Why Capitalist Students Should Accept Government Aid, Pt. II

This article is a continuation of “Why Capitalist Students Should Accept Government Aid”, which can be accessed here.

Given the damage that government subsidization and regulation have caused to America’s higher education system, the solution is easy enough to identify: withdraw the funding and abolish the regulations. Such are the requirements of one’s long-term, interests, and such are the requirements of individual rights. Sadly, America’s system of state-funded universities has existed since the time of the Founding Fathers, and will likely remain for the foreseeable future.

In the meantime, there remains the matter of living within the confines of the present mixed-economy. It is a given that laissez-faire capitalists oppose the public subsidization and regulation of education (if they did not, they would not be capitalists), but in what manner should capitalist students properly pursue their educations amidst the massively negative effects that statism has wrought upon America’s education system? Should they, in the name of free market principles, endure the higher costs of private education only to spite the unfairly advantaged – though enormously destructive – public education system?

No. To be sure, a student can find immense value in pursuing his education in a private university, so much value that he may decide that it suits his self-interests to pay the increased costs that a private education entails. All such students should strive to study at the private school of their choosing, but they should not pursue a private education on the basis of “free market principles.”

Those who would argue that receiving an education at a public university directly conflicts with a capitalist political ideology need to check their premises. Whether from statists who only seek to smear the opponents of public education with fabricated assertions that they are “inconsistent,” “self-contradictory,” or some other baseless ad hominem, or from advocates of individual liberty who mistake the use of a publicly-subsidized good or service for a lapse in principles among their fellows, the belief that being a capitalist means forgoing the use of “public goods” while those public goods are still financed and provided by the government is fallacious, resting on entirely different moral principles than those required by capitalist political ideals.

The moral philosophy of capitalism is that of rational self-interest. Capitalism, though a political end, is not an ultimate end. Rather, capitalism is merely a means to achieving a much more fundamental goal: the protection of man’s right to pursue his own rational self-interests free from initiated force. Integrity to capitalist political principles does not require sacrifice – indeed, it cannot, as that would contradict the ethical foundation of those political principles.

When a man is robbed of his possessions by some faceless thug, it is no stain on the character of the victim to take advantage of whatever offer the thug might make to receive a portion of those possessions back. They rightfully belong to the victim, so what good would the victim accomplish by throwing his hands in the air and refusing to accept what already belongs to him? Such martyrdom only cedes the whole of the victim’s possessions to the thug in exchange for nothing in return. Is it always self-interested to accept the thug’s offer? No – as has already been discussed, the form in which one’s property is returned (e.g. public education) could, dependent on the rational self-interests of the individual, be of lesser value than simply forgoing the lost property and putting what one retains to a more productive, self-interested use (e.g. private education). But when the government has robbed you of your liberty and property and permits you to regain a portion of that liberty and property in a manner that is self-interested, you should do so, and do so unreservedly.

The error in thinking by those who believe that accepting government subsidies represents one’s “tacit consent” to the existence of those subsidies goes back at least as far as Hobbes – likely earlier. Hobbes, best known for his defense of absolute sovereignty (i.e. totalitarianism), also maintained that by simply attending a public meeting in the “state of nature,” man necessarily granted one’s consent to whatever outcome that public meeting might produce (e.g. a dictatorship). What “consent” meant to man who preached determinism is debated in academia to this day, but his principle of “tacit consent” has been modified and echoed throughout the centuries and into the modern day. “By receiving the benefits of the government/government programs/society,” claim the social contract theorists, “a man gives his tacit consent to the government/government programs/society.”

But where there is force, there can be no consent. Where man is compelled to accept an offer issued at the point of a gun or suffer injury to himself and his rational self-interests, there is no such thing as consent – “tacit” or otherwise.

It is force that prevents man from pursuing his self-interests. Though the political structure required by man’s self-interests is capitalism, where capitalism does not exist, man ought still to pursue his rational self-interests as best he is able in his present state. Doing so does not alter the fact that capitalism is required by man’s nature, and pursuing one’s self-interest within the confines of a mixed economic or socialist system does not diminish the integrity of a capitalist to his political principles.

The political principles of a rational man are those of capitalism – his moral principles are those of egosim: reason, productiveness, and trade. The two do not contradict, as the former is demanded by the latter, and the latter is demanded by man’s nature. Man can both fight statism and accept government subsidies and regulations, provided that he does fight them, even if fighting means only casting his vote in a rational manner. He can oppose statism to every extent he is able, but this does not mean that he may freely pursue his self-interests as if the ever-present force of statism is not a prevalent factor in the society in which he lives. Rather, he must pursue his self-interests to the extent that government force allows him – if that means one must use public highways to travel or public universities to learn, then such is his lot.

So long as man accepts government aid without supporting it, he deserves it – he is attempting to pursue his best interests as best he can in a system designed to prevent him from doing so. But if a man accepts government aid and desires its continuance or expansion, he is unworthy of it – he is reveling in the restraints placed upon both him and others, and he wishes them to be drawn tighter. This sort of man has no conception of rational self-interest, and instead is utilizing government programs for nefarious purposes: for collectivist ideals of the “common good,” the “good of others,” or altruism – the enslavement of neighbor to neighbor to the detriment of both.

Whether in the face of public education, public transportation, Social Security, Medicare, or any other flagrant violation of individual rights, man’s own life ought to be the ultimate value of which all his actions are in pursuit. Naturally, this means opposing the existence of statist programs so as to actualize the political system that allows him to fully, without inhibition, pursue his rational self-interests. But this also means acting in accordance with one’s rational self-interests in the present mixed economic system implemented throughout the United States and the vast majority of the rest of the world. This system ought to be opposed, but man ought not make himself a martyr in the name of his opposition.

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