Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Friday, March 13, 2009

My Way -- 4

I'm feeling a bit under the weather so this may not be my best rant ever, but here goes. As far as I'm concerned, the most pernicious lie that oozes out of orthodox economics is that social inequalities are just -- that economics contains a scientific proof that rich people deserve to be rich and poor people deserve to be poor.

The theory of the market does not actually contain any argument that can support that conclusion. It comes from one of the most basic logical fallacies. Economists believe that their theory describes reality, and then, by a sleight of hand, without even noticing that they have done it, they go from this supposed (though actually totally bogus) is, to ought.

What is just is a purely moral question, which begins with how we feel about a situation. It is a perfectly respectable moral position to argue that the people who clean the toilets and wipe up the bodily fluids in the academic medical center where I work should be paid more than I am, because my job is so much more pleasant and frankly, lots of fun; whereas their job is nasty and hard and boring and repulsive. I would say I am highly sympathetic to that position. Now, you might believe that such a world cannot exist. My skills are in shorter supply, and sell for more money. Okay, that's the way it is, but that doesn't mean the housekeeping staff deserve their crummier jobs and lower pay.

Defenders of inequality have various arguments, some of which have a pseudo-ethical cast. For example, they claim that higher incomes are a reward for hard work and talent. There may be a return to talent, in general, but it is far from consistent. However, none of us earned our talents, we just got lucky. As for hard work, poor people usually work much harder than wealthy people. In fact, our station in life is much more powerfully influenced by our birth than our talent and hard work. Going to college is hardly an ordeal - it's actually a lot of fun. It's less work than having a job, except for a couple of weeks at the end of the semester; beer practically comes out of the faucets; and it's really easy to get laid. For some of us, learning stuff is also kind of a gas, but we need a certain degree of privilege to be able to afford it. Nowadays a lot of college students have little intention of learning anything, they just figure Daddy is paying for a degree so they're entitled to one.

As for the CEOs and financial traders who have been raking in the multi-millions, they're just thieves. CEOs conspire with their boards of directors to loot their companies. I mean come on, you couldn't possibly find somebody with the talent to lose billions of dollars without paying $100 million a year? I really don't think so. And trading financial instruments is just parasitism.

So, basically, the Ayn Rand set that's been parading around lately is completely, irrevocably, irredeemably, inexcusably, revoltingly, childishly, greedily, and stupidly FULL OF SHIT.

Next I'll do taxes.

1 comment:

kathy a. said...

this isn't right on point with today's post, but here's a piece on making pollution more costly: