by Gary North
In this report, I am going to introduce you to a boatload of freebies. But to take full advantage of this information, you must download a piece of software, the DjVu reader. It's like the Adobe Acrobat reader. It lets you read encoded pages that are almost perfect copies of original sources. Downloading it will take you two minutes. Maybe less.
In my previous report, "Misunderstanding Higher Education," I went through some of the basics of the mythology of higher education in the government-licensed, overpriced, over-rated cartel known as the modern university.
First, I provided you with access to 7 ways to beat the undergraduate system. That's good for an extra (say) $40,000, after taxes. Maybe $150,000.
Then I discussed the system itself, especially at the graduate school level. I listed a series of questions to ask yourself before you send in an application.
Next, I discussed the difference between your calling and your occupation. Formal, certified higher education is for your occupation, not your calling. If you fail to understand this, you will overpay.
Then I discussed higher education as a cartel — the product of government interference in the free market. This has been going on in the United States for a century.
I failed to mention that the institutional model was the Prussian educational system, which gave us two Germanic horrors: kindergarten and the Ph.D. In 1968, the literary critic Edmund Wilson suggested that America missed its opportunity in World War I.We could have banned the Ph.D. degree as a German atrocity.
Then I discussed education vs. certification. If you want an education, I said, you can get it with a library card and inter-library loans. I failed to mention the web.
The web is rapidly changing the foundation of all education. This technology has not yet undermined the university cartel, but it will.
Dedicated true believers are spending time and money to create a substitute for the university. Day by day, new sites are going up. These sites offer, free of charge, books, articles, graphics, maps, and images that would have cost hundreds of millions of dollars to produce in the form of printed books. They are available for the price of toner and paper.
Let me introduce you to a few of these sites.
In the field of free market economics, this is the 800-lb digital gorilla. Other sites have more information, but no other site has such focused information in this quantity and with this quality.
The site offer free copies of books by Austrian School economists, most notably Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard.
It has begun reproducing classic books related to Austrian economics, books that have been out of print for decades. When I was just starting out, some of these books were still in print, though expensive, but even then — the early 1960's — some were available only in used book stores. They were very difficult to find. Now they are coming on-line because of Abode Acrobat Pro, which allows you to scan a book and post a Google-searchable file of the book on-line. For a list of the available books, click here.
Go to a book title, click the link, and print it out. There are enough books to keep you occupied for ten years if you read a book a month. When the ten years are over, the site will probably have another 30 years' worth on line.
The site goes way beyond books. It offers audio files of lectures by Austrian School economists and historians. Here is an example: my speech on the influence of Murray Rothbard.
It has hundreds of articles posted on the site.
It has a daily article emailed out and written by someone in the Austrian School tradition.
It offers individual scholarly essays.
It offers a blog where interested students can share ideas.
Here is the amazing fact. In the year that Mises died, 1973, Austrian School economics was barely a footnote in the world of mainstream economics. There was no university where you could earn a Ph.D. exclusively in Austrian economics. You could do so in Chicago School economics, but not Austrian School economics. Today, this is still true, but it is far less relevant. That is because you can now get the equivalent of a Ph.D. in economic knowledge for the price of toner and paper.
There is something else. Because the web is international, Austrian School economics is now penetrating Eastern Europe, Russia, China, India, and third world countries that were completely unfamiliar with Austrian economics ten years ago. Thousands of young men and women who are going to become high-level academics and businessmen and government advisors are learning the basics of Austrian School economics, which is the only modern school of economics whose members have always been openly hostile to fractional reserve banking and central banks.
It did not take a billion-dollar university to do this. It doesn't take a tax collector with a gun to finance it. It takes a web site and a guy with a bow tie who runs it.
In 1996, I began making plans for a website that would post all of my academic books, my old newsletter articles, and the books and articles by other men whose materials I had published either through my for-profit company, Dominion Press, or my non-profit Institute for Christian Economics.
The site has been on-line for a decade: www.freebooks.com.
In the early days, there was a technical problem. Adobe Acrobat files could not be created error-free. Adobe sold a high-priced program that sort of reproduced images on-line, called Capture. It was expensive, and it worked terribly. My site's designer used it, but it was not effective.
Then he discovered DjVu. The Windows version of the program was expensive, though not as expensive as it is now. It allowed a perfect reproduction of any document. The downside was that the images are not searchable by web search engines, which did not exist a decade ago. But you can print out copies that look very close to the original document.
So, most of my books, 1968—1996, are on-line for free. You can read them on-line (unwise) or print out each book with the click of a digital button.
I ceased publishing printed versions of my books in 1997. I now post them on-line on my commercial site: www.GaryNorth.com. You can access them free from the home page: Capitalism and the Bible. Or click here.
The Liberty Fund was founded decades ago by Pierre Goodrich, who had created the Independent Telephone Company of Indiana. He became a multimillionaire.
He had seen rich men's money go to non-profit foundations that were soon captured by their intellectual enemies. He was determined that this would not happen to his money. It didn't.
He structured the Liberty Fund so that it would not be worth capturing. This was an act of true organizational genius. The man who helped him conceive and execute this plan was free market economist Ben Rogge (ROWEguee), who was the most entertaining after-dinner academic free market speaker in American history.
The Liberty Fund is so narrowly focused that liberals don't have any incentive to capture it. All it is allowed by its charter to do is publish classic reprints of books on liberty. It publishes them in magnificent hardbound format. If you suffer from the psychological affliction known as Picard's Syndrome — you must have a bound book in your lap in order to read a book — then the Liberty Fund is your outfit.
[On Picard's syndrome, see my article. To be cured of this affliction takes years of therapy or else an absolute refusal to spend money for books that you can download for free and print out.]
If you want a liberal arts education but care nothing for certification, I know of no better way to get it than to download the Liberty Fund's book catalogue and then read every book in it. Download it here.
The Fund has published dozens of its books on-line. You can download them for free. Here is a list of the authors.
But that's not all. You can get 840 books in PDF format. You can search by author, title, academic discipline, and school of thought. The entry page is here.
BOOKS AND LEADERSHIP
I have selected these three sites because you can download books. Daily articles are great for keeping up to date, but if you are after an education — as distinguished from certification — you must read serious books.
Most people don't read serious books after they graduate from college. They park their brains.
A serious thinker is a serious, disciplined reader of books.
I know of no exceptions in the modern world.
The web really is a revolution comparable to the invention of the movable-type printing press. Johannes Gutenberg is remembered for this invention. Tim Berners-Lee is unlikely to be equally remembered for his invention of the web, but he deserves his place in the history books about our era. He converted the Internet into a tool of education like no other in man's history.
The amount of digital junk now available boggles the mind. But with the junk comes gems. Quietly, sites like the ones I have mentioned and (presumably) thousands like them are allowing self-disciplined, self-motivated, hard-core people advance their understanding of the way the world works.
THE GATEKEEPERS' DILEMMA
The web is the achilles' heel of every establishment on earth. The gatekeepers are still guarding the gates of formal academic certification: who gets in, who gets out, and on what terms. This is one of the last gates that still matters. But the web is knocking down the walls that have made this gate significant. You don't have to go through the gate to get a top-flight education.
There is something else. The people who now get through the gates are armed. Some of them can be dangerous.
Inside the halls of ivy, as academia used to be called, there are wi-fi connections — no cords needed. Students can access the web inside the classroom from their battery-powered computers. A professor of this or that can make some statement, and within two minutes, a student in the rear, armed only with a Palm Pilot, can raise his hand and say, "Excuse me, Professor, but what you just said does not seem to tally with the source you were quoting. Here is what it says. . . ."
The free ride is ending for the pinko-commie-Freudian-feminist-deconstructionist tenured radicals. Any student with an IQ higher than 105 can call their bluff at any time. "Just add Google." The delicious irony is that Google is run by ideological allies of the tenured radicals. They serve much the same function as a torpedo that locks onto the sub that fired it. "May day! May day!" May Day, indeed.
Richard Hernstein and Charles Murray caught a lot of flak for their book, The Bell Curve (1994), because it cited evidence on racial intelligence that had been actively suppressed by the lock-step professors who control the gates of academia. But the heart of the book was not its observations on race and IQ test scores. Rather, it was the authors' identification of the central institutional problem of our era: the leftist, humanist ideological uniformity in the two-dozen top-ranked American universities where the top 1% of intelligent Americans are educated — and not just Americans.
The book made sense a decade ago, before the web was an international phenomenon. Today, the ideological stranglehold of the professorate is loosening. It is loosening because of the technology of the web. There is nothing the professorate can do about this.
The era of the tweed jacket gatekeepers is ending. It could not have happened to a more deserving bunch.
John Dewey, meet Tim Berners-Lee. You talked up democracy.
Now meet its digital incarnation.
April 16, 2007
Copyright © 2007 LewRockwell.com