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Teachers and journalists and actors oh my!

July 8, 2011

How come progressives gravitate to the “softer” sciences, the liberal arts and entertainment?  That is a question many of us have asked over the years, and I think the typical answer is something like the joke, “Those who can’t do, teach”.  But is that answer satisfactory?  Does it provide us with insight into their worldview, or is it a simple one-liner escape that prohibits us from further delving into this oddity of progressive employment that is so pervasive?  I suggest we look a little deeper.

The labor theory of value

I think any discussion of the progressive work habit needs to originate with Marx’s Labor Theory of Value, which states: [from econlib.org]

the value of a commodity can be objectively measured by the average number of labor hours required to produce that commodity.

A simple example would be Ferrari.  We view the beautiful Italian sports-cars this company makes as some of the most expensive cars available, to Marx, their worth is no greater than how many hours were put into their creation.  Pretty simple theory no?  But it has some profound implications if you subscribe to it.

If you are a thinking man, one of the first questions that should pop in your head regarding this theory is, “Who determines what an hour is worth?”  Marx has a theory for that too, but it’s rather convoluted and still relies on an arbitrary judgement by someone (never says who) to determine how many hours it takes for society on average to prepare a laborer for one day’s worth of work.  Regardless, his theory as to the value of an hour is not important to the overall discussion.

What is important is that all serious economists regard this theory as bogus, but that doesn’t mean it is dead and buried in the mind of the progressive.  It might not reside there consciously, but it certainly instinctually shapes their philosophy, though this is the theory transparently behind the push for “living wage” regulations.

Evidence of this can be had on any lefty blog when they talk about the “profits” of companies.  They decry this “extra charge” as something above and beyond the value of a product.  Hell, even Congress does this when the gnash their teeth over the “windfall” profits of the oil companies, never mind that Congress has no concept how the economy works or how businesses make money, they know that the profits are “obscene”.  Even the President subscribes to Marx’s theory, probably doctrinally not instinctively, when he despairs how ATMs have cost America jobs.  To Obama the value of an ATM is measured in how many workers it displaced, not convenience to the customer or better efficiency for the bank.

The problem with all this thinking is that it presumes products do not have an inherent worth.  That the sum of their parts are worth nil, regardless of the scarcity of the individual components.  A diamond watch is not worth thousands because of the diamonds, but is worth hundreds because it doesn’t take current watchmakers that long to make them.

The interesting result of this theory and any similar thinking is that it prohibits efficiency.  The attempt by a company to reduce labor through more efficient production methods or processes would theoretically be lowering the value of their product, regardless of whether or not the end product is actually affected by such changes.  Another explanation for President Obama’s apparent disdain for the ubiquitous ATM.

What progressives fail to see is the incentive that only profit can bring.  Despite history suggesting otherwise, progressives refuse to admit that profit is the largest motivator in any economy, even those of the communist flavor.  How else can one explain the black-markets in some socialist countries even though the penalty for participating in said markets is death?  It appears profit-motive can be even stronger than self-preservation.

Profit being an incentive, loss is thus a disincentive.  Curbing loss is what leads to efficiency, if the operators care about losses.  The governments of any country on Earth can show the inefficiencies of a careless regard to loss.  For a fantastic description of Soviet inefficiency, even in as simple an endeavor as purchasing groceries at the local prodykti, I reference this article at the UK Telegraph, Long queues at Moscow’s corner shops, or I am sure my blogging friend Missy Sandbox, a Russian immigrant herself, could offer tons of anecdotes for us to marvel at.

Is this “objective” view of value a credible explanation for the progressive gravitation towards the intangible?  I think if we stop here, we will be dissatisfied, there is another factor we must address.

Self-worth

If one values production only in its labor cost, how does someone who produces nothing achieve any value?  Especially personal value, or self-worth?  For this aspect of the progressive world view we must look at what progressives, subjectively, value most.  One would think, because of their chosen professions, that they value the intellect, or critical thinking, or deconstruction, or hell, even the scientific theory the most over any other.  But if that were true, would they, almost universally, be so averse to history and factual based counter-arguments?

No, I believe they measure their own worth in how dedicated they are to “the cause”.  But it is a parasitic worth – it depends on the approval of others before value can be assessed and calculated.  It is almost a mob-mentality, where he who yells loudest suddenly finds himself in charge of the group.  The assessment of worth does not only exist in the positive realm either – a progressive does not only seek approval of his faith in the cause from his peers, he also can gain self-worth by measuring the amount of disdain he can garner from his opposition.

This is understandable given the elevated status of the progressive rabble-rouser in our society.  Eugene Debs, Clarence Darrow, Margaret Sanger, Jesse Jackson, Andy Stern, Barack Obama, etc. – all given status above their position mainly for the vehemence of their detractors than the love of their followers.  A list of likewise conservative Americans would be hard to compile; conservatives aren’t defined by the hate they can induce (Ann Coulter a notable exception).

But this symbiotic relationship between progressive and mob is a short-lived exercise.  It must be refueled often, hence “the cause” never being a static, identifiable movement.  The long-standing joke of protesters with blank placards in their cars ready to be whipped out and fabricated at the next “event” has some element of truth – it does not matter the cause, only that they can be front and center, proving to the rest how dedicated they are to “change”.

They gain self-worth through the shocked expressions and awe of their peers.  Bill Maher learned this early.  He might have not one scintilla of humor in his funny bone, but as long as he can say something shocking and edgy, he will maintain a following of some kind – because he knows how to “stick it” to those conservatives.  But the stick doesn’t last long, as all shock-jockeys learn eventually.  It must be refreshed with ever more vitriol or you become “old-hand”.  In essence, you go from being leader of the Weather Underground to a sad balding Chicago professor who takes fashion cues from the extras on Miami vice reruns (that’s an aging hipster who still wears an earring reference for those who didn’t catch it).

In this sense, the call to academia serves the same purpose.  What they can not do on the overall public stage, they can do to the captive audience of their students, faculty and journals for which they write.  Woe unto the non-conformist student who disagrees with his professor – the shock and awe of his peers will never culminate in a feather on his sophomore cap – failure to support the cause of the professor is a crime of consciousness and intellect.  This captive student audience is self-fulfilling.  As the professor preaches, and his students genuflect, the progressive proselytizer’s ego grows exponentially.  The prof selectively fails to see the feedback loop he himself is creating for his own self-esteem – the more he indoctrinates his students to his cause the more they fawn at his greatness and wisdom, feeding his ego by creating the environment in which his ego is the primal concern.

It’s ironic that in this case, the cause actually becomes a secondary objective, but it’s a win-win for all concerned.  The more converts for the professor, the greater his self-worth and the more adherents to the cause, whatever the cause happens to be at the moment.  And as his self-worth grows, his own belief in his “infallibility” grows.  Because dissent is frowned upon by a student’s peers (frowned might be an understatement), the professor is never challenged, but even if he was, what is the “great” man of learning going to gain by listening to a misguided piss-ant?

The case is not that much different for the journalist, who is officially indoctrinated in Journalism School, but achieves his rite of passage in the “trenches” of the media.  The primary difference for the journalist is he does not possess a captive audience, but we must understand the readers of viewers of the Media are not a journalist’s peers, they might be the mob, but the journalist gains his self-worth solely from his compatriots.  One-upsmanship is the name of the game in the Media, across all platforms, and the most ego-centric “winners” are those who are most supportive of the cause.

Is it shame one sees in the eyes of a progressive guest on Hardball when they must listen to the water-carrying of Chris Matthews?  Certainly, but what nature is that shame?  Is it shame that Chris is so shameless, or is it more that the guest can not be so brazen?  Perhaps it is not unlike the Islamist groups in America and their more brazen terrorist brethren in the rest of the world – the two agree on the goal, but the former believes the latter’s methods are a hindrance not a help.

In the case of the media, the cause rules out every other consideration.  Support for the cause is the primary component of one’s self-worth, and the only route to the formerly prestigious Pulitzer, the greatest ego-booster if there ever was one.  A great article by Brent Bozell titled, Pulitzers’ liberal legacy, explains how this award is given to only the greatest supporters of the cause.

Do I really even need to speak about actors and Hollywood in general?  Failure to support the cause in this industry most often leads to a serious and long-term case of unemployment.  But overt support does not guarantee the best roles, its a fine-line.  Disenfranchise half the viewing public by suggesting Haiti’s recent earthquake was Gaia’s punishment on mankind and you might find yourself sitting next to Danny Glover on a park-bench wondering what you did wrong.  But Hollywood is its own feed-back loop.  As the product becomes more and more progressive (as it has done since the 50’s onward), the only people seeking to participate in the creation of that product are more and more progressive, or have not developed a serious view of life yet (like most twenty-somethings).  Who are these people?

Most of the loudest shouters are not college educated, so they weren’t indoctrinated there.  Their indoctrination takes place on the job.  They are surrounded by folks who either believe in the cause or believe they have to believe in the cause to get a job, and that culture is all-pervasive.  An actor’s self-worth is not remotely linked to the cause, it is obviously linked to the love and adoration of their fans – the fact that they can say what they do and maintain that love only reinforces their belief that their views are “mainstream”.  Not to mention, a good progressive minded quote, like “I am voting for Obama again” is an excellent way to get some nationwide press and maybe a guest-spot on Letterman.

There are many more “soft” professions we can talk about that leads to an overabundance of progressive employment, but I feel the big three give us an excellent insight into the creation of their self-worth that will adequately serve to cover the whole population.  The main takeaway is a progressive’s self-esteem is predicated on external factors much more than on their belief in themselves or the rightness of their views.

To put it all together

Thus we have two factors that point us to the answer of the big question, “Why do progressives gravitate to the softer professions?”, – first, an instinctual belief in the Labor Theory of Value, and secondly a self-worth that is predicated on exogenic factors.

But we can’t assume this gravitation is unconscious, it most certainly is not, though I feel it is a negative pull.  They don’t “seek” these professions as much as they abhor the “harder” avenues of employment.  Industry, production, the hard sciences, retail, or anything that produces a tangible good or service is something to be avoided for one’s worth is not measured in those fields by any rubric besides what he can create.  A measurable, quantifiable number.

Compare to the professor.  How does one measure the value of his labor?  How many student’s he teaches?  How many articles he writes for a journal?  The GPA of his students?  These are all measures that can be used, but they are not satisfactory indicators of his value.

Following the labor theory of value, a commodity is only worth what labor is used to create it, but what if the commodity is impossible to measure?  Not in labor expended, but in the sense that you can’t isolate and codify what the commodity actually is?  The softer professions produce an intangible commodity that can not accurately be measured by the theory of which the progressives themselves adhere to.

The implication is that a progressive looks at the measurable work of a ditch-digger and concludes that the pay is not worth the effort (in the true sense of his value being what people are willing to pay, but also in the Marxist view).  He looks to the mechanic and sees the same.  The retail clerk, the truck-driver, the manager, the CEO, the doctor (but not the lawyer) and any other profession whose output can be measured.

Combined with the progressive’s overblown sense of self-worth and support of the cause, and one can see that the intellectual pursuits are the only avenue of employ for someone who views value as something measured in labor.  If a progressive chose to become a line-worker at a manufacturer, his worth in any quantifiable sense is measured by how many “pieces” he can produce in an hour, obviously this doesn’t jibe with his own view of his value (nor most people’s) thus the progressive does not seek that employment.  Instead he seeks a job that can’t be measured.  He doesn’t allow the market to dictate his worth by anything measurable.

This does not mean the progressive is seeking an “easy” job where he can fail at will and still get paid, it just so happens that is the result.  It is also why progressives have a tendency to fail so miserably when they find themselves employed in a measurable field – their world view is not predicated on production, but on their backward sense of value and self-worth.  Intentions reign supreme, results are a horrible by-product and truly shouldn’t be measured.

Obviously the most egregious example of this is progressive government which offers us more than enough evidence of the intention over result mentality.  This also shows why most politicians can so easily ignore statistics that prove their intentions were misplaced or just plain wrong – they do not measure value in results but in desire to achieve a certain result (the cause again).  It does not matter that welfare enslaves the people it is supposed to help, all that matters is “we are doing something”.

Only in the mind of the progressive can the results not matter.  It doesn’t matter if a student doesn’t learn anything, what matters is that they have been taught “the truth!”.  It does not matter that MSNBC limits itself to a very small viewership, what matters is they are preaching “the truth!”

Results based professions do not draw the progressive minded person, and perhaps this is for the better.  Our economy and standard of living would be much worse off if it was otherwise.  Unfortunately, their gravitation towards the intellectual pursuits does seriously impact our country the more and more they do so.  It is incumbent upon us to understand theory is important, but hard evidence and proven results should trump the call for “intention” based policy that is so supported by the ivory-tower intellectual.

No administration is more guided by the theorist than our current President, and the results are catastrophic.  Hopefully American voters will stop seeing “the truth” and start to open their eyes to the real truth, Those who don’t want to do, teach.

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. July 8, 2011 5:32 pm

    I profit is evil, Marx and today’s liberals must have a very high opinion of investment bankers. They measure their revenues in billions but their profits are relatively small. Why? Because they spend most of their revenue via huge bonuses on labor (traders). Of course, as a result they also pay relatively little in taxes.

    • July 8, 2011 6:04 pm

      Hmm, that explains a bit doesn’t it?

  2. July 8, 2011 11:41 pm

    When it comes to Marxists, Groucho’s got it all over Karl…and Miami Vice is still a great show–Crockett Lives!

    • July 9, 2011 12:00 am

      And all this time I thought you were taking your name from Davie, silly me. =P

  3. JustFacts permalink
    July 9, 2011 8:05 am

    It’s amazing to me why the public values the “knowledge” and political accumen of the Hollywood set. Many of these people didn’t even finish high school, much less college. Most of them have never “worked” for a living doing anything other than acting. But, I guess it doesn’t surprise me when the headlines on the media concern who Lindsey slept with last night, or what Brangelina is doing. All this while the economy is in the tank and we have terrorists actively planning the demise of our country. I don’t remember it being that way back in the 50s, 60s and even the 70s. Is this really what the “public” wants, or was this a concerted effort to dumb the public down and keep real information in check. It seems like the more accessible information has become, the less pertinent the headlines have become.

    • July 9, 2011 1:14 pm

      It might be the nature of information overload. As more and more sources vie for your attention, the most shocking headlines like who Lohan is sleeping with, presumably should grab more readers compared to another headline saying unemployment is up, even though both headlines have become old-hand.

  4. July 9, 2011 9:19 am

    Terrific post!
    Linked here:
    http://zillablog.marezilla.com/2011/07/weekend-link-around-iron-butterfly.html

    • July 9, 2011 1:15 pm

      Thanks!

  5. Otis P. Driftwood permalink
    July 9, 2011 10:58 am

    I’m nobody’s genius when it comes to the economy or high finance, but I’ve always held that the worth of something is also determined by how much someone is willing to pay for it.

    • July 9, 2011 1:24 pm

      Actually, that is the only factor that determines value. It doesn’t matter if it takes 5000 Nobel laureates to design the latest and greatest widget, if no one wants to buy it, it will soon be available for $19.95 on a late-night infomercial. What you “pay” does not always have to be money though. Something is more valuable if you can “pay” less time to get it. So although you might be saving a couple bucks to buy something at Wal-Mart on Black Friday, the time you waste waiting in line to purchase it might actually net you a loss, assuming you could do something constructive with that time saved buying it elsewhere. Same with an informative salesperson or customer service personnel who can assist you in making an informed buying decision. You might pay more money for the product they recommend, but if it suits your needs better than what you might “guess” is the correct product off the shelf at a big-box store, then in the long run the more expensive product is a better value.

      • Otis P. Driftwood permalink
        July 9, 2011 4:35 pm

        Exactly. My wife might tell me that she has a coupon worth $1.00 for something, but what is the point if it costs me $2.00 in gas?

      • JustFacts permalink
        July 9, 2011 5:59 pm

        The same thing applies to DIY projects. You might be able to do the job yourself, but it would mean you would have to take off a couple of day’s from work and buy or rent specialized tools. Or you could hire a craftsman for 3-4 hours to do the work right the first time, and save money.

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