Sunday, January 15, 2012

Chris Bertram
First, I’m sympathetic, I really am, to the idea that people should work and consume less and that we should attend more to real life quality. But this doesn’t seem very realistic in my own life for two reasons: first, even if my employer were sympathetic (unlikely) I feel very hard pressed now to produce the level of research output necessary for me to stay competitive with other academics (not just in the UK, but elsewhere). I suspect this generalizes to many people in professional jobs: we couldn’t achieve the kinds of things we want to in our careers on those kinds of hours. This isn’t necessarily a problem, so long as there isn’t compulsion. Some (many) people have shitty jobs with low intrinsic rewards: removing the burden of work for them would be an unqualified good thing. Second, it is all very well Juliet Schor telling us to transition to a low hours/lower consumption economy. I’m cool with consuming less. The problem is that I, and just about everyone else, has taken out huge mortgages and bank loans to pay (in part) for the consumption we’ve already had. Hard to reduce the hours unless (or until) the debt goes away. Third, there was distressingly little discussion of the politics of this. Whatever the real social and economic benefits, the French 35-hour week wasn’t a political success (perhaps because it was watered-down) and Sarkozy was able to campaign effectively on behalf of the “France qui se lève tôt”. Some kind of post-mortem on this experience would have been helpful, albeit that it took place in a different, pre-crisis, environment.
"I’m sympathetic, I really am..." Backpedaling.
"I’m cool with consuming less." The language of adolescence. Again, defensive: "I'm cool [I really am]".
"The problem is that I, and just about everyone else, has taken out huge mortgages and bank loans to pay (in part) for the consumption we’ve already had."

Duncan Black reads the the New York Times
Of the 1 percenters interviewed for this article, almost all — conservatives and liberals alike — said the wealthy could and should shoulder more of the country’s financial burden, and almost all said they viewed the current system as unfair. But they may prefer facing cuts to their own benefits like Social Security than paying more taxes.
The maximum monthly benefit is around $2500, or $30,000 annually. If you took it all it'd be equivalent to raising the tax on a million dollar earner (for the entire amount) by 3 percentage points. For a ten million dollar earner, 3 tenths of a percentage point.
I suppose I should have more sympathy for careerist college professors than I do for multi-millionaires, and Atrios is as blind as Bertram much of the time (though rarely making arguments so explicitly self-serving) but it's predictable that the only commenter to call bullshit, however politely, on Bertram's post was Russell Fox.

Brian Leiter
But universities aren't mainly about opinions, they are about the discovery and dissemination of knowledge
And according to Leiter (and I assume Bertram as well) college professors are well trained and well paid to know the difference.

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