Friday, August 06, 2004

Dept of Reader Responses: Update,

Hello all, I have been blessed by readers kind enough to get involved in some degree in helping the oldman out on some of his ideas since he's swamped with work. Among them Spencer, I'm still reading your stuff and working up some writing about it. Probably the first of it will be out this weekend.

As for the guy (name withheld until he states he's okay with public recognition) working on that linear extrapolation of volataility and priceline trend for the oil market to analyze more precisely the "market predicted" forward projection for destabilization, I hope he get's back to me as soon as he can figure out how to get started.

Ian wrote something pretty interesting the other day, back on the topic of degrees from universities and the costs of being an elite in our society.

There are only about 20 odd universities in the US that are really worth going to. The rest, even if you somehow get a decent education (possible at any university if you're willing to take the onus on yourself and use the library) just don't have the cachet - as oldman says, they don't give you that entre into the elite.

Anyone interested in this might want to read Randall Collins' "The Credential Society". It's kind of old (79) but he has impressive array of facts and I don't know of anything that makes them invalid 25 years later.

Ian Welsh

That's correct. The point is not whether or not a university degree is worth something, it is to most people. The point is that certain university's have become synonymous as a condition of entry into the elite society of America. There are exceptions of course, but they are exceptions rather than the rule. The elites are well aware of this, which is why they spend the extra money to send their kids to these schools even though the natural talents of the kids might be better cultivated elsewhere.

The issue isn't about the technical merits of an education from any given school. These elite schools aren't truly selling as part of their brand a certificate of excellence regarding a particular topic area, they're selling entry into the ruling circles of the social elite of America. It's important to recognize that because when we ask, "Why can't we get anyone better out there to create or implement government policy for us?" (or for that matter searching for better CEOs) we're in fact not looking at a very large pool of people. Informally only a very small subset of the population that has been successfully groomed and has the impeccable credentials to be considered for a position.

Those who have those credentials may in fact be competent or excellent leaders and managers. Or they may in fact be moronic cretins who couldn't run a lemonade stand. Until we understand this aspect of our society, we cannot reasonably expect to understand the patterns of governance and choice in political circles, the Fed, the IMF, etc.

In short, these people are inbred intellectually and socially.

A friend of mine, Beth, once told me that money - I think she meant in the sense of luxury - isn't that important in life. I agree completely. There are lots more important things. She also said that she doesn't envy most rich people, because they often have no lives. I agree. I think money and power per se are very boring.

However I also think that there is at least one very compelling reason to pursue these things that I've discovered in the last few years. It's that if people of excellence don't pursue these ends, then that leaves only incompetents and people with bad intentions to do so. All that is necessary for wicked people to triumph, is for good ones to do nothing.

I would suggest this response to all my readers out there, with the understanding that it is they themselves who are best acquainted with their lives and deciding how best to become involved in social advancement for their own situations. If we would expect better leadership then we must each and every one of us embrace the will to power within ourselves to the degree it is appropriate and we are capable of. To accept otherwise is to cede the field of struggle in life to those we despise, and makes us just complainers who sit on our hands. If we disagree with those who make decisions, then it is our responsibility to put ourselves - again to each as they are capable and suited - into positions where we can effectively influence outcomes for the better.

This is a long term proposition of course that I am encouraging to all my readers out there, but I think the long term is the only time scale worth thinking about in the end.

To everyone else who is writing me, please keep it up. I just haven't had time to respond with the end of the semester. I will try to catch up in the next few days or weeks.

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