Sunday, December 10, 2006

Is Wealth All It's Cracked Up to Be?

As usual, the Sunday Business section of the New York Times has a couple of thought-provoking pieces, and perhaps it's just me that sees the thematic connection. Ben Stein (he of the world's most  annoying voice - male category; Fran Drescher gets the female award) tries to reconcile theBenstein fact of rich and poor in a kind of Rawlsian way:  there is nothing wrong with being rich, and justice doesn't necessarily mean "tax the rich," but there ought to be "a way that these people can be brought off the fairways of the nation's country clubs and put before the students of America to tell them how the world works and how to make their way in it."  As I have mentioned before, the Score redeployment of the boomer generation will be an interesting phenomenon to observe.  On Ben's point, I have friends who have participated in SCORE, the Service Corps of Retired Executives, a group that provides precisely that kind of advice to nascent businesses as a public service.

On the next page, Daniel Akst mulls the question:  do we just work for money?  He notes:  "The American Bar Foundation . . . frets that fewer law school graduates are going into government work or public interest law."  But he wonders:

[I]s this really a problem?  Law school, for instance, has been diverting bright young people from becoming social workers or remedial-reading teachers for a long time.  What's remarkable is how many smart people still turn their backs on financial gain to seek careers as unheralded poets, misunderstood video artists and itinerant philosophy instructors schlepping from campus to campus without hope of tenure.

His point is that we have a choice, and the world is probably better off that some of us grab the bucks, if for no other reason than the creation of wealth lets society afford more social workers and public interest lawyers.

A kind of rationalizing or compatibilism raising its ugly head, no doubt, but it works for me.

[Jeff Lipshaw]

UPDATE:  I was doing a quick run through my Feedreader, and discovered Kaimi Wenger over at Concurring Opinions did an economic riff on this very issue yesterday!

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