The College cargo cult


As the student loan debt is now getting closer to 2 trillion dollars than 1 trillion dollars1, it’s time to consider how it happened.

“Cargo Cult” refers to religious splinter groups that kept forming among the stone-age tribes in the Pacific as they encountered modern civilization, during the 20th century. The best book to discuss it is Road Belong Cargo, which has a great account and many fascinating insights into why these cults kept finding followers. The basic idea of the cult was that material possessions were acquired not by manufacturing them or by hard work, but as gifts from the gods as a reward for the “right” prayers and rituals.

These rituals were imitations of what the indigenous people were seeing. For example, they’d see a massive cargo plane land, and dispense boxes and boxes of goods. Then the natives would go back to the jungle, carve out a “runway,” weave a “radio” from leaves, and chant into the radio lines like “You’re cleared for a landing. Over.” They’d do this for days, trying to get a plane to land. “Road Belong Cargo” is basically pidgin (and the book has many examples of this mishmash trade language) for “Which road has cargo?” or, more clearly, “What do I have to do to get those things?”

The natives had an exceptionally hard time truly understanding what was happening. Christian missionaries would come in, for example, and put up schools, and the schools would quickly fill with natives, who were diligent and did everything asked of them. The schools were very successful…but after over a decade of faithful study of scripture and sitting in rows in a disciplined manner, there were still no planes landing to dispense cargo to the native tribes. The natives finally realized that “going to school” was not a road that would get them cargo, and they all walked away from the schools overnight, completely mystifying the missionaries who now stood in abandoned classrooms, teaching nobody (or perhaps I should say “teaching as many as they were when the rooms were full”).

The reasons for the fundamental problem the natives had with understanding how the modern world works are varied, but, one of the most interesting was how this stone age culture actually had Intellectual Property laws.

I’m serious.

If you had a prayer which (you thought) caused your crops to grow better, your neighbor couldn’t use that prayer unless he first paid you the rights to it. Intellectual property really is insane, and the gentle reader should realize that huge, huge, quantities of knowledge are now buried forever, owned (for example) by state governments that don’t know what to do with the knowledge…and terrified of releasing the knowledge to the public for free as that would lead to a theoretical loss of money. The cure for cancer could easily be locked away in a vault somewhere, guarded by a minimum wage security guard who has no idea what he’s doing to humanity.

Intellectual property (more accurately, government enforcement of it) is a big factor in why health care is insanely expensive now—I was recently hospitalized for a few hours. My only treatment was a morphine IV, and yet the bill was nearly $2,000…your typical insulin shot costs a few pennies to produce, and yet costs hundreds of dollars, because of intellectual property rules that prevent anyone who wishes to make their own insulin shots to compete with the “official” version.

Anyway, the evil, savage, barbaric idea of intellectual property, that ideas can be owned, and such is more important than actually creating physical property, is core to how cargo cults came to exist. The indigenous people were raised from birth to believe that every material thing comes from having the Official Sanction, the paid-for approval so that the Powers Above would rain down their boons. With this belief cemented into place, the only thing that mattered to these people was learning the correct magic ritual, which is why even natives taken back to the modern world and shown the actual factories producing the goods still kept wanting to know what ritual would get them the cargo.

Perhaps I’m wrong about the evils of intellectual property, but it’s clear that for many of our children, higher education today is a Cargo Cult. Much like the stone age people of the Pacific, our kids are raised from birth to believe a certain thing which is very detrimental to their well-being.

This belief? A “college education” is the secret ritual which will get them the good life. Our country now has a Cargo Cult consisting of millions of current and former college students who honestly believe, thanks to their abusive upbringing, that debts don’t matter, that the only thing that is important is to get that magic seal of approval, the “College Degree” and then the cargo shall come.


–a guest on Bill Maher told Mr. Maher how he wasn’t funny, and that any moron could do Maher’s job. The guest, who doesn’t care much one way or the other about Trump, then shouted the above at the audience, who cheered wildly…just like they do when Maher says it. Some magic words are powerful, to the gullible.

How else to explain students who devote the majority of their education to taking courses on Gender Studies? Spending 4, 8, or even 12 hours a week patiently sitting in a classroom while some nutbar professor spews misandric hatred is no longer reserved for half a dozen students on campus. Now these types of classes are taught in auditoriums with hundreds of students, several times a day, and it’s hardly the only “subject” taught like this.

Any rational person looking at these courses would realize it’s madness to think anything beneficial will come of it, any more than chanting into a “radio” made out of palm fronds.

But our students are engaging in this behavior for years on end, because they’ve been told that a degree is the only thing that counts.

What’s been done to our children is evil, and it’s time to point the finger.

In the Pacific, the Cargo Cults were eventually squelched by the “adults,” the conquering modern civilizations who, while pretty vicious to the natives, were at least correct in stomping these cults out every time they’d spring up.

On the other hand, in higher education, the “adults,” the administrators who run higher education, are forever strutting around like royalty on campus, are every bit as vicious to the kids as the modern conquerors of the Pacific isles…and do nothing to stop the College Cargo Cult.

Instead, administrators actually assist the kids in their own self-destruction, pushing to offer more bogus coursework, to make even the “legitimate” courses have less and less material in them which could be helpful, to constantly debase education; after only a handful of years, administrators rake in more money than their victims will ever see in their lives.

Sooner or later, much like the natives in the missionary schools, our kids will figure out that there’s no cargo to come from higher education, and there’s just no reason to take on tens of thousands of dollars of debt trying to get a magical diploma which, ultimately, is worth nothing. They’re going to walk away, and our massively overbuilt and over-administrated schools will be every bit as empty as those old missionary schools.

I wish there was something I could do to hasten that day, to end the evil being wrought here…



  1.    Hey, remember when it was considered horrible that the entire national debt was a trillion dollars? I do, though I guess Reagan was a long time ago.