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Razib Khan's Unsupervised Learning

Sep 12, 2023

Today Razib talks to Inez Stepman, a senior policy analyst at the Independent Women’s Forum, a Lincoln Fellow with the Claremont Institute and a senior contributor to The Federalist. Stepman also hosts two podcasts, High Noon and Clown Car. She and Razib first discuss the current distress, both economic and cultural, in higher education as several decades of bloat, inflation-beating cost increases and political radicalism run up against their natural limits. Stepman’s recent policy report, Taxing Universities, tackles the massive fiscal bill that the American people will face in the next generation as bad loans backed by the federal government finally come due. Razib admits that as a member of “Generation X” he was unaware of the massive change in educational debt since the public sector took over almost all lending after the 2008 financial crisis. A graphic that illustrates the impending crisis comes from The New York Times:


The takeaway is that student loans originated from 2009 onward exhibit a pattern where Latinos, blacks, and nearly half of women, owe more now in 2023 than when they began payments after graduation. Stepman discusses the broader reasons for this dynamic, the expansion of higher education, the rise of credentialing in lower-paying “pink collar” jobs that saddle people with debt they can’t service and an evidence-free elite consensus that more education results in more value and skills. In contrast to the current orthodoxy, Razib argues that the bachelor’s degree is often simply a signaler of intelligence and conscientiousness, and the expansion of this diploma to nearly half the youngest age cohort has diluted its utility.

In the second half of the podcast, Razib probes Stepman on how she arrived at a relatively conservative cultural stance despite being a secular native of Palo Alto, California, and a current resident of Manhattan. Stepman’s starting point is that males and females are fundamentally different because of our biology, and we must organize human societies around this fact, rather than attempting to ignore this reality while striving for an egalitarian utopia. Stepman calls herself an anti-feminist because she believes that this denial of human nature goes back to the beginning of the movement, with the publication of Mary Wollstonecraft’s The Vindication of the Rights of Women in 1792.