Infantile Paralysis on Campus

Tom DiLorenzo’s recent blog about the outbreak of brain-lock on the Indiana University campus is but the latest example of a syndrome so widespread that other instances are hard to mention because they would take up more blog space than Lew could accommodate. I am reminded of the polio epidemic that was so devastating in my youth; there were no identifiable causes against which parents could take protection. At that time, local swimming pools, school playgrounds, parks, or other gathering places, were not found to be attractors for the virus. A child could be infected, his or her arms, legs, lungs, paralyzed by the disease even though no one else in the family was affected.

What was termed “infantile paralysis” – the formal name for polio in my childhood – has mutated into a new form of the virus that now thrives on college campuses. By whatever popular name the disease operates – “political correctness,” “cultural Marxism,” etc. – the symptoms of this paralysis of the mind are easily spotted: the inability to reason, a resistance to empirically-grounded inquiries into causation, the resort to opinion polls and campus demonstrations as means for validating one’s conclusions, and the replacement of other rigorous forms of intellectual analysis with whimsically-generated “entitlements.” These examples reflect so much of what passes for A Libertarian Critique... Butler Shaffer Best Price: $18.67 Buy New $5.50 (as of 08:05 EDT - Details) intelligent life in academia. The sense of intellectual independence and epistemologically-sound judgments that once helped students develop individual competence and integrity, no longer energize student minds. Far too many have morphed into whining misfits who turn to campus administrators, or crisis counselors for any discomfort they experience with others.

Two or more Caucasian males acting together are characterized as “racists;” speakers who disagree with consensus-based beliefs are charged with “hate speech;” people who oppose the harvesting of organs from unborn children are condemned as “sexists” who have no respect for women; Catholic priests who wear their white robes on campus are stigmatized as Ku Klux Klan members. When television news channels break down the “demographics” of voters, it comes as no surprise to discover that Bernie Sanders derives the bulk of his support from college students! In my youth, most students worked their way through college. Modernly, the ballooning of tuition rates not only quantifies the costs of the college racket but makes it virtually impossible for students – as well as their families – to pay for their learning as a current expense. Students find themselves inducted into a kind of indentured servitude to pay off bank loans advanced as one of many politically-concocted “entitlements” promoted by politicians in their quests for power.

This virus tends to be isolated in undergraduate subject areas that have virtually no intellectual discipline: courses in “sensitivity studies” or “saving the planet” or “racial” or “ethnic studies.” These studies abound because they lay no burden on the mind that would otherwise delay students in obtaining what they really came to college to get: a degree. The anti-intellectual response to the infamous Duke University lacrosse team “scandal” provided a poignant example of such thinking as “on the basis of my conclusions I base my facts.” Bill Anderson’s thorough and well-documented analysis of this particular outrage is available online. The academic departments in opposition to the attempted institutional railroading of innocent students were found in such fields as the sciences (i.e., the real ones, such as physics, chemistry, geology, biology), engineering, economics, and other subject areas The Wizards of Ozymand... Butler Shaffer, Butler... Best Price: $9.99 Buy New $3.14 (as of 06:55 EDT - Details) whose intellectual rigors demand a commitment to more than what is fashionable.

The late Richard Weaver reminded us that “ideas have consequences,” a truth well understood by those whose approach to learning is premised on long-term time preferences. Modern politics thrives on short-term time-preferences (e.g., the outcome of the next election, the inflation of national debts and money supplies) so it is not surprising that the thinking of modern students reflects this mindset. A national debt fast approaching $20 trillion is readily absorbed into the thinking of students who graduate owing anywhere from $50,000 to $120,000 in student loan debts. The Keynesian slogan that “we only owe the national debt to ourselves” doesn’t serve the graduate who tries using it in response to payment notices from his bank.

Nor does the graduate find solace in the fact that he/she cannot find employment in the subject area in which they majored. The student whose Ph.D. thesis was entitled “Pre-Colombian Eskimo Oral Traditions” cannot understand why he is unable to find employment in a field for which such work might be relevant. His academic advisors will remind him that this is but another example of the failures of the marketplace. His academic indoctrination may help him accept this conclusion, particularly after he learns that a college acquaintance – who got his degree in engineering – had just received a high-paying job from a firm that builds bridges designed to stand up. All is not lost for the Ph.D. graduate, however, who believes that, if elected, Bernie will change all of this!