In an earlier post I postulated that not all comparative advantages are equal, reasoning that since technology and inventions are more prized than other specializations, they consequently confer more power. Here's a consequence of this comparative advantage framework that I hadn't considered before:
You'll have noticed that politicians are always talking about expanding and improving math and science educations in K-12 schools. They argue that it's crucial for "staying competitive in the 21st century." In more direct words, I think that means: we need to constantly advance our math and science to maintain our dominion over the realm of inventions. I used to think that emphasizing math and science education was just about helping kids find jobs in their local markets. That's true, but at the same time the bigger picture is that inventions and technology are vital to tipping the balance of power in our favor. In the end, it's about ensuring continuing U.S. hegemony.
Thus, to expand on the conclusion of my earlier post, just as technology and inventions are about power, so are the academic disciplines that produce them. All knowledge is power, true, but math and science generate economic power, and that's the type of power we've deemed most important.
[As a side note, just take a stroll around your local university campus and notice how it's not a coincidence that the math and science buildings are the fanciest and the most well-maintained.]