The passing of Steve Jobs has focused my mind on something I haven’t thought about for a while: American capitalism is so vibrant, so creative, so much a creator of wealth and happiness, while higher education is far less so on all scores. Perhaps this explains why, when we tax capitalists and their suppliers (including employees) to support higher education, we actually often lower our nation’s output and, arguably, gross national happiness.
Starting 35 years or so ago out of a garage, Steve Jobs provided Americans with thousands of great jobs and created a lot of wealth, including $8 billion or so for himself and more than $300 billion more for countless shareholders. The stockholder gains Apple created roughly equal one year’s worth of spending on American higher education.
Apple rose to the top tier of American corporations based on market capitalization in little more than a generation. Yet Jobs was once fired from the company for so-so performance. Success came–but along with that came disappointments, risks, and sticks as well as carrots. Google, Intel, Facebook, Wal-Mart–America is replete with great companies that were essentially non-existent half a century ago and succeeded by building a better mousetrap or the equivalent–with enormous positive consequences. For example, I think Wal-Mart has done more to…
Continue reading Steve Jobs and Our Non-Innovating Universities
Matthew J. Connelly, a historian at Columbia, is busy preparing for a second summer of scholarly doom. Last May, he presided over “Nuclear Summer,” an intensive 12-week course of study, research and collaborative writing about coping with nuclear proliferation and various nuclear scenarios. Next week, he is scheduled to announce that his 2011 summer course, also for a limited number of graduate students and undergrads from around the country, will focus on “Pandemics and Global Public Health.”
The continuation of his “total immersion” summer course at Columbia is a victory of sorts. Connelly conceived the course and sold the idea to Roger Hertog, a New York businessman, chairman emeritus of the Manhattan Institute, and a philanthropist who last month won the Philanthropy Roundtable’s William E. Simon leadership Prize for innovative giving aimed at advancing the power of ideas. Writing in the Philanthropy Roundtable’s magazine, Philanthropy, Bret Stephens estimated that Mr. Hertog has invested well over $140 million in such philanthropic ventures.
Hertog’s Foundation agreed to underwrite a two-year, $250,000 gift so that Connelly could experiment with a summer “total immersion” course focused on some of the greatest challenges confronting the U.S. and the planet.
Continue reading Summer School on World Threats