Phi Beta Cons

Bill Gross Gets It

Financial manager extraordinaire Bill Gross (a friend in the securities industry calls him, “The most influential man in investment management not named Buffet”) had some strong words the contemporary college experience:

“A mind is a precious thing to waste, so why are millions of America’s students wasting theirs by going to college? All of us who have been there know an undergraduate education is primarily a four-year vacation interrupted by periodic bouts of cramming or Google plagiarizing, but at least it used to serve a purpose. It weeded out underachievers and proved at a minimum that you could pass an SAT test.”

He points to Peter Thiel, head of hedge fund Clarium Capital, who has established a foundation to give 20 $100,000 grants to teenagers who would drop out of school and become not just tech entrepreneurs but world-changing visionaries. College, in Thiel’s mind, is stultifying and outdated, Gross writes, with very little value created despite the bump in earnings power that universities use as “their raison d’être in our modern world of money.”  

The problem, as we’ve discussed at length here at PBC, is that any desire to opt out of the (very expensive) four-year vacation is hampered by employers’ requiring degrees for even the most basic and elementary of jobs. It’s the last remaining clearly legal employment pre-screening mechanism, but with ever-greater numbers of graduates stumbling, hung over, from colleges with ever-lower standards, degrees will devalue in employers eyes even as its cost continues to soar.

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Most Popular

Law & the Courts

One More Point on McCabe . . .

One point to add to Jonathan Turley’s column about Andrew McCabe, and the glaring double standard of whether an FBI official will face obstruction-of-justice charges if he’s caught lying to an FBI internal investigation. In 2015, McCabe's wife Jill ran for a state senate seat in Virginia and received ... Read More
Politics & Policy

‘We Will Reduce Abortion’

Conor Lamb’s success has revived interest in “I’m personally opposed, but.” It’s a rhetorical convention — a cliché, really — that many Catholic Democrats have resorted to ever since Mario Cuomo popularized it with his speech at Notre Dame in 1984, as Alexandra DeSanctis explained a few days ... Read More


In a recent issue, we published a piece on Dante Della Terza, the great Dante scholar at Harvard (now in his nineties). Today, we have an expanded version on the homepage. After the magazine piece was published, I heard from Mark Helprin, the novelist, military analyst, and political writer. I had no idea he had ... Read More

The Pope Francis Challenge

An unforced error from a Vatican communications office the other day drove me a little something like crazy. The nature of the unforced error is that it is wholly unnecessary and typically distracting. And so it was. Days before, as the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’s election as pope was approaching, a ... Read More