Friday, May 6, 2011

How valuable will a business degree be in the future economy?

In a piece titled The Plight of the MBA Generation, Doug French writes about the predicament of college-educated, unemployed (mostly) men who have lost the mojo that used to be associated with a business degree.  The author's treatment is a bit harsh.
A generation born at the tail end of the baby boom did what mom and dad told them they should: Get off the farm, don't be a barber, forget about being a mechanic. Go to college and then go be a doctor or lawyer or such. However, high barriers to entry and lack of mental horsepower kept most out of medical or law school. But a business degree means you will still be able to wear a shirt and tie to work, not get dirty, and push paper for a living. An MBA will make you unstoppable.
What's known as the FIRE economy ("Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate") fired up in 1980 and headed for the sky until 2006. Now there are 50-years-olds who may never work again. In an April 25 cover story, Newsweek described these out-of-work boomers as "Dead Suits Walking."...
Perversely, while the market tries to clear away malinvestments and the jobs that supported them, colleges continue to turn out more business majors than any other discipline. In 2007 and 2008 there were more than 335,000 business degrees granted — 100,000 more than a decade before, according to the National Center for Education Statistics....
The Federal Reserve's zero-interest-rate policy attempts to resuscitate jobs that are considered "professional" but are really just a mirage, much like the redundant shopping centers, housing tracts, and casinos built during the boom. In a bubble, there is a market for hail-fellows-well-met who look good in a suit and have connections from their frat days at State U.
Ouch!  But really, isn't propping up failing enterprises lacking in intrinsic merit usually the wrong course of action?  (I'm thinking of the educational world.)
Propping up Wall Street and the FIRE economy only fuels denial. Murray Rothbard wrote in Economic Depressions: Their Cause and Cure that government must never bail out businesses in trouble or prop up wages. "It will cause indefinite and prolonged depression and mass unemployment in the vital capital goods industries."
Related:  Why some employers value a solid liberal arts education  &  A liberal arts education need not be a "a waste of time and money"


  1. I have always wondered why certain business degrees, the more content-free ones like marketing for example, ever had any value

  2. Me too, and there are probably any number of other similar majors. I can imagine that a solid high school education combined with 4 (or 5 or 6) years of working at an actual job might be almost as good as a college degree in some of these cases. Or better, plus no debt, plus income.