A middle-class kid from sixth grade through high school. As a proper bit of self-investing human capital, that child will be thinking at every turn — and many children, alas, are forced to do this or learn willingly to do this — How do I enhance my attractiveness to future investors? And future investors will be excellent, private high schools; or excellent colleges; or excellent employers.
Each thing the child does — whether it’s volunteering at a charity in order to build up the résumé in order to look like a good civic citizen, a hardworking, willingly civic human being; or whether it’s an unpaid internship where one is simply using the internship in order to enhance one’s appearance of experience and knowledge and networking — becomes a way of making herself more attractive to future “investors.”
I’m putting this into very concrete economic terms; but I have to say, whenever I talk about this with undergraduate classes, the groans are audible.
Why do you think that is?
They all recognize themselves. They all know that, at every waking moment, they are trying to figure out how to enhance their value so that their future value — what they are speculating in — becomes even greater. They all understand that this is the way they have been living at least since high school. They imagine that this is the way they will live forever.
They understand that they do it in their dating lives, they do it in their social lives, they do it in their fraternities, they do it in their choice of classes and in the way they deal with faculty, they do it in their choice of summer activities and summer jobs — they do it everywhere. They understand that this is the world they live in, even if they haven’t quite named it a practice of “self-investment” or a practice of “enhancing” their “human capital value.”