November 2, 2007

You've gone to the best schools, gotten the best grades, now why can't you get a good job being a good person for a good salary?

It's hard doing good for a living.


Dave TN said...

You would hope that by attending the "best schools" you would learn some basic economic principles of free market economies. What possible incentive is there to pay someone a high salary when a job posting brings in 100 applicants?

Pogo said...

Expensive schools do a disservice to their students when they train people for activism and NGO positions without making clear that these are not careers as much as callings, and they are unlikely to make any money doing it.

They especially harm those students who have borrowed for the privilege to be underemployed or low -paid.

I also blame parents who do not -frequently- remind their kids that the real world is hard. Work is hard.

Moreover, why haven't any of these world-savers (or their teachers) ever discovered that capitalism has been the world's single most successful answer to poverty?

rhhardin said...

Doing good is not so easy as it seems. It has to happen one by one, and entails courage and hard work.

You can play at it, but it doesn't pay well.

Then there's Hannah Arendt's observation that goodness that goes public turns to the worst sort of evil.

Better to do you like, and then do good with something you know something about if it comes up ; and doing good will only be what it turns out to be, retrospectively, when you're done, if at all.

You can't do good in a space larger than a dog can guard, as a rule of thumb. Plato has dogs guarding the just city for a reason.

Cheryl said...

This seems like more whining from a certain class of young adults who don't want to grow up. Expecting a private-sector job on someone else's nickel, either through taxes or charitable donations, seems petulant.

Instead, why not try the private-sector route, learning to balance a productive, even lucrative career with good choices in your personal life, including where you spend your spare time and some of that higher income? A potential up-side that occurs to me is better-rounded executives, conscious of their impact in the world. In addition, future activists who come from the world of capitalism to activism might also bring a clearer view of how the world really works. Why not that path? Oh, that's right, they want what they want right NOW. How dare the rest of us deny them.

Tim said...

"Hanley, a think tank temp who dreams of aiding the impoverished and reducing gender discrimination in developing countries, is stuck."

Uh oh. Isn't this - miserable people - the NY Times usual beat?

"The public interest sector..."

God help us. When the f*ck did we ever decide there was a "public interest sector" and that it was large enough part of the economy to deserve a name? I wonder if Brookings ever did a study on the economic efficiency of dollars donated to/extorted by the "public interest sector." I'm betting not - or at least, not an honest study - for obvious reasons.

"Those who select the NGO route say they have it the hardest."

Indeed. The homeless drug addict with HIV cries with pity for the upper middle class white kids with gilded master degrees unable to pursue fantasy jobs with high salaries.

"She's still holding out for the ideal: a job that takes her to Africa for health projects and gender relations issues."

Maybe the Africans aren't looking for upper middle class American white kids with gilded master degrees to work on health projects and gender relations issues.

If she and others like her want to help develop and democratize third world nations, they should either join the Army or Marines, or start a business overseas. Maybe her gilded education overlooked Lederer and Burdick's "The Ugly American." Lots to be learned there, and I'd bet a copy could be found at Alibris...

Evil HR Lady said...

If you want to help with disease in Africa and make money at the same time, become a chemist, or a biologist and go work for a pharmaceutical company. Discover new drugs that will save lives.

Life is all about choices. Choices have consequences.

I once had an employee with a degree from a fancy school who kept insisting she needed a raise because of her student loans. I had to explain to her that that wasn't how it worked. When your boss makes a decision about your pay, he/she doesn't (and shouldn't) take into consideration how much money you owe in student loans.

Bruce Hayden said...

I think this a bit absurd, whining about making $40k or so in jobs where there are 100 applicants per job.

I actually have seen worse misfits. Twenty or so years ago, when I was in Fort Collins, CO, CSU there had a forestry program. People went there to become Forest Rangers, envisioning a life of running around the forests and saving them.

Except that the Forest Service, BLM, and Park Service were, as usual, under financial crunch. So, many of the graduates were working ten years as seasonal temps before getting full time positions, at the pay grade that programmers and the like started at, fresh out of college. So, you find a lot of them working in the other seasons as waitresses and the like making the money they needed to fund their dream of becoming a Forest Ranger, etc. The smart ones figured this out in school, and switched to a more lucrative major, like computer science.

There is some indication that this is still going on, since the woman who accidentally started one of the big fires near Denver a couple years ago by illegally burning her boyfriend's letters was just such a long term seasonal Forest Service temp (and given the competition for job, I expect she wasn't hired back when she got out of prison).

Oh, and esp. gratuitous was the NGO executive wishing for more money so that these do-gooders ccould make more. What the WaPo didn't ask was how much the executive was making. They should have. Many NGO executives make more than their private enterprise counterparts.

Bruce Hayden said...

Actually, I would suggest that the best way of helping combat disease in the 3rd world would be to go do something else first. You have Bill and Melinda Gates using their billions to combat malaria, among other things. And you have physicians who have built enough of a cushion to be able to work as Doctors without Borders.

Indeed, one of the nice things about being a professional is that you can switch to the non-profit sector upon retirement. I know doctors working in free clinics after retirement, and my father still does free tenant counseling after retiring as an attorney.

In other words, saving the world through public service is a luxury. You mostly either starve while doing it when you are young, or wait until you can afford it later.

Joe said...

"Plato has dogs guarding the just city for a reason."

Dogs don't figure into the Republic at all, except for a few places in which Socrates compares the "guardians" (and later, the philosophers) to dogs for rhetorical purposes.

As for social work:
I attend a rather large Baptist university in the south. There's a disproportionate amount of the "saving the world" types here. The best part? The "School of Social Work" is headquartered in a parking garage.

Sloanasaurus said...

Who is shedding any tears for these people. They are highly educated kids of well-to-do families making rotten choices.

Paddy O. said...

I feel for these folks. This has been an issue in vocational ministry for a very long time. Eight years of undergraduate and three years+ of seminary leading into low paying jobs of often questionable security. A person does it for the thrill of pursuing inner calling, but real life does have its demands. Sacrifice that calling and get a job that pays well, and basically a person is sacrificing their soul.

Some folks don't mind that. Others just can't do it.

But it seems like the people in this article are wanting the best of all worlds. Loans have a lot of ways to repay or be dismissed. There are a lot of public service pursuits, not least of which is the military, that can pay off debts in a rather short amount of time, letting a person free to step up in their calling. A lot of medical organizations and loan companies help excuse loans for doctors who commit to spending their time in terribly under-served parts of the world.

But planning vacations for global leaders isn't exactly serving the most desperate among us. Likely a lot of those jobs aren't particularly directed towards the down and out, but are in fact paying the ego by putting a person in the the presence of power.

The Drill SGT said...


1. For a smart young woman, this gal has math problems. She gets a BA at 21, will get her MA at 27 after 2 years. That produces 4 missing years yet claims not to have advanced her career yet :) Dina Khanat, 26, in her second and final year at the Elliott School, said she is grateful for her job but at the same time feels stalled.

"I feel like I am doing so bad. I think about this all the time. I graduated at 21 a year early with a double major. . . . Now I am going to graduate with a master's when I am 27," said Khanat, who just got a job as a program assistant at an NGO that promotes democracy. "But I really feel like by 27, I expect to be two or three years into work. You're supposed to have a career; you know what you're doing. . . . I don't feel settled."

2. These folks ultimately end up at the State Department where they proceed to show their disdain for America and our military, and America's policy abroad. Like the gal who plans on working for George Soros at OSI

3. riffing to the topic, I live next door to a State guy who does building security inspections overseas. He thinks all those State guys that want to refuse assignments are prima donnas.

Pogo said...

Trying to be a trust fund baby without the trust fund is really, really hard!

Palladian said...

"Uh oh. Isn't this - miserable people - the NY Times usual beat?"

That's what I was thinking. I really expected it to be a Times article (perhaps in the "Style" section) when I clicked the link.

These people are dangerous. People who want to change the world are generally dangerous and should be kept from any powerful or influential positions. I'd suggest jobs in the service sector, and I don't mean Public Service, spoken with NPR intonations.

If only there were some kind of giant mothballs that could be rolled around the streets of Washington DC that would scatter the infesting would-be do-gooders, lobbyists, think-tanks and NGOs. Perhaps uproot the cherry trees and plant some camphor trees and cedars?

rhhardin said...

"Plato has dogs guarding the just city for a reason."

Dogs don't figure into the Republic at all, except for a few places in which Socrates compares the "guardians" (and later, the philosophers) to dogs for rhetorical purposes.

Guard dogs work out of love of knowledge, distinguishing what they know from what they do not know; and being fierce about knowing. They know the ideal neighborhood by its familiarity.

And keep the unknown out.

Is that rhetorical?

Meade said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Prosecutorial Indiscretion said...

I have little sympathy for these people. I opted for the do-gooder route out of law school and make substantially less than almost all of my classmates (I'm making about 40% of what I'd be making at a firm). I knew exactly what I was getting into financially, and with ~ $150,000 of law school debt to start I knew it would be tough. I did it anyway and every day I thank God I managed to land this job.

If anything, I feel a little smug and self-satisfied about the financial hit. It's easy to commit yourself to the good guy lifestyle if there's no cost involved. I'm happy to put my money where my mouth is.

These people who act shocked that the NGOs are not going to roll out a red carpet only have themselves to blame. There's plenty of information out there for people considering public interest careers, and plenty of people in those jobs willing to talk at length with interested students. If these poor young people are victims of anything, it's their own tunnel vision and ignorance of the world. Choices come with consequences, and if you don't want the consequences, the proper response is not to whine to the NYT; it's to make a different choice. The world doesn't owe anybody a damn thing, and the fact that such naive and downright foolish people want to make public policy is not at all reassuring.

Joe said...

"You can't do good in a space larger than a dog can guard, as a rule of thumb. Plato has dogs guarding the just city for a reason.

The point is that Plato (or, more appropriately, Socrates) does not have dogs guarding the city in speech. He has the guardians guarding the city, and they are compared to dogs in several places.

I think that the passage you're thinking about is 375a-376c, in which Socrates compares the guardians of the city to guard dogs. He uses this distinction to first introduce the idea that the guardians need to be "philosophic" (the so-called "love of learning" that you pointed out)--he uses the dog analogy to insert something (philosophy) into the city that wasn't there before.

Yes, it's rhetorical.

Kirk said...

Evil HR Lady,

"If you want to help with disease in Africa and make money at the same time, become a chemist, or a biologist and go work for a pharmaceutical company. Discover new drugs that will save lives."

Yeah, the name Norman Borlaug comes to mine. Although, if you want to help the third world and insist on a "public interest" job, you could certainly do worse than becoming an anti-agricultural-subsidy crusader. I'm sure that won't pay very well, but I can think of few abstract things that would better help the world's poor.

George said...

The no-longer-so-young women quoted in the WaPo article need to find themselves some high salaried husbands and start making babies...

Kirk said...

Oops, that obviously should be "comes to mind."

Meade said...

"...aiding the impoverished and reducing gender discrimination in developing countries..."

Step 1: Find a like-minded person already earning a good salary who wants to form a legal domestic partnership (sometimes known as marriage).

Step 2: Adopt two impoverished children from developing countries.

Step 3: Rear them to be gender enlightened contributing members of society.

Results: As a parent, you will have one of the most challenging and important jobs on earth. The experience of parenting will predictably turn you into a grownup. In twenty-five years there will be two well-reared well-educated individuals who will know that you're a good person who did good.

At age 52, you can go to law school, start a blog, and enjoy time with your grandchildren. If you're fortunate, before you die, you'll experience the universally greatest human joy there is -- watching your grandchildren start their own families.

Robert said...

There's a lot of hostility here, but I'm trying to figure out if it's directed at people who do "do gooder" work in general or only those who then complain about the low salary they make.

The second is understandable. The first is a lot less so.

Pogo said...

The first is a lot less so.

I disagree. Do-gooders often do very bad things. Hence the warning The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

SGT Ted said...

What these wet behind the ears graduates need to realise is that they are now entry level employees. They have book learning, but no real world experience in their chosen field. Their expectations of instant riches just because they have a certificate of attendance from a fancy indoctrination center called a University are unrealistic and indicative of a lack of realism that isn't being imparted at these diploma farms. They have proven to be good at one thing: going to school.

In my profession, they are called "Second Leutenants" and they are viewed as wet behind the ears book-smart and practical-stupid people who need further experience and training to become functional. Some of them don't make it.

Zeb Quinn said...

The way this stuff is supposed to work is a two-part approach. Part (a) is after graduation you find a job in a field that you like or at least can tolerate, but mainly which offers rewards sufficient to support yourself and also with advancement potential, then work hard so as to realize that advancement, and look to the future to thusly shape your career. Part (b), meanwhile, the need to do good deeds and save the world, is met by doing volunteer work with any of a long list of worthy charities and/or nonprofits. Part (b) enhances part (a) by aiding in developing a personal network of people who can be of major help in your professional life, and this stuff always looks very good on the resume. When it all comes together it's a beautiful thing.

The article is basically about people who don't want any part of part (a), the work part.

Pastafarian said...

Brilliant. Roughly $160,000 (!!!!) for four years of education to earn $38-$40,000 a year. Or about $500-$600 a week. I'm afraid I never went to college. We didn't have the money for a modest house just lying around for schooling. See I had to go to WORK. When will colleges, even elite schools require common sense as a major?

Pogo said...

A friend of ours lived in Denmark for 2 years. They found it odd that she volunteered her time for various causes in the US, and had a hard time understanding the concept. I do know that charity is less frequent in Europe (and nearly absent in Japan).

Their do-gooders end up rule-making in Brussels.

Palladian said...

Well, who wants to work? I hate work. Work is for people like the people in the article.

SGT Ted said...

"There's a lot of hostility here, but I'm trying to figure out if it's directed at people who do "do gooder" work in general or only those who then complain about the low salary they make."

I have a jaundiced eye towards anyone who has very little practical life experience and virtually ZERO real world experience in their chosen field who thinks they are fully equipped to run other people's lives, much less solve huge problems whose scope they don't even grasp. This is the problem of attending the "elite" schools; an over inflated sense of importance.

It is the height of moral vanity to think that a graduate degree makes you an expert in such a complex thing as re-ordering a foreign societies culture straight out of college. These kids come across as somewhat narcissistic.

An Edjamikated Redneck said...

SGT Ted & Pastafarian- I agree with you both.

I've often said that it ought to be illegal to start college at 18- everyone should be forced to find out what they want to do with their life first, by working for a living, and then going after the education needed to succeed in that chosen path.

Some of the silliest and least pratical folks I've ever known were also the most highly educated; I've always wondered if they were silly because of their education, or highly educated because they were silly to start with?

G. Friday said...

Prosecutorial Indiscretion said..."I opted for the do-gooder route out of law school and make substantially less than almost all of my classmates (I'm making about 40% of what I'd be making at a firm). I knew exactly what I was getting into..."
Did anybody here read the article? The subject herself didnt' whine at all, it was merely framed as such by the sarcastic author. She seemed perfectly aware of the trade-offs; same as you, Mr. P.I.

Henry said...

I think it's easy to do good for a living. Become an engineer and invent something useful. Start a business and sell something useful. Hire a few people while you're at it.

Hell, become an accountant and keep good books. That's doing a lot of good for a living.

From page 2 of the article...

[The kids] feel "old," but they don't truly feel like adults because they earn modest salaries and have limited responsibilities.

In Ann's quote, the word "good" doesn't suffice to describe this attitude. You've gone to the best schools, gotten the best grades, now why can't you get an executive job being an important person for a huge salary?

Maybe it's because I went to art school that I roll my eyes at these people. They're engaged in a career called credential gathering and wondering why it doesn't seem real. Let me tell you, there's useless degress and then there's useless degress.

Prosecutorial Indiscretion said...

Fair point G.F. I read the article, but not closely enough.

Bissage said...

HEADLINE: “Fulfillment Elusive for Young Altruists In the Crowded Field of Public Interest.” (emphasis added).

You know what?

I have absolutely got to stop using this lousy internet dictionary.

Sure it’s cheap to use but it hardly ever gets the definitions right.

Oh well.

I guess you get what you pay for.

Bissage said...

No, wait!

Pogo said...

I wonder if all those grads from Women's Studies, Queer Theory, and Critical Studies programs are finding equally lucrative rewards for their endeavors.

LarsPorsena said...

Gosh!! Just think what Mother Theresa could have done if she'd had a couple more degrees.

Smilin' Jack said...

If you want to do good, get a job doing something useful and productive. Since what you're doing is useful and productive, you'll be paid well for doing it. Donate this money to, say, cancer research.

This way you'll be doing more good than any ten of these do-gooders.

Revenant said...

You've gone to the best schools, gotten the best grades, now why can't you get a good job being a good person for a good salary?

Apparently those grades weren't in an economics class. You've got a big supply of people and a limited demand for paid NGO staff, with the additional factor that many of those people have altruistic motives and are willing to work for less. Where's the confusion? Obviously you're going to have low salaries and crappy working conditions in that situation.

matthew said...

This seems like more whining from a certain class of young adults who don't want to grow up. Expecting a private-sector job on someone else's nickel, either through taxes or charitable donations, seems petulant.

Wow. I happen to know alot of these people, (it's what happens when you know international public policy students). As far as I can tell, they're whining so loudly that one article mentions them once, they make a few sarcastic comments, and people, at least in this vortex, are off to the races calling them whiny, dumb, petulant whippersnappers. Do as G.Friday suggests, and actually read the article closely (like Bissage) and you'll see the subjects of the article are not nearly as whiny or stupid as a lot of you want them to be.

Most of the people I know that are interested in international public policy know full well about their job posssibilities. The key quote is that truthfully, they would be miserable at alot of the other jobs that might pay more or have better prospects.

Liam said...

Well, let's look and see what the race for money did to medicine (yes we have excellent doctors, now how about affording them?)?

Altruism does not have a career path or a pay scale. People needing those better go to business school...

knoxwhirled said...

This reminds me of a friend of mine whose ex-husband is an artist. He just NEVER could accept that he wasn't paid to do his little "mixed media" doodles. Forget selling his work, he simply believed he should be given money just to *do* it, like a nine-to-five job.

I remember that he held particular animosity for the inventor of the "Chip Clip." It really bugged him that some bastard was making money off of them. He'd always go off on these "Chip Clip" rants.

Anyhoo, whatever you want to call it, a "calling," or a "passion", it is a privilege to spend 40 hours a week doing something you love. Often the tradeoff is that you make no $$ doing it. Take your pick.

reader_iam said...

My first full-time, salaried job out of college was a private, non-profit agency which helped trained adults with various types of disabilities to live as independently and self-sufficiently as possible, in the least-restrictive environment as possible, within the larger community. (This was in 1984, so we're talking about a time period following the waves of deinstitutionalization, centers for independent living, & etc.)

Starting salary?--$9,000 (and the hours were long, and half the time you had to carry a beeper even when technically off). Within the next couple of years, I was promoted twice, from Group Home Counselor to In-Home Program Supervisor to Development Assistant (fundraising, volunteer coordination, grants-writing, PR, special events). When I left, I was earning something like $12,600.

Money was tight (I had loans, too, and rent and all that stuff). So I waitressed 2-3 nights a week to make ends meet. (Ain't the energy of youth grand?)

Looking back, I don't regret this. I did move on, but have continued making volunteer work & etc. an important part of life.

Also, at the time, I don't recall worrying or stressing that I was making so much less than my peers in other fields (and boy, most of them were making multiples more). And if they looked down at me, I didn't notice it or they kept it to themselves. But then, maybe expectations then weren't so high? Also, life was pretty much hand to mouth during college (and I always had to work to support myself), so I didn't experience such a shock of transition. Maybe that's more of an issue now?

I'm going on like this because I'm a little puzzled by some of the reactions of these young people--not judgmental, not "hatin' on," but puzzled. This really does seem to be, at least me, a managing-expectations thing ... and I think expectation of young people have been managed upward (maybe too much so) over the past decade and half-ish. It makes it harder on them, I think.

reader_iam said...

Sorry for blowing the 200-word parameter.

tc said...

Quite plainly, Ann, because we lawyers tend to be educated idiots, idealists -according to the latest fashion in idealism: feminist and equal rights garbage and nonsense- and we have no comprehension that the world, the real world, doesn't give a shit about our ideals.
And women(xx) are the worst. They should never have become lawyers in the first place. For they can not help but be real as they are all cyclical(xx) whereas men(xy) are oppositional(xy) and make the world what it is, for better or worse.
Unfortunately, women, deceived by feminist nonsense, have yet to realize that men will never change as long as women continue to try to be men.... under the banner of feminism.
And our world will continue to die until women give up the pretense that men and women are equal. And the human race as a whole may also die in the near future because of this feminist nonsense.


AJ Lynch said...

When I was that age I also worked for a non-profit (labor union). But I only concerned myself about getting screwed and getting drunk on the weekends. If I was paid enough to afford those pursuits, the job was A-OK. Was I wrong?

AJ Lynch said...

Where is LUCY today? I miss his wit and wisdom.

AJ Lynch said...

Btw, here is a non-profit story. Lady starts a suicide prevention support group- gives up a paying job to shoulder this start-up and serve as full-time director FOR NO FRIGGING PAY. Sure her husband works but let one of these nitwits try that- no they want to start at the top for the PU Foundation and do surveys (People and The American Life) that claim people hate America. And it is America's fault- hell I thought they learned that in college.

Or do what READER IAM did why don't they - take a low paying job at a non-profit and acually help someone who needs it!!

Btw- many of these non-profits are VERITABLE scams - they don't do charitable work that you and I would recognize- they are too busy peddling influence- like let's convince taxpayers to pay for all-day 100% pre-k (see PU Foundation propaganda). And we will get the Democrat governors to play along.

Someone told me I rant today- can that be true?

Finn Kristiansen said...

I wonder if Bill Gates hops in the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Bat Plane to distribute medicine or aid directly, or whether he uses NGO's or other non-profits, since they have the bulk of the experience distributing aid.

And, I wonder if those NGO's are better staffed with people from subjectively "great colleges" or with people from subjectively "mediocre" colleges.

Apparently the option being presented by the collective here is, 1) Go do other stuff and don't work for NGO's until you have made bank (which means, maybe never) or 2) Go to the cheapest college so the wage will match school debt burden (which then means you won't get hired, given the competition).

Probably, considering the way the real world functions, they have to be prepared to sacrifice and live simply, but there is nothing wrong with someone complaining of the difficulties or wishing it was otherwise.

AJ Lynch said...


Very true - complaining is normal and does not hurt anyone.

I was pissed at the law of gravity the other day when I was having some trouble making my trademark 360 slamma jamma.

Revenant said...

Btw- many of these non-profits are VERITABLE scams

"Save the Children" is perhaps the highest-profile example of that.

Trooper York said...

[after learning he's going to be expelled]
Weensie: Listen, this is a serious situation. I mean, I'm kicked out of school. I don't know what I'm gonna do, man. My mom's gonna kill me.
Mitch: C'mon, she's not gonna kill you.
Weensie: Yes she is. See, I'm the first one to go to college in my family and when I left she said, "Weensie, if you screw this up, I'll kill you." She showed me the knife.
(Old School 2003)

Fred said...

My new brother-in-law, some 25 years ago:
"There are about 50 good jobs WORLDWIDE in astrogeophysics. Just at the observatory where I'm doing my post-doc, there are about 50 job-seekers. So that's why I'm finishing my BSEE, so your sister and I can eat."

His thesis, IIRC, was a computer model of the vertical structure of the Martian atmosphere. I should probably ask him what he thinks about Global Warming (or whatever its Nom du Jour is today).

Gahrie said...

I think we should raie the taxes of everyone making $1 miilion a year, and then use the money to subsidize the pay and lifestyle of these victims.

Fred said...

After a re-read, this struck me:

"But the supply of jobs is limited because the organizations have lean budgets built from government funding and private donations, said Barbara Wallace, vice president for membership and standards at InterAction, an NGO umbrella group.

Chief executives for NGOs, Wallace said, have told her: "Well, yeah, if we had the money, we'd be doing more. We can never hire as many as we want to hire." Wallace said her organization drew more than 100 applicants for a policy associate position. "The industry really needs to look at how to provide more avenues for young, educated people," she said.

Look at that last sentence from Ms. Wallace. Don't her remarks strike you as, well, *tangential* to the ostensible point of most NGO's?

Also, regarding various mentions toward the end of the article about "not feeling fully adult" at 25 or 28 or whatever: Hell, I didn't start to feel like a mature adult until after I was 40 and had been married 10 years and had fathered two kids. There must be few things as dangerous as a 26 year old new-grad who actually thinks they are an "adult", and prepared to seriously influence the lives of others with their deep knowledge.

Blake said...

I had a response similar to Bissage's when I read the article title. "Fulfilment elusive for altruists? How can that be? Nobody will let them help?" That would've been an interesting article.

I majored in music. Classical guitar performance. Upon my last years, I saw that while everyone claimed to love classical guitar, that love wasn't reflected in terms of audience attendance or record sales. (And I couldn't really blame them; there's a lot of boring players out there. It's usually pleasant but seldom exciting.) No problem. I went into a more lucrative field I also love.

I think I'm echoing Sgt. Ted and others when I observe that the path of trying to save the world is best started by trying to understand the world.

I'm also with those who wonder what the college degree is for, to say nothing of the 11-post-high-school years.

paul a'barge said...

Beth (the subject of the article) needs to find herself a man and get pregnant.

Nothing repairs that kind of mind-numbing altruism like morning sickness.

Mitch said...

Beware the do-gooders

"To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical." – Thomas Jefferson

"There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him." -- Robert Anson Heinlein

"Every major horror of history was committed in the name of an altruistic motive." -- Ayn Rand


Finally these by Isabel Paterson, The Humanitarian with the Guillotine

Most of the harm in the world is done by good people, and not by accident, lapse, or omission. It is the result of their deliberate actions, long persevered in, which they hold to be motivated by high ideals toward virtuous ends.

This is demonstrably true; nor could it occur otherwise. The percentage of positively malignant, vicious, or depraved persons is necessarily small, for no species could survive if its members were habitually and consciously bent upon injuring one another. Destruction is so easy that even a minority of persistently evil intent could shortly exterminate the unsuspecting majority of well-disposed persons. Murder, theft, rapine, and destruction are easily within the power of every individual at any time. If it is presumed that they are restrained only by fear or force, what is it they fear, or who would turn the force against them if all men were of like mind?

And one more:

When a humanitarian wishes to see to it that everyone has a quart of milk, it is evident that he hasn't got the milk, and cannot produce it himself, or why should he be merely wishing? Further, if he did have a sufficient quantity of milk to bestow a quart on everyone, as long as his proposed beneficiaries can and do produce milk for themselves, they would say no, thank you. Then how is the humanitarian to contrive that he shall have all the milk to distribute, and that everyone else shall be in want of milk?

There is only one way, and that is by the use of the political power in its fullest extension. Hence the humanitarian feels the utmost gratification when he visits or hears of a country in which everyone is restricted to ration cards. Where subsistence is doled out, the desideratum has been achieved, of general want and a superior power to "relieve" it. The humanitarian in theory is the terrorist in action.

Lou Minatti said...

Do-gooders do things like ban DDT and wind up killing tens of millions of people.

Doers like Dr. Borlaugh save millions of people by applying real knowledge to solving problems. Dr. Borlaugh has saved more lives than all non-science "do-gooders" combined.

Do-gooders are mostly parasites. They should go work at McDonald's. That's how valuable their degrees are. At least McDonald's fry cooks are doing something productive.

RightWingNutter said...

Evil hr lady nailed it. If these ladies really want to do well by doing good they'd be better off in the hard sciences. (Added benefit: They could prove Dr. Summers wrong.)

What effect would cheap and abundant biodiesel have on the world? Get biology and microbiology degrees. Want to help the victims of land mines? Find better ways of detection (Physics, electrical engineering) or build better prosthetics (computer science, chemistry, mechanical engineering). Continue and extend the green revolution while combatting the effects of global warming? Biology and microbiology again.

Can't get a grant or convince your employer to develop your idea? Start your own company, risking your financial a** in the process. Or work on the project on your own time.

People like that produce solutions. Professional do-gooders simply distribute the solutions while taking a cut off the top.

M. Simon said...

Engineers do more good for the world than almost any other profession. Pays well too.

But you know, science and math are hard. Any you will probably wind up corporate.

Well, I like it.

Did I mention it pays well?

John said...

Intersting, the road not traveled, I choose to get a BS in Nuclear Enginering (most of my classes had a majority of non-US students) and then get my masters in Electrical Engineering (all of my classes had a majority non-US) marry a Chinese National (classmate) and go out into the private sector work force making about 95K base. When I could have choosen to get a dead-end degree and been featured in a national news story. Oh well. Life goes on.

ellie said...

On the bright side, the article does note that these people aren't reproducing.

reader_iam said...

Engineers do more good for the world than almost any other profession.

They do, and have done, great stuff. Still, with regard to that statement, I dunno ... . (And having read it to my husband ... an engineer by degree and more the son of an engineer by degree and more and also the dad of a kid with clear talent for science especially the hands-on engineering type [as well as language, by the way; the gods laugh], I'm pretty sure I'm commenting not from prejudice, but rather a shared skepticism.

Engineers know that not all parts are interchangeable, much less exchangeable, right? And they further understand how valuable it is to have the right formula, tool &/or etc. for the job, and not to confuse them, right?

Certainly, sometimes, it's necessary to wing it, recreate it, and whatever ... but as a principle, it's best not to view everything as a nail just 'cause you've got a hammer. By the same token, it's best not to view every task as a hammer, just 'cause you can wield that tool with precision. Nor does it do to view everything with a pointy end as a nail to be hammered.

Am I wrong?

Only sayin' (askin').

(I cut this short, because I'm relying on the implicational thinking abilities of fellow commenters here. As I should.)

M. Simon said...

OK. Engineers and salesmen.

Engineers figure out how to make stuff. Sales men figure out how to distribute it.

Fair enough.

You can earn a good living at either.

reader_iam said...

Oh, OK. You mean engineers in the "poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world" sort of way.

Fair enough, I suppose.

Monique said...

the article stated that she, "dreams of aiding the impoverished and reducing gender discrimination in developing countries." This person sounds as if they are getting a whiff of the reality of life. There is no federal law requiring any employer or business to pay you for wanting to do good. There comes a time when each of us must pay for the decisions we make in our youth. She decided to pursue such education and career path. If she truly enjoys what she is doing, despite low pay and poor advancement opportunity and the fact that others are seeking better employment (she says she does because she says, "I haven't gotten at all to that point"), then good for her. Unfortunately for many of the altruistic, life's reality sets in and they realize that their standard of living must suffer for their desire to "help" others achieve a better standard. If they truly want to help then either suck it up and deal with it or find a job that pays and then donate time and money to causes that satisfy the need to help others. It's pretty simple. Don't start whining (she wasn't) because some organization isn't willing to pay you to fulfill your personal dream. Reality bites but it will set you free from whacky ideas.

A Jacksonian said...

Fred - As a geologist trained during the 'oil patch' era of the mid-1980's, where PHds were flipping burgers in TX, LA and OK, I do understand where your hyper-specialized brother-in-law is coming from.

The choice in geology for me was either: leave with your BS and get trained elsewhere, or go highly into debt, specialize and flip burgers. The reason a BS is more marketable in geology is that the various oil and mineral companies have their own views and techniques for prospecting work and they will rarely hire someone who has been pre-programmed by academia with wrong-headed ways of approaching their work. Your brother-in-law chose the highly trained, little needed specialization route, which means no entry-level jobs in industry being readily available. That leaves: public sector at related geological work (DoD, NOAA) with an eye towards things like solar storm activity, stellar modeling of Sol, or DARPA; private sector start-ups in the space field, looking to companies that may be searching for a suitable venue for exploiting lunar or trans-earth crossing objects (yes, those are currently rare to non-existant, but JP Aerospace and others are putting the building blocks in place for a long-term consideration of such); teaching in academia.

I, personally, left with my bachelor's degree, applied for everything in sight, and finally went into the public sector working for DoD (Interior was a week late with their offer), but only after 2 years of searching (pre-net, so newspapers galore). That advanced background is great for a very limited number of slots, but the geology background, itself, is far more important in being able to understand a wide variety of specialities, from civil engineering to biochemistry.

I saw many of the altruistic types going through university and their 'think global, act local' meant demonstrations and protests and not doing anything useful. If they decided to do the Joseph Campbell and 'follow their bliss' then I really don't want to hear a single complaint about *pay*: you are following your inner guide and the joy you get from doing so far outweighs any *pay* you will ever get. Apparently there is a bit too much of the bliss-followers who don't get that, for all of their education.

In the old Seven Ages of Man, giving back to society when your hard working time is over allows for one to pass on wisdom and knowledge and enrich society. Studied consideration of one's life experiences allows for that altruism to come forward and see one's own mortality and that the time to give back is when you are rich mentally, not when you are 'still learning the ropes' or creating the vibrant part of society by working. Altruism in America has meant those following their bliss from the get-go, and often dying in far off lands due to disease, warfare or starvation.

But *no one* ever doubted their sincerity! Founding non-denominational schools overseas by religious institutions put some of the first colleges down in far off lands like Turkey and Egypt. Those following their own spirit in religion would also put down small communities that would, more often than not, wind up impoverished and the devout returning to America a bit less devout. But living out those beliefs impressed the folks in far off lands because there, standing before them in the deserts of Mesopotamia or the jungles of the Upper Nile were *Americans* showing what it means to be free.

And they *paid for it*, often with their lives.

These latter-day do-gooders are a disgrace to that tradition seeking a 'good job' and 'decent pay' for their work, when such work of liberty is its own reward beyond any pay imaginable. That is the price of liberty and freedom, and if that price of not leading a luxurious life in the suburbs is not good enough because of *pay*, then I seriously suggest these folks find something else to do with their lives. You do not complain about where your bliss leads you: you deal with it directly as it is your own damn fault.

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

"She's still holding out for the ideal: a job that takes her to Africa for health projects and gender relations issues."

The career path to that sort of work is best demonstrated by Dr. Katie Rhoads, MD who gave up a very successful and highly respected surgery practice in Kansas City to work as a long-term medical missionary in rural Uganda and Southern Sudan.

She often does surgery by flashlight, lives without running water, and scrambles to obtain enough medical supplies to leave with the people she trains.

Somehow between it all, she runs a mobile medical school out of the back of her Land Rover -- a wonderful oddity to the men, but an absolute inspiration to the women. As a small, white woman in remarkably challenging circumstances, she's got the biggest pair of brass ones I've ever met.

Funny thing ... I've never known a Christian "do-gooder" to complain about low pay, harsh conditions, or lack of proper 'appreciation' from society.

Ya think maybe that's got something to do with it? Might be, eh. So the real issue here is egotistical elitism, isn't it?

Reality Check said...

The indoctrination that these kids go through teaches them that CORPORATE profits are evil, but still leaves them wishing for PERSONAL profits. Then they get out of school not understanding that one generally trickles down from the other.

As I'm fond of saying... it's different when it's you.

From Inwood said...


You say:

“There is no federal law requiring any employer or business to pay you for wanting to do good.’
Well, then, let’s bring a lawsuit to rectify that. Let’s start with the concept of “pursuit of happiness”, which the NYT thinks is in the Constitution & which some of its epigones claim is indeed in the Constitution as witnessed by McReynolds’ penumbra or emendation (can never quite get ‘em straight) in Meyer v. Nebraska. Provision should be made for all who want to pursue happiness by doing good.

And look, if the government can subsidize artists, why can’t it subsidize people like these who just want to “do good”, by, say, increasing its contributions or tax benefits for NGOs so that they can pay big bucks for big thoughts?

But, let’s be clear here. We don’t want people who think pedestrian ideas & who actually come up with something good for humanity, like Inventing the Internet, or Inventing the Vise Grip, to make a lot of money (obscene profits), so we’ll have to tax them at 100%.
Capitalism is evil, you see. Capitalism is Gekko’s Good, not ours.

No, what we want is rewards for people with a gift of moral superiority coupled with a grasp of the finer things in life, like beauty, truth, justice & a sense of justice. Something like that.

Oh, & we’ll overlook their genuine lack of an understanding of harsh reality & in many cases their need for lots of leisure & good times.

From Inwood said...

A Jacksonian:

You call our attention to

“giving back to society when your hard working time is over allows for one to pass on wisdom and knowledge and enrich society. Studied consideration of one's life experiences allows for that altruism to come forward and see one's own mortality and that the time to give back is when you are rich mentally, not when you are 'still learning the ropes' or creating the vibrant part of society by working.”

A friend of mine just retired from a work-a-day job at which he made lots of money. Not satisfied with that, he sent an e-mail to his friends indicating that he was looking for an opportunity to “reform the present method of selection (sic) of presidential candidates” & wanted to know if anybody had any leads to any “organizations” which were engaged in such reform.

He’s actually well educated, an intellectual, an avid reader, & is not averse to capitalism. He has a co-op in Manhattan, a house in the Hampton’s & has visiting privileges at his brother-in-law’s casa in Cabo San Lucas, & of course, does not need to or want to get paid for his contributions. He just wants to do good.

I don’t “doubt his sincerity” & I don’t mean to trivialize the issue, so I refrained from suggesting Clancy’s Bar & Grill. (He actually spends a lot of time bar-hopping on the Uppa East Side of Manhattan.) And, I refrained from pointing out that he had not the credentials, the network, nor the practical experience in this regard which serious think tanks would want. At least he did not pursuit this chimera in lieu of working when he was young & did allow it to have become a mid-life crisis.

Jami Hussein said...

There is a reason Stalin called these people 'useful idiots'.

If you want to improve world you ought to understand it first. Take at least one course in simple economics and consider how the law of supply and demand affects the NGO when they have 100 applicants for each job.

In the old days, if you wanted to save the world you had take a vow of poverty first. Kids might know that if the universities still taught Western Civilization.

Many of these University social studies programs are just Ponzi schemes. The faculty encourage naive kids to get deep in dept to give money to the school for degrees with no value.

And most NGOs are happy to exploit the 'idealists' for cheap labor. You do not see Kofi Annan and his family working for these salaries.

Balfegor said...

Re: Reader_iam:

I'm going on like this because I'm a little puzzled by some of the reactions of these young people--not judgmental, not "hatin' on," but puzzled. This really does seem to be, at least me, a managing-expectations thing ... and I think expectation of young people have been managed upward (maybe too much so) over the past decade and half-ish. It makes it harder on them, I think.

Well, maybe. But at 27? 29? That's a long time to stick with a low-paying job. That's a period when you ought to be building up nest eggs and so on -- saving for your first house, perhaps even marrying and saving for your childrens' education. On 40,000 a year, can you even make the rent in places like NYC?

Maybe expectations have been managed upwards, but I know these were the expectations my parents' class had thirty years ago, so I don't think it's new. They started off with low pay too, after all. They just entered fields where the pay increased steadily as you rose through the ranks.

Where expectations probably have been managed upwards is the notion that your work ought to be personally fulfilling to you. It may become fulfilling to you later, but there's no reason to expect it to be at the start. You need, you know, future-orientation and long term planning and all that.

To reiterate Pogo's point above, parents should be teaching their children that the real world is hard work. And work is hard. Work may be fun, but it doesn't have to be. It's work. And you do it.

M. Simon said...

I always wanted to be a nerd when I grew up. (I was a nerd as a kid)

My work has been well paying, satisfying and given me a sense of having done my part to advance civilization.

It don't get much better than that.

reader_iam said...

Balfegor: By "expectations managed upwards," I wasn't referring to supporting one's self. I was referring to expectations of lifestyle, possessions, status, work and so forth, and that everyone should/can/will reap a certain level of rewards pretty much out of the starting block. These are different things.

It's not all that unusual for college students to live in either dorm rooms or apartments that are far nicer (and far more filled with "stuff") than earlier generations managed to attain until years and years and years after graduation. Etc. Etc. Etc.

I'm merely suggesting that perhaps this sets people up for unrealistic expectations, which makes it harder for them to accept certain realities which most will later have to face. I'm suggesting that perhaps parents--in many cases seeking to make things better and easier for their kids while growing up and while in college--are inadvertently "managing expectations upward" in a way that can backfire. Ditto for the emphasis on "self-esteem," again etc., over the past couple of decades.

I think we're more on the same page than not.

But I do think it's a little ... whatever to imply that EVERYONE should go into certain types of fields. Apart from the other obvious reasons, wouldn't that serve to depress the opportunities and salaries of those fields for most pursuing it?

And, no, I don't think it's necessary for an individual to be making $40,000 by age 27 in order to survive, even today--depending on, of course, your lifestyle expectations.

reader_iam said...

My parents had expectations as far as responsibilities which were similar to your parents. They paid for their own college and graduate degrees, had kids in their early twenties, and etc. etc. But they didn't expect to OWN a house, much less a fancy or large one, BEFORE they had kids (hell, my little brother and I shared a room until I was in first grade--shocking, I know). They didn't expect to have a fancy car, much less a new one for many, many years. They didn't even have two crappy ones until I something like 11. (At last! My dad got a tenure track position! At a university!) Etc.

Now, I don't expect people to think like that now. But there's probably a middle ground ... .

Kyle Hays said...

General Paul Tibbets died yesterday, aged 92 years.

The pilot who bombed Hiroshima, for those who don't recognized the name.

By killing 140,000 Japanese (with many more dying later), he may have saved the lives of 1,000,000 soldiers, both Japanese and American, and those of their descendants.

I'll match Tibbets and Borlaug against the entire do-gooder population, and ask, "Who's better? Why?"


Kyle Hays said...

"Beware of altruism. It is based on self-deception, the root of all evil."

"If tempted by something that feels "altruistic," examine your motives and root out that self-deception. Then, if you still want to do it, wallow in it!"

Excerpts from the notebooks of Lazarus Long, from Robert Heinlein's "Time Enough for Love"

Seems good advice for the "do-gooders" profiled.


Mitch T said...

I would hesitate to entrust the job of "changing the world" to people who know so little about it.

Akatsukami said...

"On 40,000 a year, can you even make the rent in places like NYC?"

So why do they hang out in places like NYC? Because that's where all of the other hip, progressive kids are?

Porkopolis said...

From 'The False Dichotomy of "Public Interest" vs. Private Interest':

"...Our society benefits from 'self-interested' individuals that responsibly pursue money-making careers which provide a valuable service to the economy. Society also benefits when those individuals are not only self-sufficient but also a net positive with regard to government spending and taxes.

It is money that lubricates the machinery of the economy and the taxes on commerce and wages which in-turn make available trillions of dollars for social services, military spending, foreign aid, infrastructure, local teacher salaries, federal financial-aid, basic medical reasearch, et short private/self-interest finances public interest."

Kimberly said...

I feel lucky to have had the parents that I did. I was taught to work hard and get a job that would pay well, and reserve the world-saving charity for my spare time. I got my PhD in a state school on an internship (no student loans!) and am now in a field which I enjoy but which also pays very well. This means I can spend several nights a week doing volunteer work and can donate to worthy causes.

I cannot imagine going $100K in debt for schooling without ever (seemingly) giving any thought to whether the jobs that resulted would help me pay off the loans. I also would have never dreamed of complaining to a reporter about it.

wGraves said...

Ok, I'll go pay $160k for a degree in international relations. Then I'll move to a foreign country where the important organizational unit is the clan. I won't bother to learn their language, religion, or customs. Since I don't know how to plumb a sewer, fix a generator, or repair an automobile, I'll throw somebody elses money at the locals to buy these services. Now the locals will correctly identify me as a nitwit, but will tolerate me as long as my cash payments continue. Naturally, I expect to be paid a great deal for my services.

Curly Smith said...

Doing Good is easy.

Doing Well is difficult.

It's a shame college graduates don't know the difference.

Trooper York said...

Tony Montana: You know what your problem is?
Elvira Hancock: What's that?
Tony Montana: You don't got nothing to do with your life. Why don't you get a job? Work with lepers. Blind kids. Anything's gotta be better than lying around all day waiting for me to fuck you.
Elvira Hancock: Don't toot your horn, honey. You're not that good.
(Scarface 1983)

Laika's Last Woof said...

"I want to do good deeds, but not on $30k per year. Boo hoo!"

If you're doing charity why should you expect to be paid like a stockbroker?

What do these people think "charity" means, anyway? Only in America will you find self-styled bleeding hearts waddling around with such an obese sense of entitlement.

I betcha that 30k job even has a health plan. Poor babies.

Kev said...

If only there were some kind of giant mothballs that could be rolled around the streets of Washington DC that would scatter the infesting would-be do-gooders, lobbyists, think-tanks and NGOs. Perhaps uproot the cherry trees and plant some camphor trees and cedars?"

I've always thought that a Golgafrinchan "B" Ark would fulfill the same purpose, with the added benefit of taking the majority of government bureaucrats away as well.

Greg said...

This reminds me of a conversation I had with my 30 year old son- He said that he knew a lot of people who wanted to save the the world"right now", but he figured that he could save the world later if he made money now. He owns two companies.