Industrial training

Book 4, Chapter 6

§1. Marshall worries that the “vigorous races” are not perhaps taking advantage of scientific and technological advancements because they are indulging tastes for luxury over hard work, lack the training needed to understand and advance science (a problem that is even worse today!), and delayed by the lag between an innovation’s arrival and the development of an ecosystem to maximize its value. He also laments the lack of respect for the modern factory worker over the (far less productive) craftsmen of past eras.

§2. Marshall takes another jab at the “very backward races” that cannot be taught productivity (see prior chapter) but then argues that basic education and good work habits allow the “unskilled worker” to work in a broader range of jobs (e.g., from making shoes to refining oil) than they could in the past. Advances in machines and production processes make it easier to “add labor” to any sort of production.

§3. Mothers, then fathers, then servants (if any) affect childhood development. Mothers tend to convey morals; servants can drag a child’s perspective downwards, with their “self-indulgent habits.” School is useful when “a truly liberal general education adapts the mind to use its best faculties in business and to use business itself as a means of increasing culture.”

§4. Technical education is pulled towards specialization by sophisticated manufacturers and away from the “general apprentice system” that gave broad knowledge in the many processes related to a specific product. The Continentals have more thorough education, but their deeper knowledge may not help them compete with benefit-cost driven English or Americans. Marshall suggests spending half the year in school and the other half working as a means of balancing academic and practical skills. Although the English lead the world in inventing and innovating, “the excellence of the common schools of the Americans, the variety of their lives, the interchange of ideas between different races among them, and the peculiar conditions of their agriculture have developed a restless spirit of inquiry; while technical education is now being pushed on with great vigour.” The Germans benefits from traveling to learn, unlike the English, who are “great travellers; but partly perhaps on account of their ignorance of other languages they seem hardly to set enough store on the technical education that can be gained by the wise use of travel” [p 175].

§5. Although the share of geniuses among the working classes is lower than the share in the upper classes (remember Marshall’s Social Darwinist sympathies), the sheer number of working class children means that much potential is going to waste without access to education and training. He thus calls for educating most workers as a means of promoting growth but also improving their quality of life.

§6. Education in art is not as useful as technical education, and it is under threat by the mechanization of so many elements of life.

§7. Positive externalities!

We may then conclude that the wisdom of expending public and private funds on education is not to be measured by its direct fruits alone. It will be profitable as a mere investment, to give the masses of the people much greater opportunities than they can generally avail themselves of… And the economic value of one great industrial genius is sufficient to cover the expenses of the education of a whole town… All that is spent during many years in opening the means of higher education to the masses would be well paid for if it called out one more Newton or Darwin, Shakespeare or Beethoven. p 178

§8. Rising wages in any given “grade” of work (e.g., “responsible manual labor vs automatic brain workers”) can attract more workers, thereby breaking the historic norm of children following in their parents’ footsteps, as if bound by caste. Marshall thus broaches social mobility, a topic he promises to address later.

Author: David Zetland

I'm a political-economist from California who now lives in Amsterdam.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *