Book Review: Sold My Soul For A Student Loan

Sold My Soul For A Student Loan:  Higher Education And The Political Economy Of The Future, by Daniel T. Kirsch

This is the sort of book that I would be expected to like more than I actually did.  Like quite a few other people, I have found myself in a place where about $500 a month of my paycheck is taken out to pay for college loans, although I must say I manage to live reasonably well within that boundary, if I would be living a lot better without that wage garnishment.  The author, though, while he writes a little bit about people who are in my spot, is more interested in encouraging a leftist politics of resentment from people whose employment prospects are far more limited because they chose terrible “humanities” majors that have little to no job prospects commensurate with the debt taken up by foolish students.  The author is right to recognize that our generation is divided, but does not see that leftist entitlement politics is not the right way to go about it.  To be sure, we would all like to have less debt and there are clearly policy solutions that could be done to alleviate its burden, but any sensible solution to college debt is going to likely require a market testing for college loans, and that will decrease the amount of people able to study humanities majors with little or no professional job prospects.

This book is about 150 pages long and it is divided into five chapters.  The author begins with a preface, acknowledgement, and introduction that sets his political agenda, which is obvious if one recognizes his frequent citation of various leftist thinkpieces and his cheering on of democratic socialist activists like himself as being the normative view of the author.  At this point the author moves into his Marxist view of the American debtor as a worker, consumer, and citizen (1), as well as the possibly damaging efforts of persistent indebtedness on the ability of younger workers to attain the American dream of homeownership as well as the resulting lower trust in government (2).  This leads to a discussion of the government’s creation and, in the author’s view, destruction of the American university (3).  This leads the author to talk about various leftist and Occupy-inspired “new debtor” movements (4), before the author bristles at the thought of the sin of debt and the elusive hope of debt forgiveness in the cruel world of the 21st century (5), after which there are notes and an index.

The author seems keen on wanting to consider himself an oppressed prole just like the coal miners of old.  He cheers on ideas of free college for everyone and urges more people to study the humanities like he did, only without the debt.  This is unwise, but one does not seek wisdom (or at least one does not find wisdom) from leftist activists like the author.  That does not mean, though, that the author does not have some valid points about the ambiguous relationship of the government as being a marketer of college loans and a driver in increased college costs and also the guarantor of the loans on behalf of private industry, with the power to garnish wages and keep such loans from being able to be wiped out by bankruptcy.  Likewise, the appalling lack of genuine debt counseling in college leaves much to be desired as far as equity and fairness are concerned.  If the author and those of us in the same boat remain responsible for getting out of the mess we are in, there are definitely some people who deserve some blame for the mess besides ourselves.  If the author seems disinclined to take responsibility, others may be more honorable.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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