I agree with Caleb on the libertarians being the greater danger to higher education. Libertarian economist and world-class foodie Tyler Cowen has a good article in the NYT on the egalitarianism of economics. The good news is that everyone is treated as an individual–and so not as a member of class, race, gender, or religion.
The bad (well, Tyler forgot to cover the bad) is the new individualistic meritocracy is defined by productivity alone, and so the new inegalitarianism–which is not political but economic–is particularly heartless or lacking in relational responsibility. We rarely see Atticus Finches or even Calvin Coolidges emerging these days.
Education worth big money is about acquiring the skills required to be productive. So, as Tocqueville pointed out, it’s not higher education. Everything else, for the libertarian economist, is a “preference” or hobby. Arguably libertarians disagree with Marx on the end of history only in one way: It turns out everyone will still have to work. And only those who work effectively will get to eat in classy restaurants. They rest of will be serving them, hoping against hope that libertarians somehow find it in their self-interest to tip.
So our libertarians don’t see that education of the soul–STOIC EDUCATION or CHRISTIAN EDUCATION–is indispensable for learning how to show the CLASS–or generosity, charity, and so forth–that makes having a lot of money worthwhile. I know, of course, that there are libertarian exceptions, and the idea of BEING LIBERTARIAN admits of more than one definition.
This is part of what pulled me away from libertarianism – or at least the utilitarian worldview underneath most of its flavors. Much of what makes our lives decent and liveable has very little utilitarian value, and attempts to translate them into some sort of quantifiable happiness/pleasure category fail to capture them. And you miss the point if your inclination towards certain virtues is the result of such a calculus.
I also doubt the idea found among the paleo-libertarians that if you just take the nanny state away, society will snap back into a new era of conservative virtue. These things matter, but, as I’ve said before, capitalism has played a part in creating this mess.