シティ大学ロンドン・カス・ビジネススクールピーター・フレミングが、Aeonというデジタル雑誌に「What is human capital?」という記事を寄稿している(H/T Mostly Economics)。

As the two men faced each other in that dark, oak-panelled office, they had a big problem on their hands. University economists were being recast in a new light by US state authorities; no longer bumbling professors (sporting a pipe and tweed jacket) but the creators of ideational weapons, just as important as the intercontinental ballistic missiles being readied at Vandenberg airbase in California. Members of the Chicago school were confident they could make a significant contribution in the struggle.
The two academics pause to gather their thoughts. Then the concept of human capital is broached. Possibly by Schultz since it might help to find some common ground with his tiny counterpart.
Friedman probably agreed with Schultz that human capital theory was the ideational weapon they’d been searching for to counter the Soviet threat on the economic front. The very phrase implied that human beings’ interests naturally coincide with the values of capitalism. But therein lay the tension between the two economists. Schultz’s rendition of human capital theory – with all its talk of public spending programmes and central planning – threatened to dilute this image of the independent, self-reliant pseudo-capitalist that everyone was assumed to be.


It appears that the force of Friedman’s argument hit a nerve. We see clear signs of it in Schultz’s inaugural presidential speech to the American Economic Association in December 1960. As expected, he stressed the importance of national investment in human capital and its correlation with economic growth. Towards the end of the talk, Schultz mentions that a colleague has asked for clarification on a crucial detail: ‘Should the returns from public investment in human capital accrue to the individuals in whom it is made?’
We learn in a footnote to the published version of the address who the bothersome colleague was. Friedman, of course.
The answer Friedman received from Schultz is understandably ambivalent, with two possible conclusions. First, returns on human capital derived from public investment (eg, taxes) ought to remain in public hands. The problem here is that this would be socialism. And besides, we’ve already learnt that the individual cannot be separated from his human capital. So that leaves only the second conclusion. If the returns on human capital derived from public investment (eg, taxes) aren’t a ‘gift’ to the individual benefactor, then he or she should bear some or all of the investment costs. In short, this is no handout.
The Schultz camp was fighting a losing battle. The government’s attempts to apply his ideas and dramatically increase federal education spending were shot down in 1961 and 1963. Detractors construed it as creeping welfare or worse.
More importantly, Friedman’s decisive encounter with Schultz still reverberates today, and not in a good way. For example, one can trace a red thread from his 1960 victory concerning who’s exactly responsible for human capital investment, and the student debt catastrophe unfolding presently in the US, UK and many other countries that embraced neoliberalism a little too uncritically. Want a university degree and to get ahead in life but can’t afford it? Then here’s a student loan to tide you over, with terms and conditions that will hound you to the grave. The underlying message of human capital theory turns out to be simple, and Friedman cheerfully summed it up in a pithy catchphrase during the 1970s: there is no such thing as a free lunch.
より重要なことは、フリードマンがシュルツに決然として反論したことが今日においても依然として尾を引いており、しかも良くない形で尾を引いている、ということである。例えば、誰が人的資本投資の負担責任を正確に負うべきか、という議論における彼の1960年の勝利からは、ネオリベラリズムを少し無批判に受け入れすぎた米英をはじめとする多くの国で今日展開している学生債務の悲劇、といった帰結を辿ることができる。人生で成功するため大学の学位は欲しいが、金が無いですと? そのための学生ローンをご用意しておりますが、契約条件は死ぬまできっちり履行していただきます、というわけだ。人的資本理論の根底にあるメッセージは単純なもので、フリードマンは喜んで1970年代にそれを簡潔なキャッチフレーズにまとめた。曰く、フリーランチはない、と。


Friedman had discovered in human capital theory more than just a means for boosting economic growth. The very way it conceptualised human beings was an ideological weapon too, especially when it came to counteracting the labour-centric discourse of communism, both outside and inside the US. For doesn’t human capital theory provide the ultimate conservative retort to the Marxist slogan that workers should seize the means of production? If each person is already his own means of production, then the presumed conflict at the heart of the capitalist labour process logically dissolves. Schultz too was starting to see the light, and agreed that workers might actually be de facto capitalists: ‘labourers have become capitalists not from the diffusion of the ownership of corporation stocks, as folk law would have it, but from the acquisition of knowledge and skill that have economic value.’
...Peter Drucker even felt comfortable announcing the arrival of the ‘post-capitalist society’, labelling the US the most socialist country around because all workers owned some capital after all.
What isn’t a joking matter, however, is the brave new world of work that has followed in the wake of neoclassical ideas such as human capital theory. Only when the employee is framed in such an ultra-individualist manner could the regressive trend of on-demand (or ‘zero-hours’) employment contracts ever gain a foothold in the economy. What some have called the Uberisation of the workforce functions by reclassifying workers as independent business owners, thereby shifting all employment costs to the employee: training, uniforms, vehicles and almost everything else.
Back in the 1960s, Friedman envisaged a society in which we’d all be wealthy, thriving entrepreneurs. What we got in reality was a pay cut, reduced holiday or sick leave, a chronic skills deficit, credit-card debt and endless hours of pointless work. If anything, the story of human capital theory in Western economies has been about divesting in people, not the opposite.
That’s because it was born within an extreme period in 20th-century history, when many believed that the fate of humanity was hanging in the balance. It should therefore be approached as such, a rather eccentric and largely unrealistic relic of the Cold War. Only in that highly unusual milieu could mavericks such as Hayek and Friedman ever be taken seriously and listened to. In the face of communist collectivism, the Chicago school developed a diametrically opposed account of society, one populated by capsule-like individuals who automatically shun all forms of social cohesion that isn’t transactional. These loners are driven only by the ethos of self-serving competitiveness. Blindly attached to money. Insecure and paranoid. No wonder we’re so unwell today.