Sunday, January 11, 2009

Why do professors deplore enterprise? 

From an open letter to students who want to go into business:

I experience the hunger in the world for the privilege of creating jobs through entrepreneurship, and then I return to the United States, where I see something that troubles me.

Some students and professors reject business as a morally responsible way to spend one's life. The issue I have is not that some people would rather work in the public sector (government) or the social sector (nonprofit work), but that they assign a higher moral calling to these two sectors than to the private sector (business).

As a college student, you are attempting to gain the knowledge, skills, networks, and inspiration to live a happy, productive, and meaningful life. I like to think of each of you as one unit of creative potential. Looking at it this way means that faculty members are more than dispensers of knowledge. They are guides along your journey, teaching the subjects, passing along beliefs and biases, hopefully inspiring you, and challenging you, to consider the types of people you will become.

Some professors attempt to influence you toward those biases. Some think dismissively of business, for instance, as if society would be better off without it, or they assign pernicious motivations to those who lead businesses. Throughout history, social experiments to this end have failed. Every day, these professors use and benefit from the products and services of business: Google, bookstores, clothing, transportation, and the local coffee shop. They fail to differentiate between business leaders and dismiss the whole sector as greedy, uncaring, and destructive. Yet, even with much evidence of greed and wrongdoing in the public and social sectors, that same categorical condemnation is not present.

In fact, you can make a vital contribution in any of the three sectors, because all three are needed for a society to function well. (If just one sector is weak or absent, the result is usually a failed state. Think of the former communist states that tried doing away with private business, or the chaotic warlord states without effective government.)

It is, of course, appalling that these things even need to be said, and an indictment of American academic culture that somebody thought they needed to be. The question is, why are so many academics, who are ideologically unwilling to pass judgment on just about any value or culture no matter how depraved or defective, so reflexive in their condemnation of the business life? May I respectfully suggest there are several reasons, not necessarily in this order of importance.

First, professors, even American professors, are unconscious prisoners of ancient class prejudice. Academics were, for much of the history of the Western university, clerics, and even the most secular among them even today admire their trappings (how else to explain the monkish academic gown?). European clerics, along with European nobility, looked down on the business life. Indeed, even in today's Europe commerce is not nearly as admired socially as more cerebral pursuits. The United States has, as Ayn Rand famously wrote, the first "aristocracy of money," and that is offensive and annoying to the one American professional class that obviously and self-consciously descends from continental European tradition.

Second, there are now wide disparities in compensation between professors and similarly trained and qualified people who went into business or an allied profession (such as law). This is a relatively new development. Forty years ago, the starting salaries for newly minted assistant professors and junior associates in New York law firms were almost identical. Now the new lawyers start with 2-3 times the salary of the professors and the disparity can quickly widen to 10-20 times. Obviously, the pay gap between top academics and top corporate executives is even wider. All of this means that any professor younger than about 45 today made a conscious decision to give up a massive amount of money. Since that is a sacrifice by any measure, it is natural that many professors need some reassurance that they made the right choice. Deciding that the business life is shallow and depraved is, for most of them, ample validation.

Third, it is not just compensation that is different. University professors, once they have tenure, are protected forever from competition and for all practical purposes from professional and economic risk. This is, of course, the opposite of American business and professional life, where educated people at all levels have taken on massively more risk for much higher compensation. In my experience, professors deplore this widespread assumption of economic risk, while business people revel in it. It is the difference between "soft America" and "hard America," in Michael Barone's famous formulation, and it is the fountainhead of most of the rancorous political division in this country.

Fourth, there was a huge surge in PhDs and a massive expansion in graduate programs in the 1960s to accommodate all the affluent kids who did not want to go to Vietnam. These "Vietnam era" faculty have, almost to a man, adopted the political positions of the Democratic party, which is far more welcoming of peaceniks, self-interested and otherwise, than the GOP. Well, bashing on business has been the stock-and-trade of Democratic politicians since at least FDR. Those professors who do not believe it important to disguise their political opinions (and today they are the big majority, sad to say) are just repeating the talking points faxed in by their Democratic Overlords.

Frankly, everybody -- including universities, college students, business, American culture, and even left-wing professors who are not afraid to leave their bubble -- would all be better off if there were more conservative and libertarian faculty in American universities. That is unlikely to come to pass, however, for any number of reasons, including that the massive disparity in compensation and working conditions that drive much of this ideological divide will not go away.

CWCID: Maggie's.


By Anonymous QuakerCat, at Sun Jan 11, 12:50:00 PM:

With all of that as a back-drop, you will never once hear one of these professors complaining about the ridiculously high cost of colleges these days. The fact that college costs have grown over 7% per annum for the past 20 years does not seem to factor into any high-minded moral outrage that is directed at big business. I think these twits really believe they are putting out a product (degrees) that are worthy of such eggregious costs? Unless your majors were either science based or engineering, I have always had a tough time trying to understand how a kid can go to two 90 minute classes per day and have Friday's off and consider that a real education and real value?

If you compare the average Military School education to the average university, the amount of in-class study is about one-third as much. Now that is potentially worth paying $50K a year, knowing your kid is going to get every nickle out of their education.  

By Anonymous Eric the Red, at Sun Jan 11, 12:55:00 PM:

TH, I am actually more than a wee bit surprised at your arguments. The paragraphs you cite explicitly call out a logically ridiculous step: saying all business is like these few bad businesses. Inches later, it seems you proceed to take the author's claims of "some students and professors" and turn it into "all professors": "First, professors, even American professors, are unconscious prisoners of ancient class prejudice." I would like to think you meant to more narrowly scope that to "this is true for a few people, but you use the same structure to make a claim of all profs two paragraphs and one sentence later.

Additionally, I think your second and fourth points are unduly simplistic: some profs do come from the workforce, having earned their money; this has been true of math and econ at the very least. This intermingling of professional and academic with the same degree is exactly the thing that undermines #4, because a flood of grad students doesn't mean they all go into academia; maybe they opted for one of the three branches your citation mentions.

Serious point aside, I will delve into the "are you kidding me" aspects. I preferred that my profs confess their biases and inclinations rather than reveal them through slants in the material, because it allowed me to attempt to partial out what may be personal rather than material. Because I know you are smart enough not to seriously suggest "how about no one is biased ever," I hazard that you would prefer confessed bias over such baked into the material, and I will ask for some elaboration on why it is "important to disguise their political opinions".

Lastly, funny dress implies class prejudice? Finally, I have found a kindred soul. I have always resented clowns for being snotty members of the comedy elite, and have long felt that mimes were condescending and arrogant bastards.

(Maybe there are other reasons why individuals would engage in silly and traditional acts during college.)  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jan 11, 01:02:00 PM:

Quite frankly I think we have entirely too many lawyers. A significant percentage of them are literally parasites on the economy. Like the government they do not create wealth, they just redistribute it with a large portion of that going to themselves. If we reformed the tort laws, we'd have fewer of our brightest going into law and instead taking up a profession which creates wealth. Remember the old adage: "If there's only one lawyer in town, he'll starve. If there are two, they'll both make good livings."

TH, I congratulate you for seeing the light and escaping your legal training to do something useful, but you still have blinders on about the legal profession.

BTW, some of us PhD candidates from the 60's did wind up getting drafted anyway. The classes of 1967 and 1968 were especially hard hit. Berkeley mailed me my consolation prize MSEE while I was in basic training. That's why my diploma says March 22, 1969 while I was inducted into the Army on January 15, 1969.

JLW III P 67, UCB *69  

By Anonymous Eric the Red, at Sun Jan 11, 01:53:00 PM:

@ QuakerCat: Some professors do complain, and some of them do something about it, by writing free texbooks, for example. If you think that type of thing doesn't matter, some math: 40 kids in intro stats not buying a $75 book every semester is $3K, times 50 institutions is $300K in savings each year. Not hearing about it != doesn't exist.

As for the value question, universities have other outputs not related to your child's degree: research, publications, and upkeep of the grounds get expensive. I will concede it as true that there exist institutions which provide little added value, ex Joe's College Under the Bridge, and that there are also students that shouldn't be in college in the first place. Both of these things waste parents' money, but 1) these phenomena are not typical of "actual" academia, and 2) if those parents wish to waste money, let 'em. After all, it is a free market. Additionally, I think your "in class time" metric is flawed: institutions that are not under bridges usually let their students work when it is convenient and visit profs during office hours, leading to a large amount of work your metric would not capture without mandatory, continuous homeroom. I know that during my undergrad career it was not uncommon for students to work from dinner through midnight, perhaps into early morning, in addition to whatever they did between meals. You don't have to be in lecture or under a professor's watchful eye to wrestle with the material in a useful fashion.

Finally, science based? please.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jan 11, 06:48:00 PM:

Speaking of Ayn Rand, here is a piece from Atlas Shrugged, James Taggart speaking to Francisco D'anconia:

Jim was approaching his senior year in a college in New York. His studies had given him a manner of odd, quavering belligerence, as if he has found a new weapon. He addressed Francisco once, without provocation, stopping him in the middle of the lawn to say in a tone of aggressive self-righteousness:

"I think that now that you've reached college age, you ought to learn something about ideals. It's time to forget your selfish greed and give some thought to your social responsibilities, because I think that all those millions you're going to inherit are not for your personal pleasure, they are a trust for the benefit of the underprivileged and the poor, because I think that the person who doesn't realize this is the most depraved type of human being."  

By Anonymous QuakerCat, at Sun Jan 11, 09:24:00 PM:

Eric the Red you are kidding yourself about the overall societal value of most of that research and grounds up-keep. Our society desperately needs students who are prepared to step into the real world when they leave college. Over the last twenty years, Colleges have been giving every kid at least a B and usually an A, hardly ever are the C's handed out and never an F. College's failure to insert reality into the education of these young people leaves future employers with clueless employees who have never been told they suck when they do. At the end of the day, if the out-puts college's keep churning out are not making the grade than the college experience has failed job one.

Also, I think TH's assessment is dead-on. I also think that his thoughts come from many years of being connected more deeply than most.

Lastly, I cannot believe you are questioning the academic rigor of an average Pre-Med Student? YOu have got to be kidding me? Those are the kids who actually have to work hard the four years they are in school.  

By Anonymous Eric the Red, at Sun Jan 11, 11:15:00 PM:

QC: I never mentioned med school, you just did. Control-f the page if you disbelieve. My general point is that (naively) there are two types of college: the diploma mills that advertise on billboards and banner ads (which have the flaws you describe) and the rest, which have their own hodgepodge of flaws. As to the underlying value of the good, was oil worth $140 per barrel a few months ago? The market said it was, which is the best we have to go off of most of the time; the same principle applies here, I suppose. A different version of a similar argument might be "running a school is expensive," which is true regardless of how you feel about the underlying values.

Finally, where are these much-vaunted schools where criticism is outlawed and good grades are given freely? I left school only a short while ago, and I have never encountered such a fairyland. Soundsbytes and memes concerning outrageous outliers only qualify if I can use this guy to typify Christians.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Jan 12, 02:40:00 AM:

Please! Use the word "democrat" -- not "democratic" when describing the people/policies/etc. of the Democrat Party.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Mon Jan 12, 07:44:00 AM:

"Finally, where are these much-vaunted schools where criticism is outlawed and good grades are given freely?"

Yale Law. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yale_Law

Also, Harvard. http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=214681

Just because you didn't encounter it doesn't meant that it doesn't exist. I myself have had teachers who both did not accept criticism and who inflated grades for favored students.

The cheapening value of college degrees reflects the proliferation of higher education in our country. Normal market economics, right? However, not all educations are equal. And Eric is right in that some people shouldn't possess the degrees that they have, but the issue is more complicated than either 'degree mills' or places like Harvard admitting sub-par candidates and graduating them with honors because of their family name (*cough*Kennedy*cough*). Both are contributing factors.

Unfortunately, because of the proliferation of degrees many (many) careers or positions require their hires to have one, as a sort of quality control mechanism. They don't even necessarily care from where. So if you ever want to move up beyond this particular glass ceiling, you have to have a degree whether you think it's a worthwhile endeavor or not. So people continue to push their kids into schools of dubious value.  

By Anonymous recovering academic, at Mon Jan 12, 10:29:00 AM:

A few points:
a) it is not clear to me what proportion of professors--of what--are anti business. We may be working on a non-problem here.
b) Professors make less because the market is overcrowded, typically, and they produce less economic value than others. This is partly because universities, until recently, have been technologically backward and professors are notoriously resistant to new things.
c) The notion of tenure as permanent employment is eroding. Most good schools now conduct post-tenure reviews, and if you've gone to sleep you will be marginalized. Many of those '60's Ph.D's are targets of this.
d) Not to worry--the institutional structure of current higher education is under attack by the online universities, which are much more efficient --and cheaper--than traditional ones. The problem: who will generate new knowledge, when students stop paying tuition to the research univerities in favor of standardized, pre-packaged course material?  

By Blogger Francis W. Porretto, at Fri Jan 16, 05:36:00 AM:

The professoriate imposes a motivational filter upon those who enter its ranks. That filter selects for persons who seek a guarantee of absolute security and are willing to conform to any imaginable norm to get it. It selects against persons more interested in opportunity and willing to take risks -- including, of course, the risk of offending against "the consensus."

Filters work over time. Their results are seldom obvious over the short term. But this filter has been at work on academe in America since before I was born -- and at this point, few persons remain in the professoriate who have not been seined for conformance to its requirements. Most of those are in hard science and engineering: fields where the questions have objectively verifiable answers, and whose graduates will be tested by the real world.  

By Blogger ruddyturnstone, at Fri Jan 16, 09:16:00 AM:


". . . you will never once hear one of these professors complaining about the ridiculously high cost of colleges these days. The fact that college costs have grown over 7% per annum for the past 20 years does not seem to factor into any high-minded moral outrage that is directed at big business. I think these twits really believe they are putting out a product (degrees) that are worthy of such eggregious costs?"

As the author said:

". . .there are now wide disparities in compensation between professors and similarly trained and qualified people who went into business or an allied profession (such as law). This is a relatively new development. Forty years ago, the starting salaries for newly minted assistant professors and junior associates in New York law firms were almost identical. Now the new lawyers start with 2-3 times the salary of the professors and the disparity can quickly widen to 10-20 times. Obviously, the pay gap between top academics and top corporate executives is even wider. All of this means that any professor younger than about 45 today made a conscious decision to give up a massive amount of money."

So, the reason why the cost of higher education keeps going up is hardly that professors are reaping some bonanza. What is the reason? There are several.

First, colleges have become much like luxory hotels. Living in a college dorm, once upon a time, was actually a relative spartan existence. The rooms were small, yet housed two or three students. The furniture was rudimentary, with bedding of military style, big, blocky crude desks and chairs, cold, institutional flooring, nothing but primitive blinds in the windows and so on. No TV except a "rabbit ears" model that the student himself bought. No refrigerator in the dorm room, unless, a very small one, again, bought by the student as an "extra." Bathrooms were communal, and hot water was limited. The food was cafeteria style, and was long on cheap starches and short on expensive fresh fruits, vegetables and meats. Other amenities, such as gyms, were similarly devoid of luxories and extras, and were in high demand and heavily utilized. No buildings had AC, and the even the heating was often minimal. There were some "free" cultural amenities, but these were along the lines of student-produced plays and concerts and such.

Now, all that is changed. Students want, and their parents are ready to pay, for what amounts to a stay in a luxory hotel. Fancy private rooms and baths, well appointed and furnished. Cable TV. High speed internet in dorm. Big refrigerator, plus microwave, coffee maker, etc., etc. Expensive, fancy restaurants serving as "cafeteria." Multiple gyms on campus, complete with saunas, swimming pools, jacuzzis, and so on. Air conditioning everywhere. Plentiful heating. "Free" concerts and other entertainments provided by the university.

All of the above has driven up the cost of college. But, it's not the real story. The real reason why college is so much more expensive is administrative overkill.

Once upon a time, administration was a small part of the total cost. It could be lumped into a "miscellaneous" category and not be noticed. But now, the craze for ever more elaborate administrative and bureacratic structures has led to incrediby high costs. Every "Dean" must now have an "assistant." And there are more "Deans" than ever. The assistants have assistants. And deputy assistants.

And, whole new "programs" and other regimes now exist that didn't before. All of them require executive level administrators. And assistant administrators. And deputy assistant administrators.
No more is is just university-college-department. Oh no. There is all that, plus a "Diversity" regime.

And an enormous "Assessment" regime. The latter does such essential work as making sure that courses on the History of Western Philosophy "really" fit in the humanites area, and that courses in Chemistry "really" fit in the hard sciences. And they also make the professor waste time describing how the above courses fit those labels. And then they make sure that the students' knowlege of how they fit is "assessed." "Assessment," of both faculty and students, is an enormous waste of time and money and does nothing but duplicate such already existing practices as peer review and, you know, um. . .grades. All of this is done supposedly in fear that one of the accreditation agencies will pull the university's accreditation, something that has not happened to a major college, let alone a university, for decades. It's all make work, and high priced make work at that.

And, in addition to "diversity" and "accreditation" bureacracies, we now have "mentoring" bureacracies as well. Students are no longer expected to figure anything out for themselves. Or ask their peers. Or their professors or TA's (who are still required to have office hours). Or the faculty counselor that each one is assigned upon enrollment. Oh no, all of that is not nearly good enough. Whole battalions of "mentors" must be hired, to make sure little Justin or Kaitlin understand what the materials describing the offered courses, the syllabi, and the university, college, and major requirements "really" mean. And to explain how to do their homework. And so on. And, of course, just having "mentors" isn't enough. Someone (another "Dean") must be in charge of the mentors. And he must have an assistant, and an assistant assistant, and a deputy assistant, and so on.

And there are new programs and "offices" as well. And, even things that save the university money, like on-line teaching, are charged to the students as extras.

And all of these deparments, and "programs" and "special offices" and so forth must have support staff. And computers. And phone lines. And physical plant for their office space. And parking spaces.

And, contrary to what QuakerCat says, I hear professors talking about all of the above quite a bit. In fact, every time I meet a professor, he or she usually has a rant along these lines to tell. College costs so much because it is no longer about an education, but a 4 year, or more, vacation (at least at the elite and semi elite school). And because the colleges have become the scenes of "Administrators Gone Wild."  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Jan 17, 10:22:00 AM:

"The question is, why are so many academics, who are ideologically unwilling to pass judgment on just about any value or culture no matter how depraved or defective, so reflexive in their condemnation of the business life?"

Easy. The business school is better funded their their own departments. Simple jealousy.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Jan 17, 10:22:00 AM:

The late Robert Nozick addressed exactly this question in 1998. See http://www.cato.org/pubs/policy_report/cpr-20n1-1.html  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Jan 17, 10:23:00 AM:

Good piece. A nit-pick: It's "stock-IN-trade", as in the inventory and assets used to conduct a business.  

By Blogger shooter242, at Sat Jan 17, 10:48:00 AM:

In my travels in comment sections I've found the following to be mostly true......

1. Liberals are never wrong.
2. Liberals never apologize for making a mistake. (See #1.)
3. Liberals have the absolute answer for any and all situations, and if only allowed total domination we would have a perfect world. (See #1.)
4. Liberals cannot discuss anything without incorporating hate speech toward the person they are in discussion with, or the subject. ( I thought there was one exception, but she succumbed.)
5. Liberals, while being nearly omniscient, seem unable to grasp the fundamentals of making things that are useful.
6. Liberals, while unable to grasp the fundamentals making things that are useful, hate those that do.
7. Liberals, while hating those people that know how to make things, think they are entitled to everything made, by virtue of being perfect. (See #1.)
8. Liberals and extreme left wing liberals are by definition moderate.  

By Blogger Michael, at Sat Jan 17, 10:58:00 AM:

One of the things that's doomed a number of societies or at least set them back is when you have an upper class that disdains business (or trade) and prizes rich idleness over enterprise. America has always been free of that, but in a weird way, the anti-capitalist sentiment in college seems to be trying to replicate the mentality of the Cliveden set or the less entrepreneurial Saudi princes.

But then, nothing has ever made less sense than that people suffering lives as insecure adjuncts in state school systems should favor a socialist economy over a meritocratic capitalist one. Some day, everyone can live hand to mouth praying that enough people enroll in their third class so they'll make the full 18 grand this year!  

By Blogger SGT Ted, at Sat Jan 17, 11:21:00 AM:

Odd the deliberate Marxist take over of our schools in the 60-70s is not even discussed as a reason for the open hostility towards private enterprise. They are elitists who think they can successfully implement Utopia on earth, if only their murderously failed socialist totalitarian creeds are implemented. It is in their political philosophy to hate business, because to them, it means oppressed workers. They beleive in societal classes because thats what their guiding philosophy of Marxoid BS calls for, with the "workers" being pure and the business owners being evil incarnate.

The other side of this coin is that those very same businesses use the "credentialing" of college diplomas to screen out a vast portion of their new entry hires, regardless of the degrees worth. So, if there wasn't the demand from business for Colleges to do their screening via 4 + years worth of extra schooling, the demand would be lower, fewer people would attend knowing they could get a good job without it and costs would decrease. Also, the High School diploma would have to be made relevent today as it was prior to the Marxists taking over the schools, which would require busting up the teachers unions and either implementing school choice or abolishing Government run primary schools.  

By Anonymous SB, at Sat Jan 17, 11:30:00 AM:

Let's see, why do so many in academe--mainly in the humanities & the "social" sciences--hate business? Mmmm. Let me count the reasons:

1) Plato's _Republic_
2) Palto's mind-body dichotomy
3) Augustine's _City of God_
4) Augustine's soul-body dichotomy
5) Augustine's Christian ethics of self-immolation

All of which (& more) begat:

6) Descartes' primacy of consciousness
7) Descartes' Dualism

Which segued nicely into:

8) Hume's scepticism

Which paved the road for:

9) Kant's _Critique of Pure Reason_
10) Kant's categorical imperative
11) Kant's supernatural noumenal dimension
12) Kant's morality of *pure* self-immolation

All of which made what followed possible:

13) Malthus' blatterings
14) Hegel's World Spirit
15) Marx's blatherings
16) Nietzsche's blatterings
17) James' pragmatism & Dewey's progressive ed theories
18) Dreiser, Fitzgerald, Sartre, Joyce, Steinbeck, Hemingway, Derrida, Foucault, Skinner, Chomsky...

Etc., etc., etc.

The academics in question don't hate businessmen. They hate having been born. The rest is vengeful spite for that having happened.

All of this has produced a morality that holds self-destruction as virtuous; an epistemology of emotionalism; and a metaphysics that asserts reality is a product of consciousness--society's, a deity's or an indiviodual's.

The result, socially, is a collectivist politico-economics. (fascism, socialism, communism AND anarchy (my gang against yours)).

In academe, Capitalism--built on a metaphysics of realism, an epistemology of reason, an ethics of rational egoism & and a politics of individualism--never had a snowball's chance in hell.

And it never will until the refutation of the "ideas" of the above mentioned intellectuals goes mainstream (see Ayn Rand).

I give it about 500-years before that happens.

Signed: A former member of the professoriate.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Jan 17, 11:39:00 AM:

I plead guilty to having been part of this group. I plead guilty to having been anti-business. It wasn't until I realized that the intellectual world is a caste system and that my degree from a mediocre grad school didn't impress anyone, despite the brilliance of my ideas, that I came to appreciate the meritocracy of the business world and became pro-business.

And let me point out that these same people also sneer a great deal at the idea of marketing. And the reason for that is simple: that idea emanates from those who went to Harvard and Yale, which have such illustrious names that their graduates don't need to market themselves like the rest of us do. Early on, I adopted the anti-marketing attitude and clung to it, until I realized how damaging it had been to my career.

Boy, if I could just start all over again.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Jan 17, 12:13:00 PM:

The people in Academia deal with theories and models which may or may not have some connection to reality. People in the business world deal with reality and aren't really impressed with theories or models that have no practical relevance to what they do.

In essence, in an environment dominated by people who are "doing their own thing" there is less demand for the "product" of the academic world unless it has some validity that produces tangible and practical results.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Jan 17, 12:38:00 PM:

I'm sure someone could do an interesting psychological study on the full spectrum of immature self-justification (subconscious or otherwise). The anti-business attitude of liberal intellectuals is really not all that different from the anti-intellectual bias of your ordinary slacker in grade school, or the anti-jock bias of nerds: "My friends and I highly value me, I'm not good at X, therefore X must be of low value". The anti-business attitude just has the extra twist that those who practice it consider themselves good at intellectual pursuits, therefore business must not require intellectual ability.

Most people grow up when they enter the real world.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Jan 17, 12:52:00 PM:

Here are some easy ways to judge anti-business bias by academic department:
1. Undergraduate job placement rates and starting salaries.
2. Placement into the private sector vs. academia and public-sector jobs (government + private-sector jobs requiring government funding).
3. Research funding sources: private sector vs. government + foundations.
4. Perceived difficulty of each major.
5. Whether or not Economics is an undergraduate degree requirement.

Business, Engineering, Science, and Agriculture are generally pro-business or willing to demur. Art, Education, Ethnic Studies, Social Sciences, and Liberal Arts are the most overtly anti-business.

Ethics may be the granddaddy of them all. Their faculty are all-knowing, face no difficult decisions, and suffer no consequences. Therefore, thou shalt not make a profit.  

By Blogger Dave, at Sat Jan 17, 01:28:00 PM:

Eric the Red should hang out in the (Liberal Arts) lounge. I am widely avoided by some (possibly many) students because I have standards, and students get what they earn for a grade -- A or F.

Too many of my colleagues (for reasons touched on by others) give no grade lower than C, unless the student has quit showing up entirely, in which case an Inc is probably.

Fortunately, I also graduates students in a practical program, and my classes there tend to oversubscribe, since I teach the hard-core stuff that gets one a job.

As for college cost. You've hit it. Professorial salaries have expanded quite a lot, but overall costs are driven by *much* larger administration positions, 'area studies' that don't come close to paying their own costs, expansive dorms and gyms and student centers and all the other bells and whistles designed to convince many that college is really about fun and comfort and not so much about study, work, and learning.

This is true even at my semi-commuter school.

I cherish my non-traditional, commuting students. They're here to learn.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Jan 17, 03:50:00 PM:

At one point I was getting a Ph.D. in one of the humanities and I ended up leaving the program to go to work because I was sick of the low pay and long hours, echoing one of the reasons pertaining to seeing similarly trained individuals getting compensated much more than professors.

On the plus side (if you're like me and don't have a problem with business), almost all of the professors I met were unsatisfied with their career choice, which was undoubtedly another factor in my decision). If you take the sensible position and don't take advice from unhappy people, professors' statements are things you can safely ignore, no matter what the topic.  

By Blogger Simone, at Sat Jan 17, 04:47:00 PM:

Perhaps it's also because the sciences, engineering, entrepreneurship as well as innovative businesses are challenging and meaningful, hence fun.

The humanities and social sciences can also be that way and were, but post-modernist conceptual framework, shallow to begin with, has no more insights to offer. No fun, just backbiting. Perhaps some of the anti-business bias (not to mention snobbery and disdain) is due to resentment.

I hope that academics in the humanities and social sciences throw out their frameworks and rediscover the joys of poring over and puzzling out the data in their fields.  

By Anonymous agnana, at Sat Jan 17, 04:54:00 PM:

Tigerhawk, your basic analysis of the situation is quite insightful. One other part of the dynamic below.

We tend to value and appreciate what we do while devaluing and depreciating what others do. So as professors, we are thrilled when out best students want to follow in our footsteps, and somewhat puzzled when people who are often not our best students get paid far more than we do to discuss whether a cookie is "bold or sensitive?" (real example!). Never mind that our own academic pursuits can often be similarly trivial but without the real-life consequences for employees!

On the flip side, look at how many businesses built on technology reward the managerial class well, but the scientific/engineering class poorly. My favorite example is a relative of mine who came up with a medical product that made his company well over a billion dollars. If I told you what it was, there's a fair chance you would have heard of it. When he retired, he got a nice watch. So the devaluation goes both ways.  

By Anonymous Michael Lonie, at Sat Jan 17, 08:54:00 PM:

Louis Ruykeiser, in his book "How to Make Money on Wall Street", recounted an anecdote about Pat Moynihan. Senator Pat was giving a talk at Yale. He asked the students in the audience to raise their hands if they intended to go into business after graduating. Very few, only a scattering among the large audience in the hall, did so. Evidently a career in business attracted only a few among the best and brightest at Yale.

Pat smiled at the students. "Oh," he said, "the rest of just intend to be leeches?"  

By Blogger Ken, at Sat Jan 17, 10:51:00 PM:

The academic left, which is the vast majority of academia, worship failure. They refuse to criticize failed societies because their very failure is a sign of moral superiority in the eyes of the left. And because business punishes failure they look on it as immoral. Academics tend to be good at only one thing, writing. They tend to be pretty bad at everything else. They envy the successful and do everything possible to devalue any skill not dependent on writing good grant proposals.

It is a sense of kindred with third world dictatorships, which are run pretty much like academic departments, and a complete failure to comprehend the business world that allows academics to detest the economic engine that pays their salaries while protecting those who would surely have them shot if they ever obtained power here.  

By Blogger Fat Man, at Sat Jan 17, 11:15:00 PM:

ruddyturnstone: They bill you separately for the dorm and the tuition. At a lot of schools kids can move out of the dorms after a year or two. I know that the dorm cost does not make much difference in the cost of the whole thing.  

By Blogger William, at Sun Jan 18, 12:54:00 AM:

Life is a finite sequence of generally pointless events terminated by death. A businessman tries to make sense of these events by subordinating them to a money making function: I have made money; therefore my life was not a waste of time. An academic tries to make sense of his life by accumulating degrees and titles instead of money. If you wish periodic reinforcement of your growing importance on earth, there is nothing like an academic career. You are periodically dressed in pomp and awarded a degree in a fine ceremony. Upon publication of books unread save by the purest souls, you are rewarded with less work and a more ponderous title.

The fact that an academic makes less than a businessman only serves to enhance his self image as a lofty idealist. The fact that the businessman makes more money than the academic only serves to enhance his self image as a sagacious bargainer...Am I the only one here that feels that this is an argument between two self important factions jockeying for post position in a race where there are no winners.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jan 18, 03:47:00 AM:

Professors in Engineering and MBA programs actually take on lucrative consulting projects (which sometimes pay as much as $30,000 a day).

Many Silicon Valley companies were started by tenured Stanford professors (Cisco being one example).

This is highly capitalistic. So I don't think a hatred of entrepreneurship is present among MBA and Engineering professors.  

By Blogger ruddyturnstone, at Sun Jan 18, 08:38:00 AM:


Yeah, they bill you separately for dorm and board. But,in many cases, they also make one or two years of dorm and board mandatory, unless the student has a close relative living in the area. In addition, the fancy gyms, and student centers and entertainers and so forth are billed (at least in part) as "student activity fees," which all students have to pay for every semester in which they take classes, whether they live in the dorms or not and whether they utilize any of those facilities or amenities or not.

Moreover, and this is the main point, it is the cost of the ever expanding, mushrooming administrative bureacracy that accounts for most of the increase in the costs of college. And every student must pay for that every semester, whether they live on campus or not.  

By Anonymous agnana, at Sun Jan 18, 10:21:00 AM:

Fatman- you have a point. But would you really want to live in a society that hadn't experienced the mixed benefits of academia and business like pennicilin?

But I think there's an interesting point here

Every day, these professors use and benefit from the products and services of business: Google, bookstores, clothing, transportation, and the local coffee shop.

..and many of those businesses would run perfectly well for a while with no MBAs involved and would collapse with no technical support. On the longer term of course what one needs is someone who understands both.  

By Anonymous agnana, at Sun Jan 18, 11:16:00 AM:

An additional point. There's a difference between an entrepreneur and someone who's just in it for the money. There's a difference between the academic who's trying to learn and teach something about the way the world works and the intellectual poseur who fundamentally feels entitled to get paid for being smart.

The entrepreneurial spirit, whether in business or in academia is fundamentally about creating something new that's of value to others. It also involves taking real risks and giving things up.  

By Blogger chrism, at Sun Jan 18, 05:24:00 PM:

Linked through HN, I almost never comment linked content, but felt a strong urge to point out that one of the most infuriating aspects of my top tier education is the horribly corrupt legitimized monopolies of the college textbook industry.

Putting out new editions at alarming rates demanding latest editions, or requiring all students to purchase 'packages' from companies with additional (and usually useless) online resrouces, study guides, etc. - all of which pay the professor a tidy penny.

Dismantle this arrangement whichs adds an additional $500 to student costs per semester, and I'll start to sympathize with 'underpaid' professors. And don't even get me started with classes being held up by TA work...  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jan 18, 06:16:00 PM:

I work in academia, and see this sort of thing every day. Tenure is the root cause of this, I'm convinced.

I can only add that these academics are in extreme denial when it comes to what their place is in the world. I've never seen a worse case of projection in my life.

These same people who ridicule others for being selfish and self-serving are a terror to those around them, and think nothing of furthering their own careers at the expense of others. Since tenure offers them complete freedom to do this sort of thing without any retribution, there is nothing to stop them.

Academia has become an echo chamber of liberals talking to liberals, close-minded to any ideas that conflicts with their world view.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Jan 19, 02:48:00 PM:

One reason many academics are, and can be, anti-business is simple ignorance of the unknown.

Many academics have never worked in the private sectory they decry. Instead, they work in something very similar to the government, where there is no profit motive and where productivity is difficult or impossible to measure.

Whether academics or government employees, people who have never worked for a real business have no idea how businesses work, and are prone to believe in crude stereotypes of the business world.

It's no accident that the loudest critics of the business world come from the academic departments that have the least to do with it.  

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