Many critics are made toward the pattern of modern consumption. When we buy, it’s not just that we spend money on it, but rather, we spend the time we have spent to earn such volume of money. It’s the wisdom that Jose Mujica gave us in his extraordinary speech (video attached below). We can’t buy the time of life, because it’s always being spent either with our will or against. So when we pursue to materialistic consumption, we fall into vicious pattern that nibbles away at our lifestyle day after day, spending both our money and our time. Moderate and responsible consumption is at call, arising from many corners of global cities, but still the principal of our economies is to produce more to grow. (Sustainability is on the negotiation table of development since we perceive that producing more rather to waste as growth.)
The concept of human capital seems as alternative. We are told now and then, not to invest in material but in time. We are told to spend money on travelling and on education, rather than on buying houses or cars. But even so, these personal experiences on travelling and education also have structured in industrial approach. If we study more, investing more money in studies and time, those investment will pay off? Is it success in modern economy? What kind of success are we trying to reach? Travelling is also structured and explained beforehand (Lonely Planet explains all), so we don’t discover new aspect of life travelling, rather we reproduce what is already explored by travel industries. It’s no more about enrichment but about crossing out what is written in to-do-list and to validate the experience with others who also have done the same.
This investment blows nostalgic scent of meritocratic society. Lack of this investment is now considered as a loser path. According to Bottom, in the past we considered the poor people unfortunate. Now we considered them loser since they have failed to properly invest in themselves. The one has merit deserves more, as it declared the American Dream. But it’s not only about personal merit. When this merit fails in collective level the responsibility lays for all. In this economic paradigm we are living in, the profit has been privatised while the loss has been socialised.
We already observed this political and economic tendency many times including the financial crisis of 2008. We guarantee the private profit even in the time of she sabotaging social build-up. To rescue private bank’s bankruptcy the people’s tax money should be injected. Human capital investment plays the same role in this privatisation-of-profit-and-socialisation-of-loss way of thinking. The origen itself of the concept Human Capital came as the counterattack of socialism. It was an ideological weapon invented from United States against Soviet Union. It was a mock to Marx who said that every individual will share their sum of capital in the next step of modern economy. With human capital theory, every individual does possess capital on their own and they themselves are responsible to invest in their own capital: spending money on experience not on material. Corporates don’t invest more in their employees they just hire already invested employees, because investing in human capital has become individual responsibility.
“(…) the Nobel Prize-winner Gary Becker for example, who coined the idea of human capital, had to come up with concrete models for how people should, in market terms, understand everyday interactions. Inspired by Becker in adopting the market idiom, business writers began to talk about how people need to think about investing in themselves, and viewing themselves as an asset whose value only the market could effectively determine. Over time, a whole body of literature emerged advocating that people should view themselves as a business – a bundle of skills, assets, qualities, experiences and relationships to be managed and continually enhanced.”
But even in raising human capital, we are taught to consume information and education. we never were taught to produce (or to create, as a humanitarian term) the information and education. investment in education, therefore, is again to promote further consumption and this circle of human capital investment creates an imprisoning finance, thinking of the massive student loans observed in United States and elsewhere.
This is why investment on human capital should be a public matter, and precisely around the world there come the movements claiming that education and health (important variables of human capital) are fundamental human rights that government should prioritise in enhancing. Investment should not be fragmented into private and public, rather, public investment should be directing the enhancement of human capital when private investment in human capital support its departure. This way people wouldn’t be imprisoned by investing themselves with private resources, as Germany showed the eradication of tuitions for public university for all German students considering the tertiary education as fundamental human rights also. (Whether the government has capacity to finance all these social policies is soon to be discussed.)