November 27, 2006

"And then they went to the 20th-year reunion and saw that somebody else who was 10 times less smart was making much more money."

Hey, it's front page news in the NYT that some people make a lot less money than others who begin their careers with worse credentials but choose a career path that pays more. For example, a doctor became a Wall Street adviser on medical investments and makes a lot more than doctors who practice medicine. (Via Memeorandum.)

(Could people stop saying things like "10 times less smart"? It doesn't make sense. It should be one tenth as smart. Just a usage point. I know he's only talking, but he's a rich guy, so why not give him as hard a time as possible?)

ADDED: Glenn Reynolds mocks the headline "Lure of great wealth affects career choices." That made me go over and see the photograph again. The Wall Street doctor guy, who sounds perfectly decent throughout the article, is pictured sitting in what looks like a modest room, with his wife and two kids, playing Monopoly. Aw, nice family scene, he must have thought. Here we are, TV off, no video games. We're playing a board game. But the shot used has one child holding up play money and counting it just as the wife is leaning over toward him with a slightly intense look on her face. Oh, noooo! Don't you know those rich people play Monopoly. And look at that woman implanting the message that it's good to get rich!

29 comments:

the pooka said...

Actually, I prefer "ten times dumber."

More evocative.

JLR said...

I think it should be noted that Dr. Glassman (the physician pictured on the front page of the NYT) graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Medical School. His credentials weren't lacking. But the overall point remains the same: some people in certain professions go into certain career paths that pay seven figures a year, rather than six.

Which is a rather silly point for the New York Times to be making on its front page.

Until you realize that it is highly likely that the largest demographic of New York Times subscribers are professionals who make six figures a year, who are finding themselves outpaced by others who are now making seven.

Eli Blake said...

Hey, I don't see why that would upset most people. I'm not against making money, but you know I went to my reunion and met some old friends. And at least one of them is a multi-millionaire (I'm not). Am I supposed to be jealous or something? I might be if somebody who was a jerk in high school got rich, but I always liked this guy.

Besides, I teach at a community college. A guy I had in a calculus class about 1990 is now a very highly placed executive in a major corporation (one that you've heard of frequently on the business report). And you know what? I get to brag that I helped him get through calculus, which helped get him there. So I feel good about that-- clearly I did my job and it contributed to his success.

I guess I don't understand why people feel the need to be jealous-- maybe I could understand it if the person you are jealous of directly beat you out (i.e. got the specific job you applied for, or married the girl that dumped you). But as a general thing, I don't get it.

Joseph Hovsep said...

Eugene Volokh has argued that "times less" makes sense, but it sounds terrible to my ears as well, even though the meaning is clear.

http://volokh.com/posts/1150922917.shtml

Balfegor said...

How to keep up with the Joneses, when the Joneses when the Joneses make ten times as much as you do? It makes a (rich) man cry out for punitive taxes and redistribution!

Bruxatus said...

an order of magnitude sounds best.

He's an order of magnitude less intelligent.


Less intelligent by an order of magnitude.


mini magnum deca de orderint

I think that I've made my point.

Mr. Snitch said...

"Could people stop saying things like "10 times less smart"? It doesn't make sense. It should be one tenth as smart."

Were he more erudite, his point would be less valid, and he'd be guilty of false modesty.

The Drill SGT said...

I would argue that if the guy was a Harvard college and Harvard Med grad in Hematology-Oncology that there weren't that many folks in his college class that were 10 times smarter. Not even 10% smarter. Note he is 41 and it was his 20th Reunion, so it was his basic Harvard class not Med school.

Jeff said...

In other news, men choose careers in popular music in order to have sex with women!

Ron said...

As an Ivy Leaguer in good standing, I assume that if they were playing "Risk" they all would have pulled out of the Middle East by now!

Robert Burnham said...

What's that old saying?

"A students go to work for B students at companies run by C students that were founded by D students..."

Dave said...

Two comments:

1) Being rich is good.

2) JLR is right on in his comments.

AJ Lynch said...

Re this quote from the article:
"Others have moved to different, higher-paying fields — from academia to Wall Street, for example — and a growing number of entrepreneurs have seen windfalls tied largely to expanding financial markets, which draw on capital from around the world. The latter phenomenon has allowed, say, the owner of a small mail-order business to sell his enterprise for tens of millions instead of the hundreds of thousands that such a sale might have brought 15 years ago. "

In other words, it can pay to be lucky!!

Was this by any chance Bill Keller's reunion story?? I suspect many MSM journalists are crazed with jealousy that many former classmates make way more than a reporter.

But kudos to this doctor, he filled a need and now he lives in Short Hills, one of the wealthiest suburbs in the entire country.

altoids1306 said...

Very interesting article...I actually printed it out on paper to read it more carefully.

Hmm, should I quit my PhD, and just join the dark side? Maybe I should pay attention to the Goldman Sachs recruiting emails instead of just deleting them all the time...

downtownlad said...

They're getting paid more because, simply put, they are more productive and are adding more value to society than the other folk.

They deserve it. Every penny.

Dave said...

DTL I thought you looked down on people from the burbs????

Yet here you are praising the good doctor from Short Hills?

downtownlad said...

Dave - I look VERY highly on people making money. And I think they deserve to keep every dime and that is theft when the government steals that money via "taxes".

I don't look down on people from the burbs. I just said that people from the city are cooler than them and I would never want to live that lifestyle. I'm sure they think the exact opposite and look down on me, as is their prerogative.

But if this guy's worth $20 million, good for him.

And if you want to talk about a tribe mentality - I suggest you visit Short Hills, New Jersey.

Dave said...

dtl--re Short Hills--been there, done that.

downtownlad said...

If I was forced to live in Jersey, I'd probably go with Newark, Asbury Park, or Cape May.

AJ Lynch said...

The article points out hedge funds are where the "real" Wall Street money is made- hmmmm I just read Chelsea Clinton took a new job with a New York hedge fund.

vw = tycoono

downtownlad said...

If you want to make a $100 million a year, you need to open a hedge fund. Otherwise, you're going to be stuck making measly millions on Wall Street. The average salary at Goldman Sachs is over $500,000 a year and that includes the secretaries!

Joseph said...

I'm more annoyed at the possibility of being financially surpassed by a reporter using the phrase "10 times less smart."

Anonymous said...

I always feel weird when I agree with downtownlad, but on this topic I've found nothing I can disagree with.

I don't get why the NYT gave this story such prominence. Really, who cares? The vast majority of people don't make $400K and aren't feeling put out by the fact that some former classmates are making 10 times that.

With money, once you reach a certain level, the rest is gravy. At least it should be.

altoids1306 said...

dtl:

Heh, good point. I already have a decent background in statistical signal processing (for cell phones and such). Hedge funds do a lot of hiring in those areas, because finding small signals in stock prices is no different than cell phone antennas. But why work for someone when you can just start a hedge fund? Just need a few supercomputers, and some well-dressed investor relations people.

Hmmm...

(BTW, I didn't know you were such a libertarian! Your city-slicker snobbery made me think you were a dyed-in-the-wool liberal. My mistake.)

rafinlay said...

What's the metric? Does "ten times less smart" mean we are talking about someone with an IQ in the 10 to 20 range? If so, and they are making millions, I'd say that certainly IS newsworthy.

Anonymous said...

Although Ann Althouse and many others are mocking the NYT article for stating the obvious, I think this is kind of cynical. I hate to break it to you, but there are indeed otherwise bright people who made it through college and beyond unaware of just how much friggin' money people are actually paid on Wall Street/the business world. I always dominated in school, and have reasonable social skills, yet as a physician I am amazed at how much MBA's make. Let me be clear, I am not criticizing them personally, and I know many work long hours (so do I though). But somehow I made it through lots of schooling without anyone actually saying "here is how much money you will make doing X" or "If you want to be truly wealthy, you have to be your own boss" - there was a serious taboo against such blunt advice at every stop in my education. And my parents considered discussion of money to be undignified. My point is, if you got this practical advice from your family or teachers growing up, you have been fortunate. For those REALLY in favor of a free market, we should encourage teaching kids about money and economics in public school, from an early age, and then we will be closer to genuine equality of opportunity. In short, I wish had read this NYT article when I was 17.

knoxgirl said...

I like this quote:

“The bigger the prize, the greater the effort that people are making to get it,” said Edward N. Wolff, a New York University economist who studies income and wealth. “That effort is draining people away from more useful work.”

Doubtless he is confident that his work falls into the "useful" category...

Anonymous said...

Patrick, your reply sounds as if earning the biggest pile of money is what everyone aspires to when looking for a job. While that may be true for a lot of people, there are many out there who actually care about the work itself. (I'm in this position myself, debating returning to high-paying software development or starting over as a teacher; so far, teaching is winning for a variety of reasons, with "the good it does" being the most important.)

Take heart, though: For those REALLY in favor of a free market, we should encourage teaching kids about money and economics in public school, from an early age, and then we will be closer to genuine equality of opportunity.

My second grader just finished a unit on economics, covering such terms as supply and demand, producer and consumer, goods and services. It was a good solid intro and I was relieved that it refrained entirely from demonizing any segment of the economy.

Robert Schwartz said...

The NYT is 2000 years late on this news flash:

"I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all."

Ecclesiastes 9:11.

I'll bet that no one in the NYTimes, editorial room (other than the janitors) knows it.