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Slightly Skeptical View on Neoliberal Transformation of University Education

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Introduction

Previously education was mostly about "finding yourself" -- developing understanding of the world and yourself, as well as developing those set of abilities that you was gifted most. Andinding what you what to do in the future, Neoliberalism has changed that dramatically. Education now is just in "investment" into your "entrepreneurial self" to increase your value as "human capital" holder and this your value in the "labout market." (Symptomatic Redness -Philip Mirowski - YouTube).  That's bullsh*t, but people already brainwashed by neoliberals from the middle school buy it uncritically.

In the current circumstances education is no longer the answer to rising inequality. Instead of serving as a social lift it, at least in some cases, became more of a social trap. This is connected with neoliberal transformation of education. With the collapse of post-war public funded educational model and privatization of the University education students face a pretty cruel world. World in which they are cows to milk. Now universities became institutions very similar to McDonalds ( or, in less politically correct terms, Bordellos of Higher Learning). Like McDonalds they need to price their services so that to receive nice profit and they to make themselves more attractive to industry they intentionally feed students with overspecialized curriculum instead of concentrating on fundamentals and the developing the ability to understand the world. Which was a hallmark of university education of the past.

Since 1970th Neo-Liberal University model replaced public funded university model (Dewey model). It is now collapsing as there are not that many students, who are able (and now with lower job prospects and persistent tales of graduates working as bartenders) to pay inflated tuition fees. That means that higher education again by-and-large became privilege of the rich and upper middle class.

Lower student enrollment first hit minted during dot-com boom expensive private colleges, who hunt for people with government support (such a former members of Arm forces). It remains viable only in elite universities, which traditionally serve the top 1% and rich foreigners. As David Schultz wrote in his article (Logos, 2012):

Yet the Dewey model began to collapse in middle of the 1970s. Perhaps it was the retrenchment of the SUNY and CUNY systems in New York under Governor Hugh Carey in 1976 that began the end of the democratic university. What caused its retrenchment was the fiscal crisis of the 1970s.

The fiscal crisis of the 1970s was born of numerous problems. Inflationary pressures caused by Vietnam and the energy embargoes of the 1970s, and recessionary forces from relative declines in American economic productivity produced significant economic shocks, including to the public sector where many state and local governments edged toward bankruptcy.

Efforts to relieve declining corporate profits and productivity initiated efforts to restructure the economy, including cutting back on government services. The response, first in England under Margaret Thatcher and then in the United States under Ronald Reagan, was an effort to retrench the state by a package that included decreases in government expenditures for social welfare programs, cutbacks on business regulations, resistance to labor rights, and tax cuts. Collectively these proposals are referred to as Neo-liberalism and their aim was to restore profitability and autonomy to free markets with the belief that unfettered by the government that would restore productivity.

Neo-liberalism had a major impact on higher education. First beginning under President Carter and then more so under Ronald Reagan, the federal and state governments cut taxes and public expenditures. The combination of the two meant a halt to the Dewey business model as support for public institutions decreased and federal money dried up.

From a high in the 1960s and early 70s when states and the federal government provided generous funding to expand their public systems to educate the Baby Boomers, state universities now receive only a small percentage of their money from the government. As I pointed out in my 2005 Logos “The Corporate University in American Society” article in 1991, 74% of the funding for public universities came from states, in 2004; it was down to 64%, with state systems in Illinois, Michigan and Virginia down to 25%, 18%, and 8% respectively. Since then, the percentages have shrunk even more, rendering state universities public institutions more in name than in funding.

Higher education under Neo-liberalism needed a new business model and it found it in the corporate university. The corporate university is one where colleges increasingly use corporate structures and management styles to run the university. This includes abandoning the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) shared governance model where faculty had an equal voice in the running of the school, including over curriculum, selection of department chairs, deans, and presidents, and determination of many of the other policies affecting the academy. The corporate university replaced the shared governance model with one more typical of a business corporation.

For the corporate university, many decisions, including increasingly those affecting curriculum, are determined by a top-down pyramid style of authority. University administration often composed not of typical academics but those with business or corporate backgrounds had pre-empted many of the decisions faculty used to make. Under a corporate model, the trustees, increasingly composed of more business leaders than before, select, often with minimal input from the faculty, the president who, in turn, again with minimal or no faculty voice, select the deans, department heads, and other administrative personnel.

In some disciplines such as economics University presidents became way too greedy

Neoliberalism professes the idea the personal greed can serve positive society goals, which is reflected in famous neoliberal slogan "greed is good". And university presidents listen. Now presidents of neoliberal universities do not want to get $100K per year salary, they want one, or better several, million dollar salary of the CEO of major corporation (Student Debt Grows Faster at Universities With Highest-Paid Leaders, Study Finds - NYTimes.com)

At the 25 public universities with the highest-paid presidents, both student debt and the use of part-time adjunct faculty grew far faster than at the average state university from 2005 to 2012, according to a new study by the Institute for Policy Studies, a left-leaning Washington research group.

The study, “The One Percent at State U: How University Presidents Profit from Rising Student Debt and Low-Wage Faculty Labor,” examined the relationship between executive pay, student debt and low-wage faculty labor at the 25 top-paying public universities.

The co-authors, Andrew Erwin and Marjorie Wood, found that administrative expenditures at the highest-paying universities outpaced spending on scholarships by more than two to one. And while adjunct faculty members became more numerous at the 25 universities, the share of permanent faculty declined drastically.

“The high executive pay obviously isn’t the direct cause of higher student debt, or cuts in labor spending,” Ms. Wood said. “But if you think about it in terms of the allocation of resources, it does seem to be the tip of a very large iceberg, with universities that have top-heavy executive spending also having more adjuncts, more tuition increases and more administrative spending.”

... ... ...

The Chronicle of Higher Education’s annual survey of public university presidents’ compensation, also released Sunday, found that nine chief executives earned more than $1 million in total compensation in 2012-13, up from four the previous year, and three in 2010-11. The median total compensation of the 256 presidents in the survey was $478,896, a 5 percent increase over the previous year.

... ... ...

As in several past years, the highest-compensated president, at $6,057,615 in this period, was E. Gordon Gee, who resigned from Ohio State last summer amid trustee complaints about frequent gaffes. He has since become the president of West Virginia University.

This trick requires dramatic raising of tuition costs. University bureaucracy also got taste for better salaries and all those deans, etc want to be remunerated like vice presidents. So raising the tuition costs became the key existential idea of neoliberal university. Not quality of education, but tuition costs now are the key criteria of success. And if you can charge students $40K per semester it is very, very good. If does not matter that most population get less then $20 an hour.

The same is true for professors, who proved to be no less corruptible. And some of them, such as economic departments, simply serve as prostitutes for financial oligarchy. So they were corrupted even before that rat race for profit. Of course there are exceptions. But they only prove the rule.

As the result university tuition inflation outpaced inflation by leaps and bounds. At some point amount that you pay (and the level of debt after graduation) becomes an important factor in choosing the university. So children of "have" and "have nots" get into different educational institutions and do not meet each other. In a way aristocracy returned via back door.

Job market situation and hidden financial rip offs

Neoliberal university professes "deep specialization" to create "ready for the market" graduates. And that creates another problem: education became more like stock market game and that makes more difficult for you to change you specialization late in the education cycle. But early choice entail typical stock market problem: you might miss the peak of the market or worse get into prolonged slump as graduates in finance learned all too well in 2008. That's why it is important not to accumulate too much debt: this is a kind of "all in" play in poker. You essentially bet that in a particular specialty there will be open positions with high salary, when you graduate. If you lose this bet you are done.

As a result of this "reaction to the market trends" by neoliberal universities, when universities bacem appendixes of HR of large corporations students need to be more aware of real university machinery then students in 50th or 60th of the last century. And first of all assume that it is functioning not to their benefits.

One problem for a student is that there are now way too many variables that you do not control. Among them:

On the deep level neoliberal university is not interested to help you to find specialization and place in life where can unleash your talents. You are just a paying customers much like in McDonalds, and university interests are such they might try to push you in wrong direction or load you with too much debt.

If there is deep mismatch as was with computer science graduates after crash of dot-com boom, or simply bad job market due to economy stagnation and you can't find the job for your new specialty (or if you got "junk" specialty with inherent high level of unemployment among professionals) and you have substantial education debt, then waiting tables or having some other MacJob is a real disaster for you. As with such salaries you simply can't pay it back. So controlling the level of debt is very important and in this sense parents financial help is now necessary. In other words education became more and more "rich kids game".

That does not mean that university education should be avoided for those from families with modest means. On the contrary it provides unique experience and help a person to mature in multiple ways difficult to achieve without it. It is still one of the best ways to get vertical mobility. But unless parents can support you need to try to find the most economical way to obtain it without acquiring too much debt. This is you first university exam. And if you fail it you are in trouble.

For example, computer science education is a great way to learn quite a few things necessary for a modern life. But the price does matter and prestige of the university institution that you attend is just one of the factors you should consider in your evaluation. It should not be the major factor ("vanity fair") unless your parents are rich and can support you. If you are good you can get later a master degree in a prestigious university after graduation from a regular college. Or even Ph.D.

County colleges are greatly underappreciated and generally provide pretty high standard of education, giving ability to students to save money for the first two years before transferring to a four year college. They also smooth the transition as finding yourself among people who are only equal or superior then you (and have access to financial resource that you don't have) is a huge stress. The proverb say that it is better to be first in the village then last in the town has some truth in it. Prestigious universities might provide a career boost (high fly companies usually accept resumes only from Ivy League members), but they cost so much that you need to be a son or daughter of well-to-do parents to feel comfortably in them. Or extremely talented. Also amount of career boost that elite universities provide depends on whom your parents are and what connections they have. It does not depend solely on you and the university. Again, I would like to stress that you should resist "vanity fair" approach to your education: a much better way is to try to obtain BS in a regular university and them try to obtain MS and then, if you are good, PHD, in a prestigious university. Here is a fragment of an interesting discussion that covers this topic (Low Mobility Is Not a Social Tragedy?, Feb 13, 2013 ; I recommend you to read the whole discussion ):

kievite:

I would like to defend Greg Clack.

I think that Greg Clack point is that the number of gifted children is limited and that exceptionally gifted children have some chance for upper move in almost all, even the most hierarchical societies (story of Alexander Hamilton was really fascinating for me, the story of Mikhail Lomonosov http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikhail_Lomonosov was another one -- he went from the very bottom to the top of Russian aristocracy just on the strength of his abilities as a scientist). In no way the ability to "hold its own" (typical for rich families kids) against which many here expressed some resentment represents social mobility. But the number of kids who went down is low -- that's actually proves Greg Clack point:

(1) Studies of social mobility using surnames suggest two things. Social mobility rates are much lower than conventionally estimated. And social mobility rates estimated in this way vary little across societies and time periods. Sweden is no more mobile than contemporary England and the USA, or even than medieval England. Social mobility rates seem to be independent of social institutions (see the other studies on China, India, Japan and the USA now linked here).

Francisco Ferreira rejects this interpretation, and restates the idea that there is a strong link between social mobility rates and inequality in his interesting post.

What is wrong with the data Ferreira cites? Conventional estimates of social mobility, which look at just single aspects of social status such as income, are contaminated by noise. If we measure mobility on one aspect of status such as income, it will seem rapid.

But this is because income is a very noisy measure of the underlying status of families. The status of families is a combination of their education, occupation, income, wealth, health, and residence. They will often trade off income for some other aspect of status such as occupation. A child can be as socially successful as a low paid philosophy professor as a high paid car salesman. Thus if we measure just one aspect of status such as income we are going to confuse the random fluctuations of income across generations, influenced by such things as career choices between business and philosophy, with true generalised social mobility.

If these estimates of social mobility were anywhere near correct as indicating true underlying rates of social mobility, then we would not find that the aristocrats of 1700 in Sweden are still overrepresented in all elite occupations of Sweden. Further, the more equal is income in a society, the less signal will income give of the true social status of families. In a society such as Sweden, where the difference in income between bus drivers and philosophy professors is modest, income tells us little about the social status of families. It is contaminated much more by random noise. Thus it will appear if we measure social status just by income that mobility is much greater in Sweden than in the USA, because in the USA income is a much better indicator of the true overall status of families.

The last two paragraphs of Greg Clark article cited by Mark Thoma are badly written and actually are somewhat disconnected with his line of thinking as I understand it as well as with the general line of argumentation of the paper.

Again, I would like to stress that a low intergenerational mobility includes the ability of kids with silver spoon in their mouth to keep a status close to their parent. The fact that they a have different starting point then kids from lower strata of society does not change that.

I think that the key argument that needs testing is that the number of challengers from lower strata of the society is always pretty low and is to a large extent accommodated by the societies we know (of course some societies are better then others).

Actually it would be interesting to look at the social mobility data of the USSR from this point of view.

But in no way, say, Mark Thoma was a regular kid, although circumstances for vertical mobility at this time were definitely better then now. He did possessed some qualities which made possible his upward move although his choice of economics was probably a mistake ;-).

Whether those qualities were enough in more restrictive environments we simply don't know, but circumstances for him were difficult enough as they were.

EC -> kievite...

"the number of gifted children is limited"

I stopped reading after that. I teach at a high school in a town with a real mix of highly elite families, working class families, and poor families, and I can tell you that the children of affluent parents are not obviously more gifted than the children of poor families. They do, however, have a lot more social capital, and they have vastly more success. But the limitations on being "gifted" are irrelevant.

According to an extensive study (Turkheimer et al., 2003) of 50,000 pregnant women and the children they went on to have (including enough sets of twins to be able to study the role of innate genetic differences), variation in IQ among the affluent seems to be largely genetic.

Among the poor, however, IQ has very little to do with genes -- probably because the genetic differences are swamped and suppressed by the environmental differences, as few poor kids are able to develop as fully as they would in less constrained circumstances.

kievite -> EC...

All you said is true. I completely agree that "...few poor kids are able to develop as fully as they would in less constrained circumstances." So there are losses here and we should openly talk about them.

Also it goes without saying that social capital is extremely important for a child. That's why downward mobility of children from upper classes is suppressed, despite the fact that some of them are plain vanilla stupid.

But how this disproves the point made that "exceptionally gifted children have some chance for upper move in almost all, even the most hierarchical societies"? I think you just jumped the gun...

mrrunangun:

The early boomers benefitted from the happy confluence of the postwar boom, LBJ's Great Society efforts toward financial assistance for those seeking to advance their educations, and the 1964 Civil Rights Act which opened opportunities for marginalized social groups in institutions largely closed to them under the prewar social customs in the US.

The US Supreme Court is made up of only Jews and Catholics as of this writing, a circumstance inconceivable in the prewar America. Catholics were largely relegated to separate and unequal institutions. Jews' opportunities were limited by quotas and had a separate set of institutions of their own where their numbers could support such. Where their numbers were not sufficient, they were often relegated to second rate institutions.

Jewish doctors frequently became the leading men in the Catholic hospitals in Midwestern industrial towns where they were unwelcome in the towns' main hospitals. Schools, clubs, hospitals, professional and commercial organizations often had quota or exclusionary policies. Meritocracy has its drawbacks, but we've seen worse in living memory.

The cruel world of neoliberal university

Of course bad things that happened to you during your university years are soon forgotten and nostalgia colors everything in role tones, but the truth is that the modern university is a very cruel world. Now more then ever. Here are some random observations of the subject (See also my Diploma Mills page about high education sharks for which sucking you dry financially is the main goal ):

Lysenkoism and petty, greedy pseudo-scientific scum as professors and teachers

Most teachers and Professors in the university are good, honest people who are trying to make some contribution to science and teach students (difficult things to mix). But not all. One of the most dangerous feature of neoliberal university are influx of people who represent a toxic mix of teacher, snake oil seller, careerist and cult follower. They are not teachers but brainwashers, hired guns -- propagandists masquerading as University professors. That is why we have witnessed such a corruption and politicization of science and rising proportion of research and theories taught at the universities that are fraudulent.

Previously teacher was a person somewhat similar to a monk. A person who consciously traded the ability to work in science to the possibility of acquiring material wealth, at least excessive material wealth. As Ernest Rutherford once reminded Pyotr Kapitsa "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money." (Matthew 6:24)

But in neoliberal university way too many teachers/researchers took Faustian bargain when one trades the academic independence for above average personal wealth, influence, for the power grab. And despite popular image of scientists and university professors they proved to be as corruptible by money as Wall Street traders ;-). This is because the sponsors of their research such as big business, non-governmental organizations (NGO) and government vie to publish reports and results that put the sponsors in the best light. Good example is relations of pharmaceutical industry and academia

“The answer to that question is at once both predictable and shocking: For the past two decades, medical research has been quietly corrupted by cash from private industry. Most doctors and academic researchers aren't corrupt in the sense of intending to defraud the public or harm patients, but rather, more insidiously, guilty of allowing the pharmaceutical and biotech industries to manipulate medical science through financial relationships, in effect tainting the system that is supposed to further the understanding of disease and protect patients from ineffective or dangerous drugs. More than 60 percent of clinical studies--those involving human subjects--are now funded not by the federal government, but by the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. That means that the studies published in scientific journals like Nature and The New England Journal of Medicine--those critical reference points for thousands of clinicians deciding what drugs to prescribe patients, as well as for individuals trying to educate themselves about conditions and science reporters from the popular media who will publicize the findings--are increasingly likely to be designed, controlled, and sometimes even ghost-written by marketing departments, rather than academic scientists. Companies routinely delay or prevent the publication of data that show their drugs are ineffective.

...

“ Novartis, stepped in and provided additional funding for development. In 1984, private companies contributed a mere $26 million to university research budgets. By 2000, they were ponying up $2.3 billion, an increase of 9000 percent that provided much needed funds to universities at a time when the cost of doing medical research was skyrocketing.”

Historically the scientific community is held together through its joint acceptance of the same fundamental principles of conducting research (and teaching those results) and ethics. Scientific research is best practiced in a voluntary, honest and free atmosphere. But this idyllic arrangement as well as scientific ethics now belongs to the past ( The Corruption of Science )

“It’s a long-standing and crucial question that, as yet, remains unanswered: just how common is scientific misconduct? In the online, open-access journal PLoS ONE, Daniele Fanelli of the University of Edinburgh reports the first meta-analysis of surveys questioning scientists about their misbehaviours. The results suggest that altering or making up data is more frequent than previously estimated and might be particularly high in medical research.

...There is immense pressure on scientists to produce results, to publish, to seek glory, or just to get tenure. Scientists are human beings, after all, and sometimes they approach their field with preconceptions or biases. Politics certainly comes into play; consider eugenics in the United States at the beginning of the 20th century, or eugenics in Nazi Germany.

Now we can talk only about the level of political and economical pressure and corresponding level of corruption on professors and scientists, not so much about presence or absence of corruption in science and education. What really matters for students is that when they feel that a professor is a scum, they nevertheless try to imitate. See for example Harvard Mafia, Andrei Shleifer and the economic rape of Russia.

Historically the situation started to change even before neoliberal university became a dominant educational institution. Previously, despite the fact that money for science were in short supply, scientists maintained a self-discipline. That changed after WWII. Prior to World War II there was little government financial support for science. A graduate student working on a Ph.D. degree was expected to make a new discovery to earn that degree. And if somebody else came first he needed to find a new theme and to restart his work.

But with the advent of NSF scientists started to "propose" directions of research to get funding. And be sure this instill atmosphere of sycophantism and political correctness. This process accelerated dramatically since 1980th with the ascendance of neoliberalism as a dominant USA ideology, when greed became playing significant role in US universities. It should be understood that now the university professor is no longer is a teacher and a scientist, but predominantly "grants provider" for the university and that means that he/she is in the first place a political agent, a manipulator on a mission from the external agent (typically the state via NSF or other agency, see The Corruption of Science in America -- Puppet Masters -- Sott.net)

For the unwashed masses University professor career still represents the ultimate carrier of truth for a given discipline, so his opinion have a distinct political weight. And the architects of our neoliberal world fully use this "superstition". Like we can see with neoclassical economics, economists have turned into an instrument of cognitive manipulation, when under the guise of science financial oligarchy promote beneficial to itself but false and simplistic picture of the world, using University professors to brainwash the masses into "correct" thinking.

Professors literally became a religious figures, and cult members or even cult leaders. The first sign of this dangerous disease of the modern university was probably Lysenkoism in the USSR. In this sense one can say that Lysenkoism represented a natural side effect of shrinking of freedom of the scientific community and growing influence of political power on science. As by Frederick Seitz noted in his The Present Danger To Science and Society

Everyone knows that the scientific community faces financial problems at the present time. If that were its only problem, some form of restructuring and allocation of funds, perhaps along lines well tested in Europe and modified in characteristic American ways, might provide solutions that would lead to stability and balance well into the next century. Unfortunately, the situation is more complex, made so by the fact that the scientific establishment has become the object of controversy from both outside and inside its special domain. The most important aspects of the controversy are of a new kind and direct attention away from matters that are sufficiently urgent to be the focus of a great deal of the community's attention.

The assaults on science from the outside arise from such movements as the ugly form of "political correctness" that has taken root in important portions of our academic community. There are to be found, in addition, certain tendencies toward a home-grown variant of the anti-intellectual Lysenkoism that afflicted science in the Stalinist Soviet Union. So-called fraud cases are being dealt with in new, bureaucratic ways that cut across the traditional methods of arriving at truth in science. From inside the scientific community, meanwhile, there are challenges that go far beyond those that arise from the intense competition for the limited funds that are available to nourish the country's scientific endeavor.

The critical issue of arriving at a balanced approach to funding for science is being subordinated to issues made to seem urgent by unhealthy alliances of scientists and bureaucrats. Science and the integrity of its practitioners are under attack and, increasingly, legislators and bureaucrats shape the decisions that determine which paths scientific research should take. There is, in addition, a sinister tendency, especially in environmental affairs, toward considering the undertaking of expensive projects that are proposed by some scientists to remedy worst-case formulations of problems before the radical and expensive remedies are proven to be needed. They are viewed seriously though they are based on the advice of opportunistic alarmists in science who leap ahead of what is learned from solid research to encourage support for the expensive remedies they perceive to be necessary. The potential for very great damage to science and society is real.

Textbook racket is a part of neoliberal transformation of university education

Unfortunately a large part of the textbook market in the USA has all signs of corrupted monopoly infested with cronyism and incompetence to the extent that Standard Oil practices looks pretty benign in comparison. As the site MakeTextbooksAffordable.com states on its font page:

The report found that even though students already pay $900 year for textbooks, textbook publishers artificially inflate the price of textbooks by adding bells and whistles to the current texts, and forcing cheaper used books off the market by producing expensive new editions of textbooks that are barely different from the previous edition.

And some university professors are part of these scheme. Congressmen David Wu sites the opinion of the publisher in his letter "If a student is paying hundreds of dollars for a book, it's because the professor has ordered the Cadillac edition". But that might be true only for CS where any professor can easily find a cheaper high quality substitute from publishers like O'Reilly (and students can do this too, see Softpanorama Bookshelf actually about finding the best CS book (and some other) at reasonable prices. In other disciplines like mathematics situation is a real racket: The cost of a common calculus textbook is over $100 in the USA. This is a blatant, open rip-off. Economics is probably even worse with some useless junk selling for almost $300 per book.

In the meantime, enterprising students have many ways to cut the cost of buying textbooks.

But here one needs to see a bigger picture: low quality of recommended textbooks and, especially, the quality of university instruction makes it necessary buying additional textbooks. Also the ownership of best textbooks often makes the difference between success and failure in the particular course. In this sense additional $100 spending for books for each course makes economic sense as the common alternative is to drop the course, which often means $1K of more loss.

There are several ways to save on additional textbooks that hopefully can somewhat compensate for the low quality of tuition in a typical university. With some effort a student can often save approximately 50% of the cover price. Again my Links2bookstores page contains more information.

At the same time if the instructor is weak, or, worse, belongs to "fundamentalists", a category of instructors that does not distinguish between important and unimportant things and overloads the course with "useless overcomplexity" additional books are one of few countermeasures against this typical university-style rip-off. Dropping the course is a difficult maneuver that requires perfect timing and problems with instructor and the course content usually do not surface during the first month of the study when you can still do it for free or with minimal damage.

College textbook publishing became a racket with the growth of neoliberalism. And it is pretty dirty racket with willing accomplishes in form of so called professors like Greg Mankiw. For instance, you can find a used 5th edition Mankiw introductory to Microeconomics for under $4.00, while a new 7th edition costs over $200. An interesting discussion of this problem can be found at Thoughts on High-Priced Textbooks'

Tim Taylor on why textbooks cost so much:

Thoughts on High-Priced Textbooks: High textbook prices are a pebble in the shoe of many college students. Sure, it's not the biggest financial issue they face, But it's a real and nagging annoyance that for hinders performance for many students. ...
David Kestenbaum and Jacob Goldstein at National Public Radio took up this question recently on one of their "Planet Money" podcasts. ... For economists, a highlight is that they converse with Greg Mankiw, author of what is currently the best-selling introductory economics textbook, which as they point out is selling for $286 on Amazon. Maybe this is a good place to point out that I am not a neutral observer in this argument: The third edition of my own Principles of Economics textbook is available through Textbook Media. The pricing varies from $25 for online access to the book, up through $60 for both a paper copy (soft-cover, black and white) and online access.

Several explanations for high textbook prices are on offer. The standard arguments are that textbook companies are marketing selling to professors, not to students, and professors are not necessarily very sensitive to textbook prices. (Indeed, one can argue that before the rapid rise in textbook prices in the last couple of decades, it made sense for professors not to focus too much on textbook prices.) Competition in the textbook market is limited, and the big publishers load up their books with features that might appeal to professors: multi-colored hardcover books, with DVDs and online access, together with test banks that allow professors to give quizzes and tests that can be machine-graded. At many colleges and universities, the intro econ class is taught in a large lecture format, which can include hundreds or even several thousand students, as well as a flock of teaching assistants, so some form of computerized grading and feedback is almost a necessity. Some of the marketing by textbook companies involves paying professors for reviewing chapters--of course in the hope that such reviewers will adopt the book.

The NPR show casts much of this dynamic as a "principal-agent problem," the name for a situation in which one person (the "principal") wants another person (the "agent") to act on their behalf, but lacks the ability to observe or evaluate the actions of the agent in a complete way. Principal-agent analysis is often used, for example, to think about the problem of a manager motivating employees. But it can also be used to consider the issue of students (the "principals") wanting the professor (the "agent") to choose the book that will best suit the needs of the students, with all factors of price and quality duly taken into account. The NPR reporters quote one expert saying that the profit margin for high school textbooks is 5-10%, because those books decisions are made by school districts and states that negotiate hard. However, profit margins on college textbooks--where the textbook choice is often made by a professor who may not even know the price that students will pay--are more like 20%.

The NPR report suggests this principal-agent framework to Greg Mankiw, author of the top-selling $286 economic textbook. Mankiw points out that principal-agent problems are in no way nefarious, but come up in many contexts. For example, when you get an operation, you rely on the doctor to make choices that involve costs; when you get your car fixed, you rely on a mechanic to make choices that involve costs; when you are having home repairs done, you rely on a repair person or a contractor to make choices that involve costs. Mankiw argues that professors, acting as the agents of students, have legitimate reason to be concerned about tradeoffs of time and money. As he notes, a high quality book is more important "than saving them a few dollars"--and he suggests that saving $30 isn't worth it for a low-quality book.

But of course, in the real world there are more choices than a high-quality $286 book and a low-quality $256 book. The PIRG student surveys suggest that up to two-thirds of students are avoiding buying textbooks at all, even though they fear it will hurt their grade, or are shifting to other classes with lower textbook costs. If a student is working 10 hours a week at a part-time job, making $8/hour after taxes, then the difference between $286 book and a $60 book is 28.25 hours--nearly three weeks of part-time work. I am unaware of any evidence in which students were randomly assigned different textbooks but otherwise taught and evaluated in the same way, and kept time diaries, which would show that higher-priced books save time or improve academic performance. It is by no means obvious that a lower-cost book (yes, like my own) works less well for students than a higher-cost book from a big publisher. Some would put that point more strongly.

A final dynamic that may be contributing to higher-prices textbooks is a sort of vicious circle related to the textbook resale market. The NPR report says that when selling a textbook over a three-year edition, a typical pattern was that sales fell by half after the first year and again by half after the second year, as students who had bought the first edition resold the book to later students. Of course, this dynamic also means that many students who bought the book new are not really paying full-price, but instead paying the original price minus the resale price. The argument is that as textbooks have increased in price, the resale market has become ever-more active, so that sales of a textbook in later years have dwindled much more quickly. Textbook companies react to this process by charging more for the new textbook, which of course only spurs more activity in the resale market.

A big question for the future of textbooks is how and in what ways they migrate to electronic forms. On one side, the hope is that electronic textbooks will offer expanded functionality, as well as being cheaper. But this future is not foreordained. At least at present, my sense is that the functionality of reading and taking notes in online textbooks hasn't yet caught up to the ease of reading on paper. Technology and better screens may well shift this balance over time. But even setting aside questions of reading for long periods of time on screen, or taking notes on screen, at present it remains harder to skip around in a computerized text between what you are currently reading and the earlier text that you need to be checking, as well as skipping to various graphs, tables, and definitions. To say it more simply, in a number of subjects it may still be harder to study an on-line text than to study a paper text.

Moreover, as textbook manufacturers shift to an on-line world, they will bring with them their full bag of tricks for getting paid. The Senack report notes:

Today’s marketplace offers more digital textbook options to the student consumer than ever. “Etextbooks” are digitized texts that students read on a laptop or tablet. Similar to PDF documents, e-textbooks enable students to annotate, highlight and search. The cost may be 40-50 percent of the print retail price, and access expires after 180 days. Publishers have introduced e-textbooks for nearly all their traditional textbook offerings. In addition, the emergence of the ereader like the Kindle and iPad, as well as the emergence of many e-textbook rental programs, all seemed to indicate that the e-textbook will alter the college textbook landscape for the better.

However, despite this shift, users of e-textbooks are subject to expiration dates, on-line codes that only work once, page printing limits, and other tactics that only serve to restrict use and increase cost.

Unfortunately for students, the publishing companies’ venture into e-textbooks is a continuation of the practices they use to monopolize the print market.

JohnH:

My understanding is that there are cases where the professor requires the textbook he wrote and for which he receives royalties...

In such cases, the publisher and the professor's interests align against the student, who pays through the teeth.

djb:

good article but i have a real problem with introductory texts on economics

they are completely biased, mostly towards supply side of the debate

meaning, of course, they are wrong

if they just contained that which is undeniably true then ok, or if they presented it as this school of thought says this and that school of thought says the other, ok,

The Raven:

A general rule of thumb: half the selling price of a book is spent before the first impression is made on paper. Speaking as a very small publisher, I think the main problem is that the texts are expensive to produce.

They take a lot of editorial and design effort, so the fixed costs of textbook production are high, the production costs are often high, and textbook bestsellers are not common, so they don't usually make it up on volume.

Now, one could, for standard freshman and sophomore texts, aim at lower costs and higher volumes, but that's not academic publishing, and nothing is going to help with upper-level texts; the market is just not that big.

pgl -> to The Raven...

Excellent! With a high elasticity of demand, the increase in quantity beats the drop in price. Unless the marginal cost of printing books is higher than I suspect it is, Mankiw's publisher is not a profit maximizing monopolist. I'm telling you the best economics is right here and we don't charge $286!

The Raven -> to pgl...

Thanks.

You'd have to market a book *hard* to get that increase in demand, though. It's not a student-by-student sale decision; the professors have to be marketed. The other thing about publishing economics that people outside the industry don't realize: most books don't make much money, so publishers rely on the good-sellers and the best-sellers for much of their profits. If you've got something you're pretty sure is going to be in demand, *you mark it up,* because in William Golding's immortal phrase, "Nobody knows anything."

Over the past 25 or so years, the consolidation of publishing has put the money types more and more in control of the business. And the money types always want to only market best sellers. This is sort of like Germany saying that everyone should make money exporting. "That trick never works."

Now, if anyone wanted to bring the price of an Econ 101 book down, one could do a no-frills book, small, soft-covered, and strictly monochrome, or perhaps an ebook. (But watch out—only some ebook readers support mathematics well.) It might cost $50 or so (I'm guessing—I'm not a textbook publisher.) It would not look impressive, and this might make a problem for marketing, but students could still learn from it. And—who knows?—it might even sell.

T.J.:

The issue is that textbook publishers release new editions every couple of years. For many subjects, including economics, this is absurd. Sciences don't change that quickly.

For instance, you can find a used 5th edition Mankiw introductory to Microeconomics for under $4.00, while a new 7th edition costs over $200.

Has principles of microeconomics changed that much over the course of 6 years? No, but textbook companies make a few changes on the margin and charge you hundreds of dollars for a new edition. Many times, professors require online access codes to supplement their lecture. Therefore, the student is forced into the newer edition, in which often there is no substantial differences or major improvements in presenting the material.

When you have that sort of market power, it is easy to achieve economic rents.

pgl -> to T.J....

"Sciences don't change that quickly". One would hope those freshwater books changed after their utter failures to predict the most recent recession. But they likely haven't.

cm -> to T.J....

There are errata, and some content that the author has in mind doesn't make it into the first edition, or not at the intended quality/depth. Most people who have never published something substantial have no idea how much work it is to get non-fiction scientific/technical stuff publication ready. Not only on the author's part but also editing and proofreading/giving feedback at a collegial level. (Not meaning to knock down fiction, that's a different set of challenges.)

Bill Ellis:

Two Ideas I would like to see combined. A period of Universal public service that earns a free higher and or tech education. Something like the GI bill for all.

I think making universal public service a right of passage could help us be a more unified society. If we have kids from inner city Detroit, rural West Virginia, suburban San Francisco and the oil fields of Oklahoma working side by side it would open their eyes to each other in ways that are never experienced by most American kids who are living in communities of institutional self-segregation.

Having said that.. free education is a no brainer no matter what.
To cover everyone's tuition it would only cost us about forty billion more than the feds already spend on higher ed. That's a rounding error in terms of our total budget.

We subsidize big oil and gas to the tune of about 50 billion a year.

The maddening thing is that the national debate is not even close to taking Free Ed seriously. Instead Liz Warren is portrayed some kind of wild eyed radical for proposing a modest cut in interest rates on student loans and some narrow way to get some forgiveness of debt.

John Cummings:

It is part of the educational industrial complex (which include vouchers and government backed private school industrial complex)

Educational industrial complex
Military industrial complex
Medical industrial complex
Prison industrial complex

Fred C. Dobbs:

(Evidently, 'It’s Economics 101'.)

Higher education: Why textbooks cost so much http://econ.st/1yzDU5Z via @TheEconomist - Aug 16th 2014

Students can learn a lot about economics when they buy Greg Mankiw’s “Principles of Economics”—even if they don’t read it. Like many popular textbooks, it is horribly expensive: $292.17 on Amazon. Indeed, the nominal price of textbooks has risen more than fifteen fold since 1970, three times the rate of inflation (see chart, at link).

Like doctors prescribing drugs, professors assigning textbooks do not pay for the products themselves, so they have little incentive to pick cheap ones. Some assign books they have written themselves. The 20m post-secondary students in America often have little choice in the matter. Small wonder textbooks generate megabucks.

But hope is not lost for poor scholars. Foreign editions are easy to find online and often cheaper—sometimes by over 90%. Publishers can be litigious about this, but in 2013 the Supreme Court ruled that Americans have the right to buy and resell copyrighted material obtained legally. Many university bookstores now let students rent books and return them. Publishers have begun to offer digital textbooks, which are cheaper but can’t be resold. And if all else fails, there is always the library.

Related: How Your Textbook Dollars Are Divvied Up http://t.usnews.com/a2B567 via @usnews - Aug 28, 2012

Fred C. Dobbs -> to Fred C. Dobbs...

(A bunch of experts discuss the matter.)

Room for Debate: The Real Cost of College Textbooks http://nyti.ms/1qEHasX - July 2010

(Including a couple of economists!)

Fred C. Dobbs -> to Fred C. Dobbs...

How to Cut Your Textbook Costs in Half -- or More-Kiplinger http://po.st/nCZsxY - August 2014

(By renting e-books, donchaknow.)

(Turns out Mankiw's Econ textbook, which
currently costs $289 in hardcover from
Amazon, can be rented in Kindle format
for a mere $173 - for 180 days.)

(Hardcover rental is $70, however.)

Fred C. Dobbs -> to Fred C. Dobbs...

(Wait a second. The Federales fixed
this problem back in 2008...)

Advocates say a new set of federal provisions, aimed at driving down the cost of college textbooks, should help students this fall. On July 1, (2010) these rules took effect:

Publishers must give professors detailed information about textbook prices, revision histories and a list of alternate formats.

Publishers have to sell materials typically bundled with textbooks -- such as CDs, DVDs and workbooks -- separately so students don't have to buy them.

Colleges have to include in-course schedules with required textbooks for each class, including the book's price and International Standard Book Number, an identifying tool.

The protections, included in the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, are an attempt to lessen student debt, said U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., on Wednesday.

"The cost of education is of concern not only to students and families but to the nation," Durbin said, explaining why the government got involved in textbook prices. "Students are emerging with more and more debt."

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/07/22/97931_new-federal-rules-take-aim-at.html?rh=1

Charles Peterson:

A $289 econ text is only marked up 20% ???

I'm not sure how to account for this, but I believe a full account of markup should include royalties if they have become outrageous economic rent.

Jim Harrison:

Textbooks have been outrageously expensive for a long time, though some of the prices quoted in this article were astonishing to me and I used to be in the business. Nothing much has changed. The complaints and the defenses sound very familiar. Even in the 70s and 80s, publishers groused about how the used trade hurt their sales and the suggestion was repeatedly made that one way around the trap was to produce much cheaper texts and make up the difference on volume. Unfortunately, the numbers never add up for that business plan since the major textbook publishers have huge sunk costs in the big sales forces needed to support the current model. Anyhow, good cheap books have long been available for many big undergrad courses if profs want to assign them and don't mind producing their own tests and other teaching aids. A handful of profs do just that and were already doing it thirty years ago, but they are a distinct minority.

About the revision racket: the funny thing is that old editions of textbooks are often better than more recent editions. Market research makes good books worse in much the same way that it eventually screws up software by the relentless addition of bells and whistles. I'm a technical writer these days and keep copies of several old classics at hand when I need to brush up: Feynman's lectures on physics; the first edition of Freeman, Pisani, and Purves on Statistics; the 2nd edition of Linus Pauling's Intro Chem text; Goldstein on Thermo; and a real museum piece, Sylvaner Thomas' Calculus Made Easy. Many of these books have been reprinted by Dover and are available for peanuts.

To be fair, the high price for textbooks makes more sense in some fields than in others. The three or four year revision cycle is absurd for math books since the math remains the same decade after decade, but texts in areas like molecular biology really do have to be revised frequently and substantively, a very labor-intensive task. Which is why I give a pass to the Biology editors and the folks who struggle to update the Intermediate Accounting books with the latest FASB standards.

cm -> to Jim Harrison...

Can you elaborate on the revision "paradox"? Surely not only in very new fields, the state of the art progresses, or textbook authors see a need or opportunity to include new material (I suspect somebody setting out to write a comprehensive text has more ideas what to write about than can be finished at the required quality in the required time, for the first edition).

How would the subsequent editions be worse, if the new content is driven by the author and not by external marketing considerations, unless the new material is at the expense of older material (e.g. #pages limit)?

From my very limited experience, authors who are not in it for making a profit, and who write for a small market (selling up to a few thousand copies per year is a small market) run into substantial overhead costs for editing, marketing (i.e. making the existence of the book known to the target audience), and distribution, and basically have to do the work for free. Some, and perhaps most, certainly academic, publishers have "charity" programs where they publish small editions where they at best break even or even cross-subsidize them out of "full rate" publications. Then people complain about excessive prices for the latter.

Leading Edge Boomer:

Jeebus, $286 for a textbook, from an author who is often wrong lately? I co-authored a graduate computer science text (low volume = higher cost) that retailed in the low two digits.

cm -> to Leading Edge Boomer...

I will not comment on the author's merit or lack thereof, but $286 is really in "WTF" territory, for any textbook.

cm -> to Leading Edge Boomer...

I once contributed to a book, and the authors/editors decided to collectively waive their royalties to hit an affordable price (and I suspect it was still a charity deal on the part of the largely academic publisher). But I got my free copy.

Jim Harrison:

At least for big market textbooks, the motive for revisions is generally financial and that's as true for the authors as the publishers. In fact, the authors are often the ones who push for new editions as their royalty checks steadily diminish. In cases where it's the authors who are reluctant to revise for whatever reason, publishers often sweeten the deal with advances, grants, or other goodies.

I don't mean to be completely cynical. Authors and editors certainly try to produce a better product when they put out new editions, and it very often happens that the second edition is better than the first. Especially in later cycles, however, the changes are usually pretty cosmetic. The editor in charge of the project solicits advice from users and potential users and comes up with a list of "improvements" in a process not entirely different than what happens when various interests in Washington get their pet provisions put in a bill. If you think that professor X is likely to adopt the text if you go along with his ideas and plug his contributions in the acknowledgements, the idea is very likely to be irresistible.

The sales force also weighs in. They want feature they can tout; but since real improvements are hard to come by, that usually means more and more pedagogy: boxes, pictures, computer programs, and umpteen forms of emphasis. Let me assure you it takes desperate ingenuity to come up with something new to add to an Intermediate Algebra textbook. "Now with a new way to factor trinomials" isn't exactly a memorable pitch. Meanwhile, after three or four editions, the author, who presumably would be the best source of serious innovation for a new edition, is generally bored to death with the project.

As I said above, there are textbooks that really do need perpetually revision for substantive reasons; but in most fields what Freshmen and Sophomores need to learn has been known for a long time. My remarks on revisions also don't apply very well to upper level texts in smaller markets, in part because students tend to hang on to serious books in their majors so the companies have less incentive to beat the used book market with new editions.

reason:

From what I remember of my university days (in the long distant past), we didn't have text books (that was for school kids). We had lectures and lists of reading materials (that if we were lucky we could find in the library and photocopy relvant sections). I did have a copy of Samualson (relatively cheap). But the emphasis was on a reading a variety of sources. What has changed, and why?

reason:

P.S. Not have text books would have the advantage of ensuring that the students attended lectures and stayed awake during them.

Jay:

No mention of the cost for this textbook...

http://www.amazon.com/Economics-Paul-Krugman/dp/1429251638/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1413545846&sr=8-2&keywords=krugman+wells

grizzled:

My own biggest peeve concerns calculus textbooks, especially introductory calculus textbooks. The material hasn't changed in at least 60 years, if not longer. If it weren't for the current ridiculously long copyright terms people could just use old ones.

The last time I took the subject our professor went to some lengths to let us use the previous edition, which was available used. The only real change in the next edition was in the problems. That is, if a student was assigned "problem 8 in section xxx" having the most recent edition was the only way to know what the problem was.

I don't see any redeeming value in this.

Bloix:

My son took an intro geology course a few years ago. The textbook price at the school bookstore was about $125. He purchased the gray market (legal) "international edition" - word for word, page for page the same, but with a different picture on the cover - over the internet for about $50.

It's my understanding that this sort of price-differential is common. Mankiw's book appears to be available in the "international edition" for $60 (soft cover).

http://www.abebooks.com/9781285165875/Principles-Economics-7th-Edition-Mankiw-128516587X/plp

Please don't tell me that publishers and authors are not making money when they sell their books for US$50 or 60 in Australia.

Dr. Nikolai Bezroukov


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[Nov 29, 2017] The week after Open Access week by Ingrid Robeyns

Notable quotes:
"... knowledge is for sharing ..."
Oct 30, 2017 | crookedtimber.org

It was Open Access week last week, but I was too busy trying to meet the deadline today for submitting my book manuscript to Open Book Publishers . That sounds like a good excuse if one cares about open access, right? I slept too little for too many days, so don't expect any creative thoughts or subtle analyses from me tonight. But here's two interesting things I discovered while having a look on the web figuring out whether anything interesting happend during Open Access week.

First, Cambridge University digitalised the PhD dissertation of Stephen Hawking and put it online. Apparently the website crashed when that got announced. Any Cambridge University alumni who want to make their PhD dissertation Open Access are invited doing so (no more need to go to the reading room and sign a fat notebook that one has accessed a particular PhD dissertation, as I once did. Although, I should confess, it felt like an adventure. But it's highly inefficient obviously).

Second, for some weeks now, Open Book Publishers has been offering the PDFs of all of their books open access, to celebrate the 100th book they published (their regular regime is to have the books as html open access and selling the PDFs for a few pounds, or else the author can pay a fee for making the PDF open access).

Importantly, this may only last for another a day or two (I am drawing from my memory when I saw a tweet on that about two months ago), so while it lasts it may be worth checking out their collection of books in the humanities and the social sciences, such as Naom Chomsky's Delhi Lectures , Ruth Finnegan's book on Oral literature in Africa or textbooks on maths for university .

All for nothing. Because, as their slogan goes, knowledge is for sharing .

ccc 10.30.17 at 10:54 pm ( 1 )

Worth mentioning in this context: the CORE project released the final version of their impressive economics textbook "The Economy", freely (as in CC by-nc-dd licensed) available at http://www.core-econ.org/the-economy/

A great writeup about it by Samuel Bowles and Wendy Carlin (two of the authors) is here
http://voxeu.org/article/new-paradigm-introductory-course-economics

Ingrid Robeyns 10.31.17 at 7:25 am ( 2 )
thanks ccc! I didn't know about this and it looks great.

Anyone should feel free to post other major "Open Access week additions" in this thread.

Steve 10.31.17 at 11:32 am ( 3 )
I think that having open access publishers is great, and I would love to have books published this way. Here's the concern: I suspect that my University's promotions committee, etc, will view this kind of publication as "inferior" to one with some snazzy University Press.

I was wondering whether anyone has any advice about how to handle the fact that there are perverse incentives to publish your work in a format which will cost someone £70, rather than for free?

Harry 10.31.17 at 1:23 pm ( 4 )
I don't see a way of changing the situation Steve mentions except by having well established scholars who don't need to worry about those kinds of thing take the lead. Eg, Ingrid. and David Velleman (who has two books with Open Book, which I greedily downloaded). And Sam Bowles! -- thanks for the tip ccc, I knew about this from Bowles and had seen parts of it, but not the whole thing which looks great!
Ingrid Robeyns 10.31.17 at 6:31 pm ( 5 )
Steve, I fully understand the worry – and even for me (tenured full professor) there is a "status cost" to be paid by not publishing with an established University Press. But it's a vicious circle that has to be broken – and I agree with Harry, that those of us who can "afford" to publish Open Access, should do so, in order to try to contribute to the status of the Open Access Press.

I should say that in terms of refereeing – I've published two co-edited books, one with OUP, one with CUP – and the refereeing process at Open Books was the same, if not better. And a very important advantage of publishing with a publisher such as Open Books is the much shorter time between delivering the final manuscript and publication – if you do all your work properly, it's a matter of weeks or a few months, not, as with the established University Presses, (almost) a year (I've always wondered what the hell happens in that year, especially if they turn back the proofs which are full with typo's!)

I've been thinking someone should write a paper with the title: "If you have tenure, why don't you publish Open Access?"

SusanC 10.31.17 at 7:45 pm ( 6 )
@3,4: Possibly the switch to open access needs to be done at an institutional level, rather than by individuals.

e.g. A declaration by government evaluations such as the REF that publications won't be counted unless they are open access, followed by a declaration by your department that publications from now onwards won't be counted for promotions unless they are open access, might create the right incentives.

[There are potential issues regarding fairness towards academics who are moving between universities . how do you fairly compare job candidates when one is from a university that demanded open access publication, and another is from a university that didn't?]

John Quiggin 11.02.17 at 7:46 am ( 7 )

Not to make too much of the obvious, given that I'm writing a blog comment, but blogs offer some great opportunities here.

CT readers got to see nearly all of Zombie Economics before the book appeared, and if I ever finish Economics in Two Lessons it will be long after much of it was posted here.

[Nov 27, 2017] College Is Wildly Exploitative Why Arent Students Raising Hell

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... By David Masciotra, the author of Mellencamp: American Troubadour (University Press of Kentucky). He has also written for Salon, the Atlantic and the Los Angeles Review of Books. For more information visit www.davidmasciotra.com. Originally published at Alternet ..."
"... Robert Reich, in his book Supercapitalism, explains that in the past 30 years the two industries with the most excessive increases in prices are health care and higher education. ..."
"... Using student loan loot and tax subsidies backed by its $3.5 billion endowment, New York University has created a new administrative class of aristocratic compensation. The school not only continues to hire more administrators – many of whom the professors indict as having no visible value in improving the education for students bankrupting themselves to register for classes – but shamelessly increases the salaries of the academic administrative class. The top 21 administrators earn a combined total of $23,590,794 per year. The NYU portfolio includes many multi-million-dollar mansions and luxury condos, where deans and vice presidents live rent-free. ..."
"... As the managerial class grows, in size and salary, so does the full time faculty registry shrink. Use of part time instructors has soared to stratospheric heights at NYU. Adjunct instructors, despite having a minimum of a master's degree and often having a Ph.D., receive only miserly pay-per-course compensation for their work, and do not receive benefits. Many part-time college instructors must transform their lives into daily marathons, running from one school to the next, barely able to breathe between commutes and courses. Adjunct pay varies from school to school, but the average rate is $2,900 per course. ..."
"... New York Times ..."
"... to the people making decisions ..."
"... it's the executives and management generally. Just like Wall Street, many of these top administrators have perfected the art of failing upwards. ..."
"... What is the benefit? What are the risks? ..."
"... Sophomore Noell Conley lives there, too. She shows off the hotel-like room she shares with a roommate . ..."
"... "As you walk in, to the right you see our granite countertops with two sinks, one for each of the residents," she says. A partial wall separates the beds. Rather than trek down the hall to shower, they share a bathroom with the room next door. "That's really nice compared to community bathrooms that I lived in last year," Conley says. To be fair, granite countertops last longer. Tempur-Pedic is a local company - and gave a big discount. The amenities include classrooms and study space that are part of the dorm. Many of the residents are in the university's Honors program. But do student really need Apple TV in the lounges, or a smartphone app that lets them check their laundry status from afar? "Demand has been very high," says the university's Penny Cox, who is overseeing the construction of several new residence halls on campus. Before Central Hall's debut in August, the average dorm was almost half a century old, she says. That made it harder to recruit. " If you visit places like Ohio State, Michigan, Alabama," Cox says, "and you compare what we had with what they have available to offer, we were very far behind." Today colleges are competing for a more discerning consumer. Students grew up with fewer siblings, in larger homes, Cox says. They expect more privacy than previous generations - and more comforts. "These days we seem to be bringing kids up to expect a lot of material plenty," says Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University and author of the book "Generation Me." Those students could be in for some disappointment when they graduate , she says. "When some of these students have all these luxuries and then they get an entry-level job and they can't afford the enormous flat screen and the granite countertops," Twenge says, "then that's going to be a rude awakening." Some on campus also worry about the divide between students who can afford such luxuries and those who can't. The so-called premium dorms cost about $1,000 more per semester. Freshman Josh Johnson, who grew up in a low-income family and lives in one of the university's 1960s-era buildings, says the traditional dorm is good enough for him. ..."
"... "I wouldn't pay more just to live in a luxury dorm," he says. "It seems like I could just pay the flat rate and get the dorm I'm in. It's perfectly fine." In the near future students who want to live on campus won't have a choice. Eventually the university plans to upgrade all of its residence halls. ..."
"... Competition for students who have more sophisticated tastes than in past years is creating the perfect environment for schools to try to outdo each other with ever-more posh on-campus housing. Keeping up in the luxury dorm race is increasingly critical to a school's bottom line: A 2006 study published by the Association of Higher Education Facilities Officers found that "poorly maintained or inadequate residential facilities" was the number-one reason students rejected enrolling at institutions. PHOTO GALLERY: Click Here to See the 10 Schools with Luxury Dorms ..."
"... Private universities get most of the mentions on lists of schools with great dorms, as recent ratings by the Princeton Review, College Prowler, and Campus Splash make clear. But a few state schools that have invested in brand-new facilities are starting to show up on those reviews, too. ..."
"... While many schools offer first dibs on the nicest digs to upperclassmen on campus, as the war for student dollars ratchets up even first-year students at public colleges are living in style. Here are 10 on-campus dormitories at state schools that offer students resort-like amenities. ..."
"... Perhaps some students are afraid to protest for fear of being photographed or videographed and having their face and identity given to every prospective employer throughout America. Perhaps those students are afraid of being blackballed throughout the Great American Workplace if they are caught protesting anything on camera. ..."
"... Mao was perfectly content to promote technical education in the new China. What he deprecated (and fought to suppress) was the typical liberal arts notion of critical thinking. We're witnessing something comparable in the U.S. We're witnessing something comparable in the U.S. ..."
"... Many of the best students feel enormous pressure to succeed and have some inkling that their job prospects are growing narrower, but they almost universally accept this as the natural order of things. Their outlook: if there are 10 or 100 applicants for every available job, well, by golly, I just have to work that much harder and be the exceptional one who gets the job. ..."
"... I read things like this and think about Louis Althusser and his ideas about "Ideological State Apparatuses." While in liberal ideology the education is usually considered to be the space where opportunity to improve one's situation is founded, Althusser reached the complete opposite conclusion. For him, universities are the definitive bourgeois institution, the ideological state apparatus of the modern capitalist state par excellance . The real purpose of the university was not to level the playing field of opportunity but to preserve the advantages of the bourgeoisie and their children, allowing the class system to perpetuate/reproduce itself. ..."
"... My nephew asked me to help him with his college introductory courses in macroeconomics and accounting. I was disappointed to find out what was going on: no lectures by professors, no discussion sessions with teaching assistants; no team projects–just two automated correspondence courses, with automated computer graded problem sets objective tests – either multiple choice, fill in the blank with a number, or fill in the blank with a form answer. This from a public university that is charging tuition for attendance just as though it were really teaching something. All they're really certifying is that the student can perform exercises is correctly reporting what a couple of textbooks said about subjects of marginal relevance to his degree. My nephew understands exactly that this is going on, but still . ..."
"... The reason students accept this has to be the absolutely demobilized political culture of the United States combined with what college represents structurally to students from the middle classes: the only possibility – however remote – of achieving any kind of middle class income. ..."
"... Straight bullshit, but remember our school was just following the national (Neoliberal) model. ..."
Jun 26, 2015 | naked capitalism

Yves here. In May, we wrote up and embedded the report on how NYU exploits students and adjuncts in "The Art of the Gouge": NYU as a Model for Predatory Higher Education. This article below uses that study as a point of departure for for its discussion of how higher education has become extractive.

By David Masciotra, the author of Mellencamp: American Troubadour (University Press of Kentucky). He has also written for Salon, the Atlantic and the Los Angeles Review of Books. For more information visit www.davidmasciotra.com. Originally published at Alternet

Higher education wears the cloak of liberalism, but in policy and practice, it can be a corrupt and cutthroat system of power and exploitation. It benefits immensely from right-wing McCarthy wannabes, who in an effort to restrict academic freedom and silence political dissent, depict universities as left-wing indoctrination centers.

But the reality is that while college administrators might affix "down with the man" stickers on their office doors, many prop up a system that is severely unfair to American students and professors, a shocking number of whom struggle to make ends meet. Even the most elementary level of political science instructs that politics is about power. Power, in America, is about money: who has it? Who does not have it? Who is accumulating it? Who is losing it? Where is it going?

Four hundred faculty members at New York University, one of the nation's most expensive schools, recently released a report on how their own place of employment, legally a nonprofit institution, has become a predatory business, hardly any different in ethical practice or economic procedure than a sleazy storefront payday loan operator. Its title succinctly summarizes the new intellectual discipline deans and regents have learned to master: "The Art of The Gouge."

The result of their investigation reads as if Charles Dickens and Franz Kafka collaborated on notes for a novel. Administrators not only continue to raise tuition at staggering rates, but they burden their students with inexplicable fees, high cost burdens and expensive requirements like mandatory study abroad programs. When students question the basis of their charges, much of them hidden during the enrollment and registration phases, they find themselves lost in a tornadic swirl of forms, automated answering services and other bureaucratic debris.

Often the additional fees add up to thousands of dollars, and that comes on top of the already hefty tuition, currently $46,000 per academic year, which is more than double its rate of 2001. Tuition at NYU is higher than most colleges, but a bachelor's degree, nearly anywhere else, still comes with a punitive price tag. According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2014–2015 school year was $31,231 at private colleges, $9,139 for state residents at public colleges, and $22,958 for out-of-state residents attending public universities.

Robert Reich, in his book Supercapitalism, explains that in the past 30 years the two industries with the most excessive increases in prices are health care and higher education. Lack of affordable health care is a crime, Reich argues, but at least new medicines, medical technologies, surgeries, surgery techs, and specialists can partially account for inflation. Higher education can claim no costly infrastructural or operational developments to defend its sophisticated swindle of American families. It is a high-tech, multifaceted, but old fashioned transfer of wealth from the poor, working- and middle-classes to the rich.

Using student loan loot and tax subsidies backed by its $3.5 billion endowment, New York University has created a new administrative class of aristocratic compensation. The school not only continues to hire more administrators – many of whom the professors indict as having no visible value in improving the education for students bankrupting themselves to register for classes – but shamelessly increases the salaries of the academic administrative class. The top 21 administrators earn a combined total of $23,590,794 per year. The NYU portfolio includes many multi-million-dollar mansions and luxury condos, where deans and vice presidents live rent-free.

Meanwhile, NYU has spent billions, over the past 20 years, on largely unnecessary real estate projects, buying property and renovating buildings throughout New York. The professors' analysis, NYU's US News and World Report Ranking, and student reviews demonstrate that few of these extravagant projects, aimed mostly at pleasing wealthy donors, attracting media attention, and giving administrators opulent quarters, had any impact on overall educational quality.

As the managerial class grows, in size and salary, so does the full time faculty registry shrink. Use of part time instructors has soared to stratospheric heights at NYU. Adjunct instructors, despite having a minimum of a master's degree and often having a Ph.D., receive only miserly pay-per-course compensation for their work, and do not receive benefits. Many part-time college instructors must transform their lives into daily marathons, running from one school to the next, barely able to breathe between commutes and courses. Adjunct pay varies from school to school, but the average rate is $2,900 per course.

Many schools offer rates far below the average, most especially community colleges paying only $1,000 to $1,500. Even at the best paying schools, adjuncts, as part time employees, are rarely eligible for health insurance and other benefits. Many universities place strict limits on how many courses an instructor can teach. According to a recent study, 25 percent of adjuncts receive government assistance.

The actual scandal of "The Art of the Gouge" is that even if NYU is a particularly egregious offender of basic decency and honesty, most of the report's indictments could apply equally to nearly any American university. From 2003-2013, college tuition increased by a crushing 80 percent. That far outpaces all other inflation. The closest competitor was the cost of medical care, which in the same time period, increased by a rate of 49 percent. On average, tuition in America rises eight percent on an annual basis, placing it far outside the moral universe. Most European universities charge only marginal fees for attendance, and many of them are free. Senator Bernie Sanders recently introduced a bill proposing all public universities offer free education. It received little political support, and almost no media coverage.

In order to obtain an education, students accept the paralytic weight of student debt, the only form of debt not dischargeable in bankruptcy. Before a young person can even think about buying a car, house or starting a family, she leaves college with thousands of dollars in debt: an average of $29,400 in 2012. As colleges continue to suck their students dry of every dime, the US government profits at $41.3 billion per year by collecting interest on that debt. Congress recently cut funding for Pell Grants, yet increased the budget for hiring debt collectors to target delinquent student borrowers.

The university, once an incubator of ideas and entrance into opportunity, has mutated into a tabletop model of America's economic architecture, where the top one percent of income earners now owns 40 percent of the wealth.

"The One Percent at State U," an Institute for Policy Studies report, found that at the 25 public universities with the highest paid presidents, student debt and adjunct faculty increased at dramatically higher rates than at the average state university. Marjorie Wood, the study's co-author, explained told the New York Times that extravagant executive pay is the "tip of a very large iceberg, with universities that have top-heavy executive spending also having more adjuncts, more tuition increases and more administrative spending.

Unfortunately, students seem like passive participants in their own liquidation. An American student protest timeline for 2014-'15, compiled by historian Angus Johnston, reveals that most demonstrations and rallies focused on police violence, and sexism. Those issues should inspire vigilance and activism, but only 10 out of 160 protests targeted tuition hikes for attack, and only two of those 10 events took place outside the state of California.

Class consciousness and solidarity actually exist in Chile, where in 2011 a student movement began to organize, making demands for free college. More than mere theater, high school and college students, along with many of their parental allies, engaged the political system and made specific demands for inexpensive education. The Chilean government announced that in March 2016, it will eliminate all tuition from public universities. Chile's victory for participatory democracy, equality of opportunity and social justice should instruct and inspire Americans. Triumph over extortion and embezzlement is possible.

This seems unlikely to happen in a culture, however, where even most poor Americans view themselves, in the words of John Steinbeck, as "temporarily embarrassed millionaires." The political, educational and economic ruling class of America is comfortable selling out its progeny. In the words of one student quoted in "The Art of the Gouge," "they see me as nothing more than $200,000."

washunate June 26, 2015 at 10:07 am

Awesome question in the headline.

At a basic level, I think the answer is yes, because on balance, college still provides a lot of privatized value to the individual. Being an exploited student with the College Credential Seal of Approval remains relatively much better than being an exploited non student lacking that all important seal. A college degree, for example, is practically a guarantee of avoiding the more unseemly parts of the US "justice" system.

But I think this is changing. The pressure is building from the bottom as academia loses credibility as an institution capable of, never mind interested in, serving the public good rather than simply being another profit center for connected workers. It's actually a pretty exciting time. The kiddos are getting pretty fed up, and the authoritarians at the top of the hierarchy are running out of money with which to buy off younger technocratic enablers and thought leaders and other Serious People.

washunate June 26, 2015 at 10:17 am

P.S., the author in this post demonstrates the very answer to the question. He assumes as true, without any need for support, that the very act of possessing a college degree makes one worthy of a better place in society. That mindset is why colleges can prey upon students. They hold a monopoly on access to resources in American society. My bold:

Adjunct instructors, despite having a minimum of a master's degree and often having a Ph.D., receive only miserly pay-per-course compensation for their work, and do not receive benefits.

What does having a masters degree or PhD have to do with the moral claim of all human beings to a life of dignity and purpose?

flora June 26, 2015 at 11:37 am

There are so many more job seekers per job opening now than, say, 20 or thirty years ago that a degree is used to sort out applications. Now a job that formerly listed a high school degree as a requirement may now list a college degree as a requirement, just to cut down on the number of applications.

So, no, a B.A. or B.S. doesn't confer moral worth, but it does open more job doors than a high school diploma, even if the actual work only requires high school level math, reading, science or technology.

Ben June 26, 2015 at 1:11 pm

I agree a phd often makes someone no more useful in society. However the behaviour of the kids is rational *because* employers demand a masters / phd.

Students are then caught in a trap. Employers demand the paper, often from an expensive institution. The credit is abundant thanks to govt backed loans. They are caught in a situation where as a collective it makes no sense to join in, but as an individual if they opt out they get hurt also.

Same deal for housing. It's a mad world my masters.

What can we do about this? The weak link in the chain seems to me to be employers. Why are they hurting themselves by selecting people who want higher pay but may offer little to no extra value? I work as a programmer and I often think " if we could just 'see' the non-graduate diamonds in the rough".

If employers had perfect knowledge of prospective employees *and* if they saw that a degree would make no difference to their performance universities would crumble overnight.

The state will never stop printing money via student loans. If we can fix recruitment then universities are dead.

washunate June 26, 2015 at 2:22 pm

Why are they hurting themselves by selecting people who want higher pay but may offer little to no extra value?

Yeah, I have thought a lot about that particular question of organizational behavior. It does make sense, conceptually, that somebody would disrupt the system and take people based on ability rather than credentials. Yet we are moving in the opposite direction, toward more rigidity in educational requirements for employment.

For my two cents, I think the bulk of the answer lies in how hiring specifically, and management philosophy more generally, works in practice. The people who make decisions are themselves also subject to someone else's decisions. This is true all up and down the hierarchical ladder, from board members and senior executives to the most junior managers and professionals.

It's true that someone without a degree may offer the same (or better) performance to the company. But they do not offer the same performance to the people making decisions, because those individual people also depend upon their own college degrees to sell their own labor services. To hire significant numbers of employees without degrees into important roles is to sabotage their own personal value.

Very few people are willing to be that kind of martyr. And generally speaking, they tend to self-select away from occupations where they can meaningfully influence decision-making processes in large organizations.

Absolutely, individual business owners can call BS on the whole scam. It is a way that individual people can take action against systemic oppression. Hire workers based upon their fit for the job, not their educational credentials or criminal background or skin color or sexual orientation or all of the other tests we have used. But that's not a systemic solution because the incentives created by public policy are overwhelming at large organizations to restrict who is 'qualified' to fill the good jobs (and increasingly, even the crappy jobs).

Laaughingsong June 26, 2015 at 3:03 pm

I am not so sure that this is so. So many jobs are now crapified. When I was made redundant in 2009, I could not find many jobs that fit my level of experience (just experience! I have no college degree), so I applied for anything that fit my skill set, pretty much regardless of level. I was called Overqualified. I have heard that in the past as well, but never more so during that stretch of job hunting. Remember that's with no degree. Maybe younger people don't hear it as much. But I also think life experience has something to do with it, you need to have something to compare it to. How many times did our parents tell us how different things were when they were kids, how much easier? I didn't take that on board, did y'all?

sam s smith June 26, 2015 at 4:03 pm

I blame HR.

tsk June 27, 2015 at 4:42 pm

For various reasons, people seeking work these days, especially younger job applicants, might not possess the habits of mind and behavior that would make them good employees – i.e., punctuality, the willingness to come to work every day (even when something more fun or interesting comes up, or when one has partied hard the night before), the ability to meet deadlines rather than make excuses for not meeting them, the ability to write competently at a basic level, the ability to read instructions, diagrams, charts, or any other sort of necessary background material, the ability to handle basic computation, the ability to FOLLOW instructions rather than deciding that one will pick and choose which rules and instructions to follow and which to ignore, trainability, etc.

Even if a job applicant's degree is in a totally unrelated field, the fact that he or she has managed to complete an undergraduate degree–or, if relevant, a master's or a doctorate – is often accepted by employers as a sign that the applicant has a sense of personal responsibility, a certain amount of diligence and educability, and a certain level of basic competence in reading, writing, and math.

By the same token, employers often assume that an applicant who didn't bother going to college or who couldn't complete a college degree program is probably not someone to be counted on to be a responsible, trainable, competent employee.

Obviously those who don't go to college, or who go but drop out or flunk out, end up disadvantaged when competing for jobs, which might not be fair at all in individual cases, especially now that college has been priced so far out of the range of so many bright, diligent students from among the poor and and working classes, and now even those from the middle class.

Nevertheless, in general an individual's ability to complete a college degree is not an unreasonable stand-in as evidence of that person's suitability for employment.

Roland June 27, 2015 at 5:14 pm

Nicely put, Ben.

Students are first caught in a trap of "credentials inflation" needed to obtain jobs, then caught by inflation in education costs, then stuck with undischargeable debt. And the more of them who get the credentials, the worse the credentials inflation–a spiral.

It's all fuelled by loose credit. The only beneficiaries are a managerial elite who enjoy palatial facilities.

As for the employers, they're not so bad off. Wages are coming down for credentialled employees due to all the competition. There is such a huge stock of degreed applicants that they can afford to ignore anyone who isn't. The credentials don't cost the employer–they're not spending the money, nor are they lending the money.

Modern money makes it possible for the central authorities to keep this racket going all the way up to the point of general systemic collapse. Why should they stop? Who's going to make them stop?

Bobbo June 26, 2015 at 10:19 am

The only reason the universities can get away with it is easy money. When the time comes that students actually need to pay tuition with real money, money they or their parents have actually saved, then college tuition rates will crash back down to earth. Don't blame the universities. This is the natural and inevitable outcome of easy money.

Jim June 26, 2015 at 10:54 am

Yes, college education in the US is a classic example of the effects of subsidies. Eliminate the subsidies and the whole education bubble would rapidly implode.

washunate June 26, 2015 at 11:03 am

I'm very curious if anyone will disagree with that assessment.

An obvious commonality across higher education, healthcare, housing, criminal justice, and national security is that we spend huge quantities of public money yet hold the workers receiving that money to extremely low standards of accountability for what they do with it.

tegnost June 26, 2015 at 11:38 am

Correct, it's not the universities, it's the culture that contains the universities, but the universities are training grounds for the culture so it is the universities just not only the universities Been remembering the song from my college days "my futures so bright i gotta wear shades". getting rich was the end in itself, and people who didn't make it didn't deserve anything but a whole lot of student debt,creating perverse incentives. And now we all know what the A in type a stands for at least among those who self identify as such, so yes it is the universities

Chris in Paris June 26, 2015 at 12:07 pm

I don't understand why the ability to accept guaranteed loan money doesn't come with an obligation by the school to cap tuition at a certain percentage over maximum loan amount? Would that be so hard to institute?

Ben June 26, 2015 at 1:53 pm

Student loans are debt issuance. Western states are desperate to issue debt as it's fungible with money and marked down as growth.

Borrow 120K over 3 years and it all gets paid into university coffers and reappears as "profit" now. Let some other president deal with low disposable income due to loan repayments. It's in a different electoral cycle – perfect.

jrd2 June 26, 2015 at 11:50 am

You can try to argue, but it will be hard to refute. If you give mortgages at teaser rates to anybody who can fog a mirror, you get a housing bubble. If you give student loans to any student without regard to the prospects of that student paying back the loan, you get a higher education bubble. Which will include private equity trying to catch as much of this money as they possibly can by investing in for profit educational institutions just barely adequate to benefit from federal student loan funds.

jrs June 26, 2015 at 6:16 pm

A lot of background conditions help. It helps to pump a housing bubble if there's nothing else worth investing in (including saving money at zero interest rates). It helps pump an education bubble if most of the jobs have been outsourced so people are competing more and more for fewer and fewer.

Beans June 26, 2015 at 11:51 am

I don't disagree with the statement that easy money has played the biggest role in jacking up tuition. I do strongly disagree that we shouldn't "blame" the universities. The universities are exactly where we should place the blame. The universities have become job training grounds, and yet continue to droll on and on about the importance of noble things like liberal education, the pursuit of knowledge, the importance of ideas, etc. They cannot have it both ways. Years ago, when tuition rates started escalating faster than inflation, the universities should have been the loudest critics – pointing out the cultural problems that would accompany sending the next generation into the future deeply indebted – namely that all the noble ideas learned at the university would get thrown out the window when financial reality forced recent graduates to chose between noble ideas and survival. If universities truly believed that a liberal education was important; that the pursuit of knowledge benefitted humanity – they should have led the charge to hold down tuition.

washunate June 26, 2015 at 12:47 pm

I took it to mean blame as in what allows the system to function. I heartily agree that highly paid workers at universities bear blame for what they do (and don't do) at a granular level.

It's just that they couldn't do those things without the system handing them gobs of resources, from tax deductability of charitable contributions to ignoring anti-competitive behavior in local real estate ownership to research grants and other direct funding to student loans and other indirect funding.

Jim June 26, 2015 at 3:09 pm

Regarding blaming "highly paid workers at universities" – If a society creates incentives for dysfunctional behavior such a society will have a lot of dysfunction. Eliminate the subsidies and see how quicly the educational bubble pops.

James Levy June 26, 2015 at 2:45 pm

You are ignoring the way that the rich bid up the cost of everything. 2% of the population will pay whatever the top dozen or so schools will charge so that little Billy or Sue can go to Harvard or Stanford. This leads to cost creep as the next tier ratchet up their prices in lock step with those above them, etc. The same dynamic happens with housing, at least around wealthy metropolitan areas.

daniel June 26, 2015 at 12:07 pm

Hi to you two,

A European perspective on this: yep, that's true on an international perspective. I belong to the ugly list of those readers of this blog who do not fully share the liberal values of most of you hear. However, may I say that I can agree on a lot of stuff.

US education and health-care are outrageously costly. Every European citizen moving to the states has a question: will he or she be sick whilst there. Every European parent with kids in higher education is aware that having their kids for one closing year in the US is the more they can afford (except if are a banquier d'affaires ). Is the value of the US education good? No doubt! Is is good value for money, of course not. Is the return on the money ok? It will prove disastrous, except if the USD crashed. The main reason? Easy money. As for any kind of investment. Remember that this is indeed a investment plan

Check the level of revenues of "public sector" teaching staff on both sides of the ponds. The figure for US professionals in these area are available on the Web. They are indeed much more costly than, say, North-of-Europe counterparts, "public sector" professionals in those area. Is higher education in the Netherlands sub-par when compared to the US? Of course not.

Yep financing education via the Fed (directly or not) is not only insanely costly. Just insane. The only decent solution: set up public institutions staffed with service-minded professionals that did not have to pay an insane sum to build up the curriculum themselves.

Are "public services" less efficient than private ones here in those area, health-care and higher education. Yep, most certainly. But, sure, having the fed indirectly finance the educational system just destroy any competitive savings made in building a competitive market-orientated educational system and is one of the worst way to handle your educational system.

Yep, you can do a worst use of the money, subprime or China buildings But that's all about it.

US should forget about exceptionnalism and pay attention to what North of Europe is doing in this area. Mind you, I am Southerner (of Europe). But of course I understand that trying to run these services on a federal basis is indeed "mission impossible".

Way to big! Hence the indirect Washington-decided Wall-Street-intermediated Fed-and-deficit-driven financing of higher education. Mind you: we have more and more of this bankers meddling in education in Europe and I do not like what I see.

John Zelnicker June 27, 2015 at 1:36 pm

@washunate – 6/26/15, 11:03 am. I know I'm late to the party, but I disagree. It's not the workers, it's the executives and management generally. Just like Wall Street, many of these top administrators have perfected the art of failing upwards.

IMNSHO everyone needs to stop blaming labor and/or the labor unions. It's not the front line workers, teachers, retail clerks, adjunct instructors, all those people who do the actual work rather than managing other people. Those workers have no bargaining power, and the unions have lost most of theirs, in part due to the horrible labor market, as well as other important reasons.

We have demonized virtually all of the government workers who actually do the work that enables us to even have a government (all levels) and to provide the services we demand, such as public safety, education, and infrastructure. These people are our neighbors, relatives and friends; we owe them better than this.

/end of rant

Roland June 27, 2015 at 5:20 pm

Unionized support staff at Canadian universities have had sub-inflation wage increases for nearly 20 years, while tuition has been rising at triple the rate of inflation.

So obviously one can't blame the unions for rising education costs.

Spring Texan June 28, 2015 at 8:03 am

Thanks for your rant! You said a mouthful. And could not be more correct.

Adam Eran June 26, 2015 at 12:18 pm

Omitted from this account: Federal funding for education has declined 55% since 1972. Part of the Powell memo's agenda.

It's understandable too; one can hardly blame legislators for punishing the educational establishment given the protests of the '60s and early '70s After all, they were one reason Nixon and Reagan rose to power. How dare they propose real democracy! Harumph!

To add to students' burden, there's the recent revision of bankruptcy law: student loans can no longer be retired by bankruptcy (Thanks Hillary!) It'll be interesting to see whether Hillary's vote on that bankruptcy revision becomes a campaign issue.

I also wonder whether employers will start to look for people without degrees as an indication they were intelligent enough to sidestep this extractive scam.

washunate June 26, 2015 at 1:54 pm

I'd be curious what you count as federal funding. Pell grants, for example, have expanded both in terms of the number of recipients and the amount of spending over the past 3 – 4 decades.

More generally, federal support for higher ed comes in a variety of forms. The bankruptcy law you mention is itself a form of federal funding. Tax exemption is another. Tax deductabiliity of contributions is another. So are research grants and exemptions from anti-competitive laws and so forth. There are a range of individual tax credits and deductions. The federal government also does not intervene in a lot of state supports, such as licensing practices in law and medicine that make higher ed gatekeepers to various fiefdoms and allowing universities to take fees for administering (sponsoring) charter schools. The Federal Work-Study program is probably one of the clearest specific examples of a program that offers both largely meaningless busy work and terrible wages.

As far as large employers seeking intelligence, I'm not sure that's an issue in the US? Generally speaking, the point of putting a college credential in a job requirement is precisely to find people participating in the 'scam'. If an employer is genuinely looking for intelligence, they don't have minimum educational requirements.

Laughingsong June 26, 2015 at 3:12 pm

I heard that Congress is cutting those:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/12/10/congress-cuts-federal-financial-aid-for-needy-students/

different clue June 28, 2015 at 3:06 am

Why would tuition rates come down when students need to pay with "real money, money they or their parents have actually saved. . . " ? Didn't tuition at state universities begin climbing when state governments began boycotting state universities in terms of embargoing former rates of taxpayer support to them? Leaving the state universities to try making up the difference by raising tuition? If people want to limit or reduce the tuition charged to in-state students of state universities, people will have to resume paying former rates of taxes and elect people to state government to re-target those taxes back to state universities the way they used to do before the reductions in state support to state universities.

Jesper June 26, 2015 at 10:29 am

Protest against exploitation and risk being black-listed by exploitative employers -> Only employers left are the ones who actually do want (not pretend to want) ethical people willing to stand up for what they believe in. Not many of those kind of employers around . What is the benefit? What are the risks?

Tammy June 27, 2015 at 4:35 pm

What is the benefit? What are the risks?
I am not a progressive, yet, there is always risk for solidary progress.

Andrew June 26, 2015 at 10:53 am

The author misrepresents the nature and demands of Chile's student movement.

Over the past few decades, university enrollment rates for Chileans expanded dramatically in part due to the creation of many private universities. In Chile, public universities lead the pack in terms of academic reputation and entrance is determined via competitive exams. As a result, students from poorer households who attended low-quality secondary schools generally need to look at private universities to get a degree. And these are the students to which the newly created colleges catered to.

According to Chilean legislation, universities can only function as non-profit entities. However, many of these new institutions were only nominally non-profit entities (for example, the owners of the university would also set up a real estate company that would rent the facilities to the college at above market prices) and they were very much lacking in quality. After a series of high-profile cases of universities that were open and shut within a few years leaving its students in limbo and debt, anger mounted over for-profit education.

The widespread support of the student movement was due to generalized anger about and education system that is dearly lacking in quality and to the violation of the spirit of the law regulating education. Once the student movement's demands became more specific and morphed from opposing for profit institutions to demanding free tuition for everyone, the widespread support waned quickly.

And while the government announced free tuition in public universities, there is a widespread consensus that this is a pretty terrible idea as it is regressive and involves large fiscal costs. In particular because most of the students that attend public universities come from relatively wealthy households that can afford tuition. The students that need the tuition assistance will not benefit under the new rules.

I personally benefited from the fantastically generous financial aid systems that some private American universities have set up which award grants and scholarships based on financial need only. And I believe that it is desirable for the State to guarantee that any qualified student has access to college regardless of his or her wealth I think that by romanticizing the Chilean student movement the author reveals himself to be either is dishonest or, at best, ignorant.

RanDomino June 27, 2015 at 12:23 pm

The protests also involved extremely large riots.

The Insider June 26, 2015 at 10:57 am

Students aren't protesting because they don't feel the consequences until they graduate.

One thing that struck me when I applied for a student loan a few years back to help me get through my last year of graduate school – the living expense allocation was surprisingly high. Not "student sharing an apartment with five random dudes while eating ramen and riding the bus", but more "living alone in a nice one-bedroom apartment while eating takeout and driving a car". Apocryphal stories of students using their student loans to buy new cars or take extravagant vacations were not impossible to believe.

The living expense portion of student loans is often so generous that students can live relatively well while going to school, which makes it that much easier for them to push to the backs of their minds the consequences that will come from so much debt when they graduate. Consequently, it isn't the students who are complaining – it's the former students. But by the time they are out of school and the university has their money in its pocket, it's too late for them to try and change the system.

lord koos June 26, 2015 at 11:42 am

I'm sure many students are simply happy to be in college the ugly truth hits later.

optimader June 26, 2015 at 12:39 pm

http://www.marketplace.org/topics/life/education/compete-students-colleges-roll-out-amenities

Sophomore Noell Conley lives there, too. She shows off the hotel-like room she shares with a roommate.

"As you walk in, to the right you see our granite countertops with two sinks, one for each of the residents," she says.

A partial wall separates the beds. Rather than trek down the hall to shower, they share a bathroom with the room next door.

"That's really nice compared to community bathrooms that I lived in last year," Conley says.

To be fair, granite countertops last longer. Tempur-Pedic is a local company - and gave a big discount. The amenities include classrooms and study space that are part of the dorm. Many of the residents are in the university's Honors program. But do student really need Apple TV in the lounges, or a smartphone app that lets them check their laundry status from afar?

"Demand has been very high," says the university's Penny Cox, who is overseeing the construction of several new residence halls on campus. Before Central Hall's debut in August, the average dorm was almost half a century old, she says. That made it harder to recruit.

"If you visit places like Ohio State, Michigan, Alabama," Cox says, "and you compare what we had with what they have available to offer, we were very far behind."

Today colleges are competing for a more discerning consumer. Students grew up with fewer siblings, in larger homes, Cox says. They expect more privacy than previous generations - and more comforts.

"These days we seem to be bringing kids up to expect a lot of material plenty," says Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University and author of the book "Generation Me."

Those students could be in for some disappointment when they graduate, she says.

"When some of these students have all these luxuries and then they get an entry-level job and they can't afford the enormous flat screen and the granite countertops," Twenge says, "then that's going to be a rude awakening."

Some on campus also worry about the divide between students who can afford such luxuries and those who can't. The so-called premium dorms cost about $1,000 more per semester. Freshman Josh Johnson, who grew up in a low-income family and lives in one of the university's 1960s-era buildings, says the traditional dorm is good enough for him.

"I wouldn't pay more just to live in a luxury dorm," he says. "It seems like I could just pay the flat rate and get the dorm I'm in. It's perfectly fine."

In the near future students who want to live on campus won't have a choice. Eventually the university plans to upgrade all of its residence halls.

So I wonder who on average will fair better navigating the post-college lifestyle/job market reality check, Noell or Josh? Personally, I would bet on the Joshes living in the 60's vintage enamel painted ciderblock dorm rooms.

optimader June 26, 2015 at 12:47 pm

Universities responding to the market

http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2012/08/29/10-Public-Colleges-with-Insanely-Luxurious-Dorms

Competition for students who have more sophisticated tastes than in past years is creating the perfect environment for schools to try to outdo each other with ever-more posh on-campus housing. Keeping up in the luxury dorm race is increasingly critical to a school's bottom line: A 2006 study published by the Association of Higher Education Facilities Officers found that "poorly maintained or inadequate residential facilities" was the number-one reason students rejected enrolling at institutions.

PHOTO GALLERY: Click Here to See the 10 Schools with Luxury Dorms

Private universities get most of the mentions on lists of schools with great dorms, as recent ratings by the Princeton Review, College Prowler, and Campus Splash make clear. But a few state schools that have invested in brand-new facilities are starting to show up on those reviews, too.

While many schools offer first dibs on the nicest digs to upperclassmen on campus, as the war for student dollars ratchets up even first-year students at public colleges are living in style. Here are 10 on-campus dormitories at state schools that offer students resort-like amenities.

Jerry Denim June 26, 2015 at 4:37 pm

Bingo! They don't get really mad until they're in their early thirties and they are still stuck doing some menial job with no vacation time, no health insurance and a monstrous mountain of debt. Up until that point they're still working hard waiting for their ship to come in and blaming themselves for any lack of success like Steinbeck's 'embarrassed millionaires.' Then one day maybe a decade after they graduate they realize they've been conned but they've got bills to pay and other problems to worry about so they solider on. 18 year-olds are told by their high school guidance councilors, their parents and all of the adults they trust that college while expensive is a good investment and the only way to succeed. Why should they argue? They don't know any better yet.

different clue June 28, 2015 at 3:09 am

Perhaps some students are afraid to protest for fear of being photographed or videographed and having their face and identity given to every prospective employer throughout America. Perhaps those students are afraid of being blackballed throughout the Great American Workplace if they are caught protesting anything on camera.

Today isn't like the sixties when you could drop out in the confidence that you could always drop back in again. Nowadays there are ten limpets for every scar on the rock.

seabos84 June 26, 2015 at 11:16 am

the average is such a worthless number. The Data we need, and which all these parasitic professional managerial types won't provide –
x axis would be family income, by $5000 increments.
y axis would be the median debt level
we could get fancy, and also throw in how many kids are in school in each of those income increments.

BTW – this 55 yr. old troglodyte believes that 1 of the roles (note – I did NOT say "The Role") of education is preparing people to useful to society. 300++ million Americans, 7 billion humans – we ALL need shelter, reliable and safe food, reliable and safe water, sewage disposal, clothing, transportation, education, sick care, power, leisure, we should ALL have access to family wage jobs and time for BBQs with our various communities several times a year. I know plenty of techno-dweebs here in Seattle who need to learn some of the lessons of 1984, The Prince, and Shakespeare. I know plenty of fuzzies who could be a bit more useful with some rudimentary skills in engineering, or accounting, or finance, or stats, or bio, or chem
I don't know what the current education system is providing, other than some accidental good things for society at large, and mainly mechanisms for the para$ite cla$$e$ to stay parasites.

rmm.

Adam Eran June 26, 2015 at 12:22 pm

Mao was perfectly content to promote technical education in the new China. What he deprecated (and fought to suppress) was the typical liberal arts notion of critical thinking. We're witnessing something comparable in the U.S.

This suppression in China led to an increase in Mao's authority (obviously), but kept him delusional. For example, because China relied on Mao's agricultural advice, an estimated 70 million Chinese died during peacetime. But who else was to be relied upon as an authority?

Back the the U.S.S.A. (the United StateS of America): One Australian says of the American system: "You Yanks don't consult the wisdom of democracy; you enable mobs."

Tammy June 27, 2015 at 4:41 pm

Mao was perfectly content to promote technical education in the new China. What he deprecated (and fought to suppress) was the typical liberal arts notion of critical thinking. We're witnessing something comparable in the U.S. We're witnessing something comparable in the U.S.

Mao liked chaos because he believed in continuous revolution. I would argue what we're experiencing is nothing comparable to what China experienced. (I hope I've understood you correctly.)

Ted June 26, 2015 at 11:20 am

I am pretty sure a tradition of protest to affect political change in the US is a rather rare bird. Most people "protest" by changing their behavior. As an example, by questioning the value of the 46,000 local private college tuition as opposed the the 15k and 9k tiered state college options. My daughter is entering the freshman class next year, we opted for the cheaper state option because, in the end, a private school degree adds nothing, unless it is to a high name recognition institution.

I think, like housing, a downstream consequence of "the gouge" is not to question - much less understand - class relations, but to assess the value of the lifetyle choice once you are stuck with the price of paying for that lifestyle in the form of inflated debt repayments. Eventually "the folk" figure it out and encourage cheaper alternatives toward the same goal.

Jim June 26, 2015 at 3:18 pm

There's probably little point in engaging in political protest. Most people maximise their chances of success by focusing on variables over which they have some degree of control. The ability of most people to have much effect on the overall political-economic system is slight and any returns from political activity are highly uncertain.

jrs June 26, 2015 at 9:53 pm

How does anyone even expect to maintain cheap available state options without political activity? By wishful thinking I suppose?

The value of a private school might be graduating sooner, state schools are pretty overcrowded, but that may not at all be worth the debt (I doubt it almost ever is on a purely economic basis).

RabidGandhi June 27, 2015 at 7:57 pm

Maybe if we just elect the right people with cool posters and a hopey changey slogan, they'll take care of everything for us and we won't have to be politically active.

jrs June 26, 2015 at 10:04 pm

Of course refusal to engage politically because the returns to oneself by doing so are small really IS the tragedy of the commons. Thus one might say it's ethical to engage politically in order to avoid it. Some ethical action focuses on overcoming tragedy of the commons dilemmas. Of course the U.S. system being what it is I have a hard time blaming anyone for giving up.

chairman June 26, 2015 at 11:37 am

The middle class, working class and poor have no voice in politics or policy at all, and they don't know what's going on until it's too late. They've been pushed by all their high school staff that college is the only acceptable option - and often it is. What else are they going to do out of high school, work a 30 hour a week minimum wage retail job? The upper middle class and rich, who entirely monopolize the media, don't have any reason to care about skyrocketing college tuition - their parents are paying for it anyway. They'd rather write about the hip and trendy issues of the day, like trigger warnings.

Fool June 26, 2015 at 1:17 pm

To the contrary, they're hardly advised by "their high school staff"; nonetheless, subway ads for Phoenix, Monroe, etc. have a significant influence.

Uncle Bruno June 26, 2015 at 11:58 am

They're too busy working

Fool June 26, 2015 at 1:20 pm

Also Tinder.

collegestudent June 26, 2015 at 12:39 pm

Speaking as one of these college students, I think that a large part of the reason that the vast majority of students are just accepting the tuition rates is because it has become the societal norm. Growing up I can remember people saying "You need to go to college to find a good job." Because a higher education is seen as a necessity for most people, students think of tuition as just another form of taxes, acceptable and inevitable, which we will expect to get a refund on later in life.

Pitchfork June 26, 2015 at 1:03 pm

I teach at a "good" private university. Most of my students don't have a clue as to how they're being exploited. Many of the best students feel enormous pressure to succeed and have some inkling that their job prospects are growing narrower, but they almost universally accept this as the natural order of things. Their outlook: if there are 10 or 100 applicants for every available job, well, by golly, I just have to work that much harder and be the exceptional one who gets the job.

Incoming freshmen were born in the late 90s - they've never known anything but widespread corruption, financial and corporate oligarchy, i-Pads and the Long Recession.

But as other posters note, the moment of realization usually comes after four years of prolonged adolescence, luxury dorm living and excessive debt accumulation.

Tammy June 27, 2015 at 4:49 pm

Most Ph.D.'s don't either. I'd argue there have been times they have attempted to debate that exploitation is a good–for their employer and himself/herself–with linguistic games. Mind numbing . To be fair, they have a job.

Gottschee June 26, 2015 at 1:34 pm

I have watched the tuition double–double!–at my alma mater in the last eleven years. During this period, administrators have set a goal of increasing enrollment by a third, and from what I hear, they've done so. My question is always this: where is the additional tuition money going? Because as I walk through the campus, I don't really see that many improvements–yes, a new building, but that was supposedly paid for by donations and endowments. I don't see new offices for these high-priced admin people that colleges are hiring, and in fact, what I do see is an increase in the number of part-time faculty and adjuncts. The tenured faculty is not prospering from all this increased revenue, either.

I suspect the tuition is increasing so rapidly simply because the college can get away with it. And that means they are exploiting the students.

While still a student, I once calculated that it cost me $27.00/hour to be in class. (15 weeks x 20 "contact hours" per week =
300 hours/semester, $8000/semester divided by 300 hours = $27.00/hour). A crude calculation, certainly, but a starting point. I did this because I had an instructor who was consistently late to class, and often cancelled class, so much that he wiped out at least $300.00 worth of instruction. I had the gall to ask for a refund of that amount. I'm full of gall. Of course, I was laughed at, not just by the administrators, but also by some students.

Just like medical care, education pricing is "soft," that is, the price is what you are willing to pay. Desirable students get scholarships and stipends, which other students subsidize; similarly, some pre-ACA patients in hospitals were often treated gratis.

Students AND hospital patients alike seem powerless to affect the contract with the provider. Reform will not likely be forthcoming, as students, like patients, are "just passing through."

Martin Finnucane June 26, 2015 at 2:10 pm

Higher education wears the cloak of liberalism, but in policy and practice, it can be a corrupt and cutthroat system of power and exploitation.

I find the "but" in that sentence to be dissonant.

Mark Anderson June 26, 2015 at 3:12 pm

The tuition at most public universities has quadrupled or more over the last 15 to 20 years precisely BECAUSE state government subsidies have been
slashed in the meantime. I was told around 2005 that quadrupled tuition at the University of Minnesota made up for about half of the state money that the legislature had slashed from the university budget over the previous 15 years.

It is on top of that situation that university administrators are building themselves little aristocratic empires, very much modeled on the kingdoms of corporate CEOs
where reducing expenses (cutting faculty) and services to customers (fewer classes, more adjuncts) is seen as the height of responsibility and accountability, perhaps
even the definition of propriety.

Jim June 26, 2015 at 3:23 pm

Everyone should read the introductory chapter to David Graeber's " The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy."

In Chapter One of this book entitled "The Iron law of Liberalism and the Era of Total Bureaucratization" Graeber notes that the US has become the most rigidly credentialised society in the world where

" in field after field from nurses to art teachers, physical therapists, to foreign policy consultants, careers which used to be considered an art (best learned through doing) now require formal professional training and a certificate of completion."

Graeber, in that same chapter, makes another extremely important point. when he notes that career advancement in may large bureaucratic organizations demands a willingness to play along with the fiction that advancement is based on merit, even though most everyone know that this isn't true.

The structure of modern power in the U.S., in both the merging public and private sectors, is built around the false ideology of a giant credentialized meritorcracy rather than the reality of arbitrary extraction by predatory bureaucratic networks.

armchair June 26, 2015 at 3:27 pm

Anecdote: I was speaking to someone who recently started working at as a law school administrator at my alma mater. Enrollment is actually down at law schools (I believe), because word has spread about the lame legal job market. So, the school administration is watching its pennies, and the new administrator says the administrators aren't getting to go on so many of the all expense paid conferences and junkets that they used to back in the heyday. As I hear this, I am thinking about how many of these awesome conferences in San Diego, New Orleans and New York that I'm paying back. Whatever happened to the metaphorical phrase: "when a pig becomes a hog, it goes to slaughter"?

Another anecdote: I see my undergrad alma mater has demolished the Cold War era dorms on one part of campus and replaced it with tons of slick new student housing.

MaroonBulldog June 26, 2015 at 7:15 pm

No doubt those Cold War era dorms had outlived their planned life. Time for replacement. Hell, they had probably become inhabitable and unsafe.

Meanwhile, has your undergraduate school replaced any of its lecture courses with courses presented same model as on-line traffic school? I have a pending comment below about how my nephew's public university "taught" him introductory courses in accounting and macroeconomics that way. Please be assured that the content of those courses was on a par with best practices in the on-line traffic school industry. It would be hilarious if it weren't so desperately sad.

Roquentin June 26, 2015 at 5:04 pm

I read things like this and think about Louis Althusser and his ideas about "Ideological State Apparatuses." While in liberal ideology the education is usually considered to be the space where opportunity to improve one's situation is founded, Althusser reached the complete opposite conclusion. For him, universities are the definitive bourgeois institution, the ideological state apparatus of the modern capitalist state par excellance. The real purpose of the university was not to level the playing field of opportunity but to preserve the advantages of the bourgeoisie and their children, allowing the class system to perpetuate/reproduce itself.

It certainly would explain a lot. It would explain why trying to send everyone to college won't solve this, because not everyone can have a bourgeois job. Some people actually have to do the work. The whole point of the university as an institution was to act as a sorting/distribution hub for human beings, placing them at certain points within the division of labor. A college degree used to mean more because getting it was like a golden ticket, guaranteeing someone who got it at least a petit-bourgeois lifestyle. The thing is, there are only so many slots in corporate America for this kind of employment. That number is getting smaller too. You could hand every man, woman, and child in America a BS and it wouldn't change this in the slightest.

What has happened instead, for college to preserve its role as the sorting mechanism/preservation of class advantage is what I like to call degree inflation and/or an elite formed within degrees themselves. Now a BS or BA isn't enough, one needs an Master's or PhD to really be distinguished. Now a degree from just any institution won't do, it has to be an Ivy or a Tier 1 school. Until we learn to think realistically about what higher education is as an institution little or nothing will change.

Jim June 26, 2015 at 8:14 pm

Any credential is worthless if everybody has it. All information depends on contrast. It's impossible for everybody to "stand out" from the masses. The more people have college degrees the less value a college degree has.

sid_finster June 26, 2015 at 5:49 pm

When I was half-grown, I heard it said that religion is no longer the opiate of the masses, in that no one believes in God anymore, at least not enough for it to change actual behavior.

Instead, buying on credit is the opiate of the masses.

MaroonBulldog June 26, 2015 at 6:58 pm

My nephew asked me to help him with his college introductory courses in macroeconomics and accounting. I was disappointed to find out what was going on: no lectures by professors, no discussion sessions with teaching assistants; no team projects–just two automated correspondence courses, with automated computer graded problem sets objective tests – either multiple choice, fill in the blank with a number, or fill in the blank with a form answer. This from a public university that is charging tuition for attendance just as though it were really teaching something. All they're really certifying is that the student can perform exercises is correctly reporting what a couple of textbooks said about subjects of marginal relevance to his degree. My nephew understands exactly that this is going on, but still .

This is how 21st century America treats its young people: it takes people who are poor, in the sense that they have no assets, and makes them poorer, loading them up with student debt, which they incur in order to finance a falsely-so-called course of university study that can't be a good deal, even for the best students among them.

I am not suggesting the correspondence courses have no worth at all. But they do not have the worth that is being charged for them in this bait-and-switch exercise by Ed Business.

MaroonBulldog June 27, 2015 at 1:39 am

After further thought, I'd compare my nephew's two courses to on-line traffic school: Mechanized "learning" – forget it all as soon as the test is over – Critical thinking not required. Except for the kind of "test preparation" critical thinking that teaches one to spot and eliminate the obviously wrong choices in objective answers–that kind of thinking saves time and so is very helpful.

Not only is he paying full tuition to receive this treatment, but his family and mine are paying taxes to support it, too.

Very useful preparation for later life, where we can all expect to attend traffic school a few times. But no preparation for any activity of conceivable use or benefit to any other person.

Spring Texan June 28, 2015 at 8:07 am

Good story. What a horrible rip-off!

P. Fitzsimon June 27, 2015 at 12:26 pm

I read recently that the business establishment viewed the most important contribution of colleges was that they warehoused young people for four years to allow maturing.

Fred Grosso June 27, 2015 at 4:55 pm

Where are the young people in all this? Is anyone going to start organizing to change things? Any ideas? Any interest? Are we going to have some frustrated, emotional person attempt to kill a university president once every ten years? Then education can appeal for support from the government to beef up security. Meanwhile the same old practices will prevail and the rich get richer and the rest of us get screwed.

Come on people step up.

Unorthodoxmarxist June 27, 2015 at 6:22 pm

The reason students accept this has to be the absolutely demobilized political culture of the United States combined with what college represents structurally to students from the middle classes: the only possibility – however remote – of achieving any kind of middle class income.

Really your choices in the United States are, in terms of jobs, to go into the military (and this is really for working class kids, Southern families with a military history and college-educated officer-class material) or to go to college.

The rest, who have no interest in the military, attend college, much like those who wanted to achieve despite of their class background went into the priesthood in the medieval period. There hasn't been a revolt due to the lack of any idea it could function differently and that American families are still somehow willing to pay the exorbitant rates to give their children a piece of paper that still enables them to claim middle class status though fewer and fewer find jobs. $100k in debt seems preferable to no job prospects at all.

Colleges have become a way for the ruling class to launder money into supposed non-profits and use endowments to purchase stocks, bonds, and real estate. College administrators and their lackeys (the extended school bureaucracy) are propping up another part of the financial sector – just take a look at Harvard's $30+ billion endowment, or Yale's $17 billion – these are just the top of a very large heap. They're all deep into the financial sector. Professors and students are simply there as an excuse for the alumni money machine and real estate scams to keep running, but there's less and less of a reason for them to employ professors, and I say this as a PhD with ten years of teaching experience who has seen the market dry up even more than it was when I entered grad school in the early 2000s.

A Real Black Person purple monkey dishwasher June 28, 2015 at 9:13 pm

"Colleges have become a way for the ruling class to launder money into supposed non-profits and use endowments to purchase stocks, bonds, and real estate. "

Unorthodoxmarxist, I thought I was the only person who was coming to that conclusion. I think there's data out there that could support our thesis that college tuition inflation may be affecting real estate prices. After all, justification a college grad gave to someone who was questioning the value of a college degree was that by obtaining a "a degree" and a professional job, an adult could afford to buy a home in major metropolitan hubs. I'm not sure if he was that ignorant, (business majors, despite the math requirement are highly ideological people. They're no where near as objective as they like to portray themselves as) or if he hasn't been in contact with anyone with a degree trying to buy a home in a metropolitan area.

Anyways, if our thesis is true, then if home prices declined in 2009, then college tuition should have declined as well, but it didn't at most trustworthy schools. Prospective students kept lining up to pay more for education that many insiders believe is "getting worse" because of widespread propaganda and a lack of alternatives, especially for "middle class" women.

Pelham June 27, 2015 at 7:04 pm

It's hard to say, but there ought to be a power keg of students here primed to blow. And Bernie Sanders' proposal for free college could be the fuse.

But first he'd have the light the fuse, and maybe he can. He's getting huge audiences and a lot of interest these days. And here's a timely issue. What would happen if Sanders toured colleges and called for an angry, mass and extended student strike across the country to launch on a certain date this fall or next spring to protest these obscene tuitions and maybe call for something else concrete, like a maximum ratio of administrators to faculty for colleges to receive accreditation?

It could ignite not only a long-overdue movement on campuses but also give a big boost to his campaign. He'd have millions of motivated and even furious students on his side as well as a lot of motivated and furious parents of students (my wife and I would be among them) - and these are just the types of people likely to get out and vote in the primaries and general election.

Sanders' consistent message about the middle class is a strong one. But here's a solid, specific but very wide-ranging issue that could bring that message into very sharp relief and really get a broad class of politically engaged people fired up.

I'm not one of those who think Sanders can't win but applaud his candidacy because it will nudge Hillary Clinton. I don't give a fig about Clinton. I think there's a real chance Sanders can win not just the nomination but also the presidency. This country is primed for a sharp political turn. Sanders could well be the right man in the right place and time. And this glaring and ongoing tuition ripoff that EVERYONE agrees on could be the single issue that puts him front-and-center rather than on the sidelines.

Rosario June 28, 2015 at 1:18 am

I finished graduate school about three years ago. During the pre-graduate terms that I paid out of pocket (2005-2009) I saw a near 70 percent increase in tuition (look up KY college tuition 1987-2009 for proof).

Straight bullshit, but remember our school was just following the national (Neoliberal) model.

Though, realize that I was 19-23 years old. Very immature (still immature) and feeling forces beyond my control. I did not protest out of a) fear [?] (I don't know, maybe, just threw that in there) b) the sheepskin be the path to salvation (include social/cultural pressures from parent, etc.).

I was more affected by b). This is the incredible power of our current Capitalist culture. It trains us well. We are always speaking its language, as if a Classic. Appraising its world through its values.

I wished to protest (i.e. Occupy, etc.) but to which master? All of its targets are post modern, all of it, to me, nonsense, and, because of this undead (unable to be destroyed). This coming from a young man, as I said, still immature, though I fear this misdirection, and alienation is affecting us all.

John June 28, 2015 at 10:42 am

NYU can gouge away. It's filled with Chinese students (spies) who pay full tuition.

[Nov 27, 2017] How a half-educated tech elite delivered us into chaos by John Naughton

This is about neoliberalism, not about the structure of the university education and the amount of social courses required to get an STEM degree. The article is a baloney in this sense. And because neoliberalism defy regulation Google and Facebook were able to built " amazingly sophisticated, computer-driven engines for extracting users' personal information and data trails, refining them for sale to advertisers in high-speed data-trading auctions that are entirely unregulated and opaque to everyone except the companies themselves."
Notable quotes:
"... Put simply, what Google and Facebook have built is a pair of amazingly sophisticated, computer-driven engines for extracting users' personal information and data trails, refining them for sale to advertisers in high-speed data-trading auctions that are entirely unregulated and opaque to everyone except the companies themselves. ..."
"... Democracy in America ..."
"... All of which brings to mind CP Snow's famous Two Cultures lecture, delivered in Cambridge in 1959, in which he lamented the fact that the intellectual life of the whole of western society was scarred by the gap between the opposing cultures of science and engineering on the one hand, and the humanities on the other – with the latter holding the upper hand among contemporary ruling elites. Snow thought that this perverse dominance would deprive Britain of the intellectual capacity to thrive in the postwar world and he clearly longed to reverse it. ..."
"... Lack of education in the humanities is not the reason for misuse of the tech giant's products, as the author so emphatically states. It simply comes down to greed. That human drive to make more, more and more leads them to overlook things for the sake of making more. A class in political science or sociology is not going to change that. ..."
"... Zuckerberg and similar folks are guilty of the same thing that most people are - greed. Monetary greed is just one part. ..."
"... As for education, it's not easy to get an engineering or comp sci degree. But while you are getting hammered in classes that are far more complex than most other things taught on the campus, you do indeed have to take a variety of other non-technical electives outside of your technical major to complete the overall curriculum. ..."
"... This likely has been pointed out already, but the American University system requires all students to take a core of humanities classes regardless of major. SO they actually have been exposed to, most likely, a fair number of Western Civ, History, and Literature courses. Their deficiency I think lays more in the utopian roots of the internet and technology development of the 1990s. They have been strangely naive and ruthless at the same time, and its changing human interactions and society sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. ..."
"... Wow, if there ever was an example of why Trump won, the utter and complete self righteousness of the American liberal, this post is it. Congratulations. ..."
"... If you've every hung out in Silicon Valley with techies you'd know that mild sociopathy is indeed likely part of the problem. ..."
"... Capitalists will do what capitalists do. So ignoring social consequences in the pursuit of money is baked-in. Doesn't matter what your education is. In fact, class has more to do with their blindness than the lack of a liberal arts education. ..."
"... It ties in with what many of the fake-news-complainers are reluctant to discuss: there is an ocean of sociological/economic 'facts' that exist somewhere between 'easily-provable lie' and 'this may be a lie to the elite, but it is a true fact for the unwashed masses'. and in tandem with that: the uneasy questions about censorship that come with *any* attempt at regulating the press. ..."
"... This is too simple. The development of critical thought is the key thing and it isn't monopolized by any discipline. People without any qualifications and without much education can - and do - exercise critical ability. The problem is a cultural one. Consumerism and the pretend world in which people 'think' they can be what they want and live in make believe soaps is the problem. ..."
"... "If you have an issue with tech giants messing around with your personal data, don't give them your personal data." They'll take your personal data, regardless. Because they make money from selling it. ..."
Nov 19, 2017 | www.theguardian.com

One of the biggest puzzles about our current predicament with fake news and the weaponisation of social media is why the folks who built this technology are so taken aback by what has happened. Exhibit A is the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg , whose political education I recently chronicled . But he's not alone. In fact I'd say he is quite representative of many of the biggest movers and shakers in the tech world. We have a burgeoning genre of " OMG, what have we done? " angst coming from former Facebook and Google employees who have begun to realize that the cool stuff they worked on might have had, well, antisocial consequences.

Put simply, what Google and Facebook have built is a pair of amazingly sophisticated, computer-driven engines for extracting users' personal information and data trails, refining them for sale to advertisers in high-speed data-trading auctions that are entirely unregulated and opaque to everyone except the companies themselves.

The purpose of this infrastructure was to enable companies to target people with carefully customised commercial messages and, as far as we know, they are pretty good at that. (Though some advertisers are beginning to wonder if these systems are quite as good as Google and Facebook claim.) And in doing this, Zuckerberg, Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin and co wrote themselves licenses to print money and build insanely profitable companies.

It never seems to have occurred to them that their engines could be used to deliver ideological and political messages

It never seems to have occurred to them that their advertising engines could also be used to deliver precisely targeted ideological and political messages to voters. Hence the obvious question: how could such smart people be so stupid? The cynical answer is they knew about the potential dark side all along and didn't care, because to acknowledge it might have undermined the aforementioned licenses to print money. Which is another way of saying that most tech leaders are sociopaths. Personally I think that's unlikely, although among their number are some very peculiar characters: one thinks, for example, of Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel – Trump's favourite techie; and Travis Kalanick, the founder of Uber.

So what else could explain the astonishing naivety of the tech crowd? My hunch is it has something to do with their educational backgrounds. Take the Google co-founders. Sergey Brin studied mathematics and computer science. His partner, Larry Page, studied engineering and computer science. Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard, where he was studying psychology and computer science, but seems to have been more interested in the latter.

sWhy Facebook is in a hole over data mining | John Naughton

Now mathematics, engineering and computer science are wonderful disciplines – intellectually demanding and fulfilling. And they are economically vital for any advanced society. But mastering them teaches students very little about society or history – or indeed about human nature. As a consequence, the new masters of our universe are people who are essentially only half-educated. They have had no exposure to the humanities or the social sciences, the academic disciplines that aim to provide some understanding of how society works, of history and of the roles that beliefs, philosophies, laws, norms, religion and customs play in the evolution of human culture.

We are now beginning to see the consequences of the dominance of this half-educated elite. As one perceptive observer Bob O'Donnell puts it, "a liberal arts major familiar with works like Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America , John Stuart Mill's On Liberty , or even the work of ancient Greek historians, might have been able to recognise much sooner the potential for the 'tyranny of the majority' or other disconcerting sociological phenomena that are embedded into the very nature of today's social media platforms. While seemingly democratic at a superficial level, a system in which the lack of structure means that all voices carry equal weight, and yet popularity, not experience or intelligence, actually drives influence, is clearly in need of more refinement and thought than it was first given."

All of which brings to mind CP Snow's famous Two Cultures lecture, delivered in Cambridge in 1959, in which he lamented the fact that the intellectual life of the whole of western society was scarred by the gap between the opposing cultures of science and engineering on the one hand, and the humanities on the other – with the latter holding the upper hand among contemporary ruling elites. Snow thought that this perverse dominance would deprive Britain of the intellectual capacity to thrive in the postwar world and he clearly longed to reverse it.

Snow passed away in 1980, but one wonders what he would have made of the new masters of our universe. One hopes that he might see it as a reminder of the old adage: be careful what you wish for – you might just get it.

John Dumaker , 20 Nov 2017 18:26

Lack of education in the humanities is not the reason for misuse of the tech giant's products, as the author so emphatically states. It simply comes down to greed. That human drive to make more, more and more leads them to overlook things for the sake of making more. A class in political science or sociology is not going to change that.
Laney65 -> Dan Campbell , 20 Nov 2017 17:55
Middle and high school in the US need to tackle more philosophy, history and other humanities instead of force feeding kids test material for them to simply memorize. Then, lo and behold, by the time kids get into university, they may already have grasped the basics of human analytical skills. Why wait till further education?
capatriot -> Zenovia Iordache , 20 Nov 2017 17:34
Wtf? All this hue and cry that Facebook has "ruined" democracy ... and I see you've actually bought into it. Holy cow, who knew a few hundred thousand $$ gets Brexit and Trump done while $1 billion in actual adverts cannot elect Clinton?

Goodness, that's some powerful analytica, no? You guys should really hear yourselves ... you sound utterly deranged by this Trump thing!

Rita Ihly -> Declawed , 20 Nov 2017 17:24
If we are all concerned, we can remedy 'the problem'. Chuck Cable, ( I did 7 years ago), get off facebook, twitter and the like. We are all subject to the marketing, the allure of 'like' thinking, etc. Yet we need to 'grow up' mature, and be concerned about this path. Our youth is our hope, but if they are indoctrinated and sucked into the social network mess, I do not see a future or much hope. Yes, it is all about marketing, greed, and ego. Pretty difficult to overcome. Soul searching, integrity, and sincere concern for democracy is crucial.
Hallucinogen , 20 Nov 2017 17:18

It never seems to have occurred to them that their advertising engines could also be used to deliver precisely targeted ideological and political messages to voters. Hence the obvious question: how could such smart people be so stupid?

So stupid? Is the author claiming to have known this in advance of it happening?
Dizzy123 , 20 Nov 2017 17:17
A yes...science. "Once they go up, who cares where they come down, that's not my department, says Werner Von Braun" (Tom Leher) Man kind has always been willing to subjugate it's essential humanity for the elusive goal of "progress". The computer age is no different.
Dizzy123 -> AsboSubject , 20 Nov 2017 17:14
Well, actually , they did. Slaves were not allowed to vote in the UK either. And, one must remember, it was the UK that introduced slavery to North America which was, after all, a British colony ruled by British courts and British jurisprudence at that juncture.
Dan Campbell -> funcrew , 20 Nov 2017 16:27
Anyone who finishes engineering cannot be classified as a dim bulb. It's only understood by those that go through it how difficult it is in comparison to other things. The complexity is hard to explain to anyone outside of it. Most people fail out or quit, literally, and those are the ones that at least gave it a try. I watched many such people go on to the business or other schools and rush a frat and barely study and ace their courses. They said straight up that it wasn't even close.
Dan Campbell , 20 Nov 2017 16:25
Zuckerberg and similar folks are guilty of the same thing that most people are - greed. Monetary greed is just one part. Additionally, there's a ton of ego there to want to do things others haven't done or can't do or aren't doing, but ego is not exclusive to the tech industry. They were negligent in looking the other way while their products were exploited and they hid under freedom of speech, providing a functionality that isn't necessarily tied with or promotes nefarious conduct so they aren't responsible when it does. There's no shortage of this through years - radio, TV, nuclear power, guns, drug paraphernalia, chemicals, photo copiers, MP3 players and file copying services like Napster, on and on. It's not just technical items.

It's all about making money. Twitter is sitting back absolutely loving every Trump tweet, while individually at least some or many of the people there hate the actual tweets themselves or at least think the POTUS should be communicating in a better manner and put this ad hoc approach aside. I don't know of too many that think he's doing good things for the country or world or even his self image and reputation with it and should continue. But for Twitter it promotes their product and service and stock and pay check and bonus and livelihood. So the greed wins out.

As for education, it's not easy to get an engineering or comp sci degree. But while you are getting hammered in classes that are far more complex than most other things taught on the campus, you do indeed have to take a variety of other non-technical electives outside of your technical major to complete the overall curriculum. But there's only so much you can do, only so much time and interest. You can't necessarily expect each and everyone to be incredibly well rounded without at least sacrificing their ability to focus and specialize in their strength and interest. Pretty much every doctor I've met is aloof to some degree. Accountants have trouble thinking outside the strict confines of the accounting box. I know plenty of lawyers who aren't great with technology or computers. And few people in those professions that are also incredibly versed in the things the author mentions. Few have time to be once life and family kicks in.

ChinaDoubter , 20 Nov 2017 16:05
This likely has been pointed out already, but the American University system requires all students to take a core of humanities classes regardless of major. SO they actually have been exposed to, most likely, a fair number of Western Civ, History, and Literature courses. Their deficiency I think lays more in the utopian roots of the internet and technology development of the 1990s. They have been strangely naive and ruthless at the same time, and its changing human interactions and society sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse.
Dan Campbell -> LuvvleeJubblee , 20 Nov 2017 15:44
He said he was "half educated" not because he finished only half of his comp sci degree (or even psychology) but because he wasn't educated in other subjects that may have given him insight into human behavior and sociology. There may be some truth to that but it seems kind of a stretch since pretty much most people are as he describes; he just seems to be picking on Zuckerberg since he developed something with such huge influence and is now on the hot seat for being at least naive if not deliberately looking the other way while his platform was used in ways he probably didn't envision or want but made them a ton of money. Most people aren't really that educated or versed in the things the author mentions, and that includes many people outside of the tech industry who could never accomplish what Zuckerberg or others have accomplished.
funcrew , 20 Nov 2017 15:26
A 4-year engineering degree already takes 5 years to complete (at least for a dim bulb like myself). We already have to take a bunch of non-technical social science, history, and English "core" classes.
David -> LuvvleeJubblee , 20 Nov 2017 15:23
Way to miss the point. Zuckerberg is poorly educated in understanding human behavior. I could've told these tech yokels exactly what was becoming of their practices.
Declawed -> Tersena , 20 Nov 2017 15:21

It's no coincidence that the people I know who eschew things like Twitter and Facebook are the techy people who can remember the internet in the good ol' days when the maxim was "don't tell anyone anything about anything".

God, I remember that feeling. Still on a modem and proudly watching people excitedly get into the Internet. And then I watched on in utter horror as they give away their real names. I didn't understand why people didn't understand. You can discard a mask - you can't discard your face!
uberkunst -> capatriot , 20 Nov 2017 14:59
And you fail to realize that your existence is not, never has and never will be an island that removes you from the rest of humanity. It is irrelevant to the rest of us if you volunteer to be ignorant of the rest of us, and yet you think that only if everyone else was like you the problem would be solved.

Sorry but, our existence is inherently governed by the fact that we are social animals and part of an Earth based biosphere and politically that requires we show more than smug diffidence. I realise that religions have spent the last 2000 years or so trying to separate us from each other and nature, by pretending we have individual souls far more important than our collective being, but that's not an excuse either.

Declawed , 20 Nov 2017 14:52

"While seemingly democratic at a superficial level, a system in which the lack of structure means that all voices carry equal weight, and yet popularity, not experience or intelligence, actually drives influence, is clearly in need of more refinement and thought than it was first given"

Erm. The inevitable effect of connection-seeking in a low friction environment is called The Singularity and people have been warning about it for at least the last couple of decades now.

Congratulations. You've recognized the Problem. Now, if you really want to look smart, explain why nobody involved wants to implement the Solution...

Zenovia Iordache -> capatriot , 20 Nov 2017 14:43
I have a feeling your poor friends get the Big picture while you dont. Trumps get elected while you are offline. Brexit happens while you are offline cause Cambridge Analytica and Farage .. well they work hard at protecting certain interests. And so on.. is about information wars and power. And their consequences on democracy. And you might not be immediately affected If you are white male and from an OK bakground. If you are privileged and well off maybe even your children will make it in the offline bubble.
But what about the rest?
AsboSubject -> capatriot , 20 Nov 2017 14:28
The UK history on democracy isn't exactly a roll call of enlightened thinking either. The only gains were made by often violent demonstrations by The Chartists and Suffragettes. But at least the UK never banned black people from voting.
AsboSubject -> blandino , 20 Nov 2017 14:19
You are not a nice person. Thinking that people you imagine aren't as intelligent or don't see the world the way you see it deserve dieing from poverty or opioid overdoses is quite unpleasant.
rogerfgay , 20 Nov 2017 13:52
Sure, pick on the engineers. They make more money than you do. But if your half-courage took a leap forward, you'd target the quarter-educated people who are driving this because they control the spending. But then, they're also the people you're asking for a job aren't they?
capatriot -> blandino , 20 Nov 2017 13:41
Wow, if there ever was an example of why Trump won, the utter and complete self righteousness of the American liberal, this post is it. Congratulations.

You never had a "democracy" ... or if you had one, it was in the very dim past and limited to propertied men ... in recent times, you've had a two-party oligarchy managed by military-tech corporations. Oh, those good old days of limited choice and Vietnam, how can we ever go back to those, amirite?

capatriot , 20 Nov 2017 13:32
Gosh, I guess they were not joking when they talked about the "global village" ... and anyone knows a village is full of gossip and half-truths.

I feel like almost every other day i need to point out to my hyperventilating Russia-fearing friends that you all do realize that all of this online-ness is voluntary, right? That a person can have a complete and real existence with no Facebook profile, not Tweet, none of that? I'm one such person, and I work in tech.

tommydog -> pipspeak , 20 Nov 2017 13:27
Are media companies prevented by regulation from reporting "fake news". In any supermarket you'll spot newspapers with headlines to the effect that "My Mother-in-Law is a Space Alien". Now, while I'd guess that is true some of the time, I have a hard time believing that there are really that many space aliens around harassing their earthling inlaws. I'm not aware that that reporting is regulated. Are you saying it is?
blandino , 20 Nov 2017 12:53
The vow claimed by Brin and other Google founders, "Do No Evil," should have been a warning. In a New Yorker piece on tech's influence on the election last summer, a Facebook employee was quoted as saying, "We joke about who we should give the election to." It has recently come out that as Apple, the most traitorous of all the giant tech corporations that are a product of the American educational system (before it was strangled by Republicans like Trump and Betsy DeVos), traitorous because they pay no corporate taxes in the U.S., had an opportunity to choose between making phones and PDAs addictive pleasure machines or responsible news devices. They chose addictive pleasures, because it's obviously more profitable, like McDonald's supersizing its French fries and sugary drinks.

They've created a generation of Americans who will swallow anything that's fed to them ("It must be true. I read it on the Internet."). These are the people who love Trump, who don't understand or care about the Constitution or the Bill of Rights and would probably vote against them in a referendum (which some Republicans have promoted as a new Constitutional Convention). Their minds have become morbidly obese, filled with Angry Birds and empty Twitter posts that leave them unable to comprehend ideas that take more than 140 characters to express.

Such people deserve their fate (poverty, death by opioids), but it's tragic and evil that they are wrecking the planet with climate change denial (which, of course, justifies unregulated pollution), science denial (in which Evangelical Christians commit the child abuse of denying evolution and trying to prohibit its teaching.Such Fake Christians also reject most of Jesus' liberal teachings.)

Here in the SF Bay Area it's hard to avoid knowing some of these techies. They aren't all clueless about social interaction, arrogant, selfish, and contemptuous of other people--only 90% of them. The remainder scratch their heads, smile, cash their paychecks and stock options, and retire to multimillion dollar ranches to write cookbooks and make wine.

So now we have a population of tech geeks who don't know much but think they know everything, who spout "Do No Evil," while doing the ultimate evil--making a world unsafe for democracy but a pleasure palace for the rich, using a technology that is a uniquely American product of an educational system that was once a shining example and is now in shambles to destroy the dream of democracy that America used to champion, but does no longer.

It makes the coming Chinese domination of the world seem like cosmic justice, doesn't it?

McNameeRing , 20 Nov 2017 12:42
More degrees in the humanities is no antidote to or remedy for amoral/harmful tech and those who create and market it. Nor is this a problem of white privilege and lack of inclusiveness -- minorities run after tech goodies with the same glee as everyone else.

Schools and just about everyone are promoting STEM degrees as the way to a good job and prosperity, and I don't foresee anybody creating jobs for philosophers to warn us against new tech developments.

This is one of those dangers that people don't foresee. They only see it when it's happened. Now it has; depending on how bad the fallout, the pushback and regulation will follow. Not sure if it will be sufficient, though. Especially under an Administration with little respect for facts or truth while it pursues the maximum dollar gain from the government before skedaddling.

pipspeak , 20 Nov 2017 12:41
If you've every hung out in Silicon Valley with techies you'd know that mild sociopathy is indeed likely part of the problem. But the argument that it's because their education lacked learning about history or society is a bit silly when you consider the bulk of the population has probably not studied such disciplines beyond high school and some of the greatest engineers who invented or built some of the most important creations in history lacked a degree in the humanities.

What differentiates past engineering eras from present is political and societal will to ensure inventions are used for the good of humanity. In short, a lack of regulation in the face of rampant neo-liberal capitalism that has enthralled the politicians who should be looking out for the public, not themselves and their cronies.

Facebook et al should long ago have been classified as media companies and regulated as such. Start hitting Zuckerburg with billions in fines and/or the threat of regulating him out of business and you'd very quickly see those much vaunted algorithms and engineering prowess spring into action to tackle the fake news and propaganda epidemic.

LuvvleeJubblee -> Arular , 20 Nov 2017 12:40
Ahh, yeah Aruler...thanks for that....I think....!

If you read this article and his former article on the subject(a big if), then you would be able to enlighten us on exactly what Laughton means by such comments as below. I actually completed my degree and so am 'fully educated but still struggle with the logic:-

"the hero's education rendered him incapable of understanding the world into which he was born. For although he was supposed to be majoring in psychology at Harvard, the young Zuckerberg mostly took computer science classes until he started Facebook and dropped out

LibertarianLeaning -> Dylan , 20 Nov 2017 12:39

Your post referenced economics, not social issues.

It seems that once the State expands to the size it is now (~43% of GDP is directly spent by government) then virtually everything becomes political: economics, politics, social.

(ps if i've got this horribly wrong and libertarianism as a word has just been coopted to mean 'minarchist' i apologise)

I suppose it depends on how you define "libertarian". I, and most of the theorists I read, see it as a quite broad label which stretches from anarchism at one (extreme) end, to small-state minarchism at the other.

And yes, I am "right-wing" in terms of economics (though fascism, typically described as a "far-right" movement, is actually quite far-left in terms of economics, which is why I try to avoid debating these matters in terms of left/right. But when people self-describe that way, one doesn't have much choice).

So, yes, I prefer no (or minimal) State involvement in areas of the economy that it is possible to have private suppliers compete against each other. So that includes healthcare (but not all healthcare; the time-critical nature of A&E services means they are not amenable to real competition), education, and various other things most people are used to having provided by their governments.

But the "natural monopolies" (things like roads/railways/pipelines/sewers) can't really be provided by competing suppliers, so it's reasonable that they are owned (but not necessarily run) by the State. So taxes need to be raised to pay for those things.

Unlike most minarchists, though, I see outright, allodial land ownership as unjustifiable (it's a capital good that no one created, and thus no-one can claim rightful ownership). So in that regard also I'm quite left-wing.

ElyFrog , 20 Nov 2017 12:26
Capitalists will do what capitalists do. So ignoring social consequences in the pursuit of money is baked-in. Doesn't matter what your education is. In fact, class has more to do with their blindness than the lack of a liberal arts education.
Arular -> LuvvleeJubblee , 20 Nov 2017 12:15
yeah, but if you read this article (big if) he's calling him 'half-educated' because he has a shoddy background in social systems that has left him ignorant of a vast body of historical knowledge and political theory, not because he didn't finish his degree. maybe you should try reading the article and/or writing comments relevant to it...
TheNuclearOption , 20 Nov 2017 12:12
If it were the Iate 15th century there would be a similar article decrying the printing press and if the 19th, the postage stamp. Newspapers have been targeting a partisan readership long before social media came along and all controlled & managed by humanities graduates. Conrad Black & Boris Johnson hardly exemplars of a solid grounding in humanities leading to informed decision making overcoming self interest.
LuvvleeJubblee , 20 Nov 2017 12:08
In a previous article, Naughton wrote:-

this half-baked education has left him bewildered and rudderless

He is now claiming that Zuckerberg is 'half-educated'. Just because he did not complete his degree?! This surely does not make him half-educated? Does that mean that those who do not have a degree are not educated? This smells a little of scholastic snobbery from our former Cambridge University graduate and Vice President !
Joy Dot -> CharleyTango , 20 Nov 2017 11:57
it's possible. it's also possible you choose to work for dummies... raise your game
WalkAmongUs -> rahs24 , 20 Nov 2017 11:56
What's so appalling is that I don't even think they have the slightest inkling that what you've just posted is the absolute reality of these types.

They are so convinced they're right, and that everything they think must prevail, that they simply ignore democracy and anything else that shows that they're actually completely wrong.

Dylan -> LibertarianLeaning , 20 Nov 2017 11:54
You mean you're not economically right wing? Minimal taxes, less state intervention in the economy (including health), etc? Your post referenced economics, not social issues. Socially we agree on a lot, probably nearly everything to be honest - I'm all for legalising based on harm caused by drugs, less military, anti snooper's charter/surveillance, etc, but I like taxes and I like the NHS, and that is where I think you're right wing and I am left! (ps if i've got this horribly wrong and libertarianism as a word has just been coopted to mean 'minarchist' i apologise)
JumpingSpider -> Joy Dot , 20 Nov 2017 11:53
No, I dislike prejudice wherever I see it. It's destructive and it never helps.
Clytamnestra Selena Dungen -> ViolaNeve , 20 Nov 2017 11:48
....Yes, to a certain extent that can happen via reading, but the biggest check on privilege and self-satisfaction is actually engaging with actual other people who don't share that privilege. And that just isn't happening at Stanford and Harvard....

As someone who grew up both first-world-poor and a nerd i cannot expres in words how much i hate that 'the elite' keeps insisting that *the truth* about life and love and everything can only be found in a mixture of greec classics and trips to india. You are only 'enlightened' if you have the time and money to read those books and make those trips and most importantly: if you come home from all that with the right opinions about detesting money, detesting xenophobia, etc.
they pat themselves on the back any time they listen to what they insist is 'an outsider' but is just someone of a different gender/color parroting back their own believes.

It ties in with what many of the fake-news-complainers are reluctant to discuss: there is an ocean of sociological/economic 'facts' that exist somewhere between 'easily-provable lie' and 'this may be a lie to the elite, but it is a true fact for the unwashed masses'. and in tandem with that: the uneasy questions about censorship that come with *any* attempt at regulating the press.

... ... ...

ID507599 , 20 Nov 2017 11:39
This is too simple. The development of critical thought is the key thing and it isn't monopolized by any discipline. People without any qualifications and without much education can - and do - exercise critical ability. The problem is a cultural one. Consumerism and the pretend world in which people 'think' they can be what they want and live in make believe soaps is the problem.
samuelrgates -> ianhurley17 , 20 Nov 2017 11:39
Right? Wolfowitz was a student of Leo Strauss, Kissinger was a Kantian, Zuckerberg reportedly quotes Virgil in meetings, and Jonah Peretti wrote this piece of Marx-ish critical theory: http://www.datawranglers.com/datawranglers.com/negations/issues/96w/96w_peretti.html

We must reckon with the obviousness that the humanities are in no way an armor against "evil."

ParisHiltonCommune -> Uncle_Paulie , 20 Nov 2017 11:20
"If you have an issue with tech giants messing around with your personal data, don't give them your personal data." They'll take your personal data, regardless. Because they make money from selling it.
ParisHiltonCommune -> Edna Lora , 20 Nov 2017 11:18
"A "liberal arts" education is now a selling point in some schools." Presumably schools from families so wealthy, the children will never have to worry about competing with 6 billion other people for a job someday.

[Nov 24, 2017] The battle between STEM and Humanities is mostly fake. The real problem is neoliberal indoctrination -- the MBA, Master of Business Administration are just tools. Neoliberals are the ones who control everything now

The author concerns are naive and misplaced (although he probably advocated the interests of the group to which he belongs). MBA, Master of Business Administration gradates are indoctrinated neoliberals. This is about neoliberalism, not about the structure of the university education and the amount of social coursers required to get an STEM degree.
Notable quotes:
"... First off, full disclosure: I'm in tech, so I'm an insider. I also absolutely agree that tech has a huge, huge problem with understanding the consequences of our actions. But it's a little bit naïve to act as though taking another year or two of humanities classes would magically prevent tech leaders from making antisocial products. ..."
"... Trump is the quintessential Exceptional American, weaponized. The Trump Organization constructed more than 180 skyscrapers and major properties worldwide within every cesspool of political, military, religious, organized crime, and civil corruption. Trump is the toughest SOB on the planet - and the most experienced. And he's ours. I stand with Trump. ..."
"... "It never seems to have occurred to them that their advertising engines could also be used to deliver precisely targeted ideological and political messages to voters." That was supposed to be reserved for exclusive use of the Democratic Party. ..."
"... The writer clearly does not know much about the US higher education system where engineers and scientists cannot get away without taking humanities courses, unlike the UK. ..."
Nov 24, 2017 | discussion.theguardian.com

ParisHiltonCommune , 20 Nov 2017 11:08

Power and influence are not just a battle between STEM and Humanities, though. You've missed the MBA, Master of Business Admistration. They are the ones who control everything now.

It may have been the case some decades ago, but now it is Managerialism, in the guise of a whole ideology that has sprung from MBA's, that rules over both the STEM and Humanities workers.

From mid- and large- private companies, to the public sector, they all speak the same language and it is the language of the MBA. Corporate visions of embracing customer focused cost control while empowering our core mission values.

Time for an article on Managerialism, as it is the air we breathe these days.

LibertarianLening -> Dylan , 20 Nov 2017 10:58

Your username rather contradicts the assertions you make about your political orientation..

Well let's have a look at some typical libertarian policies. Recreational drugs decriminalised. The dismantling of the surveillance State. Stop covering for Israel's crimes in the UN. A much-reduced military that was for purely defensive purposes. How're they "right-wing", exactly?

ParisHiltonCommune -> VermontBede , 20 Nov 2017 10:55
My recent example is saying "It's like Quixote tiltiing at windmills" only to find the others, 6 or 7 people all with Firsts in STEM had no idea what I was on about. Also saying "It's far too Heath-Robinson" had the same effect.

It does dismay me how clever many of my colleagues are, but how painfully narrow their knowledge is. They study their subject (and I suspect most of that is just for career development i.e. love of money rather than knowledge) but little else.

Our culture has a bad attitude to wisdom in general. Each generation is taught to disregard the old timers, what can they possibly know about anything?

I guess it's all how the plutocracy like it. Their media can tell us that the Crusades were a defensive war and nobody knows enough to disagree. They can continually role out nonsense about the "good guys and the evil guys" to explain world problems and again, nobody knows anything other than that.

LibertarianLeaning -> Vigil2010 , 20 Nov 2017 10:54

Democracy is a political philosophy. Socialism is an economic theory.

Socialism is not an "economic" theory. Socialism (and I use the term in its original, Marxist sense: State ownership & control of the means of production, distribution, and exchange) has absolutely no economic theory behind it. Nowhere did Marx tell his followers how to run their economies; after they'd won, the Bolsheviks and Maoists were on their own. No wonder millions starved. It's impossible to make rational economic calculations in a socialist commonwealth because there is no price signal mechanism. Hence communist countries' famous gluts and shortages.

At its height, despite the fact its economy was much simpler than any here in the West's, economists of the USSR were setting the prices of more than 5 million items, and even they admitted it would have been impossible without knowing (and copying) the prices that arose in our (relatively) free-market economies.

In fact, they joked that once "the revolution" was complete and communism had taken over the world, they'd be required to have some small country remain free-market capitalist so they could have some clue about what prices should be.

And I have no idea of who concocted the "famous quote".

Lulz. You walked into that one: Alexis de Tocqueville

cguardian -> Travis , 20 Nov 2017 10:52
I can't up-vote this enough. MIT, for example, requires eight semesters of humanities for all undergraduates, regardless of major. If you talk to the faculty in the humanities dept, they'll tell you how much they enjoy teaching there, because they get really intelligent students who can think rigorously. (And also because they're almost all tenured professors -- not underpaid "adjuncts".)

Yes, there are a certain percentage of students who meet the stereotype of being socially awkward and not very interested in thinking about things outside of their science and technology focus, but they're not the majority and are more than balanced by the bulk of the student body who could hold their own in any liberal arts program in the world.

ParisHiltonCommune -> ViolaNeve , 20 Nov 2017 10:45
Great comment!

We live in a plutocracy and we get the tech that the plutocrats want us to have. Drives on diversity aren't working because those non-white-upper-middle-class-males who get the roles, are those who behave exactly the same as the white-upper-middle-class elite. So the changes are literally skin deep.

CharleyTango -> Joy Dot , 20 Nov 2017 10:41
Sadly, most of the women I've encountered at the top of the corporate tree have either been there through nepotism (e.g. MD's daughter or mistress) or been promoted way beyond their level of competence and have compensated for that with drink, drugs or appalling bullying.
The educated, savvy women all seem to baled out long before they reach that level!
ianhurley17 , 20 Nov 2017 10:40
Harvard required class of 1964 freshmen to read the published version "The Two Cultures" the summer before they matriculated. The general knowledge of college friends who were scientists and mathematicians (and went on to become university professors) was at least equal to other friends specializing in social sciences and humanities, because suburban American high schools in wealthy communities provide a good general education up to age 18, not 16 as in British public, comprehensive and grammar schools, and because American university courses require a large fraction of a student's course work lie outside their department of specialization.

Snow wrote about the British system. He deplored the willful scientific ignorance of many members of the British Civil Service of this acquaintance. His comments were not intended for or relevant to the American experience. A bright American student, as these computer tech executives' work histories show they must have been, will have gained familiarity with both "cultures" by the time they started their college courses. Their college experiences will have built upon this familiarity.

In my opinion It is inappropriate to blame the failure to regulate internet speech properly upon the education of American tech leaders. Corbyn and whoever replaces Trump will remedy theunderlying issues because they know unregulated capitalism cannot be trusted to act responsibly.

CharleyTango -> davidc929 , 20 Nov 2017 10:35

But often the customers don't know exactly what they want and constantly want to make changes.

True. "It's just what we asked for, but it's not what we want!", viz. Nimrod. And sometimes a supplier provides a system that they say is perfect for the task required, yet once it's installed it clearly is nothing of the sort. The customer's ex-MD retires to the sun, counting his backhander and giggling hysterically. I've encountered that more than once during my career, too.
ID597727 , 20 Nov 2017 10:31
"A computer lets you make more mistakes faster than any other invention with the possible exceptions of handguns and Tequila." 
--  Mitch Ratcliffe
Themroc5 , 20 Nov 2017 10:30
So what about those teaching and learning 'digital humanities', is this subject then a contradiction in terms? Surly these divides are redundant as subjects become multi disciplinary in our digital age, each will influence the other in new and interesting ways. There is no uninventing available to us here only the effort in rebalancing in how we value what it is to be human.
Alonso Schneeweiss , 20 Nov 2017 10:25
Oh, my - technology run amuck! So what's the solution? Oh yeah - more government.
ViolaNeve , 20 Nov 2017 10:08

First off, full disclosure: I'm in tech, so I'm an insider. I also absolutely agree that tech has a huge, huge problem with understanding the consequences of our actions. But it's a little bit naïve to act as though taking another year or two of humanities classes would magically prevent tech leaders from making antisocial products.

For one thing, more people in tech have humanities backgrounds than you might think (I do--I'm a software developer and educator with a BA from Stanford and am finishing an MSEE, and I have a fair number of colleagues with similarly mixed educational backgrounds). For another, Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook when he was was what, 20? It's foolish to act like you can turn a 20-year-old, *any* 20-year-old, into a wise and thoughtful human who can understand all the consequences of their actions by sticking them in a classroom for another year or two. I certainly was a moron when I was 20. Shockingly, I was also a moron when I was 22. College kids just still have a lot of growing up to do.

Don't get me wrong, I work a lot with high schoolers and university students, and I'm a very big proponent of education. But the thing that makes the biggest difference in knocking adolescent heads is exposing kids to people that aren't like them. Yes, to a certain extent that can happen via reading, but the biggest check on privilege and self-satisfaction is actually engaging with actual other people who don't share that privilege. And that just isn't happening at Stanford and Harvard.

I'm white and the child of college-educated parents; at Stanford I still felt out of place, weird, and poor. I was surrounded by people who went to skiing in Switzerland at Christmas and had boats; it wasn't a world I was familiar with or understood. That effect is only magnified for kids of color or from more marginalized backgrounds, sprinkled lightly across classrooms that are overwhelmingly white and privileged. The idea that a white, middle-class kid -- even a gay female kid like me -- would be right near the bottom of the privilege scale I think tells you just about everything about that university culture that you need to know.

What's happening in tech is part of the sickness of our entire social and economic system; it's a toxic mixture of privilege perpetuating privilege, in terms of race and class and gender and money and access. Tech doesn't create antisocial products by itself. Having a lot of rich white kids sitting around discussing Plato in a classroom might make them more well-rounded on paper, but if you then still funnel them then into a money sea dominated by bro culture and VCs, with no necessity or encouragement to engage with people who live outside that bubble, you're still going to get people who are shocked, shocked!! to learn that their products have negative consequences for the lives of the people on the other side of the screen. Lots of *workers* in tech do partially bridge that gap, in one way or another. But the people at the top, making the decisions, are selected overwhelmingly by being white dudes who fit the "poorly socialized iconoclast" mold that VCs understand and then massively isolated by the enormous *heaps of cash* that investors have thrown at them to make something the investors think will get them the best return on their investment. *No part* of that is good for society writ large, beginning to end, in very large part because investors have no reason to care what happens to anyone else.

Here's an example! At this stage, anyone in tech who doesn't think that they're working on making every worker in the world, *including themselves*, obsolete, is deluding themselves. But most of us *do* know that and keep showing up for work, because we don't know any other way of paying our bills. We know that social and political action is needed, a lot of us are agitating for precisely that, but we can't do it on our own, and we have a pretty realistic idea about what kind of future lies for us and our families if we just decide to walk away from the industry. I'm a little too old to really be a millennial, but this is the rock and the hard place, for people even 3 years younger than I am, who graduated from college just in time for the crash: if you're in tech, you're keeping your head above water, barely. If you're not, you're working constantly with no benefits or security, just so you can live with your parents and form a punchline about avocados.

If you want to check tech, you need *political will.* You have to check the money, because it's never going to check itself. And if you want to make Silicon Valley actually become capable of making the utopian tech it likes to believe it can produce, it also wouldn't hurt to check the *overwhelming* bias in tech hiring and in elite education towards people who are white, privileged, and just like everybody else who's already there.

Peter Cini -> phubar , 20 Nov 2017 10:01
No obligation to vote for the array of muts on the ballot. The last guy I voted for is Nader and he was kicked off the ballot in the 2004v election
Bill Longenecker -> toomuch9 , 20 Nov 2017 10:00
I once met a man in a Texas prison who was incarcerated for programming a banks software to divert small fractions of (rounded off) pennies to his personal account. Those added up fast enough to get noticed.
Uncle Al Schwartz , 20 Nov 2017 10:00
Trump is the quintessential Exceptional American, weaponized. The Trump Organization constructed more than 180 skyscrapers and major properties worldwide within every cesspool of political, military, religious, organized crime, and civil corruption. Trump is the toughest SOB on the planet - and the most experienced. And he's ours. I stand with Trump.
Vigil2010 -> LibertarianLeaning , 20 Nov 2017 09:55
Democracy is a political philosophy. Socialism is an economic theory. The two are not mutually exclusive. And I have no idea of who concocted the "famous quote".
VermontBede , 20 Nov 2017 09:48
When you refer to someone as "Machiavellian" does an engineer understand? In the US there used to be a required college course entitled "The History of Western Civilization". It formed a common bond somewhat like serving in the military.
LibertarianLeaning , 20 Nov 2017 09:43

"a liberal arts major familiar with works like Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America, John Stuart Mill's On Liberty, or even the work of ancient Greek historians, might have been able to recognise much sooner the potential for the 'tyranny of the majority' or other disconcerting sociological phenomena that are embedded into the very nature of today's social media platforms..."

Such a person would most have likely held their nose and voted for Trump, knowing the appalling damage Hillary had done during her tenure in the State department.

The usual Graun assumption that it's only ignorance or selfishness that makes people eschew Leftists and their policies.

Sorry. Progressives are actually more ignorant about politics, economics and history, in my experience. I'm not "right-wing" myself but far more of my right-leaning friends are likely to know who de Tocqueville was and what he wrote than my Lefty friends.

And most of them will know this rather famous quote:

"Democracy extends the sphere of individual freedom, socialism restricts it. Democracy attaches all possible value to each man; socialism makes each man a mere agent, a mere number. Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word: equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude."

Mirelle , 20 Nov 2017 09:37
Up to a point, Lord Copper.

The old "two cultures debate", which in my student days was conducted between FR Leavis and CP Snow, has not advanced very far. There is certainly something in it, but I suspect that the intellectuals of the sixteenth century, most of whom could be found in monasteries, complained that Gutenberg would never have pressed ahead so carelessly with printing using moveable type if he had had a proper grounding in Rhetoric and in Theology, instead of blacksmithing and goldsmithing...

After all... we went from Gutenberg printing in Strasbourg in 1445 to Martin Luther printing his 95 Theses in 1522...

I think we are seeing a similar democratisation of information today.

We can no more put the genie back in the bottle than could Sir Thomas More. If Zuckerberg, Page and Brin had not invented their money machines, someone else might have done so.

The only political leader who is actively trying to control the genie is Xi Jinping, and he may not be entirely successful in keeping up the Great Firewall of China.

I think we have to ride the wave, and keep in mind that political power itself is a matter of technology, as I am sure Marshal McLuhan would point out.

The Great Dictators of the last century were creatures of the radio and the cinema, which allowed them a one sided conversation with every household and made them bestride the silver screen.

Television replaced radio and cinema and with its more domestic scale it cut the monsters down to size and promoted democracy.

The social media have galvanised authoritarianism at the moment, but the wheels will continue to turn..

HiramsMaxim , 20 Nov 2017 09:34
Old model: People who disagree with me are wrong.

New Model: People who disagree with me are stupid.

Oh, and a column in The Guardian defending Mill's On Liberty ? Priceless.

By the way, the entire premise of the column is flawed. Harvard, like all US colleges, has requirements that students take classes outside their major, including humanities. My tech prowess allowed to me find that out. :)

rahs24 , 20 Nov 2017 09:31
Translation/TL;DR version:
> Trump won despite the amount of shameless fear-mongering and short-selling we in the MSM did for Hillary and Dems.
> Tech companies did not do their part in preventing Trump victory by actively censoring everyone WE disagree with.
> We need OUR (SJW/Humanities/Marxist/LiberalArts) people to MANAGE/WATCHOVER these tech guys.
> Guys like Zucker/Brin/Page are not essentially evil, they are just not educate ENOUGH in SJW/Marxist agenda.
> Guys like Thiel are pure evil.
> WE KNOW BEST, hence, we must be allowed to control and manipulate what people think and how they act.
JayThomas , 20 Nov 2017 09:30

So what else could explain the astonishing naivety of the tech crowd? My hunch is it has something to do with their educational backgrounds. Take the Google co-founders. Sergey Brin studied mathematics and computer science. His partner, Larry Page, studied engineering and computer science. Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard, where he was studying psychology and computer science, but seems to have been more interested in the latter.

Science should left in the hands of the political elite, who know what's best for the people.

Buck Brogan -> AVBrown , 20 Nov 2017 09:28
People need not be good at math to know when a politician is lying. By the humanities, they know a politician is lying because their lips are moving. lol
Joe Applegate , 20 Nov 2017 09:23
Every click we make, we are being gamed. We know it. And so we are partly to blame.
Art Glick -> griz326 , 20 Nov 2017 09:11
Head transplants? What news have you been watching?
fortysomethingpa , 20 Nov 2017 09:07
Said this before in a reply: Isn't there some responsibility on the part of the Humanities to give a more accurate portrayal of history and society? For example, shouldn't we all be well aware that the success of these tech giants is built on state-funded innovation? Shouldn't we all be less blind to how markets work? A stronger left might provide a clearer vision of how power works, but we have been silencing that hard left for years.
fortysomethingpa -> HardWater , 20 Nov 2017 09:03
Agree. But how about the fact that many educated people do not know that much of the technology and innovation behind this wealth was state-funded and not "sexy" Isn't it the job of the liberal arts - history, sociology, government classes to address the role of the state in innovation? We are blinded by a worshipful attitude toward the market. Without a strong left it seems we have lost sight of reality. Isn't this partially the fault of Humanities departments?
LibertineUSA , 20 Nov 2017 09:03
Normally I don't single out greedy business leaders to take the blame for society's woes. It is the fault of our political leaders for allowing them to damage society in their chase for the almighty dollar (or billions of them)...Libertarians, conservatives and centrist Dems to be exact.

But in this case I think the criticism is spot on since these tech nerds keep on claiming their products will make the country and world a better place. Time to kill the meme that capitalists and business people are bested suited morally to lead the world in the 21st Century.

Joy Dot -> JumpingSpider , 20 Nov 2017 09:02
as men have ignored their own unpleasant prejudice for EVER i have no doubt it'll be easy for you to ignore mine

both are a factor. main obstacle here and now being the appalling behaviour of the low-road lesser half

JayThomas , 20 Nov 2017 08:59

"It never seems to have occurred to them that their advertising engines could also be used to deliver precisely targeted ideological and political messages to voters." That was supposed to be reserved for exclusive use of the Democratic Party.

fortysomethingpa -> Gwyndaf , 20 Nov 2017 08:56
One of the changes (still happening) in literature, psychology, sociology, and philosophy departments is a focus on privilege, "the other", subjugation, the power of elites . . . So studying the humanities may involve a critique - at least a consciousness - of one's privilege. Not familiar with Snow but there is plenty of lit crit and theory to dismantle or at least challenge the canon.
threesheds -> Uncle_Paulie , 20 Nov 2017 08:52
I guess the problem being referred to in this article that there are negative implications for all of us because many people's opinions are shaped by what they read on social media. What all of us read is biased in ways that it is difficult to trace the source of that bias. In "the good old days" at least most people tended to know the biases of the newspapers and TV news that you consumed, but now you can be biased by what your friends share with you on social media, or what google choses to show you in search results but there is no way of knowing the source of those biases. The problem therefore goes far beyond the risks of sharing personal data.
maricaangela -> SardinesForDinner , 20 Nov 2017 08:45
Yes, I agree and I wasn't disparaging the STEM subjects at all or equating them in some way with capitalist interests. Both can have that criticism applied to them - for instance, historians can definitely twist facts and more or less propagandise events. Both are necessary, but I was thinking that both need to have at least a grasp of the influence and range of the other and be better educated to do that.
Alex Newman , 20 Nov 2017 08:44
Ditto bankers, doctors, lawyers and journalists.... The world (and particularly the US) is full of specialists. The author's assertions are naive and half-educated.
griz326 , 20 Nov 2017 08:41
Nonsense! You were just filling your word count with provocative poo.

Every technology has a good side and a bad one - including and especially the medical arts. Consider the recent news regarding successful head transplants and face transplants; where will that takes us when humanitarian uses fail to pay the bills???

Edna Lora -> mollypicon , 20 Nov 2017 08:34
One book does not make the man. The point is many private and public schools focus on STEM to the detriment of humanities. A "liberal arts" education is now a selling point in some schools.
toomuch9 -> gordonashworth , 20 Nov 2017 08:21
Totally understand your point. As a non-tech individual who has been hostile to this massive organization of information and its consequent requirements to alter human thought and social patterns to use systems, it is certainly expected that designers would demand compliance from all parties for their own purposes. Even in the SF Chronicle, i often read quips about programmers disguising coding for their own private use. In SF some loose canon but brilliant guy was asked to redesign the city's computer systems. He had total mental breakdown and was jailed for some sort of bizarre infraction that had something to do with unauthorized personal use. I can't quite remember details. The Chron offered to the public that the City may never know what this guy designed into the systems. Bottom line was the city employees were totally delighted about their new programs and the programmer wouldn't talk. If i remember correctly he was this eccentric, well liked gay guy.
mollypicon , 20 Nov 2017 08:16
Horseshit! I read De Toqueville in high school. There are required humanities courses at good universities. And anyone can read a book on one's own time.
harshlight , 20 Nov 2017 08:16
I agree with your overall assessment of the tech owners. However, blaming their academic discipline is short sighted. I suggest you get to know some math and computer science majors. Many are well versed in the humanities. Not everyone needs a degree in liberal arts to understand the human race.

Perhaps you are referring to the culture of technology that bred a lack of insight into human behavior.

There are also people with degrees in the liberal arts who go into technological fields. I agree with your views on the naïveté of the tech leaders, but blaming a college degree strikes me as looking for a parallel that doesn't exist.

chingpingmei , 20 Nov 2017 08:02
The writer clearly does not know much about the US higher education system where engineers and scientists cannot get away without taking humanities courses, unlike the UK.
Joseph_Ryan , 20 Nov 2017 08:02
I would say that a deep study of the humanities can impart the kind of pessimism about human nature that animated Madison, Jefferson and the other Framers of the Constitution. Their pessimism, unlike the unrestrained optimism of their counterparts in France, is what enabled this country to be one of the few to survive a revolution without descending into mass murder and tyranny. But given their fundamental pessimism, the founders of this country would probably be surprised that the governmental structure they designed had endured this long.
Uncle_Paulie , 20 Nov 2017 08:00
Many of today's 'tech-elite' are sons of rich, establishment types who only have one interest: making more money. By the time reports leek this appear, they already have a private island and a few billion in the bank. If you have an issue with tech giants messing around with your personal data, don't give them your personal data.
gitsumomma , 20 Nov 2017 07:55
I would like to congratulate the vast majority of the people posting here on producing possibly the most thoughtful and considered set of comments I have read on a Guardian Article.

I will give the Article credit for stimulating the debate but I do think the discussion BTL has been far more interesting than the original.

richardmuu -> Alison Cartwright , 20 Nov 2017 07:48
Alison I agree, but because the number of arts and sciences students is declining, arts and sciences faculty try to isolate integrated studies (often called general studies or, at my university, the core curriculum) from professional studies. They do this to try to save their jobs so it's understandable. The end results are sporadic, half-hearted attempts at integration that don't exactly foster aha moments. Rather they cultivate thinking such as we see in this article.
Mujokan -> worried , 20 Nov 2017 07:46
The original backers of the "wired" world (such as Stewart Brand and Kevin Kelly who founded Wired, but one could list dozens of tech legends) were utopian thinkers who were very well versed in history and philosophy. Unfortunately but probably inevitably, the whole thing was corrupted by corporations as it became part of mainstream consumer society.

[Nov 22, 2017] Philadelphia Fed Study Debunks Main Argument for Student Debt Slavery

Financial ignorance of students is a big problem. Big fiancne in the USA is predatory and hunts for weaklings and incompetent to exploit them. In a very sophisticated ways. So a reasonable assumption would be that the US students is a prey hunted by large financial predators including neoliberal universities themselves.
Notable quotes:
"... They are financially ignorant; mere babes, being unmercifully exploited by the sophisticated (emphasis on Sophist) financialization culture extant across the western world; especially the U.S.. ..."
Nov 22, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

I am late to write up a research paper that has not gotten the attention it warrants.

As most readers know, the 2005 bankruptcy law reform included provisions that made it virtually impossible to discharge student debt in bankruptcy. Yet borrowers who miss payments wind up paying penalty interest rates, with the result that they will carry their student debt with them to the grave.

But why do student borrowers get such harsh treatment? The justification for the bankruptcy law change was that student borrowers were prone to abusing the bankruptcy code even though they had the ability to make good on their loans. I've never bought the "strategic default" meme, which is almost entirely creditor urban legend to justify squeezing more blood from the stone of broke borrowers. Bankruptcy is a painful process that leaves your credit record damaged for years. And why should anyone think that student loans were more prone to abuse? If someone declared a Chapter 7 bankruptcy pre-2005, the court would take all the assets it could lay its hands on, allocate the proceeds among the various debts, and wipe out the rest. It's not as if student loans were treated worse than any other non-collateralized loans.

Nevertheless, the argument was that student borrowers were defaulting opportunistically. If true, that higher default level would lead lenders to charge higher interest rates to cover for the cost of abusive defaults.

The prototypical strategic defaulter would be someone with few assets but high actual or expected income.

In a new Philadelphia Fed working paper, Rajeev Darolia and Dubravka Ritter constructed a database of private student loan (PSL) borrowers to see if their behavior changed as a result of the bankruptcy law reforms. We've embedded their article at the end of the post. Their conclusion:

Our findings contribute to this debate by providing evidence on bankruptcy filing and default behavior using a unique sample of anonymized credit bureau records. Although the 2005 bankruptcy reform reduced rates of Chapter 7 bankruptcy overall, the provisions making PSL debt nondischargeable do not appear to have reduced the bankruptcy filing or default behavior of PSL borrowers relative to other types of student loan borrowers at meaningful levels. Therefore, our analysis does not reveal debtor responses to the 2005 bankruptcy reform that would indicate widespread opportunistic behavior by PSL borrowers before the policy change. We interpret these findings as a lack of evidence that the moral hazard associated with PSL dischargeability pre-BAPCPA appreciably affected the behavior of student loan borrowers.

So why are default levels now so high? Lenders relaxed their standards and handed out more credit as a result of the 2005 bankruptcy reforms. And rising higher education costs means students are borrowing more than ever.

Anti-Schmoo , November 22, 2017 at 6:32 am

Having been a debt slave; I can understand what the children (they are children, not adults) are going through. They are financially ignorant; mere babes, being unmercifully exploited by the sophisticated (emphasis on Sophist) financialization culture extant across the western world; especially the U.S..

No loan should be allowed (for children) without a course in basic finance, debt, credit, and income realities. Now retired, debt free, and solvent; I know of what I speak. Critical thinking skills are at an all time low in the U.S.; a very serious societal problem; not soon solved

Arizona Slim , November 22, 2017 at 6:47 am

What about the time-worn argument in favor of all the extra money you're going to make because you went to (genuflects) college? A lot of people have gone deeply into debt because they've heard this one. And it's a lie.

[Nov 10, 2017] annbeaker

Nov 10, 2017 | annbeaker.livejournal.com
http://bitecharge.com/play/advgram#q26 Congratulations, you are a grammar master! You have a superb understanding of even the trickiest grammar rules. Not only do you know the difference between affect and effect, but you also never confuse your tenses. You must be an English scholar because only 4% of Americans can get a perfect score on this test.

[Nov 05, 2017] Matt Taibbi Exposes The Great College Loan Swindle

Nov 05, 2017 | www.zerohedge.com

Authored by Matt Taibbi via RollingStone.com,

How universities, banks and the government turned student debt into America's next financial black hole...

On a wind-swept, frigid night in February 2009, a 37-year-old schoolteacher named Scott Nailor parked his rusted '92 Toyota Tercel in the parking lot of a Fireside Inn in Auburn, Maine. He picked this spot to have a final reckoning with himself. He was going to end his life.

Beaten down after more than a decade of struggle with student debt, after years of taking false doors and slipping into various puddles of bureaucratic quicksand, he was giving up the fight. "This is it, I'm done," he remembers thinking. "I sat there and just sort of felt like I'm going to take my life. I'm going to find a way to park this car in the garage, with it running or whatever."

Nailor's problems began at 19 years old, when he borrowed for tuition so that he could pursue a bachelor's degree at the University of Southern Maine. He graduated summa cum laude four years later and immediately got a job in his field, as an English teacher.

Bu t he graduated with $35,000 in debt, a big hill to climb on a part-time teacher's $18,000 salary. He struggled with payments, and he and his wife then consolidated their student debt, which soon totaled more than $50,000. They declared bankruptcy and defaulted on the loans. From there he found himself in a loan "rehabilitation" program that added to his overall balance. "That's when the noose began to tighten," he says.

The collectors called day and night, at work and at home. "In the middle of class too, while I was teaching," he says. He ended up in another rehabilitation program that put him on a road toward an essentially endless cycle of rising payments. Today, he pays $471 a month toward "rehabilitation," and, like countless other borrowers, he pays nothing at all toward his real debt, which he now calculates would cost more than $100,000 to extinguish. "Not one dollar of it goes to principal," says Nailor. "I will never be able to pay it off. My only hope to escape from this crushing debt is to die."

After repeated phone calls with lending agencies about his ever-rising interest payments, Nailor now believes things will only get worse with time. "At this rate, I may easily break $1 million in debt before I retire from teaching," he says.

Nailor had more than once reached the stage in his thoughts where he was thinking about how to physically pull off his suicide. "I'd been there before, that just was the worst of it," he says. "It scared me, bad."

He had a young son and a younger daughter, but Nailor had been so broken by the experience of financial failure that he managed to convince himself they would be better off without him. What saved him is that he called his wife to say goodbye. "I don't know why I called my wife. I'm glad I did," he says. "I just wanted her or someone to tell me to pick it up, keep fighting, it's going to be all right. And she did."

From that moment, Nailor managed to focus on his family. Still, the core problem – the spiraling debt that has taken over his life, as it has for millions of other Americans – remains.

Horror stories about student debt are nothing new. But this school year marks a considerable worsening of a tale that ought to have been a national emergency years ago. The government in charge of regulating this mess is now filled with predatory monsters who have extensive ties to the exploitative for-profit education industry – from Donald Trump himself to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who sets much of the federal loan policy, to Julian Schmoke, onetime dean of the infamous DeVry University, whom Trump appointed to police fraud in education.

Americans don't understand the student-loan crisis because they've been trained to view the issue in terms of a series of separate, unrelated problems.

They will read in one place that as of the summer of 2017, a record 8.5 million Americans are in default on their student debt, with about $1.3 trillion in loans still outstanding.

In another place, voters will read that the cost of higher education is skyrocketing, soaring in a seemingly market-defying arc that for nearly a decade now has run almost double the rate of inflation. Tuition for a halfway decent school now frequently surpasses $50,000 a year. How, the average newsreader wonders, can any child not born in a yacht afford to go to school these days?

In a third place, that same reader will see some heartless monster, usually a Republican, threatening to cut federal student lending. The current bogeyman is Trump, who is threatening to slash the Pell Grant program by $3.9 billion, which would seem to put higher education even further out of reach for poor and middle-income families. This too seems appalling, and triggers a different kind of response, encouraging progressive voters to lobby for increased availability for educational lending.

But the separateness of these stories clouds the unifying issue underneath: The education industry as a whole is a con. In fact, since the mortgage business blew up in 2008, education and student debt is probably our reigning unexposed nation-wide scam.

It's a multiparty affair, what shakedown artists call a "big store scheme," like in the movie The Sting : a complex deception requiring a big cast to string the mark along every step of the way. In higher education, every party you meet, from the moment you first set foot on campus, is in on the game.

America as a country has evolved in recent decades into a confederacy of widescale industrial scams. The biggest slices of our economic pie – sectors like health care, military production, banking, even commercial and residential real estate – have become crude income-redistribution schemes, often untethered from the market by subsidies or bailouts, with the richest companies benefiting from gamed or denuded regulatory systems that make profits almost as assured as taxes. Guaranteed-profit scams – that's the last thing America makes with any level of consistent competence. In that light, Trump, among other things, the former head of a schlock diploma mill called Trump University, is a perfect president for these times. He's the scammer-in-chief in the Great American Ripoff Age, a time in which fleecing students is one of our signature achievements.

It starts with the sales pitch colleges make to kids. The thrust of it is usually that people who go to college make lots more money than the unfortunate dunces who don't. "A bachelor's degree is worth $2.8 million on average over a lifetime" is how Georgetown University put it. The Census Bureau tells us similarly that a master's degree is worth on average about $1.3 million more than a high school diploma.

But these stats say more about the increasing uselessness of a high school degree than they do about the value of a college diploma. Moreover, since virtually everyone at the very highest strata of society has a college degree, the stats are skewed by a handful of financial titans. A college degree has become a minimal status marker as much as anything else. "I'm sure people who take polo lessons or sailing lessons earn a lot more on average too," says Alan Collinge of Student Loan Justice, which advocates for debt forgiveness and other reforms. "Does that mean you should send your kids to sailing school?"

But the pitch works on everyone these days, especially since good jobs for Trump's beloved "poorly educated" are scarce to nonexistent. Going to college doesn't guarantee a good job, far from it, but the data show that not going dooms most young people to an increasingly shallow pool of the very crappiest, lowest-paying jobs. There's a lot of stick, but not much carrot, in the education game.

It's a vicious cycle. Since everyone feels obligated to go to college, most everyone who can go, does, creating a glut of graduates. And as that glut of degree recipients grows, the squeeze on the un-degreed grows tighter, increasing further that original negative incentive: Don't go to college, and you'll be standing on soup lines by age 25.

With that inducement in place, colleges can charge almost any amount, and kids will pay – so long as they can get the money. And here we run into problem number two: It's too easy to find that money.

Parents, not wanting their kids to fall behind, will pay every dollar they have. But if they don't have the cash, there is a virtually unlimited amount of credit available to young people. Proposed cuts to Pell Grants aside, the landscape is filled with public and private lending, and students gobble it up. Kids who walk into financial-aid offices are often not told what signing their names on the various aid forms will mean down the line. A lot of kids don't even understand the concept of interest or amortization tables – they think if they're borrowing $8,000, they're paying back $8,000.

Nailor certainly was unaware of what he was getting into when he was 19. "I had no idea [about interest]," he says. "I just remember thinking, 'I don't have to worry about it right now. I want to go to school.' " He pauses in disgust. "It's unsettling to remember how it was like, 'Here, just sign this and you're all set.' I wish I could take the time machine back and slap myself in the face."

The average amount of debt for a student leaving school is skyrocketing even faster than the rate of tuition increase.

In 2016, for instance, the average amount of debt for an exiting college graduate was a staggering $37,172. That's a rise of six percent over just the previous year. With the average undergraduate interest rate at about 3.7 percent, the interest alone costs around $115 per month, meaning anyone who can't afford to pay into the principal faces the prospect of $69,000 in payments over 50 years.

So here's the con so far.

You must go to college because you're screwed if you don't.

Costs are outrageously high, but you pay them because you have to, and because the system makes it easy to borrow massive amounts of money

The third part of the con is the worst: You can't get out of the debt.

Since government lenders in particular have virtually unlimited power to collect on student debt – preying on everything from salary to income-tax returns – even running is not an option. And since most young people find themselves unable to make their full payments early on, they often find themselves perpetually paying down interest only, never touching the principal. Our billionaire president can declare bankruptcy four times, but students are the one class of citizen that may not do it even once.

October 2017 was supposed to represent the first glimmer of light at the end of this tunnel. This month marks the 10th anniversary of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, one of the few avenues for wiping out student debt. The idea, launched by George W. Bush, was pretty simple: Students could pledge to work 10 years for the government or a nonprofit and have their debt forgiven. In order to qualify, borrowers had to make payments for 10 years using a complex formula. This month, then, was to start the first mass wipeouts of debt in the history of American student lending. But more than half of the 700,000 enrollees have already been expunged from the program for, among other things, failing to certify their incomes on time, one of many bureaucratic tricks employed to limit forgiveness eligibility. To date, fewer than 500 participants are scheduled to receive loan forgiveness in this first round.

Moreover, Trump has called for the program's elimination by 2018, meaning that any relief that begins this month is likely only temporary. The only thing that is guaranteed to remain real for the immediate future are the massive profits being generated on the backs of young people, who before long become old people who, all too often, remain ensnared until their last days in one of the country's most brilliant and devious moneymaking schemes.

Everybody wins in this madness, except students. Even though many of the loans are originated by the state, most of them are serviced by private or quasi-private companies like Navient – which until 2014 was the student-loan arm of Sallie Mae – or Nelnet, companies that reported a combined profit of around $1 billion last year (the U.S. government made a profit of $1.6 billion in 2016!). Debt-collector companies like Performant (which generated $141.4 million in revenues; the family of Betsy DeVos is a major investor), and most particularly the colleges and universities, get to prey on the desperation and terror of parents and young people, and in the process rake in vast sums virtually without fear of market consequence.

About that: Universities, especially public institutions, have successfully defended rising tuition in recent years by blaming the hikes on reduced support from states. But this explanation was blown to bits in large part due to a bizarre slip-up in the middle of a controversy over state support of the University of Wisconsin system a few years ago.

In that incident, UW raised tuition by 5.5 percent six years in a row after 2007. The school blamed stresses from the financial crisis and decreased state aid. But when pressed during a state committee hearing in 2013 about the university's finances, UW system president Kevin Reilly admitted they held $648 million in reserve, including $414 million in tuition payments. This was excess hidey-hole cash the school was sitting on, separate and distinct from, say, an endowment fund.

After the university was showered with criticism for hoarding cash at a time when it was gouging students with huge price increases every year, the school responded by saying, essentially, it only did what all the other kids were doing. UW released data showing that other major state-school systems across the country were similarly stashing huge amounts of cash. While Wisconsin's surplus was only 25 percent of its operating budget, for instance, Minnesota's was 29 percent, and Illinois maintained a whopping 34 percent reserve.

When Collinge, of Student Loan Justice, looked into it, he found that the phenomenon wasn't confined to state schools. Private schools, too, have been hoarding cash even as they plead poverty and jack up tuition fees. "They're all doing it," he says.

While universities sit on their stockpiles of cash and the loan industry generates record profits, the pain of living in debilitating debt for many lasts into retirement. Take Veronica Martish. She's a 68-year-old veteran, having served in the armed forces in the Vietnam era. She's also a grandmother who's never been in trouble and consid?ers herself a patriot. "The thing is, I tried to do everything right in my life," she says. "But this ruined my life."

This is an $8,000 student loan she took out in 1989, through Sallie Mae. She borrowed the money so she could take courses at Quinebaug Valley Community College in Connecticut. Five years later, after deaths in her family, she fell behind on her payments and entered a loan-rehabilitation program. "That's when my nightmare began," she says.

In rehabilitation, Martish's $8,000 loan, with fees and interest, ballooned into a $27,000 debt, which she has been carrying ever since. She says she's paid more than $63,000 to date and is nowhere near discharging the principal. "By the time I die," she says, "I will probably pay more than $200,000 toward an $8,000 loan." She pauses. "It's a scam, you see. Nothing ever comes off the loan. It's all interest and fees. And they chase you until you're old, like me. They never stop. Ever."

And that's the other thing about lending to students: It's the safest grift around.

There's probably no better symbol of the bankruptcy of the education industry than Trump University. The half-literate president's effort at higher learning drew in suckers with pathetic promises of great real-estate insights (for instance, that Trump "hand-picked" the instructors) and then charged them truckfuls of cash for get-rich-quick tutorials that students and faculty later described as "almost completely worthless" and a "total lie." That Trump got to settle a lawsuit on this matter for $25 million and still managed to be elected president is, ironically, a remarkable testament to the failure of our education system. About the only example that might be worse is DeVry University, which told students that 90 percent of graduates seeking jobs found them in their fields within six months of graduation. The FTC found those claims "false and unsubstantiated," and ordered $100 million in refunds and debt relief, but that was in 2016 – before Trump put DeVry chief Schmoke, of all people, in charge of rooting out education fraud. Like a lot of things connected to politics lately, it would be funny if it weren't somehow actually happening.?"Yeah, it's the fox guarding the henhouse," says Collinge. "You could probably find a worse analogy."

But the real problem with the student-loan story is that it's so poorly understood by people not living the nightmare. There's so much propaganda that blames the borrowers for taking on the debt in the first place that there's often little sympathy for people in hopeless situations. To make matters worse, band-aid programs that supposedly offer help hypnotize the public into thinking there are ways out, when the "help" is usually just another trick to add to the balance.

"That's part of the problem with the narrative," says Nailor, the schoolteacher. "People think that there's help, so what are you complaining about? All you got to do is apply for help."

But the help, he says, coming from a for-profit predatory system, often just makes things worse. "It did for me," he says. "It does for a lot of people."

[Nov 05, 2017] Explaining the Spread of White Anger by Robert Weissberg

Please buy Robert Weissberg book Bad Students, Not Bad Schools
Affirmative action in education also applies to children of the elite. This is the way to limit vertical mobility and entrench the existing elite structures making the elite status inheritable, like under feudalism.
Notable quotes:
"... As the barriers between the overpopulated third world and the United States continue to be swept away, it may soon be the children of liberal upper-middle class white Americans who are clamoring for affirmative action – or at least, for less reliance on standardized test scores. ..."
"... That law should have had a sunset built into it, though. To keep it "forever" invites abuse that grows over time. ..."
"... As always, identifiers of the main murderous, narcissitic, psychopaths making this anti-merit based agenda happen is necessary. They've used the old divide and conquer strategy of group blame for millennia, "It's them whites, or it's them blacks, or Jews, or etc.etc etc. ..."
Nov 05, 2017 | www.unz.com

Whether this anger is somehow justified is, of course, a question of immense complexity but let me offer three observations that explain its scope regardless of its justification. My point is that affirmative action and other egalitarian social engineering nostrums inescapably spreads antagonisms beyond those immediately affected by the policies. And the anger will only grow as government keeps pushing the egalitarian fantasy.

First, violating the merit principle, whether in college admissions or hiring police officers guarantees disgruntled white males far in excess of its true victims. Consider hiring five firefighters strictly according to civil service exam scores. Let's assume that a hundred men apply for the position and can be ranked by test scores. The top four are white and are hired. Now, thanks to a Department of Justice consent decree, the fire department must hire at least one African American from the list and if the highest ranking black scores at 20 in the array he will be hired despite his middling score.

How many white males have actually lost their job to a black? The correct answer is exactly one, the fifth ranking applicant. But how many whites will mistakenly believe that they lost out to an affirmative action candidate? The answer is 14 since this is the number of rejected white candidates between 6 and 19 and, to be honest, all can make a legitimate claim of being passed over to satisfy the diversity bean counters. Further fueling this anger is that each of those fourteen "unfairly" rejected applicants may complain to family and friends and thus tales of the alleged injustice multiply though, in fact, only a single white applicant lost out to a less qualified black.

Affirmative action is thus a white grievance multiplier if this information is public (as is often the case in university admissions and in reverse discrimination litigation). No doubt, every Spring when colleges and professional schools such as law and medicine mail out their acceptance/rejection letters, millions of white males can honestly complain that they would have been admitted to their first choice if they had only been black or Hispanic and judged exclusively by test scores. Of course, if the university admitted all those whites who exceeded the scores of the least qualified black, the university would have to dramatically increase the freshman class, a policy that possibly tantamount to admitting nearly every white applicant.

Second, the greater the pressure to increase "diversity" via adding additional under-qualified blacks and Hispanics and not expanding enrollment, the greater the visible gap between affirmative action admittees and all others. Again, everything is purely statistical. For example, in the pre-affirmative action era only a few blacks attended college, nearly all of whom got there on merit. Whites (and Asians) would likely view them as equals, no small benefit in a society obsessed with expunging "racist stereotypes" regarding black intellectual ability.

Now imagine that due to government pressure the number of blacks admitted substantially grew and, unless overall enrollment correspondently expanded, fewer academically borderline whites would be admitted so college life became an experience where smart whites encountered lots of intellectually challenged blacks.

Ironically, as per claims that campus racial diversity provides wonderful learning experiences, what might a white student with, say, a total SAT reading/math score of 1350 learn from his black dorm mate who scored 1150? (This is the average white/black SAT gap.) I'd guess that the white student would learn that it's good to be a favored minority in terms of obtaining full-ride scholarships, internship programs, and job offers from top firms. Try to imagine a better way of teaching about white privilege.

Third, as the political pressure for yet more diversity increases, coercion will correspondingly become more draconian and thus more odious since it takes extra effort to force employers or universities to dig deeper into a thinner and thinner talent pool. A parallel is a parent faced with a child reluctant to eat vegetables. The pressure may begin softly -- enticing junior to eat a few French fries but it will grow stronger as Mom adds disliked turnips, lima beans and cauliflower. At some point, promoting "good nutrition" may require force feeding.

I have personally observed this escalating pressure to diversify college faculty, pressure that even liberal faculty find objectionable. During the 1970s the emphasis was on relatively painless voluntary measures: recruitment committees would append "applicants from previously under-represented groups are encouraged to apply" on job postings, tweaking teaching responsibilities to attract minority candidates, or Deans providing extra funds for the job slot if a black or Hispanic could be hired. Gradually, however, as these benign tactics failed to make the numbers, the apparatchiki tightened the screws -- Provosts would independently scour the market for minority job candidates or appoint a non-departmental "political commissar" to monitor faculty recruitment committee deliberations to insure that no promising minority candidate was overlooked.

Hiring discussions were soon filled with euphemisms such as "targets" or "goals" since quotas were illegal under the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Increasingly, the push for faculty diversity has come to resemble Chinese political indoctrination where even the term "affirmative action" is verboten since it implies unequal ability. At the University of California -- Riverside, for example, all candidates for faculty jobs (including the sciences) must submit a statement describing how they've worked to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in previous positions as graduate students or professors and how they planned to continue to do so once on campus. And guess what? Those who give superior answers to these questions surprisingly turn out to be from historically under-represented groups! Cynthia Larive, Riverside's interim provost, said that avoiding numerical targets "gets people out of thinking about a quota system. We want to hire outstanding faculty members who can help the institution continue to be successful and, most importantly, who can mentor students."

Needless to say, the diversity apparatchiki assume that all liberal white faculty, even those in the hard sciences, are debilitated by implicit bias so they have to be pushed to overcome their doubts about possibly hiring a black physicist from a third-tier school. At Boston College faculty receive special training through the Office of Institutional Diversity to develop strategies to promote diversity and are thus instructed, for example, to avoid "narrow professional networks" (i.e., contacting colleagues at other schools) in seeking out top job candidates. After all, why assume that the next Richard Feynman will have been trained at a MIT or Princeton?

What makes this coerced diversity so hard to swallow is that its purpose rests on a plain-to-see but impossible to express fraud -- the alleged benefits of diversity. Indeed, the elite's obsessive proclamations of this lie far more closely resemble propaganda than celebrating a cliché-like truth. Simply put, if diversity is so wonderful, and in the self-interest of universities and businesses, why must it be imposed forcefully? Surely if it was as beneficial as advertised, there would be no need for disparate impact lawsuits, training to overcome implicit bias and similar measures that resemble mothers punishing junior for not eating his lima beans. Does government and the social justice camp followers really believe that diversity is akin to chocolate or red wine whose consumption hardly needs coercion?

Now for what really fuels the anger over coerced diversity: it is one thing to demand sacrifices

geokat62 , November 5, 2017 at 4:59 am GMT

What makes this coerced diversity so hard to swallow is that its purpose rests on a plain-to-see but impossible to express fraud -- the alleged benefits of diversity. Indeed, the elite's obsessive proclamations of this lie far more closely resemble propaganda than celebrating a cliché-like truth and it is hard to imagine a bigger lie than "Diversity is Our Strength."

Why the use of the nebulous term "elites"? Why not call a spade a spade and admit that "Diversity is Our Strength" is a tagline of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL)?

Why not tell your readers that, after working away at it for 100 years, it was the domestic wing of The Lobby that was responsible for getting the non-restrictionist immigration act passed in 1965, which is the biggest reason the US has become such a multicultural society?

This information would have been a useful backdrop to this article.

mr.wiffle , November 5, 2017 at 9:24 am GMT
The real problem with AA isn't the occasional less competitive white applicant losing out to an even lower scoring minority. It's the subjective aspects of AA that cause constant inconvenience, conflict and even ridiculous manipulations to level the playing field. The most recent and ridiculous example being the expansion of gender categories along with custom pronouns.
Stephen Paul Foster , Website November 5, 2017 at 10:58 am GMT
"Racism" is he lynch-pin of this massive shake-down. Proposal: make an operational definition of "racism" and punish anyone who misuses it. Suddenly, the accusations would stop.

See: http://fosterspeak.blogspot.com/2017/07/against-anti-racism-and-hemeneutics-of.html

TonyVodvarka , November 5, 2017 at 12:28 pm GMT
When I became a New York City firefighter in 1962, the entrance exam was a multiple choice test on civics and science. The physical exam was a rigorous challenge that most people would have to train for months before, for instance, to get the top score, one had to lift ninety pounds with one arm and seventy pounds with the other. Both tests were graded and the average of the two determined your place on the list. Nowadays, because of a court order to diversify, the written exam tests are largely questions supposedly probing the psychological makeup of the applicant that one would have to be an idiot not to recognize the response wanted. The physical has been largely degraded so that more women can pass it and it is not graded, one simply has to do the minimum to pass. Recently, a black recruit failed probationary school three times and was given a fourth chance. Make of it what you will.
OilcanFloyd , November 5, 2017 at 12:50 pm GMT
You are making a huge mistake if you limit the effects of affirmative action to elite college hiring and admissions. Affirmative action cuts through every level of society, and I argue that it's far more of an issue at the lower and middle rungs of society, where most Americans work and live. In many companies, this is the level where you will find their black employees, supervisors, and managers. It's not exactly pleasant to be white in such a situation, and your chances of working your way up from the bottom are slim, no matter how competent or willing to work you are. You could also examine how whites are treated in minority majority cities. Reverse discrimination is just the tip of the iceberg.

To gloss over the full scope and scale of affirmative action is to mock the situation of many of the victims of affirmative action. If you really wish to be honest about "white anger," you would look at the racial violence and rapes directed at whites, and ignored or justified, by the elites and media, as well as the completely unwarranted, unwanted, and undemocratic cultural and demographic changes forced upon the nation/whites over the last 50 years.

JackOH , November 5, 2017 at 1:07 pm GMT

@jacques sheete

Good points, js. You put a good brake on some of the arguments made here, including my own. Reality is that an unknown percentage of people who are hired by irregular means, such as crony and patronage practices, including ethnic affinity and family relations, do okay, grow into their jobs, and earn the reasonable respect of their peers, superiors, and subordinates. Likewise, the determination of quality of applicant by ordinary standards of merit and seniority can be a bear.

TG , November 5, 2017 at 1:21 pm GMT
Indeed – but be careful what you wish for, you may get it.

India has a terrible educational system – about half the country is illiterate. But the other half is still bigger than the entire United States, they are desperately poor, and there are tens if not hundreds of millions of children who have been trained from birth only to excel at standardized tests for just the slim change of escaping that overpopulated land. And unlike the much more prosperous Chinese, they speak English and there is no language barrier! All by themselves, Indian nationals could soon fill every academic position in the United States with people who have perfect test scores.

As the barriers between the overpopulated third world and the United States continue to be swept away, it may soon be the children of liberal upper-middle class white Americans who are clamoring for affirmative action – or at least, for less reliance on standardized test scores.

vera , November 5, 2017 at 1:36 pm GMT
@animalogic

I was once one of those women who were hired into and trained for a job that had been reserved for males. I was so proud, and so happy the system was changing. My male colleagues were a mix -- some supported me, some less so. But I think all accepted that changes needed to be made.

That law should have had a sunset built into it, though. To keep it "forever" invites abuse that grows over time.

Joe Hide , November 5, 2017 at 1:50 pm GMT
As always, identifiers of the main murderous, narcissitic, psychopaths making this anti-merit based agenda happen is necessary. They've used the old divide and conquer strategy of group blame for millennia, "It's them whites, or it's them blacks, or Jews, or etc.etc etc.

Cell phone aps which identify these creeps with retinal scanning, pulse rate changes, facial and body language indicators is an easy & cheap development given today's level of technological advancement. Guess who will oppose its inevitable adoption the most?

macilrae , November 5, 2017 at 2:07 pm GMT
@Nepemnr

Two others I can think of are the other firemen who must now suffer him, and the community who feels less secure (I personally avoid black doctors, sorry).

Just so – reminds my of how my mom, presenting at emergency with a partially paralyzed left arm and leg, was told "I don't think this is a stroke" by the African resident – and left to wait it out until the CT confirmation the following day.

It would be instructive to see how some of the hardened advocates of affirmative action would behave if given the black-or-white choice on a critical medical issue.

[Oct 18, 2017] Why adjuncts should quit complaining and just quit (essay) by Claire B. Potter

Notable quotes:
"... The New York Times ..."
"... The other problem is systemic. This is the vicious, capitalist devaluation of academic labor. Anyone who holds some asinine fantasy about the "logic" of the market solving the adjunctification of the academy needs to shut up. ..."
"... Whether "meant" to be a career or not, adjuncting is a career for many--and our institutions have made it that way by refusing to hire enough full-time professors to cover the courses offered. Adjuncts are being exploited by institutions across the country. THAT is what we need to focus on, not individual career choices. ..."
"... I don't know if neoliberal professors are increasing in numbers or if they just have greater access to publish. I imagine it's the latter. The take on the situation from those off the tenure track is quite the opposite, obviously. This is what we need to reiterate: "Adjuncts are being exploited by institutions across the country. THAT is what we need to focus on" ..."
"... I'm a career advisor and every once and a while an adjunct faculty person will come visit career services for assistance. They are generally completely absent of career management skills. They tend to be people who were very good at college, so they went to grad school sort of assuming they'd be able to get a job that way. ..."
Oct 16, 2017 | www.insidehighered.com
Angry About Adjuncting? The radical move might be to quit, writes Claire B. Potter. 150 Comments

Recently I stumbled across an article in The New York Times about my favorite topic: online academic rage -- and whether it spikes among those frustrated by the struggle to find a tenure-stream job. "Is there something about adjunct faculty members that makes them prone to outrageous political outbursts?" Colby College sociologist Neil Gross asked.

Citing recent examples in which the most vulnerable among us have been fired for an impolitic tweet or Facebook post, Gross argues that full-time faculty members are not the "tenured radicals" that American conservatives have feared since the 1990s. Instead, he proposes, the vast majority of full-timers are "tamed" by the prospects, or long-term comforts, of tenure. Research accounts, regular raises, the orderliness of being able to plan our lives and the satisfaction of promises kept inevitably sutures most of us to civility in all its forms.

But what incentives do workers who are already vulnerable in so many ways have to be polite? Although many people with humanities Ph.D.s do other jobs, this stubborn belief that they have trained for one thing, and one thing only, keeps many adjuncts on the hamster wheel long past a time when frustration and sorrow have turned to rage. Aside from the stress of trying to piece together a career one course at a time, the adjunct army -- permanently contingent, underemployed, overworked and underpaid faculty members -- has every reason to demand radical change.

But do these conditions produce a truly political radicalism, or are they simply radical utterances that get contingent faculty into trouble and leave a system that relies on a reserve army of labor unchanged? And since people with doctorates aren't tied to a particular factory or industry, would the radical solution be to stop teaching as a per-course adjunct?

... ... ...

Academic Ranter , October 16, 2017 10:57 AM

There are two types of problems here. One concerns the individual misfortunes that plague adjuncts. Adjuncts' problems are lamentable, even if solvable, and it would be nice to see people in our society have some compassion rather than excuse their own apathy with callous blaming of people in unfortunate circumstances.

The other problem is systemic. This is the vicious, capitalist devaluation of academic labor. Anyone who holds some asinine fantasy about the "logic" of the market solving the adjunctification of the academy needs to shut up. You do terrible damage to our society. The simplest and most obvious solution to a lack of PhDs to work as adjuncts is to hire MAs.

Universities are already hiring undergrads to do some of the academic work. You are off your gourd if you think the people who want to siphon profits to the top will not try to further degrade academic labor, or, haven't you been paying attention to the hoopla around MOOCs? The only solution to the precariate is unionization and a demand for all academic labor to provide middle-class standards of living.

That means that the cowardly and lazy tenured faculty will finally have to do their jobs and guard the academy.

DudewithtwoBAsMAMFAandPhD -> Academic Ranter , October 16, 2017 7:37 PM

I agree with most of what you say, except that my experience says that administrations would rather hire MAs than PhDs because PhDs demand the salaries that align with their higher education; and, because PhDs are generally more experienced in academe, they are less agreeable than MAs to accepting administrative initiatives that are tangential to faculty teaching and research.

RBatty024 -> Academic Ranter , October 16, 2017 12:50 PM

"The simplest and most obvious solution to a lack of PhDs to work as adjuncts is to hire MAs."

This is already occurring, even outside of the humanities. I know some great instructors without their doctorate, but hiring a large number of instructors without a terminal degree does seem to go against the ideal that a professor teaches undergraduates, keeps up with the latest in his or her field, and produces knowledge in that field.

While in a master's program at a large research institute, I was given my own classes, even though I only had a bachelor's degree. I was happy to get the experience, but with my background, I probably should not have been teaching those students

CuriousHamster -> RBatty024 , October 16, 2017 7:14 PM

Actually, if you look at 50-60 year old faculty lists a fair number of faculty had masters. Masters were originally meant to be a teaching qualification, PhDs were a research qualification. The masters as a teaching qualification got squeezed out because of too many PhDs between 2 and 3 generations back.

hrhdhd -> CuriousHamster , October 16, 2017 9:48 PM

Not at community colleges.

TheJonesest , October 16, 2017 8:13 AM

Adjuncting is not now, and was never meant to be, a career. We can complain about working conditions, lack of benefits/stability, and the stress of cobbling together enough courses to pay the rent all we want (and we do) but the bottom line is this: If you haven't landed a FT teaching gig within three years of earning your Ph.D., bail out and choose another career. The person who can't eat after 20 years of adjunct work has no one to blame but themselves. Keep fighting, but take care of yourself, too.

Aaron Barlow -> TheJonesest , October 16, 2017 11:50 AM

Whether "meant" to be a career or not, adjuncting is a career for many--and our institutions have made it that way by refusing to hire enough full-time professors to cover the courses offered. Adjuncts are being exploited by institutions across the country. THAT is what we need to focus on, not individual career choices.

AdjunctNYC -> Aaron Barlow , October 16, 2017 1:59 PM

I agree. Blaming adjuncts for being adjuncts, wishing they would not have enrolled in PhD programs, and encouraging them to take jobs in fields for which they did not study (alt-ac), is a very ugly game.

This is compounded by the fact that people of color and women are far less likely to be on the tenure line. None of this seems to bother the rising tide of neoliberal academics, who almost without exception have never worked off the tenure track, and maintain pushing people toward careers they do not want to do, are not educated to do, and could do with out a PhD, is a way to solve the problem.

I don't know if neoliberal professors are increasing in numbers or if they just have greater access to publish. I imagine it's the latter. The take on the situation from those off the tenure track is quite the opposite, obviously. This is what we need to reiterate: "Adjuncts are being exploited by institutions across the country. THAT is what we need to focus on"

Michael Dixon -> TheJonesest , October 17, 2017 6:12 PM

There is no reason the job has to be set up the way it is. Most colleges & universities use far more adjuncts than fluctuation in enrollment and funding would account for.

The "too many Ph.D's" argument falls apart when you think about how easy it is to get an adjunct job. Two of the four districts I've worked in didn't even do a formal interview. I just met with the department chair to discuss when I was available. I work more than the equivalent of full time at two different districts every semester, so theoretically, one full time job could exist for me.

My wife is a K-12 public school teacher, and her first year teaching, she made as much as I did after ten years as an adjunct with a master's (except she didn't have to work summers and did get health insurance for our whole family).

We could probably fix it in a cost neutral way if administrative positions and salaries weren't growing faster than the number of full time teaching positions.

As an academic you should know that the way things are wasn't handed down by god, and isn't an immutable law of nature. Someone made it this way and it can be unmade too.

Frankly, I feel sorry for you as I do for the administrators and full time faculty who look down on their adjunct colleagues. You have been a subject in a real life Milgram or Stanford Prison experiment and took the bait

RedinHigherEd , October 16, 2017 9:39 AM

Fair warning, what I'm about to say is completely anecdotal. I'm a career advisor and every once and a while an adjunct faculty person will come visit career services for assistance. They are generally completely absent of career management skills. They tend to be people who were very good at college, so they went to grad school sort of assuming they'd be able to get a job that way.

They continued to do no meaningful career planning while in grad school, and after completing were able to use their familiarity with college systems to piece together some adjunct work. When asked simple questions such as "what types of careers outside of academia have you explored?" they are unable to answer.

They lack the ability to identify and describe their transferable skills, have only shallow understanding of what career paths are available, and struggle to engage in even simple job search tasks. These are extremely intelligent people with a huge gap in their career competencies.

I think a major reason we don't see more adjuncts quit and move to other industries or even other roles on campus is because they simply do not know how.

rob -> RedinHigherEd , October 16, 2017 12:43 PM

On the flip side of this though is the fact that those with a lot of applied (in terms of non academic aspects) work in their field often do not fair as well in FT searches. Those from working class backgrounds or who worked throughout grad school are often seen as less desirable in searches even though they are the ones who are most likely to know how to advise students on realistic career paths. I finished my PhD with 10 years of industry experience in the non profit, consulting, and governmental sectors but even at undergraduate serving institutions this often had less cache then the handful of publications I had produced.

RedinHigherEd -> rob , October 17, 2017 11:48 AM

Yeah it's a catch 22 for grad students. If they take the time to get industry experience, that will help them volumes in alt ac careers, but ding them in academic ones.

Yiddishist -> RedinHigherEd , October 16, 2017 7:14 PM

All that your comment shows is that adjuncts are easy targets, even for career advisors. The fact that you recognize your comment as anecdotal does not exempt you from giving information about how many cases your negative generalizations were made from, at what type of higher education institution you encountered them, and so on. I have not noted any defects of the type you claim in career skills, and I have known scores of adjuncts, but I would be far more cautious than you are about generalizing either way. I would go so far as to say that the ones I have known compare favorably to law students and the many job applicants I worked with as a job-placement specialist at an employment agency in Manhattan some years ago. I worked as an adjunct myself for some time, and found few jobs that so hone one's survival skills, in the employment market and elsewhere.

[Oct 18, 2017] Spy Schools How the CIA, FBI and Foreign Intelligence Secretly Exploit America's Universities by Nick Roll

Notable quotes:
"... Spy Schools: How the CIA, FBI and Foreign Intelligence Secretly Exploit America's Universities ..."
"... The Boston Globe ..."
"... Inside Higher Ed ..."
"... The Wall Street Journal ..."
"... The Price of Admission ..."
"... Inside Higher Ed ..."
"... Inside Higher Ed ..."
"... look back to Stalin, Hitler, Franco, Mao, Mussolini et.al with THIER use of domestic agencies to impose lock-step thinking and to ferret out free-thinkers. ..."
"... It is amazing how many biochemists and microbiologists from the People's Republic of China would e-mail me asking if I had a position in my "lab," touting their bench skills, every time I published a paper on the federal bioterrorism program, medical civic action programs, etc. ..."
"... When I started teaching 48 years ago, the president of my college was James Dovonan, Bill Donovan's (founder of the OSS) brother, portrayed by Tom Hanks in the movie, "Bridge of Spies." ..."
"... Beyond NIH funded grant-based research, Homeland Security, Energy, Defense, and the Intelligence Community agencies have long histories of relationships with American academia. This could be funded research, collaborative research, shared personnel relationships, or all other manner of cooperation. Sometimes it's fairly well known and sometimes it's kept quiet, and sometimes it's even classified. But it is much more extensive and expansive than what Golden describes, and much less "cozy" or suspicious. ..."
"... For years I have said that it is foolish to look to universities for moral guidance, and this story is one more instance. In this case, the moral ground is swampy at best, and the universities do not appear to have spent a lot of time worrying about possible problems as long as the situation works to their advantage financially. ..."
"... Does Golden discuss at all the way in which the CIA and other intelligence services funnel money into academic research without the source of the funding ever being revealed? This was common practice in the 1960s and 1970s, and colleges like MIT were among those involved in this chicanery. ..."
"... Where has IHE been for the past several decades? Read Rosenfeld's book, Subversives..... about the FBI's illegal acts at Berkeley. Or read this, a summary of his book: https://alumni.berkeley.edu... Or read George R. Stewart, The Year of the Oath. ..."
www.chronicle.com
October 3, 2017

The CIA Within Academe 21 Comments

Book documents how foreign and domestic intelligence agencies use -- and perhaps exploit -- higher education and academe for spy operations.
Foreign and domestic intelligence services spar and spy on one another all across the world. But it would be naïve to think it's not happening in the lab or classroom as well.

In his new book, Spy Schools: How the CIA, FBI and Foreign Intelligence Secretly Exploit America's Universities ( Henry Holt and Company ), investigative journalist Daniel Golden explores the fraught -- and sometimes exploitative -- relationship between higher education and intelligence services, both foreign and domestic. Chapters explore various case studies of the Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation using the open and collaborative nature of higher education to their advantage, as well as foreign governments infiltrating the U.S. via education.

"It's pretty widespread, and I'd say it's most prevalent at research universities," Golden, an editor at ProPublica and an alumnus of The Boston Globe 's "Spotlight" team, told Inside Higher Ed . "The foreign intelligence services have the interest and the opportunity to learn cutting-edge, Pentagon-funded or government-funded research."

Golden, who has also covered higher education for The Wall Street Journal , previously wrote about the intersection of wealth and admissions in his 2006 book The Price of Admission .

Each of the case studies in Spy Schools , which goes on sale Oct. 10, is critical. One could read the chapters on the Chinese government's interest in U.S. research universities as hawkish, but then turn to the next chapter on Harvard's relationship with the CIA and read it as critical of the American intelligence establishment as well.

"People of one political persuasion might focus on [the chapters regarding] foreign espionage; people of another political persuasion might focus on domestic espionage," Golden said. "I try to follow where the facts lead."

Perhaps the most prestigious institution Golden examines is Harvard University, probing its cozy relationship with the CIA. (While Harvard has recently come under scrutiny for its relationship with the agency after it withdrew an invitation for Chelsea Manning to be a visiting fellow -- after the agency objected to her appointment -- this book was written before the Manning incident, which occurred in September.) The university, which has had varying degrees of closeness and coldness with the CIA over the years, currently allows the agency to send officers to the midcareer program at the Kennedy School of Government while continuing to act undercover, with the school's knowledge. When the officers apply -- often with fudged credentials that are part of their CIA cover -- the university doesn't know they're CIA agents, but once they're in, Golden writes, Harvard allows them to tell the university that they're undercover. Their fellow students, however -- often high-profile or soon-to-be-high-profile actors in the world of international diplomacy -- are kept in the dark.

"Kenneth Moskow is one of a long line of CIA officers who have enrolled undercover at the Kennedy School, generally with Harvard's knowledge and approval, gaining access to up-and-comers worldwide," Golden writes. "For four decades the CIA and Harvard have concealed this practice, which raises larger questions about academic boundaries, the integrity of class discussions and student interactions, and whether an American university has a responsibility to accommodate U.S. intelligence."

But the CIA isn't the only intelligence group operating at Harvard. Golden notes Russian spies have enrolled at the Kennedy School, although without Harvard's knowledge or cooperation.

When contacted by Inside Higher Ed , Harvard officials didn't deny Golden's telling, but defended the university's practices while emphasizing the agreement between the university and the CIA -- which Golden also writes about -- on not using Harvard to conduct CIA fieldwork.

"Harvard Kennedy School does not knowingly provide false information or 'cover' for any member of our community from an intelligence agency, nor do we allow members of our community to carry out intelligence operations at Harvard Kennedy School," Eric Rosenbach, co-director of the Kennedy School's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, said in a statement.

While Golden said the CIA's involvement on campus raises existential questions about the purpose and integrity of higher education, Harvard maintained that the Kennedy School was living up to its mission.

"Our community consists of people from different spheres of public service. We are proud to train people from the U.S. government and the intelligence community, as well as peace activists and those who favor more open government," Rosenbach said in his statement. "We train students from a wide range of foreign countries and foreign governments, including -- among others -- Israel, U.K., Russia and China. That is consistent with our mission and we are proud to have that reach."

On the other hand, other countries are interested in exploiting U.S. higher education. Golden documents the case of Ruopeng Liu, a graduate student at Duke University who siphoned off U.S.-government-funded research to Chinese researchers. Liu eventually returned to China and has used some of the research for his Chinese-government-funded start-up ventures.

Golden is comprehensive, interviewing Duke researchers who worked with Liu, as well as dispatching a freelance journalist in China to interview Liu (he denied wrongdoing, saying his actions were taken as part of higher education's collaborative norms regarding research projects). Despite questions that arose while Liu was a student, he received his doctorate in 2009 without any formal questions or pushback from the university. A week before Liu defended his dissertation, Golden notes that Duke officials voted to move forward in negotiations with the Chinese government regarding opening a Duke campus in China -- raising questions about whether Duke was cautious about punishing a Chinese student lest there were negative business implications for Duke. ( The building of the campus proved to be a controversial move in its own right. )

The Duke professor Liu worked under told Golden it would be hard to prove Liu acted with intentional malice rather than out of genuine cultural and translational obstacles, or ethical slips made by a novice researcher. Duke officials told Inside Higher Ed that there weren't any connections between Liu and the vote.

"The awarding of Ruopeng Liu's degree had absolutely no connection to the deliberations over the proposal for Duke to participate in the founding of a new university in Kunshan, China," a spokesman said in an email.

These are just two chapters of Golden's book, which also goes on to document the foreign exchange relationship between Marietta College, in Ohio, and the controversial Chinese-intelligence-aligned University of International Relations. Agreements between Marietta and UIR, which is widely regarded a recruiting ground for Chinese intelligence services, include exchanging professors and sending Chinese students to Marietta. Conversely, Golden writes, as American professors teach UIR students who could end up spying on the U.S., American students at Marietta are advised against studying abroad at UIR if they have an interest in working for the government -- studying at UIR carries a risk for students hoping to get certain security clearances. Another highlight is the chapter documenting the CIA's efforts to stage phony international academic conferences, put on to lure Iranian nuclear scientists as attendees and get them out of their country -- and in a position to defect to the U.S. According to Golden's sources, the operations, combined with other efforts, have been successful enough "to hinder Iran's nuclear weapons program."

But Golden's book doesn't just shed light on previously untold stories. It also highlights the existential questions facing higher education, not only when dealing with infiltration from foreign governments, but also those brought on by cozy relationships between the U.S. intelligence and academe.

"One issue is American national security," Golden said. "Universities do a lot of research that's important to our government and our military, and they don't take very strong precautions against it being stolen," he said. "So the domestic espionage side -- I'm kind of a traditionalist and I believe in the ideal of universities as places where the brightest minds of all countries come together to learn, teach each other, study and do research. Espionage from both sides taints that that's kind of disturbing."

After diving deep into the complex web that ties higher education and espionage together, however, Golden remains optimistic about the future.

"It wouldn't be that hard to tighten up the intellectual property rules and have written collaboration agreements and have more courses about intellectual safeguards," he said. "In the 1970s, Harvard adopted guidelines against U.S. intelligence trying to recruit foreign students in an undercover way they didn't become standard practice [across academe, but], I still think those guidelines are pertinent and colleges would do well to take a second look at them."

"In the idealistic dreamer mode, it would be wonderful if the U.N. or some other organization would take a look at this issue, and say, 'Can we declare universities off-limits to espionage?'"

Nicholas Dujmovic , October 3, 2017 8:18 AM

Equating the presence and activities of US intelligence on campuses with that of foreign intelligence is pretty obtuse moral relativism. US academia and US intelligence alike benefit from cooperation, and the American people are the winners overall. By the way, is it really necessary to twice describe this relationship as "cozy"? What does that mean, other to suggest there's something illicit about it?

Grace Alcock -> Nicholas Dujmovic , October 4, 2017 1:30 AM

It'd be nice if American intelligence was paying a bit more attention to what goes on in academic research--as far as I can tell, the country keeps making policies that don't seem particularly well-informed by the research in relevant areas. Can we get them to infiltrate more labs of scientists working on climate change or something?

Maybe stick around, engage in some participant observation and figure that research out? It's not clear they have any acquaintance with the literature on the causes of war. Really, pick a place to start, and pay attention.

alsotps -> Nicholas Dujmovic , October 3, 2017 5:20 PM

If you cannot see how a gov't intelligence agency, prohibited from working in the USA by statute and who is eye-deep in AMERICAN education is wrong, then I am worried. Read history. Look back to the 1970's to start and to the 1950's with FBI and the military agents in classrooms; then read about HUAC.

Now, look back to Stalin, Hitler, Franco, Mao, Mussolini et.al with THIER use of domestic agencies to impose lock-step thinking and to ferret out free-thinkers.

Get it? it is 'illicit!"

Nicholas Dujmovic -> alsotps , October 4, 2017 12:38 PM

Actually, I read quite a bit of history. I also know that US intelligence agencies are not "prohibited from working in the USA." If they have relationships in academia that remind you of Stalin, Hitler, etc., how have US agencies "imposed lock-step thinking and ferreted out free-thinkers?" Hasn't seemed to work, has it? Your concern is overwrought.

Former Community College Prof -> Nicholas Dujmovic , October 3, 2017 12:12 PM

"Cozy" might refer to the mutual gains afforded by allowing the federal government to break many rules (and laws) while conducting their "intelligence operations" in academe. I do not know if I felt Homeland Security should have had permission to bring to this country, under false premises supported by ICE and accrediting agencies, thousands of foreign nationals and employed them at companies like Facebook, Apple, Morgan Stanley and the U.S. Army. While Homeland Security collected 16K tuition from each of them (and the companies that hired these F-1s didn't have to pay FICA) all our nation got was arrests of 20 mid level visa brokers.

https://www.nytimes.com/201...

Personally, I think cozy was quite complimentary as I would have chosen other words. Just imagine if there are additional "undercover students" with false credentials in numbers significant enough to throw off data or stopping universities and colleges from enforcing rules and regulations. If you set up and accredit a "fake university" and keep the proceeds, it strikes me as illicit.

alsotps -> Former Community College Prof , October 3, 2017 5:21 PM

Hey...don't imagine it. Read about Cointelpro and military 'intelligence' agents in classes in the early 1970's....

Trevor Ronson -> Nicholas Dujmovic , October 3, 2017 2:36 PM

And behaving as if the "the presence and activities of US intelligence on campuses" is something to accept without question is also "obtuse moral relativism". We are talking about an arrangement wherein a / the most prestigious institutions of higher learning has an established relationship with the CIA along with some accepted protocol to ongoing participation.

Whether it is right, wrong, or in between is another matter but please don't pretend that it's just business as usual and not worthy of deeper investigation.

alsotps -> Trevor Ronson , October 3, 2017 5:16 PM

Unfortunately for many people, it IS business as usual.

George Avery , October 3, 2017 9:46 AM

It is amazing how many biochemists and microbiologists from the People's Republic of China would e-mail me asking if I had a position in my "lab," touting their bench skills, every time I published a paper on the federal bioterrorism program, medical civic action programs, etc.

Never mind that I primarily do health policy and economics work, and have not been near a lab bench since I returned to school for my doctorate.....anything with a defense or security application drew a flurry of interest in getting involved.

As a result, I tended to be very discerning in who I took on as an advisee, if only to protect my security clearance.

alsotps -> George Avery , October 3, 2017 5:22 PM

PAr for the course for both UG and grad students from China who have not paid a head hunter. ANY school or program offering money to international students was flooded by such inquiries. Get over yourself.

John Lobell , October 3, 2017 6:25 AM

When I started teaching 48 years ago, the president of my college was James Dovonan, Bill Donovan's (founder of the OSS) brother, portrayed by Tom Hanks in the movie, "Bridge of Spies."

We had a program in "Tropical Architecture" which enrolled students form "third world" countries. Rumor was -- --

jloewen , October 3, 2017 10:38 AM

When I got my Ph.D. from Harvard in 1968, the Shah of Iran got an honorary doctorate at the same commencement. The next year, by pure coincidence!, he endowed three chairs of Near Eastern Studies at H.U.

alsotps -> jloewen , October 3, 2017 5:24 PM

Absolutely a coincidence! You don't think honoraria have anything whatsoever to do with the Development Office do you? (Snark)

Kevin Van Elswyk , October 3, 2017 9:31 AM

And we are surpised?

Robert4787 , October 4, 2017 6:28 PM

So glad to see they're on campus. Many young people now occupy the CIA; the old "cowboys" of the Cold War past are gone. U may find this interesting>> http://osintdaily.blogspot....

TinkerTailor1620 , October 3, 2017 5:29 PM

Hundreds of government civil servants attend courses at the Kennedy School every year. That a few of them come from the CIA should be no surprise. It and all the other intelligence agencies are nothing more than departments within the federal government, just like Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, the FDA, Energy, and so on. Nothing sneaky or suspicious about any of it. Why anyone with cover credentials would tell the Kennedy School admin that is beyond me. When I was in cover status, I was in cover status everywhere; to not be was to blow your cover, period, and was extremely dangerous.

Beyond NIH funded grant-based research, Homeland Security, Energy, Defense, and the Intelligence Community agencies have long histories of relationships with American academia. This could be funded research, collaborative research, shared personnel relationships, or all other manner of cooperation. Sometimes it's fairly well known and sometimes it's kept quiet, and sometimes it's even classified. But it is much more extensive and expansive than what Golden describes, and much less "cozy" or suspicious.

Phred , October 3, 2017 1:49 PM

For years I have said that it is foolish to look to universities for moral guidance, and this story is one more instance. In this case, the moral ground is swampy at best, and the universities do not appear to have spent a lot of time worrying about possible problems as long as the situation works to their advantage financially.

alsotps -> Phred , October 3, 2017 5:25 PM

The key, here, is financially. The bean counters and those whose research is funded don't look hard at the source of the funding. Just so it keeps coming.

Jason , October 4, 2017 6:34 PM

Academic treason.

Sanford Gray Thatcher , October 4, 2017 6:13 PM

Does Golden discuss at all the way in which the CIA and other intelligence services funnel money into academic research without the source of the funding ever being revealed? This was common practice in the 1960s and 1970s, and colleges like MIT were among those involved in this chicanery.

Remember also how intelligence agency money was behind the journal Encounter? Lots of propaganda got distributed under the guise of objective social science research.

donald scott , October 3, 2017 6:05 PM

Where has IHE been for the past several decades? Read Rosenfeld's book, Subversives..... about the FBI's illegal acts at Berkeley. Or read this, a summary of his book: https://alumni.berkeley.edu... Or read George R. Stewart, The Year of the Oath.

In the research for my biography of Stewart I found significant information about CIA presence on the UC Berkeley campus, in the mid-twentieth century, which reached in to the highest levels of the administration and led to a network of "professors" recruited by that unAmerican spy agency.

The oaths, the current gender wars and the conviction by accusation of harassment are all later attempts to politicize education and turn fiat lux into fiat nox. IHE should be writing more about that and about the current conviction by sexual accusation, and the effect of such on free thought and free inquiry.

[Oct 17, 2017] The CIA's Favorite College President by Daniel Golden

Oct 10, 2017 | www.chronicle.com
Spies on Campus

How the CIA secretly exploits higher education

Premium content for subscribers. Subscribe Today

Graham Spanier rolled out the red carpet for the intelligence services to conduct covert operations involving colleges.

[Oct 16, 2017] C Wright Mills called the US state a plutocracy all fifty years ago

Notable quotes:
"... Indeed; smart, intelligent, "clever" folks in no way confers any degree of civility on their "vested" interests. Manipulation and control are suitably useful tools for their purposes. ..."
"... The media is not a major player in running the country, contrary to what much of the right has been brainwashed to believe. It's a tool of the elite. A hammer is also a very useful tool but it doesn't do much to determine what the carpenter builds. ..."
"... We convinced ourselves that our form of oligarchy was somehow "better" than other forms, when in fact, the end game was always the same..concentrating the power in as few hands as possible. Denial was the name of the game here in the US. ..."
"... They learned their lessons well after the 60's, the last time the people really raised up against the machine, so they have given us all the; junk food at a low cost, all the TV and mindless sexually charged entertainment, all the "debt wealth", a simple minded, unread, semi-literate, beer swilling fool could ever ask for. And we all gladly gobble it up and follow the crowd, for who wants to be on the outside looking in... ..."
"... There is always a ruling elite because power is the wellspring of all human actions. There is also a certain moral consciousness that many people argue is innate in human nature, and that consciousness is fairness. The fairness instinct survives where ordinary human sympathy may fail. Based upon this basic morality of fairness those of us who are willing to take risks in the interest of fairness need to prune and tend the ruling elites as soon as possible. We proles need to act together. ..."
"... Waiting for the oligarchy to rot from within isn't what i would call a viable plan. Not when there is a far better and far more sure way to get the job done. Start with capping wealth accumulation. ..."
"... With all the upheaval in today's politics, it's hard not to think that this moment is one in which the future of the political system might be more up for grabs than it has been in generations. ..."
"... Dominance of oligarchic political power, through neoliberalism, over the last four decades has effectively put such policies out of bounds. ..."
"... The last one I recall was an article by Kenan Malik on identity politics . For what exists in this country, the UK, I have previously used the term "oligarchy by profession" ... meaning a pool of the usually upper half of the middle class, or a group in whom that group is disproportionally represented, who not only likely have a select education but who go on to become part of certain professions - accountants, lawyers, journalists, bankers, doctors etc. ... and of course, politicians tend to be drawn from these. ..."
"... Apparently we're so distracted that we're also all genuinely shocked that Hollywood is rife with pedophilia and extreme sexual harassment as though it's some revelation that we didn't know already, but that's another conversation. ..."
"... If we're all so distracted then it's not difficult for our political 'representatives' -- I use that word very tentatively because they barely ever do -- to subject themselves to the oligarchs for a few scraps more than we have ourselves. ..."
"... Limiting govt still leaves economic power and the tendency towards monopoly untouched. ..."
"... Culture is the key, much more than any genetic impulse, which is practically meaningless and so explains nothing. ..."
"... As wealth defense is so important to oligarchs, there is a constant pressure to cheat and break the law. One solution therefore is to apply the law but also to construct legislation with specific principles in mind. If the point of tax legislation is to contribute your share towards the general good then those who avoid and evade tax would be guilty of a technical breach but also a breach of the principle. ..."
"... However our laws are skewed to allowing the wealthy to defend their wealth and so a party of the people is always needed. Always. ..."
Oct 16, 2017 | discussion.theguardian.com

cognitivedissonance1 , 15 Oct 2017 13:25

Nothing new here, C Wright Mills, the US state as a plutocracy , government by the few , said it all fifty years ago , especially the economic oligarchs

http://www2.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/theory/mills_critique.html

http://plutocratsandplutocracy.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/the-power-elite.html

imipak -> NoBets , 15 Oct 2017 13:21
I would again point to Plato. Those whose affluence exceeds the critical threshold stagnate. They have no need to work, no need to hold anything as valuable, they contribute nothing and take everything.

What is the point in being so rich? There's nothing you can gain from it, other than bank account pinball.

The purpose of being rich is to enable you. It is the only purpose. Once you are fully enabled, money has no value.

Those who are poor can't afford the tools to work well, the education/training needed, anything by which they could better themselves and be upwardly mobile.

There are some who are poor by choice. Voluntary hermits are common enough. They're not included in here because they're self-sufficient and have the tools they need so fall out of scope.

The middle band, where prone work the best, function the best, are mentally and physically the best, is very very big. Nothing stops you cramming society into there because they've plenty of room to stretch out.

But people always want to improve. No big. Make tax follow a curve, so that you always improve but the game gets harder not easier. Would you play a computer game where level 100 was easier than level 1? No, you'd find it boring. As long as it's a single curve, nobody gets penalized.

You now get to play forever, level billion is better than level million is better than level thousand, but it's asymptotic so infinite improvement never breaks outside the bounds.

"Asymptotic" is a word that meets your objection AND my rebuttal. You do not have to have either a constant, infinity or hard ceilings. Leave straight lines to geometers and enter the world of inflection points.

Viddyvideo , 15 Oct 2017 13:19
Elites exist the world over -- East, West, North and South. Question is how do we create a world where power is shared -- Plato and his Guardians perhaps or are we doomed to be ruled by elites until the end of time?
handygranny -> R Zwarich , 15 Oct 2017 13:14
Indeed; smart, intelligent, "clever" folks in no way confers any degree of civility on their "vested" interests. Manipulation and control are suitably useful tools for their purposes.
memo10 -> ashleyhk , 15 Oct 2017 13:11

Yet most of the media is resolutely "liberal" or leftist How do you explain that?

The media is not a major player in running the country, contrary to what much of the right has been brainwashed to believe. It's a tool of the elite. A hammer is also a very useful tool but it doesn't do much to determine what the carpenter builds.

RecantedYank -> mjmizera , 15 Oct 2017 13:09
Rapid is still quite right... We convinced ourselves that our form of oligarchy was somehow "better" than other forms, when in fact, the end game was always the same..concentrating the power in as few hands as possible. Denial was the name of the game here in the US.
CommanderMaxil -> Elgrecoandros , 15 Oct 2017 13:08
jessthecrip's comment was clearly not calling for JRM to be imprisoned or in any way punished for his views , but for his votes . Specifically his votes in the House of commons to support benefit cuts for disability claimants. Admittedly that a pretty extreme position from my point of view, but nonetheless you are misrepresentating what was said, whether deliberately or because you genuinely have not understood only you can know
Spudnik2 -> Gunsarecivilrights , 15 Oct 2017 13:05
More people should simply look up from time to time and quit living in fantasy books. The whole and real truth is not written in a book its all around you if you are willing to except what you see.
vinny59er , 15 Oct 2017 13:04
Form a government in same way we select juries. No entrenchment of the same old guard, no lobbyists,no elite, no vested interests.Just people like you,and you.People like your children.People like your parents.People like your neighbors
mjmizera -> RecantedYank , 15 Oct 2017 13:03
The industrial-military complex of the 50-70s didn't just disappear, but morphed into today's structures.
mjmizera -> voogdy , 15 Oct 2017 13:00
Not anymore, as conspiracy nuts are now serving their new masters, the altRight. They joined the enemy.
theseligsussex -> Sailor25 , 15 Oct 2017 12:59
Not really driven by the oligarch, more looted. And there's normally 1 greedy bugger, Sulla or Pompey, who has to have it all and upsets the apple cart, and then you get Augustus.
mjmizera -> ashleyhk , 15 Oct 2017 12:58
There is never the right far enough that one can't be to the left of.
mjmizera -> RecantedYank , 15 Oct 2017 12:55
All the good/bad labels lose their meaning without a qualifier - for whom.
winemaster2 , 15 Oct 2017 12:54
The US and it being a democracy, the word that is no where mentioned in the Constitution is one big hoax and the perpetuation of the same, where the missed people in this country are further conned by the elite and the rich. Then on top of it all we f or sure not practice what we preach. To that end our political system with two senators from each of 50 states m irrespective to the population is lot to be desired in terms of any real democratic process, let alone equality in representation. To add insult to injury, the US House of Representatives where Congressional Districts are gerrymandered just about every two years, is even worst. Just as the US Congress in which over 90% of the people have no confidence.
sejong -> ashleyhk , 15 Oct 2017 12:50
Yet most of the media is resolutely "liberal" or leftist How do you explain that?

Liberal MSM has been emasculated. It doesn't know it's dead. It doesn't move any needles. It just brays on in ineffective anti-Trump outrage and one identity politics issue after another.

Rightwing media is king in USA.

makingalist , 15 Oct 2017 12:47
One way they get away with it is by having their own separate education system. It's high time private schools were closed down.
handygranny -> ID3924525 , 15 Oct 2017 12:47
Who was it again who said he loves the undereducated and uninformed during the campaign season of 2016?
laerteg -> ValuedCustomer , 15 Oct 2017 12:44
Yes- the demonization of liberalism on the right and the turning away from liberalism on the left *has* paved the way for oligarchy.

Divide and conquer, as usual, is working.

Shrimpandgrits -> imperium3 , 15 Oct 2017 12:44
Slavery -- chattel slavery -- was an element.

Socialist, mass slavery was not.

Leon Sphinx , 15 Oct 2017 12:41
The House of Lords in the U.K. and the Senate in the US were originally there to prevent poor people - always the majority - from voting to take away wealth and lands from the rich. Basically, if such a vote was cast, the HoL and Senate - filled with the elites of society - had the power to block it.
ashleyhk , 15 Oct 2017 12:41
This is a fascinating dissection of how the "leftist/liberal" media was completely disrupted by Trump. It is a long read and quite difficult (so not likely to appeal to most of the knee-jerk commentators) but, whatever your politics it is well worth a look
https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/10/what-facebook-did/542502 /
Laurence Bury , 15 Oct 2017 12:41
The human (and probably animal) world is made up of oligarchies that deal with each other. History has shown that only lone soldiers can upset established orders: Alexander, Napoleon, Lenin, Castro and Bin Laden come to mind.
laerteg -> Hibernica , 15 Oct 2017 12:40
I agree with the article's premise. We have allowed the oligarchs to consolidate power.

Why? Because Americans revere wealth and power. We have bought into the capitalist model hook, line, and sinker. We willingly elect candidates and sign on to policies that allow oligarchs to consolidate their power, increase their wealth and income inequality, pomote greed and selfishness, and undermine democracy - the power of the people.

We have been busy electing agents of oligarchy to Congress since 1980. Buying ino the "small government" con, the "taxes are theft" con, "the business is overregulated" con, the "corporations are the job creators" con and its twin the "government never created jobs" con, the anti-union con, etc, etc, etc.

Our political system would be a lot more representative of the people if the people would get off their butts and start participating in it. Our electoral ststem is open to anyone who wants to participate.

But who and how many participate any more?

When the people create a vacuum with their apathy and cynicism, the oligarchs fill it with their greed.

Oligarchs will always be attracted to power, no matter what system is in place. What's needed to minimize their ability to entrench themselves is vigilance in defending our institutions against corruption.

And vigilance is something that the American people seem to have less and less of every day.

Matt Quinn , 15 Oct 2017 12:40
Maximise aggregate happiness as John Nash suggested. Cooperation beats competition in almost every sphere. Uniting the 99% will happen after the 1% have brought civilisation to a standstill and a billion people starve.
vinny59er , 15 Oct 2017 12:38
The biggest impediment to true and real democracy is the existence of political parties.
RapidSloth -> RecantedYank , 15 Oct 2017 12:27
Denial is a powerful mental mechanism, that and also people tend to associate oligarchy with brutal, straight forwards autocratic rule.
US has a very sophisticated socio-political system that has isolated the elite and the common man through many filters rather than one solid brick wall - so people dont see it. This paired with large enough populations who are cretinous enough to actually vote for somebody like Trump or give a second term to the likes of G.W Bush makes fooling extremely easy.

There is also the tendency of treating laws like dogma and the constitution like the bible. A stark example of it is how they boast about freedom of speech. Everybody is keen to point out that one can publicly criticize politicians without fear of prosecution but nobody seems to notice how useless that speech is and how effectively the political elite shelters itself from negative opinion and is able to proceed against the public will. I find it quite fascinating.

RecantedYank , 15 Oct 2017 12:20
ALL oligarchies are bad...they just function from a different starting point.
In the US, we have an oligarchy based on wealth,who then uses their money to buy the political animals.
In Communist countries, you had a political oligarchy, who used their political powers to corner the wealth.
And in religious oligarchies you have a few selected "high priests" using religious fervor/special communication lines with whatever deity, to capture both wealth and politics.

None of these are preferable over the other as they all concentrate power into the hands of the few (1-2%), against the interests of the many.

virgenskamikazes , 15 Oct 2017 12:20
The fact is Western Democracy (democratic capitalism) is not and was never a true democracy.

Historians from at least 300 years from now, when studying our historical time, will state our system was capitalism, whose political system was plutocracy -- the rule of the capitalist class from behind the curtains, through puppet governors.

Sure, the same historians will, through archaeological evidence, state, correctly, that we called and considered ourselves to live in a democracy. But they will also find evidence that this claim was always contested by contemporaries. Emperor Augustus restored the façade of the Republic and called himself princeps instead of king, and, officially, Rome was still a Republic until the time of Marcus Aurelius to Diocletian (maybe the first emperor to openly consider himself a monarch) -- it doesn't fool today's historians, and it seems it didn't fool the Roman people also.

sejong , 15 Oct 2017 12:15
Oligarchy in USA is secure. For a generation, it has leveraged rightwing media to get unquestioning support from white America based on aggrieved truculence toward the liberal, the brown, and the black. And that was pre-Trump.

Now Trump rampages against the very symbol of the grievance: Obama.

It's midnight in the world's leading third world country

voogdy , 15 Oct 2017 12:10
Anyone who's been accusing united states of being an oligarchy so far was branded as a conspiracy nut. So does this article rehabilitates them and confirms their assertions?
j. von Hettlingen , 15 Oct 2017 12:07
In ancient Greece: "While the ruling class must remain united for an oligarchy to remain in power, the people must also be divided so they cannot overthrow their oppressors." Today the oligarchs aren't always united, because they see each other as rivals. But they have nothing against dividing and weakening the people in order to prevent them from rising up to "their oppressors."
Mass indoctrination is the answer. Oligarchs around the world seek to build up a media empire to brainwash a gullible public and sow discord in the society. The most notorious members of a civil oligarchy in the West are Silvio Berlusconi and Rupert Murdoch. Like oligarchs in ancient Greece, their modern counterparts need democratic support to legitimise their goals. And they support candidates in elections who will do their bidding once in office.
Oligarchy and plutocracy will continue to rule America, because the worship of money is a popular faith. As long as an individual is well off, he/she sees little incentive to help improve social equality. A revolution will only be possible if a critical mass is behind it.
PeterlooSunset -> maddiemot , 15 Oct 2017 12:06
The current US education system was put in place by the oligarch foundations of the Rockefellers, Carnegies and Guggenheims . It exists to keep the majority of the citizenry misinformed, thus docile workers and passive consumers.
ID3924525 -> 37Dionysos , 15 Oct 2017 12:05
Sounds about right - a least some, a very small minority, realise they're being suckered - the overwhelming majority die pig ignorant, whether they believe they've made it or live in a trailer park.
lasos2222 , 15 Oct 2017 12:03
it's very rare that an article in the Guardian doesn't have an obvious agenda. Simple click bait stuff. This article is different, and worthwhile reading. Excellent.
RecantedYank , 15 Oct 2017 12:02
I am only surprised that anyone would still be in the dark about whether or not the US is an oligarchy. It's been obvious now for at least the past three-four decades.
RapidSloth , 15 Oct 2017 12:01
If the general public opposes rule-by-economic-elites, yep sure... too elections held in the last two decades contradict that statement.
37Dionysos -> OldTrombone , 15 Oct 2017 12:01
Yep---for where very few have very much and most have nothing, you have a pressure-cooker. The property-police must indeed grow in number and brutality.
37Dionysos -> ID3924525 , 15 Oct 2017 11:58
And the other half of it is what Ben Franklin warned about, "the corruption of the people." The gangsters really sense and know how to play people against themselves---arousing appetites, appealing to short-term pleasure, to short-term feel-good thinking and acts, and to greed and lust for seemingly easy power. When you realize you're had, it's too late: "In every transaction, there's a sucker. If you're wondering who that is, it's you."
Feindbild -> PSmd , 15 Oct 2017 11:55
Yep sure. The 'big white kid' pritecting the brown kid does tend to be working class or middle class Jewish, and indeed, more likely to be socialist than liberal (in my experience).

I wouldn't limit credit for this kind of thing to any particular ethnicity. But I will say that most major successful reform 'crusades' of modern Western history were inspired by Christian ideals, and often led by Christian clergy, including the anti-slavery Abolition movement in 19th-century America, the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and '60s, and the anti-Communist revolutions in 1980's Eastern Central Europe. Even in the anti-Apartheid movement, the churches played a leading role, personified, of course, by Bishop Tutu.

MTorrespico -> OldTrombone , 15 Oct 2017 11:52
Correct, because that would be too easy . . . for 'Muricans, because Other people might benefit, and because it is too, too logical a solution for the Turd World USA.
37Dionysos , 15 Oct 2017 11:51
In the Oxford English Dictionary you find that "profit" and "advantage" are close cousins etymologically. Makes sense, since "profit" (the word for value you did not put into an exchange) creates "advantage"---and then you use advantages to give even less and take even more profit. Round and round she goes, and there's no bottom. "Advantage" of course is also inherently relative to somebody else's "DIS-advantage": hence our planet full of "disadvantaged" working people.
OldTrombone -> rg12345 , 15 Oct 2017 11:50
No, I think the Democrats are the ones most successful at diverting the people from their own power in favor of the banks. The Republicans are far less successful by their own control, instead benefitting only from luck such as Wasserman-Schultz denying Elizabeth Warren from her rightful place in the Oval Office. Sanders was the consolation candidate for Warren voters. Warren would have beaten Trump 50-nil.
MTorrespico -> Nash25 , 15 Oct 2017 11:50
Correct. Two equal evils from the same nest-egg, a political party with two right-wings. At the least, the public know why the First Nazi of Great America has an aura of flies.
name1 -> Skip Breitmeyer , 15 Oct 2017 11:46
Divisions or hijacking? I suspect the latter.
PeterlooSunset , 15 Oct 2017 11:39

a colleague of mine asked if America was really at risk of becoming an oligarchy. Our political system, he said, is a democracy. If the people don't want to be run by wealthy elites, we can just vote them out.

Thanks for the cracking joke. That was hilariously funny.

teamofrivals , 15 Oct 2017 11:38
There's a term on everything and a rhythm to all things and its an impertinence to think that any political system lasts forever for our security.
brianBT , 15 Oct 2017 11:34
full and transparent disclosure of all finical and gift transactions between elected official and anyone not in govt.. this include "payments" to family, friends their charities.. etc.. if you cant see the lie no one fight to have the laws and rules changed... additionally lobbyist must no longer be allowed to have the type of closed door access to our leaders.. all these conversations must be moderated or flat out banned and a new form of communication is developed.... put it this way I have never been able to get a meeting with my leading politician yet big business can at almost any time.. I'm glad this issues is being more openly discussed.. we need more of the same
ID3924525 -> ID3924525 , 15 Oct 2017 11:32
Karl Marx, in The Communist Manifesto , indentified this in his concept, "False Consciousness", and Orwell, taking Stalinism to exemplify it, points to the same in Animal Farm , though I bet they weren't the first, and hope they won't be the last.
OldTrombone , 15 Oct 2017 11:31
Machiavelli was right, when you need political favors to get to the top, then you will always owe the favor-givers when you get there. Machiavelli also said this:

Sortition works!

When the most powerful person has literally zero interest in the outcome, they will defer to moral utilitarianism every time. Ask Canada's John Ralton Saul "The Unconcious Civilization" and Australia's Ricky Muir from the Motoring Enthusiasts Party [seriously] who scuppered Aussie right-wingers from bringing US-style education-loans to rent-seek our economy to death.

laerteg , 15 Oct 2017 11:29
The problem is that today's so-called "populists" have been so propagandized into despising the liberalism that could fight the oligarchs, and buying into the very policies and philosophies that allow the oligarchs to consolidate their power (endless tax cuts, undermined government, deregulation, big money in politics, destruction of unions, etc, etc.) that they play right into their hands.

They've mistaken a demagogue for a man of the people and continue to cheer on the dismantling of the checks on oligarchy that our system provides.

This country is in a world of hurt and those who should be exercizing their democratic power to diminish the power of the oligarchs are busy dismantling it, thanks to decades of right wing media propaganda.

All I see is more oligarchy, more autoctacy, and less power to the people. We just keep sticking it to ourselves.

Elgrecoandros -> jessthecrip , 15 Oct 2017 11:28
I literally copy pasted the comments in order, how have I twisted anything?

The person complained about some reaction to Rees-Mogg for having different political views being over the top and you promptly justified their claim.

OldTrombone , 15 Oct 2017 11:25
Capitalist oligarchies = bad, right?

So... communism, then, right?

It's time for SORTITION

When anyone could instantly become president, then everyone has to be educated as much as possible. Right? Hey classical policy scholars, sortition worked in Ancient Greece too! As well as everywhere else ever since. Ever heard of court juries?

ID3924525 , 15 Oct 2017 11:22
Divide and rule - the oldest trick in the book, and incredibly easy, as long as people are kept ignorant by propaganda (currently known as The Media) and education.
rg12345 -> Rainborough , 15 Oct 2017 11:21
Many (most?) Of us do understand it, that's why we're opposed to Citizens United, whereas the Republicans are for it.
Nash25 , 15 Oct 2017 11:20
Hillary Clinton lost because the working class (correctly) perceived her to be a supporter of oligarchy in the USA. Her ties to Wall Street, corporate power, and the upper class were too obvious.

Yes, Trump fooled many voters into believing that he was populist, but their perception of Clinton was still accurate.

If the Democratic party leaders had chosen Sanders as their candidate, they would have won the election. But the "Democratic" party leaders (ironically) feared what he offered: real democracy.

jessthecrip -> Elgrecoandros , 15 Oct 2017 11:19
You are an expert twister and no mistake. I can only salute you
SoxMcCarthy -> TragicomedyBeholder , 15 Oct 2017 11:18
"The Bad Hayek emerged when he aimed to convert a wider public. Then, as often happens, he tended to overreach, and to suggest more than he had legitimately argued. The Road to Serfdom was a popular success but was not a good book. Leaving aside the irrelevant extremes, or even including them, it would be perverse to read the history, as of 1944 or as of now, as suggesting that the standard regulatory interventions in the economy have any inherent tendency to snowball into "serfdom." The correlations often run the other way. Sixty-five years later, Hayek's implicit prediction is a failure, rather like Marx's forecast of the coming "immiserization of the working class.""
fivefeetfour , 15 Oct 2017 11:18
Lenin has written that politics is a concentrated economy more than a century ago.
rg12345 -> OldTrombone , 15 Oct 2017 11:16
Do you think Democrats are the only ones trying to consolidate wealth and power? You must have missed the part about keeping people divided.
Lafcadio1944 , 15 Oct 2017 11:15
This of course is a simplified version and can't really touch on everything, however he glaringly leaves out the deliberate human suffering results from the oligarchy protecting its wealth and aggressively taking over ever more markets. Yes, of course, what today is called "alignment of interests" among the oligarchy is necessary but that alone is not enough they mus also be ruthless beyond that of others. Nothing stands in the way of profits nothing stands in the way of ever greater control. The oligarchy has decided that nature itself is just another obstacle profit making - there is no room for empathy in the world of the oligarchy poverty suffering from curable disease mutilation from bombs are acceptable external consequences to their obsessive accumulation of wealth.

The real reason the oligarchy wins is because they are willing to be ruthless in the extreme and society rewards ruthlessness and ridicules the empathetic.

Elgrecoandros -> jessthecrip , 15 Oct 2017 11:14
"Perhaps the OP was proposing prison for JRM for expressing a viewpoint..."

Nobody was proposing that, it was hyperbole from rjm2017.

Well it was hyperbole until your comment calling on punishment for those with different political views.

R Zwarich -> Kay Nixon , 15 Oct 2017 11:14
This may be true, they often seem so blinded by their raw greed that their powers of reason become dysfunctional. I don't think, however, that the stupid things they do to slake their greed means that they are stupid. When the chips are down, they are capable of bringing their considerable powers of reason to bear.

However stupid or smart they might be, we surely must realize that they have been at least smart enough to gain total ownership and control of all our mass media. They use this tool, the most powerful tool of social control that has ever existed, with consummate skill in pursuit of their agenda(s).

If you look at the overall content of our mass media, you can see an impressive level of 'mind' at work, 'behind the curtain'. This 'mind' is constantly manipulating our consciousness, using very highly sophisticated, highly skilled techniques.Their understanding of human psychology, and their ability to manipulate us using our most basic appetites and desires, is characterized by true genius, even ig that genius is diabolical in its designs.

'They' choose what movies get made. Which TV shows are produced. Which songs get airplay. Which social and political issues are sensationalized and which are buried.

Most of the citizens of our ostensible 'democracy' have been 'trained', just as any animals are trained to any behavior, to be 'consumers' rather than 'citizens'. We are well trained by an omnipresent mass media that assaults us constantly. In any direction that we turn our gaze, or our attention, 'they' are there, to direct our thoughts as they think serves their purposes.

I sure wouldn't sell these people's intelligence short. They may often do stupid things to serve their greed, but they did not acquire the power that they have through any lack of intelligence.

fragglerokk , 15 Oct 2017 11:13
what everyone seems to forget is that whilst ancient Greece was the cradle of democracy it was not only a slave state (whose slaves had no rights to vote) but that only an elite minority were eligible to vote themselves - power very much rested with the vested interests of the few.

I agree that societies are a reflection of the 'will' of the people these days, even if that will is ill informed, reactionary or, as seems to be the case, largely uninterested in voting. You get the governments you deserve and people in the West have become lazy, permanently distracted, often ignorant and usually in the grip of one addiction or another, thus allowing 'democracy' to be subverted. The media have had their role in this by allowing themselves to be manipulated and owned by vested interests, rarely reporting the truth and doing as they are told by various govt offices and departments. Uninformed people make poor decisions.

OldTrombone , 15 Oct 2017 11:13
What the Black Lives Matter movement is telling us is that the Oligarch's enforce their rules of 'law' precisely at the barrels of guns, and by the words of one man after one man, each with a uniform on and a camera off.
TheResult -> J.K. Stevens , 15 Oct 2017 11:13
National Anthems only make sense in context of International Games
Where 2 anthems are played out of respect for each other
Elgrecoandros -> Elgrecoandros , 15 Oct 2017 11:11
Further, you stated above that you were "...responding to a poster who called for imprisonment for those concerned", when in fact the quote shows they were complaining about people calling for imprisonment, not calling for it.

That shows you are twisting what was said, it is incredibly disingenuous of you.

Skip Breitmeyer -> sparkle5nov , 15 Oct 2017 11:09
It's the divisions of the left that allow Tory and Republican minority rule to prevail. In the US the divide is quite bitter between Hillary and Bernie wings of the Dems- at the moment I don't really see where reconciliation can emerge. And of course in Great Britain you actually have two major parties competing rather self-destructively for the available votes on the left. (As well as the mighty Greens...). Divided and conquered, indeed. And such a bloody cliche!
OldTrombone , 15 Oct 2017 11:06

Democracy is vulnerable to oligarchy because democrats focus so much on guaranteeing political equality that they overlook the indirect threat that emerges from economic inequality

And yet Marx doesn't rate a single mention in the entire article...

jessthecrip -> Elgrecoandros , 15 Oct 2017 11:06
No, even though you've quoted me you have misunderstood what was perfectly plain. I stated 'like everyone else who voted to cut even more from disabled people's benefits'. Perhaps the OP was proposing prison for JRM for expressing a viewpoint, but that was not and is not where I'm coming from.
OldTrombone , 15 Oct 2017 11:05

At its core, oligarchy involves concentrating economic power and using it for political purposes.

Here is the exact reason why the Democratic Party is lost now. The Clintons, Wasserman-Schultz, and their new Goldman Sachs alumni hero in New Jersey, and now Kamala Harris seeking the same money from the same bankers.

And who did Hillary blame? Bernie, of course.

PSmd -> Dark Angel , 15 Oct 2017 11:02
It's sort of worked against the right though. Take a look at the last election. Yes, the Tories got most votes, but they've pretty much lost all ethnic minorities, including asian professionals, hindus and sikhs. Why is this, especially when Labour moved to left and are now more socialist than left liberal?

Purely because the right has been subsumed by angry grievance mentality, or aggreived entitlement. The internet is awash by people who hate assertive blacks and asians, Dianne Abbott received half of all abuse of female MPs. And so.. the Labour pick up votes that Tories had gained under Cameron. If you are a prosperous hindu dentist or stockbroker, sure you might have shrugged off your parents labour voting tendencies and might be Tory. But also, you might be seeing this sort of stuff, the bile on the internet, the resentment expressed behind internet anonymity. And you might be thinking that deep down underneath that expensive suit of yours, you are your father and mother, a tentative, slightly frightened, cheaply dressed immigrant who has arrived as an outsider and are visibly aware that half the population likes you, but the other half doesn't.
And so you vote Labour.

Divisiveness actually divides the core group you are aiming to win. If you do white chauvinism, well, you end up unite everyone who is not white. Black, brown, yellow, all huddle together scared, back under the labour fold. And you end up dividing the whites into the patriotic and the 'self hating libtard'.

Elgrecoandros -> jessthecrip , 15 Oct 2017 11:01
The sequence of comments was...

Rjm2017

"Just read the language of many in here...apparent JRM should be banished and locked away. You don't need to look to far to find odeous beliefs."

Your reply to that:

"Not locked away. Prison is expensive for the taxpayer. Assets sequestered for the good of the commons and put to work cleaning - streets, hospitals, care homes - on workfare. Like everyone else who voted to cut even more from disabled people's benefits, causing what the UN has described as a 'catastrophe' for disabled people in this country"

My reply to you:

"You are advocating confiscation of private property and forced physical labour for people who hold different political views to you. Is Stalin a hero of yours?"


Yours is a call to punish people for holding different political views to you.

Yours is an extremist position and, like all extremists, you think it is justified.

barciad -> FrankLittle , 15 Oct 2017 10:57

e.g. Park Chung-hee sent thousands of homeless people to camps where they were used as slave labour, many were were tortured and executed.


Like I said, benignish. He took a third world basket case (which is what South Korea was up until his seizure of power) and set it on the way to becoming a first world economy.
Skip Breitmeyer -> BayardDC , 15 Oct 2017 10:56
One of the most interesting mini-discourses I've read anywhere. I would only add that the 'mob' currently in charge of the polity of the House is actually a minority that has gamed the system.
AladdinStardust -> Gunsarecivilrights , 15 Oct 2017 10:56
which is exactly what the author did when her ill health meant that she no longer had medical insurance. Ain't life a bitch?
OldTrombone , 15 Oct 2017 10:55

They also tried to keep ordinary people dependent on individual oligarchs for their economic survival, similar to how mob bosses in the movies have paternalistic relationships in their neighborhoods

Like Wine-stine? (Wine-stain?)

Rainborough , 15 Oct 2017 10:55
"Democracy is vulnerable to oligarchy because democrats focus so much on guaranteeing political equality that they overlook the indirect threat that emerges from economic inequality."

No democrat with two working brain cells to rub together could honestly suppose that great concentrations of wealth, which necessarily confer political power on the wealthy class, can fail to undermine democracy. A capitalist democracy is an oxymoron and a delusion.

ChesBay -> maddiemot , 15 Oct 2017 10:52
They admire the rich, and the lifestyles of the rich, although it is out of their reach.
They do not admire the wise, and the experienced.
They don't know who are their state and federal representatives.
They don't know the reason for the Civil War.
They don't know much about our history, our constitution, or anything about civics.
They don't know much about world history.
They don't read much, and are suspicious of education, and the properly educated.
They are easy marks for lies, and negative influence, because they never question.
They refuse to address, or even admit, their own irrational prejudices.
They don't vote, but they do plenty of complaining, and like to blame others for the problems of our nation.
AveAtqueCave , 15 Oct 2017 10:51
Good luck with that.
FrankLittle -> barciad , 15 Oct 2017 10:45
I do not think that benign or even benign(ish) suits the majority of the above e.g. Park Chung-hee sent thousands of homeless people to camps where they were used as slave labour, many were were tortured and executed.

Not sure how Carl Mannerheim gets to be on your list? He was appointed Military chief during the Finnish civil war and he was elected President of Finland

DammedOutraged , 15 Oct 2017 10:44
Oh you mean a bit like all those plebs going out and voting to wreck the EU oligarchy's vision as to whats best?
vastariner , 15 Oct 2017 10:44

At the same time, they sought to destroy monuments that were symbols of democratic success. Instead of public works projects, dedicated in the name of the people, they relied on what we can think of as philanthropy to sustain their power.


That was more because there was no income tax regime - something difficult to impose when there was no centralized collection from a single consistent professional government. So if the Athenian navy wanted a ship, it got a rich chap to pay for it. Rather than out of general taxation.

Athens got rich on levies it imposed on its allies by way of protection money, which eventually collapsed in acrimony, but that's a different story.

StephenR45 -> TheWindsOfWinter93 , 15 Oct 2017 10:43
You'll be first "over the top" then?
Alfandomega -> timiengels , 15 Oct 2017 10:41
Owen Jones ? ......a man of high minded principle and unblemished
virtue . Don't think he would object to a spot of terror........in defence
of his liberal principles , of course..
somebody_stopme , 15 Oct 2017 10:41
I guess we are seeing some of oligarchy break down. Many oligarchs support many socialist policies to avoid tension between classes. For eg: many rich support universal basic income and some even support single payer healthcare.
imperium3 -> Sailor25 , 15 Oct 2017 10:41

You make a good point but in my wide but less than comprehensive knowledge of rapid development often occurrs in periods of oligarchy.

All those mills that drove the industrial revolution, created by oligarchy.

All those armies and aqueducts that drove the Roman Empire, created by oligarchy.

All those libraries and universities that drove Greek learning, funded by the oligarchy.

The great library of Alexandria, oligarchy.

OK, I'll concede that. Which makes for an interesting perspective on things overall, actually. One can see the advantage of an oligarchy - wealth and power is concentrated in few enough hands to achieve great things, but not so few that, like in a monarchy or dictatorship, the leader must spend most time and effort on keeping their power. Whereas a more equal democracy lacks the capacity to make bold steps or drive through unpopular new ideas. But this also means the oligarchs have the power to grind down those underneath them, and therefore in order to enjoy the fruits of that development, the oligarchy needs to be destroyed.

In other words, oligarchies deliver growth, democracies deliver prosperity. I would certainly not like to live under an oligarchy (assuming I'm not an oligarch) but it would be beneficial for a country to have had one in the past.

Kay Nixon , 15 Oct 2017 10:40
I have come to the conclusion that the oligarchy which rules the world are complete imbeciles who haven't a clue that the whole Neoliberal system they built in the 1970's is collapsing and they are clueless on how to handle it. Just because they are wealthy and greedy doesn't mean they are intelligent.
J.K. Stevens -> TheResult , 15 Oct 2017 10:40
In order to prevent the protests from going out over the airwaves Fox (sports) in all their 'logic' started excluding broadcast of the Anthem. Early on I said I would not watch any of these sporting events with, as you say, these jingoistic displays going out and Fox has obliged me but I wont say thanks.
desertrat49 -> BayardDC , 15 Oct 2017 10:39
Yes....Nothing in current affairs would surprise the ancient political philosophers who were students of real human nature ...and real history!
yule620 , 15 Oct 2017 10:37
Understanding Greece is not something you associate comfort with.
desertrat49 -> DrPepperIsNotARealDr , 15 Oct 2017 10:36
It serves as a relieve valve...just as it did in Ancient Greece and Rome.
Obfusgator , 15 Oct 2017 10:36
It's very simple really. The law system makes a complete mockery of democracy and the judiciary is comprised of a bunch of laissez-faire twits.
desertrat49 -> TheResult , 15 Oct 2017 10:35
The last recourse of scoundrels is patriotism!...always been thus because it always works...see H.L. Mencken et. al. !
Postconventional -> SenseiTim , 15 Oct 2017 10:34
Britain isn't different. Oligarchy is built into our system of governance, e.g. royals and house of lords. We even have special oligarch schools where children are sent to be educated for leadership
desertrat49 -> zootsuitbeatnick , 15 Oct 2017 10:33
You do not think the pomp and circumstance of Oligarchs, Monarchs and Military Dictators is without purpose or effect, do you?
StephenR45 -> DolyGarcia , 15 Oct 2017 10:32
Ban Keeping up with the Kardashians.
Gunsarecivilrights -> ID059068 , 15 Oct 2017 10:31
Or in other words, "I can't take care of myself, so I demand the government take money from others and give it to me!"
maddiemot , 15 Oct 2017 10:31
"An informed citizenry is at the heart of a dynamic democracy." - Thomas Jefferson

We have Americans who don't know when the Civil War was fought, or even who won, but insist we must stand for the national anthem before a ballgame.
So much for 'the Land of the Free'.

EquilibriaJones -> Sailor25 , 15 Oct 2017 10:31
Saying life can only get better if we are all collectively greedy together is not a logical argument. Ask the polar bears.
StephenR45 -> davshev , 15 Oct 2017 10:30
It didn't start with Trump.
Gunsarecivilrights -> DirDigIns , 15 Oct 2017 10:30
More people need to read Atlas Shrugged.
desertrat49 -> MarmaladeMog , 15 Oct 2017 10:30
All of the wishful thinking is hugely naive.....they have not been studying the lessons of history.
J.K. Stevens -> OldTrombone , 15 Oct 2017 10:29
And in the older grades, they prescribe (hand out) adderall, CSN stimulants, like chiclets to help student study (cram) and with comprehensive test taking.

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/allen-frances/why-are-so-many-college-a_b_8331958.html

desertrat49 -> DolyGarcia , 15 Oct 2017 10:28
This is the rub.....and the mob does not value education while the rulers value propaganda. Notice the close association between Autocratic and Oligarchic systems and religion, historical mythology and hyper-patriotism!
EquilibriaJones -> Sailor25 , 15 Oct 2017 10:28
Or that's the evil of it. Economic inequality rises until people die. Like homeless on the streets, starving food banks, grenfell tower, waiting on hospital beds instead of famine and pitchfork wars.
The idea is to progress and solve problems before they escalate to pitchfork wars. Praising grotesque inequality is not part of the solution, it's the cause of the problems.
desertrat49 -> Crusty Crab , 15 Oct 2017 10:25
H. L. Mencken is a must read on this!
Alfandomega -> Peter Martin , 15 Oct 2017 10:24
Very remote possibility . I think you'll find their over inflated salaries
weigh more heavily in the balance than their " principles ".
SenseiTim , 15 Oct 2017 10:24
This article should be required reading for all Americans. I am posting a link to Twitter and Facebook to get as many Yank eyeballs on it as possible.
desertrat49 -> Langsdorff , 15 Oct 2017 10:24
What emerges from Plutocracy is Oligarchy...what emerges from Oligarchy is Autocracy. Autocracy is one form or another is the natural state of human society....all the others are ephemeral systems...or systems that disguise the actual Oligarchy or Autocracy!
davshev , 15 Oct 2017 10:23
The biggest contributor to America's plutocracy is our abysmally uninformed electorate.
HL Mencken knew this nearly a century ago when he said:
"As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."
desertrat49 , 15 Oct 2017 10:20
Just exactly when was it that "democracy defeated oligarchy in ancient Greece"?
What proportion of the population in Ancient Athens, for example, were actually citizens...and what proportion of those actually held the franchise?...I believe that you would find the numbers surprising!
Also ...when these (and other) writers speaks of Ancient Greece.....it is usually Athens that they are mythologizing....most the Ancient Greek world had little by way of representative government...let alone "Democracy"!
jessthecrip -> Elgrecoandros , 15 Oct 2017 10:18
No I wasn't. I already responded to you regarding this. To remind you, I said

when people in positions of power take £28 billion (at least) off one of the most powerless and already impoverished groups in our country (disabled people), resulting in hundreds of suicides, enormous suffering, worsened isolation, serious lack of care support, and thousands dying soon after being found 'fit to work' (a situation the UN has described as a 'catastrophe') then I think it perfectly reasonable to favour some punishment for those politicians who inflicted such suffering on their fellow citizens

I was not suggesting punishment for 'thought crime' or for expressing views, but for actions seriously damaging to our citizens.
OldTrombone , 15 Oct 2017 10:17
I have worked in several of the American rich's schools where they charge $30k per kid, families have 3-5 kids there, plus they donate another $30k per kid per year. These schools shame their $50k/year teachers into donating hundreds and thousands per year to their own schools in order to prompt further donations from parents, who expect the poor teachers to prove their fidelity to these rich kids by giving their own money to them. I have seen these schools' principals fire teachers who teach "how to change things". I have seen them promote teachers who teach absolutely nothing, because then the rich kids enjoy insulting and demeaning those teachers' weaknesses. I have heard rich $chool principals tell Harvard psychology lecturers that grade inflation is a marketplace necessity. I have seen rich principals tell school inspectors that the curriculum presented for verification is supplied by a currently-employed teacher (who was awfully bad at teaching) when in fact it was written and prepared by a teacher who had just been fired "for methodology problems"...

American rich schools are the sickest schools on earth, even sicker than British boarders, even sicker than other countries' orphanages.

davshev -> ID50611L , 15 Oct 2017 10:15
Yes, but we now have the consummate...emphasis on "con"...bullshit artist in the White House whose first order of business has been to discredit the media whenever it exposes him for what he truly is. Trump has thousands of people believing that any media story about him which is negative is "fake."
Sailor25 -> JosephCamilleri , 15 Oct 2017 10:14
Yes they did and in all those political systems there where rich bastards at the top making the decisions.

They may have been bastards but on balance they actually made some pretty good decisions.

RutherfordFHEA , 15 Oct 2017 10:13
In his book Culture Inc. , Herbert Schiller quoted a recent study on neoliberal deregulation in the US which began with the question:

"Is deregulation... a strategy on the part of corporations to re-appropriate the power lost to democratic reforms of the mid-20th century?"

Sailor25 -> Dan2017 , 15 Oct 2017 10:13
So you are in favour of populism?

I consider populism an important part of the process as it creates a balance for oligarchy.

I would consider that the greedy big picture thinking of oligarchy drives growth while the greedy small picture thinking of the plebs (of which I am one) tries to get that growth more equally distributed.

ID50611L -> debt2zero , 15 Oct 2017 10:12
Spot on
MoonMoth -> Tenthred , 15 Oct 2017 10:10
It is perhaps unlikely that a radical Athenian democrat from ancient Greece would recognise any current form of government as genuinely democratic.

The cleverest way to maintain a long term oligarchy in these enlightened times might be to have an elective one, only dressed up as something like say a 'parliamentary democracy'. Luckily no-one has come up with this idea yet.

Dark Angel , 15 Oct 2017 10:10
Exactly that is going on now - we have 'workers' and 'benefit scroungers', British against 'immigrants' who exactly are not immigrants as having legal rights to live in the UK (EU citizens), 'deserving' poor and 'undeserving' poor.
Divide and rule.
Without knowing the past, it is impossible to understand the true meaning of the present and the goals of the future.
It's so annoying that is has been so easy to manipulate with our society - Tories and UKIP say 'hate!' and people do as if they are trained animals - hate people on benefits, EU citizens, immigrants, asylum seekers, a conflict between Brexiters/Remainers...
Sailor25 -> Swoll Man , 15 Oct 2017 10:09
Laughing at the fact that you chose to write an insult rather than engage in debate.
barciad -> FrankLittle , 15 Oct 2017 10:08
Benign(ish) dictators of the 20th Century:-
Tito (Yugoslavia)
Carl Mannerheim (Finland)
Kemal Ataturk (Turkey)
Fidel Castro (Cuba)
Nasser (Egypt)
Park Chung-hee (South Korea)
Like I said, benign(ish). Each one the subject for a debate within themselves.
Sailor25 -> Boghaunter , 15 Oct 2017 10:07
There is always winners and losers but the worst loser in modern British society had a better standard of living than a winner of a century ago.

The key to human development is driving sustainable progress not worrying about who losses out today.

Of course there must be balance because morally we must consider who loses our today. The question is how much do we hamstring the children of tomorrow to help the losers of today.

Langsdorff , 15 Oct 2017 10:06
To war on the Oligarchs is to war on our own nature.
whitman100 , 15 Oct 2017 10:03
The super rich conservative oligarchy, currently running the UK, get away with it because enough of the British people vote against their own economic interest.

Parents, for example, effectively vote for the food to be taken from their children's mouths, converted to cash and given in tax cuts to the super rich conservative elite so they can send their children to £30k a year private schools.

Political economy and political science should be compulsory in primary and secondary school so that the ripping-off of the British people is made obvious through education and ended through democratic revolution.

GKB507 -> Giftshop , 15 Oct 2017 10:02
.. it's scary though.. automation will eliminate the economic support line for many, while companies like Google have eyes and ears in every household.
JamesKeye -> webapalooza , 15 Oct 2017 10:02
Definition of democracy: "a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives." You are presenting an anti-Democratic party talking point, not an enlightened understanding of subtle political differences. Of course, the intention was a democracy in the USA, as compromised as it was and is. What we are not, and never have been, is an absolute direct democracy -- a form of governance appropriate only to small communities.
dcroteau -> Hibernica , 15 Oct 2017 10:01
Considering that "the people" are not that much more enlightened than they were in ancient Greece, yes it is the will of the people that allowed the US to become an oligarchy.

Considering the voting turnout around 56%, that means that 44% decided that they didn't care whether or not their leader would be a good or a bad one.

That's more than 1 in 3 people who couldn't care less about the outcome of the elections.

So political apathy is the will of the people.

KK47 , 15 Oct 2017 10:00
Oligarchs would fund the creation of a new building or the beautification of a public space.

When I read this I think: why am I reminded of the words 'gentrification' and 'privately-owned public spaces'?

https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/sep/26/its-really-shocking-uk-cities-refusing-to-reveal-extent-of-pseudo-public-space

Excerpt from the above link:
the spread of pseudo-public space in London – large squares, parks and thoroughfares that appear to be public but are actually owned and controlled by developers and their private backers

And I'm also reminded of Attlee's great words about the attitudes of oligarchs in general:

http://www.azquotes.com/quote/688837

Excerpt from the above link:
Charity is a cold grey loveless thing. If a rich man wants to help the poor, he should pay his taxes gladly, not dole out money at a whim. - Attlee

J.K. Stevens -> Peter Martin , 15 Oct 2017 10:00
I know that it's just geography but it appears that the 'left coast (west coast) teams (players))' are taking a leadership role in this struggle. Unlike other professional sports systems, the NFL players are at a disadvantage in terms of career length and working conditions (eg, head injuries). I believe they're going to need some outside help (in whatever form) to be successful which doesn't give me hope. There are a bunch of chicken s____ outfits and power players out there at present that, as an example, allowed (contributed) the Executive Branch takeover by a Russian backed interloper.
ID50611L -> Giftshop , 15 Oct 2017 09:58
agree 100%
Sailor25 -> imperium3 , 15 Oct 2017 09:58
You make a good point but in my wide but less than comprehensive knowledge of rapid development often occurrs in periods of oligarchy.

All those mills that drove the industrial revolution, created by oligarchy.

All those armies and aqueducts that drove the Roman Empire, created by oligarchy.

All those libraries and universities that drove Greek learning, funded by the oligarchy.

The great library of Alexandria, oligarchy.

I recognise that it takes a plebeian revolt now and again to get the wealth shared out fairly but the engine that drives the wealth so it can be shared often seem to be oligarchy.

sparkle5nov -> FE Lang , 15 Oct 2017 09:58
Agree! I've been saying for years; cheap fast food, cheap ale and cheap television have replaced religion as the opiate of the people.
ID50611L -> zootsuitbeatnick , 15 Oct 2017 09:57
Trump is using the toolbox created by the Bush & Obama administrations.
Crusty Crab , 15 Oct 2017 09:57
A free educated and honest press may be the answer to a true democracy ?
DolyGarcia -> Hector Hajnal , 15 Oct 2017 09:55
And how do you keep the people informed and educated when the oligarchs control the media?
ID50611L , 15 Oct 2017 09:54
how is it, then, that the wealthy control so much of government? ...consequence of a lap dog media who lick the ass rather than expose and speak the truth to power elites.
TheResult -> J.K. Stevens , 15 Oct 2017 09:53
Now is the right time to ban the National Anthem

Brainwashing jingoist nonsense is a bandwagon platform for wet farts

W.a. Thomaston , 15 Oct 2017 09:50
The captured author/minions have obviously not had full access to the reading room
*And the secret writings of
Part of a small cache of loose leaf scrolls smuggled out of Alexandria before the fire
Last entrusted to a small elite 13th century band of chainsaw wielding warrior...
Comedy writing nuns
Hector Hajnal , 15 Oct 2017 09:49
Is about education, oligarchy wins to ignorant people. In order to have a healthy democracy the people must be informed and educated other wise oligarchies groups will inundate everything with cheap adds, will manipulate and will win control, methinks
Id1649 -> Sailor25 , 15 Oct 2017 09:45
And all brought down when the elites forgot that they were only the top of a pyramid and that they ultimately relied on those below. We at the foot of the monolith can see that the oligarchs serve only themselves so no longer buy into their project. We see that it is one big club and we - unlike our political masters - ain't in it. So empires fall.
MarmaladeMog , 15 Oct 2017 09:45
Sitaraman's colleague sounds worryingly naive.
Sailor25 -> EquilibriaJones , 15 Oct 2017 09:44
True, perhaps that's the beauty of it.

The senators have to supply the bread and circuses the plebs want or out come the pitchforks.

webapalooza , 15 Oct 2017 09:44
The author demonstrates his ignorance of the American system of government. He uses the word "democracy" no less than 8 times, yet American is not a democracy and never has been a democracy. You will find no form of the word "democracy" in any of the founding documents. The Founding Fathers knew very well the dangers of democracies, and so they created the American government as a constitutional republic. Not once does the author mention that; I doubt he even knows what it means, let alone the difference.
NoBets -> imipak , 15 Oct 2017 09:43
If you're complaining because prices are (inevitably) regressive on the "poor" (however defined), what do you say to the obvious retort that this is indeed the main difference between being "poor", being comfortable, being affluent and being rich?

What is the point of working and earning if it isn't aimed at making oneself less "poor" or more affluent?

FrankieOwen -> TheResult , 15 Oct 2017 09:38
Dunno, doesnt appear that they do in the rough parts of Chicago.
furryandrew -> Commem , 15 Oct 2017 09:38
Or as Mayer Amschel Rothschild correctly summed up the situation in 1790 - "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws"

What this article fails to draw our attention to , and they never do, is that private banks CREATE 97% of our entire money supply (look up "fractional reserve banking"). Whilst that remains the case the "oligarchy" will always have firm control over the rest of us.

Peter Martin -> J.K. Stevens , 15 Oct 2017 09:36
Wonder what would happen if all players took a knee, if they all stood together then the owners would start to fret.
nhickman -> TheWindsOfWinter93 , 15 Oct 2017 09:32
There was a time when the deadliest military weapon was the longbow. It could only be handled by men who had been trained up since infancy.
It enabled the English to rout a numerically superior French force at Agincourt, 1415.
The notion that the early 15th century was a period of democratic government is an interesting reading of history.
zootsuitbeatnick , 15 Oct 2017 09:32
imo
In the US today, the oligarchy cannot win without an assist from a significant segment -- not necessarily a majority -- of the overall population.
9/11 taught us that many people are willing to give up freedoms for the myth of security.
The Trump presidency is teaching us that many people are willing to give up their voice -- democracy -- for the myth of returning to a perceived better way of life (group superiority over racial, gender, religious, etc equality) from some bygone era.
imo
Newmacfan , 15 Oct 2017 09:30
We are currently experiencing a destabalisation of our nation and fellow Western Nations by the dominant Western Nation to try to halt the failure of this vastly endebted bigger brother......how do we stop this?
J.K. Stevens , 15 Oct 2017 09:28
On this NFL Sunday it is not hard to imagine the secret meetings that owners and/or their representatives had to coalesce against Kaepernick's 'taking a knee' to stop this form of protest in its tracks as a oligarchical institution. On Tuesday, when Dallas Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones declared that any player taking a knee would not play today, the circle of the objective to chill dissent was complete.

And the plutocratic beat goes on.

TheLibrarianApe -> imperium3 , 15 Oct 2017 09:27
Top post.
DrPepperIsNotARealDr , 15 Oct 2017 09:26
Democracy was always like this. What is that famous quote, by Earl Grey or Sandwich or someone, in Parliament, about allowing peasants to have the vote? "I do this, not to weaken our power, but to preserve it"

Democracy in the UK and the US has always been a forum for the oligarchy to resolve their own disputes rather than rule for the people by the people. Brexit is an example, a referendum held essentially because of the split in conservative party.

FE Lang -> zippy200 , 15 Oct 2017 09:25
And conservatives are going to save us all from done minded feel good policies of the left, is that it?
Since the 80's American politics had swing do far to the right liberals are capitalists monied elites, but the right had an army of simple minded uneducated lemmings on thier side, people that will be against thier own personal interests because of 12th century religious horse spit or group think. Thier are more Right winners in State houses, leadership positions then ever before, they control the Congress, the courts, the Presidency and yet dolts like you still say the country is going in the wrong directions and listen to son misters tell you its the fault of the left. Somewhere in your reptilian brain you know this makes no sense, but you lack of depth, you inability to comprehend what you read or to shake free from the group think or right wing ideology will never let you understand that the bet people you vote in time after time are the very ones whom have sold your job to the Chinese, profited from your child's illnesses, war, chaos in some far off land.
Keeping voting Republicans, it's working out so well for you tailer, Nascar types...
BayardDC , 15 Oct 2017 09:21
The article obfuscates a distinction laid out by Aristotle, in The Politics: aristocracy - rule by the few, focused on the common good; and oligarchy - rule by the few (wealthy), focused on their selfish good. He argues that aristocracy, rule by the best, inevitably turns into oligarchy, rule by the wealthy. In Aristotle's three forms of government - rule by one, by few, by many - the three legitimate forms (monarchy, aristocracy, polity) degenerate into their evils twins (tyranny, oligarchy, democracy). For Aristotle, Democracy was not a legitimate form of government, but a corrupted form: mob rule, we might call it. The US Constitution deliberately set out to create a mixed form of government: monarchy (president); aristocracy (Senate and Supreme Court); polity (House of Reps.). From the beginning, Americans have focused on the potential for our "monarch" (president) to turn into a tyrant: Trump is the poster child for a single executive ruling on his own, selfish behalf. We have been less aware of the fact that the Senate has become a simple oligarchy, while the House has degenerated into a bastion of deputies chosen by what Aristotle would have called democracy, that is, a corrupted form of rule by the many. Aristotle's citizens - those who rule and are ruled in turn - can constitute about 10% of the population; in today's US that would mean 20+ million people actively and continuously involved in politics (i.e., not simply showing up every four years to mark a ballot). Millions of Americans have long done such things, and political life remains active at the local level in many areas. On the national level, the Tea Party has shown how this level of enhanced involvement can transform politics, and has further shown that a coherent, organized minority can demolish what we think of as democratic norms. They are about to elect a Senator in Alabama who has twice been removed as a judge on the state's Supreme Court (an elective body), for violations of judicial norms. Here in the US, all three forms of our original government - monarchy, aristocracy, polity - have degenerated into their evil twins. Yes, the wealthy 1% will always game the system in their favor, but until we restore each of the parts of our forma mixta, we can never reduce their advantages to a level consonant with a decent form of society. Under W Bush, the oligarchs got the tax rates (above all on capital gains) reduced to their 1929 levels. That legislation had a time limit, and Obama chose not to continue it: indeed, he raised capital gains rates a further 3.8% [making the rate 23.8% as against the 15% of Bush]. Now, the two greatest goals of the oligarchs are a return to the 15% rate and the abolition of the estate tax, so all of the fantastically rich Baby Boomers (say, Sec'y of Commerce Ross, net worth $2.5 billion) can leave their wealth unencumbered to their heirs, solidifying the oligarchy's control. The Tea Party, through all the yahoos now in the House, can focus on creationism, climate change denial, immigration, etc., while the oligarchs quietly change the tax system to perpetuate their dominance. Over here, we are already in fiscal year 2018 (started on Oct 1), so tax changes would really go into effect in 2019, that is, after the mid-term election. If Mnuchen and Co. get their changes to capital gains rates and other technical loopholes aimed at the 0.1% [sic], and eliminate the estate tax, we'll know that the oligarchs have eliminated any barriers to their collective dictatorship.
TheLibrarianApe -> Commem , 15 Oct 2017 09:20
This is a blindingly excellent article.

What's new is, like this article, we have the vocabulary to frame both the problem and the solution. Oligarchy is no longer inevitable and whilst the means of control are greater, the means for derogation are too and there are fewer oligarchs than plebs.

Its now easier to spot bad behaviour and harder to keep secrets. Oligarchs have to use force more often to hold into power and that tips their hand.

This article has left me (an avowed pessimist) feeling rather more optimistic.

BlueberryMuffin -> zippy200 , 15 Oct 2017 09:17
Liberalism is about freedom. Personal and economic. Not about "proletariat solidarity" and totalitarian Marxist regimes.
FE Lang -> GusDynamite , 15 Oct 2017 09:15
They learned their lessons well after the 60's, the last time the people really raised up against the machine, so they have given us all the; junk food at a low cost, all the TV and mindless sexually charged entertainment, all the "debt wealth", a simple minded, unread, semi-literate, beer swilling fool could ever ask for. And we all gladly gobble it up and follow the crowd, for who wants to be on the outside looking in...
Giftshop , 15 Oct 2017 09:12
There is always a ruling elite because power is the wellspring of all human actions. There is also a certain moral consciousness that many people argue is innate in human nature, and that consciousness is fairness. The fairness instinct survives where ordinary human sympathy may fail. Based upon this basic morality of fairness those of us who are willing to take risks in the interest of fairness need to prune and tend the ruling elites as soon as possible. We proles need to act together.

Democracy is not enough and besides democracy we also need reason, facts,and fighting spirit.

W.a. Thomaston -> awilson5280 , 15 Oct 2017 09:09
As the inventor of the "hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica" once said: " you have a Republic if you can keep it"
amwink -> awilson5280 , 15 Oct 2017 09:06
Sparta was more than just militarism, and slavery was also practised in Athens, as well as in Rome and quite much everywhere else in the ancient world.

Sparta did something that today's democracies have forgotten: it cared about protection of its citizens. That's the most elementary reason why a State exists, not to provide health or education.

Now, regarding a replacement, epistocracy has yet to be tried. And the same democracy, but with census suffrage, or via election of electors, who in turn elect the ones who will hold office, have worked quite well in many places, producing better politicians, less inclined to populism (take the Venetian Republic, for example).

logos00 -> apacheman , 15 Oct 2017 09:05

Waiting for the oligarchy to rot from within isn't what i would call a viable plan. Not when there is a far better and far more sure way to get the job done. Start with capping wealth accumulation.

One must have already broken, or at least sufficiently loosened, the oligarchic grip on politics to institute such a policy.

Here in the UK, things are the darkest they have been in my lifetime, including the Thatcher years, but we are in a moment of possibilities that can lead in opposite directions.

The author is surely right when he says

With all the upheaval in today's politics, it's hard not to think that this moment is one in which the future of the political system might be more up for grabs than it has been in generations.

Dominance of oligarchic political power, through neoliberalism, over the last four decades has effectively put such policies out of bounds.

We had a Labour government that won convincingly under Blair while declaring itself relaxed about the accumulation of great wealth.

richard160458 -> MattSpanner , 15 Oct 2017 09:05
And democracy failed after generations of poor decisions and war
richard160458 , 15 Oct 2017 09:02
Greece had a long period of decline at the hands of democracy. Plato wrote his Republic as a protest, and to put forward an alternative. Eventually the romans took control.

There are indeed parallels with today but given the external challenges I for one believe that western society will be overtaken by q new set of rules.

debt2zero , 15 Oct 2017 09:01
Very good, interesting article. You know, every now & then this paper, for all it's faults, serves up an article that is quite enlightened/ing.

The last one I recall was an article by Kenan Malik on identity politics . For what exists in this country, the UK, I have previously used the term "oligarchy by profession" ... meaning a pool of the usually upper half of the middle class, or a group in whom that group is disproportionally represented, who not only likely have a select education but who go on to become part of certain professions - accountants, lawyers, journalists, bankers, doctors etc. ... and of course, politicians tend to be drawn from these.

And revolving door arrangements is one of the ways this pool retains a certain cohesion, or as in the article "homogeneity in culture and values".

As for division, how many times have I read, "oh, we are so divided .. blah, blah", as though some journalists have an almost unconscious need to promote it.

Interesting article.

GusDynamite , 15 Oct 2017 09:00
Bit too late, really. Not to mention it's super easy to take what they want while we're all so distracted by arguing about who is the most racist misogynist, defending ourselves from the accusations or applauding comic book movies. Apparently we're so distracted that we're also all genuinely shocked that Hollywood is rife with pedophilia and extreme sexual harassment as though it's some revelation that we didn't know already, but that's another conversation.

If we're all so distracted then it's not difficult for our political 'representatives' -- I use that word very tentatively because they barely ever do -- to subject themselves to the oligarchs for a few scraps more than we have ourselves.

Maybe if we didn't bicker like kids we'd beat them.

PhilJoMar -> ConBrio , 15 Oct 2017 08:53
Either you've not read the article attentively enough or your bias is irremediable. Limiting govt still leaves economic power and the tendency towards monopoly untouched. The genetic impulse you mention is a spurious concept in itself. If there were such a genetic impulse we would not have seen such a change as the major advances of women in the last half century. Culture is the key, much more than any genetic impulse, which is practically meaningless and so explains nothing.

As wealth defense is so important to oligarchs, there is a constant pressure to cheat and break the law. One solution therefore is to apply the law but also to construct legislation with specific principles in mind. If the point of tax legislation is to contribute your share towards the general good then those who avoid and evade tax would be guilty of a technical breach but also a breach of the principle.

However our laws are skewed to allowing the wealthy to defend their wealth and so a party of the people is always needed. Always.

Lastly private schooling needs to be looked at. I mean FFS Eton has charitable status!

[Oct 11, 2017] The elite schools, and I have taught as a visiting professor at a few of them, such as Princeton and Columbia, replicate the structure and goals of corporations

Notable quotes:
"... The elite schools, and I have taught as a visiting professor at a few of them, such as Princeton and Columbia, replicate the structure and goals of corporations. If you want to even get through a doctoral committee, much less a tenure committee, you must play it really, really safe. You must not challenge the corporate-friendly stance that permeates the institution and is imposed through corporate donations and the dictates of wealthy alumni. Half of the members of most of these trustee boards should be in prison! ..."
"... Speculation in the 17th century in Britain was a crime. Speculators were hanged. And today they run the economy and the country. They have used the capturing of wealth to destroy the intellectual, cultural and artistic life in the country and snuff out our democracy. There is a word for these people: traitors. ..."
Oct 11, 2017 | www.unz.com

Originally from: The elites "have no credibility left" by Chris Hedges

...The elite schools, and I have taught as a visiting professor at a few of them, such as Princeton and Columbia, replicate the structure and goals of corporations. If you want to even get through a doctoral committee, much less a tenure committee, you must play it really, really safe. You must not challenge the corporate-friendly stance that permeates the institution and is imposed through corporate donations and the dictates of wealthy alumni. Half of the members of most of these trustee boards should be in prison!

Speculation in the 17th century in Britain was a crime. Speculators were hanged. And today they run the economy and the country. They have used the capturing of wealth to destroy the intellectual, cultural and artistic life in the country and snuff out our democracy. There is a word for these people: traitors.

[Oct 09, 2017] Instead of drawing the best and the brightest, or being a place where scholarship was valued, where students were taught critical thinking skills, the University I attended was nothing more than an expensive diploma mill for the children of the wealthy

Chris Hedges published this book eight years ago and the things he predicted have sadly been realized
Notable quotes:
"... his screed is a liberating tonic against the crazy-making double-speak and the lies Americans are sold by our country's elite in order to distract us from the true threat and nature of the Corporate State, from the cult of celebrity, to how our nation's Universities have been hijacked to serve the interests, not of the public, but of our corporate overlords. It explains the self-same conditions in all aspects of our society and culture that we now must face, the ever-shrinking flame of enlightenment being exchanged for the illusory shadows on a cave wall. ..."
"... He fearlessly and incisively calls us out on the obvious farce our democracy has become, how we got here, and highlights the rapidly closing window in which we have to do something to correct it. It is a revelation, and yet he merely states the obvious. The empire has no clothes. ..."
"... One of the most powerful aspects of this book was in regard to how our Universities are run these days. I may be in the minority, but I experienced a life-changing disillusionment when I gained entrance to a prestigious "elite" University. Instead of drawing the best and the brightest, or being a place where scholarship was valued, where students were taught critical thinking skills, the University I attended was nothing more than an expensive diploma mill for the children of the wealthy. In the eyes of the University, students were not minds to be empowered and developed, but walking dollar signs. ..."
"... Instead of critical thinking, students were taught to OBEY, not to question authority, and then handed a piece of paper admitting them to the ruling class that is destroying America without a moral compass. Selfishness, deceit, disregard for the common good, and a win-at-all-costs attitude were rewarded. Empathy, curiosity, dissent, and an honest, intellectually rigorous evaluation of ourselves and our world were punished. Obviously I am not the only one to whom this was cause to fear for the future of our country. ..."
Oct 09, 2017 | www.amazon.com

H. I. on May 13, 2011

This Book Explains EVERYTHING!!!!!

Hedges cogently and systematically dismantles the most pernicious cultural delusions of our era and lays bare the pitiful truths that they attempt to mask. This book is a deprogramming manual that trims away the folly and noise from our troubled society so that the reader can focus on the most pressing matters of our time.

Despite the dark reality Hedges excavates, his screed is a liberating tonic against the crazy-making double-speak and the lies Americans are sold by our country's elite in order to distract us from the true threat and nature of the Corporate State, from the cult of celebrity, to how our nation's Universities have been hijacked to serve the interests, not of the public, but of our corporate overlords. It explains the self-same conditions in all aspects of our society and culture that we now must face, the ever-shrinking flame of enlightenment being exchanged for the illusory shadows on a cave wall.

As a twenty-something caught in the death-throes of American Empire and culture, I have struggled to anticipate where our country and our world are heading, why, and what sort of life I can expect to build for myself. Hedges presents the reader with the depressing, yet undeniable truth of the forces that have coalesced to shape the world in which we now find ourselves. The light he casts is searing and relentless. He fearlessly and incisively calls us out on the obvious farce our democracy has become, how we got here, and highlights the rapidly closing window in which we have to do something to correct it. It is a revelation, and yet he merely states the obvious. The empire has no clothes.

One of the most powerful aspects of this book was in regard to how our Universities are run these days. I may be in the minority, but I experienced a life-changing disillusionment when I gained entrance to a prestigious "elite" University. Instead of drawing the best and the brightest, or being a place where scholarship was valued, where students were taught critical thinking skills, the University I attended was nothing more than an expensive diploma mill for the children of the wealthy. In the eyes of the University, students were not minds to be empowered and developed, but walking dollar signs.

Instead of critical thinking, students were taught to OBEY, not to question authority, and then handed a piece of paper admitting them to the ruling class that is destroying America without a moral compass. Selfishness, deceit, disregard for the common good, and a win-at-all-costs attitude were rewarded. Empathy, curiosity, dissent, and an honest, intellectually rigorous evaluation of ourselves and our world were punished. Obviously I am not the only one to whom this was cause to fear for the future of our country.

Five stars is not enough. Ever since I began reading Empire of Illusion, I have insisted friends and family pick up a copy, too. Everyone in America should read this incredibly important book.

The truth shall set us free.

[Oct 03, 2017] Silicon Valley companies have placed lowering wages and flooding the labor market with cheaper labor near the top of their goals and as a business model.

Notable quotes:
"... That's Silicon Valley's dirty secret. Most tech workers in Palo Alto make about as much as the high school teachers who teach their kids. And these are the top coders in the country! ..."
"... I don't see why more Americans would want to be coders. These companies want to drive down wages for workers here and then also ship jobs offshore... ..."
"... Silicon Valley companies have placed lowering wages and flooding the labor market with cheaper labor near the top of their goals and as a business model. ..."
"... There are quite a few highly qualified American software engineers who lose their jobs to foreign engineers who will work for much lower salaries and benefits. This is a major ingredient of the libertarian virus that has engulfed and contaminating the Valley, going hand to hand with assembling products in China by slave labor ..."
"... If you want a high tech executive to suffer a stroke, mention the words "labor unions". ..."
"... India isn't being hired for the quality, they're being hired for cheap labor. ..."
"... Enough people have had their hands burnt by now with shit companies like TCS (Tata) that they are starting to look closer to home again... ..."
"... Globalisation is the reason, and trying to force wages up in one country simply moves the jobs elsewhere. The only way I can think of to limit this happening is to keep the company and coders working at the cutting edge of technology. ..."
"... I'd be much more impressed if I saw that the hordes of young male engineers here in SF expressing a semblance of basic common sense, basic self awareness and basic life skills. I'd say 91.3% are oblivious, idiotic children. ..."
"... Not maybe. Too late. American corporations objective is to low ball wages here in US. In India they spoon feed these pupils with affordable cutting edge IT training for next to nothing ruppees. These pupils then exaggerate their CVs and ship them out en mass to the western world to dominate the IT industry. I've seen it with my own eyes in action. Those in charge will anything/everything to maintain their grip on power. No brag. Just fact. ..."
Oct 02, 2017 | profile.theguardian.com
Terryl Dorian , 21 Sep 2017 13:26
That's Silicon Valley's dirty secret. Most tech workers in Palo Alto make about as much as the high school teachers who teach their kids. And these are the top coders in the country!
Ray D Wright -> RogTheDodge , , 21 Sep 2017 14:52
I don't see why more Americans would want to be coders. These companies want to drive down wages for workers here and then also ship jobs offshore...
Richard Livingstone -> KatieL , , 21 Sep 2017 14:50
+++1 to all of that.

Automated coding just pushes the level of coding further up the development food chain, rather than gets rid of it. It is the wrong approach for current tech. AI that is smart enough to model new problems and create their own descriptive and runnable language - hopefully after my lifetime but coming sometime.

Arne Babenhauserheide -> Evelita , , 21 Sep 2017 14:48
What coding does not teach is how to improve our non-code infrastructure and how to keep it running (that's the stuff which actually moves things). Code can optimize stuff, but it needs actual actuators to affect reality.

Sometimes these actuators are actual people walking on top of a roof while fixing it.

WyntonK , 21 Sep 2017 14:47
Silicon Valley companies have placed lowering wages and flooding the labor market with cheaper labor near the top of their goals and as a business model.

There are quite a few highly qualified American software engineers who lose their jobs to foreign engineers who will work for much lower salaries and benefits. This is a major ingredient of the libertarian virus that has engulfed and contaminating the Valley, going hand to hand with assembling products in China by slave labor .

If you want a high tech executive to suffer a stroke, mention the words "labor unions".

TheEgg -> UncommonTruthiness , , 21 Sep 2017 14:43

The ship has sailed on this activity as a career.

Nope. Married to a highly-technical skillset, you can still make big bucks. I say this as someone involved in this kind of thing academically and our Masters grads have to beat the banks and fintech companies away with dog shits on sticks. You're right that you can teach anyone to potter around and throw up a webpage but at the prohibitively difficult maths-y end of the scale, someone suitably qualified will never want for a job.

Mike_Dexter -> Evelita , , 21 Sep 2017 14:43
In a similar vein, if you accept the argument that it does drive down wages, wouldn't the culprit actually be the multitudes of online and offline courses and tutorials available to an existing workforce?
Terryl Dorian -> CountDooku , , 21 Sep 2017 14:42
Funny you should pick medicine, law, engineering... 3 fields that are *not* taught in high school. The writer is simply adding "coding" to your list. So it seems you agree with his "garbage" argument after all.
anticapitalist -> RogTheDodge , , 21 Sep 2017 14:42
Key word is "good". Teaching everyone is just going to increase the pool of programmers code I need to fix. India isn't being hired for the quality, they're being hired for cheap labor. As for women sure I wouldn't mind more women around but why does no one say their needs to be more equality in garbage collection or plumbing? (And yes plumbers are a high paid professional).

In the end I don't care what the person is, I just want to hire and work with the best and not someone I have to correct their work because they were hired by quota. If women only graduate at 15% why should IT contain more than that? And let's be a bit honest with the facts, of those 15% how many spend their high school years staying up all night hacking? Very few. Now the few that did are some of the better developers I work with but that pool isn't going to increase by forcing every child to program... just like sports aren't better by making everyone take gym class.

WithoutPurpose , 21 Sep 2017 14:42
I ran a development team for 10 years and I never had any trouble hiring programmers - we just had to pay them enough. Every job would have at least 10 good applicants.

Two years ago I decided to scale back a bit and go into programming (I can code real-time low latency financial apps in 4 languages) and I had four interviews in six months with stupidly low salaries. I'm lucky in that I can bounce between tech and the business side so I got a decent job out of tech.

My entirely anecdotal conclusion is that there is no shortage of good programmers just a shortage of companies willing to pay them.

oddbubble -> Tori Turner , , 21 Sep 2017 14:41
I've worn many hats so far, I started out as a started out as a sysadmin, then I moved on to web development, then back end and now I'm doing test automation because I am on almost the same money for half the effort.
peter nelson -> raffine , , 21 Sep 2017 14:38
But the concepts won't. Good programming requires the ability to break down a task, organise the steps in performing it, identify parts of the process that are common or repetitive so they can be bundled together, handed-off or delegated, etc.

These concepts can be applied to any programming language, and indeed to many non-software activities.

Oliver Jones -> Trumbledon , , 21 Sep 2017 14:37
In the city maybe with a financial background, the exception.
anticapitalist -> Ethan Hawkins , 21 Sep 2017 14:32
Well to his point sort of... either everything will go php or all those entry level php developers will be on the street. A good Java or C developer is hard to come by. And to the others, being a being a developer, especially a good one, is nothing like reading and writing. The industry is already saturated with poor coders just doing it for a paycheck.
peter nelson -> Tori Turner , 21 Sep 2017 14:31
I'm just going to say this once: not everyone with a computer science degree is a coder.

And vice versa. I'm retiring from a 40-year career as a software engineer. Some of the best software engineers I ever met did not have CS degrees.

KatieL -> Mishal Almohaimeed , 21 Sep 2017 14:30
"already developing automated coding scripts. "

Pretty much the entire history of the software industry since FORAST was developed for the ORDVAC has been about desperately trying to make software development in some way possible without driving everyone bonkers.

The gulf between FORAST and today's IDE-written, type-inferring high level languages, compilers, abstracted run-time environments, hypervisors, multi-computer architectures and general tech-world flavour-of-2017-ness is truly immense[1].

And yet software is still fucking hard to write. There's no sign it's getting easier despite all that work.

Automated coding was promised as the solution in the 1980s as well. In fact, somewhere in my archives, I've got paper journals which include adverts for automated systems that would programmers completely redundant by writing all your database code for you. These days, we'd think of those tools as automated ORM generators and they don't fix the problem; they just make a new one -- ORM impedance mismatch -- which needs more engineering on top to fix...

The tools don't change the need for the humans, they just change what's possible for the humans to do.

[1] FORAST executed in about 20,000 bytes of memory without even an OS. The compile artifacts for the map-reduce system I built today are an astonishing hundred million bytes... and don't include the necessary mapreduce environment, management interface, node operating system and distributed filesystem...

raffine , 21 Sep 2017 14:29
Whatever they are taught today will be obsolete tomorrow.
yannick95 -> savingUK , , 21 Sep 2017 14:27
"There are already top quality coders in China and India"

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA *rolls on the floor laughting* Yes........ 1%... and 99% of incredibly bad, incompetent, untalented one that produce cost 50% of a good developer but produce only 5% in comparison. And I'm talking with a LOT of practical experience through more than a dozen corporations all over the world which have been outsourcing to India... all have been disasters for the companies (but good for the execs who pocketed big bonuses and left the company before the disaster blows up in their face)

Wiretrip -> mcharts , , 21 Sep 2017 14:25
Enough people have had their hands burnt by now with shit companies like TCS (Tata) that they are starting to look closer to home again...
TomRoche , 21 Sep 2017 14:11

Tech executives have pursued [the goal of suppressing workers' compensation] in a variety of ways. One is collusion – companies conspiring to prevent their employees from earning more by switching jobs. The prevalence of this practice in Silicon Valley triggered a justice department antitrust complaint in 2010, along with a class action suit that culminated in a $415m settlement.

Folks interested in the story of the Techtopus (less drily presented than in the links in this article) should check out Mark Ames' reporting, esp this overview article and this focus on the egregious Steve Jobs (whose canonization by the US corporate-funded media is just one more impeachment of their moral bankruptcy).

Another, more sophisticated method is importing large numbers of skilled guest workers from other countries through the H1-B visa program. These workers earn less than their American counterparts, and possess little bargaining power because they must remain employed to keep their status.

Folks interested in H-1B and US technical visas more generally should head to Norm Matloff 's summary page , and then to his blog on the subject .

Olympus68 , 21 Sep 2017 13:49

I have watched as schools run by trade unions have done the opposite for the 5 decades. By limiting the number of graduates, they were able to help maintain living wages and benefits. This has been stopped in my area due to the pressure of owners run "trade associations".

During that same time period I have witnessed trade associations controlled by company owners, while publicising their support of the average employee, invest enormous amounts of membership fees in creating alliances with public institutions. Their goal has been that of flooding the labor market and thus keeping wages low. A double hit for the average worker because membership fees were paid by employees as well as those in control.

And so it goes....

savingUK , 21 Sep 2017 13:38
Coding jobs are just as susceptible to being moved to lower cost areas of the world as hardware jobs already have. It's already happening. There are already top quality coders in China and India. There is a much larger pool to chose from and they are just as good as their western counterparts and work harder for much less money.

Globalisation is the reason, and trying to force wages up in one country simply moves the jobs elsewhere. The only way I can think of to limit this happening is to keep the company and coders working at the cutting edge of technology.

whitehawk66 , 21 Sep 2017 15:18

I'd be much more impressed if I saw that the hordes of young male engineers here in SF expressing a semblance of basic common sense, basic self awareness and basic life skills. I'd say 91.3% are oblivious, idiotic children.

They would definitely not survive the zombie apocalypse.

P.S. not every kid wants or needs to have their soul sucked out of them sitting in front of a screen full of code for some idiotic service that some other douchbro thinks is the next iteration of sliced bread.

UncommonTruthiness , 21 Sep 2017 14:10
The demonization of Silicon Valley is clearly the next place to put all blame. Look what "they" did to us: computers, smart phones, HD television, world-wide internet, on and on. Get a rope!

I moved there in 1978 and watched the orchards and trailer parks on North 1st St. of San Jose transform into a concrete jungle. There used to be quite a bit of semiconductor equipment and device manufacturing in SV during the 80s and 90s. Now quite a few buildings have the same name : AVAILABLE. Most equipment and device manufacturing has moved to Asia.

Programming started with binary, then machine code (hexadecimal or octal) and moved to assembler as a compiled and linked structure. More compiled languages like FORTRAN, BASIC, PL-1, COBOL, PASCAL, C (and all its "+'s") followed making programming easier for the less talented. Now the script based languages (HTML, JAVA, etc.) are even higher level and accessible to nearly all. Programming has become a commodity and will be priced like milk, wheat, corn, non-unionized workers and the like. The ship has sailed on this activity as a career.

William Fitch III , 21 Sep 2017 13:52
Hi: As I have said many times before, there is no shortage of people who fully understand the problem and can see all the connections.

However, they all fall on their faces when it comes to the solution. To cut to the chase, Concentrated Wealth needs to go, permanently. Of course the challenge is how to best accomplish this.....

.....Bill

MostlyHarmlessD , , 21 Sep 2017 13:16

Damn engineers and their black and white world view, if they weren't so inept they would've unionized instead of being trampled again and again in the name of capitalism.
mcharts -> Aldous0rwell , , 21 Sep 2017 13:07
Not maybe. Too late. American corporations objective is to low ball wages here in US. In India they spoon feed these pupils with affordable cutting edge IT training for next to nothing ruppees. These pupils then exaggerate their CVs and ship them out en mass to the western world to dominate the IT industry. I've seen it with my own eyes in action. Those in charge will anything/everything to maintain their grip on power. No brag. Just fact.

Woe to our children and grandchildren.

Where's Bernie Sanders when we need him.

[Oct 03, 2017] The dream of coding automation remain illusive... Very illusive...

Oct 03, 2017 | discussion.theguardian.com

Richard Livingstone -> Mishal Almohaimeed , 21 Sep 2017 14:46

Wrong again, that approach has been tried since the 80s and will keep failing only because software development is still more akin to a technical craft than an engineering discipline. The number of elements required to assemble a working non trivial system is way beyond scriptable.
freeandfair -> Taylor Dotson , 21 Sep 2017 14:26
> That's some crystal ball you have there. English teachers will need to know how to code? Same with plumbers? Same with janitors, CEOs, and anyone working in the service industry?

You don't believe there will be robots to do plumbing and cleaning? The cleaner's job will be to program robots to do what they need.
CEOs? Absolutely.

English teachers? Both of my kids have school laptops and everything is being done on the computers. The teachers use software and create websites and what not. Yes, even English teachers.

Not knowing / understanding how to code will be the same as not knowing how to use Word/ Excel. I am assuming there are people who don't, but I don't know any above the age of 6.

Wiretrip -> Mishal Almohaimeed , 21 Sep 2017 14:20
We've had 'automated coding scripts' for years for small tasks. However, anyone who says they're going to obviate programmers, analysts and designers doesn't understand the software development process.
Ethan Hawkins -> David McCaul , 21 Sep 2017 13:22
Even if expert systems (an 80's concept, BTW) could code, we'd still have a huge need for managers. The hard part of software isn't even the coding. It's determining the requirements and working with clients. It will require general intelligence to do 90% of what we do right now. The 10% we could automate right now, mostly gets in the way. I agree it will change, but it's going to take another 20-30 years to really happen.
Mishal Almohaimeed -> PolydentateBrigand , , 21 Sep 2017 13:17
wrong, software companies are already developing automated coding scripts. You'll get a bunch of door to door knives salespeople once the dust settles that's what you'll get.
freeandfair -> rgilyead , , 21 Sep 2017 14:22
> In 20 years time AI will be doing the coding

Possible, but your still have to understand how AI operates and what it can and cannot do.

[Oct 03, 2017] Coding and carpentry are not so distant, are they ?

Thw user "imipak" views are pretty common misconceptions. They are all wrong.
Notable quotes:
"... I was about to take offence on behalf of programmers, but then I realized that would be snobbish and insulting to carpenters too. Many people can code, but only a few can code well, and fewer still become the masters of the profession. Many people can learn carpentry, but few become joiners, and fewer still become cabinetmakers. ..."
"... Many people can write, but few become journalists, and fewer still become real authors. ..."
Oct 03, 2017 | discussion.theguardian.com

imipak, 21 Sep 2017 15:13

Coding has little or nothing to do with Silicon Valley. They may or may not have ulterior motives, but ultimately they are nothing in the scheme of things.

I disagree with teaching coding as a discrete subject. I think it should be combined with home economics and woodworking because 90% of these subjects consist of transferable skills that exist in all of them. Only a tiny residual is actually topic-specific.

In the case of coding, the residual consists of drawing skills and typing skills. Programming language skills? Irrelevant. You should choose the tools to fit the problem. Neither of these needs a computer. You should only ever approach the computer at the very end, after you've designed and written the program.

Is cooking so very different? Do you decide on the ingredients before or after you start? Do you go shopping half-way through cooking an omelette?

With woodwork, do you measure first or cut first? Do you have a plan or do you randomly assemble bits until it does something useful?

Real coding, taught correctly, is barely taught at all. You teach the transferable skills. ONCE. You then apply those skills in each area in which they apply.

What other transferable skills apply? Top-down design, bottom-up implementation. The correct methodology in all forms of engineering. Proper testing strategies, also common across all forms of engineering. However, since these tests are against logic, they're a test of reasoning. A good thing to have in the sciences and philosophy.

Technical writing is the art of explaining things to idiots. Whether you're designing a board game, explaining what you like about a house, writing a travelogue or just seeing if your wild ideas hold water, you need to be able to put those ideas down on paper in a way that exposes all the inconsistencies and errors. It doesn't take much to clean it up to be readable by humans. But once it is cleaned up, it'll remain free of errors.

So I would teach a foundation course that teaches top-down reasoning, bottom-up design, flowcharts, critical path analysis and symbolic logic. Probably aimed at age 7. But I'd not do so wholly in the abstract. I'd have it thoroughly mixed in with one field, probably cooking as most kids do that and it lacks stigma at that age.

I'd then build courses on various crafts and engineering subjects on top of that, building further hierarchies where possible. Eliminate duplication and severely reduce the fictions we call disciplines.

oldzealand, 21 Sep 2017 14:58
I used to employ 200 computer scientists in my business and now teach children so I'm apparently as guilty as hell. To be compared with a carpenter is, however, a true compliment, if you mean those that create elegant, aesthetically-pleasing, functional, adaptable and long-lasting bespoke furniture, because our crafts of problem-solving using limited resources in confined environments to create working, life-improving artifacts both exemplify great human ingenuity in action. Capitalism or no.
peter nelson, 21 Sep 2017 14:29
"But coding is not magic. It is a technical skill, akin to carpentry."

But some people do it much better than others. Just like journalism. This article is complete nonsense, as I discuss in another comment. The author might want to consider a career in carpentry.

Fanastril, 21 Sep 2017 14:13
"But coding is not magic. It is a technical skill, akin to carpentry."

It is a way of thinking. Perhaps carpentry is too, but the arrogance of the above statement shows a soul who is done thinking.

NDReader, 21 Sep 2017 14:12
"But coding is not magic. It is a technical skill, akin to carpentry."

I was about to take offence on behalf of programmers, but then I realized that would be snobbish and insulting to carpenters too. Many people can code, but only a few can code well, and fewer still become the masters of the profession. Many people can learn carpentry, but few become joiners, and fewer still become cabinetmakers.

Many people can write, but few become journalists, and fewer still become real authors.

MostlyHarmlessD, 21 Sep 2017 13:08
A carpenter!? Good to know that engineers are still thought of as jumped up tradesmen.

[Oct 02, 2017] Programming vs coding

This idiotic US term "coder" is complete baloney.
Notable quotes:
"... You can learn to code, but that doesn't mean you'll be good at it. There will be a few who excel but most will not. This isn't a reflection on them but rather the reality of the situation. In any given area some will do poorly, more will do fairly, and a few will excel. The same applies in any field. ..."
"... Oh no, there's loads of people who say they're coders, who have on their CV that they're coders, that have been paid to be coders. Loads of them. Amazingly, about 9 out of 10 of them, experienced coders all, spent ages doing it, not a problem to do it, definitely a coder, not a problem being "hands on"... can't actually write working code when we actually ask them to. ..."
"... I feel for your brother, and I've experienced the exact same BS "test" that you're describing. However, when I said "rudimentary coding exam", I wasn't talking about classic fiz-buz questions, Fibonacci problems, whiteboard tests, or anything of the sort. We simply ask people to write a small amount of code that will solve a simple real world problem. Something that they would be asked to do if they got hired. We let them take a long time to do it. We let them use Google to look things up if they need. You would be shocked how many "qualified applicants" can't do it. ..."
"... "...coding is not magic. It is a technical skill, akin to carpentry. " I think that is a severe underestimation of the level of expertise required to conceptualise and deliver robust and maintainable code. The complexity of integrating software is more equivalent to constructing an entire building with components of different materials. If you think teaching coding is enough to enable software design and delivery then good luck. ..."
"... Being able to write code and being able to program are two very different skills. In language terms its the difference between being able to read and write (say) English and being able to write literature; obviously you need a grasp of the language to write literature but just knowing the language is not the same as being able to assemble and marshal thought into a coherent pattern prior to setting it down. ..."
"... What a dumpster argument. I am not a programmer or even close, but a basic understanding of coding has been important to my professional life. Coding isn't just about writing software. Understanding how algorithms work, even simple ones, is a general skill on par with algebra. ..."
"... Never mind that a good education is clearly one of the most important things you can do for a person to improve their quality of life wherever they live in the world. It's "neoliberal," so we better hate it. ..."
"... A lot of resumes come across my desk that look qualified on paper, but that's not the same thing as being able to do the job. Secondarily, while I agree that one day our field might be replaced by automation, there's a level of creativity involved with good software engineering that makes your carpenter comparison a bit flawed. ..."
Oct 02, 2017 | profile.theguardian.com
Wiretrip -> Mark Mauvais , 21 Sep 2017 14:23
Yes, 'engineers' (and particularly mathematicians) write appalling code.
Trumbledon , 21 Sep 2017 14:23
A good developer can easily earn £600-800 per day, which suggests to me that they are in high demand, and society needs more of them.
Wiretrip -> KatieL , 21 Sep 2017 14:22
Agreed, to many people 'coding' consists of copying other people's JavaScript snippets from StackOverflow... I tire of the many frauds in the business...
stratplaya , 21 Sep 2017 14:21
You can learn to code, but that doesn't mean you'll be good at it. There will be a few who excel but most will not. This isn't a reflection on them but rather the reality of the situation. In any given area some will do poorly, more will do fairly, and a few will excel. The same applies in any field.
peter nelson -> UncommonTruthiness , 21 Sep 2017 14:21

The ship has sailed on this activity as a career.

Oh, rubbish. I'm in the process of retiring from my job as an Android software designer so I'm tasked with hiring a replacement for my organisation. It pays extremely well, the work is interesting, and the company is successful and serves an important worldwide industry.

Still, finding highly-qualified people is hard and they get snatched up in mid-interview because the demand is high. Not only that but at these pay scales, we can pretty much expect the Guardian will do yet another article about the unconscionable gap between what rich, privileged techies like software engineers make and everyone else.

Really, we're damned if we do and damned if we don't. If tech workers are well-paid we're castigated for gentrifying neighbourhoods and living large, and yet anything that threatens to lower what we're paid produces conspiracy-theory articles like this one.

Fanastril -> Taylor Dotson , 21 Sep 2017 14:17
I learned to cook in school. Was there a shortage of cooks? No. Did I become a professional cook? No. but I sure as hell would not have missed the skills I learned for the world, and I use them every day.
KatieL -> Taylor Dotson , 21 Sep 2017 14:13
Oh no, there's loads of people who say they're coders, who have on their CV that they're coders, that have been paid to be coders. Loads of them. Amazingly, about 9 out of 10 of them, experienced coders all, spent ages doing it, not a problem to do it, definitely a coder, not a problem being "hands on"... can't actually write working code when we actually ask them to.
youngsteveo -> Taylor Dotson , 21 Sep 2017 14:12
I feel for your brother, and I've experienced the exact same BS "test" that you're describing. However, when I said "rudimentary coding exam", I wasn't talking about classic fiz-buz questions, Fibonacci problems, whiteboard tests, or anything of the sort. We simply ask people to write a small amount of code that will solve a simple real world problem. Something that they would be asked to do if they got hired. We let them take a long time to do it. We let them use Google to look things up if they need. You would be shocked how many "qualified applicants" can't do it.
Fanastril -> Taylor Dotson , 21 Sep 2017 14:11
It is not zero-sum: If you teach something empowering, like programming, motivating is a lot easier, and they will learn more.
UncommonTruthiness , 21 Sep 2017 14:10
The demonization of Silicon Valley is clearly the next place to put all blame. Look what "they" did to us: computers, smart phones, HD television, world-wide internet, on and on. Get a rope!

I moved there in 1978 and watched the orchards and trailer parks on North 1st St. of San Jose transform into a concrete jungle. There used to be quite a bit of semiconductor equipment and device manufacturing in SV during the 80s and 90s. Now quite a few buildings have the same name : AVAILABLE. Most equipment and device manufacturing has moved to Asia.

Programming started with binary, then machine code (hexadecimal or octal) and moved to assembler as a compiled and linked structure. More compiled languages like FORTRAN, BASIC, PL-1, COBOL, PASCAL, C (and all its "+'s") followed making programming easier for the less talented.

Now the script based languages (HTML, JAVA, etc.) are even higher level and accessible to nearly all. Programming has become a commodity and will be priced like milk, wheat, corn, non-unionized workers and the like. The ship has sailed on this activity as a career.

KatieL -> Taylor Dotson , 21 Sep 2017 14:10
"intelligence, creativity, diligence, communication ability, or anything else that a job"

None of those are any use if, when asked to turn your intelligent, creative, diligent, communicated idea into some software, you perform as well as most candidates do at simple coding assessments... and write stuff that doesn't work.

peter nelson , 21 Sep 2017 14:09

At its root, the campaign for code education isn't about giving the next generation a shot at earning the salary of a Facebook engineer. It's about ensuring those salaries no longer exist, by creating a source of cheap labor for the tech industry.

Of course the writer does not offer the slightest shred of evidence to support the idea that this is the actual goal of these programs. So it appears that the tinfoil-hat conspiracy brigade on the Guardian is operating not only below the line, but above it, too.

The fact is that few of these students will ever become software engineers (which, incidentally, is my profession) but programming skills are essential in many professions for writing little scripts to automate various tasks, or to just understand 21st century technology.

kcrane , 21 Sep 2017 14:07
Sadly this is another article by a partial journalist who knows nothing about the software industry, but hopes to subvert what he had read somewhere to support a position he had already assumed. As others had said, understanding coding had already become akin to being able to use a pencil. It is a basic requirement of many higher level roles.

But knowing which end of a pencil to put on the paper (the equivalent of the level of coding taught in schools) isn't the same as being an artist. Moreover anyone who knows the field recognises that top coders are gifted, they embody genius. There are coding Caravaggio's out there, but few have the experience to know that. No amount of teaching will produce high level coders from average humans, there is an intangible something needed, as there is in music and art, to elevate the merely good to genius.

All to say, however many are taught the basics, it won't push down the value of the most talented coders, and so won't reduce the costs of the technology industry in any meaningful way as it is an industry, like art, that relies on the few not the many.

DebuggingLife , 21 Sep 2017 14:06
Not all of those children will want to become programmers but at least the barrier to entry, - for more to at least experience it - will be lower.

Teaching music to only the children whose parents can afford music tuition means than society misses out on a greater potential for some incredible gifted musicians to shine through.

Moreover, learning to code really means learning how to wrangle with the practical application of abstract concepts, algorithms, numerical skills, logic, reasoning, etc. which are all transferrable skills some of which are not in the scope of other classes, certainly practically.
Like music, sport, literature etc. programming a computer, a website, a device, a smartphone is an endeavour that can be truly rewarding as merely a pastime, and similarly is limited only by ones imagination.

rgilyead , 21 Sep 2017 14:01
"...coding is not magic. It is a technical skill, akin to carpentry. " I think that is a severe underestimation of the level of expertise required to conceptualise and deliver robust and maintainable code. The complexity of integrating software is more equivalent to constructing an entire building with components of different materials. If you think teaching coding is enough to enable software design and delivery then good luck.
Taylor Dotson -> cwblackwell , 21 Sep 2017 14:00
Yeah, but mania over coding skills inevitably pushes over skills out of the curriculum (or deemphasizes it). Education is zero-sum in that there's only so much time and energy to devote to it. Hence, you need more than vague appeals to "enhancement," especially given the risks pointed out by the author.
Taylor Dotson -> PolydentateBrigand , 21 Sep 2017 13:57
"Talented coders will start new tech businesses and create more jobs."

That could be argued for any skill set, including those found in the humanities and social sciences likely to pushed out by the mania over coding ability. Education is zero-sum: Time spent on one subject is time that invariably can't be spent learning something else.

Taylor Dotson -> WumpieJr , 21 Sep 2017 13:49
"If they can't literally fix everything let's just get rid of them, right?"

That's a strawman. His point is rooted in the recognition that we only have so much time, energy, and money to invest in solutions. One's that feel good but may not do anything distract us for the deeper structural issues in our economy. The probably with thinking "education" will fix everything is that it leaves the status quo unquestioned.

martinusher , 21 Sep 2017 13:31
Being able to write code and being able to program are two very different skills. In language terms its the difference between being able to read and write (say) English and being able to write literature; obviously you need a grasp of the language to write literature but just knowing the language is not the same as being able to assemble and marshal thought into a coherent pattern prior to setting it down.

To confuse things further there's various levels of skill that all look the same to the untutored eye. Suppose you wished to bridge a waterway. If that waterway was a narrow ditch then you could just throw a plank across. As the distance to be spanned got larger and larger eventually you'd have to abandon intuition for engineering and experience. Exactly the same issues happen with software but they're less tangible; anyone can build a small program but a complex system requires a lot of other knowledge (in my field, that's engineering knowledge -- coding is almost an afterthought).

Its a good idea to teach young people to code but I wouldn't raise their expectations of huge salaries too much. For children educating them in wider, more general, fields and abstract activities such as music will pay off huge dividends, far more than just teaching them whatever the fashionable language du jour is. (...which should be Logo but its too subtle and abstract, it doesn't look "real world" enough!).

freeandfair , 21 Sep 2017 13:30
I don't see this is an issue. Sure, there could be ulterior motives there, but anyone who wants to still be employed in 20 years has to know how to code . It is not that everyone will be a coder, but their jobs will either include part-time coding or will require understanding of software and what it can and cannot do. AI is going to be everywhere.
WumpieJr , 21 Sep 2017 13:23
What a dumpster argument. I am not a programmer or even close, but a basic understanding of coding has been important to my professional life. Coding isn't just about writing software. Understanding how algorithms work, even simple ones, is a general skill on par with algebra.

But is isn't just about coding for Tarnoff. He seems to hold education in contempt generally. "The far-fetched premise of neoliberal school reform is that education can mend our disintegrating social fabric." If they can't literally fix everything let's just get rid of them, right?

Never mind that a good education is clearly one of the most important things you can do for a person to improve their quality of life wherever they live in the world. It's "neoliberal," so we better hate it.

youngsteveo , 21 Sep 2017 13:16
I'm not going to argue that the goal of mass education isn't to drive down wages, but the idea that the skills gap is a myth doesn't hold water in my experience. I'm a software engineer and manager at a company that pays well over the national average, with great benefits, and it is downright difficult to find a qualified applicant who can pass a rudimentary coding exam.

A lot of resumes come across my desk that look qualified on paper, but that's not the same thing as being able to do the job. Secondarily, while I agree that one day our field might be replaced by automation, there's a level of creativity involved with good software engineering that makes your carpenter comparison a bit flawed.

[Oct 02, 2017] Does programming provides a new path to the middle class? Probably no longer, unless you are really talanted. In the latter case it is not that different from any other fields, but the pressure from H1B makes is harder for programmers. The neoliberal USA have a real problem with the social mobility

Notable quotes:
"... I do think it's peculiar that Silicon Valley requires so many H1B visas... 'we can't find the talent here' is the main excuse ..."
"... This is interesting. Indeed, I do think there is excess supply of software programmers. ..."
"... Well, it is either that or the kids themselves who have to pay for it and they are even less prepared to do so. Ideally, college education should be tax payer paid but this is not the case in the US. And the employer ideally should pay for the job related training, but again, it is not the case in the US. ..."
"... Plenty of people care about the arts but people can't survive on what the arts pay. That was pretty much the case all through human history. ..."
"... I was laid off at your age in the depths of the recent recession and I got a job. ..."
"... The great thing about software , as opposed to many other jobs, is that it can be done at home which you're laid off. Write mobile (IOS or Android) apps or work on open source projects and get stuff up on github. I've been to many job interviews with my apps loaded on mobile devices so I could show them what I've done. ..."
"... Schools really can't win. Don't teach coding, and you're raising a generation of button-pushers. Teach it, and you're pandering to employers looking for cheap labour. Unions in London objected to children being taught carpentry in the twenties and thirties, so it had to be renamed "manual instruction" to get round it. Denying children useful skills is indefensible. ..."
Oct 02, 2017 | discussion.theguardian.com
swelle , 21 Sep 2017 17:36
I do think it's peculiar that Silicon Valley requires so many H1B visas... 'we can't find the talent here' is the main excuse, though many 'older' (read: over 40) native-born tech workers will tell your that's plenty of talent here already, but even with the immigration hassles, H1B workers will be cheaper overall...

Julian Williams , 21 Sep 2017 18:06

This is interesting. Indeed, I do think there is excess supply of software programmers. There is only a modest number of decent jobs, say as an algorithms developer in finance, general architecture of complex systems or to some extent in systems security. However, these jobs are usually occupied and the incumbents are not likely to move on quickly. Road blocks are also put up by creating sub networks of engineers who ensure that some knowledge is not ubiquitous.

Most very high paying jobs in the technology sector are in the same standard upper management roles as in every other industry.

Still, the ability to write a computer program in an enabler, knowing how it works means you have an ability to imagine something and make it real. To me it is a bit like language, some people can use language to make more money than others, but it is still important to be able to have a basic level of understanding.

FabBlondie -> peter nelson , 21 Sep 2017 17:42
And yet I know a lot of people that has happened to. Better to replace a $125K a year programmer with one who will do the same, or even less, job for $50K.

JMColwill , 21 Sep 2017 18:17

This could backfire if the programmers don't find the work or pay to match their expectations... Programmers, after all tend to make very good hackers if their minds are turned to it.

freeandfair -> FabBlondie , 21 Sep 2017 18:23

> While I like your idea of what designing a computer program involves, in my nearly 40 years experience as a programmer I have rarely seen this done.

Well, I am a software architect and what he says sounds correct for a certain type of applications. Maybe you do a different type of programming.

peter nelson -> FabBlondie , 21 Sep 2017 18:23

While I like your idea of what designing a computer program involves, in my nearly 40 years experience as a programmer I have rarely seen this done.

How else can you do it?

Java is popular because it's a very versatile language - On this list it's the most popular general-purpose programming language. (Above it javascript is just a scripting language and HTML/CSS aren't even programming languages) https://fossbytes.com/most-used-popular-programming-languages/ ... and below it you have to go down to C# at 20% to come to another general-purpose language, and even that's a Microsoft house language.

Also the "correct" choice of programming languages is also based on how many people in the shop know it so they maintain code that's written in it by someone else.

freeandfair -> FabBlondie , 21 Sep 2017 18:22
> job-specific training is completely different. What a joke to persuade public school districts to pick up the tab on job training.

Well, it is either that or the kids themselves who have to pay for it and they are even less prepared to do so. Ideally, college education should be tax payer paid but this is not the case in the US. And the employer ideally should pay for the job related training, but again, it is not the case in the US.

freeandfair -> mlzarathustra , 21 Sep 2017 18:20
> The bigger problem is that nobody cares about the arts, and as expensive as education is, nobody wants to carry around a debt on a skill that won't bring in the buck

Plenty of people care about the arts but people can't survive on what the arts pay. That was pretty much the case all through human history.

theindyisbetter -> Game Cabbage , 21 Sep 2017 18:18
No. The amount of work is not a fixed sum. That's the lump of labour fallacy. We are not tied to the land.
ConBrio , 21 Sep 2017 18:10
Since newspaper are consolidating and cutting jobs gotta clamp down on colleges offering BA degrees, particularly in English Literature and journalism.

And then... and...then...and...

LMichelle -> chillisauce , 21 Sep 2017 18:03
This article focuses on the US schools, but I can imagine it's the same in the UK. I don't think these courses are going to be about creating great programmers capable of new innovations as much as having a work force that can be their own IT Help Desk.

They'll learn just enough in these classes to do that.

Then most companies will be hiring for other jobs, but want to make sure you have the IT skills to serve as your own "help desk" (although they will get no salary for their IT work).

edmundberk -> FabBlondie , 21 Sep 2017 17:57
I find that quite remarkable - 40 years ago you must have been using assembler and with hardly any memory to work with. If you blitzed through that without applying the thought processes described, well...I'm surprised.
James Dey , 21 Sep 2017 17:55
Funny. Every day in the Brexit articles, I read that increasing the supply of workers has negligible effect on wages.
peter nelson -> peterainbow , 21 Sep 2017 17:54
I was laid off at your age in the depths of the recent recession and I got a job. As I said in another posting, it usually comes down to fresh skills and good personal references who will vouch for your work-habits and how well you get on with other members of your team.

The great thing about software , as opposed to many other jobs, is that it can be done at home which you're laid off. Write mobile (IOS or Android) apps or work on open source projects and get stuff up on github. I've been to many job interviews with my apps loaded on mobile devices so I could show them what I've done.

Game Cabbage -> theindyisbetter , 21 Sep 2017 17:52
The situation has a direct comparison to today. It has nothing to do with land. There was a certain amount of profit making work and not enough labour to satisfy demand. There is currently a certain amount of profit making work and in many situations (especially unskilled low paid work) too much labour.
edmundberk , 21 Sep 2017 17:52
So, is teaching people English or arithmetic all about reducing wages for the literate and numerate?

Or is this the most obtuse argument yet for avoiding what everyone in tech knows - even more blatantly than in many other industries, wages are curtailed by offshoring; and in the US, by having offshoring centres on US soil.

chillisauce , 21 Sep 2017 17:48
Well, speaking as someone who spends a lot of time trying to find really good programmers... frankly there aren't that many about. We take most of ours from Eastern Europe and SE Asia, which is quite expensive, given the relocation costs to the UK. But worth it.

So, yes, if more British kids learnt about coding, it might help a bit. But not much; the real problem is that few kids want to study IT in the first place, and that the tuition standards in most UK universities are quite low, even if they get there.

Baobab73 , 21 Sep 2017 17:48
True......
peter nelson -> rebel7 , 21 Sep 2017 17:47
There was recently an programme/podcast on ABC/RN about the HUGE shortage in Australia of techies with specialized security skills.
peter nelson -> jigen , 21 Sep 2017 17:46
Robots, or AI, are already making us more productive. I can write programs today in an afternoon that would have taken me a week a decade or two ago.

I can create a class and the IDE will take care of all the accessors, dependencies, enforce our style-guide compliance, stub-in the documentation ,even most test cases, etc, and all I have to write is very-specific stuff required by my application - the other 90% is generated for me. Same with UI/UX - stubs in relevant event handlers, bindings, dependencies, etc.

Programmers are a zillion times more productive than in the past, yet the demand keeps growing because so much more stuff in our lives has processors and code. Your car has dozens of processors running lots of software; your TV, your home appliances, your watch, etc.

Quaestor , 21 Sep 2017 17:43

Schools really can't win. Don't teach coding, and you're raising a generation of button-pushers. Teach it, and you're pandering to employers looking for cheap labour. Unions in London objected to children being taught carpentry in the twenties and thirties, so it had to be renamed "manual instruction" to get round it. Denying children useful skills is indefensible.

jamesupton , 21 Sep 2017 17:42
Getting children to learn how to write code, as part of core education, will be the first step to the long overdue revolution. The rest of us will still have to stick to burning buildings down and stringing up the aristocracy.
cjenk415 -> LMichelle , 21 Sep 2017 17:40
did you misread? it seemed like he was emphasizing that learning to code, like learning art (and sports and languages), will help them develop skills that benefit them in whatever profession they choose.
FabBlondie -> peter nelson , 21 Sep 2017 17:40
While I like your idea of what designing a computer program involves, in my nearly 40 years experience as a programmer I have rarely seen this done. And, FWIW, IMHO choosing the tool (programming language) might reasonably be expected to follow designing a solution, in practice this rarely happens. No, these days it's Java all the way, from day one.
theindyisbetter -> Game Cabbage , 21 Sep 2017 17:40
There was a fixed supply of land and a reduced supply of labour to work the land.

Nothing like then situation in a modern economy.

LMichelle , 21 Sep 2017 17:39
I'd advise parents that the classes they need to make sure their kids excel in are acting/drama. There is no better way to getting that promotion or increasing your pay like being a skilled actor in the job market. It's a fake it till you make it deal.
theindyisbetter , 21 Sep 2017 17:36
What a ludicrous argument.

Let's not teach maths or science or literacy either - then anyone with those skills will earn more.

SheriffFatman -> Game Cabbage , 21 Sep 2017 17:36

After the Black Death in the middle ages there was a huge under supply of labour. It produced a consistent rise in wages and conditions

It also produced wage-control legislation (which admittedly failed to work).

peter nelson -> peterainbow , 21 Sep 2017 17:32
if there were truly a shortage i wouldn't be unemployed

I've heard that before but when I've dug deeper I've usually found someone who either let their skills go stale, or who had some work issues.

LMichelle -> loveyy , 21 Sep 2017 17:26
Really? You think they are going to emphasize things like the importance of privacy and consumer rights?
loveyy , 21 Sep 2017 17:25
This really has to be one of the silliest articles I read here in a very long time.
People, let your children learn to code. Even more, educate yourselves and start to code just for the fun of it - look at it like a game.
The more people know how to code the less likely they are to understand how stuff works. If you were ever frustrated by how impossible it seems to shop on certain websites, learn to code and you will be frustrated no more. You will understand the intent behind the process.
Even more, you will understand the inherent limitations and what is the meaning of safety. You will be able to better protect yourself in a real time connected world.

Learning to code won't turn your kid into a programmer, just like ballet or piano classes won't mean they'll ever choose art as their livelihood. So let the children learn to code and learn along with them

Game Cabbage , 21 Sep 2017 17:24
Tipping power to employers in any profession by oversupply of labour is not a good thing. Bit of a macabre example here but...After the Black Death in the middle ages there was a huge under supply of labour. It produced a consistent rise in wages and conditions and economic development for hundreds of years after this. Not suggesting a massive depopulation. But you can achieve the same effects by altering the power balance. With decades of Neoliberalism, the employers side of the power see-saw is sitting firmly in the mud and is producing very undesired results for the vast majority of people.
Zuffle -> peterainbow , 21 Sep 2017 17:23
Perhaps you're just not very good. I've been a developer for 20 years and I've never had more than 1 week of unemployment.
Kevin P Brown -> peterainbow , 21 Sep 2017 17:20
" at 55 finding it impossible to get a job"

I am 59, and it is not just the age aspect it is the money aspect. They know you have experience and expectations, and yet they believe hiring someone half the age and half the price, times 2 will replace your knowledge. I have been contracting in IT for 30 years, and now it is obvious it is over. Experience at some point no longer mitigates age. I think I am at that point now.

TheLane82 , 21 Sep 2017 17:20
Completely true! What needs to happen instead is to teach the real valuable subjects.

Gender studies. Islamic studies. Black studies. All important issues that need to be addressed.

peter nelson -> mlzarathustra , 21 Sep 2017 17:06
Dear, dear, I know, I know, young people today . . . just not as good as we were. Everything is just going down the loo . . . Just have a nice cuppa camomile (or chamomile if you're a Yank) and try to relax ... " hey you kids, get offa my lawn !"
FabBlondie , 21 Sep 2017 17:06
There are good reasons to teach coding. Too many of today's computer users are amazingly unaware of the technology that allows them to send and receive emails, use their smart phones, and use websites. Few understand the basic issues involved in computer security, especially as it relates to their personal privacy. Hopefully some introductory computer classes could begin to remedy this, and the younger the students the better.

Security problems are not strictly a matter of coding.

Security issues persist in tech. Clearly that is not a function of the size of the workforce. I propose that it is a function of poor management and design skills. These are not taught in any programming class I ever took. I learned these on the job and in an MBA program, and because I was determined.

Don't confuse basic workforce training with an effective application of tech to authentic needs.

How can the "disruption" so prized in today's Big Tech do anything but aggravate our social problems? Tech's disruption begins with a blatant ignorance of and disregard for causes, and believes to its bones that a high tech app will truly solve a problem it cannot even describe.

Kool Aid anyone?

peterainbow -> brady , 21 Sep 2017 17:05
indeed that idea has been around as long as cobol and in practice has just made things worse, the fact that many people outside of software engineering don;t seem to realise is that the coding itself is a relatively small part of the job
FabBlondie -> imipak , 21 Sep 2017 17:04
Hurrah.
peterainbow -> rebel7 , 21 Sep 2017 17:04
so how many female and old software engineers are there who are unable to get a job, i'm one of them at 55 finding it impossible to get a job and unlike many 'developers' i know what i'm doing
peterainbow , 21 Sep 2017 17:02
meanwhile the age and sex discrimination in IT goes on, if there were truly a shortage i wouldn't be unemployed
Jared Hall -> peter nelson , 21 Sep 2017 17:01
Training more people for an occupation will result in more people becoming qualified to perform that occupation, irregardless of the fact that many will perform poorly at it. A CS degree is no guarantee of competency, but it is one of the best indicators of general qualification we have at the moment. If you can provide a better metric for analyzing the underlying qualifications of the labor force, I'd love to hear it.

Regarding your anecdote, while interesting, it poor evidence when compared to the aggregate statistical data analyzed in the EPI study.

peter nelson -> FabBlondie , 21 Sep 2017 17:00

Job-specific training is completely different.

Good grief. It's not job-specific training. You sound like someone who knows nothing about computer programming.

Designing a computer program requires analysing the task; breaking it down into its components, prioritising them and identifying interdependencies, and figuring out which parts of it can be broken out and done separately. Expressing all this in some programming language like Java, C, or C++ is quite secondary.

So once you learn to organise a task properly you can apply it to anything - remodeling a house, planning a vacation, repairing a car, starting a business, or administering a (non-software) project at work.

[Oct 02, 2017] Evaluation of potential job candidates for programming job should include evaluation of thier previous projects and code written

Notable quotes:
"... Thank you. The kids that spend high school researching independently and spend their nights hacking just for the love of it and getting a job without college are some of the most competent I've ever worked with. Passionless college grads that just want a paycheck are some of the worst. ..."
"... how about how new labor tried to sign away IT access in England to India in exchange for banking access there, how about the huge loopholes in bringing in cheap IT workers from elsewhere in the world, not conspiracies, but facts ..."
"... And I've never recommended hiring anyone right out of school who could not point me to a project they did on their own, i.e., not just grades and test scores. I'd like to see an IOS or Android app, or a open-source component, or utility or program of theirs on GitHub, or something like that. ..."
"... most of what software designers do is not coding. It requires domain knowledge and that's where the "smart" IDEs and AI coding wizards fall down. It will be a long time before we get where you describe. ..."
Oct 02, 2017 | discussion.theguardian.com

peter nelson -> c mm , 21 Sep 2017 19:49

Instant feedback is one of the things I really like about programming, but it's also the thing that some people can't handle. As I'm developing a program all day long the compiler is telling me about build errors or warnings or when I go to execute it it crashes or produces unexpected output, etc. Software engineers are bombarded all day with negative feedback and little failures. You have to be thick-skinned for this work.
peter nelson -> peterainbow , 21 Sep 2017 19:42
How is it shallow and lazy? I'm hiring for the real world so I want to see some real world accomplishments. If the candidate is fresh out of university they can't point to work projects in industry because they don't have any. But they CAN point to stuff they've done on their own. That shows both motivation and the ability to finish something. Why do you object to it?
anticapitalist -> peter nelson , 21 Sep 2017 14:47
Thank you. The kids that spend high school researching independently and spend their nights hacking just for the love of it and getting a job without college are some of the most competent I've ever worked with. Passionless college grads that just want a paycheck are some of the worst.
John Kendall , 21 Sep 2017 19:42
There is a big difference between "coding" and programming. Coding for a smart phone app is a matter of calling functions that are built into the device. For example, there are functions for the GPS or for creating buttons or for simulating motion in a game. These are what we used to call subroutines. The difference is that whereas we had to write our own subroutines, now they are just preprogrammed functions. How those functions are written is of little or no importance to today's coders.

Nor are they able to program on that level. Real programming requires not only a knowledge of programming languages, but also a knowledge of the underlying algorithms that make up actual programs. I suspect that "coding" classes operate on a quite superficial level.

Game Cabbage -> theindyisbetter , 21 Sep 2017 19:40
Its not about the amount of work or the amount of labor. Its about the comparative availability of both and how that affects the balance of power, and that in turn affects the overall quality of life for the 'majority' of people.
c mm -> Ed209 , 21 Sep 2017 19:39
Most of this is not true. Peter Nelson gets it right by talking about breaking steps down and thinking rationally. The reason you can't just teach the theory, however, is that humans learn much better with feedback. Think about trying to learn how to build a fast car, but you never get in and test its speed. That would be silly. Programming languages take the system of logic that has been developed for centuries and gives instant feedback on the results. It's a language of rationality.
peter nelson -> peterainbow , 21 Sep 2017 19:37
This article is about the US. The tech industry in the EU is entirely different, and basically moribund. Where is the EU's Microsoft, Apple, Google, Amazon, Oracle, Intel, Facebook, etc, etc? The opportunities for exciting interesting work, plus the time and schedule pressures that force companies to overlook stuff like age because they need a particular skill Right Now, don't exist in the EU. I've done very well as a software engineer in my 60's in the US; I cannot imagine that would be the case in the EU.
peterainbow -> peter nelson , 21 Sep 2017 19:37
sorry but that's just not true, i doubt you are really programming still, or quasi programmer but really a manager who like to keep their hand in, you certainly aren't busy as you've been posting all over this cif. also why would you try and hire someone with such disparate skillsets, makes no sense at all

oh and you'd be correct that i do have workplace issues, ie i have a disability and i also suffer from depression, but that shouldn't bar me from employment and again regarding my skills going stale, that again contradicts your statement that it's about planning/analysis/algorithms etc that you said above ( which to some extent i agree with )

c mm -> peterainbow , 21 Sep 2017 19:36
Not at all, it's really egalitarian. If I want to hire someone to paint my portrait, the best way to know if they're any good is to see their previous work. If they've never painted a portrait before then I may want to go with the girl who has
c mm -> ragingbull , 21 Sep 2017 19:34
There is definitely not an excess. Just look at projected jobs for computer science on the Bureau of Labor statistics.
c mm -> perble conk , 21 Sep 2017 19:32
Right? It's ridiculous. "Hey, there's this industry you can train for that is super valuable to society and pays really well!"
Then Ben Tarnoff, "Don't do it! If you do you'll drive down wages for everyone else in the industry. Build your fire starting and rock breaking skills instead."
peterainbow -> peter nelson , 21 Sep 2017 19:29
how about how new labor tried to sign away IT access in England to India in exchange for banking access there, how about the huge loopholes in bringing in cheap IT workers from elsewhere in the world, not conspiracies, but facts
peter nelson -> eirsatz , 21 Sep 2017 19:25
I think the difference between gifted and not is motivation. But I agree it's not innate. The kid who stayed up all night in high school hacking into the school server to fake his coding class grade is probably more gifted than the one who spent 4 years in college getting a BS in CS because someone told him he could get a job when he got out.

I've done some hiring in my life and I always ask them to tell me about stuff they did on their own.

peter nelson -> TheBananaBender , 21 Sep 2017 19:20

Most coding jobs are bug fixing.

The only bugs I have to fix are the ones I make.

peter nelson -> Ed209 , 21 Sep 2017 19:19
As several people have pointed out, writing a computer program requires analyzing and breaking down a task into steps, identifying interdependencies, prioritizing the order, figuring out what parts can be organized into separate tasks that be done separately, etc.

These are completely independent of the language - I've been programming for 40 years in everything from FORTRAN to APL to C to C# to Java and it's all the same. Not only that but they transcend programming - they apply to planning a vacation, remodeling a house, or fixing a car.

peter nelson -> ragingbull , 21 Sep 2017 19:14
Neither coding nor having a bachelor's degree in computer science makes you a suitable job candidate. I've done a lot of recruiting and interviews in my life, and right now I'm trying to hire someone. And I've never recommended hiring anyone right out of school who could not point me to a project they did on their own, i.e., not just grades and test scores. I'd like to see an IOS or Android app, or a open-source component, or utility or program of theirs on GitHub, or something like that.

That's the thing that distinguishes software from many other fields - you can do something real and significant on your own. If you haven't managed to do so in 4 years of college you're not a good candidate.

peter nelson -> nickGregor , 21 Sep 2017 19:07
Within the next year coding will be old news and you will simply be able to describe things in ur native language in such a way that the machine will be able to execute any set of instructions you give it.

In a sense that's already true, as i noted elsewhere. 90% of the code in my projects (Java and C# in their respective IDEs) is machine generated. I do relatively little "coding". But the flaw in your idea is this: most of what software designers do is not coding. It requires domain knowledge and that's where the "smart" IDEs and AI coding wizards fall down. It will be a long time before we get where you describe.

Ricardo111 -> martinusher , 21 Sep 2017 19:03
Completely agree. At the highest levels there is more work that goes into managing complexity and making sure nothing is missed than in making the wheels turn and the beepers beep.
ragingbull , 21 Sep 2017 19:02
Hang on... if the current excess of computer science grads is not driving down wages, why would training more kids to code make any difference?
Ricardo111 -> youngsteveo , 21 Sep 2017 18:59
I've actually interviewed people for very senior technical positions in Investment Banks who had all the fancy talk in the world and yet failed at some very basic "write me a piece of code that does X" tests.

Next hurdle on is people who have learned how to deal with certain situations and yet don't really understand how it works so are unable to figure it out if you change the problem parameters.

That said, the average coder is only slightly beyond this point. The ones who can take in account maintenability and flexibility for future enhancements when developing are already a minority, and those who can understand the why of software development process steps, design software system architectures or do a proper Technical Analysis are very rare.

eirsatz -> Ricardo111 , 21 Sep 2017 18:57
Hubris. It's easy to mistake efficiency born of experience as innate talent. The difference between a 'gifted coder' and a 'non gifted junior coder' is much more likely to be 10 or 15 years sitting at a computer, less if there are good managers and mentors involved.
Ed209 , 21 Sep 2017 18:57
Politicians love the idea of teaching children to 'code', because it sounds so modern, and nobody could possible object... could they? Unfortunately it simply shows up their utter ignorance of technical matters because there isn't a language called 'coding'. Computer programming languages have changed enormously over the years, and continue to evolve. If you learn the wrong language you'll be about as welcome in the IT industry as a lamp-lighter or a comptometer operator.

The pace of change in technology can render skills and qualifications obsolete in a matter of a few years, and only the very best IT employers will bother to retrain their staff - it's much cheaper to dump them. (Most IT posts are outsourced through agencies anyway - those that haven't been off-shored. )

peter nelson -> YEverKnot , 21 Sep 2017 18:54
And this isn't even a good conspiracy theory; it's a bad one. He offers no evidence that there's an actual plan or conspiracy to do this. I'm looking for an account of where the advocates of coding education met to plot this in some castle in Europe or maybe a secret document like "The Protocols of the Elders of Google", or some such.
TheBananaBender , 21 Sep 2017 18:52
Most jobs in IT are shit - desktop support, operations droids. Most coding jobs are bug fixing.
Ricardo111 -> Wiretrip , 21 Sep 2017 18:49
Tool Users Vs Tool Makers. The really good coders actually get why certain things work as they do and can adjust them for different conditions. The mass produced coders are basically code copiers and code gluing specialists.
peter nelson -> AmyInNH , 21 Sep 2017 18:49
People who get Masters and PhD's in computer science are not usually "coders" or software engineers - they're usually involved in obscure, esoteric research for which there really is very little demand. So it doesn't surprise me that they're unemployed. But if someone has a Bachelor's in CS and they're unemployed I would have to wonder what they spent their time at university doing.

The thing about software that distinguishes it from lots of other fields is that you can make something real and significant on your own . I would expect any recent CS major I hire to be able to show me an app or an open-source component or something similar that they made themselves, and not just test scores and grades. If they could not then I wouldn't even think about hiring them.

Ricardo111 , 21 Sep 2017 18:44
Fortunately for those of us who are actually good at coding, the difference in productivity between a gifted coder and a non-gifted junior developer is something like 100-fold. Knowing how to code and actually being efficient at creating software programs and systems are about as far apart as knowing how to write and actually being able to write a bestselling exciting Crime trilogy.
peter nelson -> jamesupton , 21 Sep 2017 18:36

The rest of us will still have to stick to burning buildings down and stringing up the aristocracy.

If you know how to write software you can get a robot to do those things.

peter nelson -> Julian Williams , 21 Sep 2017 18:34
I do think there is excess supply of software programmers. There is only a modest number of decent jobs, say as an algorithms developer in finance, general architecture of complex systems or to some extent in systems security.

This article is about coding; most of those jobs require very little of that.

Most very high paying jobs in the technology sector are in the same standard upper management roles as in every other industry.

How do you define "high paying". Everyone I know (and I know a lot because I've been a sw engineer for 40 years) who is working fulltime as a software engineer is making a high-middle-class salary, and can easily afford a home, travel on holiday, investments, etc.

YEverKnot , 21 Sep 2017 18:32

Tech's push to teach coding isn't about kids' success – it's about cutting wages

Nowt like a good conspiracy theory.
freeandfair -> WithoutPurpose , 21 Sep 2017 18:31
What is a stupidly low salary? 100K?
freeandfair -> AmyInNH , 21 Sep 2017 18:30
> Already there. I take it you skipped right past the employment prospects for US STEM grads - 50% chance of finding STEM work.

That just means 50% of them are no good and need to develop their skills further or try something else.
Not every with a STEM degree from some 3rd rate college is capable of doing complex IT or STEM work.

peter nelson -> edmundberk , 21 Sep 2017 18:30

So, is teaching people English or arithmetic all about reducing wages for the literate and numerate?

Yes. Haven't you noticed how wage growth has flattened? That's because some do-gooders" thought it would be a fine idea to educate the peasants. There was a time when only the well-to do knew how to read and write, and that's why they well-to-do were well-to-do. Education is evil. Stop educating people and then those of us who know how to read and write can charge them for reading and writing letters and email. Better yet, we can have Chinese and Indians do it for us and we just charge a transaction fee.

AmyInNH -> peter nelson , 21 Sep 2017 18:27
Massive amounts of public use cars, it doesn't mean millions need schooling in auto mechanics. Same for software coding. We aren't even using those who have Bachelors, Masters and PhDs in CS.
carlospapafritas , 21 Sep 2017 18:27
"..importing large numbers of skilled guest workers from other countries through the H1-B visa program..."

"skilled" is good. H1B has long ( appx 17 years) been abused and turned into trafficking scheme. One can buy H1B in India. Powerful ethnic networks wheeling & dealing in US & EU selling IT jobs to essentially migrants.

The real IT wages haven't been stagnant but steadily falling from the 90s. It's easy to see why. $82K/year IT wage was about average in the 90s. Comparing the prices of housing (& pretty much everything else) between now gives you the idea.

freeandfair -> whitehawk66 , 21 Sep 2017 18:27
> not every kid wants or needs to have their soul sucked out of them sitting in front of a screen full of code for some idiotic service that some other douchbro thinks is the next iteration of sliced bread

Taking a couple of years of programming are not enough to do this as a job, don't worry.
But learning to code is like learning maths, - it helps to develop logical thinking, which will benefit you in every area of your life.

James Dey , 21 Sep 2017 18:25
We should stop teaching our kids to be journalists, then your wage might go up.
peter nelson -> AmyInNH , 21 Sep 2017 18:23
What does this even mean?

[Oct 02, 2017] Programming is a culturally important skill

Notable quotes:
"... A lot of basic entry level jobs require a good level of Excel skills. ..."
"... Programming is a cultural skill; master it, or even understand it on a simple level, and you understand how the 21st century works, on the machinery level. To bereave the children of this crucial insight is to close off a door to their future. ..."
"... What a dumpster argument. I am not a programmer or even close, but a basic understanding of coding has been important to my professional life. Coding isn't just about writing software. Understanding how algorithms work, even simple ones, is a general skill on par with algebra. ..."
"... Never mind that a good education is clearly one of the most important things you can do for a person to improve their quality of life wherever they live in the world. It's "neoliberal," so we better hate it. ..."
"... We've seen this kind of tactic for some time now. Silicon Valley is turning into a series of micromanaged sweatshops (that's what "agile" is truly all about) with little room for genuine creativity, or even understanding of what that actually means. I've seen how impossible it is to explain to upper level management how crappy cheap developers actually diminish productivity and value. All they see is that the requisition is filled for less money. ..."
"... Libertarianism posits that everyone should be free to sell their labour or negotiate their own arrangements without the state interfering. So if cheaper foreign labour really was undercutting American labout the Libertarians would be thrilled. ..."
"... Not producing enough to fill vacancies or not producing enough to keep wages at Google's preferred rate? Seeing as research shows there is no lack of qualified developers, the latter option seems more likely. ..."
"... We're already using Asia as a source of cheap labor for the tech industry. Why do we need to create cheap labor in the US? ..."
www.moonofalabama.org
David McCaul -> IanMcLzzz , 21 Sep 2017 13:03
There are very few professional Scribes nowadays, a good level of reading & writing is simplely a default even for the lowest paid jobs. A lot of basic entry level jobs require a good level of Excel skills. Several years from now basic coding will be necessary to manipulate basic tools for entry level jobs, especially as increasingly a lot of real code will be generated by expert systems supervised by a tiny number of supervisors. Coding jobs will go the same way that trucking jobs will go when driverless vehicles are perfected.

anticapitalist, 21 Sep 2017 14:25

Offer the class but not mandatory. Just like I could never succeed playing football others will not succeed at coding. The last thing the industry needs is more bad developers showing up for a paycheck.

Fanastril , 21 Sep 2017 14:08

Programming is a cultural skill; master it, or even understand it on a simple level, and you understand how the 21st century works, on the machinery level. To bereave the children of this crucial insight is to close off a door to their future. What's next, keep them off Math, because, you know . .
Taylor Dotson -> freeandfair , 21 Sep 2017 13:59
That's some crystal ball you have there. English teachers will need to know how to code? Same with plumbers? Same with janitors, CEOs, and anyone working in the service industry?
PolydentateBrigand , 21 Sep 2017 12:59
The economy isn't a zero-sum game. Developing a more skilled workforce that can create more value will lead to economic growth and improvement in the general standard of living. Talented coders will start new tech businesses and create more jobs.

WumpieJr , 21 Sep 2017 13:23

What a dumpster argument. I am not a programmer or even close, but a basic understanding of coding has been important to my professional life. Coding isn't just about writing software. Understanding how algorithms work, even simple ones, is a general skill on par with algebra.

But is isn't just about coding for Tarnoff. He seems to hold education in contempt generally. "The far-fetched premise of neoliberal school reform is that education can mend our disintegrating social fabric." If they can't literally fix everything let's just get rid of them, right?

Never mind that a good education is clearly one of the most important things you can do for a person to improve their quality of life wherever they live in the world. It's "neoliberal," so we better hate it.

mlzarathustra , 21 Sep 2017 16:52
I agree with the basic point. We've seen this kind of tactic for some time now. Silicon Valley is turning into a series of micromanaged sweatshops (that's what "agile" is truly all about) with little room for genuine creativity, or even understanding of what that actually means. I've seen how impossible it is to explain to upper level management how crappy cheap developers actually diminish productivity and value. All they see is that the requisition is filled for less money.

The bigger problem is that nobody cares about the arts, and as expensive as education is, nobody wants to carry around a debt on a skill that won't bring in the bucks. And smartphone-obsessed millennials have too short an attention span to fathom how empty their lives are, devoid of the aesthetic depth as they are.

I can't draw a definite link, but I think algorithm fails, which are based on fanatical reliance on programmed routines as the solution to everything, are rooted in the shortage of education and cultivation in the arts.

Economics is a social science, and all this is merely a reflection of shared cultural values. The problem is, people think it's math (it's not) and therefore set in stone.

AmyInNH -> peter nelson , 21 Sep 2017 16:51
Geeze it'd be nice if you'd make an effort.
rucore.libraries.rutgers.edu/rutgers-lib/45960/PDF/1/
https://rucore.libraries.rutgers.edu/rutgers-lib/46156 /
https://rucore.libraries.rutgers.edu/rutgers-lib/46207 /
peter nelson -> WyntonK , 21 Sep 2017 16:45
Libertarianism posits that everyone should be free to sell their labour or negotiate their own arrangements without the state interfering. So if cheaper foreign labour really was undercutting American labout the Libertarians would be thrilled.

But it's not. I'm in my 60's and retiring but I've been a software engineer all my life. I've worked for many different companies, and in different industries and I've never had any trouble competing with cheap imported workers. The people I've seen fall behind were ones who did not keep their skills fresh. When I was laid off in 2009 in my mid-50's I made sure my mobile-app skills were bleeding edge (in those days ANYTHING having to do with mobile was bleeding edge) and I used to go to job interviews with mobile devices to showcase what I could do. That way they could see for themselves and not have to rely on just a CV.

They older guys who fell behind did so because their skills and toolsets had become obsolete.

Now I'm trying to hire a replacement to write Android code for use in industrial production and struggling to find someone with enough experience. So where is this oversupply I keep hearing about?

Jared Hall -> RogTheDodge , 21 Sep 2017 16:42
Not producing enough to fill vacancies or not producing enough to keep wages at Google's preferred rate? Seeing as research shows there is no lack of qualified developers, the latter option seems more likely.
JayThomas , 21 Sep 2017 16:39

It's about ensuring those salaries no longer exist, by creating a source of cheap labor for the tech industry.

We're already using Asia as a source of cheap labor for the tech industry. Why do we need to create cheap labor in the US? That just seems inefficient.

FabBlondie -> RogTheDodge , 21 Sep 2017 16:39
There was never any need to give our jobs to foreigners. That is, if you are comparing the production of domestic vs. foreign workers. The sole need was, and is, to increase profits.
peter nelson -> AmyInNH , 21 Sep 2017 16:34
Link?
FabBlondie , 21 Sep 2017 16:34
Schools MAY be able to fix big social problems, but only if they teach a well-rounded curriculum that includes classical history and the humanities. Job-specific training is completely different. What a joke to persuade public school districts to pick up the tab on job training. The existing social problems were not caused by a lack of programmers, and cannot be solved by Big Tech.

I agree with the author that computer programming skills are not that limited in availability. Big Tech solved the problem of the well-paid professional some years ago by letting them go, these were mostly workers in their 50s, and replacing them with H1-B visa-holders from India -- who work for a fraction of their experienced American counterparts.

It is all about profits. Big Tech is no different than any other "industry."

peter nelson -> Jared Hall , 21 Sep 2017 16:31
Supply of apples does not affect the demand for oranges. Teaching coding in high school does not necessarily alter the supply of software engineers. I studied Chinese History and geology at University but my doing so has had no effect on the job prospects of people doing those things for a living.
johnontheleft -> Taylor Dotson , 21 Sep 2017 16:30
You would be surprised just how much a little coding knowledge has transformed my ability to do my job (a job that is not directly related to IT at all).
peter nelson -> Jared Hall , 21 Sep 2017 16:29
Because teaching coding does not affect the supply of actual engineers. I've been a professional software engineer for 40 years and coding is only a small fraction of what I do.
peter nelson -> Jared Hall , 21 Sep 2017 16:28
You and the linked article don't know what you're talking about. A CS degree does not equate to a productive engineer.

A few years ago I was on the recruiting and interviewing committee to try to hire some software engineers for a scientific instrument my company was making. The entire team had about 60 people (hw, sw, mech engineers) but we needed 2 or 3 sw engineers with math and signal-processing expertise. The project was held up for SIX months because we could not find the people we needed. It would have taken a lot longer than that to train someone up to our needs. Eventually we brought in some Chinese engineers which cost us MORE than what we would have paid for an American engineer when you factor in the agency and visa paperwork.

Modern software engineers are not just generic interchangable parts - 21st century technology often requires specialised scientific, mathematical, production or business domain-specific knowledge and those people are hard to find.

freeluna -> freeluna , 21 Sep 2017 16:18
...also, this article is alarmist and I disagree with it. Dear Author, Phphphphtttt! Sincerely, freeluna
AmyInNH , 21 Sep 2017 16:16
Regimentation of the many, for benefit of the few.
AmyInNH -> Whatitsaysonthetin , 21 Sep 2017 16:15
Visa jobs are part of trade agreements. To be very specific, US gov (and EU) trade Western jobs for market access in the East.
http://www.marketwatch.com/story/in-india-british-leader-theresa-may-preaches-free-trade-2016-11-07
There is no shortage. This is selling off the West's middle class.
Take a look at remittances in wikipedia and you'll get a good idea just how much it costs the US and EU economies, for sake of record profits to Western industry.
jigen , 21 Sep 2017 16:13
And thanks to the author for not using the adjective "elegant" in describing coding.
freeluna , 21 Sep 2017 16:13
I see advantages in teaching kids to code, and for kids to make arduino and other CPU powered things. I don't see a lot of interest in science and tech coming from kids in school. There are too many distractions from social media and game platforms, and not much interest in developing tools for future tech and science.
jigen , 21 Sep 2017 16:13
Let the robots do the coding. Sorted.
FluffyDog -> rgilyead , 21 Sep 2017 16:13
Although coding per se is a technical skill it isn't designing or integrating systems. It is only a small, although essential, part of the whole software engineering process. Learning to code just gets you up the first steps of a high ladder that you need to climb a fair way if you intend to use your skills to earn a decent living.
rebel7 , 21 Sep 2017 16:11
BS.

Friend of mine in the SV tech industry reports that they are about 100,000 programmers short in just the internet security field.

Y'all are trying to create a problem where there isn't one. Maybe we shouldn't teach them how to read either. They might want to work somewhere besides the grill at McDonalds.

AmyInNH -> WyntonK , 21 Sep 2017 16:11
To which they will respond, offshore.
AmyInNH -> MrFumoFumo , 21 Sep 2017 16:10
They're not looking for good, they're looking for cheap + visa indentured. Non-citizens.
nickGregor , 21 Sep 2017 16:09
Within the next year coding will be old news and you will simply be able to describe things in ur native language in such a way that the machine will be able to execute any set of instructions you give it. Coding is going to change from its purely abstract form that is not utilized at peak- but if you can describe what you envision in an effective concise manner u could become a very good coder very quickly -- and competence will be determined entirely by imagination and the barriers of entry will all but be extinct
AmyInNH -> unclestinky , 21 Sep 2017 16:09
Already there. I take it you skipped right past the employment prospects for US STEM grads - 50% chance of finding STEM work.
AmyInNH -> User10006 , 21 Sep 2017 16:06
Apparently a whole lot of people are just making it up, eh?
http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/09/inside-the-growing-guest-worker-program-trapping-indian-students-in-virtual-servitude /
From today,
http://www.computerworld.com/article/2915904/it-outsourcing/fury-rises-at-disney-over-use-of-foreign-workers.html
All the way back to 1995,
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vW8r3LoI8M4&feature=youtu.be
JCA1507 -> whitehawk66 , 21 Sep 2017 16:04
Bravo
JCA1507 -> DirDigIns , 21 Sep 2017 16:01
Total... utter... no other way... huge... will only get worse... everyone... (not a very nuanced commentary is it).

I'm glad pieces like this are mounting, it is relevant that we counter the mix of messianism and opportunism of Silicon Valley propaganda with convincing arguments.

RogTheDodge -> WithoutPurpose , 21 Sep 2017 16:01
That's not my experience.
AmyInNH -> TTauriStellarbody , 21 Sep 2017 16:01
It's a stall tactic by Silicon Valley, "See, we're trying to resolve the [non-existant] shortage."
AmyInNH -> WyntonK , 21 Sep 2017 16:00
They aren't immigrants. They're visa indentured foreign workers. Why does that matter? It's part of the cheap+indentured hiring criteria. If it were only cheap, they'd be lowballing offers to citizen and US new grads.
RogTheDodge -> Jared Hall , 21 Sep 2017 15:59
No. Because they're the ones wanting them and realizing the US education system is not producing enough
RogTheDodge -> Jared Hall , 21 Sep 2017 15:58
Except the demand is increasing massively.
RogTheDodge -> WyntonK , 21 Sep 2017 15:57
That's why we are trying to educate American coders - so we don't need to give our jobs to foreigners.
AmyInNH , 21 Sep 2017 15:56
Correct premises,
- proletarianize programmers
- many qualified graduates simply can't find jobs.
Invalid conclusion:
- The problem is there aren't enough good jobs to be trained for.

That conclusion only makes sense if you skip right past ...
" importing large numbers of skilled guest workers from other countries through the H1-B visa program. These workers earn less than their American counterparts, and possess little bargaining power because they must remain employed to keep their status"

Hiring Americans doesn't "hurt" their record profits. It's incessant greed and collusion with our corrupt congress.

Oldvinyl , 21 Sep 2017 15:51
This column was really annoying. I taught my students how to program when I was given a free hand to create the computer studies curriculum for a new school I joined. (Not in the UK thank Dog). 7th graders began with studying the history and uses of computers and communications tech. My 8th grade learned about computer logic (AND, OR, NOT, etc) and moved on with QuickBASIC in the second part of the year. My 9th graders learned about databases and SQL and how to use HTML to make their own Web sites. Last year I received a phone call from the father of one student thanking me for creating the course, his son had just received a job offer and now works in San Francisco for Google.
I am so glad I taught them "coding" (UGH) as the writer puts it, rather than arty-farty subjects not worth a damn in the jobs market.
WyntonK -> DirDigIns , 21 Sep 2017 15:47
I live and work in Silicon Valley and you have no idea what you are talking about. There's no shortage of coders at all. Terrific coders are let go because of their age and the availability of much cheaper foreign coders(no, I am not opposed to immigration).
Sean May , 21 Sep 2017 15:43
Looks like you pissed off a ton of people who can't write code and are none to happy with you pointing out the reason they're slinging insurance for geico.

I think you're quite right that coding skills will eventually enter the mainstream and slowly bring down the cost of hiring programmers.

The fact is that even if you don't get paid to be a programmer you can absolutely benefit from having some coding skills.

There may however be some kind of major coding revolution with the advent of quantum computing. The way code is written now could become obsolete.

Jared Hall -> User10006 , 21 Sep 2017 15:43
Why is it a fantasy? Does supply and demand not apply to IT labor pools?
Jared Hall -> ninianpark , 21 Sep 2017 15:42
Why is it a load of crap? If you increase the supply of something with no corresponding increase in demand, the price will decrease.
pictonic , 21 Sep 2017 15:40
A well-argued article that hits the nail on the head. Amongst any group of coders, very few are truly productive, and they are self starters; training is really needed to do the admin.
Jared Hall -> DirDigIns , 21 Sep 2017 15:39
There is not a huge skills shortage. That is why the author linked this EPI report analyzing the data to prove exactly that. This may not be what people want to believe, but it is certainly what the numbers indicate. There is no skills gap.

http://www.epi.org/files/2013/bp359-guestworkers-high-skill-labor-market-analysis.pdf

Axel Seaton -> Jaberwocky , 21 Sep 2017 15:34
Yeah, but the money is crap
DirDigIns -> IanMcLzzz , 21 Sep 2017 15:32
Perfect response for the absolute crap that the article is pushing.
DirDigIns , 21 Sep 2017 15:30
Total and utter crap, no other way to put it.

There is a huge skills shortage in key tech areas that will only get worse if we don't educate and train the young effectively.

Everyone wants youth to have good skills for the knowledge economy and the ability to earn a good salary and build up life chances for UK youth.

So we get this verbal diarrhoea of an article. Defies belief.

Whatitsaysonthetin -> Evelita , 21 Sep 2017 15:27
Yes. China and India are indeed training youth in coding skills. In order that they take jobs in the USA and UK! It's been going on for 20 years and has resulted in many experienced IT staff struggling to get work at all and, even if they can, to suffer stagnating wages.
WmBoot , 21 Sep 2017 15:23
Wow. Congratulations to the author for provoking such a torrent of vitriol! Job well done.
TTauriStellarbody , 21 Sep 2017 15:22
Has anyones job is at risk from a 16 year old who can cobble together a couple of lines of javascript since the dot com bubble?

Good luck trying to teach a big enough pool of US school kids regular expressions let alone the kind of test driven continuous delivery that is the norm in the industry now.

freeandfair -> youngsteveo , 21 Sep 2017 13:27
> A lot of resumes come across my desk that look qualified on paper, but that's not the same thing as being able to do the job

I have exactly the same experience. There is undeniable a skill gap. It takes about a year for a skilled professional to adjust and learn enough to become productive, it takes about 3-5 years for a college grad.

It is nothing new. But the issue is, as the college grad gets trained, another company steal him/ her. And also keep in mind, all this time you are doing job and training the new employee as time permits. Many companies in the US cut the non-profit department (such as IT) to the bone, we cannot afford to lose a person and then train another replacement for 3-5 years.

The solution? Hire a skilled person. But that means nobody is training college grads and in 10-20 years we are looking at the skill shortage to the point where the only option is brining foreign labor.

American cut-throat companies that care only about the bottom line cannibalized themselves.

farabundovive -> Ethan Hawkins , 21 Sep 2017 15:10

Heh. You are not a coder, I take it. :) Going to be a few decades before even the easiest coding jobs vanish.

Given how shit most coders of my acquaintance have been - especially in matters of work ethic, logic, matching s/w to user requirements and willingness to test and correct their gormless output - most future coding work will probably be in the area of disaster recovery. Sorry, since the poor snowflakes can't face the sad facts, we have to call it "business continuation" these days, don't we?
UncommonTruthiness , 21 Sep 2017 14:10
The demonization of Silicon Valley is clearly the next place to put all blame. Look what "they" did to us: computers, smart phones, HD television, world-wide internet, on and on. Get a rope!

I moved there in 1978 and watched the orchards and trailer parks on North 1st St. of San Jose transform into a concrete jungle. There used to be quite a bit of semiconductor equipment and device manufacturing in SV during the 80s and 90s. Now quite a few buildings have the same name : AVAILABLE. Most equipment and device manufacturing has moved to Asia.

Programming started with binary, then machine code (hexadecimal or octal) and moved to assembler as a compiled and linked structure. More compiled languages like FORTRAN, BASIC, PL-1, COBOL, PASCAL, C (and all its "+'s") followed making programming easier for the less talented. Now the script based languages (HTML, JAVA, etc.) are even higher level and accessible to nearly all. Programming has become a commodity and will be priced like milk, wheat, corn, non-unionized workers and the like. The ship has sailed on this activity as a career.

[Oct 02, 2017] Techs push to teach coding isnt about kids success – its about cutting wages by Ben Tarnoff

Highly recommended!
IT is probably one of the most "neoliberalized" industry (even in comparison with finance). So atomization of labor and "plantation economy" is a norm in IT. It occurs on rather high level of wages, but with influx of foreign programmers and IT specialists (in the past) and mass outsourcing (now) this is changing. Completion for good job positions is fierce. Dog eats dog competition, the dream of neoliberals. Entry level jobs are already paying $15 an hour, if not less.
Programming is a relatively rare talent, much like ability to play violin. Even amateur level is challenging. On high level (developing large complex programs in a team and still preserving your individuality and productivity ) it is extremely rare. Most of "commercial" programmers are able to produce only a mediocre code (which might be adequate). Only a few programmers can excel if complex software projects. Sometimes even performing solo. There is also a pathological breed of "programmer junkie" ( graphomania happens in programming too ) who are able sometimes to destroy something large projects singlehandedly. That often happens with open source projects after the main developer lost interest and abandoned the project.
It's good to allow children the chance to try their hand at coding when they otherwise may not had that opportunity, But in no way that means that all of them can became professional programmers. No way. Again the top level of programmers required position of a unique talent, much like top musical performer talent.
Also to get a decent entry position you iether need to be extremely talented or graduate from Ivy League university. When applicants are abundant, resume from less prestigious universities are not even considered. this is just easier for HR to filter applications this way.
Also under neoliberalism cheap labor via H1B visas flood the market and depresses wages. Many Silicon companies were so to say "Russian speaking in late 90th after the collapse of the USSR. Not offshoring is the dominant way to offload the development to cheaper labor.
Notable quotes:
"... As software mediates more of our lives, and the power of Silicon Valley grows, it's tempting to imagine that demand for developers is soaring. The media contributes to this impression by spotlighting the genuinely inspiring stories of those who have ascended the class ladder through code. You may have heard of Bit Source, a company in eastern Kentucky that retrains coalminers as coders. They've been featured by Wired , Forbes , FastCompany , The Guardian , NPR and NBC News , among others. ..."
"... A former coalminer who becomes a successful developer deserves our respect and admiration. But the data suggests that relatively few will be able to follow their example. Our educational system has long been producing more programmers than the labor market can absorb. ..."
"... More tellingly, wage levels in the tech industry have remained flat since the late 1990s. Adjusting for inflation, the average programmer earns about as much today as in 1998. If demand were soaring, you'd expect wages to rise sharply in response. Instead, salaries have stagnated. ..."
"... Tech executives have pursued this goal in a variety of ways. One is collusion – companies conspiring to prevent their employees from earning more by switching jobs. The prevalence of this practice in Silicon Valley triggered a justice department antitrust complaint in 2010, along with a class action suit that culminated in a $415m settlement . Another, more sophisticated method is importing large numbers of skilled guest workers from other countries through the H1-B visa program. These workers earn less than their American counterparts, and possess little bargaining power because they must remain employed to keep their status. ..."
"... Guest workers and wage-fixing are useful tools for restraining labor costs. But nothing would make programming cheaper than making millions more programmers. ..."
"... Silicon Valley has been unusually successful in persuading our political class and much of the general public that its interests coincide with the interests of humanity as a whole. But tech is an industry like any other. It prioritizes its bottom line, and invests heavily in making public policy serve it. The five largest tech firms now spend twice as much as Wall Street on lobbying Washington – nearly $50m in 2016. The biggest spender, Google, also goes to considerable lengths to cultivate policy wonks favorable to its interests – and to discipline the ones who aren't. ..."
"... Silicon Valley is not a uniquely benevolent force, nor a uniquely malevolent one. Rather, it's something more ordinary: a collection of capitalist firms committed to the pursuit of profit. And as every capitalist knows, markets are figments of politics. They are not naturally occurring phenomena, but elaborately crafted contraptions, sustained and structured by the state – which is why shaping public policy is so important. If tech works tirelessly to tilt markets in its favor, it's hardly alone. What distinguishes it is the amount of money it has at its disposal to do so. ..."
"... The problem isn't training. The problem is there aren't enough good jobs to be trained for ..."
"... Everyone should have the opportunity to learn how to code. Coding can be a rewarding, even pleasurable, experience, and it's useful for performing all sorts of tasks. More broadly, an understanding of how code works is critical for basic digital literacy – something that is swiftly becoming a requirement for informed citizenship in an increasingly technologized world. ..."
"... But coding is not magic. It is a technical skill, akin to carpentry. Learning to build software does not make you any more immune to the forces of American capitalism than learning to build a house. Whether a coder or a carpenter, capital will do what it can to lower your wages, and enlist public institutions towards that end. ..."
"... Exposing large portions of the school population to coding is not going to magically turn them into coders. It may increase their basic understanding but that is a long way from being a software engineer. ..."
"... All schools teach drama and most kids don't end up becoming actors. You need to give all kids access to coding in order for some can go on to make a career out of it. ..."
"... it's ridiculous because even out of a pool of computer science B.Sc. or M.Sc. grads - companies are only interested in the top 10%. Even the most mundane company with crappy IT jobs swears that they only hire "the best and the brightest." ..."
"... It's basically a con-job by the big Silicon Valley companies offshoring as many US jobs as they can, or "inshoring" via exploitation of the H1B visa ..."
"... Masters is the new Bachelors. ..."
"... I taught CS. Out of around 100 graduates I'd say maybe 5 were reasonable software engineers. The rest would be fine in tech support or other associated trades, but not writing software. Its not just a set of trainable skills, its a set of attitudes and ways of perceiving and understanding that just aren't that common. ..."
"... Yup, rings true. I've been in hi tech for over 40 years and seen the changes. I was in Silicon Valley for 10 years on a startup. India is taking over, my current US company now has a majority Indian executive and is moving work to India. US politicians push coding to drive down wages to Indian levels. ..."
Oct 02, 2017 | www.theguardian.com

This month, millions of children returned to school. This year, an unprecedented number of them will learn to code.

Computer science courses for children have proliferated rapidly in the past few years. A 2016 Gallup report found that 40% of American schools now offer coding classes – up from only 25% a few years ago. New York, with the largest public school system in the country, has pledged to offer computer science to all 1.1 million students by 2025. Los Angeles, with the second largest, plans to do the same by 2020. And Chicago, the fourth largest, has gone further, promising to make computer science a high school graduation requirement by 2018.

The rationale for this rapid curricular renovation is economic. Teaching kids how to code will help them land good jobs, the argument goes. In an era of flat and falling incomes, programming provides a new path to the middle class – a skill so widely demanded that anyone who acquires it can command a livable, even lucrative, wage.

This narrative pervades policymaking at every level, from school boards to the government. Yet it rests on a fundamentally flawed premise. Contrary to public perception, the economy doesn't actually need that many more programmers. As a result, teaching millions of kids to code won't make them all middle-class. Rather, it will proletarianize the profession by flooding the market and forcing wages down – and that's precisely the point.

At its root, the campaign for code education isn't about giving the next generation a shot at earning the salary of a Facebook engineer. It's about ensuring those salaries no longer exist, by creating a source of cheap labor for the tech industry.

As software mediates more of our lives, and the power of Silicon Valley grows, it's tempting to imagine that demand for developers is soaring. The media contributes to this impression by spotlighting the genuinely inspiring stories of those who have ascended the class ladder through code. You may have heard of Bit Source, a company in eastern Kentucky that retrains coalminers as coders. They've been featured by Wired , Forbes , FastCompany , The Guardian , NPR and NBC News , among others.

A former coalminer who becomes a successful developer deserves our respect and admiration. But the data suggests that relatively few will be able to follow their example. Our educational system has long been producing more programmers than the labor market can absorb. A study by the Economic Policy Institute found that the supply of American college graduates with computer science degrees is 50% greater than the number hired into the tech industry each year. For all the talk of a tech worker shortage, many qualified graduates simply can't find jobs.

More tellingly, wage levels in the tech industry have remained flat since the late 1990s. Adjusting for inflation, the average programmer earns about as much today as in 1998. If demand were soaring, you'd expect wages to rise sharply in response. Instead, salaries have stagnated.

Still, those salaries are stagnating at a fairly high level. The Department of Labor estimates that the median annual wage for computer and information technology occupations is $82,860 – more than twice the national average. And from the perspective of the people who own the tech industry, this presents a problem. High wages threaten profits. To maximize profitability, one must always be finding ways to pay workers less.

Tech executives have pursued this goal in a variety of ways. One is collusion – companies conspiring to prevent their employees from earning more by switching jobs. The prevalence of this practice in Silicon Valley triggered a justice department antitrust complaint in 2010, along with a class action suit that culminated in a $415m settlement . Another, more sophisticated method is importing large numbers of skilled guest workers from other countries through the H1-B visa program. These workers earn less than their American counterparts, and possess little bargaining power because they must remain employed to keep their status.

Guest workers and wage-fixing are useful tools for restraining labor costs. But nothing would make programming cheaper than making millions more programmers. And where better to develop this workforce than America's schools? It's no coincidence, then, that the campaign for code education is being orchestrated by the tech industry itself. Its primary instrument is Code.org, a nonprofit funded by Facebook, Microsoft, Google and others . In 2016, the organization spent nearly $20m on training teachers, developing curricula, and lobbying policymakers.

Silicon Valley has been unusually successful in persuading our political class and much of the general public that its interests coincide with the interests of humanity as a whole. But tech is an industry like any other. It prioritizes its bottom line, and invests heavily in making public policy serve it. The five largest tech firms now spend twice as much as Wall Street on lobbying Washington – nearly $50m in 2016. The biggest spender, Google, also goes to considerable lengths to cultivate policy wonks favorable to its interests – and to discipline the ones who aren't.

Silicon Valley is not a uniquely benevolent force, nor a uniquely malevolent one. Rather, it's something more ordinary: a collection of capitalist firms committed to the pursuit of profit. And as every capitalist knows, markets are figments of politics. They are not naturally occurring phenomena, but elaborately crafted contraptions, sustained and structured by the state – which is why shaping public policy is so important. If tech works tirelessly to tilt markets in its favor, it's hardly alone. What distinguishes it is the amount of money it has at its disposal to do so.

Money isn't Silicon Valley's only advantage in its crusade to remake American education, however. It also enjoys a favorable ideological climate. Its basic message – that schools alone can fix big social problems – is one that politicians of both parties have been repeating for years. The far-fetched premise of neoliberal school reform is that education can mend our disintegrating social fabric. That if we teach students the right skills, we can solve poverty, inequality and stagnation. The school becomes an engine of economic transformation, catapulting young people from challenging circumstances into dignified, comfortable lives.

This argument is immensely pleasing to the technocratic mind. It suggests that our core economic malfunction is technical – a simple asymmetry. You have workers on one side and good jobs on the other, and all it takes is training to match them up. Indeed, every president since Bill Clinton has talked about training American workers to fill the "skills gap". But gradually, one mainstream economist after another has come to realize what most workers have known for years: the gap doesn't exist. Even Larry Summers has concluded it's a myth.

The problem isn't training. The problem is there aren't enough good jobs to be trained for . The solution is to make bad jobs better, by raising the minimum wage and making it easier for workers to form a union, and to create more good jobs by investing for growth. This involves forcing business to put money into things that actually grow the productive economy rather than shoveling profits out to shareholders. It also means increasing public investment, so that people can make a decent living doing socially necessary work like decarbonizing our energy system and restoring our decaying infrastructure.

Everyone should have the opportunity to learn how to code. Coding can be a rewarding, even pleasurable, experience, and it's useful for performing all sorts of tasks. More broadly, an understanding of how code works is critical for basic digital literacy – something that is swiftly becoming a requirement for informed citizenship in an increasingly technologized world.

But coding is not magic. It is a technical skill, akin to carpentry. Learning to build software does not make you any more immune to the forces of American capitalism than learning to build a house. Whether a coder or a carpenter, capital will do what it can to lower your wages, and enlist public institutions towards that end.

Silicon Valley has been extraordinarily adept at converting previously uncommodified portions of our common life into sources of profit. Our schools may prove an easy conquest by comparison.

See also:

willyjack, 21 Sep 2017 16:56

"Everyone should have the opportunity to learn how to code. " OK, and that's what's being done. And that's what the article is bemoaning. What would be better: teach them how to change tires or groom pets? Or pick fruit? Amazingly condescending article.

MrFumoFumo , 21 Sep 2017 14:54
However, training lots of people to be coders won't automatically result in lots of people who can actually write good code. Nor will it give managers/recruiters the necessary skills to recognize which programmers are any good.

congenialAnimal -> alfredooo , 24 Sep 2017 09:57

A valid rebuttal but could I offer another observation? Exposing large portions of the school population to coding is not going to magically turn them into coders. It may increase their basic understanding but that is a long way from being a software engineer.

Just as children join art, drama or biology classes so they do not automatically become artists, actors or doctors. I would agree entirely that just being able to code is not going to guarantee the sort of income that might be aspired to. As with all things, it takes commitment, perseverance and dogged determination. I suppose ultimately it becomes the Gattaca argument.

alfredooo -> racole , 24 Sep 2017 06:51
Fair enough, but, his central argument, that an overabundance of coders will drive wages in that sector down, is generally true, so in the future if you want your kids to go into a profession that will earn them 80k+ then being a "coder" is not the route to take. When coding is - like reading, writing, and arithmetic - just a basic skill, there's no guarantee having it will automatically translate into getting a "good" job.
Wiretrip , 21 Sep 2017 14:14
This article lumps everyone in computing into the 'coder' bin, without actually defining what 'coding' is. Yes there is a glut of people who can knock together a bit of HTML and JavaScript, but that is not really programming as such.

There are huge shortages of skilled developers however; people who can apply computer science and engineering in terms of analysis and design of software. These are the real skills for which relatively few people have a true aptitude.

The lack of really good skills is starting to show in some terrible software implementation decisions, such as Slack for example; written as a web app running in Electron (so that JavaScript code monkeys could knock it out quickly), but resulting in awful performance. We will see more of this in the coming years...

Taylor Dotson -> youngsteveo , 21 Sep 2017 13:53
My brother is a programmer, and in his experience these coding exams don't test anything but whether or not you took (and remember) a very narrow range of problems introduce in the first years of a computer science degree. The entire hiring process seems premised on a range of ill-founded ideas about what skills are necessary for the job and how to assess them in people. They haven't yet grasped that those kinds of exams mostly test test-taking ability, rather than intelligence, creativity, diligence, communication ability, or anything else that a job requires beside coughing up the right answer in a stressful, timed environment without outside resources.

The_Raven , 23 Sep 2017 15:45

I'm an embedded software/firmware engineer. Every similar engineer I've ever met has had the same background - starting in electronics and drifting into embedded software writing in C and assembler. It's virtually impossible to do such software without an understanding of electronics. When it goes wrong you may need to get the test equipment out to scope the hardware to see if it's a hardware or software problem. Coming from a pure computing background just isn't going to get you a job in this type of work.
waltdangerfield , 23 Sep 2017 14:42
All schools teach drama and most kids don't end up becoming actors. You need to give all kids access to coding in order for some can go on to make a career out of it.
TwoSugarsPlease , 23 Sep 2017 06:13
Coding salaries will inevitably fall over time, but such skills give workers the option, once they discover that their income is no longer sustainable in the UK, of moving somewhere more affordable and working remotely.
DiGiT81 -> nixnixnix , 23 Sep 2017 03:29
Completely agree. Coding is a necessary life skill for 21st century but there are levels to every skill. From basic needs for an office job to advanced and specialised.
nixnixnix , 23 Sep 2017 00:46
Lots of people can code but very few of us ever get to the point of creating something new that has a loyal and enthusiastic user-base. Everyone should be able to code because it is or will be the basis of being able to create almost anything in the future. If you want to make a game in Unity, knowing how to code is really useful. If you want to work with large data-sets, you can't rely on Excel and so you need to be able to code (in R?). The use of code is becoming so pervasive that it is going to be like reading and writing.

All the science and engineering graduates I know can code but none of them have ever sold a stand-alone software. The argument made above is like saying that teaching everyone to write will drive down the wages of writers. Writing is useful for anyone and everyone but only a tiny fraction of people who can write, actually write novels or even newspaper columns.

DolyGarcia -> Carl Christensen , 22 Sep 2017 19:24
Immigrants have always a big advantage over locals, for any company, including tech companies: the government makes sure that they will stay in their place and never complain about low salaries or bad working conditions because, you know what? If the company sacks you, an immigrant may be forced to leave the country where they live because their visa expires, which is never going to happen with a local. Companies always have more leverage over immigrants. Given a choice between more and less exploitable workers, companies will choose the most exploitable ones.

Which is something that Marx figured more than a century ago, and why he insisted that socialism had to be international, which led to the founding of the First International Socialist. If worker's fights didn't go across country boundaries, companies would just play people from one country against the other. Unfortunately, at some point in time socialists forgot this very important fact.

xxxFred -> Tomix Da Vomix , 22 Sep 2017 18:52
SO what's wrong with having lots of people able to code? The only argument you seem to have is that it'll lower wages. So do you think that we should stop teaching writing skills so that journalists can be paid more? And no one os going to "force" kids into high-level abstract coding practices in kindergarten, fgs. But there is ample empirical proof that young children can learn basic principles. In fact the younger that children are exposed to anything, the better they can enhance their skills adn knowlege of it later in life, and computing concepts are no different.
Tomix Da Vomix -> xxxFred , 22 Sep 2017 18:40
You're completely missing the point. Kids are forced into the programming field (even STEM as a more general term), before they evolve their abstract reasoning. For that matter, you're not producing highly skilled people, but functional imbeciles and a decent labor that will eventually lower the wages.
Conspiracy theory? So Google, FB and others paying hundreds of millions of dollars for forming a cartel to lower the wages is not true? It sounds me that you're sounding more like a 1969 denier that Guardian is. Tech companies are not financing those incentives because they have a good soul. Their primary drive has always been money, otherwise they wouldn't sell your personal data to earn money.

But hey, you can always sleep peacefully when your kid becomes a coder. When he is 50, everyone will want to have a Cobol, Ada programmer with 25 years of experience when you can get 16 year old kid from a high school for 1/10 of a price. Go back to sleep...

Carl Christensen -> xxxFred , 22 Sep 2017 16:49
it's ridiculous because even out of a pool of computer science B.Sc. or M.Sc. grads - companies are only interested in the top 10%. Even the most mundane company with crappy IT jobs swears that they only hire "the best and the brightest."
Carl Christensen , 22 Sep 2017 16:47
It's basically a con-job by the big Silicon Valley companies offshoring as many US jobs as they can, or "inshoring" via exploitation of the H1B visa - so they can say "see, we don't have 'qualified' people in the US - maybe when these kids learn to program in a generation." As if American students haven't been coding for decades -- and saw their salaries plummet as the H1B visa and Indian offshore firms exploded......
Declawed -> KDHughes , 22 Sep 2017 16:40
Dude, stow the attitude. I've tested code from various entities, and seen every kind of crap peddled as gold.

But I've also seen a little 5-foot giggly lady with two kids, grumble a bit and save a $100,000 product by rewriting another coder's man-month of work in a few days, without any flaws or cracks. Almost nobody will ever know she did that. She's so far beyond my level it hurts.

And yes, the author knows nothing. He's genuinely crying wolf while knee-deep in amused wolves. The last time I was in San Jose, years ago , the room was already full of people with Indian surnames. If the problem was REALLY serious, a programmer from POLAND was called in.

If you think fighting for a violinist spot is hard, try fighting for it with every spare violinist in the world . I am training my Indian replacement to do my job right now . At least the public can appreciate a good violin. Can you appreciate Duff's device ?

So by all means, don't teach local kids how to think in a straight line, just in case they make a dent in the price of wages IN INDIA.... *sheesh*

Declawed -> IanMcLzzz , 22 Sep 2017 15:35
That's the best possible summarisation of this extremely dumb article. Bravo.

For those who don't know how to think of coding, like the article author, here's a few analogies :

A computer is a box that replays frozen thoughts, quickly. That is all.

Coding is just the art of explaining. Anyone who can explain something patiently and clearly, can code. Anyone who can't, can't.

Making hardware is very much like growing produce while blind. Making software is very much like cooking that produce while blind.

Imagine looking after a room full of young eager obedient children who only do exactly, *exactly*, what you told them to do, but move around at the speed of light. Imagine having to try to keep them from smashing into each other or decapitating themselves on the corners of tables, tripping over toys and crashing into walls, etc, while you get them all to play games together.

The difference between a good coder and a bad coder is almost life and death. Imagine a broth prepared with ingredients from a dozen co-ordinating geniuses and one idiot, that you'll mass produce. The soup is always far worse for the idiot's additions. The more cooks you involve, the more chance your mass produced broth will taste bad.

People who hire coders, typically can't tell a good coder from a bad coder.

Zach Dyer -> Mystik Al , 22 Sep 2017 15:18
Tech jobs will probably always be available long after your gone or until another mass extinction.
edmundberk -> AmyInNH , 22 Sep 2017 14:59
No you do it in your own time. If you're not prepared to put in long days IT is not for you in any case. It was ever thus, but more so now due to offshoring - rather than the rather obscure forces you seem to believe are important.
WithoutPurpose -> freeandfair , 22 Sep 2017 13:21
Bit more rhan that.
peter nelson -> offworldguy , 22 Sep 2017 12:44
Sorry, offworldguy, but you're losing this one really badly. I'm a professional software engineer in my 60's and I know lots of non-professionals in my age range who write little programs, scripts and apps for fun. I know this because they often contact me for help or advice.

So you've now been told by several people in this thread that ordinary people do code for fun or recreation. The fact that you don't know any probably says more about your network of friends and acquaintances than about the general population.

xxxFred , 22 Sep 2017 12:18
This is one of the daftest articles I've come across in a long while.
If it's possible that so many kids can be taught to code well enough so that wages come down, then that proves that the only reason we've been paying so much for development costs is the scarcity of people able to do it, not that it's intrinsically so hard that only a select few could anyway. In which case, there is no ethical argument for keeping the pools of skilled workers to some select group. Anyone able to do it should have an equal opportunity to do it.
What is the argument for not teaching coding (other than to artificially keep wages high)? Why not stop teaching the three R's, in order to boost white-collar wages in general?
Computing is an ever-increasingly intrinsic part of life, and people need to understand it at all levels. It is not just unfair, but tantamount to neglect, to fail to teach children all the skills they may require to cope as adults.
Having said that, I suspect that in another generation or two a good many lower-level coding jobs will be redundant anyway, with such code being automatically generated, and "coders" at this level will be little more than technicians setting various parameters. Even so, understanding the basics behind computing is a part of understanding the world they live in, and every child needs that.
Suggesting that teaching coding is some kind of conspiracy to force wages down is well, it makes the moon-landing conspiracy looks sensible by comparison.
timrichardson -> offworldguy , 22 Sep 2017 12:16
I think it is important to demystify advanced technology, I think that has importance in its own right.Plus, schools should expose kids to things which may spark their interest. Not everyone who does a science project goes on years later to get a PhD, but you'd think that it makes it more likely. Same as giving a kid some music lessons. There is a big difference between serious coding and the basic steps needed to automate a customer service team or a marketing program, but the people who have some mastery over automation will have an advantage in many jobs. Advanced machines are clearly going to be a huge part of our future. What should we do about it, if not teach kids how to understand these tools?
rogerfederere -> William Payne , 22 Sep 2017 12:13
tl;dr.
Mystik Al , 22 Sep 2017 12:08
As automation is about to put 40% of the workforce permanently out of work getting into to tech seems like a good idea!
timrichardson , 22 Sep 2017 12:04
This is like arguing that teaching kids to write is nothing more than a plot to flood the market for journalists. Teaching first aid and CPR does not make everyone a doctor.
Coding is an essential skill for many jobs already: 50 years ago, who would have thought you needed coders to make movies? Being a software engineer, a serious coder, is hard. IN fact, it takes more than technical coding to be a software engineer: you can learn to code in a week. Software Engineering is a four year degree, and even then you've just started a career. But depriving kids of some basic insights may mean they won't have the basic skills needed in the future, even for controlling their car and house. By all means, send you kids to a school that doesn't teach coding. I won't.
James Jones -> vimyvixen , 22 Sep 2017 11:41
Did you learn SNOBOL, or is Snowball a language I'm not familiar with? (Entirely possible, as an American I never would have known Extended Mercury Autocode existed we're it not for a random book acquisition at my home town library when I was a kid.)
William Payne , 22 Sep 2017 11:17
The tide that is transforming technology jobs from "white collar professional" into "blue collar industrial" is part of a larger global economic cycle.

Successful "growth" assets inevitably transmogrify into "value" and "income" assets as they progress through the economic cycle. The nature of their work transforms also. No longer focused on innovation; on disrupting old markets or forging new ones; their fundamental nature changes as they mature into optimising, cost reducing, process oriented and most importantly of all -- dividend paying -- organisations.

First, the market invests. And then, .... it squeezes.

Immature companies must invest in their team; must inspire them to be innovative so that they can take the creative risks required to create new things. This translates into high skills, high wages and "white collar" social status.

Mature, optimising companies on the other hand must necessarily avoid risks and seek variance-minimising predictability. They seek to control their human resources; to eliminate creativity; to to make the work procedural, impersonal and soulless. This translates into low skills, low wages and "blue collar" social status.

This is a fundamental part of the economic cycle; but it has been playing out on the global stage which has had the effect of hiding some of its' effects.

Over the past decades, technology knowledge and skills have flooded away from "high cost" countries and towards "best cost" countries at a historically significant rate. Possibly at the maximum rate that global infrastructure and regional skills pools can support. Much of this necessarily inhumane and brutal cost cutting and deskilling has therefore been hidden by the tide of outsourcing and offshoring. It is hard to see the nature of the jobs change when the jobs themselves are changing hands at the same time.

The ever tighter ratchet of dehumanising industrialisation; productivity and efficiency continues apace, however, and as our global system matures and evens out, we see the seeds of what we have sown sail home from over the sea.

Technology jobs in developed nations have been skewed towards "growth" activities since for the past several decades most "value" and "income" activities have been carried out in developing nations. Now, we may be seeing the early preparations for the diffusion of that skewed, uneven and unsustainable imbalance.

The good news is that "Growth" activities are not going to disappear from the world. They just may not be so geographically concentrated as they are today. Also, there is a significant and attention-worthy argument that the re-balancing of skills will result in a more flexible and performant global economy as organisations will better be able to shift a wider variety of work around the world to regions where local conditions (regulation, subsidy, union activity etc...) are supportive.

For the individuals concerned it isn't going to be pretty. And of course it is just another example of the race to the bottom that pits states and public sector purse-holders against one another to win the grace and favour of globally mobile employers.

As a power play move it has a sort of inhumanly psychotic inevitability to it which is quite awesome to observe.

I also find it ironic that the only way to tame the leviathan that is the global free-market industrial system might actually be effective global governance and international cooperation within a rules-based system.

Both "globalist" but not even slightly both the same thing.

Vereto -> Wiretrip , 22 Sep 2017 11:17
not just coders, it put even IT Ops guys into this bin. Basically good old - so you are working with computers sentence I used to hear a lot 10-15 years ago.
Sangmin , 22 Sep 2017 11:15
You can teach everyone how to code but it doesn't necessarily mean everyone will be able to work as one. We all learn math but that doesn't mean we're all mathematicians. We all know how to write but we're not all professional writers.

I have a graduate degree in CS and been to a coding bootcamp. Not everyone's brain is wired to become a successful coder. There is a particular way how coders think. Quality of a product will stand out based on these differences.

Vereto -> Jared Hall , 22 Sep 2017 11:12
Very hyperbolic is to assume that the profit in those companies is done by decreasing wages. In my company the profit is driven by ability to deliver products to the market. And that is limited by number of top people (not just any coder) you can have.
KDHughes -> kcrane , 22 Sep 2017 11:06
You realise that the arts are massively oversupplied and that most artists earn very little, if anything? Which is sort of like the situation the author is warning about. But hey, he knows nothing. Congratulations, though, on writing one of the most pretentious posts I've ever read on CIF.
offworldguy -> Melissa Boone , 22 Sep 2017 10:21
So you know kids, college age people and software developers who enjoy doing it in their leisure time? Do you know any middle aged mothers, fathers, grandparents who enjoy it and are not software developers?

Sorry, I don't see coding as a leisure pursuit that is going to take off beyond a very narrow demographic and if it becomes apparent (as I believe it will) that there is not going to be a huge increase in coding job opportunities then it will likely wither in schools too, perhaps replaced by music lessons.

Bread Eater , 22 Sep 2017 10:02
From their perspective yes. But there are a lot of opportunities in tech so it does benefit students looking for jobs.
Melissa Boone -> jamesbro , 22 Sep 2017 10:00
No, because software developer probably fail more often than they succeed. Building anything worthwhile is an iterative process. And it's not just the compiler but the other devs, oyur designer, your PM, all looking at your work.
Melissa Boone -> peterainbow , 22 Sep 2017 09:57
It's not shallow or lazy. I also work at a tech company and it's pretty common to do that across job fields. Even in HR marketing jobs, we hire students who can't point to an internship or other kind of experience in college, not simply grades.
Vereto -> savingUK , 22 Sep 2017 09:50
It will take ages, the issue of Indian programmers is in the education system and in "Yes boss" culture.

But on the other hand most of Americans are just as bad as Indians

Melissa Boone -> offworldguy , 22 Sep 2017 09:50
A lot of people do find it fun. I know many kids - high school and young college age - who code in the leisure time because they find it pleasurable to make small apps and video games. I myself enjoy it too. Your argument is like saying since you don't like to read books in your leisure time, nobody else must.

The point is your analogy isn't a good one - people who learn to code can not only enjoy it in their spare time just like music, but they can also use it to accomplish all kinds of basic things. I have a friend who's a software developer who has used code to program his Roomba to vacuum in a specific pattern and to play Candy Land with his daughter when they lost the spinner.

Owlyrics -> CapTec , 22 Sep 2017 09:44
Creativity could be added to your list. Anyone can push a button but only a few can invent a new one.
One company in the US (after it was taken over by a new owner) decided it was more profitable to import button pushers from off-shore, they lost 7 million customers (gamers) and had to employ more of the original American developers to maintain their high standard and profits.
Owlyrics -> Maclon , 22 Sep 2017 09:40
Masters is the new Bachelors.
Maclon , 22 Sep 2017 09:22
So similar to 500k a year people going to university ( UK) now when it used to be 60k people a year( 1980). There was never enough graduate jobs in 1980 so can't see where the sudden increase in need for graduates has come from.
PaulDavisTheFirst -> Ethan Hawkins , 22 Sep 2017 09:17

They aren't really crucial pieces of technology except for their popularity

It's early in the day for me, but this is the most ridiculous thing I've read so far, and I suspect it will be high up on the list by the end of the day.

There's no technology that is "crucial" unless it's involved in food, shelter or warmth. The rest has its "crucialness" decided by how widespread its use is, and in the case of those 3 languages, the answer is "very".

You (or I) might not like that very much, but that's how it is.

Julian Williams -> peter nelson , 22 Sep 2017 09:12
My benchmark would be if the average new graduate in the discipline earns more or less than one of the "professions", Law, medicine, Economics etc. The short answer is that they don't. Indeed, in my experience of professions, many good senior SW developers, say in finance, are paid markedly less than the marketing manager, CTO etc. who are often non-technical.

My benchmark is not "has a car, house etc." but what does 10, 15 20 years of experience in the area generate as a relative income to another profession, like being a GP or a corporate solicitor or a civil servant (which is usually the benchmark academics use for pay scaling). It is not to denigrate, just to say that markets don't always clear to a point where the most skilled are the highest paid.

I was also suggesting that even if you are not intending to work in the SW area, being able to translate your imagination into a program that reflects your ideas is a nice life skill.

AmyInNH -> freeandfair , 22 Sep 2017 09:05
Your assumption has no basis in reality. In my experience, as soon as Clinton ramped up H1Bs, my employer would invite 6 same college/degree/curriculum in for interviews, 5 citizen, 1 foreign student and default offer to foreign student without asking interviewers a single question about the interview. Eventually, the skipped the farce of interviewing citizens all together. That was in 1997, and it's only gotten worse. Wall St's been pretty blunt lately. Openly admits replacing US workers for import labor, as it's the "easiest" way to "grow" the economy, even though they know they are ousting citizens from their jobs to do so.
AmyInNH -> peter nelson , 22 Sep 2017 08:59
"People who get Masters and PhD's in computer science" Feed western universities money, for degree programs that would otherwise not exist, due to lack of market demand. "someone has a Bachelor's in CS" As citizens, having the same college/same curriculum/same grades, as foreign grad. But as citizens, they have job market mobility, and therefore are shunned. "you can make something real and significant on your own" If someone else is paying your rent, food and student loans while you do so.
Ethan Hawkins -> farabundovive , 22 Sep 2017 07:40
While true, it's not the coders' fault. The managers and execs above them have intentionally created an environment where these things are secondary. What's primary is getting the stupid piece of garbage out the door for Q profit outlook. Ship it amd patch it.
offworldguy -> millartant , 22 Sep 2017 07:38
Do most people find it fun? I can code. I don't find it 'fun'. Thirty years ago as a young graduate I might have found it slightly fun but the 'fun' wears off pretty quick.
Ethan Hawkins -> anticapitalist , 22 Sep 2017 07:35
In my estimation PHP is an utter abomination. Python is just a little better but still very bad. Ruby is a little better but still not at all good.

Languages like PHP, Python and JS are popular for banging out prototypes and disposable junk, but you greatly overestimate their importance. They aren't really crucial pieces of technology except for their popularity and while they won't disappear they won't age well at all. Basically they are big long-lived fads. Java is now over 20 years old and while Java 8 is not crucial, the JVM itself actually is crucial. It might last another 20 years or more. Look for more projects like Ceylon, Scala and Kotlin. We haven't found the next step forward yet, but it's getting more interesting, especially around type systems.

A strong developer will be able to code well in a half dozen languages and have fairly decent knowledge of a dozen others. For me it's been many years of: Z80, x86, C, C++, Java. Also know some Perl, LISP, ANTLR, Scala, JS, SQL, Pascal, others...

millartant -> Islingtonista , 22 Sep 2017 07:26
You need a decent IDE
millartant -> offworldguy , 22 Sep 2017 07:24

One is hardly likely to 'do a bit of coding' in ones leisure time

Why not? The right problem is a fun and rewarding puzzle to solve. I spend a lot of my leisure time "doing a bit of coding"

Ethan Hawkins -> Wiretrip , 22 Sep 2017 07:12
The worst of all are the academics (on average).
Ethan Hawkins -> KatieL , 22 Sep 2017 07:09
This makes people like me with 35 years of experience shipping products on deadlines up and down every stack (from device drivers and operating systems to programming languages, platforms and frameworks to web, distributed computing, clusters, big data and ML) so much more valuable. Been there, done that.
Ethan Hawkins -> Taylor Dotson , 22 Sep 2017 07:01
It's just not true. In SV there's this giant vacuum created by Apple, Google, FB, etc. Other good companies struggle to fill positions. I know from being on the hiring side at times.
TheBananaBender -> peter nelson , 22 Sep 2017 07:00
You don't work for a major outsourcer then like Serco, Atos, Agilisys
offworldguy -> LabMonkey , 22 Sep 2017 06:59
Plenty of people? I don't know of a single person outside of my work which is teaming with programmers. Not a single friend, not my neighbours, not my wife or her extended family, not my parents. Plenty of people might do it but most people don't.
Ethan Hawkins -> finalcentury , 22 Sep 2017 06:56
Your ignorance of coding is showing. Coding IS creative.
Ricardo111 -> peter nelson , 22 Sep 2017 06:56
Agreed: by gifted I did not meant innate. It's more of a mix of having the interest, the persistence, the time, the opportunity and actually enjoying that kind of challenge.

While some of those things are to a large extent innate personality traits, others are not and you don't need max of all of them, you just need enough to drive you to explore that domain.

That said, somebody that goes into coding purelly for the money and does it for the money alone is extremely unlikelly to become an exceptional coder.

Ricardo111 -> eirsatz , 22 Sep 2017 06:50
I'm as senior as they get and have interviewed quite a lot of programmers for several positions, including for Technical Lead (in fact, to replace me) and so far my experience leads me to believe that people who don't have a knack for coding are much less likely to expose themselves to many different languages and techniques, and also are less experimentalist, thus being far less likely to have those moments of transcending merely being aware of the visible and obvious to discover the concerns and concepts behind what one does. Without those moments that open the door to the next Universe of concerns and implications, one cannot do state transitions such as Coder to Technical Designer or Technical Designer to Technical Architect.

Sure, you can get the title and do the things from the books, but you will not get WHY are those things supposed to work (and when they will not work) and thus cannot adjust to new conditions effectively and will be like a sailor that can't sail away from sight of the coast since he can't navigate.

All this gets reflected in many things that enhance productivity, from the early ability to quickly piece together solutions for a new problem out of past solutions for different problems to, later, conceiving software architecture designs fittted to the typical usage pattern in the industry for which the software is going to be made.

LabMonkey , 22 Sep 2017 06:50
From the way our IT department is going, needing millions of coders is not the future. It'll be a minority of developers at the top, and an army of low wage monkeys at the bottom who can troubleshoot from a script - until AI comes along that can code faster and more accurately.
LabMonkey -> offworldguy , 22 Sep 2017 06:46

One is hardly likely to 'do a bit of coding' in ones leisure time

Really? I've programmed a few simple videogames in my spare time. Plenty of people do.

CapTec , 22 Sep 2017 06:29
Interesting piece that's fundamentally flawed. I'm a software engineer myself. There is a reason a University education of a minimum of three years is the base line for a junior developer or 'coder'.

Software engineering isn't just writing code. I would say 80% of my time is spent designing and structuring software before I even touch the code.

Explaining software engineering as a discipline at a high level to people who don't understand it is simple.

Most of us who learn to drive learn a few basics about the mechanics of a car. We know that brake pads need to be replaced, we know that fuel is pumped into an engine when we press the gas pedal. Most of us know how to change a bulb if it blows.

The vast majority of us wouldn't be able to replace a head gasket or clutch though. Just knowing the basics isn't enough to make you a mechanic.

Studying in school isn't enough to produce software engineers. Software engineering isn't just writing code, it's cross discipline. We also need to understand the science behind the computer, we need too understand logic, data structures, timings, how to manage memory, security, how databases work etc.

A few years of learning at school isn't nearly enough, a degree isn't enough on its own due to the dynamic and ever evolving nature of software engineering. Schools teach technology that is out of date and typically don't explain the science very well.

This is why most companies don't want new developers, they want people with experience and multiple skills.

Programming is becoming cool and people think that because of that it's easy to become a skilled developer. It isn't. It takes time and effort and most kids give up.

French was on the national curriculum when I was at school. Most people including me can't hold a conversation in French though.

Ultimately there is a SKILL shortage. And that's because skill takes a long time, successes and failures to acquire. Most people just give up.

This article is akin to saying 'schools are teaching basic health to reduce the wages of Doctors'. It didn't happen.

offworldguy -> thecurio , 22 Sep 2017 06:19
There is a difference. When you teach people music you teach a skill that can be used for a lifetimes enjoyment. One might sit at a piano in later years and play. One is hardly likely to 'do a bit of coding' in ones leisure time.

The other thing is how good are people going to get at coding and how long will they retain the skill if not used? I tend to think maths is similar to coding and most adults have pretty terrible maths skills not venturing far beyond arithmetic. Not many remember how to solve a quadratic equation or even how to rearrange some algebra.

One more thing is we know that if we teach people music they will find a use for it, if only in their leisure time. We don't know that coding will be in any way useful because we don't know if there will be coding jobs in the future. AI might take over coding but we know that AI won't take over playing piano for pleasure.

If we want to teach logical thinking then I think maths has always done this and we should make sure people are better at maths.

Alex Mackaness , 22 Sep 2017 06:08
Am I missing something here? Being able to code is a skill that is a useful addition to the skill armoury of a youngster entering the work place. Much like reading, writing, maths... Not only is it directly applicable and pervasive in our modern world, it is built upon logic.

The important point is that American schools are not ONLY teaching youngsters to code, and producing one dimensional robots... instead coding makes up one part of their overall skill set. Those who wish to develop their coding skills further certainly can choose to do so. Those who specialise elsewhere are more than likely to have found the skills they learnt whilst coding useful anyway.

I struggle to see how there is a hidden capitalist agenda here. I would argue learning the basics of coding is simply becoming seen as an integral part of the school curriculum.

thecurio , 22 Sep 2017 05:56
The word "coding" is shorthand for "computer programming" or "software development" and it masks the depth and range of skills that might be required, depending on the application.

This subtlety is lost, I think, on politicians and perhaps the general public. Asserting that teaching lots of people to code is a sneaky way to commodotise an industry might have some truth to it, but remember that commodotisation (or "sharing and re-use" as developers might call it) is nothing new. The creation of freely available and re-usable software components and APIs has driven innovation, and has put much power in the hands of developers who would not otherwise have the skill or time to tackle such projects.

There's nothing to fear from teaching more people to "code", just as there's nothing to fear from teaching more people to "play music". These skills simply represent points on a continuum.

There's room for everyone, from the kid on a kazoo all the way to Coltrane at the Village Vanguard.

sbw7 -> ragingbull , 22 Sep 2017 05:44
I taught CS. Out of around 100 graduates I'd say maybe 5 were reasonable software engineers. The rest would be fine in tech support or other associated trades, but not writing software. Its not just a set of trainable skills, its a set of attitudes and ways of perceiving and understanding that just aren't that common.
offworldguy , 22 Sep 2017 05:02
I can't understand the rush to teach coding in schools. First of all I don't think we are going to be a country of millions of coders and secondly if most people have the skills then coding is hardly going to be a well paid job. Thirdly you can learn coding from scratch after school like people of my generation did. You could argue that it is part of a well rounded education but then it is as important for your career as learning Shakespeare, knowing what an oxbow lake is or being able to do calculus: most jobs just won't need you to know.
savingUK -> yannick95 , 22 Sep 2017 04:35
While you roll on the floor laughing, these countries will slowly but surely get their act together. That is how they work. There are top quality coders over there and they will soon promoted into a position to organise the others.

You are probably too young to remember when people laughed at electronic products when they were made in Japan then Taiwan. History will repeat it's self.

zii000 -> JohnFreidburg , 22 Sep 2017 04:04
Yes it's ironic and no different here in the UK. Traditionally Labour was the party focused on dividing the economic pie more fairly, Tories on growing it for the benefit of all. It's now completely upside down with Tories paying lip service to the idea of pay rises but in reality supporting this deflationary race to the bottom, hammering down salaries and so shrinking discretionary spending power which forces price reductions to match and so more pressure on employers to cut costs ... ad infinitum.
Labour now favour policies which would cause an expansion across the entire economy through pay rises and dramatically increased investment with perhaps more tolerance of inflation to achieve it.
ID0193985 -> jamesbro , 22 Sep 2017 03:46
Not surprising if they're working for a company that is cold-calling people - which should be banned in my opinion. Call centres providing customer support are probably less abuse-heavy since the customer is trying to get something done.
vimyvixen , 22 Sep 2017 02:04
I taught myself to code in 1974. Fortran, COBOL were first. Over the years as a aerospace engineer I coded in numerous languages ranging from PLM, Snowball, Basic, and more assembly languages than I can recall, not to mention deep down in machine code on more architectures than most know even existed. Bottom line is that coding is easy. It doesn't take a genius to code, just another way of thinking. Consider all the bugs in the software available now. These "coders", not sufficiently trained need adult supervision by engineers who know what they are doing for computer systems that are important such as the electrical grid, nuclear weapons, and safety critical systems. If you want to program toy apps then code away, if you want to do something important learn engineering AND coding.
Dwight Spencer , 22 Sep 2017 01:44
Laughable. It takes only an above-average IQ to code. Today's coders are akin to the auto mechanics of the 1950s where practically every high school had auto shop instruction . . . nothing but a source of cheap labor for doing routine implementations of software systems using powerful code libraries built by REAL software engineers.
sieteocho -> Islingtonista , 22 Sep 2017 01:19
That's a bit like saying that calculus is more valuable than arithmetic, so why teach children arithmetic at all?

Because without the arithmetic, you're not going to get up to the calculus.

JohnFreidburg -> Tommyward , 22 Sep 2017 01:15
I disagree. Technology firms are just like other firms. Why then the collusion not to pay more to workers coming from other companies? To believe that they are anything else is naive. The author is correct. We need policies that actually grow the economy and not leaders who cave to what the CEOs want like Bill Clinton did. He brought NAFTA at the behest of CEOs and all it ended up doing was ripping apart the rust belt and ushering in Trump.
Tommyward , 22 Sep 2017 00:53
So the media always needs some bad guys to write about, and this month they seem to have it in for the tech industry. The article is BS. I interview a lot of people to join a large tech company, and I can guarantee you that we aren't trying to find cheaper labor, we're looking for the best talent.

I know that lots of different jobs have been outsourced to low cost areas, but these days the top companies are instead looking for the top talent globally.

I see this article as a hit piece against Silicon Valley, and it doesn't fly in the face of the evidence.

finalcentury , 22 Sep 2017 00:46
This has got to be the most cynical and idiotic social interest piece I have ever read in the Guardian. Once upon a time it was very helpful to learn carpentry and machining, but now, even if you are learning those, you will get a big and indispensable headstart if you have some logic and programming skills. The fact is, almost no matter what you do, you can apply logic and programming skills to give you an edge. Even journalists.
hoplites99 , 22 Sep 2017 00:02
Yup, rings true. I've been in hi tech for over 40 years and seen the changes. I was in Silicon Valley for 10 years on a startup. India is taking over, my current US company now has a majority Indian executive and is moving work to India. US politicians push coding to drive down wages to Indian levels.

On the bright side I am old enough and established enough to quit tomorrow, its someone else's problem, but I still despise those who have sold us out, like the Clintons, the Bushes, the Googoids, the Zuckerboids.

liberalquilt -> yannick95 , 21 Sep 2017 23:45
Sure markets existed before governments, but capitalism didn't, can't in fact. It needs the organs of state, the banking system, an education system, and an infrastructure.
thegarlicfarmer -> canprof , 21 Sep 2017 23:36
Then teach them other things but not coding! Here in Australia every child of school age has to learn coding. Now tell me that everyone of them will need it? Look beyond computers as coding will soon be automated just like every other job.
Islingtonista , 21 Sep 2017 22:25
If you have never coded then you will not appreciate how labour intensive it is. Coders effectively use line editors to type in, line by line, the instructions. And syntax is critical; add a comma when you meant a semicolon and the code doesn't work properly. Yeah, we use frameworks and libraries of already written subroutines, but, in the end, it is all about manually typing in the code.

Which is an expensive way of doing things (hence the attractions of 'off-shoring' the coding task to low cost economies in Asia).

And this is why teaching kids to code is a waste of time.

Already, AI based systems are addressing the task of interpreting high level design models and simply generating the required application.

One of the first uses templates and a smart chatbot to enable non-tech business people to build their websites. By describe in non-coding terms what they want, the chatbot is able to assemble the necessary components and make the requisite template amendments to build a working website.

Much cheaper than hiring expensive coders to type it all in manually.

It's early days yet, but coding may well be one of the big losers to AI automation along with all those back office clerical jobs.

Teaching kids how to think about design rather than how to code would be much more valuable.

jamesbro -> peter nelson , 21 Sep 2017 21:31
Thick-skinned? Just because you might get a few error messages from the compiler? Call centre workers have to put up with people telling them to fuck off eight hours a day.
Joshua Ian Lee , 21 Sep 2017 21:03
Spot on. Society will never need more than 1% of its people to code. We will need far more garbage men. There are only so many (relatively) good jobs to go around and its about competing to get them.
canprof , 21 Sep 2017 20:53
I'm a professor (not of computer science) and yet, I try to give my students a basic understanding of algorithms and logic, to spark an interest and encourage them towards programming. I have no skin in the game, except that I've seen unemployment first-hand, and want them to avoid it. The best chance most of them have is to learn to code.
Evelita , 21 Sep 2017 14:35
Educating youth does not drive wages down. It drives our economy up. China, India, and other countries are training youth in programming skills. Educating our youth means that they will be able to compete globally. This is the standard GOP stand that we don't need to educate our youth, but instead fantasize about high-paying manufacturing jobs miraculously coming back.

Many jobs, including new manufacturing jobs have an element of coding because they are automated. Other industries require coding skills to maintain web sites and keep computer systems running. Learning coding skills opens these doors.

Coding teaches logic, an essential thought process. Learning to code, like learning anything, increases the brains ability to adapt to new environments which is essential to our survival as a species. We must invest in educating our youth.

cwblackwell , 21 Sep 2017 13:38
"Contrary to public perception, the economy doesn't actually need that many more programmers." This really looks like a straw man introducing a red herring. A skill can be extremely valuable for those who do not pursue it as a full time profession.

The economy doesn't actually need that many more typists, pianists, mathematicians, athletes, dietitians. So, clearly, teaching typing, the piano, mathematics, physical education, and nutrition is a nefarious plot to drive down salaries in those professions. None of those skills could possibly enrich the lives or enhance the productivity of builders, lawyers, public officials, teachers, parents, or store managers.

DJJJJJC , 21 Sep 2017 14:23

A study by the Economic Policy Institute found that the supply of American college graduates with computer science degrees is 50% greater than the number hired into the tech industry each year.

You're assuming that all those people are qualified to work in software because they have a piece of paper that says so, but that's not a valid assumption. The quality of computer science degree courses is generally poor, and most people aren't willing or able to teach themselves. Universities are motivated to award degrees anyway because if they only awarded degrees to students who are actually qualified then that would reflect very poorly on their quality of teaching.

A skills shortage doesn't mean that everyone who claims to have a skill gets hired and there are still some jobs left over that aren't being done. It means that employers are forced to hire people who are incompetent in order to fill all their positions. Many people who get jobs in programming can't really do it and do nothing but create work for everyone else. That's why most of the software you use every day doesn't work properly. That's why competent programmers' salaries are still high in spite of the apparently large number of "qualified" people who aren't employed as programmers.

[Oct 01, 2017] The allure of adjuncts for neoliberal universities is that they are much cheaper than full-time staff, dont receive benefits or support for their personal research, and their hours can be carefully limited so they do not teach enough to qualify for health insurance

Oct 01, 2017 | www.theguardian.com

Her income from teaching comes to $40,000 a year. Thats significantly more than most adjuncts: a 2014 survey found that the median income for adjuncts is only $22,041 a year, whereas for full-time faculty it is $47,500. We take a kind of vow of poverty

Recent reports have revealed the extent of poverty among professors, but the issue is longstanding. Several years ago, it was thrust into the headlines in dramatic fashion when Mary-Faith Cerasoli, an adjunct professor of Romance languages in her 50s, revealed she was homeless and protested outside the New York state education department.

We take a kind of vow of poverty to continue practicing our profession, Debra Leigh Scott, who is working on a documentary about adjuncts , said in an email. We do it because we are dedicated to scholarship, to learning, to our students and to our disciplines.

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A quarter of part-time college academics are said to be enrolled in public assistance programs

Adjuncting has grown as funding for public universities has fallen by more than a quarter between 1990 and 2009. Private institutions also recognize the allure of part-time professors: generally they are cheaper than full-time staff, dont receive benefits or support for their personal research, and their hours can be carefully limited so they do not teach enough to qualify for health insurance.

This is why adjuncts have been called the fast-food workers of the academic world : among labor experts adjuncting is defined as precarious employment, a growing category that includes temping and sharing-economy gigs such as driving for Uber. An American Sociological Association taskforce focusing on precarious academic jobs, meanwhile, has suggested that faculty employment is no longer a stable middle-class career .

... ... ...

If she were to lose her home her only hope, she says, would be government-subsidized housing.

Most of my colleagues are unjustifiably ashamed, she said. They take this personally, as if theyve failed, and Im always telling them, you havent failed, the system has failed you."

A precarious situation

Even more desperate are those adjuncts in substandard living spaces who cannot afford to fix them. Mindy Percival, 61, a lecturer with a doctorate from Columbia, teaches history at a state college in Florida and, in her words, lives in a shack which is in the woods in middle of nowhere.

[Oct 01, 2017] Neoliberalism Is a Political Project

Notable quotes:
"... I've always treated neoliberalism as a political project carried out by the corporate capitalist class as they felt intensely threatened both politically and economically towards the end of the 1960s into the 1970s. They desperately wanted to launch a political project that would curb the power of labor. ..."
"... In many respects the project was a counterrevolutionary project. It would nip in the bud what, at that time, were revolutionary movements in much of the developing world ..."
"... So in that situation there was, in effect, a global threat to the power of the corporate capitalist class and therefore the question was, What to do?. The ruling class wasn't omniscient but they recognized that there were a number of fronts on which they had to struggle: the ideological front, the political front, and above all they had to struggle to curb the power of labor by whatever means possible. Out of this there emerged a political project which I would call neoliberalism. ..."
"... The ideological front amounted to following the advice of a guy named Lewis Powell . He wrote a memo saying that things had gone too far, that capital needed a collective project. The memo helped mobilize the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable. ..."
"... Ideas were also important to the ideological front. The judgment at that time was that universities were impossible to organize because the student movement was too strong and the faculty too liberal-minded, so they set up all of these think tanks like the Manhattan Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Ohlin Foundation. These think tanks brought in the ideas of Freidrich Hayek and Milton Friedman and supply-side economics. ..."
"... This process took a long time. I think now we've reached a point where you don't need something like the Heritage Foundation anymore. Universities have pretty much been taken over by the neoliberal projects surrounding them. ..."
"... With respect to labor, the challenge was to make domestic labor competitive with global labor. One way was to open up immigration. In the 1960s, for example, Germans were importing Turkish labor, the French Maghrebian labor, the British colonial labor. But this created a great deal of dissatisfaction and unrest. ..."
"... Instead they chose the other way -- to take capital to where the low-wage labor forces were. But for globalization to work you had to reduce tariffs and empower finance capital, because finance capital is the most mobile form of capital. So finance capital and things like floating currencies became critical to curbing labor. ..."
"... At the same time, ideological projects to privatize and deregulate created unemployment. So, unemployment at home and offshoring taking the jobs abroad, and a third component: technological change , deindustrialization through automation and robotization. That was the strategy to squash labor. ..."
"... It was an ideological assault but also an economic assault. To me this is what neoliberalism was about: it was that political project ..."
"... I think they just intuitively said, We gotta crush labor, how do we do it? And they found that there was a legitimizing theory out there, which would support that. ..."
Oct 01, 2017 | www.jacobinmag.com

I've always treated neoliberalism as a political project carried out by the corporate capitalist class as they felt intensely threatened both politically and economically towards the end of the 1960s into the 1970s. They desperately wanted to launch a political project that would curb the power of labor.

In many respects the project was a counterrevolutionary project. It would nip in the bud what, at that time, were revolutionary movements in much of the developing world -- Mozambique, Angola, China etc. -- but also a rising tide of communist influences in countries like Italy and France and, to a lesser degree, the threat of a revival of that in Spain.

Even in the United States, trade unions had produced a Democratic Congress that was quite radical in its intent. In the early 1970s they, along with other social movements, forced a slew of reforms and reformist initiatives which were anti-corporate: the Environmental Protection Agency , the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, consumer protections, and a whole set of things around empowering labor even more than it had been empowered before.

So in that situation there was, in effect, a global threat to the power of the corporate capitalist class and therefore the question was, What to do?. The ruling class wasn't omniscient but they recognized that there were a number of fronts on which they had to struggle: the ideological front, the political front, and above all they had to struggle to curb the power of labor by whatever means possible. Out of this there emerged a political project which I would call neoliberalism.

BSR Can you talk a bit about the ideological and political fronts and the attacks on labor? DH The ideological front amounted to following the advice of a guy named Lewis Powell . He wrote a memo saying that things had gone too far, that capital needed a collective project. The memo helped mobilize the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable.

Ideas were also important to the ideological front. The judgment at that time was that universities were impossible to organize because the student movement was too strong and the faculty too liberal-minded, so they set up all of these think tanks like the Manhattan Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Ohlin Foundation. These think tanks brought in the ideas of Freidrich Hayek and Milton Friedman and supply-side economics.

The idea was to have these think tanks do serious research and some of them did -- for instance, the National Bureau of Economic Research was a privately funded institution that did extremely good and thorough research. This research would then be published independently and it would influence the press and bit by bit it would surround and infiltrate the universities.

This process took a long time. I think now we've reached a point where you don't need something like the Heritage Foundation anymore. Universities have pretty much been taken over by the neoliberal projects surrounding them.

With respect to labor, the challenge was to make domestic labor competitive with global labor. One way was to open up immigration. In the 1960s, for example, Germans were importing Turkish labor, the French Maghrebian labor, the British colonial labor. But this created a great deal of dissatisfaction and unrest.

Instead they chose the other way -- to take capital to where the low-wage labor forces were. But for globalization to work you had to reduce tariffs and empower finance capital, because finance capital is the most mobile form of capital. So finance capital and things like floating currencies became critical to curbing labor.

At the same time, ideological projects to privatize and deregulate created unemployment. So, unemployment at home and offshoring taking the jobs abroad, and a third component: technological change , deindustrialization through automation and robotization. That was the strategy to squash labor.

It was an ideological assault but also an economic assault. To me this is what neoliberalism was about: it was that political project, and I think the bourgeoisie or the corporate capitalist class put it into motion bit by bit.

I don't think they started out by reading Hayek or anything, I think they just intuitively said, We gotta crush labor, how do we do it? And they found that there was a legitimizing theory out there, which would support that.

[Sep 17, 2017] The ethic of hard work , Obama, Trump and Hillary by Gaius Publius

Notable quotes:
"... If anything, the whole plagiarism scandal reflects somewhat poorly on Michelle Obama. One reason Obama's words were able to play so well at the RNC was that in the lifted passages, Obama was speaking using the conservative language of "bootstrapping." Obama's sentence, that "the only limit" to one's achievements is the height of one's goal and the "willingness to work" toward it, is the Republican story about America. It's the story of personal responsibility, in which the U.S. is overflowing with opportunity, and anyone who fails to succeed in such a land of abundance must simply not be trying hard enough. ..."
"... People on the left are supposed to know that it is a cruel lie to tell people that all they need to do is work hard. There are plenty of people with dreams who work very hard indeed but get nothing, because the American economy is fundamentally skewed and unfair. This rhetoric, about "hard work" being the only thing needed for the pursuit of prosperity, is an insult to every tomato-picker and hotel cleaner in the country. It's a fact that those who work the hardest in this country, those come home from work exhausted and who break their backs to feed their families, are almost always rewarded the least. Far from embarrassing Melania Trump and the GOP, then, it should be deeply humiliating for Democrats that their rhetoric is so bloodless and hollow that it can easily be spoken word-for-word in front of a gang of crazed racists. Instead of asking "why is Melania Trump using Michelle Obama's words?" we might think to ask "why is Michelle Obama using the right-wing rhetoric of self-reliance?" ..."
"... This is, of course, the myth of "meritocracy" that Thomas Frank has exposed with scalpel-like precision in his latest book Listen, Liberal . It's clear that the Democratic Party, at its core, believes with Michelle (and Barack) Obama the comfortable and self-serving lie that no individual has anyone to blame but herself if she fails to achieve high goals. She should just have reached higher; she should just have worked harder. ..."
"... It's not only a lie, it's a "cruel lie," as Nimni says. So why is she, Michelle Obama, telling it? Clearly it serves her interests, her husband's interests, her party's interests, to tell the "rich person's lie," that his or her achievement came from his or her own efforts. To call most people's success a product of luck (right color, right gender, right country, right neighborhood, right schools, right set of un-birth-damaged brain cells) or worse, inheritance (right parents), identifies the fundamental unfairness of our supposed "meritocratic" system of allocating wealth and undercuts the "goodness," if you look at it writ large, of predatory capitalism. By that measure, neither the very wealthy themselves (Charles Koch, Jamie Dimon) nor those who serve them (Barack Obama et al ) are "good" in any moral sense. ..."
"... U.S. cultural norms, as the piece describes accurately, glorify and misrepresent "work" especially of the "hard" kind. Hmm I wonder where that notion came from and why it gained such a foothold in the prevailing groupthink? ..."
"... The present regime of "teach to the test" here in America almost completely short circuits the teaching of critical thinking skills. With stressed parents increasingly abdicating their responsibilities towards the upbringing of their offspring in favour of the State, is it any wonder that the narrow interests of the State, such as the Iron Law of Institutions, are supplanting enlightenment in the minds of the young? We now must begin to consider the divergence of the interests of the Society from the interests of the State. With the balance of power swinging heavily in favour of the State these recent decades, I am not sanguine about the near term future of our culture. ..."
"... As is so often the case in American culture, the "hard work" meme emerges from the slave system. Slaves had to be bullied and terrorized in order to extract "hard work" from them, given that they had zero rewards of any tangible sort for it. So "hard work" required constant vigilance and frequent punishments while slaves rationally attempted to do the least amount of work that enabled them to escape the many types of tortures they were regularly threatened with. ..."
"... Then after "emancipation," plantation owners complained that they could not get any of those lazy, shiftless Negroes to perform "hard work" for them, given that the newly freed men and women were much more interested in getting ahead for themselves than continuing to pick cotton or harvest rice for starvation wages. ..."
"... I don't think you are over-simplifying, Clive–in Hong Kong, too, my experience has been that most people I deal with in the work world take a great deal of intrinsic pride in doing a job efficiently and well, for its own sake, not because it will necessarily make you more money. ..."
"... What I'm starting to sniff in the zeitgeist today is that Trump's kids are totally changing what people think of the father. People are making the semi-rational assumption that anyone who can raise such good kids must be very different in private than he is on the campaign trail. ..."
"... the genesis of the "plagiarism" attacks. The mud slinging has started early in this campaign. However, if Trumps' family can exude some sense of charm and class, the entire mud slinging strategy can be 'stood on its' head.' ..."
"... Me, I'm terrified of Hillary Clinton and the devastation that her ascension to the Presidency might bring to this nation and to the world. She is not only a liar, a blatantly self-dealing criminal, but more devastating yet, a sociopath of the first water, willing to walk across the bodies to advance her personal and class agenda. ..."
"... Her time as President would go a long way toward cementing the Unitary Executive in place (i.e., a functional Dictator, as understood in the Roman Republican meaning of the term, a Tribune, in which a chief magistrate of the State like the President under our Constitution, whose writ as an authoritarian ruler ran so long as there was a national emergency. I serve as the clerk for government documents in a university law library, and I can tell you that the number of House Documents announcing a "National Emergency" or the continuation of a previously announced "National Emergency" is very alarming. These "emergencies" are the camel's nose under the tent in my estimation for the slow accretion of Dictatorial powers (again, in the Roman Republican sense of the term "dictator") toward the Caesar-like role of Unitary Executive. These "National Emergencies" functionally invest power into the hands of the President and those forces military, legal, and regulatory under the control of the Executive by which the President can wage military, legal/diplomatic, and economic warfare against those who refuse to bend the knee to US-dominated global hegemony. ..."
"... Hillary is practically salivating to grasp the rod of power embodied in the Unitary Executive. Warfare will follow her tenure in office like a dire shadow, and due to her belief in the right of and necessity of the US to enforce a global hegemony, she is inevitably moving toward a deadly clash with other nuclear powers unwilling to submit to the yoke of globalized, stateless, culturally-anodyne finance capitalism. Good times await. ..."
"... "Our well-nigh useless Legislative branch has largely surrendered its Constitutional responsibilities to the Executive through such trash as Authorizations of Military Force rather than engaging in the mandated procedure of the Declaration of War found in the Constitution to authorize extended use of military (and legal and economic) force." ..."
"... That allows individuals to claim they had no responsibility for the war, something Pence and Clinton cannot claim because of their votes. But on what other things do you see Obama as being a strong "unitary executive." I thought it was generally viewed that Congress had thwarted his (almost) every wish. ..."
"... And how about that patriot act renewal, US out of iraq/afganistan? Vicky nuland and the ukraine? I guess the problem is that you get your information as it is generally viewed, but you fail to indicate who it is that generally views things that way, however, it should help you understand why trump will win because hillary is generally viewed as corrupt. ..."
"... I'm intrigued by author's concluding idea. "It involves another attempt to take over the Republican Party, this time by the Clinton-led Democratic leadership. " ..."
"... And if the words were lies coming out of Obama's mouth, what are they coming out of Trump's mouth? ..."
"... "Far from embarrassing Melania Trump and the GOP, then, it should be deeply humiliating for Democrats that their rhetoric is so bloodless and hollow that it can easily be spoken word-for-word in front of a gang of crazed racists. Instead of asking "why is Melania Trump using Michelle Obama's words?" we might think to ask "why is Michelle Obama using the right-wing rhetoric of self-reliance?" ..."
"... A lot of this is related to the Democrats and what Bill made "successful" with his presidency. The lack of a truly left party that works for average citizens has created this environment when a character like Trump can gain such support. This article illustrates but another example of meritocratic nonsense being regurgitated by the party. ..."
"... A thought-provoking and unexpected take, Gaius Publius. I was struck by one item left off your list of lucky attributes: beauty. Both Michelle Obama and Melania Trump are undeniably beautiful women -– tall, slim, with the elegantly symmetrical features prized in every culture. Sadly in beauty-obsessed America the doors opened for women who look this lovely are shut hard against women who are fat, or old, or ugly. ..."
"... I had pretty much the exact same thought as your second "blackbird" when the video of Melania Trump plagiarizing Michele Obama's speech and all my liberal friends were yuking it up. All I could think was "If the same speech could plausibly come out of either of their mouths without alienating the audience, we have much worse problems than her Mrs. Trump's copycating." The fact that this seemed to bother hardly anyone else made it worse. So much of these elections just get reduced down to rooting for your team at a sporting event. This works well to keep people from having to deal with a lot of unpleasant questions and conclusions. ..."
"... Read Roosevelt's speech, Trump certainly did, for some real fear mongering and look at the coalition he has taken over the Republican party to form. FDR 1932. ..."
"... > "another attempt to take over the Republican Party" Which shouldn't be that hard, since both the Democrat and Republican parties are neoliberal. As always, the real enemy is the left. ..."
"... I'm surprised Gaius failed to address this portion of Michelle's speech which he quoted: "tell the truth; keep your promises; treat others with dignity and respect." Since when has Obama told the truth, or kept his promises, or treated anyone except Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blanfein with respect? ..."
"... Put aside whether "Michelle Obama" or some speechwriting merc came up with the banal verbiage redolent of Sunday school and Horatio Alger. What gives the snippet its special Trumpian turn into hyper-unreality, an ever-expanding balloon of hot boast and hyperbolic deceit, is the way it transcends garden-variety plagiarism by laying claim to the very virtues that the appropriation itself falsifies. ..."
"... That's chutzpah! The stunning effrontery supersizes an overall meta-ness that's less indicative of middle-class morality and meritocracy than the predatory opportunism of the exploitative rich, what C. Wright Mills might have recognized as the "higher immorality." Here we have a colossally vain billionaire atop an empire of glitz and privilege kayfabing his way to a party nomination as the indignant voice of the brutalized working class he's dedicated his life to disparaging as envious losers. The mind reels between giddiness and nausea. ..."
"... You can't forever distract it away with Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and color counter-revolutions against exploitative freeloaders (the non-rich and famous ones, that is). It takes an philosophy of human worth apart from vanities over this or that temporarily adaptive skill or happy accident. ..."
"... I think Oren Nimni basically gets it right: When you cut through the tautologies and the bromides that many parents deliver to their children, what you have is the message, "don't expect government to be there for you; those days are over" (which, actually, sounds like Bubba Bill's pitch–"the day's of big government are over"). ..."
"... If you work hard enough and have enough ambition you will succeed is not a lie to those born on 3rd base, it was true for them. The Obama's the Trumps. They are really just guilty of not understanding the plight of those who were born at bat against a major league pitcher. ..."
www.nakedcapitalism.com

naked capitalism

Gaius Publius Two Ways of Looking at a Plagiarism

Oren Nimni: Obama's statement "is an insult to every tomato-picker and hotel cleaner in the country"

The fact that Michelle Obama's statement is blatantly false (and that a woman of color in the United States said it) is revealing. Current Affairs writer Oren Nimni on that (emphasis in original):

If anything, the whole plagiarism scandal reflects somewhat poorly on Michelle Obama. One reason Obama's words were able to play so well at the RNC was that in the lifted passages, Obama was speaking using the conservative language of "bootstrapping." Obama's sentence, that "the only limit" to one's achievements is the height of one's goal and the "willingness to work" toward it, is the Republican story about America. It's the story of personal responsibility, in which the U.S. is overflowing with opportunity, and anyone who fails to succeed in such a land of abundance must simply not be trying hard enough.

People on the left are supposed to know that it is a cruel lie to tell people that all they need to do is work hard. There are plenty of people with dreams who work very hard indeed but get nothing, because the American economy is fundamentally skewed and unfair. This rhetoric, about "hard work" being the only thing needed for the pursuit of prosperity, is an insult to every tomato-picker and hotel cleaner in the country. It's a fact that those who work the hardest in this country, those come home from work exhausted and who break their backs to feed their families, are almost always rewarded the least.

Far from embarrassing Melania Trump and the GOP, then, it should be deeply humiliating for Democrats that their rhetoric is so bloodless and hollow that it can easily be spoken word-for-word in front of a gang of crazed racists. Instead of asking "why is Melania Trump using Michelle Obama's words?" we might think to ask "why is Michelle Obama using the right-wing rhetoric of self-reliance?"

This is, of course, the myth of "meritocracy" that Thomas Frank has exposed with scalpel-like precision in his latest book Listen, Liberal . It's clear that the Democratic Party, at its core, believes with Michelle (and Barack) Obama the comfortable and self-serving lie that no individual has anyone to blame but herself if she fails to achieve high goals. She should just have reached higher; she should just have worked harder.

It's not only a lie, it's a "cruel lie," as Nimni says. So why is she, Michelle Obama, telling it? Clearly it serves her interests, her husband's interests, her party's interests, to tell the "rich person's lie," that his or her achievement came from his or her own efforts. To call most people's success a product of luck (right color, right gender, right country, right neighborhood, right schools, right set of un-birth-damaged brain cells) or worse, inheritance (right parents), identifies the fundamental unfairness of our supposed "meritocratic" system of allocating wealth and undercuts the "goodness," if you look at it writ large, of predatory capitalism. By that measure, neither the very wealthy themselves (Charles Koch, Jamie Dimon) nor those who serve them (Barack Obama et al ) are "good" in any moral sense.

(The idea of the supposed "goodness" of the successful capitalist, by the way, his supposed "greater morality," goes all the way back to the 18th Century attempt of the wealthy to counter the 17th Century bleakness of Protestant predestination. How could people, especially the very rich, know whether they are among the "elect" or the damned? God gives them wealth as a sign of his plans for them, just as God gives them morally deficient poverty-wage workers to take advantage of.)

Clive , July 22, 2016 at 4:27 am

There's also a flip side to the main point drawn out in the above article ("if you work hard you'll be successful and rewarded") which, dare I say, is rarely mentioned and even an anathema in U.S. culture (not, mind you, that I think British culture isn't going the same way so I am not trying to throw stones in this glass house).

Which is: quite often, you are rewarded if you don't "work hard" and even if you work somewhat "hard" the rewards you receive are out of all proportion to the effort you have to make. But no-one (or few people) are willing to admit, if they are in that position, that - to put it crudely - they are really doing bugger all but raking it in.

I, for example, do very little. What I do do certainly isn't "hard work". Now, I have expended a certain amount of mental effort on understanding the system - the dynamic - in play at my employer. And how to successfully exploit that to gain the maximum amount of financial reward for the least amount of effort. But I would hardly call that "work", and certainly it is not of "hard" variety.

U.S. cultural norms, as the piece describes accurately, glorify and misrepresent "work" especially of the "hard" kind. Hmm I wonder where that notion came from and why it gained such a foothold in the prevailing groupthink?

In Japanese culture, to introduce another nuance, the concept of "hard work" is still present as a thing to be looked up to but it is more tinged with an air of "doing your best" or "doing your upmost" rather than "hard" (i.e. demanding) work and lacks the "you're going to get the payoff if you do" quid pro quo. The reward, in Japanese culture, comes from knowing you've done the best you can which is more a personal satisfaction than a financial compensator. But I am glossing over some complexity here so do not view what I've just said in this paragraph as anything other than a simplification.

ambrit , July 22, 2016 at 5:02 am

May I suggest that the "simplification" you mention is an essential part of any group control strategy. Simplified thinking may work wonders in efficiency studies or some sorts of high energy physics, but in the realm of social relations, simplicity masks diversity and complexity to the detriment of any version of "truth." I was lucky in having skeptical parents and some excellent minds among my High School teachers. The present regime of "teach to the test" here in America almost completely short circuits the teaching of critical thinking skills. With stressed parents increasingly abdicating their responsibilities towards the upbringing of their offspring in favour of the State, is it any wonder that the narrow interests of the State, such as the Iron Law of Institutions, are supplanting enlightenment in the minds of the young? We now must begin to consider the divergence of the interests of the Society from the interests of the State. With the balance of power swinging heavily in favour of the State these recent decades, I am not sanguine about the near term future of our culture.

timotheus , July 22, 2016 at 7:43 am

As is so often the case in American culture, the "hard work" meme emerges from the slave system. Slaves had to be bullied and terrorized in order to extract "hard work" from them, given that they had zero rewards of any tangible sort for it. So "hard work" required constant vigilance and frequent punishments while slaves rationally attempted to do the least amount of work that enabled them to escape the many types of tortures they were regularly threatened with.

Then after "emancipation," plantation owners complained that they could not get any of those lazy, shiftless Negroes to perform "hard work" for them, given that the newly freed men and women were much more interested in getting ahead for themselves than continuing to pick cotton or harvest rice for starvation wages. Ever since, we have lived with the embittered voice of the slaveowner infuriated at the loss of all that labor power he once had at his disposal for free. Thus the mythology that "hard work" is all you need to perform to get ahead and the implicit wink-wink-we-know-who-won't-do-that racism that goes along with it.

MsExPat , July 22, 2016 at 10:27 am

I don't think you are over-simplifying, Clive–in Hong Kong, too, my experience has been that most people I deal with in the work world take a great deal of intrinsic pride in doing a job efficiently and well, for its own sake, not because it will necessarily make you more money. (Although often that is the result– over-performing and exceeding expectations is a great way of ensuring repeat customers and a thriving business.)

Coming from the US, where every corporate smile and "Have a Nice Day" is being recorded for performance review, I find this a most refreshing cultural trait, one that I have tried my best to assimilate.

Uahsenaa , July 22, 2016 at 11:14 am

I would add to what Clive said that in Japan the ganbare ethos is also underlined by a certain expectation that your wider social group will back you up, or at least make certain your life doesn't fall off a cliff. This doesn't always work in practice, and there are obvious examples of social groups that the Japanese polity like to pretend simply doesn't exist, but it is a cultural expectation. You even see it among homeless camps in Japan, which constitute a very clear in group.

In the US, a great of anxiety stems from the realization that you could do your best in all circumstances and still have your life fall apart, since that social backstop just isn't there, especially not in the world of meritocracy, in which you're expected to basically give up your pre-existing social networks in order to even participate.

Portia , July 22, 2016 at 1:09 pm

I remember one job where my Boss warned me: "Nice guys finish last here."

Nice of him, eh?

Figure out the culture of your workplace, and if you can stomach it, do what you have to do to succeed. This is what the Obamas and the Clintons have done. And geez, they can stomach a lot. But I do know people who have "worked hard" and been successful in their own businesses, and musicians are a prime example of having to really do the work to get the work. It's who you want to be recognized by, in my way of thinking.

ewmayer , July 22, 2016 at 4:37 am

I often think the better saying would be "Whom the gods would destroy, they first make outrageously successful."

With outrageous – as in wildly-disproportionate-to-effort-and-actual-talent – success comes a sense of infallibility, inevitability, hubris. A self-centered personality-cult delusion – ergo a form of madness – which often ends in a spectacular undoing. Alas, not nearly often enough, when it comes to the DC cabal of hubristic upward-failing sociopaths.

GOP convention finished with a bang tonight, and thankfully the dire pre-convention worries about the streets of Cleveland flowing with rivers of blood proved unfounded – I'd studiously avoided the previous evenings, aside from a few brief nauseating while-channel-flipping glimpses – but happened to catch Trump himself tonight. While I disliked Trump's police-centric take on American security at home, I thought he really effectively hammered the issues of economic inequality – including a mention of soaring unemployment rates in the latino and black communities (I wish he would have said more in that vein, but he did at least say something) and governmental corruption at the highest levels, as well as Hillary's multiple foreign-policy debacles; the whole "what has 15 years of blowing shit up in the middle east done for us?" issue. Also made a very pronounced point of embracing Sanders' "top issue" of bad so-called-free-trade deals, while emphasizing the degree to which things were rigged against Bernie. And closed with a nifty turning of Hillary's pet slogan against her [I paraphrase, too tired to dig the exact quote out]: "she demands a three-word loyalty oath 'I`m with her' well I'm here to tell you tonight that I'm with you ."

And the speeches by his kids (Donald Jr last night, Ivanka tonight) were both good, and I think likely surprising – in a positive way – to many people. The image of the whole family onstage post-speech will likely resonate with the traditional Republican base – clean-cut successful-looking guys and attractive ladies of a leggy-blond (but not Barbie-esque/ditzy) type I expect even folks of a conservative Mormon bent will have found something to like in that image. Scott Adams comments on the kids :

What I'm starting to sniff in the zeitgeist today is that Trump's kids are totally changing what people think of the father. People are making the semi-rational assumption that anyone who can raise such good kids must be very different in private than he is on the campaign trail.

Would be interested to hear the takes of other NC readers who watched the nomination acceptance speech.

ambrit , July 22, 2016 at 5:20 am

Re "..a minority of one.." At least you go in for nuance and reflection. My take on H Clinton and her claque is that they all perceive the Candidate as a 'majority of one.'
Your comment about the wife of Trump reminds me of the old saying by Caesar that : " Caesars' wife must be above suspicion." Thus, the genesis of the "plagiarism" attacks. The mud slinging has started early in this campaign. However, if Trumps' family can exude some sense of charm and class, the entire mud slinging strategy can be 'stood on its' head.'

JerseyJeffersonian , July 22, 2016 at 9:28 am

Me, I'm terrified of Hillary Clinton and the devastation that her ascension to the Presidency might bring to this nation and to the world. She is not only a liar, a blatantly self-dealing criminal, but more devastating yet, a sociopath of the first water, willing to walk across the bodies to advance her personal and class agenda.

Her time as President would go a long way toward cementing the Unitary Executive in place (i.e., a functional Dictator, as understood in the Roman Republican meaning of the term, a Tribune, in which a chief magistrate of the State like the President under our Constitution, whose writ as an authoritarian ruler ran so long as there was a national emergency. I serve as the clerk for government documents in a university law library, and I can tell you that the number of House Documents announcing a "National Emergency" or the continuation of a previously announced "National Emergency" is very alarming. These "emergencies" are the camel's nose under the tent in my estimation for the slow accretion of Dictatorial powers (again, in the Roman Republican sense of the term "dictator") toward the Caesar-like role of Unitary Executive. These "National Emergencies" functionally invest power into the hands of the President and those forces military, legal, and regulatory under the control of the Executive by which the President can wage military, legal/diplomatic, and economic warfare against those who refuse to bend the knee to US-dominated global hegemony.

Our well-nigh useless Legislative branch has largely surrendered its Constitutional responsibilities to the Executive through such trash as Authorizations of Military Force rather than engaging in the mandated procedure of the Declaration of War found in the Constitution to authorize extended use of military (and legal and economic) force. This gives the Executive carte blanche to engage in unending wars (beginning to sound familiar?) with all that that implies concerning the dominance of the MIC in the formulation of national policies.

Hillary is practically salivating to grasp the rod of power embodied in the Unitary Executive. Warfare will follow her tenure in office like a dire shadow, and due to her belief in the right of and necessity of the US to enforce a global hegemony, she is inevitably moving toward a deadly clash with other nuclear powers unwilling to submit to the yoke of globalized, stateless, culturally-anodyne finance capitalism. Good times await.

And that is only the beginning, as the plans she has for the US citizenry are scarcely less dire, what with the inevitability of the Grand Bargain in service of Finance Capitalism looming dead ahead.

Clinton delenda est.

Russ Zimmerman , July 22, 2016 at 10:15 am

"Our well-nigh useless Legislative branch has largely surrendered its Constitutional responsibilities to the Executive through such trash as Authorizations of Military Force rather than engaging in the mandated procedure of the Declaration of War found in the Constitution to authorize extended use of military (and legal and economic) force."

That allows individuals to claim they had no responsibility for the war, something Pence and Clinton cannot claim because of their votes. But on what other things do you see Obama as being a strong "unitary executive." I thought it was generally viewed that Congress had thwarted his (almost) every wish.

flora , July 22, 2016 at 10:54 am

This seems pretty strong. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/feb/05/obama-kill-list-doj-memo

tegnost , July 22, 2016 at 11:16 am

Indeed, the republicans twisted barack's arm behind his back and forced him to allow insurance company lobbyists to write the "Affordable Care Act". Since you have tsa pre check I'll guess that your cadillac plan is still operational, or if not that that all the people who pay for insurance they can't use are subsidising you, and your own health care costs have been ameliorated. They also forced him to nominate merrick garland. They forced him to foam the runway for the banks and forced him to let all the bankster crimes go unpunished. My view is that obama, like hillary, is a republican because for both of them the policies they worked to advance are republican policies. TPP, ISDS, ACA, Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning I could go on and on. I agree with the author that dems like obama and hillary are interested in serving the top sliver of the population that has the lions share of the wealth. It's not right/left anymore, it's top/bottom .

And how about that patriot act renewal, US out of iraq/afganistan? Vicky nuland and the ukraine? I guess the problem is that you get your information as it is generally viewed, but you fail to indicate who it is that generally views things that way, however, it should help you understand why trump will win because hillary is generally viewed as corrupt.

flora , July 22, 2016 at 5:59 am

I think both Obama and Trump were reciting a standard variation of the American Dream™. Horatio Alger stories are part of the US mythos. Bill Clinton used a variation in 1992. Most US pols use the "up from nothing by dint of hard work and good morals" line. The flap is that O and T used the exact same words instead of noting that the sentiment itself is boilerplate?

I'm intrigued by author's concluding idea. "It involves another attempt to take over the Republican Party, this time by the Clinton-led Democratic leadership. "

Roger Smith , July 22, 2016 at 7:16 am

" And if the words were lies coming out of Obama's mouth, what are they coming out of Trump's mouth? "

They are still lies, but they are lies in keeping with the ideology that dominates the party of which Trump is the nominee. Nimni summarized this well:

"Far from embarrassing Melania Trump and the GOP, then, it should be deeply humiliating for Democrats that their rhetoric is so bloodless and hollow that it can easily be spoken word-for-word in front of a gang of crazed racists. Instead of asking "why is Melania Trump using Michelle Obama's words?" we might think to ask "why is Michelle Obama using the right-wing rhetoric of self-reliance?"

A lot of this is related to the Democrats and what Bill made "successful" with his presidency. The lack of a truly left party that works for average citizens has created this environment when a character like Trump can gain such support. This article illustrates but another example of meritocratic nonsense being regurgitated by the party.

jrs , July 22, 2016 at 11:04 am

I think she initially claimed she wrote it didn't she? But yea it's clearly silly coming out of her mouth. Although being a model may be hard work (it could very well be frankly), she hasn't worked hard for years by now, and didn't get into such a privileged position by hard work (in whose definition exactly does marrying money count as hard work?).

So while in Michelle Obama's mouth the words are a lie, at least they might be a lie that's kind of true for her, in Misses Trumps mouth it's beyond silly. I have no idea if Mr Inherited Wealth and Misses Married Money do raise their kids that way or not. Wow the rich are crazy!!!

Hana M , July 22, 2016 at 6:16 am

A thought-provoking and unexpected take, Gaius Publius. I was struck by one item left off your list of lucky attributes: beauty. Both Michelle Obama and Melania Trump are undeniably beautiful women -– tall, slim, with the elegantly symmetrical features prized in every culture. Sadly in beauty-obsessed America the doors opened for women who look this lovely are shut hard against women who are fat, or old, or ugly.

MsExPat , July 22, 2016 at 10:17 am

+ Good point. Jane Sanders was repeatedly ridiculed for her appearance by pro-Hillary twitter bots during Bernie's campaign , and I doubt that would have happened had she been young, fashionable and svelte.

Hana M , July 22, 2016 at 11:32 am

There is a strong correlation between height and compensation. "When it comes to height, every inch counts–in fact, in the workplace, each inch above average may be worth $789 more per year, according to a study in the Journal of Applied Psychology (Vol. 89, No. 3).

The findings suggest that someone who is 6 feet tall earns, on average, nearly $166,000 more during a 30-year career than someone who is 5 feet 5 inches–even when controlling for gender, age and weight."
http://www.apa.org/monitor/julaug04/standing.aspx

Hana M , July 22, 2016 at 12:07 pm

That apparently is not true. One study of lawyers "found that those rated attractive on the basis of their graduation photographs went on to earn higher salaries than their less well-favoured colleagues. Moreover, lawyers in private practice tended to be better looking than those working in government departments." Even among economists, beauty pays and "attractive candidates were more successful in elections for office in the American Economic Association." http://www.economist.com/node/10311266

Roquentin , July 22, 2016 at 7:56 am

I had pretty much the exact same thought as your second "blackbird" when the video of Melania Trump plagiarizing Michele Obama's speech and all my liberal friends were yuking it up. All I could think was "If the same speech could plausibly come out of either of their mouths without alienating the audience, we have much worse problems than her Mrs. Trump's copycating." The fact that this seemed to bother hardly anyone else made it worse. So much of these elections just get reduced down to rooting for your team at a sporting event. This works well to keep people from having to deal with a lot of unpleasant questions and conclusions.

Or worse still, they've become so used to neoliberal platitudes like "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps" that it's become "common sense" or the don't even recognize it as such.

A forgotten man , July 22, 2016 at 9:05 am

In case you missed it, T's entire speech was about the "forgotten man," those that work hard and still cannot make a living wage. The height of their dreams count for nothing. The system is rigged. Read Roosevelt's speech, Trump certainly did, for some real fear mongering and look at the coalition he has taken over the Republican party to form. FDR 1932.

Lambert Strether , July 22, 2016 at 11:41 am

> "another attempt to take over the Republican Party" Which shouldn't be that hard, since both the Democrat and Republican parties are neoliberal. As always, the real enemy is the left.

Jess , July 22, 2016 at 12:50 pm

I'm surprised Gaius failed to address this portion of Michelle's speech which he quoted: "tell the truth; keep your promises; treat others with dignity and respect."

Since when has Obama told the truth, or kept his promises, or treated anyone except Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blanfein with respect?

dingusansich , July 22, 2016 at 1:07 pm

you work hard for what you want in life, that your word is your bond and you do what you say and keep your promise

Put aside whether "Michelle Obama" or some speechwriting merc came up with the banal verbiage redolent of Sunday school and Horatio Alger. What gives the snippet its special Trumpian turn into hyper-unreality, an ever-expanding balloon of hot boast and hyperbolic deceit, is the way it transcends garden-variety plagiarism by laying claim to the very virtues that the appropriation itself falsifies.

That's chutzpah! The stunning effrontery supersizes an overall meta-ness that's less indicative of middle-class morality and meritocracy than the predatory opportunism of the exploitative rich, what C. Wright Mills might have recognized as the "higher immorality." Here we have a colossally vain billionaire atop an empire of glitz and privilege kayfabing his way to a party nomination as the indignant voice of the brutalized working class he's dedicated his life to disparaging as envious losers. The mind reels between giddiness and nausea.

What then exists outside the genteel social Darwinism of meritocratic ideology and further descent into a society of the spectacle, the Reaganite sitcom devolved into the Trump unreality show? To the gnomic, sidelong mysticism of Stevens let's add the frontal transvaluation of a sardonic Shaw:

What am I, Governors both? I ask you, what am I? I'm one of the undeserving poor: that's what I am. Think of what that means to a man. It means that he's up agen middle class morality all the time. If there's anything going, and I put in for a bit of it, it's always the same story: 'You're undeserving; so you can't have it.' But my needs is as great as the most deserving widow's that ever got money out of six different charities in one week for the death of the same husband. I don't need less than a deserving man: I need more. I don't eat less hearty than him; and I drink a lot more. I want a bit of amusement, cause I'm a thinking man. I want cheerfulness and a song and a band when I feel low. Well, they charge me just the same for everything as they charge the deserving. What is middle class morality? Just an excuse for never giving me anything.

Governors both, Democrats and Republicans, the meritocrats and the masters. What must be taken in is that the unskilled, the uneducated, the out of step, the unlucky, all need the means to live. If that's taken from them by the self-described deserving on the Acela and the higher immoralists in their towers and Gulfstreams, a democracy will begin to wobble like a spinning coin on the verge. You can't educate that away. You can't forever distract it away with Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and color counter-revolutions against exploitative freeloaders (the non-rich and famous ones, that is). It takes an philosophy of human worth apart from vanities over this or that temporarily adaptive skill or happy accident.

When the market is be all and end all, an expression of natural law and supernatural giver of meaning, it's hard to see how even a managed, minimal democracy can prevail except as grotesque, corrupt parody, a mood traced in the shadow a decipherable cause. Or did I read something like that somewhere, like in a poem?

George S , July 22, 2016 at 1:25 pm

I don't recall Ms. Obama's speech. Based on the excerpts I heard during the recent news cycle (from both speeches) were pathetic. I think Oren Nimni basically gets it right: When you cut through the tautologies and the bromides that many parents deliver to their children, what you have is the message, "don't expect government to be there for you; those days are over" (which, actually, sounds like Bubba Bill's pitch–"the day's of big government are over").

... ... ...

Tim , July 22, 2016 at 2:47 pm

If you work hard enough and have enough ambition you will succeed is not a lie to those born on 3rd base, it was true for them. The Obama's the Trumps. They are really just guilty of not understanding the plight of those who were born at bat against a major league pitcher.

... ... ...

[Aug 24, 2017] Sacrificing Smart Asians to Keep the Racial Peace - The Unz Review

Notable quotes:
"... This peace-keeping aspect of affirmative action understood, perhaps we ought to view those smart Asians unfairly rejected from Ivy League schools as sacrificial lambs. ..."
Aug 24, 2017 | www.unz.com

The argument is that admitting academically unqualified blacks to elite schools is, at core, a policy to protect the racial peace and, as such, has nothing to do with racial justice, the putative benefits of diversity or any other standard justification. It is this peace- keeping function that explains why the entire establishment, from mega corporations to the military, endorses constitutionally iffy racial discrimination and why questioning diversity's benefits is the most grievous of all PC sins. Stated in cost-benefit terms, denying a few hundred (even a few thousand) high-SAT scoring Asians an Ivy League diploma and instead forcing them attend Penn State is a cheap price to pay for social peace.

This argument rests on an indisputable reality that nearly all societies contain distinct ethnic or religious groups who must be managed for the sake of collective peace. They typically lack the ability to economically compete, may embrace values that contravene the dominant ethos, or otherwise just refuse to assimilate. What makes management imperative is the possibility of violence either at an individual level, for example, randomly stabbing total strangers, or on a larger scale, riots and insurrections. Thus, in the grand scheme of modern America's potentially explosive race relations, academically accomplished Asians, most of whom are politically quiescent, are expendable, collateral damage in the battle to sustain a shaky status quo.

Examples of such to-be-managed groups abound. Recall our own tribulations with violent Indian tribes well into the 19 th century or what several European nations currently face with Muslims or today's civil war in Burma with the Karen People. Then there's Turkey's enduring conflict with the Kurds and long before the threat of Islamic terrorism, there were Basque separatists (the ETA ), and the Irish Republican Army . In the past 45 years, there have been more than 16,000 terror attacks in Western Europe according to the Global Terrorism Database . At a lower levels add the persistently criminal Gypsies who for 500 years have resisted all efforts to assimilate them. This listing is, of course, only a tiny sampling of distinct indigestible violence-prone groups.

The repertoire of remedies, successful and failed, is also extensive. Our native-American problem has, sad to say, been largely solved by the use of apartheid-like reservations and incapacitating a once war-like people with drugs and alcohol. Elsewhere generous self-rule has done the trick, for example, the Basques in Spain. A particularly effective traditional solution is to promote passivity by encouraging religious acceptance of one's lowly state.

Now to the question at hand: what is to be done regarding American blacks, a group notable for its penchant for violence whose economic advancement over the last half-century has largely stalled despite tens of billions and countless government uplift programs.

To appreciate the value of affirmative action recall the urban riots of the 1960s. They have almost been forgotten but their sheer number during that decade would shock those grown accustomed to today's relative tranquility. A sampling of cities with major riots includes Rochester, NY, New York City, Philadelphia, PA, Los Angeles, CA, Cleveland, OH, Newark, NJ, Detroit, MI, Chicago, IL, Washington, DC and several smaller cities.

The damage from these riots! "uprisings" or "rebellions" according to some!was immense. For example, the Detroit riot of 1967 lasted five days and quelling it required the intervention of the Michigan Army National Guard and both the 82 nd and 101 st Airborne divisions. When it finally ended, the death toll was 43, some 7200 were arrested and more than 2000 buildings destroyed. Alas, much of this devastation remains visible today and should be a reminder of what could happen absent a policy of cooling out black anger.

To correctly understand how racial preferences at elite colleges serves as a cost-effective solution to potential domestic violence, recall the quip by comedian Henny Youngman when asked "How's your wife?" He responded with, "Compared to what?" This logic reflects a hard truth: when confronting a sizable, potentially disruptive population unable or unwilling to assimilate, a perfect solution is beyond reach. Choices are only among the lesser of evils and, to repeat, under current conditions, race-driven affirmative action is conceivably the best of the worst. A hard-headed realist would draw a parallel with how big city merchants survive by paying off the police, building and food inspectors, and the Mafia. Racial preferences are just one more item on the cost-of-doing business list–the Danegeld .

In effect, racial preferences in elite higher education (and beneficiaries includes students, professors and the diversity-managing administrators) separates the top 10% measured in cognitive ability from their more violent down market racial compatriots. While this manufactured caste-like arrangement hardly guarantees racial peace (as the black-on-white crime rate, demonstrates) but it pretty much dampens the possibility of more collective, well-organized related upheavals, the types of disturbances that truly terrify the white establishment. Better to have the handsomely paid Cornel West pontificating about white racism at Princeton where he is a full professor than fulminating at some Ghetto street corner. This status driven divide just reflects human nature. Why would a black Yalie on Wall Street socialize with the bro's left behind in the Hood? This is the strategy of preventing a large-scale, organized rebellion by decapitating its potential leadership. Violence is now just Chicago or Baltimore-style gang-banger intra-racial mayhem or various lone-wolf criminal attacks on whites.

Co-optation is a staple in the political management repertoire. The Soviet Union adsorbed what they called the "leading edge" into the Party (anyone exceptionally accomplished, from chess grandmasters or world-class athletes) to widen the divide the dominant elite, i.e., the Party, and hoi polloi. Election systems can be organized to guarantee a modicum of power to a handful of potential disruptors and with this position comes ample material benefits (think Maxine Waters). Monarchies have similarly managed potential strife by bestowing honors and titles on commoners. It is no accident that many radicals are routinely accused of "selling out" by their former colleagues in arms. In most instances the accusation is true, and this is by design.

To appreciate the advantages of the racial preferences in higher education consider Henny's "compared to what"? part of his quip. Certainly what successfully worked for quelling potential Native American violence, e.g., forced assimilation in "Indian Schools" or confinement in pathology-breeding reservations, is now totally beyond the pale though, to be sure, some inner-cities dominated by public housing are increasingly coming to resemble pathology-inducing Indian reservations. Even less feasible is some legally mandated homeland of the types advocated by Black Muslims.

I haven't done the math but I would guess that the entire educational racial spoils system is far more cost effective than creating a garrison state or a DDR-like police state where thousands of black trouble-makers were quickly incarcerated. Perhaps affirmative action in general should be viewed as akin to a nuisance tax, probably less than 5% of our GDP.

To be sure, affirmative action at elite universities is only one of today's nostrums to quell potential large scale race-related violence. Other tactics include guaranteeing blacks elected offices, even if this requires turning a blind eye toward election fraud, and quickly surrendering to blacks who demand awards and honors on the basis of skin color. Perhaps a generous welfare system could be added to this keep-the-peace list. Nevertheless, when all added up, the costs would be far lowers than dealing with widespread 1960s style urban violence.

This peace-keeping aspect of affirmative action understood, perhaps we ought to view those smart Asians unfairly rejected from Ivy League schools as sacrificial lambs. Now, given all the billions that have been saved, maybe a totally free ride at lesser schools would be a small price to pay for their dissatisfaction (and they would also be academic stars at such schools). Of course this "Asian only" compensatory scholarship might be illegal under the color blind requirements of 1964 Civil Right Act, but fear not, devious admission officers will figure out a way around the law.

Carlton Meyer > , Website August 16, 2017 at 4:21 am GMT

This 18 second video clip is a great real world summary:

Thomm > , August 16, 2017 at 4:56 am GMT

Interesting take. But risky because :

1) Asians will grow in power, and either force more fairness towards themselves, or return to Asia.
2) WN idiots happy about Asians returning to Asia fail to see that Asians will return only when they control enough of America to manage large parts of it from afar (like the tech industry).
3) 2-3 million top caliber white male Western Expats might just move to Asia, since they may like Asian women more, and want to be free of SJW idiocy. This is all it takes to fill the alleged gap Asia has in creativity, marketing, and sales expertise. Asia effectively decapitates the white West by taking in their best young men and giving them a great life in Asia.
4) America becomes like Brazil with all economic value colonized by Asians and the white expats in Asia with mixed-race children. White trashionalists left behind are swiftly exterminated by blacks, and white women mix with the blacks. America becomes a Brazil minus the fun culture, good weather, and attractive women.

Thomm > , August 16, 2017 at 5:03 am GMT

@Carlton Meyer At first, I was surprised that they listened to him.

After a while, I realized that many negros are stupid enough to think that Hispanics and Asians would like to be in some anti-white alliance with blacks as a senior partner. In reality, they have an even lower opinion of blacks than whites do. US blacks have zero knowledge of the world outside America, so this reality just doesn't register with them.

Diversity Heretic > , August 16, 2017 at 5:12 am GMT

John Derbyshire has made similar arguments–racial preferences are the price for social peace. But, as Steve Sailer has pointed out, we're running out of white and Asian children to buffer black dysfunction and Asians are going to get less and less willing to be "sacrificial lambs" for a black underclass that they did nothing to create and that they despise.

There are other ways to control the black underclass. You can force the talented ones to remain in their community and provide what leadership they can. Black violence can be met with instant retributive counter-violence. (Prior to the 1960s most race riots were white on black.) Whites can enforce white norms on the black community, who will sort-of conform to them as best they are able.

Finally, Rudyard Kipling had a commentary on Danegeld. It applies to paying off dysfunctional domestic minorities just as much to invading enemies.

"We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
No matter how trifling the cost;
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
And the nation that pays it is lost!"

War for Blair Mountain > , August 16, 2017 at 5:26 am GMT

Robert Weissberg

Could care less about your smart Asians The smart Asians are enthusiastivally voting Whitey into a racial minority on Nov 3 2020 They don't belong on Native Born White American Living and Breeding Space

jim jones > , August 16, 2017 at 5:30 am GMT

@Carlton Meyer This 18 second video clip is a great real world summary:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DHhy2Gk_xik You can just hears someone shouting at the end "Go back to Beijing"

Wally > , August 16, 2017 at 5:32 am GMT

Once you give in, they will keep demanding more & more.

There's always a manufactured excuse.

It's time to say no.

Bro Methylene > , August 16, 2017 at 5:34 am GMT

Please stop trying to confuse Orientals with Indians and other subcontinentals. They are quite distinct.

This reminds me of the sinister (but largely successful) campaign to conflate San Francisco with "Silicon Valley." The two are separate in every way.

Priss Factor > , Website