chapter  4
22 Pages

Patterns of evolution at work

Marshall’s interest in education policies, probably related to his own experience as a student (see Groenewegen 1995a: chapter 3), was profound and continuous, from the ‘truly liberal education’ of ‘Ye machine’ to the remarks in Industry and Trade. Letters to the Cambridge University Gazette and Reporter (Whitaker 1996, vol. I: 1-13), evidence before the Committee on High Education in Wales and Monmouthshire (Groenewegen 1996: 14-61), speeches in the University Senate (Whitaker 1996, vol. I: 362-6, vol. II: 421-3 and vol. III: 398-405), flysheets, letters and plans for the establishment of the new Cambridge Tripos and education for women as well as businessmen, inquiries about the positive and adverse aspects of the German and American school systems, are all instances of his concern for education. Without analysing Marshall’s ideas on these separate subjects, some of which have already been studied,1 I shall outline the central role played by education in Marshall’s view of economic and social progress. This role is recognized by Bowman (1990), who places Marshall, after Smith and Mill, among the forerunners of the theory of human capital formation. Since man is ‘the finest instrument of production in the world’, ‘the most important productive machine’ (Raffaelli et al. 1995: 117 and 98), Marshall firmly believed that education represents investment in human beings.2 This parallel between capital and knowledge represents a powerful warning against short term drives which may prevent the attainment of long-term educational objectives. Education confers benefits on society which cannot easily be foreseen and therefore needs help and protection. Parents are often pressed to curtail their children’s education, either because they do not reap the benefit of their efforts (Raffaelli et al. 1995: 103; Marshall 1920: 560-1 and 1961: 311), or, if altruistic behaviour be allowed, simply because the rate at which they discount the future is too high (Marshall 1920: 217). This explains why education systematically needs public intervention.