Academia

The Massive Higher-Ed Scam You've Never Heard About: Podcast

Renegade University's Thaddeus Russell on the federal-accreditation racket, why the Ivys are terrified of competition, and how postmodernism is libertarianism's ally.

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thaddeusrussell.com

Historian and entrepreneur Thaddeus Russell has a bone to pick with American higher education. It's not simply that maverick opinions that stray from a liberal-progressive orthodoxy get squashed in classroom discussions and tenure decisions. Russell says the federal Department of Education effectively manages an accreditation system that controls the number and character of elite institutions by insisting that "serious" colleges and universities have dorms, dining halls, and a whole host of things completely unrelated to higher learning.

As the founder and proprietor of the online Renegade University, the fight is both personal and practical for Russell, whose 2010 book, A Renegade History of the United States, offers up one of the most original and provocative readings of the American experience. "People who operate on the fringes of society," says Russell, "who have operated against social norms…have opened spaces that were later occupied by the mainstream and established things that we now take for granted." In his telling, it's not august statesmen and high-minded citizens but the pushers, prostitutes, and outliers who have enabled the radical lifestyle, cultural, and political freedoms we take for granted.

In a wide-ranging conversation with Reason's Nick Gillespie, Russell, who holds a Ph.D. in history from Columbia, talks about discovering the Austrian School of economics only long after he left the academy, why actual Marxists hate postmodernism and why libertarians should love it, the insidious nature of America's Protestant work ethic, and how the Democrats are reviving the Cold War.

Audio production by Ian Keyser.

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This is a rush transcript. Check all quotes against the audio for accuracy.

Nick Gillespie: This is the Reason podcast. I'm your host, Nick Gillespie. Please subscribe to us at iTunes and rate and review us while you're there. Today, we're talking with Thaddeus Russell. He's an academic, really kind of a post-academic, who runs an outfit called the Renegade University. We're going to talk about academia. We're going to talk about post-modernism, and we're going to talk about Donald Trump and the larger canvas of American politics.

Thad, thanks for talking.

Thaddeus Russell: Always a pleasure, Nick.

Gillespie: Yeah, you know we have known each other for a few years here. When I first encountered you, it was shortly after the publication of your Renegade History of the United States, which is a kind of brilliant counter to Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States. Just, as a tee off, one of the funny things is when I got the book from the publisher, I was like, 'Oh, this sounds like a shitty knockoff of Howard Zinn', and I was about to throw it out. And instead, I started reading the first chapter, and a couple hours later, I was part-way through, and I was like, 'We've got to talk to this guy. We've got to interview him. We've got to work with him.'

Why don't you talk a bit about the Renegade History of the United States and how it's reaction kind of encapsulates one of the issues that you have with higher education, which seems to be an unwillingness to actually engage with heterodox ideas?

Russell: Yeah, so, Reason magazine and Reason.com were the only mainstream media outlets that paid any attention to Renegade History, and academia has completely ignored it. It has not been reviewed in the academic journals, The American Historical Association's journals have not reviewed it. I've seen no mention of it in any academic journals. I've seen no mentions of it in any book published by University Press. I have heard scattered reports of professors teaching pieces of it, but generally at sort of lower ranked schools, like state schools. And very small colleges.

Gillespie: Oh please. Now even you are bashing state schools? You're playing into the old status game, when you're … I'm in Ohio, which has a top, I don't know, 50 state school. You're in California for Christ's sake, where the UC schools are all in the top 10 of great universities.

Russell: Damn right. Just to be clear, well first of all, I do think state schools are all inferior, but I meant the lower ranked state schools. State schools we're looking at.

Gillespie: Okay. No, but, so I was watching one of the middle school, worst years of my life, or … No, I'm sorry. I was watching one of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid movies and the father in that is, you know, he's supposed to be schlub, a completely nondescript, bourgeois, suburban put-upon dad, and he was carrying … He's reading by the pool, at the community pool. Of course, he's reading Howard Zinn's People's History… and I was like, "You know, I want to live in a world where people are reading Thad Russell's Renegade History by the pool.' That's when the need for that book will no longer exist.

But, what's the thesis of A Renegade History?

Russell: Oh. The thesis is … Do you think there are any listeners who don't know it?

Gillespie: Yes, I think so. I think so. We're reaching new people, and also people with short-term memory damage from smoking too much weed.

Russell: Yeah, I mean, the Reason audience knows me better than anybody. But, okay, the capsule summary is that the people who operate on the fringes of society, but also who have operated against social norms, dominant social norms, have in doing so opened spaces that were later occupied by the mainstream and established things that we now take for granted. Certain freedoms, certain liberties, certain pleasures that were once illicit are now standard and mainstream and respectable.

Gillespie: How is it … Why, and I think this goes to your larger critique of academia or of higher education, and I guess they're more or less interchangeable, but how in hell's name is that considered so challenging or off-putting that academics wouldn't want to engage that? That seems to be a very clear … Not only is it true, you know, it's objectively true and a great way of thinking about the past and the present and/or future, but it's what everybody talks about.

Russell: Well, see, first of all, I don't know what academics are thinking about it, since I told you they ignored it. I mean, I've gotten some little dribs and drabs from them. One very prominent, I could name her, Nancy Cott at Yale University, very prominent historian. I asked her—and she's a hero of mine, I love her work. Her work is among the best, I think, and I cite her book extensively in my own book, and I asked her for a blurb and she said yes, and then she read the book and then she said no. She didn't really specify, but she said she didn't agree with my use of the term freedom, or how my conception freedom … She didn't go into it. But then I sort of begged and pleased and groveled, and then she finally agreed to do it. So, she did write a nice blurb for me.

But, I can guess, knowing pretty well those people, there's a few reasons. One is that the kinds of activities and behaviors that I am chronicling that I consider to be historically significant for especially lower class people were spontaneous and not explicitly political. So, you know, I look at slaves and instead of doing the typical thing, which is trying to find the slave or the five or ten slaves who wrote a book, though of course was actually written by abolitionists for them or, you know, maybe gave some oral history that says the right things. I did look at that at all. I looked very little at that. I was mostly looking at slave behavior, which some historians have done in the past.

Gillespie: Sure.

Russell: But, I just stayed there.

Gillespie: So, you're not looking at Nat Turner …

Russell: Right.

Gillespie: Or, you know, the leaders of slave revolts in Cuba or Haiti. But rather you're looking at guys and women who just kind of, like, said fuck you to it all and did their own thing.

Russell: Right. So, here's the big difference. I mean, I'm not a collectivist and they are, right. So they're looking for collectivist or pre or proto-collectivist activity or behaviors and I am not. First of all, you just don't find much of it in American working class history. But, what you do find a lot of, and this the point of my book, is a lot of spontaneous—I wouldn't say individualists, because that describes an ideology. Individual behavior, or small group spontaneous behavior. That was historically very, very significant in terms of change in the culture in ways that we all now consider to be fundamental in very good ways.

So that runs against the collectivist argument and narrative, whether social or liberal democrat or whatever. I mean, they're always looking for the slaves who said we need a unified nation, and we as a people believe in this, and black people want this, and slaves desired this, you know? It's all this sort of imposing of collective ideas on people who probably didn't have them, or there simply is no evidence that they had them. But we have a ton of evidence about what slaves actually did and did not do.

Gillespie: Right.

Russell: And a lot of this is known. Again, as I said, historians have written about this before, but they often wanted to make it into something that was basically proto-socialist, you know? And I said no, they simply just didn't work a lot of the time. We know this, and they were 'lazy', and that was very, very important for a lot of reasons, but not because they wanted to establish some utopian republic of the people.

Gillespie: So, I mean, they're kind of like Bartleby, the Scrivener in Melville as he was read by 60's radicals. They were opting out of the system any way they could, even though they couldn't really exit the system. But, they could gum up the works. It would be like Thoreau in a way, where they could throw their bodies across the machine of slavery. But without an ideology.

Russell: Right.

Gillespie: You know, they were just kind of acting.

Russell: Right, which is, of course, what most people do today, right? And whether they're working in a cubicle for some big corporation or they are a GI grunt in the army, I mean they are constantly, almost every minute, doing stuff that what the lefty social historians would call resistance, you know? I can't use that term again, either, because that's conscious. And sometimes, it's conscious. Sometimes it is.

Gillespie: But you would hear accounts of this with secretaries at like IBM or, you know, high-rise cubicle offices when they would get a new kind of dictaphone or something, they would break it, constantly break it, or screw around with it so it didn't work. And I mean, it's a form of resistance, and I just hope that no Reason staff or any of the people who help with Renegade University on the air are listening.

Russell: Yeah

Gillespie: But these are ways to kind of screw over The Man a little bit, right?

Russell: That's right. Yeah, now I'm a capitalist, so I've thrown all that bullshit out. I don't believe in any of it anymore. People need to work harder.

The thing I was going to say, just to be clear for people who don't know my work and my argument about this thing we're talking about in terms of work, is that I make an argument against the puritan ethic of work, not work itself, in itself. The slaves' attitude toward work was that it was a necessary means to an end, right, and when they wanted to get something for themselves, like they would plant a garden to grow vegetables to eat for themselves, right? And they saw the work that was necessary for that as just that, that they had to do it. They didn't see what most white Americans certainly saw at the time, and I think still do today, that work in itself is virtuous and godly, right? So, that's this thing that's infected American culture since the beginning.

Gillespie: This is, I have to … You know, Like all bad ideas it originate in Germany, it seems. Everybody has deep roots in Germany. But I actually … This is a real point of disagreement with you in the sense that I don't think that … Let me put it this way. No Americans I know, or virtually none I know, and this might also having been raised kind of working class Catholic. But work is only a means to an end. It is never ennobling in itself.

For me, the images of the opening and closing credits for The Flintstones, where Fred … You know, the whistle blows and he's at the rock quarry and he slides off the big brontosaurus, you know steam-shovel tail, gets in his car, he cashes out, gets his money, gets in his car, and then he goes and he takes his family out with the pet to a movie and to a show. Then they go out to the restaurant where they get a slab of ribs so big, it flips his car over, and then they go home. He's not working because he loves to work, he's working because it allows him to buy stuff and to have experiences and to keep his family happy. I mean, I think that is the American Dream and that, in a way, we don't have to have a BS story about, you know, just work regardless of reward because work itself is good. It will get you into the Kingdom of Heaven. People are like, no freakin' way. I'm going to work just as long as I have to get to cover all the crap that I want.

Russell: Okay. So, I think you're kind of conflating two things, which is, you know …

Gillespie: You're putting me down, but go ahead. I live in error.

Russell: There's two different things. So, there's people's ideas about work, right? And then there's people's behavior vis a vis work. And so, those are two different things. So, Fred Flintstone running away from work down the brontosaurus is a behavior. We don't know what Fred thinks about work. Now, what I'm saying in my book, and I say throughout it, is that people in America since the get-go have had two very different relationships with work. One is through ideas, which I still maintain is largely puritanical, their ideas about work. When asked, they'll say, oh, yeah, work's good, no matter what you get for it, and they valorize those who work. In fact, they valorize those who work for nothing more than anyone else, right? So, the people who volunteer, you know? Look at all the rich people who volunteer their labor.

But then in terms of behavior, what Americans actually do and have done, you're completely right. They have been overwhelmingly like Fred Flintstone and way more interested in going to the movies than in staying in the cubicle. But I do think, I know it's pretty undeniable I think, if you take just one glance at American culture now, especially in what I call formal American culture—what the politicians say and what the business leaders and teachers say—oh, it's still Cotton Mather land, man. I mean, we still talk about the value and dignity of work all the time.

And unions. You know, labor unions. My God, they're the biggest fount of this bullshit. They constantly talk about the dignity of labor and how it needs to be honored in our society. And watch a sports event on TV. I guarantee you, at some point, one of the commentators will talk about the work ethic of someone's 18-year-old kid who's not getting paid to play basketball for Miami University.

Gillespie: Yeah. Well, you know, if he's at Miami University of Ohio, he doesn't deserve to be paid.

Russell: That's right.

Gillespie: But, yeah, it's fascinating to think about that in the context of say people on the right and the left, and then I want to turn back to and hear you pillor higher education. But, Robert Putnam, the Harvard sociologist, and Charles Murray have put forth a similar kind of argument in recent books that they've done. They're on opposite ends of most debates about social policy and about the meaning of America. But they essentially agree that what's been happening over the past, say, 50 years or whatever you want to date the 60s. You know, that decade that destroyed everything, which I suspect that you and I have much more affinity for than certainly Putnam and Murray.

But they say, you know, yeah, there is a con going on among upper class people, well educated people, where in their lives, they actually work really hard and they play by the rules and they stay on the straight and narrow and they're not sexually licentious. They're not decadent in their eating habits and all of that. But then they actually say that poor people shouldn't have to work. Poor people shouldn't have to live on the narrow righteous path, and that as a result, we've created in that kind of formal America, we tell people who are on welfare it's not your fault, it's okay, you just don't do much even as we refuse—you know, those of us who are educated and well above the poverty line—are living totally differently. Is there something going on there that's worth talking about?

Russell: Yes. I mean it depends on whether … So you hear that kind of argument among what we call right libertarians all the time, right? And a lot of classical liberals and certainly conservatives. Now, the question is whether they are making a practical argument. So, are they saying that poor people who chose not to fill out applications for jobs because they think work sucks are doing themselves a disservice because they want more money and they're not going to get more money by behaving in that way? Then of course, of course, right? Now, this is if the poor people want more money, right?

Gillespie: Right.

Russell: I mean, that's unclear sometimes. If they actually … If a poor person says I want more money in my life, I want a better material life, that I will not work hard at the job that I can get or even apply for a job I can get, then I would say that's not correct. That is not a good way to go. That's just an empirical question. It's sort of obvious, and often, I think usually Charles Murray makes that kind of argument, and so I don't have any objection to that. It's just that the language he uses and the fervor with which he makes that particular argument leads me to believe that he and other right libertarians like him do have inside of them, what's driving them I think, is sort of a puritanical regard for work as virtuous in itself, I do think. I don't know, I don't know Murray. But, I've read him a lot and I've certainly been exposed to people like that a lot. It seems to me like they do think that it's simply better to work regardless of what you get for it.

Now, here's the real sort of intellectual basis for why I suspect that that's how they think. Because their intellectual forefathers completely believed this. If you look at the great classical liberal theorists like John Locke … There's been really a great work recently, by the way, on John Locke on this question, and in fact, I referenced some of this, and Locke has been ignored in Renegade History. Locke was a horrific puritanical moralist and talked constantly about how bad it was for kids to dance and he talked about sex being evil and leisure being terrible. So, the whole classical liberal economic political order he understood, and by the way, the founding fathers did too, all depended upon everyone being the self-regulating disciplined individual.

Gillespie: This is the ordered liberty argument thing.

Russell: Yeah.

Gillespie: You can have freedom, but only if you agree to punch the clock and work a lot of extra hours for free and never screw around.

Russell: Right. Yeah, so, the question is what was Locke most interested in accomplishing, and I think it's pretty clear he was most interested in accomplishing order rather than liberty.

Gillespie: Yeah. And then also Locke … This is always fascinated. You know, when people persist in a kind of general popular imagination or even a fairly highly educated one, where Locke is … You know we talk about his Treatise on Government, but we talk less about that or his bizarre racial theories that he brought in, too. And you know, it's the way that when I think of people like Gertrude Stein, you know, coming out of literary studies, I like a lot aspects of her, but people are only now getting around to looking at her collaboration with the Vichy government during the occupation of Vichy where she hung out, and despite the fact that she was an American, she was a capitalist, she was a modern art creator and collector, a lesbian and a Jew, she kind of liked the Vichy government and had some good things to say about Germany. It's kind of like, wow, that really throws you for a loop, the way Virginia Woolf hated her and treated the help incredibly poorly, or that Walt Whitman really had a very … You know, he heard Americans singing and working, except for black people who he thought were really lazy and kind of useless, so … All of our idols have clay feet for sure.

Russell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Gillespie: So, what's your beef with academia? Explain what Renegade University is, first off, and then why is it … What's lacking in academia that you've got to go outside one of these hallowed halls of ivy education to teach people the way you want to teach them.

Russell: God, that's not lacking.

Gillespie: The football teams are actually pretty good.

Russell: I was going to say.

Gillespie: Basketball is at an all time high.

Russell: I agree. So, I think in terms of Division 1 sports and the sciences, the hard sciences, I think they're doing it right, actually, and I think we should just let universities be just that. We'll just have football and basketball teams and chemistry, and that's great. Because I think … I really do mean, I mean that, I have no beef with what's going on in the science departments generally.

I think humanities and social sciences are done pretty much. I think it's pretty much the last place you want to go if you're intellectually curious. If you are intellectually curious, I think that is the last place you want to be, is in a department of the humanities or social sciences in a modern American college or university.

Gillespie: Why? You're a person who … You have a PhD from Columbia, a once great football school. You know, it certainly hasn't been a good football school for decades. But this is a place that, for God's sake, gave Jack Kerouac a football scholarship, which he promptly lost because he did not believe in a puritan work ethic, among other things. So, it's easy for you to say don't go to college, don't waste your time like me. What's so bad about the humanities and social sciences?

Russell: Okay, qell, we all know, I mean this is established and there's not even debate on this even among people who are in those departments, there is incredible intellectual conformity going on. I mean, there's hardly any difference about big questions. I mean, sure, they fight about what I think are smaller issues. But, foundational questions? They all agree, you know? They are overwhelmingly either liberal democrats or Marxist socialists, I mean overwhelmingly. They believe in the concept of oppression. They believe that there are people they have never met and never will meet and know nothing about except as statistics who are 'oppressed' and they don't interrogate that very category, that very word, which I think is a problem. I mean, you know. But they agree with this. This is not a question, okay? So, they say that's fine and all that does is demonstrate that people on the left are smarter than people who have other politics and so that's why they're professors, that's why they dominate the universities. To which I say, well, guess what? Before the 1970's, the universities were dominated by people who were scientific racists. So, were they the smartest people at the time? And by the way, they dominated those universities for about 100 years, too.

So, the question is why is there this monopoly in which there's no debate? I had never heard of Mises. I didn't read any economics except for Karl Marx. Marx was the only economist I ever read in five years of undergraduate and eight years of graduate school. No one ever came to me, no one ever mentioned that I should read some economics and never mentioned the Austrians. I had never heard of the Austrian School. And this is not a plug for the Austrian School, it's just sort of … I'm just saying that this whole very developed, very serious school of thought in the social sciences and humanities was just completely ignored if you were sort of on the track to be a good left academic, which I was.

And I was in the social sciences. I was doing history. I mean, we're supposed to know about economics, aren't we?

Gillespie: Is history considered a social science or a humanity?

Russell: They go back and forth on that. To me, it's all arbitrary bullshit.

Gillespie: Yeah, yeah. No, I get that.

Russell: So, here's the thing, Nick. Like why is this, right? And this is what I've hit upon this year. I've discovered why, and it's actually structural and it's actually guess what? It actually emanates from the federal government of the United States.

Gillespie: You know what? I just want people who are listening to recognize that this is not a requirement of being on the Reason podcast, that you ultimately blame the federal government for everything. But, I'm getting chills right now. So, it's structural and it's rooted in federal government policies somehow or attitudes.

Russell: Yeah.

Gillespie: Lay it on us.

Russell: And I did not know this until just this year. In fact, I'm sort of embarrassed that I didn't know this. But again, this is sort of like, yeah, why would I know this? It's the same reason I didn't know about economics. It's because people in academia don't ever point this out for good reason, because there's a thing that's controlling their monopoly and basically allowing these people who are terrible teachers and who don't engage in serious intellectual debate and who aren't very rigorous in their own work to have jobs. To have not just jobs, but lifetime appointments. Why would they ever point to the fact that the Department of Education controls accreditation?

So, what is this? In this country, in the United States, for more than a hundred years, there have been these accreditation agencies. There are six regional accreditation agencies, and those are the ones, the regional accreditation agencies are the ones who control the so-called elite, prestigious, respected colleges and universities. There's a few hundred of those, right? Those are the ones in the US News & World Report.

Gillespie: I mean, it's amazing. There's something like 4,600 community colleges, two year and four year institutions. There's really only about 300 or 400 that essentially have any kind of competitive admissions policy. So that's what we're talking about here.

Russell: Yeah. So, we're talking about the ones that count on resume. That's all this boils down to is how much that thing matters, that word that you write on your resume, the college that you went to. Does that count as something, because employers are never going to sort of interrogate, like, what you studied at Penn or, which courses you took. They don't care, they just want to know that you went to Penn, that you went to one of the good schools, and therefore you're a good person or are going to be a good worker.

So, the regional accreditation agencies control those schools. They're the ones who decide whether or not a school belongs in that category, and you have to meet many, many criteria including you have to have a certain number of faculty who have degrees from certain universities, graduate schools. You have to have a library with a certain number of volumes in it. You have to have residential dorms and residential students. You have to have a gymnasium with certain facilities. You have to have a physical plan to campus of certain size with certain facilities in it. Meaning that it is impossible to become accredited now unless you're a billionaire.

Gillespie: What besides prestige does accreditation also give you a pipeline into? Federal financial aid?

Russell: So everyone right now should go to the Department of Education website, and they spell it out right there. It's hiding in plain sight for years and years. No one's known about this, including me until now. No institution is eligible for any federal funding of any kind, including the federally-backed student loans, unless one is accredited by one of those agencies. Okay, there you go. There's the monopoly. So when I started Renegade University, a lot of people said, oh, can I get college credit for this. And I thought, oh, sure, I'd love to do that. Let me look into that. And so, I went to the accreditation agencies and was immediately informed that there was no way in hell unless I won the lottery that I could meet their criteria.

Now, there is a National Accreditation Agency which accredits the so-called for profit colleges, places like Phoenix and DeVry and Argosy and all those. But everyone knows there's a signaling that goes on, right? If you're accredited by the National Accreditation Agency and you're one of those schools, that counts as nothing or much less on your resume. You know for employers, they just look at that and don't think much of it unless it's a very specific locational thing, right? So even there, it's difficult to get accreditation, even with the National Accreditation Agency.

So, the Department of Education, and specifically the Secretary of Education, determines which accreditation agencies are licensed, meaning they're the ones who determine which are the accreditation agencies that give this power to get federal funding and to have this credibility with employers.

So, yeah, it's Betsy DeVos, and here's the thing, right? This is the first Secretary of Education … I mean it's preceded her, she inherited the system. She's the first Secretary of Education, of course, who is at least sympathetic to what I'm saying. She's taken meetings, I believe, with … There's like one or two guys at the Cato Institute who have done the work on this, as far as I know. I think she's taken meetings with them and she's heard this. She knows. This would not be a strange concept for her. So I think we have a very small window because she could be fired tomorrow and her boss could be fired tomorrow, too.

We have a very small window where we might actually, if we do something, get this thing changed. It's a goddamn outrage that I am not allowed to compete with Harvard. I mean, it's just on what grounds? I mean, judge me on my teaching.

Gillespie: Would you have to allow your students to come over and use the swimming pool at your apartment complex? Could that count as a physical plan? Do you have a climbing wall or a lazy river? Come on.

Russell: I'm guessing those wouldn't count, even if I had those things. I'm just guessing, yeah.

So this is the great untold scandal in higher education. Those fancy, fancy, ultra-wealthy universities and colleges have this federally-protected monopoly to keep people like me from competing with them.

Gillespie: So, why should they be scared of you? What does Renegade University … What are the offerings and what do you offer that people won't get sitting … Well, you went to Antioch University school as an undergrad, right? In Ohio, that's gone in and out of business lately. You're already doing better than they are. But, what are the establishment schools worried about? What are you giving them that they can't match?

Russell: I don't know if they're worried about me. It's that … So, Tom Wood's been doing this for about five years, by the way, and he was kind of my model, and then there's Isaac Morehouse at Praxis sort of doing the same thing, but more on the for profit occasional side of it. But the three of us have alternative models of higher education out there already that are operating, that are already making a profit. I mean they're making more than I am, but I just started. But I am making a profit.

So, I doubt that Harvard is concerned about us right now.

Gillespie: They should be, yeah. I hope so. What's the value proposition to a student, or to a consumer, at Renegade University?

Russell: So, average tuition … If you count … For average tuition at one of those elite schools, hourly instruction sort of depends on how you count those. But, it's roughly about 150 bucks an hour of instruction, in class, with the professor instruction. Now, that includes lectures with 1,500 kids, right? Which is a common thing at places like Harvard and Columbia and University of Michigan. But that's what that is. It's about 150 bucks an hour.

So for me, it's about 10 bucks an hour. So that's number one. Plus, you don't have to buy the entire package. If you're going to go to Harvard or Columbia or Occidental College or Miami in Ohio, you got to buy the whole package as an undergrad, right? You got to live there, which means you got to pay for the housing and the food, and you got to pay for the fees for the gym and the library, and all those faculty, right? So, it all adds up to a much bigger bill than 100 bucks an hour, of course, to get that hour in the classroom. So, that's obvious and clear that it's cheaper, much cheaper for what I do.

And secondly, and you just have to judge this for yourself, you know? You have to watch me, listen to me, take a course, whatever. But I just think I do better teaching, and I do it because I'm really interested in an exchange of ideas, of clashing ideas. I look for debate. I don't shy from it. I want it. I always have in my own classroom teaching, and I think that's one of the reasons that my sort of traditional college students really appreciate it about me. I am tough on people intellectually, but never personally, meaning I won't let lazy ideas or arguments go by without a challenge. I insist that my students be better at making arguments.

And yeah, I'm open to everything. I want to know what the competing arguments are. I want to ensteel, man, every competing argument, make them as strong as possible instead of straw …

Gillespie: What are the course offerings that you have? I mean, is it basically the world according to Thad? And you're teaching, I guess, not just content, but also a method through the way in which you carry yourself and engage people?

Russell: Yeah, well, so far there have been two weekend events which was, sure, the world according to me. I mean, it was really the world according to me and the students who came because I actually ended up revising some of my own key concepts from them, especially in the first one.

But, I just hired my first outside faculty, Scott Horton of the Scott Horton Show and antiwar.com. He's going to teach a history of the Afghanistan War in January, a webinar. And I'm going to do much more of that. I'm going to start posting. I can't wait for this. I'm going to start posting job announcements on the academic website job guide. I'm going to start hiring the adjuncts and the unemployed PhD's and the ABD's who can't get jobs, which is we're talking about probably tens of thousands of people, by the way. In fact, we're definitely talking about tens of thousands of people out there. And I'm going to be hiring. I'm going to be taking some of their workers, some of their PhD's.

So, yeah, the sky's the limit. I'm open to everything. I've had proposals from people who want to teach mathematics at Renegade University. I've had proposals from people who want to teach chemistry. And certainly the social sciences and humanities, we're going to do. But, yes, I do … My fields of specialty in terms of teaching are US history and philosophy. So, we're going to do the whole Great Books course, right, which was taught at Columbia, I taught at Columbia, which goes from Plato through Nietzsche to Hayek and all the rest of it. We're going to go book by book through the centuries and study each one of those texts.

In a series, we're doing a series on modern philosophy, in particular post-modernism. Had a really successful webinar, it was an introduction to post-modernism focusing on Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida who, of course, in the news these days and being yelled in podcasts all over the place. And yeah, I'm doing a history of World War II this Saturday, a webinar you can sign up for which, it's the second version of this. It'll be bigger and better.

And yeah, I mean we're just rolling out courses. We're coming up with ideas for courses. I want to do a course on methodology called 'How to Make a Good Argument' because this is one of the things that's really bothersome to me. And a lot of people, you just see a lot of bad argumentation out there. You don't need to have …

Gillespie: Excuse me. It's like the way that Pizza Hut can survive in places that don't have good pizza, right? You don't need a good argument if you're not arguing with anyone.

Russell: Right. I mean, well of course, if you just use an epithet, like racists. That's the end of it, you win. Or you find out that Nick Gillespie once talked to someone who might have been a member of the Confederacy … What was it, the Brothers of the Confederacy or something, and therefore, you're dismissed and there's no need to …

Gillespie: I'm not even sure what that is. I did once talk to the puppet, Alf. I interviewed him over the phone for a teen magazine I worked at. And I did find out after the fact that Richard Spencer of, what is his group called, yeah, the National Institute of Institutions or something. Yeah, he came to a Reason Christmas party because Christopher Hitchens was speaking at.

Russell: That's right.

Gillespie: Oh, yeah, we're just drawing all the lines. We're connecting all the dots here, which brings me to one of the topics that I want to go a little bit deeper, and you brought it up just a couple of second ago. Post-modernism, because post-modernism is all about kind of forging different types of connections, taking parts and knitting them together in provisional holes. You mentioned Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault. You are not a libertarian, per se, but you have many libertarian sympathies. I am a libertarian and I consider myself a post-modernist. I believe very much in Jean Francois Lyotard's idea that if you have a brain, you have to have incredulity toward meta narratives, in his phrase, of any kind of grand theory about everything in the world. I think Hayek in particular and Mises in his own way are post-modern, and Foucault actually thought so as well.

What is post-modernism, and why does it incite so much anger in people, including people on the hard left and everybody on the conservative right?

Russell: So, you're asking me to give away one of my products for free, first of all?

Gillespie: Like be a drug dealer, give a taste away and the first taste is free.

Russell: You libertarians and your intellectual property stuff, how it should all be just given away. Yeah, uh-huh.

What is post-modernism? Well, I mean, for me, and this is actually something I got from, I'm not kidding you, Renegade University students over the summer, the first event I did. They said to me, you know, you've been talking about this wrong in public. And I said, really? How do you know, buster? You work at Target. I went to Columbia University.

Gillespie: That's right.

Russell: I have a PhD. Yeah, most of the people who attend Renegade University are people just like that, they're just really smart, really curious, know a lot, but they have just completely ordinary jobs. They are not of universities, and a lot of them are dropouts, by the way. They said what you should do is talk about it as agnosticism toward everything rather than as atheism. So, I used to say as a lot of sort of dumb, vulgar post-modernists say, there is no truth, which is, of course, a truth claim, right? It's a negative truth claim. So, what I say is simply I don't know, and science doesn't know and ask a scientist, you know? One of my guests on my podcast Unregistered, Conner Habib, who's … He's a gay porn star now, but he used to be a graduate student in biology at UMass Amherst, and he …

Gillespie: I'm just glad to see him putting that degree to work. Biology to porn, that kind of makes sense.

Russell: They are relevant, yeah. So, he said, you know any serious scientist is a post-modernist in this way. I mean, they're all ask a serious scientist whether there is some truth that is settled, whether there is some science that is settled and meaning should never be studied again, right? If we're done with gravity, well then we should just stop studying that. Well, in fact, they've never stopped studying gravity, the serious scientists, and in fact last year, they discovered that it operates differently than they believe. They have this new theory based on what they see in deep outer space about how things are moving, about Einstein and Newton.

So, yeah, and this goes to the history of science. You know, Thomas Kuhn's great book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, which everyone should read, which simply shows … And you sort of just intuit because you don't know the actual history, that obviously scientists and the scientific establishment has constantly changed its mind about every single thing in the world, right? So not very long ago, all scientists believed that the sun revolved around the earth, and then they completely changed their mind, and now to say that is the most absurd, ridiculous thing in the world. They thought the earth was flat. They though a whole bunch of stuff. They thought that Jews and not the Irish were of different races than whites because of their nose structure and their foreheads, and of course, we think that's all ridiculous now.

Gillespie: But that's because they weren't using real science, right, and we live in an age after errors could possibly be made.

Russell: That's right. So, there's a deep arrogance inside this insistence that we are correct now. They were wrong then, but we are the first people in human history to discover what is really true. We know that … Our ideas about the physical world and the moral world, by the way, will be eternal and never overturned.

Gillespie: One of the quick comebacks at a post-modernist is, yeah, well, you fly in airplanes, right? And are you telling me that certain things aren't settled and that the physics of flight … We know why planes crash, we know why they take off and land successfully. How does that complicate a vision of post-modernism as a world that is infinitely where truth and knowledge is never settled?

Russell: So first of all, my girlfriend and about a hundred of my fans told me to stop using the airplane example.

Gillespie: Okay.

Russell: This is the one I use all the time, but I'll do it anyway. Just for you, Nick.

Gillespie: Thank you. I appreciate it. You know, I come for the big hits. I don't want to hear the new material.

Russell: I'll be your cover band for now.

Gillespie: I think of you as the Neil Diamond of radical historical revisionism. Just the hits.

Russell: Right. So, I operate in the world. Whenever I go take an airplane, I don't ponder whether this is really an airplane, whether I'm really going to be taking into the air and delivered to New York City in a few hours. I don't do that. I use heuristics, you know? I just operate within the world that we generally agree upon in our culture and society now, that this is an airplane, it goes up in the air, and that's New York City and now you're in New York City, that gravity's somehow responsible for this and aerodynamics are responsible for lift and blah, blah, blah.

So, that fine. That's of course how you live, you know, even if you have these crazy ideas that I do. It's just that every piece of that actually is a word, a concept, the category, that were all inventions. So you don't end up in New York City … What's New York City? Good question. Is that some objectively determined thing? Is it a physical location? Is it the people who live here? If it's a physical location, where does it end? What are the actual borders of New York City? Will there be a debate about that if we ask people who live there? Of course there will be. They constantly fight about that. But, it's a concept, it's a feeling, it's a history, it's infinite things that have been interpreted in infinite ways. Is it a place on the map? Sure. The map … The map was invented by whom? It was invented by people. It wasn't invented by God. It didn't sort of grow out of the ground from nature.

Gillespie: Right. It's not something that's discovered, and actually, this is one of the kind of touchstones of post-modernism is that you talk more about creation and invention rather than discovery because you've foreground the construction of meaning rather than kind of the discovery of it.

Russell: So, I'll tell you right now, what's happening is that lots of people are yelling at me, and probably at you, too, and this is really what happens. I have argued that slaves were more free than white people and that was less controversial than what I just said about New York City and airplanes. For some reason, this thing really sets people off. My father used to yell at me. I would give him this argument and then a year later, it would come back up again. He would just start yelling at me, he was so upset about it.

Gillespie: You do realize it wasn't about that issue, it was about something deeper and how you had clearly, deeply disappointed him as he had disappointed his own father.

Russell: Well, I'll tell you. Yes, but it was his attachment to scientism.

Gillespie: Yeah.

Russell: And the fact that I didn't have the same attachment, therefore I was betraying him, I think. Yes.

Okay. So, here's the thing I'm not saying and this is what needs to be on the billboards over my head wherever I go because I think this is what people hear when they hear me say this stuff. This does not mean that to me, Thad Russell, that any of those categories, any of those inventions, any of those social constructs are bad or meaningless or worthless, or should be overthrown or tossed out. People have gotten it into their minds, and I think this is in part because of the idiots on campuses these days who sort of sound slightly like post-modernists but actually are completely repudiating post-modernism as I know it. They sort of come across as nihilists and sort of anti-civilization and anti-everything. So that's not actually what Foucault and Derrida said. It's certainly not what Foucault said. They never said, yes, these are social constructions and therefore everything should be done away with.

Gillespie: Or that everything is equal.

Russell: Yeah, right. I love airplanes, and I love this thing … I have my own category of New York City, which I kind of love and kind of hate, but whatever, I used to love it, which is similar to other people's conceptions of New York City. So when I talk about New York City with most people I know, we don't have to go through a definitional process when we talk about it. What do you mean by New York City?

Gillespie: Is that because you immediately just agree that Staten Island really isn't part of New York?

Russell: That's obvious, yeah. That's objectively true.

Gillespie: Yeah, nobody's arguing that. I mean, it's beyond …

Russell: Right.

Gillespie: So, why do … Here to put a finer point on it, I had asked … What's interesting to me is when I was in grad school, and I think you know this was the very late 80's through the mid 90's. I think we kind of overlapped in a similar time period. It was the Marxists who really hated post-moderns. They saw post-moderns as kind of capitulating to capitalism and to, you know … I would meet people who said I'm a post-modern Marxist, and I was, like, you're very confused. So there was that argument, and then there was also the conservatives who said this is moral relativism that has gone into nihilism and is disgusting. And you know, the next thing you're saying, you know, that you could be male or female or that these categories are not exclusive. And the next thing you know, it's dogs living with cats and the whole order is gone.

Why on the extremes does post-modernism seem to elicit such massive denial or outrage from people?

Russell: Marxists hate the guts of post-modernism and always have. The smart ones, the ones who are actually Marxists, because they should. They should, and Derrida and Foucault knew this. Foucault especially, he knew it was a direct challenge. I mean, not just a challenge. It is antithetical to Marxism.

So Marxism believes, first of all, in an objective reality, a material objective reality, which has to do with economics and class, that's one economic class is what determines basically one's place in society and one's destiny and one's ideas.

Gillespie: And one's systemology, right? I mean, your consciousness is rooted in the economic class and the larger system in which you're born.

Russell: To be fair. So, actually, I misstated that slightly. So, the Marxist's claim is not, they don't predict what an individual will think based on their class, but they do say that a society's dominant ideas will be determined by the economic structure and the class system within that society. So, yes, just to be clear about there. Yes, it's all rooted in objective facts. So, if you want to understand why, for instance, scientific racism was so important and dominant in the United States in the 19th century, they say, and this is not terribly stupid, it's not the dumbest thing ever stated, look to the economic basis of the society and then, lo and behold, you look and see and you find slavery at the bottom and so that explains it.

And that's not a bad argument at all. But I would say that slavery could have existed very easily and, in fact, it did a long, long time without that kind of scientific racism, without that kind of idea.

Gillespie: Or set of ideas.

Russell: And the other thing is they're moral absolutists, too, of course. They think that capitalism is immoral and they think that socialism, and especially communism, is moral. It's a moral good. And so, post-modernism calls all that into question. So, Foucault and Derrida didn't say therefore we should all be fucking our mothers and raping children. It's just that we should call into question any truth claims …

Gillespie: That's the modern Republican Party, I think. They're adding that platform plank to 2020.

Russell: It has been kind of fantastic watching that and pedophilia. Yeah, they have queer theory has infiltrated society. I think it was Orrin Hatch who was recently dispensing queer theory? Kind of was.

So, let me just finish that. So Foucault and Derrida, especially Foucault, you know the argument is, no, simply be skeptical of truth claims rooted in nature and God, right? So when someone makes a claim like, you have a dick, therefore you're a man and that means x, y and z, ask them how they know that's true. What's the genealogy of that, and trace it.

But the brilliance of Foucault is he simply wrote the history of these claims, and you can look at the history. All of these claims, all of these ideas you can find, you can trace back to a particular time and place and set of people who invented those ideas, like that men are this and have these characteristics and therefore are going to be like this, this and this. Just do the history and do the genealogy and you'll find it doesn't grow out of the ground, these ideas, or from God. It was invented by human beings. Again, it doesn't mean it's bad and shouldn't be used. But more often than not, Foucault found, and I think he's right about this, it did serve purposes that you and I and most of the listeners would find not so congenial.

Gillespie: Right, and that helps explain why … I mean, do you believe that conservatives, broadly defined, they get upset when blurriness entered the picture, that they want to have very discreet categories. They want to have male, female. They want to have right, wrong. They want to have good, evil. I mean, what is it about conservatives who flip their wigs when post-modernism gets brooded about?

Russell: Yeah, I mean, I think that's it. They love order. You know, Jordan Peterson, that's his whole career now. I mean it's basically. I kind of respect him because he knows what he's doing.

Gillespie: And this is the Canadian psychologist who became a kind of folk hero on the right, and including many times when he refused to call people by kind of transgender pronoun names.

Russell: Yeah, and he's actually very smart about this and quite sophisticated. He knows, from what I've seen and heard from him, he knows that these are not universal absolutes, gender categories. He just makes the argument, and again, this is not a stupid argument at all, that the particular ordering of society that came out of biblical teaching has simply proven to be the best of all the kinds of social order that human beings have created in history. So, that is not a bad argument that needs to be taken seriously.

Gillespie: That's what Jim Morrison talked about in "Riders on the Storm", that the West is the best theory.

Russell: Yeah, this is my friend Gavin McInnes's thing, too, right? You know, be proud of Western Civilization, it's just the best. And you know what I have to say to that. You got a point, guys. I mean, hey, I don't think it's perfect. But, shit, I love, you know … Sorry, I'm cursing a lot. But I love bridges and I used to love the World Series, and I love the UFC now, and yeah, those are all coming out of Western Civilization.

Yeah, so it's order, and for Peterson, he thinks that these ideas, that there is no universal truth, have led to chaos and will lead to further chaos if allowed to continue.

Gillespie: Do you believe there is no universal truth, or do you believe that they are relatively rare? I'm thinking now in terms of, say, the theory of evolution because people like Peterson and other physical scientists as well as psychologists will say, look … And I always find this interesting because people on the left … You know, one of the ways that you point out how dumb people on the right are is that they don't believe in evolution because they're religious. But then, in the academic left, a lot of people don't want to believe that evolution is real enough to actually influence individual and group behavior, and you really can't kind of have it both ways. Like either genes either matter or they don't, right?

Russell: Right, and I have it neither way.

Gillespie: Yeah.

Russell: I said this at the beginning of the interview. Yeah, I'm an agnostic on all of it. So it's not that I think there is no truth, it's just that I do not know, and I've never seen … Here's the thing. I've never seen any truth clearly established as being eternal and absolute and universal. I've just not seen any. They even revised the Theory of Gravity recently, right?

Gillespie: Yeah.

You know what? Reason, which is about to turn 50, we're working on getting rid of death and taxes equally. So, everything's up for grabs.

So here, let me ask you. One of the hallmarks of post-modernism, and again, this is what when Hayek … And this Deirdre McCloskey, the great economic historian who started life as Donald McCloskey and is enacting a form of post-modernism of saying that my identity is in large part created by me, it is performed by me, it is not given to me by God or nature or genetics or whatever. There's a lot of play in the system. She talks about how Hayek in his insistence on an epistemological humility, not knowing or pretending to know all truths for all time, is post-modern. I think that's totally true and that obviously, that in the libertarian canon, that goes up against people like Milton Friedman, who talked about economics as a positive science, or even more Ayn Rand, whose philosophy was objectivism, that A is A, and go fuck yourself if you want to tell me that A can sometimes be B, or A is B until graduation and then goes back to being A.

You know, if it's all about competing stories that help us kind of get through the night as well as get through an airplane flight, etc., where do you find your morals if not just relying on a kind of hackneyed version of the Golden Rule? You know, an inheritance from Christianity, say, or Abrahamic religions, but you don't really want to call it that, because you say some systems aren't good. I think they're not moral. How do you know that? And I think this is something that kind of bedevils somebody like Foucault, who was not a moral relativist. But, you know, this is a guy who, upon the Iranian Revolution happening, he was all in favor of it because he saw it as destroying a power that was being exerted by Western influences on a part of the world that should be able to come up with its own unique way of dominating and oppressing people. He walked that back.

But where do your ethics come from in a world of agnosticism?

Russell: Yeah. So first of all, I want to say that you said to me several years ago that libertarians don't know this, but post-modernists are their best friend, and you gave one example for why, Hayek's knowledge problem basically, right?

Gillespie: Yeah.

Russell: And this is essential to libertarian thought no matter what brand of libertarian you are, that a centralized authority like a government simply cannot know enough about people out there in other parts of the world, even two blocks away, enough to govern them or manage them or have any claim to knowing how to manage them. That's one way in which classical libertarianism is post-modernist. The other way is what the Austrians say about economic value, which is that it is what? Subjective.

Gillespie: Yeah.

Russell: When I heard that, I thought, why are these guys so mad at me? I mean, that is exactly it.

So, my ethics, where do I get them from? I don't get them from anywhere. I don't have ethics. I don't believe in that. I don't don't believe in it. I don't use that category or concept. And people are like, well, how does that work?

Gillespie: So, race-based slavery isn't wrong?

Russell: No, obviously not because most of human beings in history have thought it was good.

Gillespie: Well, race-based slavery really, I mean if you want to get strict about it, is really an invention of the enlightenment. Slavery certainly is coincidental with humanity.

Russell: Yes. Slavery, yes. Slavery has been a good for most of human history, according to human beings. So, and then you can then say, well, all those other people were wrong and I'm right and the few people who now live today are right. How else can you ground that claim? You can look at the Bible. Well, that's not going to help you. You can look at nature. Where's it say anything about slavery through a microscope or a telescope? I don't, you know …

Gillespie: I think, you know, there's a … It isn't in most American editions, but in the original English, British Winnie the Pooh books, I think there's a whole thing about slavery.

Russell: Yeah, you can go the young adult lit-fiction route to find that morals are rooted … In fact, that's not even a joke. But, yeah, so I actually find it just sort of … I am constantly baffled, bemused, astonished that very, very smart, very educated people constantly rely on moral claims to make their arguments.

Gillespie: So, well, but how do you … I'm not asking that, I'm asking then like how do you live your life, like why do you not loot, rape and pillage when you can?

Russell: So, this is actually where Ayn Rand, I think even though I haven't really read her, but I've talked to enough human beings that I think I'm right about this, comes in as useful, and I think I'm sort of randy in this way. It's self-interest, my own self-interest. I try to make decisions based on what I consider my own self-interest, all of which I consider to be a social construct, it's just I like certain social constructs and I don't like other social constructs and that's all. So, slavery—is it bad or good? What's the point of having an argument? Do I want to be enslaved? No. So, would I therefore oppose the bill in the state legislature to impose slavery in the state of California? Yes, I would. Yes, I would. So it ends up not being much of an issue, right, in cases like that. You could even make …

Gillespie: I am looking forward to a series of videos of you always taking a penny at a convenience store checkout cashier register and never giving a penny. So, I guess this is part of the Protestant work ethic, and certainly is Catholicism and Judaism, like what governs you when you can get away with something?

Russell: I live according to the Golden Rule as much as I can because it's just simply for the reasons that many Christians have said, because of God and what God thinks of us. Because what other people think of me really matters in my own life and according to my own self-interests, so if I'm constantly stealing from local businesses, I'm not going to be allowed to shop there, and so that's why I don't steal. . . anymore.

Gillespie: So you did go through a shoplifting phase that I hope ended in your teen years, or did it pick back up again at that response?

Russell: I'm just going to leave that there, and we'll move onto the next topic.

Gillespie: Yeah, well then, and actually, let's for a final topic if we can briefly … About a year ago on the Reason podcast, I talked to you about … And actually, I guess it was right before the election. I can't remember now, but we were talking about foreign policy and Donald Trump's probable foreign policy versus Hillary Clinton's. If I can summarize you quickly but incorrectly, I'm sure, was that Hillary had a global theory, a kind of modern theory, an over-arching theory that you predicted would have led her into more kind of large scale interventional war. Yeah, basically more of the same of a kind of Wilsonian interventionism. Trump, you said, doesn't have a coherent or over-arching world view, but that he would probably would have been worse to the people in the Middle East because, for a variety of reasons, he was really interested in bombing Arabs no matter what.

Here we are, about a year later. Trump—what do you think of his foreign policy so far? Is he better, worse, or the same as you anticipated?

Russell: Well, the important thing is that I'm right.

Gillespie: Of course.

Russell: Yeah, you know, it's funny. For a while there, I thought, well, okay, he's not going the route I thought he would. But that's because the generals took over, and I think that's still sort of true. But, all you have to do is look at the facts on the ground, what's actually been happening. And yeah, there's been less intervention.

There have been fewer new interventions in the first year of Trump's presidency than there was in Obama's. He has basically maintained the status quo in the Middle East. He has supported the Yemen war by Saudi Arabia, but that started with Obama and Samantha Power, by the way, and John Kerry, whose idea it was, and everyone should go look at the great New York Times article from 2015, which I referenced in my podcast about this where it's John Kerry and Samantha Power convince the boss that, yeah, we need to get in there with the Saudis and kick those Houthis' ass, otherwise the Iranians will gain a foothold right there next to Saudi Arabia. So, what Trump's doing, which is murderous and genocidal in Yemen, through the Saudis was started by Obama. He has increased it, he's just sort of maintained it.

Same with the war against ISIS and the conquest of the Syrian and Iraqi cities. That was all begun, which led to we don't know, but probably many civilian deaths. That was all, of course, started by Obama. That entire campaign, that was all Obama's idea, initiated by Obama. So, he's done nothing new there.

With Israel, who cares? I mean, it's all been the same. There's really no … And people freak out about the Jerusalem thing, but that's all symbolic, basically.

Gillespie: But, it's also …

Russell: There's no disparity.

Gillespie: Every president has made some gesture and in exactly the same direction, so. . .

Do you worry that somebody like Trump, who really comes across as unhinged often, is he more of a threat when you have somebody like Kim Jong-il in North Korea, or is that just kind of the bluster of, you know, whatever Trump's in … The generals. They've said okay already transgender people are going to be able to sign up, and they're going to make sure that he's not launching nuclear weapons without a real provocation.

Russell: Right. I mean, that was my great fear on election night and was my great fear for many months after the election, and still, I'm still worried about that, but less so now. I think that what they're doing is playing some stupid bad cop/good cop game with the North Koreans where Trump tweets or says something ridiculous and inflammatory and threatening to the North Koreans, Meanwhile, you have people from the Pentagon and State Department actually talking to them in different ways to reassure them. Again, who knows? No one knows because no one's inside those rooms.

But, yeah, in terms of what's actually happened, it's what I said. And the other thing that's been positive, not as positive as I thought it would be, but he's continued, especially recently, to call into question the existence of NATO, the funding of European states' national security, the funding of American allies' national security in general, including Japan and even South Korea, and that's what I thought was the most promising thing. And also, there's been no embrace of regime change and permanent occupations. I mean, who knows? He may end up going there. Certainly could. But, I don't think the generals who are controlling the game now are regime change-types, either. I think they're just sort of knucklehead Marines, basically, who hate the Iranians because their brothers got killed in Lebanon in 1983.

But, so, I don't see the intellectual basis for a globalist American empire there, which is good, but you do see it in the Democratic Party. By the way, they almost certainly are going to replace Trump with someone who's going to be Hillary-squared. I think you're going to see a further expansion of NATO, when the Democrats get back in there, all the way around Russia. They're going to encircle Russia with NATO. I think you're going to see a ramping up of basically the Cold War with Russia. That seems obvious. And I think what's going on in the Middle East ain't going to change with the Democrats, that's for sure. Why would it? They started it.

Gillespie: We are going to end it there. I want to thank Thaddeus Russell. Are you the provost, the president, and the teacher of the year at Renegade University?

Russell: I prefer king, but yeah.

Gillespie: Okay.

Russell: I'll take that.

Gillespie: But, where's the best place to find Renegade University materials?

Russell: Thaddeusrussell.com's got everything. It's got my podcasts. It's got all the courses for Renegade University and all the information you need.

Gillespie: All right. Well, thank you so much for talking.

This has been the Reason podcast. I'm Nick Gillespie, your host. Thanks for listening, and please, subscribe to us at iTunes, and rate and review us while you're there.

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28 responses to “The Massive Higher-Ed Scam You've Never Heard About: Podcast

  1. Libertarianism is founded on the principles inherent within classical liberalism. As such, it is antithetical to the foundational aspects of post modernism.

    In general the enemy of (one of my) enemies is not necessarily my friend. In this specific case that some Marxists reject certain aspects of post modernism certainly does not make one white of difference.

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  2. I have a PHD in Problematics from Inckmprjensible University.

  3. Holy shit post modernism is antithetical to freedom and everything libertarianism stands for. How cosmo can you get? And this is coming from a millennial

    1. “Holy shit post modernism is antithetical to freedom and everything libertarianism stands for.”

      Reason is totally into things like the Uber economy, transhumanism and so on. These are in line with the postmodernist movement. Pomo is not antithetical to freedom as it strives to open new doors. Does postmodernism mean anything to you, or is it just another word like cosmo or millennial that you like to pepper your vacuous comments with?

  4. So, to sum up for those of you wise enough to not waste time listening or reading the transcript of this:

    1. Post-modernism is the spoiled trust-fund pothead of ideologies (“our version of morality is different from that of people who thought drought meant the rain god was mad, ergo it is as likely that raping slaves is okay as it is that it’s not”).

    2. Thad Russell thinks it is logically cogent to declare morality a lie immediately prior to criticizing American foreign policy for supporting “genocide and murder”.

    3. Thad Russell thinks that Poland and Denmark and France and the other countries of 1940s Europe should have paid for their own damn defense- since the alternative would be promoting a “globalist {gasp!} American empire”. Or maybe he thinks that the fundamental laws of geopolitics have somehow rearranged themselves in the last 70 years; his personal ideology seems to allow for such space-time continuum irregularities.

    Moron.

    1. If we had simply stayed out of WW1, Europe could have forged a more lasting peace.

    2. I think he was talking about the US paying for their defense NOW.

      They did pay for their own back in the 30s and 40s. Not enough, apparently, but I don’t think Russell was indulging in any time-space thought experiments.

      And really, the part of our defense budget that goes towards buying influence by paying for other countries’ military defense is, as the kids say, “problematic”. I mean, with Europe, it’s like paying for a nice security system for your kids’ home and then they invite a bunch of homeless junkies to live with them because compassion. I mean, what’s the fucking point?

      1. “I think he was talking about the US paying for their defense NOW… the part of our defense budget that goes towards buying influence by paying for other countries’ military defense is, as the kids say, ‘problematic’.”

        So you too think that the fundamental laws of geopolitics have rearranged themselves in the last 70 years too? Or would a theoretical 1940s NATO have been “buying influence by paying for other countries’ military defense” when it protected Czechoslovakia and the rest?

        “with Europe, it’s like paying for a nice security system for your kids’ home and then they invite a bunch of homeless junkies to live with them because compassion. I mean, what’s the fucking point?”

        The presence of refugees, whatever degree of criminality they may exhibit, in no way renders Russian conquest or dominion over Eastern Europe an improvement in their circumstances or an allowable course of events. This is equivalent to saying that because your theoretical kids allowed “homeless junkies” through your security system, it becomes morally permissable to allow their home to be annexed by Imperial Japan.

        1. Wait…your assumption that WE get to decide what’s “morally permissible” in Europe requires a little examination, don’t you think? We DID let the Nazis roll over most of Europe. We stood back and decided it was morally permissible to let that happen, or at least that it dictated no “morally required” action on our part. What part of WWII is equivalent to NATO again? If you are saying we SHOULD have had some kind of NATO back in the 40s, it isn’t Russell who’s playing with alternative histories, is it?

          So now, Europe is RULED (as once by monarchs) by elites who’ve decided it would be best if the plebes lost all that unenlightened “national identity” stuff and have invited in a NEW population of subjects, who are wholly unconcerned with the kind of divisions that have caused so much trouble in Europe over the last couple millennia. What’s our moral obligation to “France” or “Germany” when their leaders no longer accept such divisive identities? I’d say it falls short of “paying to defend them from Russia”.

          And in the rhetorical example, yeah, I’d suspend payment on the security system. Whether they get robbed by homeless junkies they’ve invited in, or their next door neighbors, hardly matters. In the words of our first female non-President “What difference, at this point, does it make?”

          1. And In the actual current event, the Eastern European countries you’re worried about are less than happy with the “Rule by EU Bureaucracy” that came with “Freedom From Rule by Politburo”. It’s pretty much bootheels of oppression all the way down.

            1. That’s funny, given how Ukraine, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Montenegro all desperately clamoring to be let into or kept in NATO and the EU.

              Perhaps, at minimum, we should respect their “choice of boot”.

          2. The “difference that at this point it makes” is that your assumption that the homeless junkies are as bad as Imperial Japan.

            Dispensing with the analogy, Muslim immigrants and their children make up 5% of the population of Europe, and even the most “pessimistic”- eg white-nationalist agitprop- estimates do not predict their expanding past 25% in the next 25 years; and given that migrant flows are now being tapered rapidly, it’s unlikely they’ll exceed 15%. So spare me this “Gates of Vienna” ethno-nationalist dogshit about how letting in more resentful low-income migrants than they ideally should have, somehow makes the EU equivalent to Putin.

            The EU censors “hate speech”: Putin murders hundreds of journalists. The EU gives too much money to immigrants; Putin conducts pogroms against homosexuals. The EU tries candidates for “inciting”; Putin has every opponent either arrested or murdered. And the EU imposes regulations on some member states against their will; Putin invades countries, holds sham elections, and appoints his cronies as de-facto regional governors no different than the British once did here.

            So, no, the EU’s petty bureaucracy is not, in fact, equal to Vladimir Putin’s openly fascist dictatorship. I am SMDH that this even has to be said.

          3. “Wait…your assumption that WE get to decide what’s “morally permissible” in Europe requires a little examination, don’t you think? We DID let the Nazis roll over most of Europe.”

            Oh, you gotta be fucking kidding me. Are you actually saying that we can’t be trusted to operate militarily in Europe *because we failed to operate militarily in Europe when we were supposed to*? The logic of this statement is so laughably inbred it just died of a genetic disease.

            “What part of WWII is equivalent to NATO again?”

            The part where a fascist dictator is using ethnic minorities in his near abroad to justify incremental invasions preparatory to using his newly restored superpower status to cow liberal-democratic Europe into submission with a combination of monopolist-feudalist economic and conventional military power. Only this time, facing an institution that was specifically created to prevent this from happening again.

            “If you are saying we SHOULD have had some kind of NATO back in the 40s, it isn’t Russell who’s playing with alternative histories, is it?”

            I never said that he was, I said he was seemingly asserting that the “laws of geopolitics” had magically changed. Theoretical Alternate Histories =/= Real-Life Laws Of Nature.

  5. He did make me laugh when he said people are usually yelling at him at this point, as I was just screaming out loud at his portrayal of absolute truth in science. While what he is saying is technically true, it is extremely misleading to describe it as he did without the word probability (or probability distributions rather) ever coming out of his mouth.

    1. I think he failed to emphasize (enough) that the post-modernist insistence on the contingent nature of all knowledge, of everything being a “social construct”, is THEORETICAL and/or epistemological, not practical. SOME of post-modernism is useful and appears to be as true as anything else, but it does NOT say that, for instance, the physics of flight is of necessity unreliable, or that our understanding of biological processes will be completely overthrown by new knowledge at some point. (Kuhn, of course, overstates the significance of his insights)

      Instead they went on to point out that Foucault (in particular) pointedly did not say that just because something was a ‘construct’ meant it was FALSE or should be rejected, which is the error so many extremists on college campuses today make…but then, what THEY believe is a fecal soup of bullshit, propaganda, Marxism and self-indulgence. Nothing to do with post-modernism.

      Doesn’t help that post-modernism has been sullied by association with charlatans like Lacan, either.

  6. People don’t attend Ivy League schools for the lectures. In many cases, you can get those for free on the internet.

  7. And here we see the fundamental difference between the classical liberal and the cosmotarian.

    The classical liberal believes in an objective morality and that individuals inherently posses fundamental rights, and therefore it is morally wrong to violate such fundamental rights.

    The cosmotarian does not believe in an objective morality (or believes that such morality is inherently unknowable) and therefore no moral authority exists that can lay judgment upon an individuals thoughts or actions,

    1. This is close, but not really true. The cosmotarian (or more commonly “progressive”) believes in an objective morality. They call all to obey it. It’s just that they hide behind nihilism as a way to disarm their enemies.

      Opposition: “Hey, that’s fucked up. You can’t do that.”
      Cosmo: “There is no right and wrong, so who are you to criticize (minority group, myself, desired activity etc)
      Opposition: “Hmmm…”

      Cosmo: “You can’t do that because it’s evil!”
      Opposition: “This is a time-honored tradition that harms no one.”
      Cosmo: “What do you think we should still have slavery because it was tradition? Our morality is more evolved today than in the past. You’re just too stupid to understand because you’re a knuckle-dragging neanderthal. Your tradition props up white cisgendered heterosexual patriarchy and is offensive to (minority group).

      1. We should all follow Dr. Peterson’s lead and point out that someones’ offense-taking or even “feeling unsafe” is their own, and does not allow them to impose conditions on others. Sure, it may be that some in the “trans community” feel “dehumanized” by being addressed with pronouns that are adequate for 99.997% of the population, but how is that my concern, after x number of years speaking one way? Doesn’t anyone question the contention that it is somehow moral for their feelings to be more important than mine? What if *I* feel “dehumanized” or “othered” or “speech shamed” when I’m told my way of speaking, delivered without malice or intent to harm, is “literally violence”?? Fuck that.

    2. “The classical liberal believes in an objective morality and that individuals inherently posses fundamental rights, and therefore it is morally wrong to violate such fundamental rights.”
      Yeah I believe in all that. But I also understand that it is a social construct invented by human beings, not etched in a clay tablet by a mythical deity. Russel makes the point repeatedly that social constructs are not necessarily bad, that living an ethical life is in his (and presumably everyone’s) self interest etc. I really don’t see a problem here.

  8. “People who operate on the fringes of society,” says Russell, “who have operated against social norms…have opened spaces that were later occupied by the mainstream and established things that we now take for granted.”

    This isn’t necessarily a good thing. Fringe elements are at the fringes for a reason. Undoing social norms ultimately undoes society, since societies are DEFINED by social norms.

    Pretending the fringe becoming mainstream is good for our society is exactly the type of brain dead, non-critical thinking characterizing the sclerotic and neurotic nature of modern academia.

  9. ” I have argued that slaves were more free than white people ” and that’s where I gave up.

  10. ” By the way, they almost certainly are going to replace Trump with someone who’s going to be Hillary-squared. I think you’re going to see a further expansion of NATO, when the Democrats get back in there, all the way around Russia. They’re going to encircle Russia with NATO. I think you’re going to see a ramping up of basically the Cold War with Russia. That seems obvious. And I think what’s going on in the Middle East ain’t going to change with the Democrats, that’s for sure. Why would it? They started it.”
    I think he got that part right.

  11. Memory loss from smoking too much weed?!? I’ve been a teetotaler all my life (except for one or two times wearing the lampshade, in my younger years…), and a pot smoker since 1970.

    I would argue, albeit anecdotally (but still a good bet), that booze kills more brain cells than pot, and far more likely to produce memory loss. Dissing us pot smokers always gets a laugh, but I don’t really give a fuck, because watching people over the past decades get drunk has always given me the last one.

    Happy New Year.

  12. I think you have never heard of this article. Just read it!

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