Student debt eradication is unfair, but it's OK for Biden to do it (philosophy style)

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Student Debt Cancellation Is Unfair. That Doesn’t Mean Biden Shouldn’t Do It.

EXCERPT: . . . Many people who will not stand to benefit from the proposed student debt cancellation have a claim that it is an unfair policy, operating with either conception of fairness. There is no sense in which current student debt holders deserve to have their loans forgiven but past and future debtholders do not. Unless current student debt holders happen to disproportionately work in professions that benefit their societies, governments, and communities more than past and future holders, this charge of unfairness is valid.

There is also no sense in which student debtholders deserve more to have their loans forgiven than medical debtholders, or people who have not debt-financed their educations but have debt-financed other future-looking activities like small businesses. We can argue about whether there is something intrinsically valuable to society in having citizens who receive formal but costly postsecondary education so as to make them especially deserving of debt cancellation. But that kind of value also holds of many people who decide to start small businesses instead of going to college. And it most certainly holds of people who must undergo costly medical procedures to stay alive.

The case for debt cancellation’s unfairness is even stronger when comparing different groups for equal treatment under policy and law. Canceling debt for current student debt holders is treating them favorably only because they happen to inhabit a time when it is politically advantageous for a president to forgive this debt. But that is a failure on the part of authority to treat like cases as like.

People who have paid all or a significant portion of their student debt in the past, and people who will be in even bigger debt in the future under a Trump or DeSantis presidency, face unequal treatment only for having taken out their loans at an earlier or later time. There are even people now, like the formerly incarcerated or the undocumented, who have student loan debt that could not be canceled because they do not have federally backed loans. These groups of people have a claim to unfair treatment by the powers that-be because they are just like current federal loan holders but aren’t given the same advantage.

And so we can’t dismiss people who complain about unfairness. They are right about that. But desert and fairness comparisons also pull in the opposite direction. It really is unfair to current student debt holders that for most of the 20th century, college education was state-funded, grant-funded, and scholarship-funded, rather than debt-funded by the individual. There is no sense in which students “back then” deserved a college education more than current ones do. The quality of higher education and its impact on future earnings are not much different now than in the past, but the price tag and the resources a young person has at their disposal to pay for it are very different...

[...] Charges of unfairness around student debt cancellation are legitimate, and not to be written off as selfish or spiteful. But the wisdom or goodness of a policy cannot be reduced to particular comparisons of fairness and unfairness. ... Almost every policy is unfair. But public policy has always been about more than fairness...
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Fatala Crapehanger: Don't want to knock Barry Lam here specifically, because he's got some interesting and insightful honesty about him and with respect to what's transpiring with academic careers. But from both the hints above and the bits below, he is likely no more ideologically unbiased than the bulk of today's philosophers. 

IOW, the political "germ" of motivated reasoning underlying these "pearls" outputted by the majority of humanities scholars -- despite those concentric layers of intellectual nacre built up around the "irritant seed" -- ultimately resides in the broader territory of the particular one passingly mentioned (i.e., "politically advantageous for a president to forgive this debt"). Yes -- blah, blah, blah reservations about such... But in the end the real (stealth) incentive to still do it, despite unfairness contentions, is because it helps the crusades of the left. In this case, it buys votes for Biden from those who were "debt forgiven", as well as collateral benefits for others in the Party.

Barry Lam interview

EXCERPT: It seems like there is a schism between public and academic philosophy. Why is that? How do we bridge the gap? Negative unintended consequences?

[...] Where there is a schism, I'm just going to go with the boring Marxist analysis and say that academic philosophy is produced under very distinctive material circumstances, and the culture that has arisen around those material circumstances very much drive its development in predictable ways. People are going to produce the kind of work that gets them jobs, publications in certain journals, promotions, invitations to conferences, talks, editorial boards, collaborations, and so forth.

How do you see the future of philosophy?

There is a trend I see at the moment toward variations of what you might call "woke philosophy". Its metaphysics, epistemology, moral philosophy, philosophy of language, usually highly abstract topics, where people build highly theoretical machinery to codify or justify various public practices that are considered to be morally obligatory. For instance, you might construct a theory of belief and justification that denies the rationality of using statistical evidence in making up one's mind about someone on the basis of race and gender data. I think this is going to be very prominent in the near future. I see a lot of young people doing it and I think we're going to see a lot of it in the next 10 years as younger people publish, get tenure, and become the mid-career people in the field.

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