Friday, March 29, 2019

There’s Something Rotten in Academia

The deterioration of American higher education is a national tragedy. Regarding the current admissions cheating scandal, Alan Dershowitz, who was a Harvard Law School professor for over forty years, said, “It is the tip of a very, very deep iceberg.” Too true. A vital societal institution has become deeply corrupted and obscenely overpriced.

Increased price, decreased value

College tuition has increased at rates far beyond prices in general. Since 1980 tuition has increased 260 percent vs. 120 percent for the general price level, according to the Department of Education. That discrepancy is not an accident. It has been deliberate and devious.

Like sellers in general, colleges “charge what the traffic will bear.” In a number of ways they have increased what the traffic will bear. One such way is selling the idea that everyone needs a college education. That, of course, is absolutely wrong and a huge misallocation of resources has resulted from making everyone believe it’s true.

There is, of course, method to this madness. The Democrat Party is the most enthusiastic proponent of the “everyone ought to go to college” mantra. It is typical of the Party’s “one-size-fits-all” mind-set. Bernie Sanders’ campaign issue of “free college for everyone” is another big step in that direction. The Democrat habit of calling everything a “right” is one of their favorite government-growing deceptions. The last thing we need, however, are more taxpayer subsidies going to higher education.

Since almost everyone in academia is a Democrat or a leftist, it’s an effective way to transfer wealth to their friends and supporters. It is as big a “conflict of interest” as you could ever find.

Academic/government loan sharks

Another way what the traffic will bear has increased is the enticement and easy availability of student loans. Total student debt is now nearly one and half trillion dollars and climbing. Students leave their college days long on debt and short on knowledge. It often takes them decades to repay and causes major life distortions — delayed marriage, child bearing, home purchases, etc. Having those loans forgiven by way of bankruptcy is virtually impossible. Higher education and its big government enablers have become the world’s biggest loan sharks.

Perverse redistribution of income

The unnecessarily high cost of college has caused an enormous transfer of wealth from productive members of society to bloated administrations and overpaid professors. Professors and administrators have incomes far above the mean. Inequality, of course, is one of the Democrats favorite obsessions which they remind us about ad nauseam.

Grade inflation and grade elimination

Besides tuition inflation, grade inflation has lessened the value of what students pay the higher price for. At most universities it’s now almost impossible to receive a grade lower than a “C.” Many universities have abandoned grading altogether. It’s akin to all participants receiving a trophy or not keeping score. That is a huge mistake. Entire universities have become “safe spaces” from the trauma of a bad grade. Grades used to be important sources of incentives and information. No longer. A college transcript provides less and less real information.

Mission creep

As is true in many parts of our culture higher education has been corrupted by “mission creep.” Rather than focusing on its age-old and traditional goal of transferring knowledge from one generation to the next, universities now consider themselves crusaders in charge of saving the world from every imagined kind of catastrophe. Professors and administrators have grossly exaggerated senses of self-importance. The media, of course, suffer from the same affliction.

A more appropriate description of what’s happening in academia is “mission inversion.” Campuses used to be known for freedom of thought, intellectual diversity and open-mindedness. They’ve flipped. They’ve become repressive and intolerant, and even violent against opposing ideas.

College campuses have become bland, monotonous intellectual dead zones. There is total intellectual conformity and a deep fear of and hostility toward differing points of view. They’ve become mini-North Koreas.

The obsession with multiculturalism has resulted in English majors graduating without ever having read anything written by Shakespeare. The very term “Western Civilization” is scorned. “Western civ” used to be a standard requirement of “general education” and still should be.

The proliferation of the so-called “studies” curricula is another way higher education has been diluted. “Gender Studies” departments have no discernable purpose or definition beyond victimology and offering a catalog of reasons for resenting men. What, precisely, is the definition of and mission statement of “ethnic studies?” After graduation what’s been “learned” is of no real value to potential employers and another impediment to repaying student loans. Seeing Gender Studies as a major on an applicant’s résumé is probably a “stay away” sign to most employers.

Abandonment of merit-based standards

The admission-buying scandal has correctly been described as a zero-sum game. The students who were admitted dishonestly resulted in legitimately qualified students being denied admission. However, the population of wronged applicants victimized in that context is dwarfed by the same kind of injustice created by affirmative action and academia’s’ diversity obsession. Affirmative action and diversity goals are race-based selection systems. That is racism pure and simple.

Student snowflakes

Another tragic error committed by spineless college administrators is the coddling of their students. The students are treated, not like adults, but as delicate and fragile orchids. The students’ demands for “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings” ought to be ridiculed and ignored, not catered to. Universities are busy creating a generation of thin-skinned, emotional weaklings.

That is a serious disservice to those students. It is no way to prepare them for the harsh and unsympathetic world they will enter after graduation. “Safe spaces” are few and far between in the real world.

Why I left academia

Upon finishing graduate school in 1969 I taught economics for ten years at Humboldt State University in Arcata, California where I still live. There was a combination of reasons why I decided to leave teaching, but the one foremost in my mind was this — I came to the conclusion that about a fourth of the students in my classes were in the wrong place. They were wasting their time, my time, and theirs’ or their parents’ money.

The issue, as I saw it, was their lack of intellectual curiosity. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. We all have different interests. Some were there as a way of delaying adulthood for four more years. (Many of them managed to do that for five, six, or seven years.) There’s nothing essentially wrong with that either, but it ought not be subsidized with taxpayers’ money.

The inevitable result was a decline in the content of the course. A fourth or more of the class cannot be ignored. Even back then the administration would not allow that many students receiving failing grades. It was necessary to simplify the course material.

That lower course quality was a cost borne by the rest of the class. It’s one of the primary results of telling everyone they should attend college. I found it to be an extremely frustrating situation. I decided to switch from teaching economics to doing economics and went into private practice as a wealth manager. That’s what I still do.

I loved my time as a student and as a professor. It pains me to witness what higher education has descended to. I fervently hope that sooner or later it will return to its former heights. In the meantime you can help by ignoring your alma maters’ fund-raising requests.

If you happen to be thinking about going to college, explore your alternatives. Your time and resources might be better spent elsewhere. If you’ve been rejected by the college of your choice it could well be a blessing in disguise. Life is full of those.


There’s Something Rotten in Academia March 29, 2019,

Ron Ross Ph.D. is a former economics professor and author of The Unbeatable Market. Ron resides in Arcata, California and is a founder of Premier Financial Group, a wealth management firm located in Eureka, California. He is a native of Tulsa, Oklahoma and can be reached at

Thursday, March 7, 2019

The Anatomy of a Self-Annihilating Political Party

The Democrat Party has lost its mind. What’s happening there, however, is not happening in isolation. In society and in life nothing happens in isolation.

There’s a word that describes the Party’s behavior: nihilism: “a viewpoint that traditional values and beliefs are unfounded and that existence is senseless and useless, a doctrine that denies any objective ground of truth and especially moral truths.”

That definition fits the current Democrat Party. The Party and the left place little or no value on tradition, the Constitution, the sanctity of life, borders, private property rights, voting-law enforcement, election outcomes, standards of behavior, or free speech. These are all fundamentally different kinds of rules or systems of rules. The left does not like rules (at least not for themselves).

If you do not like rules, you do not like order, and the alternative to order is chaos. The Democrat Party is attempting to lead the country into chaos. Once you recognize that the Democrat Party is nihilistic it becomes easier to understand why they think and act as they do.

Jordan Peterson’s profoundly brilliant and important book is titled 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote for Chaos. In it he writes “Chaos and order make up the eternal, transcendent environment of the living.” Chaos and order also define one of the important differences between liberals and conservatives.

As President Trump has said, “If you don’t have borders you don’t have a country.” That’s actually fine with the Democrats and the left. For example, Democrats want to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE). They not only want to prevent more border wall being built, some of them want to tear down the wall already in place.

The messes that San Francisco, Chicago, and New York City have become are stark evidence of what happens when laws are no longer enforced. The left has more sympathy for law breakers than law enforcers. “Sanctuary cities” create immigration chaos. Virtually every belief and policy of the Democrat Party is fundamentally a war against order.

Democrat politicians and their enablers in the media believe “the end justifies the means.” They see nothing wrong with lying, distorting, making things up, or the violent termination of the essence of innocent life.

It isn’t just that the end justifies the means, it’s that if you reject “moral truths,” you don’t need to justify lying. It also explains why they have no shame.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the unofficial leader of the Democrat Party. AOC is the perfect standard bearer for how the Party is evolving. She has zero real-world experience (beyond making martinis and margaritas). She hasn’t the slightest idea what’s she’s talking about. Her Green New Deal is little more than a utopian hallucination. Nevertheless, she is the most popular Democrat. More than anyone else, she defines the party.

Democrats’ fascination with AOC shows that they place no value on experience, maturity, or judgment. She did not invent chaos, but she embodies it, particularly mental chaos.

Beyond nihilism the Democrat Party is motivated by hate and the negativity. Their decision rule is, “If Donald Trump is for it, we’re against it.” If his goal is to “make America great again,” they’ll do everything they can to prevent that from happening.

They hate Donald Trump first and foremost because he won. They hate him because he is the exact opposite of who they are. He is positive, they are negative. They hate his supporters because they caused him to win.

A Chinese proverb says, “Hate destroys the container in which it is stored.” And Martin Luther King said “Hate destroys the hater.” No political party can sustain itself on hate. They apparently have little else.

College campuses provide much of the raw material for negativity and nihilism. There it comes under the name “postmodernism.”

Postmodernism is “post because it denies the existence of ultimate principles, and it lacks the optimism of there being a scientific, philosophical, or religious truth which will explain everything to everybody, a characteristic of the so-called modern mind.” It denies the existence of any universal truths and even denies that logic exists.

Postmodernism is as dangerous and destructive philosophy as has ever been conceived. It is as direct a route to evil as you could ever find.

If there aren’t such things as facts and no objective reality, there’s no point in learning anything or needing to think clearly. There’s no difference between a lie and the truth. That explains the media’s comfort with fake news. They simply see no distinction between fake and real. It explains how Democrats can still advocate socialism despite its perfect record of disasters and why they never bother explaining how their trillion dollar ideas will be financed. Nothing they say needs to make any sense.

The mission for conservatives is to make people aware of the danger of what is happening. The Democrat Party is doing well in that regard on its own. But this will be a long-lived war. Conservatives have a champion in the White House but he needs all the support he can get. He has many enemies, he’s going to need lots of friends.


The Anatomy of a Self-Annihilating Political Party March 7, 2019,

Ron Ross Ph.D. is a former economics professor and author of The Unbeatable Market. Ron resides in Arcata, California and is a founder of Premier Financial Group, a wealth management firm located in Eureka, California. He is a native of Tulsa, Oklahoma and can be reached at

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