The Sensible Knave

"I do not see that we are further along today than where Hume left us. The Humean predicament is the human predicament." - W.V.O. Quine

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Redistribution and status

Miss Emily Anne had this to say about academics:
I think academics are inclined to attack the privileges of wealth, because the existence of wealth lowers the relative status attributed to intellectual achievements. If the very pursuit of wealth can be reduced to a zero-sum struggle for status, then wealth loses some of its status. Academics gain status at the expense of businessmen and other high income professions.
Surely, at least some must have this in mind. Yes, many folks are not very concerned with those they claim to want to help. It's about gunning for the people at the top. But I hate to speculate about motives. I want to give the rest of them the benefit of the doubt on this score. I think that many of them mean to advance the well being of the less fortunate. But would they want this if it entailed real sacrifices on their part? Many academics gain more reward from their jobs than many other professionals who earn more money. How can this be? The nonpecuniary rewards of academia are hard to match, and they are not really subject to redistribution under any scheme on the table. Do lawyers and bankers enjoy any of these?
  • Summers off (subject to optional research)
  • 30-45 days extra paid vacation
  • Flexible scheduling
  • Extensive travel
  • Virtually guaranteed lifetime job security

How much additional compensation would the typical tenured professor ask for to give up these things? If they took the money, and tenured professorship became more like normal (lucrative) jobs, would they still support aggressive redistributive measures?