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Today In Highly Principled Libertarianism



This New York Times profile starts out like a puff piece written by one of the Maoists who edit the Styles and Real Estate sections:

“I want to be first on Success,” said Carl Barney, standing up from the breakfast table after a final sip of tea at Deer Valley, a luxury resort with a view of Utah’s mountainous rooftop.

Mr. Barney, who had arrived in the dining room wearing his custom-made orange ski boots, was referring to the trail named Success, with its early-morning blanket of freshly groomed, untouched snow.

He could just as easily have been referring to himself.

Mr. Barney, who turns 75 on Monday, arrived in the United States in the 1960s as a jobless British immigrant and went on to amass a fortune running for-profit colleges. All the while, he was guided by the heroic entrepreneurial creed of Ayn Rand, a champion of unalloyed selfishness and remorseless capitalism.

“She taught me how to live,” Mr. Barney said.

He credits Rand’s brand of antigovernment libertarianism, hard-nosed rationality and unapologetic self-interest with helping him realize his own American dream — an achievement he sells to the students at his schools. But his inspiring story is not without contradictions.

Personally, I find “a Randroid got obscenely wealthy bilking desperate students and the American taxpayers” to be the antithesis of an “inspiring story.” But, as the twist at the end of the last sentence above suggests, Cohen does go on to point out the obvious:

Mr. Barney, who opposes government-backed loans and grants on principle, has made his fortune in a business that is almost wholly dependent on them. His students borrow heavily to pay for their studies in hope of replicating Mr. Barney’s up-by-the-bootstraps success, but often find themselves dropping out and burdened with loans. And while he invokes a rigorous Rand-inspired ethical code of fair dealing, he is in an industry with a history pockmarked by fraud and abuse.

Congress, state prosecutors and federal regulators have opened investigations into numerous schools — including some of Mr. Barney’s — saying that they have misled students, leaving them deeply in debt without providing the training and job placements that would enable them to pay it off.

The troubles in for-profit higher education have fed a mountain of student-loan debt, totaling $1.3 trillion. The sector enrolled 10.4 percent of students but received 19.3 percent of federal aid, according to the latest figures from the Education Department. The prospect of a taxpayer bailout for defrauded students could run into the billions of dollars depending on eligibility rules.

Sure, his diploma mills would all close instantly if the federal government stopped guaranteeing the loan money students need to attend them, but that doesn’t change the fact that Barney is a rugged individualist who totally pulled himself up by his bootstraps!

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