Take heart. The resurgence of a freedom-based conservatism has already begun. On the other side of the pandemic tyranny, the debacle in Afghanistan, and the catastrophic reckoning with inflation, Americans will be ready to be rid of the screechy pseudo-intellectuals who ruin everything. When that day comes, it’s critical we take steps to eliminate the Left’s toxic syndicate that indoctrinated so many Americans. It’s not enough to beat them back. We must look to the source of this poison that almost overtook our country.
There are so many problems that need to be unwound. Leftist authoritarianism has infected everything as indoctrinated graduates began assuming leadership roles in heretofore apolitical organizations from churches to school boards to the military. Instead of trying to fight the battle on every front, we should look first to stopping it at its source: Academics unmoored from market incentives.
Millions of graduates took out billions in student loans to pay for degrees that conferred no marketable skills at all. Sure, every corporation and local government has an office of diversity and inclusion. But there aren’t enough of those jobs to employ even a fraction of the social justice warriors being turned out in the indoctrination pipeline.
After decades of pruning campus dissent, the universities have achieved significant ideological purity among its faculty and graduates. When jobs in line with their career fields fail to materialize, graduates become resentful towards “the system.” It’s not that the social justice degrees are useless and unmarketable, graduates tell themselves. No, their unemployment is proof that the system is so inherently and structurally racist that it refuses to create enough jobs to absorb the woke.
Graduates were led to believe that the tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt would unlock access to inside the velvet rope of elite privilege. Connected graduates from the right families have no problem landing plum titles in the activist bureaucracies and foundations. But for every Chelsea Clinton, there are thousands more who end up working three jobs in Portland to pay for blue hair dye and Uber rides to riots. When they do find employment, they “solve” every problem using their social justice educations.
But at its heart, the term “social justice” is a contradiction. Any justice that is dispensed at the group (social) level is necessarily unjust at the individual level. So instead of solving problems, the woke workplace screeches to a halt until coworkers, bored by the speeches and struggle sessions and eager to escape the lectures, quietly wander back to work.
It might not seem like it, but the Left is in trouble. The Left has an idea problem. That’s its Achilles heel. The authoritarian nature of the modern Left prizes message discipline above all else. The Left’s cancel culture may have made it a terrifying juggernaut. But that juggernaut, like the old Soviet Union before it, runs on fear, hatred, and strict conformity. And like the old Soviet Union, when it loses its power to impose ideas with force and fear, it will lose everything.
You can smell the ideological decay everywhere. Thumbing through the opinion pieces in the Washington Post, the New York Times, and other legacy media outlets, I find myself struck by the lack of originality in these formerly great publications. Climate change, racial issues, income inequality, the cookie-cutter pieces all recycle the same corporate-approved messages. Certain conservative publications, on the other hand, couldn’t be more opposite. Without the corrupting influence of corporate cash (at least for some of us), conservative writing is edgy, genuinely humorous, and often quite original. Conservative writers tend to be much younger than their leftist counterparts. To the extent that there is a new crop of leftist writers, they tend to be parrots. It is difficult to name a single one capable of forming an original argument.
The Left will lose when it loses its lock on the youth. Just look at the devastation a heroic young Nicki Minaj caused the Left with one simple tweet advocating the heresy of self-determination with respect to vaccines. Young people have an outsized influence on culture. The young define what’s cool and interesting. Critical race theory and social justice exploded in popularity last year. But much of the energy is imitative fad energy that will quickly dissipate if young people change their priorities to match their own individual futures. If you stop the pipeline poisoning our young people, the culture will follow.
But how? It’s simple: End 100 percent federal student loan guarantees.
Universities care about money and respond to financial incentives above all other things. If we want universities to produce gainfully employed graduates instead of resentful do-nothing activists, we need to align their incentives with the public good.
Universities accepting borrowed tuition money should be required to guarantee a portion of the loans. Universities have bankrupted students leaving taxpayers to subsidize toxic indoctrination masquerading as degree programs. We don’t need more graduates whose only skills involve disrupting workplaces with social grievances. If universities were financially responsible for part of the unpaid student loans, they would immediately change their focus to prepare students for occupations and careers sufficiently lucrative to ensure their graduates will not default on loans. Other than students and parents, universities are (or ought to be) in the best position to guide pupils into careers that suit their aptitudes and the market conditions.
This one simple change would completely alter the criteria for selecting and retaining professors. One nerdy professor capable of teaching mechanical engineering will become more valuable than all of the crystal strokers in the social studies department. Get rid of woke or everybody goes broke. Instead of cramming students into overcrowded social studies fields, universities would produce generations of productive and happy professionals more interested in building things than in rioting and looting. It would also restore a sense of infectious optimism as students trended towards careers with better futures. Turn the wheel in the other direction and the vicious cycle will become a virtuous one.
With all of the thousands of workplaces and institutions corrupted by the Left, it seems like it will take at least a decade or two to restore balance to a workforce so dominated by indoctrinated do-nothings. But it will happen faster than you think. The direction of an organization and popular culture, as we’ve seen in the last 10 years, is heavily influenced by the new blood that refreshes it. As the tattoos fade and the piercings sag on the aging social justice warriors, a new wave of apolitical but cool young people will make short work of the social credibility of their elders.