Month: July 2016

Starting Over: The Multi-Career Notes

Kayaking on Howe Sound

Kayaking on Howe Sound

Most of my posts are about researching issues, even the “relationship science” posts — I’m trying to be objective and not insert too much of my own experiences and feelings. This one will be subjective — what it’s like to be me, and to have been me in all those different careers.

When I arrived at Libertycon in Chattanooga as a freshly-minted author (three books? Is that enough to qualify?) at the age of 59+, I felt a little dissociated — no one knew me, and the few people I “knew” from online were busy with old friends they knew well. Children moving to a new school know how this feels — people may be friendly but their attention is on known others that are already part of their social systems. If you don’t have a lot of self-confidence, you will feel that sense of being judged and rejected or ignored by people.

I’m a confident old person so this feeling doesn’t bug me too much, and it soon passed. I made a few friends and connected enough to feel part of things fairly quickly. This ability to context-switch socially is especially valuable when you change careers frequently. People who tend toward narcissism will react with the “Don’t you know who I am?” response, which doesn’t endear them to anyone. Others will react by withdrawing, sufficiently dispirited to stop even trying to interact.

I have friends who knew when they were 15 exactly what they wanted to do, then did it — every step was planned, and they spent their lives climbing steadily in their chosen profession. The concentration on one field brought them job and material security quickly, and a lifetime of their achievements advanced their chosen field noticeably — they would have been missed. I’m thinking in particular of my MIT next door neighbor, who started out wanting to become — and became — a world-renowned expert in electronic and computer design. After a brief stint in industry, he ended up on the Stanford faculty and headed up the EE&CS department, was instrumental in the first MIPS processor designs, and founded a company that made him wealthy. When I would visit, he would sigh and tell me he envied my ability to try new things and take up living new lives — the things he could not do. He saw glamor in change, where others would envy his accomplishments — while not being willing to work so hard and so long in one field.

Meanwhile, I had left my first steady jobs in systems programming and dropped out of a Ph.D. program to escape Boston for British Columbia, where I did land development and outdoor activities. I dabbled in object-oriented language design, simulation and game programming, and early web development — starting work on a matchmaking website before any of the others, for example. Failing to stick with any one thing, of course, meant none of them succeeded. Undisciplined and more interested in learning I could do something than actually succeeding at any one thing, I dabbled my way through life. The one thing I was forced to stick with was the subdivision scheme I had tied up much of my savings in — I had to make myself stick with it for five years until it was settled and I could cash out. That was how I learned that the enemies of progress would tie you down with regulations and politics unless you had paid them off and supported their power — other developers had the officeholders in their pockets and could magically get action where I got the big stall. This kind of corruption has existed in urban real estate development since the advent of zoning and building regulations, which addressed some abuses of the formerly free market but ended up throttling production of new housing in the most desirable locales.

Never let the bastards win. What those who have never left their academic or career track never learn is that they may have been free to achieve in their narrow lane, but others not so lucky work in fields that have been hamstrung by regulation so that they couldn’t succeed without paying off politicians — the zoning board, the health inspectors, the city council, the FDA, the FCC, the FAA…. the PC industry thrived unregulated because it appeared to be small and unthreatening. As it has grown to be the central element of communication, politicians have taken note of its ability to reach voters and have started to threaten its freedom — so now the big companies like Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook are spending big on lobbying and cooperating with government efforts to regulate speech and prop up the oligopoly of cable networks and content distributors.

I had been an undisciplined student for my first 30 years, a mostly failed businessman and dabbler the next ten, then landed in Silicon Valley to manage a friend’s money — the Stanford professor I mentioned before. I routed around the Establishment by studying on my own for the Series 7 exam that would allow me to charge for investment advice and started my own company to manage other people’s money. The SEC’s 1930s laws made speaking openly as an investment advisor dangerous — all communications are supposed to be vetted and hedged with warnings, and in practice it is better not to communicate at all since the law is vague enough to be abused to punish advisors for saying anything the authorities find threatening. In fact, publication of investment newsletters had to be freed of SEC regulation by a court case — but those who were licensed to manage other people’s money were still at risk of being punished for freely communicating opinions. As for many New Deal-era regulatory schemes, Constitutional rights were trampled on to give regulatory agencies more power, in service of “the greater good” (for politicians.) Which is why farmers were not allowed to grow their own feedstock, broadcasters could be punished for showing a flash of nipple, and the Federal Election Commission could try to prevent the advertising of a film that criticized a public figure who happened to be a candidate for office.

So I restrained my public comments and tended to my private affairs. When I retired and gave up my registration as an investment advisor, I was free to speak and I started blogging more. Starting over again at square one, armed with knowledge and more self-confidence and enough money to retire on safely — but still minus allies and much social support, since my friends are mostly employees of tech companies who have never once run their own business or dealt with bureaucracies without a government or corporate umbrella protecting them. It rarely occurs to them to question the conventional wisdom or wonder how those highly-regulated industries (real estate, medicine, mass communications, finance) create so much concentrated wealth for the few who have favored positions in them, or how tribute from those industries is fed back to the politicians who maintain barriers to outsiders who might otherwise compete. And so progress slows, and our politics gets dumber and dumber. More mindless promises of “100,000 new cops” (Clinton) or “No child left behind” (Bush) or “Millions of new green jobs” (Obama, Hillary Clinton) — whatever simplistic and unachievable fairy tale you want, I can give you!

I can tell you that starting over — and over and over — makes you resilient. I’m pretty tired now at 60 and don’t have the kind of energy to throw myself against a wall that I used to, but then again I’ve got guile (to use P. J. O’Rourke’s title phrase, “Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence, and a Bad Haircut.”) — which means choosing your battles wisely and not taking up every challenge. So I’ve retired to writing, where I’m doing okay at self-publishing — my relationship books have helped people around the world, sell steadily, and provide an income sufficient for trailer-park-level living if I actually needed it, while the fiction is well-reviewed if disappointingly low in volume.

So is it time to change again? Maybe.


Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples OrganizationsDeath by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.

 


More reading on other topics:

Death by HR: Good-Enough Cogs vs Best Employees
Death by HR: EEOC Incompetence and the Coming Idiocracy
Regulation Strangling Innovation: Planes, Trains, and Hyperloop
Captain America and Progressive Infantilization
The Great Progressive Stagnation vs. Dynamism
FDA Wants More Lung Cancer
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Public Employee Unions
Jane Jacobs’ Monstrous Hybrids: Guardians vs Commerce
Death by HR: How Affirmative Action is Crippling America
Death by HR: The End of Merit in Civil Service
Death by HR: History and Practice of Affirmative Action and the EEOC
Civil Service: Woodrow Wilson’s Progressive Dream
Bootleggers and Baptists
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Justice Dept. Extortion
Corrupt Feedback Loops, Goldman Sachs: More Justice Dept. Extortion
Death by HR: The Birth and Evolution of the HR Department
Death by HR: The Simple Model of Project Labor
Levellers and Redistributionists: The Feudal Underpinnings of Socialism
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
Trump World: Looking Backward
Minimum Wage: The Parable of the Ladder
Selective Outrage
Culture Wars: Co-Existence Through Limited Government
Social Justice Warriors, Jihadists, and Neo-Nazis: Constructed Identities
Tuitions Inflated, Product Degraded, Student Debts Unsustainable
The Morality of Glamour

On Affirmative Action and Social Policy:

Affirmative Action: Chinese, Indian-Origin Citizens in Malaysia Oppressed
Affirmative Action: Caste Reservation in India
Diversity Hires: Pressure on High Tech<a
Title IX Totalitarianism is Gender-Neutral
Public Schools in Poor Districts: For Control Not Education
Real-Life “Hunger Games”: Soft Oppression Destroys the Poor
The Social Decay of Black Neighborhoods (And Yours!)
Child Welfare Ideas: Every Child Gets a Government Guardian!
“Income Inequality” Propaganda is Just Disguised Materialism

The greatest hits from SubstrateWars.com (Science Fiction topics):

Fear is the Mindkiller
Mirror Neurons and Irene Gallo
YA Dystopias vs Heinlein et al: Social Justice Warriors Strike Again
Selective Outrage
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
“Tomorrowland”: Tragic Misfire
The Death of “Wired”: Hugo Awards Edition
Hugos, Sad Puppies 3, and Direct Knowledge
Selective Outrage and Angry Tribes
Men of Honor vs Victim Culture
SFF, Hugos, Curating the Best
“Why Aren’t There More Women Futurists?”
Science Fiction Fandom and SJW warfare

More reading on the military:

US Military: From No Standing Armies to Permanent Global Power
US Military: The Desegration Experience
The VA Scandals: Death by Bureaucracy

Recommended: Kinivo Bluetooth Headphones

Kinovo Bluetooth headphones

Kinovo Bluetooth headphones

Kinovo Bluetooth headphones - folded

Kinovo Bluetooth headphones – folded

I Occasionally recommend a product I have used and liked with links to the Amazon page — which gives my readers a chance to support this micro-enterprise by buying through it, since Amazon returns a small fee when you do. That doesn’t affect the price you pay, and since I’m a cost-conscious shopper, I recommend mostly cost-effective items.

Kinivo BTH240 Bluetooth Stereo Headphone – Supports Wireless Music Streaming and Hands-Free calling (Black) [Update July 2016] The successor to the headphones I previously recommended for workouts. Great low-cost (c. $25) Bluetooth headphones for exercise, making it easy to use your phone for cordless music while exercising. Good sound, long life battery (I only have to charge mine once a month!), sturdy yet compact when folded, works for phone calls using iPhone or similar.

After my Bose headphones were stolen at the gym, I looked around for a more disposable pair and found the predecessor of this current offering. Good enough fidelity for exercising, and as it turns out they lasted for five years until recently when the left channel wire broke and the ear padding started to erode. The new models are improved but very similar in size and feel, so after a few days of evaluation, I can recommend them.

 

 

Sisters of Perpetual Grievance: Gender Pay Gap

Pay Gap - Whitehouse.gov

Pay Gap – Whitehouse.gov

The Party of Government continually promises to fix problems that don’t exist to portray themselves as warriors for social justice. One of the most mainstream of these myths is the gender pay gap, which aggregates pay for all full-time workers to show women making about 78% of what men earn and implies that women are being paid less for the same jobs throughout the economy. Millions of diverse types of worker and employment are lumped together to come up with a simple number that is assumed to be the result of systemic discrimination.

No matter how many times this is debunked, government and partisan propaganda repeats the lie to justify more affirmative action and labor laws to raise women’s pay and reduce job requirements. When it’s pointed out the discrepancy comes largely from voluntary choices made by women — to take off years for childrearing, to work in clean and safe environments, to work with people rather than machines and physical tasks — labor partisans claim that there must be systematic discrimination holding down wages in female-dominated professions like childcare.

Ask anyone who manages people in a large corporation, and you’ll discover that whatever minor pay discrepancies exist, corporate compensation schemes only allow limited differences. Men and women at a single company with the same jobs and performance are paid pretty much the same, with the minor differences related to preferences — men push harder for higher pay (and longer hours), while women on average value social relationships and shorter, more flexible hours. Some activists seem to imply that those who work too hard are implicitly making worklife too competitive for women, and that all workers should be made to work less so that those with childcare and family responsibilities can be paid the same.

A free market in labor will always have discrepancies, with competition for and relative scarcity of experienced and driven workers in certain demanding fields winning them higher compensation than those in low-skilled, pleasant jobs. It happens that more men end up in the dirty, difficult, demanding fields and sacrifice personal lives and family to outshine competitors; changing that would mean changing culture and human nature, forcing equality of outcome on a complex system that has rewards and sacrifices more important than mere financial compensation.

The pre-feminist world, say prior to 1960, tended to block women who wished to succeed in professional fields. It’s good that this has changed — more women and more men who wanted to take roles not conforming to rigid gender stereotypes have been able to do so, and net welfare has increased as a result. Yet politicians seek to raise wishful thinking about “having it all” as a woman to a public policy goal — that labor regulation should force employers to hire set ratios of women and minorities regardless of fit and productivity, and pay the mother who works 30 hours a week the same as the driven young father who wants to rise to the top by working 60-hour weeks. This is part of the recipe for Euro-stagnation that is gradually damaging US growth, and forcing HR departments to act as the social engineering arms of the Federal EEOC and Dept. of Labor.

The EEOC intends to muscle private companies to comply, starting with their Jan. 29, 2016 announcement[1] that all companies with more than 100 employees would be required to report compensation broken down by race, gender, and ethnicity:

“Too often, pay discrimination goes undetected because of a lack of accurate information about what people are paid,” said Jenny Yang, the chairwoman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which will publish the proposed regulation jointly with the Department of Labor. “We will be using the information that we’re collecting as one piece of information that can inform our investigations.”

…“Bridging the stubborn pay gap between men and women in the work force has proven to be very challenging,” said Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to Mr. Obama, noting that the median wage for women amounts to 79 percent of that for men. “We have seen progress, but it isn’t enough.”

And it will never be enough, since the Party of Government actually doesn’t want their poll-tested issues to ever go away. While discrimination on a small scale still happens — individual managers and some small backwater companies still discriminate — on the whole women are given a fair shake and accommodated in today’s corporate world. Pretending that millions of woman can get big raises for their current jobs by voting in Party of Government politicians is too valuable to give up as an election issue. The problem must be kept alive forever, even when all of its real aspects have been dealt with as much as a free market in labor — and an efficient economy with freedom of choice for companies and workers — allows.

Ashe Schow, a sharp feminist writer who doesn’t buy the party line, says:

I’ve written extensively on how the gender wage gap would be more accurately referred to as the “gender earnings gap,” because the gap is due mostly to choices women make and not discrimination.

But now you don’t have to take my word for it, you can listen to Claudia Goldin, an economics professor at Harvard University. Goldin spoke to Stephen Dubner, the journalist behind the popular podcast “Freakanomics,” in a segment about what really causes the gap.
As one can imagine, Goldin comes to the same conclusion that I and many others have: That the gap is due mostly to choices men and women make in their careers and not discrimination.

“Does that mean that women are receiving lower pay for equal work?” Goldin asked after listening to clips of President Obama and comedienne Sarah Silverman claim that women earn 77 cents to the dollar that men earn. “That is possibly the case in certain places, but by and large it’s not that, it’s something else.”

That “something else,” is choice — in the careers that women take, the hours they work and the time off they take. Dubner asked her about evidence that discrimination plays a role in the gap, to which Goldin responded that such a “smoking gun” no longer exists.[2]

Walter Olson of Overlawyered points out how the EEOC’s collection of data might benefit law firms who can use it to back up lawsuits, with the inevitable costly settlements enriching the law firms and further reducing corporate freedom to work with individual employees to tailor working conditions, hours, and compensation:

Aside from driving a high volume of litigation by the EEOC itself, the scheme will also greatly benefit private lawyers who sue employers, including class action lawyers. An employer might then weather the resulting litigation siege by showing that its numbers were good enough, or not. Would today’s Labor Department and EEOC policies look much different if the Obama administration frankly acknowledged that it was devising them with an eye toward maximum liability and payouts?[3]

A study[4] of recent graduates in STEM fields demonstrated how disparate pay could quickly be generated by different preferences in these supposedly logical fields:

One year after they graduate, women with Ph.D.s in science and engineering fields earn 31 percent less than do men, according to a new study using previously unavailable data.

The pay gap dropped to 11 percent when researchers took into account that women tended to graduate with degrees in fields that generally pay less than fields in which men got their degrees.

The rest of the pay gap disappeared when the researchers controlled for whether women were married and had children.

“There’s a dramatic difference in how much early career men and women in the sciences are paid,” said Bruce Weinberg, co-author of the study and professor of economics at The Ohio State University. “We can get a sense of some of the reasons behind the pay gap, but our study can’t speak to whether any of the gap is due to discrimination. Our results do suggest some lack of family-friendliness for women in these careers.”

“Family-friendly” means less focused, less demanding work. In science and engineering, focus is critical — a worker who is obsessed by the work and spends night and day thinking about a problem undistracted by children and social responsibilities is vastly more likely to achieve a breakthrough or a rigorous, clean, innovative design before the competition. Multitasking and the interruption of concentration by family schedules and set break times reduces productivity, especially in fields like programming where long and intense focus is required for the best work product. Not all jobs in these fields require this obsessive focus and many peripheral and support jobs can allow time for family life and other interests, but these jobs tend to pay less as well. To demand to be paid the same amount for them is to cheat the hard worker who is motivated to temporarily sacrifice much of the enjoyment of a well-rounded life for the sake of the task and who may be doing so to build the record of outstanding performance needed to build the base of a long career. And it should surprise no one that far fewer women are interested in that kind of unbalanced, unsocial, driven existence, even for short periods. The report goes on to say:

The importance of helpful family policies is supported by the fact that single and childless women tended to have less of a pay gap than those who were married and those who had children. About equal percentages of men and women were married or partnered. And more men than women in the study (24 versus 19 percent) had children. But it was the married women with children who saw the lower pay.

“Our results show a larger child-gap in salary among women Ph.D.s than among men,” Weinberg said.

“We can’t tell from our data what’s going on there. There’s probably a combination of factors. Some women may consciously choose to be primary caregivers and pull back from work. But there may also be some employers putting women on a ‘mommy track’ where they get paid less.”

The researchers had data, not previously available to scientists, on 1,237 students who received Ph.D.s from four U.S. universities from 2007 to 2010 and were supported on research projects while in school.

This data included federal funding support the Ph.D. graduates received as students, the dissertations they wrote (this told researchers what scientific field they studied) and U.S. Census data on where they worked and how much they earned one year after graduation, as well as their marital and childbearing status. Names and identifying characteristics were stripped from the data before the scientists had access to it.

Results showed clear differences in what men and women studied, with women clustered in the lower-paying fields. Overall, 59 percent of women completed dissertations in biology, chemistry and health, compared to only 27 percent of men.

Meanwhile, men were more than twice as likely to complete dissertations in more financially lucrative fields like engineering (45 versus 21 percent), and were 1.5 times more likely to study computer science, math or physics (28 versus 19 percent).

….Once they graduate, the differences between men and women with Ph.D.s continue. While industry tends to pay the largest salaries, women are more likely than men to work in government and academic settings. In fact, women in the study were 13 percentage points less likely than men to work outside of academia and government.

Women tend to choose more sociable, more supportive work environments, in fields that pay somewhat less. It is likely this is in part not only their conscious preference, but a kind of luxury afforded by the remnants of traditional gender roles — while free not to follow those roles, most men and women still have them embedded in their plans and goals, and the goal of the family with a male primary earner and female caretaker and secondary earner is now the most common. In that context, a woman’s choice of lower compensation jobs and fields makes perfect sense as part of her strategy.



[1] “Obama Moves to Expand Rules Aimed at Closing Gender Pay Gap,” By Julie Hirshfeld Davis, Jan. 29, 2016 New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/29/us/politics/obama-moves-to-expand-rules-aimed-at-closing-gender-pay-gap.html
[2] “Harvard prof. takes down gender wage gap myth,” by Ashe Schow, 1/13/16 Washington Examiner. http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/harvard-prof.-takes-down-gender-wage-gap-myth/article/2580405
[3] “EEOC pay reporting: the better to sue you with, my dear,” by Walter Olson, 2/1/2016 Overlawyered. http://overlawyered.com/2016/02/eeoc-employers-must-report-pay-numbers-to-us/
[4] “Young women in STEM fields earn up to one-third less than men: Marriage, kids and scientific fields chosen explain gap, study finds,”
by Jeff Grabmeier, May 10, 2016, Ohio State University News.
https://news.osu.edu/news/2016/05/10/stem-gap/


Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples OrganizationsDeath by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.

 


More reading on other topics:

Death by HR: Good-Enough Cogs vs Best Employees
Death by HR: EEOC Incompetence and the Coming Idiocracy
Regulation Strangling Innovation: Planes, Trains, and Hyperloop
Captain America and Progressive Infantilization
The Great Progressive Stagnation vs. Dynamism
FDA Wants More Lung Cancer
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Public Employee Unions
Jane Jacobs’ Monstrous Hybrids: Guardians vs Commerce
Death by HR: How Affirmative Action is Crippling America
Death by HR: The End of Merit in Civil Service
Death by HR: History and Practice of Affirmative Action and the EEOC
Civil Service: Woodrow Wilson’s Progressive Dream
Bootleggers and Baptists
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Justice Dept. Extortion
Corrupt Feedback Loops, Goldman Sachs: More Justice Dept. Extortion
Death by HR: The Birth and Evolution of the HR Department
Death by HR: The Simple Model of Project Labor
Levellers and Redistributionists: The Feudal Underpinnings of Socialism
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
Trump World: Looking Backward
Minimum Wage: The Parable of the Ladder
Selective Outrage
Culture Wars: Co-Existence Through Limited Government
Social Justice Warriors, Jihadists, and Neo-Nazis: Constructed Identities
Tuitions Inflated, Product Degraded, Student Debts Unsustainable
The Morality of Glamour

On Affirmative Action and Social Policy:

Affirmative Action: Chinese, Indian-Origin Citizens in Malaysia Oppressed
Affirmative Action: Caste Reservation in India
Diversity Hires: Pressure on High Tech<a
Title IX Totalitarianism is Gender-Neutral
Public Schools in Poor Districts: For Control Not Education
Real-Life “Hunger Games”: Soft Oppression Destroys the Poor
The Social Decay of Black Neighborhoods (And Yours!)
Child Welfare Ideas: Every Child Gets a Government Guardian!
“Income Inequality” Propaganda is Just Disguised Materialism

The greatest hits from SubstrateWars.com (Science Fiction topics):

Fear is the Mindkiller
Mirror Neurons and Irene Gallo
YA Dystopias vs Heinlein et al: Social Justice Warriors Strike Again
Selective Outrage
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
“Tomorrowland”: Tragic Misfire
The Death of “Wired”: Hugo Awards Edition
Hugos, Sad Puppies 3, and Direct Knowledge
Selective Outrage and Angry Tribes
Men of Honor vs Victim Culture
SFF, Hugos, Curating the Best
“Why Aren’t There More Women Futurists?”
Science Fiction Fandom and SJW warfare

More reading on the military:

US Military: From No Standing Armies to Permanent Global Power
US Military: The Desegration Experience
The VA Scandals: Death by Bureaucracy

Death by HR: Good-Enough Cogs vs Best Employees

College Costs Up, Salaries Flat

College Costs Up, Salaries Flat

Remember the bucket brigade model of teamwork? It demonstrated that giving a manager the freedom to pick and choose who would be on a team and what they would be paid allowed even those weak in some areas to be employed to complement the strengths of other team members. Taking away that freedom to choose — by imposing minimum wages or labor regulations — resulted in some people being unemployed who might otherwise have done well and gained skills over time.

The cog model of labor, as employed by unionists and government labor laws, sees jobs as slots to be filled by anyone who is “good enough” — who can function at some standardized level in the position. No worker is supposed to do much more than the standard amount of work, and hours are to be regulated by law to prevent abuse of workers by rapacious business owners. Much of the discussion of affirmative action (AA) and diversity assumes this — when there are many candidates to choose from, one can simply declare a minimum competence requirement, then choose the candidates that further diversity goals from among that pool. This will typically not be the best candidates for the particular position and team environment, but team managers are not given a choice.

Signifiers of “good enough” that are seen as objective — like high school and college degrees, grades, and test scores — are often used to screen out many applicants for entry-level jobs before any consideration of their complete records. But all of these quality signifiers tend to screen out more minority applicants, and so are inevitably attacked as having disparate impacts. The EEOC, for example, recently issued a letter stating that requiring a high-school diploma for a position might be inherently discriminatory under the Americans with Disabilities Act.[1] Standardized tests have been legally attacked and removed as requirements as well. The “Ban the Box” campaign[2] is an effort to prohibit employers from inquiring about criminal histories, since some minorities are much more likely to have been convicted of a crime. The reductio ad absurdum where people convicted of sex crimes against children cannot be disqualified from jobs in child care is not far away; the unionist / government answer is that such people must be hired, paid, and promoted, but can be told to report to a room to serve their work days, since as with the bad teachers paid to sit in NYC’s Rubber Room,[3] it’s not that important that they actually be useful as long as equality is preserved — the task is not to produce, but to harvest the proceeds of political influence for clients of the political machine.

There is an argument for prohibiting employers from asking about college degrees for many positions — since minority applicants from failed urban schools fail to graduate, or if they do tend to drop out of higher education before they obtain a degree, using a college degree as a general requirement for jobs where the extra education is not required to do the job is discriminatory. The requirement certifies mostly that the applicant can deal with arbitrary reward systems and complicated schedules of attendance with only long-term rewards, which bars most raised with the underclass cultures who have had little opportunity to learn self-discipline or other bourgeois values. Standards of learning for obtaining a soft-studies degree like psychology or political science from a low-end college are not much more rigorous than for high school, with many graduates not much more literate and knowledgeable after four years of “education.” Anyone who can navigate the bureaucracy and attend class is likely to be awarded a degree.

Scott Alexander in his Slate Star Codex piece “Against Tulip Subsidies”[4] wrote about a kingdom where marriage proposals customarily required a tulip, and what happened when tulips became expensive in a speculative market bubble (as they actually did in Holland around 1637)[5] :

Suitors wishing to give a token of their love find themselves having to invest their entire life savings – with no guarantee that the woman will even say yes! Soon, some of the poorest people are locked out of marriage and family-raising entirely.

Some of the members of Parliament are outraged. Marriage is, they say, a human right, and to see it forcibly denied the poor by foreign speculators is nothing less than an abomination. They demand that the King provide every man enough money to guarantee he can buy a tulip. Some objections are raised: won’t it deplete the Treasury? Are we obligated to buy everyone a beautiful flawless bulb, or just the sickliest, grungiest plant that will technically satisfy the requirements of the ritual? If some man continuously proposes to women who reject him, are we obligated to pay for a new bulb each time, thus subsidizing his stupidity?

The pro-subsidy faction declares that the people asking these question are well-off, and can probably afford tulips of their own, and so from their place of privilege they are trying to raise pointless objections to other people being able to obtain the connubial happiness they themselves enjoy. After the doubters are tarred and feathered and thrown in the river, Parliament votes that the public purse pay for as many tulips as the poor need, whatever the price.

He makes the analogy to the Progressive movement for “free college,” where everyone is viewed as entitled to a four-year degree at public expense, without much consideration of the cost or value of such degrees. Then he points out his own profession, medicine, as an example where arbitrarily costly educational requirements may have little benefit and high costs:

In America, aspiring doctors do four years of undergrad in whatever area they want (I did Philosophy), then four more years of medical school, for a total of eight years post-high school education. In Ireland, aspiring doctors go straight from high school to medical school and finish after five years.

I’ve done medicine in both America and Ireland. The doctors in both countries are about equally good. When Irish doctors take the American standardized tests, they usually do pretty well. Ireland is one of the approximately 100% of First World countries that gets better health outcomes than the United States. There’s no evidence whatsoever that American doctors gain anything from those three extra years of undergrad. And why would they? Why is having a philosophy degree under my belt supposed to make me any better at medicine?

(I guess I might have acquired a talent for colorectal surgery through long practice pulling things out of my ass, but it hardly seems worth it.)

I’ll make another confession. Ireland’s medical school is five years as opposed to America’s four because the Irish spend their first year teaching the basic sciences – biology, organic chemistry, physics, calculus. When I applied to medical school in Ireland, they offered me an accelerated four year program on the grounds that I had surely gotten all of those in my American undergraduate work. I hadn’t. I read some books about them over the summer and did just fine.

Americans take eight years to become doctors. Irishmen can do it in four, and achieve the same result. Each year of higher education at a good school – let’s say an Ivy, doctors don’t study at Podunk Community College – costs about $50,000. So American medical students are paying an extra $200,000 for…what?

Remember, a modest amount of the current health care crisis is caused by doctors’ crippling level of debt. Socially responsible doctors often consider less lucrative careers helping the needy, right up until the bill comes due from their education and they realize they have to make a lot of money right now. We took one look at that problem and said “You know, let’s make doctors pay an extra $200,000 for no reason.”

And to paraphrase Dirkson, $200,000 here, $200,000 there, and pretty soon it adds up to real money. 20,000 doctors graduate in the United States each year; that means the total yearly cost of requiring doctors to have undergraduate degrees is $4 billion. That’s most of the amount of money you’d need to house every homeless person in the country ($10,000 to house one homeless x 600,000 homeless).

Alexander cites more examples from his immediate family and friends of the use of degree and certification requirements to keep talented, motivated people out of professions and jobs:

But it’s not just medicine. Let me tell you about my family.

There’s my cousin. He wants to be a firefighter. He’s wanted to be a firefighter ever since he was young, and he’s done volunteer work for his local fire department, who have promised him a job. But in order to get it, he has to go do four years of college. You can’t be a firefighter without a college degree. That would be ridiculous. Back in the old days, when people were allowed to become firefighters after getting only thirteen measly years of book learning, I have it on good authority that several major states burnt to the ground.

My mother is a Spanish teacher. After twenty years teaching, with excellent reviews by her students, she pursued a Masters’ in Education because her school was going to pay her more money if she had it. She told me that her professors were incompetent, had never actually taught real students, and spent the entire course pushing whatever was the latest educational fad; however, after paying them thousands of dollars, she got the degree and her school dutifully increased her salary. She is lucky. In several states, teachers are required by law to pursue a Masters’ degree to be allowed to continue teaching. Oddly enough, these states have no better student outcomes than states without this requirement, but this does not seem to affect their zeal for this requirement. Even though many rigorous well-controlled studies have found that presence of absence of a Masters’ degree explains approximately zero percent of variance in teacher quality, many states continue to require it if you want to keep your license, and almost every state will pay you more for having it.

Before taking my current job, I taught English in Japan. I had no Japanese language experience and no teaching experience, but the company I interviewed with asked if I had an undergraduate degree in some subject or other, and that was good enough for them. Meanwhile, I knew people who were fluent in Japanese and who had high-level TOEFL certification. They did not have a college degree so they were not considered.

My ex-girlfriend majored in Gender Studies, but it turned out all of the high-paying gender factories had relocated to China. They solved this problem by going to App Academy, a three month long, $15,000 course that taught programming. App Academy graduates compete for the same jobs as people who have taken computer science in college, a four-year-long, $200,000 undertaking.

I see no reason to think my family and friends are unique. The overall picture seems to be one of people paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to get a degree in Art History to pursue a job in Sales, or a degree in Spanish Literature to get a job as a middle manager. Or not paying hundreds of thousands of dollars, if they happen to be poor, and so being permanently locked out of jobs as a firefighter or salesman.

This is a picture of a society where distant authorities control employment qualifications for political and bureaucratic reasons and thereby prevent many people who would be very good at a job from having any chance of getting it. The “free college” movement is just more of the same central-planning-style thinking: removing all obstacles so that everyone — no matter how poorly-motivated, ill-prepared, or congenitally stupid — goes to a college, no matter how dumbed-down. Which by magic will allow all of them to be placed in good professional jobs with high salaries and secure futures. Because college is good, everyone should go! And heaven help us when barely-competent professionals are running important institutions because they have been passed along through an education system where no one fails.

This faith in college education for all is a secular version of believing prayer in schools will somehow uplift the morality of children forced to pray. It is promoted not only by the “Baptists” who believe, but by the self-interested bootleggers who benefit from force-feeding students and tax dollars to academic bureaucracies that employ mostly Democrat-aligned voters, which is why more funding for college is always on that party’s agenda.

This tax-supported credentialism has begun to erode standards in higher education, to the point where half or more of students with A and B averages in high school still need remedial coursework[6] before even starting a college-level program. As the corrupting effect of government student loan financing took hold in colleges and universities, standards fell, and resources go to expensive facilities and administrators while teaching is often assigned to low-paid, abused gypsy adjunct instructors. The result is a pervasive decline in the quality of college graduates at all but the highest-level institutions and a heavy burden of debt on students who discover too late that a college degree is no guarantee of a job paying enough to pay for it.

Credentialism is lazy, and part of the no-competence, no-consequences culture brought to us by government. The party of government works very hard to feed their voters a steady diet of stories deflecting blame for institutional failure toward for-profit colleges, prisons, and medical facilities while exempting the nonprofit, government-employee-staffed equivalents from any scrutiny, when they are often just as corrupt. Requiring 4-year degrees for most jobs ratifies the dumbing-down of the high school degree, which used to certify a broad education in the basics sufficient for middle-class skilled employment.

—

[1] EEOC letter dated June 11, 2012. “ADA & Title VII: High School Diploma Requirement and Disparate Impact.” https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/foia/letters/2012/ada_title_vii_diploma_disparate_impact.html
[2] “Ban the Box: US Cities, Counties, and States Adopt Fair Hiring Policies,” by Michelle Natividad Rodriguez and Beth Avery, National Employment Law Project. http://www.nelp.org/publication/ban-the-box-fair-chance-hiring-state-and-local-guide/
[3] “The Rubber Room: The battle over New York City’s worst teachers,” by Steven Brill. The New Yorker, August 31, 2009. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2009/08/31/the-rubber-room
[4] http://slatestarcodex.com/2015/06/06/against-tulip-subsidies/
[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulip_mania
[6] “Trapped in the Community College Remedial Maze,” by Mikhail Zinshteyn, Atlantic, February 26, 2016. http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/02/community-colleges-remedial-classes/471192/


Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples OrganizationsDeath by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.

 


More reading on other topics:

Death by HR: The Simple Model of Project Labor
Death by HR: EEOC Incompetence and the Coming IdiocracyRegulation Strangling Innovation: Planes, Trains, and Hyperloop
Captain America and Progressive Infantilization
The Great Progressive Stagnation vs. Dynamism
FDA Wants More Lung Cancer
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Public Employee Unions
Jane Jacobs’ Monstrous Hybrids: Guardians vs Commerce
Death by HR: How Affirmative Action is Crippling America
Death by HR: The End of Merit in Civil Service
Death by HR: History and Practice of Affirmative Action and the EEOC
Civil Service: Woodrow Wilson’s Progressive Dream
Bootleggers and Baptists
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Justice Dept. Extortion
Corrupt Feedback Loops, Goldman Sachs: More Justice Dept. Extortion
Death by HR: The Birth and Evolution of the HR Department
Levellers and Redistributionists: The Feudal Underpinnings of Socialism
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
Trump World: Looking Backward
Minimum Wage: The Parable of the Ladder
Selective Outrage
Culture Wars: Co-Existence Through Limited Government
Social Justice Warriors, Jihadists, and Neo-Nazis: Constructed Identities
Tuitions Inflated, Product Degraded, Student Debts Unsustainable
The Morality of Glamour

On Affirmative Action and Social Policy:

Affirmative Action: Chinese, Indian-Origin Citizens in Malaysia Oppressed
Affirmative Action: Caste Reservation in India
Diversity Hires: Pressure on High Tech<a
Title IX Totalitarianism is Gender-Neutral
Public Schools in Poor Districts: For Control Not Education
Real-Life “Hunger Games”: Soft Oppression Destroys the Poor
The Social Decay of Black Neighborhoods (And Yours!)
Child Welfare Ideas: Every Child Gets a Government Guardian!
“Income Inequality” Propaganda is Just Disguised Materialism

The greatest hits from SubstrateWars.com (Science Fiction topics):

Fear is the Mindkiller
Mirror Neurons and Irene Gallo
YA Dystopias vs Heinlein et al: Social Justice Warriors Strike Again
Selective Outrage
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
“Tomorrowland”: Tragic Misfire
The Death of “Wired”: Hugo Awards Edition
Hugos, Sad Puppies 3, and Direct Knowledge
Selective Outrage and Angry Tribes
Men of Honor vs Victim Culture
SFF, Hugos, Curating the Best
“Why Aren’t There More Women Futurists?”
Science Fiction Fandom and SJW warfare

More reading on the military:

US Military: From No Standing Armies to Permanent Global Power
US Military: The Desegration Experience
The VA Scandals: Death by Bureaucracy

Goodreads Review of “Bad Boyfriends” – “This book will save singles immense pain…”

Bad Boyfriends Audiobook Cover

Bad Boyfriends Audiobook

A new Goodreads review of Bad Boyfriends: Using Attachment Theory to Avoid Mr. (or Ms.) Wrong and Make You a Better Partner:

Kimberley rated it 5 stars out of 5 – “it was amazing!”

Bad Boyfriends is a guide to help women (or men) navigate the world of dating, particularly helping them in weeding out “avoidant” men (or women) who don’t have the capacity of participating in a healing, nurturing, healthy relationship without a great deal of therapeutic support and deep work. This book is going to save singles immense pain if it helps them discover this attachment style (and other pathologies) early on, before much time is invested in the relationship. My ex-boyfriend has been heroically honest with the women after me that he begins to date, letting them know that this is his attachment style, and so far, no woman wants to begin a relationship with him. I don’t think relationships work with this type of person because if they meet another avoidant, neither can sustain a relationship beyond a month or two. If they meet someone with an ambivalent attachment style, like me, it will become a living hell for the ambivalent partner. The avoidant doesn’t feel the pain of loss when a relationship ends and actually welcome the end and is relieved by it. There is some hope for an avoidant if they can be with a partner with a history of secure attachment. It will take a great deal of patience on the partner’s part and the ability or desire to be alone a lot.