Please read this article from next month’s Harper’s: The Neoliberal Arts: How college sold its soul to the market. It was in seeing the militant self-reduction of college students, eagerly planning, at the age of eighteen, their retirements some half-century later, with no regard to what went in the middle, that I grew convinced of the need for work like my book, written against one of the leading sponsors of the nihilism of our age.

Two high (i.e., low) points from the article. First:

A Princeton student literally made this argument to me: If the market is incentivizing me to go to Wall Street, he said, then who am I to argue?

Let’s think about this (hopefully apocryphal) Princeton student. First, we can set aside the specific edict of the market to find the logical form of his point; for any action A, he says:

“If the market is incentivizing me to A, then who am I to argue?”

Now let’s replace ‘the market’ with prior iterations:

“If God tells me to A, then who am I to argue?”
“If Dear Leader tells me to A, then who am I to argue?”
“If the King tells me to A, then who am I to argue?”
“If the people need me to A, then who am I to argue?”
“If my race needs me to A, then who am I to argue?”

The thing is that none of those supernatural edict-senders are genuine, spontaneous collectives. God says whatever the priests want Him to say; the Dear Leader and the King are individual people; “the people” always says what the politicians and bureaucrats want it to say; “my race” says whatever the nastiest politicians want it to say. Only with the market have we found something to obey that is an actual collective that speaks for itself with its “incentives”. This Princeton student is the perfect realization of collectivism: he loves Big Brother.

Second:

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, [Wisconsin Governor Scott] Walker [R] “proposed striking language about public service and improving the human condition, and deleting the phrase: ‘Basic to every purpose of the system is the search for truth.’ ” The university’s mission would henceforth be to “meet the state’s workforce needs.”

If someone were to write a novel about a university suffering a Bolshevik purge, that is what one would write.

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