Wiki Contributions


Thanks a ton. That is very helpful. I think I understand your point now. (Others in the comments have also said something similar, but I didn’t grasp it until now.)

Let me try to work through it in my own words and apply your insight to my question:

Education contributes to people’s abilities — at least, that’s the idea. It also certifies them. Ability is roughly Gaussian, so tests and teaching should assume that. Which they currently do.

Results, however, depend on many other (possibly overlapping) things, such as

  1. luck;
  2. market structure;
  3. intellectual property rights;
  4. economies of scale;
  5. branding; and
  6. network effects.

For education policy, Pareto results don’t matter. Schools can only affect the input, not the output.

I still think my reform suggestion is good. But I am no longer convinced that Pareto performance implies anything for education education reform. Unless, of course, it turns out that ability does follow a Pareto distribution. But that seems unlikely to me.

Thanks for the insightful comment. I agree that the performance measures used tend toward zero-sum games. I don’t, however, think that research is an example of a (roughly) zero-sum game. Scientific breakthroughs to be made is not a limited resource in anywhere near the same sense as sports trophies is a limited resource. When we’re counting papers, we’re getting closer to zero-sum, but I still think it’s significantly positive-sum.

Leaving that aside, I still think we need more examples from positive-sum games. We could look at things like

  1. jobs created by entrepreneurs;
  2. wealth created by entrepeneurs;
  3. salaries;
  4. books sold by authors;
  5. returns made by investors; and
  6. records sold by artists.

My hunch is that these also follow a Paretian distribution, but I’m only about 70 percent sure of that. Hypothetically, if I was right, what would you think then?

I’m not sure if I understand what you mean. Would you care to elaborate?

Good idea. Would love to hear if anyone has any experience trying this.

Public, large-scale, youth education is mostly about child-care and socialization, and only incidentally about skill or knowledge development.

I agree that child-care and socialization are big parts of it, but I also think skill and knowledge development play a big role. For example, I care about my doctor’s education due to the skill and knowledge development (as well as certification) that happened during their formal education.

People such as voters and parents also care at least to some degree what people learn in school. They might be mistaken a lot of the time, but they do care.