Wednesday, June 04, 2003

This from one of the academic bloggers from the list in the article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, referring to a post on another academic blog.

"Pseudonymous political scientist, John Lemon has an account of an interesting thought experiment that he uses to disconcert his students. He asks how many in the class support progressive redistribution. About half of the students stand up; he then tells them that he’s talking about redistribution of grades rather than money, and wants to know whether they’d like him to “tax” the grades of the A students so as to bump up the marks of students below the median. Unsurprisingly, nearly all of the students sit down. It’s a discomfiting little thought experiment for people like me who support progressive taxation, but allot grades according to a rather different concept of fairness."

This is that sort of logical comparison of types that I find mind boggling, and it seems to have taken over academia both left and right: the logical analysis of surfaces, predicated on common assumptions and therefore 'requiring' no empirical data. This is 'discomfiting'? It's adolescent!

I've give two responses, one moral, one from casual observation.

1- A defense of the logic of "the survival of the fittest" is the same as a defense of greed, and greed, to the educated man, or woman, is incurious and boring. (That's sort of my moral/snobbish argument, but it works.)
2- Of all the children of real wealth I've known- and I've known plenty- only one has had the same fire under his ass as the father or grandfather who made the first million. Most of them, if they had had to start on their own, wouldn't have made it through to junior college to a low ranking white collar job. A few are intelligent and curious, but if you're talking unfettered social Darwinism, they'd be toast.

Both these responses are obvious and cheap, but certainly no cheaper than the 'thought experiment' they respond to. The redistribution of wealth is not the same thing as redistribution of grades, just as knowledge, however much of it you can obtain, is not the same as action, or or how you use it. I made my comments about the neocons before, but there's no difference between this shit and the tenured 'radicals' that idiots like John Lemon bitch about. It's one version of self indulgent bourgeois mediocrity attacking another. It's all symptomatic of a disease endemic to decadent democracy. To be popular you need to oversimplify, and the real goal is popularity, rather than curiosity or knowledge.

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