Monday, February 27, 2006

Plus Ca Change

A summary of Richard Posner's Recent comments on the Summers case.

In other universities the teacher is prohibited from receiving any honorary or fee from his pupils, and his salary constitutes the whole of the revenue which he derives from his office. His interest is, in this case, set as directly in opposition to his duty as it is possible to set it. ...

If the authority to which he is subject resides in the body corporate, the college, or university, of which he himself is a member, and which the greater part of the other members are, like himself, persons who either are or ought to be teachers, they are likely to make a common cause, to be all very indulgent to one another, and every man to consent that his neighbour may neglect his duty, provided he himself is allowed to neglect his own. In the university of Oxford, the greater part of the public professors have, for these many years, given up altogether even the pretence of teaching.

(from Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, Bk V Chapter 1 Part 3 Article II "Of the Expense of the Institutions for the Education of Youth")

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi, Mr. Friedman;

Yes, "plus ca change, plus c'est pareil", and yes, what is perfectly predictible for economists or just careful laymen seems not so obvious to common people. What happened to Summers happened in almost exactly the same way to the (primary, public) school principal where my wife works, and is happening right now at the school that my children attend.

In the province of Quebec, you see, a "conseil d'etablissement" ("council of school", say) is composed of an equal number of parents and teachers. You guess it: parents lose at all important initiatives. It is impossible to rally parents unanimeously around any question. Yet teachers, well, they behave exactly as Adam Smith said.

In fact, perhaps your post should be titled "Ca va de mal en pis" instead of "Plus ca change"...