Snarky Behavior

Amoral Decisions…?

April 8, 2008 · 1 Comment

On the self-justifying nature of professional salaries, Ezra Klein writes:

Indeed, I’m always fascinated by how little self-consciousness the professional class has about their lives. You often hear folks with six figure salaries talking about how “hard” they worked to get ahead. But working at a law firm isn’t any harder than, say, laying tar, or standing on your feet selling cell phones all day. It’s just more highly valued. It’s smart early investments and a host of material and internal advantages that lead to one man’s labor earning hundreds of thousands, while another man’s barely pays the rent. But it’s hard to argue that attending an Ivy League school where you smoke a lot of pot and pretend you understand Focault is more taxing than entering a service sector job right out of high school. The professional class just likes to pretend that it is in order to lay a patina of virtue and ethics over what are, in fact, amoral decisions of the market.

It seems very difficult to take a stance on this issue without feeling either overtly callous or apologetically guilty.

Higher education may be over-valued as an indicator of diligence, perseverance, dedication, loyalty, or industriousness, but it is still pretty accurate as an indicator of ability, intelligence, creativity, and analysis. And those are skills that can’t be learned overnight… they are skills that represent years of time spent cultivating the mind.

Over time, the individual who reads on the subway and the individual who plays a PS3 (or does nothing at all) arrive at disparate life outcomes. Those hours should be considered (if not accounted for) when making comparisons between blue- and white-collar jobs.

Over the course of a lifetime, manual labor CLEARLY remains the undesirable career option, regardless of income. But if we are to compare apples and oranges, we should at least take into consideration the effort required to cultivate both crops, and not just their respective tastes at harvest.

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1 response so far ↓

  • John // April 9, 2008 at 4:54 am | Reply

    Well, I made it to grad skool. Clearly my testament of failing upward disproves your theory.


    I would like to make this juxtaposition: you can go to Yale, get Cs and become the president. Or you can fail out of Harvard and become the richest man in the world.

    Life is a real kick in the balls.

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