September 11, 2003

Am I Doomed?

Arnold Kling thinks that I AM DOOMED!!

Economics: information technology - Corante: The Bottom Line: I think that ultimately even college professors will not be able to enjoy the combination of a regular paycheck and almost complete autonomy.  They'll have to join the rest of us in Real World 101.

Not if I can help it. I'll fight!

Posted by DeLong at September 11, 2003 02:42 PM | TrackBack

Comments

Kling's arguments about universities and the "real world" can and should be inverted. For example, he notes that economics Ph.D.s veer rightward politically the longer they're out of academia. He sees this as an indictment of both university life and liberal politics. But one might just as easily conclude that business experience dulls the former academic, making him/ her unable to properly analyze problems and susceptible to the faulty logic of conservatism. In other words, there may indeed be a correllation between an university position and liberal attitudes, but that says nothing about the _quality_ of the individual's ideas or teaching ability. That's just Kling's preference.

The same might be said about Kling's requiem for traditional academic life. The trend line actually appears to move the opposite direction. People today spend more time in school than in any era in history. Greater and greater numbers seek a university education. And those that go to school are willing to pay more and more than ever. Given that colleges are non-profit institutions, the logical conclusion is that professors will continue to get paid to write and teach.

Posted by: Opinionator on September 11, 2003 03:37 PM

Good point by Opinionator (although "I could be wrong...").

Also, economists in the private sector are likely to be de facto lobbyists for the industry that employs them. IMO, conservative views tend to arise from specialization. Generalists tend to be much less conservative. Exceptions abound, of course, and there's a category of "liberal" whose world view arises chiefly out of a sense of aggrievement (e.g., if the person belongs to an out-group)--this last can be very specialized within their own niche.

Posted by: James R MacLean on September 11, 2003 05:08 PM

Education has become the biggest racket in this country. The obsession of our society with credentials means that you can't get a good job unless you have been to college. So millions of kids are sent there without the preparation, or the inclination, for serious academic work. The pressure is inexorable to dumb down the curriculum. Mathematics, the physical sciences and economics manage to hold the fort, but the humanities and social sciences are pretty much dead meat.

It is a giant rip-off of parents and taxpayers.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on September 11, 2003 05:22 PM

I could be wrong. Not only could I be wrong, but in some cases I *am* wrong. I am describing the general trend, not the honorable exceptions.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on September 11, 2003 05:28 PM

I am a right-of-center former professor of economics who gave up the (tenured) soft life Arnold Kling describes, in order to work for the government.

I may be wrong, but I sense that Kling tends to think that academics are mostly misguided, leftwing lunkheads, and that business people and government employees alone see the light. Frankly, his prescription of a dose of life outside academia reminds me of Mao sending the intellectuals to the countryside in the Cultural Revolution to get there thinking straight. It's actually kind of creepy.

A little more to the point, since 2001, I have worked at a large government organization in Washington that specializes in giving huge (and I mean really big, huge) monetary treats to "consultants" or, more precisely pure rent-seekers, that Mr. Kling appears to so greatly admire, because, well, they're not academics.

So, when Mr. Kling states that "a good way to cure the adolescent fantasy is to spend time in government," I have to reach for the barf bag. Puhleaze! Sarcasm fails me.

Posted by: Government Employee on September 11, 2003 06:07 PM

"The pressure is inexorable to dumb down the curriculum. Mathematics, the physical sciences and economics manage to hold the fort, but the humanities and social sciences are pretty much dead meat."

In 1986, as a second year grad student math TA, I taught about 80 incoming freshmen students in the required math class at ASU how to... compute the LCD of two fractions.

There were similar travesties in the undergraduate mechanical engineering courses, and not just the first year either.

The experience forged in me an excellent understanding of the idea of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd tier universities. Most American colleges are 3rd tier, and it's pure bullshit that the mediocrity is somehow confined to the social "sciences", whatever that might be.

But I could be wrong. Probably am.

Posted by: Russell L. Carter on September 11, 2003 07:36 PM

Yah, I'm sure the yahoos that work at right-wing think tanks are for more plugged into the real world than profs. Sheeesh.

Posted by: Stephane on September 11, 2003 08:15 PM

I could be wrong, but some of the above comments about edgeamacation being a racket strike me as...wrong.

Gone is the day when one can easily graduate high school and get a good job at the factory, raising kids and buying a house. One needs a good education to insulate oneself (create your own safety net, not the government's) from misfortune.
I did that route (not the factory part). I gave up the career and went back to school, because that route is too hard these days.

So, obsession with credentials isn't the reason you have to go to college. The manufacturing jobs went offshore.

D

Posted by: Dano on September 11, 2003 08:16 PM

Yes, but don't you all understand the beauty of the free unregulated market to bring a utopia of peace, prosperity and happiness to all CEOs and free market pseudo-intellectual shills? Education, we don't need no stinking education. Heck, current right wing wonks that are spewing out swill at AEI, Hoover Inst. etc. are producing garbage that would get them failed in any econ 101 class anywhere. So education is overrrated. Just remember the mantra: shill for the ultra-rich= money. Who needs anything more than that?

Posted by: non economist on September 11, 2003 09:43 PM

I hear what you're saying Dano, but there is something wrong when there is a shortage of good machinists and other skilled handworkers, and instead of encouraging young people to acquire those skills we send them to college to major in Communications or some such BS. We have our values skewed. I admire the man who fixed my wrecked car like an art restorer much more than i do somebody who was gone to college and learned to spout meaningless postmodernist blather.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on September 11, 2003 09:44 PM

Yes, but don't you all understand the beauty of the free unregulated market to bring a utopia of peace, prosperity and happiness to all CEOs and free market pseudo-intellectual shills? Education, we don't need no stinking education. Heck, current right wing wonks that are spewing out swill at AEI, Hoover Inst. etc. are producing garbage that would get them failed in any econ 101 class anywhere. So education is overrrated. Just remember the mantra: shill for the ultra-rich= money. Who needs anything more than that?

Posted by: non economist on September 11, 2003 09:48 PM

"... there is something wrong when there is a shortage of good machinists and other skilled handworkers"

I could be wrong, but the invisible hand should have something to do with this, no?

Maybe right now all "your good machinists and other skilled handworkers" are busy making tools to thwart terrorists.

Posted by: Russell L. Carter on September 11, 2003 09:51 PM

"Maybe right now all "your good machinists and other skilled handworkers" are busy making tools to thwart terrorists."

I hope so. But of course we need more skilled workers in civilian industry as well. The current situation has exacerbated the problem, not created it.

Liberals like to whine about the nefarious effects of military spending. But in fact military spending is very progressive. It creates high paying union jobs in the defense industries, and in terms of opportunities for blacks and hispanics the military is the best institution in our society.

Long live Pentagon socialism! If you want to advance minorities cut the education budget and increase the military budget.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on September 11, 2003 11:19 PM

"I admire the man who fixed my wrecked car like an art restorer much more than i do somebody who was gone to college and learned to spout meaningless postmodernist blather." Admire yes, but are you willing to pay him? If we paid such men as much as we paid lawyers, don't you think their would be enough of them (of course, not immediately, but in two or three years...)?

Posted by: Andrew Boucher on September 12, 2003 12:12 AM

"If we paid such men as much as we paid lawyers, don't you think their would be enough of them..."
Alternatively if we paid lawyers as much as we pay a good auto mechanic, perhaps in a few years we could have fewer lawyers....

Posted by: DBR on September 12, 2003 02:27 AM

I maybe wrong but "I'll fight" seem to be the default response to displacement. Did we make exceptions of a few of the more honorable canals?

Posted by: Ben Hyde on September 12, 2003 05:28 AM

Perhaps one of the reasons for a shortage of skilled trades workers is that those fields have gotten the sh*t beaten out of them in the last 30 years. Becoming such a worker requires years of apprenticeship; it's not something that one does while deferrring college for a year or two. And it doesn't have the glamour factor and social status which draws fresh meat into Ph.D. programs.

Posted by: Barry on September 12, 2003 06:00 AM

My wife and I both went to MIT, and we're hoping that when our son grows up, he seeks out an honest trade, like plumbing....

Posted by: Seth Gordon on September 12, 2003 06:07 AM

My wife and I both went to MIT, and we're hoping that when our son grows up, he seeks out an honest trade, like plumbing....

Posted by: Seth Gordon on September 12, 2003 06:12 AM
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