Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Leftist Arrogance: "What I Want To Do Is Really, Really Important"

The June 6, 2015 New York Times includes a journalist explaining why he defaulted on his student loans and why everyone should:
Years later, I found myself confronted with a choice that too many people have had to and will have to face. I could give up what had become my vocation (in my case, being a writer) and take a job that I didn’t want in order to repay the huge debt I had accumulated in college and graduate school. Or I could take what I had been led to believe was both the morally and legally reprehensible step of defaulting on my student loans, which was the only way I could survive without wasting my life in a job that had nothing to do with my particular usefulness to society.

I chose life. That is to say, I defaulted on my student loans.

As difficult as it has been, I’ve never looked back. The millions of young people today, who collectively owe over $1 trillion in loans, may want to consider my example.
Is writing fun?  Yes, more so than going to work every day to do a job that our society really needs done, as demonstrated by its high wages.  There is a reason that people who majored in journalism, women's studies, gay studies, etc. often have trouble paying back their student loans: because these degrees are for jobs that our society pays poorly because they are easy or contribute little to our society.  There's a reason that computer science, electrical engineering, and a few other degrees don't lead to these hard choices.  They involve real work.


  1. What Mr. Siegel fails to grasp is that he is not the judge of what his "particular usefulness to society" is. Society insists on reserving that judgment to itself. The judgement is expressed as what society is willing to pay him to do, and how much.

  2. The guy certainly deserves some degree of opprobrium, but save equal (or larger) amounts for the institutions which created the incentive for him to spend money he didn't have. First, the fedgov, with its "first hit's free, kid" student loan policies have become a combination of Shylock/dope dealer/mafia knee-breaker. Second, the schools themselves, who, in selling uneconomical curricula, act as the b-girl in the bar, cleaning out the fool, drunk with "free" money.

    Megan McCardle's solution is one I endorse:
    Get the feds out of lending, allow student debt to be discharged in bankruptcy after 10 years, and allow the lending institutions to claw-back some portion of their loss from the school. This would point the incentives in the right direction; loans would not be made for courses of study that could not, at the end, generate a revenue stream to allow payback, schools would either reduce the availability or the price of those courses, and the invisible hand will even it out.