John Scalzi on What it means to be a self-made man

(via Boing Boing) Sci Fi writer John Scalzi has written an excellent post on his blog called A Self-Made Man Looks At How He Made It.  It's a great read, and a great breakdown of the nearly limitless supply of gaps in the "Self-made man" myth.  He starts right up from the point of his birth, and makes it all the way up to now, when he really is on top of his life, secure, and comfortable.

A lot of the criticisms of the self-made man argument start at that point.  Those criticisms are valid -- he still uses public roads, relies on the fire department, the police force, and the electrical grid -- and Scalzi doesn't deny that.  But he doesn't say he ought to pay taxes now.  He says he's glad to, because he feels it's the good and right thing to do, to keep giving other people the opportunities he had.

My favorite part is this one, near the end:

I know what I have been given and what I have taken. I know to whom I owe. I know that what work I have done and what I have achieved doesn’t exist in a vacuum or outside of a larger context, or without the work and investment of other people, both within the immediate scope of my life and outside of it. I like the idea that I pay it forward, both with the people I can help personally and with those who will never know that some small portion of their own hopefully good fortune is made possible by me.

Read the whole post.  It's worth the reminders.

Some thoughts on student debt

(Via John Green's Tumblr) ThinkProgress published some interesting stats about student debt today, from the New York Times.

1. The number of students who have to go into debt to get a bachelor’s degree has risen from 45% in 1993 to 94% today.

2. There is now more than $1 trillion in outstanding student loan debt in the United States.

3. Over the last 10 years, tuition and fees at state schools have increased 72%.

4. During the late 1970s, Ohio spent 17% of their budget on higher education and 4% of prisions. Today, Ohio spends 11% on higher ed and 8% of prisons.

5. This year, national, state and local spending on higher education reached a 25-year low.

I've talked to a lot of people in my generation who think the whole college debt thing isn't a big deal.   I can sort of see where they're coming from, in a funhouse mirror kind of way.  Students are presented all the information, and make a decision about whether to go down that road.[1. And if they've already got a degree in finance, they even understand it!]  Why should the government subsidize the education of its citizens?

That last sentence is the one I want to focus on.  The government should subsidize the education of its citizens.  I mean, who in their right mind doesn't think that's a good idea?  An educated citizenry is an asset.  There's no sense in which it is not.  Like roads and an electric grid, the government should provide adequate education to thrive in the world.  If it doesn't, then the United States is not providing its citizens opportunities to thrive.