Friday, February 17, 2012

Our Libertarian Future

I was invited by the good people at "Minding the Campus" to write a response to the recently released 2011 American Freshman Survey. My brief essay is now available on their website. My main point:

What the data also demonstrates is [not only an increase in libertarian toleration, but] a keen and intense emphasis on the self. Today's students simultaneously urge toleration toward others, but also expect to be left alone. Their overarching emphasis upon individual achievement--particularly in the area of career advancement--suggests that the message of "toleration" and "diversity" seamlessly co-exists with a self-centered focus on material success and personal lifestyle autonomy. At risk is a cultivated belief in civic membership, a sense of shared fate and even forms of self-sacrifice.

One telling aspect of the survey has, to my knowledge, received no attention: while 72.3% state that the "chief benefit of college is to increase one's earning power," only 2% of current college graduates are enrolled in an ROTC or other military program. While likely career choices are fragmented among many possible choices (with the largest numbers of responses clustering around the choices of engineer, physician and business, together totaling 28%), only 1.5% responded that they foresaw a military career; 0.9% intended to enter government or public policy; and .1% stated an intention to become a member of the clergy. As many respondents indicated a likely future of unemployment (1.5%) as those willing to serve in the military!

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Several disquieting questions should come to mind: what kinds of citizens will these people grow up to be? What kinds of parents and what kinds of neighbors? They will likely be willing to leave other people alone--but will they care about others? Will they love? Will they serve? Will they sacrifice? According Charles Murray in his recent book Coming Apart, it is the upper classes (which will be composed by the students in this survey) that have largely abandoned any idea of trusteeship and moral and civic responsibility toward those who have not won the meritocratic sweepstakes. The survey suggests that this divide will only deepen in coming years.

I fear that we are not ushering in a utopia of toleration and sensitivity, but one of indifference and self-absorption. Today's young people have deeply absorbed the lessons that have been taught them by their elders. Do we truly think a civilization can persist when it teaches its young that the most important thing in life is indifference toward others and that the means to happiness is earning the most money?

2 comments:

Steve From Virginia said...

"Do we truly think a civilization can persist when it teaches its young that the most important thing in life is indifference toward others and that the means to happiness is earning the most money?"

Now that I've had a chance to stop laughing (these baby-baby boomers will start out life in debt up to their eyebrows, its banks v. innocents) the assumption is that society is going to trundle along as it has since the 1950s. It's clear it won't.

The youngsters are betting their future. America-the-casino there is little other choice. Children can become wealthy by marrying well: marry money, marry old, marry ugly.

Otherwise, there is 7-Eleven and the Virginia Lottery, there is Powerball and there is the chance that fate might strike in the form of a Ponzi scheme that needs a shill (Facebook).

With some reflection it is clear the young Americans are well trained by their mortal enemies in finance. Like the banks, they are cold, ruthless, emotionless robots/killing machines, they have nothing to lose b/c everything in the way of heart and soul they might have had was pledged to Blankfein before they were born.

J R Yankovic said...

Beautifully expressed and (I think) well-argued. Sort of makes me wonder if the whole point of how we raise and educate our young people is in fact to ensure the most fertile seedbed for future ditatorship.