Monday, January 2, 2012

The Graduate: Why Should Everyone Else Pay for Other People's Dumb (and Hedonistic) Career Choices

By Barry Rubin

I’ve recently made the acquaintance of a young man who has a problem. He is 28 years old; smart, of good moral character, and willing to work hard at part-time jobs. He does not expect anyone else, including the government, to support him.   Yet he is puzzled an increasingly bitter that he cannot make a good living.
What’s his difficulty? It’s not the economy (in this specific case) but the fact that he has a degree in linguistics and is now studying Oriental philosophy at a fine university. His case is not altogether typical but is immensely revealing.

Here’s the secret: he cannot make a living because the market for people with degrees in linguistics and in Oriental philosophy is limited. He should have known that. Someone should have told him that. The calculation of practicality should have been made. It wasn’t.

As I said, this individual does not want hand-outs and he has not taken student loans. Many others have. A large proportion of the Occupy Wall Street-and-other-places movement seems to consist of those who have made similar “career” (or non-career) decisions but want others to pay for their pastimes and mistakes.
There are at least three important lessons here of the greatest importance.

First, young people should be taught that, as the old saying goes, the world doesn’t owe them a living. Nothing could seem more obvious yet this has largely been forgotten.  This is especially true in the United States, a country whose prosperity was built on understanding this point. Of course, telling them that the world does owe them a living can be rather popular and lead to one's election to public office....

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