‘Starving’ Ph.D.s deserve low pay

In this age of mainstream news reporters ignorant of economics, the media rarely trumpets the power and truth of free markets and the laws of Supply and Demand, very real forces in our daily lives that confound, embarrass and reject socialist politics.

The free market communicates important information. This is why socialist and left-leaning politicians, who hate free markets, operate in economic illiteracy. The free market places no real importance on government contrived social measures that lack real-world value. When the free market speaks, socialist economic theories tremble.

An example of the free market correcting economic nonsense is the “socially responsible” mutual fund, investing only in companies that engage in politically correct behavior. Investors in such funds haven’t seen much in the way of big profits; investors may have appeased their social conscience, but at quite a price. As the philosopher Montesquieu wrote, “Virtue itself has need of limits.” The return on these funds generally has been far lower than most other equity investments. Fitting, I would say. Why should those who fault capitalism earn as much as us capitalist pigs? It’s the free market at work, where a price is paid for making bad decisions.

Another example of free market rejection of liberal values gives us a classic irony to savor. It seems that the professoriate of academia has overproduced promiscuously, and for years there’s been a glut of Ph.D. and Master’s Degrees, particularly in the humanities, anthropology, European history, and literature. They can’t find jobs and, when they are not out Occupying Wall Street, are reduced to teaching elementary writing and poly sci courses, which normally would be taught by part-time “temp” adjunct professors who have not earned higher degrees.

What we have here is the market speaking: overproduction of Ph.D.s (excess supply) results in low pay or a buyers market for Ph.D.s (lack of demand). It spells double-whammy because many of these academics have acquired the entitlement mentality. “They insist that the overproduction of Ph.D.s is really just an underproduction of jobs to which they are entitled,” writes columnist George Will.

The result is very un-Marxist behavior on the part of the Ph.D.s: they want to elbow aside the proletariat of “temps” by pressuring universities to require full-time Ph.D.s, at their pay levels, to teach the basic courses. This foolishness flies in the face of the free market, which calls for universities to hire competent non-Ph.D.s to teach basics at a far lower cost.

All this is very upsetting to the huffy Ph.D. members of the Modern Language Association, many of whom teach literature as sublimated class struggle. So, what we have here is the “upper class” Ph.D.s insisting on more money, depriving the “lower class” adjunct professors from having a job at all!

Many degreed people in academia believe their years-long, low-paid “pursuit of truth” entitles them to professorships, where they can roost in academia, slip into the dream life of a tenured world where they cannot be fired, and languish in cushy research and teaching. Some, unfortunately, are learning they have wasted their brainpower by being part of a glut of graduates in courses of study that are not needed in the real world. They trained to enter fields of study, they accrued knowledge, to prepare for jobs that no one will pay for. They’re in a bear market for their product.

I’m sorry for the plight of these folks, but they need to stop fooling themselves that they can overturn the laws of supply and demand. It’s OK if they want to fight to follow their passion, but as someone has said, “the starving Ph.D. phenomenon is here to stay”. These bright men and women should have pursued realistic careers that need their brains. The reality is that their investment of time has satisfied only their love of learning.


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John R. Smith


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