Peter Thiel On Higher Education

But what if higher education is really just the final stage of a competitive tournament? From grades and test results through the U.S. News & World Report rankings of the colleges themselves, higher education sorts us all into a hierarchy. Kids at the top enjoy prestige because they’ve defeated everybody else in a competition to reach the schools that proudly exclude the most people. All the hard work at Harvard is done by the admissions officers who anoint an already-proven hypercompetitive elite. If that weren’t true — if superior instruction could explain the value of college — then why not franchise the Ivy League? Why not let more students benefit? It will never happen because the top U.S. colleges draw their mystique from zero-sum competition.

This tournament is obviously bad for the losers, who end up shut out of a self-satisfied “meritocratic” elite. But it’s bad for the winners, too, because it trains them to compete on old career tracks such as management consulting and investment banking instead of doing something new. And it’s worst of all for society at large because our economy stagnates when its leaders jockey to collect rents from old industries instead of working to create new ones that could raise the standard of living for everyone.

From Wikipedia:

Thiel studied 20th-century philosophy as an undergraduate at Stanford University. He received his B.A. in Philosophy from Stanford in 1989 and acquired a J.D. from Stanford Law School in 1992.

So.. yeah, there’s that.

Thinking too highly of higher ed [WaPo]

“A man can reach truth neither directly nor alone.”

Experience has proven, I told myself, that a man can reach truth neither directly nor alone; an intermediary must exist— still human in certain respects yet surpassing humanity in others. Somewhere on our Earth this superior humanity must exist, and it cannot be absolutely inaccessible. And so shouldn’t all my efforts be devoted to discovering it? Even if, in spite of my certainty, I were the victim of a monstrous illusion, I would have nothing to lose in making the effort, for in any case, without this hope, all life is meaningless.

—Rene Daumal, Mount Analogue.

Global Wealth Report 2014

Credit Suisse just released its annual global wealth report. Summary here:

Although the global economic environment has remained challenging, total global wealth has grown to a new record, rising by USD $20.1 trillion between mid-2013 and mid-2014, an increase of 8.3%, to reach USD $263 trillion – more than twice the USD $117 trillion recorded for the year 2000.

Our estimates for mid-2014 indicate that once debts have been subtracted, a person needs only USD $3,650 to be among the wealthiest half of world citizens. However, more than USD $77,000 is required to be a member of the top 10% of global wealth holders, and USD $798,000 to belong to the top 1%. Taken together, the bottom half of the global population own less than 1% of total wealth. In sharp contrast, the richest decile hold 87% of the world’s wealth, and the top percentile alone account for 48.2% of global assets.

The USA has by far the greatest number of members of the top 1% global wealth group, and accounts for 41% of the world’s millionaires.

Global wealth is expected to grow by 40%, reaching USD $369 trillion by 2019. Emerging markets will account for 26% of the additional wealth, compared to 11.4% of the extra wealth in the period from 2000 to 2014. The number of millionaires worldwide is projected to rise from 35 million to 53 million, an increase of more than 50%.

Full report here (PDF, via Credit Suisse).