Phi Beta Cons

Reader Mail re: Professors and Class Envy

In response to my post regarding professors and the perceived disparity between their levels of educational attainment versus income (what I called “class envy”), a reader maks a good point:

It is my experience that the broad group of the professoriate is not nearly as smart and worthy as they think they are. Judged in the market, they are not as well rewarded, materially, as they think they deserve. There is not nearly the real demand for the services they provide, and too many candidates (labor pool) to keep salaries which will keep people at a level to which they would like to become accustomed. Combined with the desire and ability for the landed professorial gentry to manage entry into their ranks, the rich get richer, and the fellow goes to the wall, so to speak.

This is so very true and also applies to the very large, very wide world of the political and nonprofit classes. Until one actually swims in the streams of the academy or advocacy world, it’s tough to imagine how many professors and activists genuinely seem to believe that they’ve bypassed untold riches in their pursuit of virtue. The reality is that their skills and abilities often don’t translate well to world of true high-earners, and the public sector — broadly — is more lucrative than the private sector.

In actuality, a tenured English professor makes more money than the vast majority of Americans, has more job security than anyone this side of the federal judiciary, and still feels aggrieved, under-appreciated, and angry at the capitalist world that relegates him to his nice house, nice cars, and supreme economic stability.

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