I should have realized this long ago, but Fred beat me to the punch.
A search continues, long quietly underway but now intensified, for ways to keep off the work force people for whom there is no work, or no real work. These are not necessarily lazy, shiftless, or parasitic. They just don’t have anything to do.
Child-labor laws and requirements that people finish high school helped diminish the labor force. Then society told the young that they all needed to go to college, when most of them didn’t, and since the universities served chiefly as holding pens, the quality of education dropped. Universities did however employ professors and administrators. Here was another example of selling at high price something that no one really needed, namely the appearance of education.
Though it pretends to curmudgeonly modesty, this is actually a profoundly great article. Go read it. It is an extremely concise explanation of the modern economy, and ought to be added to the Western canon alongside Shakespeare.
Also notable is the implication that education is the greatest achievement of advertising in all of modern history.