers, and so many more are the backbone to the markets of Capitalism. But when these careers begin to cost more than the return they reap, something begins to miss from the cycle of Capitalism…incentive. According to the philosophy of Capitalism, incentive is the driving force behind all societal progress. In a system where the cost to become a “leader” is more than the guaranteed return of acting as one, the only people who can afford to take leadership roles are the sons and daughters of existing leaders. In short, Capitalism without freedom becomes like a monarchy, which ultimately, is bad for business.
There are many examples of this phenomenon happening in professional industries, but for our purposes let’s look at Law School. The average law degree in America will cost, roughly, $188,000. How many people can, realistically afford to take on that kind of debt? It depends on several factors. However, a person coming from a more privileged financial background will have an easier time accessing that education than someone from a less privileged background, despite the fact that their financial state has nothing to do with their competence in the study of law. This financial barrier effectively eliminates a large pool of possible contenders, some of which may have been the best and brightest in the field, simply based on their financial situation. Thus, the cream does not rise to the top, and capitalists may not have access to otherwise exceptional law counsel, which can affect their business and cost them money in the long run.
Conversely, the argument goes that providing free access to education will remove the incentive to work hard when the opportunity is just “given away”. But where is the incentive for the student to pay for college? Students leave laden with crushing debt and no guarantee that they will ever make enough money to pay it back. Let’s go back to the example of a Law student; they need even more schooling in order to practice their career, which racks up an even higher debt. In the eyes of Capitalism, this is a very poor business deal. It’s high risk for little reward. You might say that lawyers make quite a bit of money once they begin practicing for a firm, but again, unless you are very well connected or very lucky, your chances of entering into such a situation right out of school are very slim. More likely, you will work for low pay in relation to your debt, and continue to do so for many years until maybe you are given a chance to play a bigger role at a firm. But it’s a gamble.
Anyone who attended College and is now in the workforce can attest to this harsh, unappealing truth. The hardest workers do not always win the internship, and those prime entry-level positions are disproportionately awarded to those with better connections. At every level, the incentives to attend College and become professionally qualified are trickling away. Which begs the question: why should anyone from a normal to lower income pursue such career paths when the outcome isn’t reasonably guaranteed?
There are two options if we, as a society, wish to continue practicing Capitalism, without the system eventually collapsing in on itself or morphing into a nouveau-feudalism. Employers could collectively decide to pay enough wages to completely cover the cost of a college degree, once a skilled worker is employed at their enterprise. This would help, though not completely erase the problem as many college graduates still have a hard time becoming employed in their given field. Or more reliably, we could collectively decide, as a nation, to use the tax dollars we already pay, to finance the education of our future workforce, instead of shifting the burden onto them. Why should a worker put everything into getting qualified to do necessary work, which is itself a form of payment to both society and the employer, while still struggling to payback the cost of the education? It’s a notion that goes against everything Capitalism stands for. True Capitalism demands a free market for anyone who is willing to work hard, and reap the benefits of their own work. If we cannot create an environment to allow this type of freedom to flourish once again, Capitalism will cease to exist as a FREE enterprise.