Resentment in the monkey brain

This monkey monkey got his banana, why should he share it with anyone else? It’s that selfish libertarian impulse, I’ve got mine, bugger the rest of you.

Damon Linker has a monkey brain.

We’ve seen the same phenomenon in our elections for a few hundred years. They’re all about keeping the privileged in their state of privilege. The chief isn’t going to share his banana with us peons, so all we can do is make sure those other monkeys over there are even less likely to get a scrap of banana than we are.

We’ve got to get out of that mindset. I worked off my college debt (which was tiny compared to what students face now), but I consider the deprivation of so many people to be a crime that needs correcting, and I want my students to succeed — I am overjoyed if the next generation surpasses mine. Please do grant them debt relief.

(Mr Linker has been featured on this blog a few times. I’ve never been impressed.)

Then there’s this guy:

Yes, please. Make college free. Why should you be unhappy if your fellow monkeys improve themselves and are able to make greater contributions to your society? Why should you be unhappy at seeing other people allowed to improve their situation?


  1. raven says

    I think Dems are wildly underestimating the intensity of anger college loan cancelation is going to provoke.

    Actually, the vast majority of the US population will probably barely notice.

    The GOPers will still be stuck on outlawing abortion, following Qanon and looking for pedophiles on Mars, prosecuting Hillary Clinton for Benghazi, looking for Obama’s birth certificate, hunting for Antifa’s, looking for imaginary votes for Trump, and proving that the Covid-19 pandemic is a hoax.

  2. says

    “Yes, please. Make college free.”
    That’ll never work. It’s too simple and solves the problem too succinctly. This is America. The only solutions we want are convoluted and easily abused by the wealthy. Instead of cancelling the debt he should come up with some Rube Goldberg mechanism that allows graduates to be used like indentured servants for the rest of their miserable lives. OH WAIT, that’s what we already have.

  3. redwood says

    Not only for college education, but also for health care and unemployment benefits, I don’t understand why Americans don’t look around the world at how other countries do these things. Check out the good and the bad, what works and what doesn’t work and go from there making up our own system that’s right for Americans. Of course, as Ray Ceeya pointed out in @3, if there’s no way for the rich to take their slice of the pie, then it can’t be done. I really, really want to fuck the rich. Share, you bastards, share. You couldn’t have gotten what you got without screwing over lots of workers and using tax-built infrastructure, not to mention avoiding paying taxes.

  4. raven says

    I worked off my college debt (which was tiny compared to what students face now), …

    I graduated from the university in the 1970’s debt free (and totally broke.) This wasn’t unusual at the time. The whole student loan thing wasn’t the huge industry it is now.

    Which is saying that there is something different and not in a good way about higher education these days. Part of the reason is obvious. At the time the public university was heavily subsidized by the state. I think my tuition the first year was something like $600. For the year.
    It’s over 10X higher now.

    Really, if we wanted to fix this problem, we could start with identifying the problem and coming up with solutions. There should be a low cost option for anyone who wants a college degree and can do the work. Maybe something like a combination of community college and online classes for most of it.

  5. birgerjohansson says

    Redwood: “I don’t understand why Americans don’t look around the world at how other countries do these things.”
    Getting low-information voters to buy into American exceptionalism is part of the grift.
    Even Democrats are into it. During the banking crisis, Obama -whose part got A LOT of campaign money from the financial industry- dismissed the solution a Swedish conservative government had done a decade before, (saving the lenders but punishing the banks) with these words; “America is not Sweden”

  6. Sue D. Nymme says

    Hmmmm, what did their Jesus say about this sort of thing. Oh right: The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard. Matthew 20:1–16.

  7. cvoinescu says

    About those who, through luck and/or sacrifices and hard work, paid off their college debt: give them back part of what their debt (or even tuition) was. You can tweak it and give more if it was more recent, less if it was a longer time ago. It’s not perfect, but may appear fairer than cancelling only the outstanding debt, and still be somewhat progressive.

    Going forward, make it all free (or cheap, although that leaves the avenue for increasing the prices later — see England), but only for accredited learning institutions, not bullshit Liberty University and its ilk. (I’m still thinking which category business schools would go in.)

  8. says

    The US desperately needs free college education. Even if it were only two years of free credits and you had to take loans to study beyond that, it would be enough. You can get an Associate’s Degree in two, or those who want a BA or BSc could say “my GPA was 3.5, give me money!” and would be a better risk (and cost less to graduate).

    When US public education was made free up to grade 12 in the 19th century, it was sufficient education for the majority to have a successful career both in achievement and financially. But that hasn’t been true since at least the 1960s, probably earlier unless you landed a union job or an apprenticeship.

    Without a college education now, many of those without a college education end up living paycheque to paycheque either at walmart or mcdonald’s. Only a handful have a chance of anything better, usually by coming up with an idea that sells or lucking into a rare opportunity (e.g. the oil drilling jobs in North Dakota).

  9. raven says

    It doesn’t even look like the loonytarians claim is correct.

    NYTImes November 13, 2020
    What Biden’s Election Could Mean for Student Loans

    Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Chuck Schumer of New York, both Democrats, have called for the next president to cancel up to $50,000 in debt per borrower.
    But Mr. Biden has never publicly endorsed the idea, and two people involved in his transition-planning discussions said his views had not changed.
    Without legislative action, Mr. Biden may be reluctant to jam through a measure with a price tag of around $420 billion.

    The loonytarian is more or less lying.
    There are a lot of potential plans being discussed to fix the student loan problem but nothing has been decided.
    Another strawperson has been brutally murdered by another right wingnut.

    I got this from a NYTimes article not behind a paywall so anyone interested can read it themselves.

  10. Rob Grigjanis says

    In Ontario, the previous (Liberal) government had started a basic income pilot project, which was supposed to run for three years. During the election campaign, the Progressive (hah) Conservatives promised the project would continue. Guess what happened.

    Bottom line: Money must flow upwards.

    My loathing and contempt for conservatism continues to grow.

  11. Artor says

    I count myself fortunate to be debt free, despite having my degree. I think it would be a fantastic thing to do! Debt slavery is an anchor dragging this country down. Every step we can take toward abolishing it is a step forward.

  12. says

    I’m inclined to compare this to polio vaccine. Let’s not upset those already in iron lungs and who have weathered limbs, if we give it to healthy people why those people who were permanently damaged will be very upset. We should all face the same consequences. Nothing should change.

  13. consciousness razor says

    Also, couple that with public education (free, obviously) for preschool. There’s no good reason why we put the burden on young parents to afford several very critical early years in their kid’s education (until they’re old enough for kindergarten or maybe first grade in some places). And make the whole thing a completely federal public education system, so we’re not going around playing whack-a-mole in an attempt to fix a bunch of separate systems that depend on numerous state/local governments.

  14. naturalistguy says

    Right now with COVID-19 hurting so many people the priority is to extend unemployment and also help state and local governments out as they’re struggling with dealing with the pandemic.

  15. LorrieAnne Miller says

    There is an element to this that I’m not seeing register with those of us who have gone to college. A not insignificant percentage of our fellow citizens see college as rather worthless as resent those of us with good jobs due to our degrees. We go to school, learn something esoteric, and then sit on our butts inside while they are mechanics, building houses, driving truck, etc. They see white collar workers as having unearned privilege since higher education – even just community college – does not work for everyone.

    I think zeroing out loan balances is a good idea. I also think that we need to address the problems that credentialism has created in the country. School programs cannot be the only way to a decent living in this country. We need some sort of real apprenticeship type programs that dyslexics, ADHDs, and others who are very much challenged by classrooms and navigating bureaucracy can use.

  16. cvoinescu says

    @LorrieAnne Miller #20:

    programs that dyslexics, ADHDs, and others who are very much challenged by classrooms and navigating bureaucracy can use

    That is a very good point. Looking only at students, this is another way in which the pandemic has sharpened divides. Some people had help and were able to cope with in-person education, but may find it a lot more difficult to navigate remotely on their own. Even if the quantity of human contact remains the same (a big if), its nature is much diminished. I’m not sure the support systems have kept up with that, even in the more enlightened countries.

    You also have a good point that we’re forgetting about the people who didn’t go to college. Some of them were put off by the cost, or did not have the resources. They may have put the cost and benefits in balance and decided that the type of college education they could get would not make financial sense. Should now the less responsible ones who did not make the calculation and just went for the loan get their money back, while the sensible ones get nothing? Forgive the loans, and the resentment will only increase. The more I think of it the more I realize it’s a large and complex injustice that’s not easy to fix.

  17. chris61 says

    Why cancel college debt and not other kinds of debt like medical debt or credit card debt accrued due to unemployment? Or mortgages. Let’s cancel mortgage debt!

  18. naturalistguy says

    There’s an alternative to cancelling any and all debt, namely not borrowing money in the first place. Neither a borrower or a lender be.

  19. PaulBC says

    I’m divided on whether college should be affordable or whether it should usually be unnecessary. Most jobs could be done with a high-quality high school education (which many high school graduates sadly lack). If you can do math up to algebra, write coherent multi-page essays, and read and discuss textbook chapters, then you can probably learn the rest of what you need on the job to work in businesses that don’t require a specialization, such as for a STEM field. Aside from STEM, if you’re going to do research-level work in any field or teach others, you probably need a degree. There are also certifications you need that might apply equally to healthcare and car repair. But this is basically about learning a trade–which is great; there is nothing wrong with learning to be good at something that’s useful and people pay you to do.

    It seems like the main reason people get college degrees is to have a leg up on competition that has turned into a full-blown arms race. I’m a big supporter of learning, but if you’re in college for some other reason, it seems like a waste of resources. Universities are labor-intensive and way too expensive. Making them free sounds appealing, but I can’t say I would favor that without some kind of reform. The economic cost isn’t only tuition, but opportunity cost.

    That said, I’d still probably vote for debt cancellation and free tuition. I just don’t think it addresses the root cause. There is not enough agreement over the mission of higher education to see it as a solution to anything. I would prefer to see us doing a better job at the K-12 level.

  20. raven says

    chris61 from la la land:

    Why cancel college debt and not other kinds of debt like medical debt or credit card debt accrued due to unemployment? Or mortgages. Let’s cancel mortgage debt!

    Actually, here on planet Earth, you can cancel credit card debt, mortgage debt, car debt, and other kinds of debt.

    It’s called bankruptcy. It’s done all the time. Chapter 7, Chapter 11, Chapter 13 etc..
    Trump has declared bankruptcy for his corporate businesses at least 6 times!!!

    The one type of debt that is hardest to discharge in bankruptcy are..student loans.

    Under current law, student loans can’t be claimed in a bankruptcy except in certain circumstances. The only way these loans can be discharged is if they’re found to cause “undue hardship” on the borrower or the borrower’s dependents.Sep 25, 2020

    Getting Rid of Student Loans in Bankruptcy: Is It Worth It? | Credit

  21. PaulBC says


    Let’s cancel mortgage debt!

    It would have been an excellent idea in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, and it’s the original cause of the Tea Party freakout.

    We are willing to treat nearly every other financial measure as a convenient fiction. It doesn’t matter if I paid $10000 for stock. It’s worthless if the company is broke. Or if I bought a house during a bubble and it’s worth 1/3 of what I paid. Even gold can change its market value. But for some reason debt is believed to be the one great lasting measure. In fact, a debt default isn’t that much different from my stock going down. A lender decided the borrower was a good risk, and oops, the lender made a bad call, just as I may have when foolishly purchasing a penny stock. Why is the onus entirely on the borrower?

  22. raven says

    For chris61 or anyone who wants to know how to get rid of billions of dollars in debt, just study the career of the US president, Trump.
    He is very good at getting the profits and leaving his banks and shareholders with the losses.

    Although Trump has never filed for personal bankruptcy,
    hotels and casino businesses of his have declared bankruptcy six times between 1991 and 2009 due to its inability to meet required payments and to re-negotiate debt with banks, owners of stock and bonds and various small businesses (unsecured creditors).

    Business career of Donald Trump – Wikipedia

  23. says

    LorrieAnne Miller @20:

    …programs that dyslexics, ADHDs, and others who are very much challenged by classrooms and navigating bureaucracy can use

    Trade programs? Yeah, we have those. That’s not the problem. The problem is the percentage of the population that actively scorns education at all levels.

  24. consciousness razor says

    The government could simply give money directly to people (in order to pay off whatever debts they may have, for example), instead of giving it to banks and hoping/pretending that it will somehow trickle down to mere mortals like us. It shouldn’t have to be said, but widespread bankruptcy is not a serious policy either….

    And when college is tuition-free, there would be no debt owed to a lender in the first place, which is certainly the better option. If we build tons of public housing everywhere and make rents/evictions/etc. a thing of the past, it would be a similar story. Getting a mortgage for a place that you may eventually own is sort of different, although there are various ways the government could directly support those people too (and also do more to regulate the private market).

    But really, no matter what kind of debts or expenses they are, people who need help because of the pandemic just need help, plain and simple. And they needed it months ago, not whenever Congressional leaders may believe helping them will be politically advantageous.

    PaulBC, #24:

    I’m divided on whether college should be affordable or whether it should usually be unnecessary. Most jobs […]

    I’ll just stop here. A university education is for learning about our universe. What’s unnecessary for doing that is a job. So it seems like you’ve got it backward. Our society should encourage learning and not discourage it, so it should be affordable.

  25. unclefrogy says

    the ones who complain the most about cancelling debt are the holders of debt. They frame it in such a away that it stimulates resentment in the ignorant who then apply visible political pressure which supplies the political cover for the politicians to maintain the status quo power with the debt system as it is now and support the debt holders without having to reveal who they really support.

    seems like a circle to me
    uncle frogy

  26. DanDare says

    Australia had free education until John Howard changed the rules. That was after years of ground work convincing people that uni students were bludgers.

  27. gijoel says

    I’m angry that the cheesecake shop gave that guy a free mango cheesecake, even though I hate the taste of mango and I’ve never eaten a cheesecake in my life. Something should be done about this.

  28. PaulBC says


    I’ll just stop here. A university education is for learning about our universe. What’s unnecessary for doing that is a job. So it seems like you’ve got it backward. Our society should encourage learning and not discourage it, so it should be affordable.

    A lot of people enjoy working more than they enjoy learning. (Anecdotal evidence, but is this going to turn into another pissing match?) Labor has beauty and dignity as well as practicality. True, I am often more inclined to bury myself in a book (or website) instead of doing anything useful, but that’s my failing.

    Anyway, I support a free university education for those who want it. I do not believe that most people engaged in university education really want it all that much. They were just told they needed it “to succeed.”

  29. PaulBC says

    Anyway, I do not equate a college education with “learning.” It depends on the university, the program, and the motivations of the student. The experience can potentially be very valuable, but not always, and it’s not the only thing you could be doing to enrich your life and understanding of the world.

    Assuming you know how to read, you can learn a great deal by yourself. True, not everything can be self-taught (Enrico Fermi taught himself Calculus as a teen from a textbook written in Latin he acquired second hand, but we’re not all Nobel laureates). Ideally, a small classroom where you have discussions are also valuable compared to just trying to read about things. So college is potentially valuable, but in no way guaranteed to be.

    But the typical university experience for most undergraduates is not an idealized quest for knowledge. A lot of it is what you remember for a test, which in a large lecture course may be multiple choice. It has neither practical relevance nor intellectual appeal and you forget about it after you get your degree.

    I interview people with computer science degrees pretty often. I know most of the fundamentals they’re supposed to know. It’s a pleasant surprise if they remember at all, and seemingly a miracle if they can say anything besides a few names and vague concepts.

    So yeah, a university education should not be trade school, but if it is viewed as such, then maybe it would be better if a lot of students could learn the things they actually want to learn to do something useful.

    I do not see the fundamental problem as the cost of a college degree but as the manner in which a college degree is used arbitrarily to screen job applicants, turning it into a racket in which you have to pay up front for credentials.

  30. lochaber says

    I feel like I see two main reactions from people who have experienced some sort of injustice or hardship; 1) – I suffered through it, so everyone else should too, and 2) – I suffered through it, it was horrible, and no one else should have to experience what I did.

    Barring unforseen events, I’m looking at maybe completing my student loan payments in the next couple of years. If there is some sort of relief passed, I’ll be glad. I’ll be envious of those who get significantly more of their loans canceled than me, but that’s more of a “I wish they could have done this ~20-30 years ago” , not “fuck you, you should live in oppressive stress and poverty for a quarter century like I did”. It’s a bad system, that exacerbates wealth, class and racial inequalities, and it should be changed, sooner rather than later. Just because I may not personally benefit from the change doesn’t make it any less necessary.

  31. Ichthyic says

    “I’m divided on whether college should be affordable or whether it should usually be unnecessary”

    Paul? Tell me why we need BASIC science research?

    now, rethink what you said here.

  32. chris61 says

    @25 raven
    If the problem with student debt, as opposed to other debts, is that it is too difficult to remove via bankruptcy, make it more equitable by changing the bankruptcy laws.

  33. PaulBC says

    Ichthyic@36 What percentage of the population is engaged in basic research? Even in the part you quoted, I said “usually”. I agree that anyone doing academic research benefits from have a lot more than a high school education. Most other jobs do not. By twelfth grade, you should be able to write multi-page essays on demand that are organized, grammatical, and to the point. You should have been exposed to STEM courses and ideally come out of it knowing calculus and having some grounding in experimental science.

    What matters is if you can think critically and continue to learn on your own. Those are habits, not specialized skills, and if you haven’t made progress on them by the time you finish high school, then college is basically remedial education for you.

    If you have an ambition to work in a research lab then obviously, you do need a lot more. If your point was that universities need to exist to do research, I agree with that too. But the bulk of students attending research-level universities aren’t contributing to it.

  34. PaulBC says

    I would add that community colleges are a great resource. They’re affordable. The teaching is not necessarily any worse than at a major university that is going to fill spots with adjuncts or deliver courses as giant lectures with multiple choice exams. You get as much out of it as you put in, and credits are usually transferrable.

    I think there is a problem deeper than college affordability when a student accumulates massive loans with no guarantee of how to pay for them. I thought indenture had been outlawed long ago, but what do you do if you accumulate tens of thousands in loan debt on the assumption that the degree would qualify you for lucrative employment when in fact, the market is competitive and you have no enthusiasm at all for the field you may have thought you liked when you were 18.

    Obviously, lenders are more than happy to lock you in, but why should you lock yourself in? I don’t think anyone should view their future as a highly leveraged investment. While college debt is a big problem, the thinking that goes into it is another problem. It is driven by assumptions of class and score-rankings, and very rarely by any actual thirst for learning.

  35. consciousness razor says

    PaulBC: Maybe you just don’t recognize how you’re biasing the discussion in favor of the status quo, by assuming more or less that an education is for a job. You’re not really asking the question of whether it should be one way or another, because you’ve turned it into a different question about how you think things currently are. Then, you’re basically just accepting whatever that happens to be, according to you … without even giving a coherent reason why it’s supposed to be acceptable. It just is. Well, for one thing, it would be only if you’re correct (which I’m not conceding here), but that is still not an argument about how it ought to be. So it’s hard for me to make sense of that without a real argument.

    Maybe taking things in another direction will be helpful. Independently of anything having to do with job markets, an educated populace is needed for democracy. And you may note two important facts: we don’t actually have a functional democratic system in this country, and many here don’t actually have a college education. Now ask this: should it be otherwise?

    In the recent presidential election (for a convenient example, but many others follow the same pattern), we see a significant difference in the percentage of the vote for Trump (particularly among whites, a large group in the country) among those with a college degree and those without one. According to this CNN article comparing 2016 and 2020 results, Trump was close to even with Clinton and Biden among whites with a college degree (he was +3 and -3, respectively). On its own, that doesn’t seem especially noteworthy, but the interesting part is in the other half of the picture: for white voters without a degree, Trump got +37 versus Clinton and +35 versus Biden. That’s big. (Don’t worry about the article’s focus on relatively small changes from one election to the next. It’s big in both cases.)

    So…. Is that how it should be, or is that what we want? Is it a good thing, for having at least a semi-functional democratic society, that a large number of people in it prefer such candidates?

  36. raven says

    Trump was close to even with Clinton and Biden among whites with a college degree (he was +3 and -3, respectively). On its own, that doesn’t seem especially noteworthy, but the interesting part is in the other half of the picture: for white voters without a degree, Trump got +37 versus Clinton and +35 versus Biden. That’s big.

    That is also a pretty horrible statistic. Made worse because whites without a college degree or better far outnumber whites with degrees at 67% of whites.
    Wikipedia As of 2008, 13 percent of Hispanics adults have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with 15 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native adults, 20 percent of blacks, 33 percent of whites, and 52 percent of Asian Americans.[25]

    In 2016, Trump was helped to victory by winning a record margin among white voters without a college degree. But in the last four years, they have declined as a share of the voting-eligible population across the U.S. and in states critical to the presidential election. Nationally, the group has gone from 45% of eligible voters to 41%.

  37. PaulBC says

    CR@40 Point taken on measurable political differences between those with and without college degrees. Who knows, maybe college is good for something.

    Independently of anything having to do with job markets, an educated populace is needed for democracy.

    Yes, but the skills I listed above, roughly being able to read lengthy non-fiction, being able to write coherently, and being able to reason quantitatively are all things that should be acquired by the time you leave high school. This is not some pipe dream. They are taught not only at expensive private schools but at public schools in areas affluent enough to pay for high quality K-12 education (and that’s another discussion entirely, but yeah obviously the status quo sucks).

    Speaking only for myself, it took a lot of aging to formulate any kind of political viewpoint that wasn’t merely acquired from my family, pop culture, or friends’ attitudes. I’m politically engaged now, but in college I was deep into STEM material that, while interesting to me, gave me no grasp of politics whatsoever.

    But by the time I gained an interest in reading newspapers and following government, I had the skills. I would argue that I gained those skills in high school (a prep school) and not college (a giant state university).

    I don’t know how much surveys now split out education level. There are many distinctions: quality of high school education, attended some community college, attended a university and dropped out.

    First off, I don’t even disagree on loan forgiveness. Sure, eliminate the burden. But I think you are also assuming a status quo. Why can’t people leave high school with the skills they need to develop into informed citizens? I believe the money* would be better spent on improving K-12.

    *I.e. the wholly imaginary money that we already gave to billionaires to help subsidize the luxury yacht industry.

  38. PaulBC says

    My reasoning runs like this. The big problem is that adults without lucrative job prospects are saddled with major debt because college is too damn expensive. It’s expensive partly because universities are inherently costly to run, and partly because of market failures that have inflated prices. I.e., the correlation of how much you pay and the quality of your education is fairly weak. Yes, Harvard is “better” than Penn State, which is “better” than some random state university with completely non-competitive admission. But for instance, a private college might be expensive without being very good, and a world-class university like UC Berkeley might be reasonably affordable if you can get in, which is why it’s so competitive.

    So why don’t they go for a “cheaper” option? Honestly, sorry, but it is not their love of learning. Unless they’re really having a Rory Gilmore level crush with the Ivy League, it’s a lot more likely that they have weighed their choices relative to job prospects. They’re also more or less right about that, though it matters most for entry level jobs.

    I’ll vote hypothetically on any measure that would reduce or eliminate the burden of college debt. However, I really see the problem primarily as a market failure. I would be entirely in favor of going back to state universities with free tuition. That’s not a pipe dream. It used to happen. I am a lot less amenable to covering the cost of a random private college for anyone who’s a big enough sucker to pay tuition.