world is full of fools and faint hearts; and yet every one has courage
enough to bear the misfortunes, and wisdom enough to manage the
affairs of his neighbor.
Poor Richards Almanac, 1743
received e-mails from a couple of college students; they wondered
where the previously smooth path to Wall Street riches was taking
them and asked my advice if they should maybe take a detour into
a career with more potential and less risk, like professional bull
riding. Even worse for the young men, they had the bad luck to stumble
across Hayek and Mises at the tender age of college; they have lost
the intellectual blind spots necessary to drink from Wall Street's
cup without grimacing — for them, the party's over before it had
there is really no way for me to answer their question about staying
on the path to Wall Street, to follow a Yellow Brick Road that no
longer gleams with gold. I don't know their circumstances; only
they do. But, with me being a modern day American, having no clue
what I'm talking about will not turn me away from running my mouth,
so stuffed to the gills with the hollow omniscience a top post-graduate
degree grants to the owner I'll give my advice anyway.
Search for Knowledge
I have never
let my schooling interfere with my education.
~ Mark Twain
ago, during the dark times before the GI Bill and Sallie Mae, the
overwhelming majority of Americans never earned a college degree.
To become a "college man" meant having parents wealthy
enough to ship you off to Princeton, Harvard, or some such place,
where the progeny would earn themselves a lifetime of steady, well-remunerated
employment through four years of intensive networking, drinking,
rowing, debutante balls, and intercollegiate football matches accompanied
by rousing fight songs. The finished product of this process was
marked not with wisdom but its pale substitute – wit.
among "all the rights, privileges, and immunities thereunto
appertaining" in the top school degree was an arrogance or,
at best, a condescending sympathy towards all those not familiar
with the interior of the University Club, all those poor cabdrivers,
waiter staff, and subway riders who never even heard about that
favorite famous professor of our memory, let alone took lessons
at his feet.
birthed by our elite colleges in the late 1800s morphed America
into a socialist democracy, this sea change has had a boomerang
effect on our university system — it now operates under the premise
that college equals education and everybody has a right to it. Politicians
at all levels have borrowed against tomorrow to boost college attendance,
and before all the seed corn ran out the university system gorged
to its content — more Americans now hold college degrees than at
any time in history. Yet, the industry's outsized growth did not
improve the product, but diluted what little it had to offer to
top rung of the system (in reputation, at least) are the Ivy League
colleges, which have long been diploma mills producing legions of
dumbasses, schemers, and charlatans by the bushel, every graduated
brain stuffed with the irrational ravings of select madmen and emptied
of any shred of humility. Chock full of an insatiable urge to "plan"
and the ignorant arrogance to see it through, they are released
upon humanity like a viral plague to assume their rightful positions
of leadership, forever after to blunder the world into one disaster
Princeton graduate Woodrow Wilson, who gave us World War One, the
War on Drugs, and the income tax, to Yale and Harvard product George
W. Bush, who gave us Iraq, Afghanistan, the Patriot Act, and turned
America into a pervasive surveillance society, the mark of the Ivy
League graduate has been nothing but bloodshed and fields filled
with skull and bones, corruption of the idea of education, and a
vast wasting of wealth and liberty.
best we can do for our nation's future greatness and posterity is
to take Harvard, Princeton, every one of the Ivies in fact, and
turn them all to more useful pursuits, such as teaching auto repair
or plumbing. As for the poor saps who have already graduated and
are running brain damaged about the globe, proudly waving their
Ivy League degrees and causing untold mayhem, they are likely too
far gone to be much use to anyone, though they might, after years
of de-programming, make decent fry cooks.
is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.
~ Will Durant
it's one thing I got from my foray into America's college system,
one thing that my outsized bloated paycheck granted me, it is my
extensive home library, my pride and joy. Lehman's former CEO Dick
Fuld got a mansion in Florida from the boom, and goody for him —
I wish him well and envy him not a dot. What I got for my part in
the whole stock-jobbing frenzy was my refuge, and you might honestly
say that everything I have ever learned I learned on my own, under
my own direction.
will only become as educated as they make themselves. There are
multitudes of Americans with post-graduate degrees who have never
cracked open a book under anything but outside direction, that have
lived a life that has shown no urge towards that pursuit of knowledge
which is always, when all is said and done, a process that is and
must be self-directed.
that self-education leaves holes in your overall views of things,
that it can lead to a stunted mind that will only dive into what
it is sure to agree with can be correct, but there is an easy way
around that. Every book, at least every decent book, is full of
footnotes and a bibliography that can lead the reader more deeply
into the subject at hand, to look at the thing from a variety of
financial advantages to self-education can't be emphasized enough,
either. When Matt Damon's character in Good
Will Hunting mocked the arrogant Harvard student, asking
him why he spends tens of thousands of dollars to be told to read
things he could read by choice in the library for free, he was on
if you insist on becoming a college man anyway, citing the salary
discrepancies between the have degrees and the have not degrees,
my advice to the young men who wrote to me, those holed up in college
libraries clutching Mises and Rothbard to their furrowed brow, is
to take stock of where you are and what college is really about.
Think about what position you are in.
A recent blog
post by Lew Rockwell sums up that position perfectly — "as
I walked on a university campus this morning…the girl-boy ratio
was overwhelmingly girl." Haven’t you watched Animal House?
What in God’s name are you doing in the library? Who the hell goes
to college to learn anything? Understood properly, America's
college system is not a haven of learning; it is a four-year party
with the background noise provided by tenured hacks giving their
interpretations of foolish utopian schemes culled from other long-dead
happy hour is every hour, so remember to ignore your professors
and let your dog off the leash; it's hunting season. You are there
to network, drink, smoke, and build up the fond, blurry memories
that will allow you in later years to watch a porn movie and reminisce
about when you used to get up to such wondrous madness. Stop
wasting valuable college time reading Mises and Hayek — they'll
be plenty of time for that later — and cease frittering away a once-in-a-lifetime
It is possible
to store the mind with a million facts and still be entirely uneducated.
~ Alec Bourne
while the Ivy Leagues — and all American universities, for that
matter — are like a dark blot on the sun of knowledge, even if everyone
avoided college this would by no means protect society from disaster.
It must be
admitted that a self-educated man can be as much a Hindenburg as
the college man; he too can be encumbered with a favorite crackbrained
theory. Abraham Lincoln, a self-educated one-man wrecking crew of
historic proportion, is the perfect case in point. So I can take
my library and my footnotes and bibliographies and my self-education
and go stuff it.
it would seem that what's best for America, what's best for our
youth in general, is to stay away from books and learning completely.
Like the quip that sex is too good for the common people, the authoritarian
fear that books and ideas are too dangerous for the rabble holds
a lot of credence, as well.
bit of learning is a dangerous thing, and a lot of it is clearly
beyond the bounds of most. We need less college graduates and more
people like Guy Montag from Fahrenheit
451, burning every book within reach. And when almost everyone's
brain is empty and dull, when calls by our educated elite to invade,
forbid, or regulate will bring forth no response from the dull herd,
when the only utopian crusade the American people can get worked
up for or understand is one where we sit back on the couch, smoke,
and play Madden NFL until the heart's content and the lungs
blacken — when that day comes we can all exhale, because only then
will we will be happy, high, and safe from the mad ravings of the
Ivy League graduate.
[send him mail] lives and
works in New York City.