Sunday, February 16, 2014

What is academia good for?

Letting or cajoling academics to make their work "relevant to the real world" is a common theme in popular culture, epitomized by Nick Kristoff's Op-Ed in today's NY Times.

There is conversation all over the Twitters about it. For example,

Delicate balance. Don't want to ruin what makes academia special. Do want to enable people to make maximum contribution to world.

But people, I am here to tell you that the last thing you really want is academics out in the real world. Academia is a socially efficient institution that has evolved to effectively keep highly intelligent but basically useless people out of the the real world labor force. Believe me, putting them back in would lower, not raise, national wealth.
Just like the real purpose of social security is to nudge unproductive older people out of the labor force and thus raise average productivity, the real purpose of the academy is to keep academics out of the real world labor force. It's really win-win.

Can you imagine if Noah Smith worked in an office? Everyone would be learning Japanese, laughing, speaking in Doge, and not getting anything done. But compared to everyday pedestrian slackers, Noah could and would spin their antics into raises not pink slips.

Could you imagine the level of workplace violence Bryan Caplan's opinions might inspire if he worked on an assembly line?

Can you even begin to picture the amount of labor unrest that Pete Boettke and Steve Horowitz would stir up if they worked in a factory?

Think about the gross insubordination, crude jokes, and overall humiliation me and Mungowitz would dish out to the bosses so unlucky as to have employed us. We would bring any company to its knees in a couple of quarters, without really even trying.

And economists are among the most likely academics to be able to pass a real world Turing test!

People, the best thing you can do is keep having kids and keep sending them to University. We need a safe place to warehouse people like me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You think too highly of yourself. Bosses in the real world have been dealing with problem employees forever. Smartasses, funny boys, employees that think they are better than the boss (and maybe even are, it still doesn't matter.)

The answer, do as your told or leave.

You might leave one or two times, but even professors get hungry. In the end, you will conform.