Makers vs. Takers Redux

Revisiting a lively debate from over the weekend.

Steven Taylor’s “Makers and Takers?” has generated an enormous amount of commentary, especially for a posting late on Super Bowl Sunday. That it takes on a column written by Glenn Reynolds, and that he not only linked the post (always appreciated) but engaged in the comments discussion (I believe a first for us) were major factors in that.

Given the enormous help that Glenn Reynolds and Bill Quick were in helping to launch OTB back in early 2003 and their kindnesses during some hard times in my personal and professional life, I’m a bit distressed at how they’ve reacted to the piece and have a few thoughts on the matter.

First, Glenn’s summary on Steven’s post–“and I should kill myself or something”–is great for driving traffic (thanks, again!) but an unfair reading, to put it mildly. Rather, Steven found the core argument of the column simplistic and expected more nuance from someone of Glenn’s stature. Yes, Glenn is most famous as a pundit–an insta-pundit, no less–but he’s an enormously accomplished legal thinker, not a talk radio host.

Second, I think a lot of Steven’s frustration with the piece stems from the headline (“It’s takers versus makers and these days the takers are winning”) itself. I don’t read the column itself making the black-and-white claim that the headline suggests. Having been on the other side of that in a few pieces I’ve placed elsewhere, it’s a pretty common occurrence for readers to frame their reaction to it by the headline–which the column author almost never writes. So, I think Steven’s reacting as much to the general argument being made too often by talk radio hosts, columnists, and political candidates that there’s a huge class of non-contributors that the rest of us are having to support as to the column itself.

Third, in terms of Glenn’s column itself, my own objections are largely over framing rather than substance. We agree that farm subsidies, corporate welfare, and bailouts for those who make stupid business choices are really bad public policy. Further, we agree on the pernicious effects of rent seeking in the system, particularly the enormous incentives to spend a lot of time and money lobbying for special treatment in the tax and regulatory code.

While reflexively sympathetic, however, I’m less sure that subsidizing or otherwise providing some government assistance to those who are underwater in their mortgages is necessarily problematic. It largely depends on what form the policies take.

Likewise, I almost completely disagree that unemployment insurance provides some enormous incentive to permanent mooching. While it’s probably true that providing long-term benefits provides a disincentive for those at the bottom of the economic ladder to seek gainful employment (why bust your ass doing a lousy job for minimum wage when you can get 2/3 as much for doing nothing) the benefits are so meager that almost anyone else is much better off finding a job.

Further, framing as makers vs. takers “People who took jobs they didn’t particularly want just to pay the bills see others who didn’t getting extended unemployment benefits” implies that it’s a no-brainer that people should take whatever job comes their way. Someone laid off from an $80,000 job in a field they’ve spent years preparing for really shouldn’t be expected to take a $24,000 job doing manual labor and lose everything they’ve worked for prior to a serious effort over a few months to get back on their career path and thereby exhausting other options. Doing so not only wastes human capital but it makes it much harder for that person to get back on track, since they not only lack the time and energy to look for more suitable jobs but they’ve devalued their resume by taking those steps back.

On the other hand, I’m much more sympathetic than Steven to Glenn’s argument that an underlying problem in the debate is that the federal government has become so powerful that rent-seeking and other corrupting behaviors are natural consequences. Just as people rob banks because that’s where the money is, people lobby government because it controls so many of the outcomes of the system.

But I think Steven’s right that the observation falls short of substantive policy analysis, for a variety of reasons. Like it or not, the political structures of 1789–or even 1936–simply won’t work in our modern society. The United States isn’t and hasn’t for well over a century been an outpost of 13 more-or-less separate states that had little interaction. While I’d like to see the federal government generally smaller, the serious debate is within a margin of 15 to 20 percent, not 85 or 90 percent.

Fourth, Bill Quick’s suggestion that OTB has shifted its ideological views over the years and is much less friendly to right-libertarians than it once was is one I’ve seen made by many others who were allies in the heady days of the fight over the Iraq War. There’s probably some truth in it. First,  because we’ve gone from a solo blog to a group blog that I dominated content-wise to one where the vagaries of time leave me as a much less frequent contributor, there’s a widening scope of views seen here. Second, my own views on some issues have in fact evolved over time.

I reject, however, the notion that the shift is a function of my having “burrowed ever deeper into the Washington establishment.” While it’s true that I now work just off of K Street in downtown Washington, I’m at a non-ideological foreign policy think tank and we spend less time talking about US domestic politics here than in perhaps any other job I’ve ever had.

Instead, the fact that I’ve spent a little over nine years writing on an almost daily basis about politics in a public forum having to defend my views while being intellectually honest has made me realize that some things that I once fervently believed were true are either outright false or a hell of a lot more complicated than I once thought. That Steven Taylor, who has remained back teaching at the small town Alabama campus where we first met as colleagues some fourteen years ago has had a very similar evolution reinforces my sense that it’s not DC that’s changed me but rather blogging.

Fifth, I’m befuddled by the early commenters on the post–who, contrary to some suggestions are actually not OTB regulars–who make the argument that Reynolds and/or Taylor are unqualified to comment on the matter because they’re employees at state universities and therefore somehow on the government teat themselves. Granted, I’m sensitive to the matter having worked for government–as a military officer, as a college professor, and indirectly as a military contractor–but providing honest services to the taxpayer for hire isn’t remotely equivalent to being on the dole.

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, Government
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. James says:

    Instead, the fact that I’ve spent a little over nine years writing about politics in a public forum having to defend my views while being intellectually honest has made me realize that some things that I once fervently believed were true are either outright false or a hell of a lot more complicated than I once thought.

    James,

    I appreciate your thoughts on both the Reynolds piece, Steven’s response, and your own ideological growth. Just a point that irks me is this notion that there are ever simple answers to complicated questions. Glib opinions about how there’s a class of “makers” and a class of “takers” is underlined by simplistic thinking that we could solve all of our problems if only people just agreed with me.

  2. My day after reaction is that you are way too generous. Maybe Reynolds is capable of more, but I think his subtext was ‘feel good about yourself, you’re a ‘maker,’ and it’s those ‘takers’ that are the problem.”

    The comment (voted down I believe) which noted Red States as net “takers” was a serious and factual answer to that. A conservative in a Red State should at leas see the irony, to lambaste Blue State profligacy, even as you net-net draw from those workers.

    Why is there such a correlation? It could be either chicken or egg. Perhaps people in Red States see that waste and frame their politics around it. Or it could be that they are “making” less, net-net, than they think they are.

  3. James Joyner says:

    @john personna: I think two things, somewhat interrelated, explain it. First, people in red states tend to live in relative isolation from other people and, especially, those who hold different views. The blue states are disproportionately dense urban populations with the intellectual diversity that implies. Second, the red states are by and large simply much more poor. There’s a lot more money to be made in the densely packed urban areas, which attracts more talent–and exposes people to views that challenge their orthodoxies.

  4. Hey Norm says:

    This is a lot of attention for a propogandist. Seriously.

  5. @James Joyner:

    Oh man, they’re not going to like that answer.

    BTW, I did look it up, and I’ll give Texans their props. Apparently they are the one(?!) Red State which is also a net contributor to federal spending.

  6. Brummagem Joe says:

    Firstly JJ. While I sometimes disagree with you I’ve generally found you to be one of the most intelligent, intellectually honest, and consistent conservative bloggers around which is why with the odd interval I’ve continued to visit. It’s rare for you to slip into casuistry or smokescreens although not unknown. You’re also particularly well informed and insightful about security issues beyond our shores and so you add to my knowledge and ability to understand them.

    Alas there wasn’t much to admire in the Reynold’s piece. It really was a catalogue of sweeping assertions and generalised hand waving. Poor stuff from someone with his credentials.

  7. James says:

    @john personna: I’d have to look at the data, but my understanding is that the deep blue urban centers; Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, etc, are the big drivers of Texas’ federal tax receipt contributions.

  8. Brummagem Joe says:

    @James Joyner:

    The blue states are disproportionately dense urban populations with the intellectual diversity that implies. Second, the red states are by and large simply much more poor. There’s a lot more money to be made in the densely packed urban areas, which attracts more talent–and exposes people to views that challenge their orthodoxies.

    This of course emphasises the connection between economic and cultural inequality which those on the right (Like Murray) are anxious to ignore.

  9. James Joyner says:

    @James: Texas is also a major oil producer, which skews the data.

  10. Moosebreath says:

    “Rather, Steven found the core argument of the column simplistic and expected more nuance from someone of Glenn’s stature.”

    Since Glenn’s writing tends mostly to consist of links, often to items designed to portray an inaccurate view of his opponent’s thinking, with an occasional “Heh. Indeed” thrown in, I am not sure why.

    More significantly, I am gratified to see that you have thought deeply about this (and many other issues) and second Brummagem Joe’s praise of you.

  11. Brummagem Joe says:

    @James:

    is that the deep blue urban centers; Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, etc, are the big drivers of Texas’ federal tax receipt contributions.

    Since this is where most Texans live and economic activity is concentrated that’s a reasonable assumption although I’m not sure they are uniformly blue.

  12. Tillman says:

    I knew something was up when people with dumb comments were getting 400+ up-votes.

  13. James says:

    @James Joyner:

    Good point! I haven’t been able to find much on the breakdown of Texas’ federal tax receipt contributions, only that Texas is barely a net donor state:

    Texas taxpayers receive less federal funding per dollar of federal taxes paid compared to the average state. Per dollar of Federal tax collected in 2005, Texas citizens received approximately $0.94 in the way of federal spending. This ranks the state 35th nationally and represents a slight decrease from 1995, when Texas received $0.95 per dollar of federal taxes paid (ranking them 37th nationally). Neighboring states and the amount of federal spending they received per dollar of federal taxation paid were as follows: New Mexico ($2.03), Oklahoma ($1.36), Arkansas ($1.41), and Louisiana ($1.78).

    @Brummagem Joe:

    “Deep blue” might be a bit of a stretch. However, Huston elected an openly gay mayor a few years back, and Barack Obama won major urban counties around Dallas, Huston, Austin, San Antonio and El Paso.

  14. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Brummagem Joe: I’ll chime in as a Texan. El Paso is blue. Austin and San Antonio are blue with blueish-purplish suburbs. Dallas and Houston have blue urban cores with reddish-purplish suburbs. This is, of course, a generalization. For example, one of Austin’s suburban counties (Williamson) is very, very red.

    JJ is right, however, that taxes from oil and gas revenues are what make Texas a “maker” state rather than a “taker” state.

  15. mantis says:

    Granted, I’m sensitive to the matter having worked for government–as a military officer, as a college professor, and indirectly as a military contractor–but providing honest services to the taxpayer for hire isn’t remotely equivalent to being on the dole.

    Tell it to the Republican governors, state legislatures, politicians, and their supporters who have gone all out attacking any public employee in a union, and in some cases all public employees, as nothing but a pack of moochers.

    Perhaps we can get a list of all the non-moocher government jobs. I know of only three so far:
    – Military service members
    – Border patrol
    – Rightwing state university professors

    Are there other non-moocher jobs, wingnuts? I’m all ears.

  16. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Gromitt Gunn:

    JJ is right, however, that taxes from oil and gas revenues are what make Texas a “maker” state rather than a “taker” state.

    Indeed it is. I worked in the oil industry for some time.

  17. Gromitt Gunn says:

    Overall, I really appreciate this post. I do have to comment on this paragraph in particular:

    Fifth, I’m befuddled by the early commenters on the post–who, contrary to some suggestions are actually not OTB regulars–who make the argument that Reynolds and/or Taylor are unqualified to comment on the matter because they’re employees at state universities and therefore somehow on the government teat themselves. Granted, I’m sensitive to the matter having worked for government–as a military officer, as a college professor, and indirectly as a military contractor–but providing honest services to the taxpayer for hire isn’t remotely equivalent to being on the dole.

    This goes hand-in-hand with the Republican demonization of public sector employees / public sector unions. It is much easier to advocate for dismantling pensions, abolishing tenure, etc., once you’ve turned public employees as a class into “takers.” I don’t think the commenters were criticizing Taylor’s column, but rather pointing out the irony of Reynolds’s column about maker vs taker while enjoying the fruits of guaranteed employment and a faculty pension.

  18. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Brummagem Joe: I meant to reply to James’s comment that you were replying to. I don’t think there is a way to edit.

  19. Brummagem Joe says:

    @mantis:

    and in some cases all public employees, as nothing but a pack of moochers.

    This in fact was very much a common theme among the claque that suddenly appeared on that thread. Some bozo was dismissing all teachers as useless drones apparently unaware that Reynolds is a teacher. But then no one ever said these guys spend their evenings attending MENSA meetings.

  20. mantis says:

    Some bozo was dismissing all teachers as useless drones apparently unaware that Reynolds is a teacher.

    That’s why I put rightwing state university professors on the list. All other teachers are clearly “takers.”

  21. James Joyner says:

    @Gromitt Gunn: I think there’s some of that. I do think the unionization issue is separate from the moocher question, though, even if they get conflated. One can simultaneously believe that it’s worth paying people out of taxpayer funds to teach our kids and that it’s not a good idea for those people to band together and lobby the government for more money and back candidates who support that aim. There is an inherent conflict of interest there.

  22. Brummagem Joe says:

    @mantis:

    That’s why I put rightwing state university professors on the list.

    This particular bozo drew no such distinctions. Reynolds would join all the other moochers in the incinerator.

  23. Brummagem Joe says:

    @James Joyner:

    There is an inherent conflict of interest there.

    Well this would encompass anyone who has a remote connection with drawing on the public purse for any activity.

  24. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    @Tillman:

    I knew something was up when people with dumb comments were getting 400+ up-votes.

    I’m quite proud of my net minus-130 hidden comment.

  25. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Wow, sorry I missed the fun.

    @Brummagem Joe: Agreed as well.

    .

  26. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Joyner:

    One can simultaneously believe that it’s worth paying people out of taxpayer funds to teach our kids and that it’s not a good idea for those people to band together and lobby the government for more money and back candidates who support that aim. There is an inherent conflict of interest there.

    But it is not a conflict of interest for Lockheed Martin, or Boeing, or Microsoft, or Exxon to lobby the gov’t? I must say James, I really don’t see the distinction.

  27. Hey Norm says:

    @ Ozark…
    And between teachers and Lockheed…who would you rather got more money?

  28. mantis says:

    One can simultaneously believe that it’s worth paying people out of taxpayer funds to teach our kids and that it’s not a good idea for those people to band together and lobby the government for more money and back candidates who support that aim. There is an inherent conflict of interest there.

    What’s the conflict of interest, exactly? Can one not teach kids and collectively bargain for better wages and/or benefits? Where’s the conflict? When you’ve explained the conflict, please explain why it exists only for government employees. Don’t others “band together and lobby the government for more money and back candidates who support that aim?”

  29. Brummagem Joe says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    There is no distinction of course, to this list you can add just about every economic and social activity in the country from Associated General Contractors lobbying for the new highway bill to some litttle conservationist charity. One of the more amusing aspects of this is the continuing railing against regulations is that most of them are written by the industries that are being regulated.

  30. Mikey says:

    @Brummagem Joe:

    One of the more amusing aspects of this is the continuing railing against regulations is that most of them are written by the industries that are being regulated.

    Indeed, there’s a whole body of study of that particular aspect of government.

    Wikipedia: Regulatory Capture

  31. anjin-san says:

    but providing honest services to the taxpayer for hire isn’t remotely equivalent to being on the dole.

    As others have pointed out, you are swimming against the tide in your own party here.

  32. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Mikey:

    There’s regulatory capture obviously but it extends to much more mundane areas like product health and safety issues, prime mover emissions, and so on. Basically for most stuff it’s only corporations operating through their trade associations that have the resources to do this reg writing. And much of it is not particularly nefarious although companies obviously protect their interests. That’s what makes much of the shtick of people like Reynolds and his chorus of ill educated and not particularly curious parrots so totally fatuous. We’ve got a 15 trillion economy here and govt spending at state and federal level is over 5 trillion so it’s an enormously complex and interdependant structure and whatever the silly notions of Norquist and Paul it aint going away if for no other reason than that Republicans are at least as heavily invested in it as Democrats. Even JJ admits his opinions have evolved because heh…guess what….it aint simple.

  33. Mikey says:

    @Brummagem Joe:

    …it’s an enormously complex and interdependant structure and whatever the silly notions of Norquist and Paul it aint going away if for no other reason than that Republicans are at least as heavily invested in it as Democrats.

    That’s a point the pure partisans always miss–things like regulatory capture and “crony capitalism” are not the sole province of one major party. The game stays the same, only the players change.

  34. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Brummagem Joe: Indeed, I could have gone on ad infinitem. I know my union does more that a little lobbying.

  35. john personna says:

    @mantis:

    When you’ve explained the conflict, please explain why it exists only for government employees

    I think teachers, firemen, and police have a fairly unique situation. They can both directly appeal to voters for their own welfare, and bargain via their unions. The unions can both offer a contract, and sponsor a ballot measure.

    That is more than subtly different than a contractor lobbying, because a contractor mus make some other case for a public good. You know, defense is good, or a power plant is good, rather than just “help us we are good people.”

  36. Brummagem Joe says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Of course they do. This is a pluralistic democracy. That’s how pluralistic democracies function.
    This is debate about where the goalposts are to be located.

  37. Ben Wolf says:

    Fourth, Bill Quick’s suggestion that OTB has shifted its ideological views over the years and is much less friendly to right-libertarians than it once was is one I’ve seen made by many others who were allies in the heady days of the fight over the Iraq War. There’s probably some truth in it. First,  because we’ve gone from a solo blog to a group blog that I dominated content-wise to one where the vagaries of time leave me as a much less frequent contributor, thus widening the scope of views seen here. Second, my own views on some issues have in fact evolved over time.

    Anyone possessed of thoughts and opinions on how the world works (which is what an ideology is) that do not evolve, shift and at times undergo radical revision is simply not credible as an honest thinker. I’m suspicious of anyone who has never felt compelled to so some serious soul-searching, and it is one of the things I’ve found commendable about Dr.’s Joyner and Taylor, even when I still disagree.

  38. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @john personna:

    I think teachers, firemen, and police have a fairly unique situation. They can both directly appeal to voters for their own welfare, and bargain via their unions. The unions can both offer a contract, and sponsor a ballot measure.

    My union can, and does, do those exact same things No difference, John. Lockheed Martin can, and does, do those exact same things. Again, no difference John.

  39. john personna says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Serious? Does Lockheed Martin lobby simply as “deserving?”

  40. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Brummagem Joe:

    This is debate about where the goalposts are to be located.

    And my point Joe, is how about the same for every body? Hmmm? You know, equal in the eyes of the law? Not to mention this little fine point:

    Amendment I: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

    I know, I know, I’m not being fair now.

  41. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @john personna:

    Serious? Does Lockheed Martin lobby simply as “deserving?”

    OK John, maybe I am a little obtuse, but where did “deserving” come into it? I did not say that, neither did you.

  42. James says:

    @john personna:

    Well, Lockheed Martin certainly advertises their products directly to Americans. And the military-industrial complex is well documented in it’s ability to rent-seek by creating and cultivating pro-military political talking points.

  43. john personna says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Look again at the comment you half-quoted.

    @James:

    The difference, as I said in that comment above, is that the corporations have to make a case for a public good, whereas certain kinds of public employees (not all) are able to appeal directly to voters for aid.

    I mean, look at this thread? What was the line that got my attention?

    And between teachers and Lockheed…who would you rather got more money?

    That was NOT about what public good was lacking, that was EXPLICITLY about “who would you rather got more money?”

  44. TheColourfield says:

    Let’s face it. James is more than willing to vote for a sociopathic liar. He has made his choice.
    .

  45. john personna says:

    Really, think about the dynamics. Lockheed has a posse, but it’s a “more defense” lobby. It isn’t that “aerospace engineers deserve more.”

  46. Herb says:

    @James Joyner: “that it’s not a good idea for those people to band together and lobby the government for more money and back candidates who support that aim. There is an inherent conflict of interest there. ”

    Hmm…how does that square with all the corporate personhood arguments we’ve been hearing lately?

  47. john personna says:

    I should also note that this is where my centrism allows me to stand pure … I demand that BOTH education and defense make a rational public goods argument. NEITHER simply deserves, or always needs, more money.

  48. James says:

    @john personna: I really don’t see the distinction you’re making here. Lockheed Martin appeals directly to voters as a national good, directly to policy-makers as a vendor, and as the industry as a whole to build a “pro-defense industry” constituency.

    Teachers appeal as educators and employees of the taxpayers. Their constituency tends to be people who have children in well preforming public schools.

  49. James says:

    @john personna: Now you’re just being self-righteous.

  50. john personna says:

    @James:

    There would be no difference if the case was not “for teachers” but “for education,” each and every time.

    If you can read this thread you an see that this is not the case.

  51. john personna says:

    @James:

    What’s the point of high ground if you can’t enjoy it.

    I’d feel much worse if I were using this thread for a contrary purpose, that is to favor some receiving group over another.

  52. James says:

    @john personna: I think I see more of what you’re trying to say here, but I just don’t make the distinction you’re making between “teachers, firemen” being able to be paid for proving a public good, and appeal on the behalf of that public good, against Lockheed Martin’s ability to do that as well. You wrote:

    [Teachers and Firemen] can both directly appeal to voters for their own welfare, and bargain via their unions.

    Loockheed Martin can as well; they just negotiation with the government via vendor contracts or directly representative lobbying.

  53. john personna says:

    @James:

    No. The difference is that certain public employees enjoy two appeals. A “sympathy” appeal, and a “public works” appeal. Loockheed Martin has only the “public goods” appeal.

    Note also that the “sympathy” appeal and the “public works” appeal are often considered at odds in education.

  54. James says:

    @john personna: It’s nice to talk. We rarely do.

    Anyways, to expand a bit; teachers and firemen (and policemen and sanitation workers) are employed by the state to provide various public goods. Lockheed also provides a public good, national defense, they’re just a private entity. This is just an artifact of the privatization of our national defense. They still negotiate with the government over contracts.

    I’m not even saying that it’s a bad thing either way; they’re all interest groups that appeal for public investment through both the legislative process and as a social value.

  55. James says:

    @john personna: I’m really not sure how this distinction you’re making between “sympathy” and “public works” is a distinction at all. Public workers are sympathetic because they’re employed by the state to provide us with a public good (smart children, clean streets). Lockheed is sympathetic because they build fast and expensive instruments of our national defense.

  56. john personna says:

    @James:

    I never suggested that education was bad, nor that defense was bad. I was drawn in by this line:

    And between teachers and Lockheed…who would you rather got more money?

    Anyone who answers that question either way, based on who they love more, is part of the problem and not part of the solution.

    You seem to want to remind me that there is a “public goods” view to this, but I got that all along. It’s the “who do you love?” view I am contesting.

  57. john personna says:

    @James:

    Lockheed is sympathetic because they build fast and expensive instruments of our national defense.

    Heh 😉

    You aren’t really claiming that are you?

  58. Brummagem Joe says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    I know, I know, I’m not being fair now.

    No doubt it’s due to my stupidity but I’m not quite sure what your point is here.

  59. john personna says:

    (I have been on this planet for a while now, and I don’t think I’ve EVAR seen anyone suggest that defense contractors need higher margins!)

  60. James says:

    @john personna: Well, here’s John Noonan, spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee’s defense subpanel claiming that budget cuts

    […] could harm our men and women in uniform, and our military’s ability to keep America safe

    I’m not sure who “pro-defense” becomes “pro-defense contractor margins” anymore than “pro-education” becomes “pro-teacher-largess”

  61. Mercer says:

    From an article on national review today:

    “many tenured professors now teach three classes or fewer a year, often with only a handful of students in each. Meanwhile, the salary and benefits of many full professors have grown to $150,000 or more — for a nine-month job in which most of their effort goes toward embellishing their academic credentials by writing esoteric journal articles that few people read.”

    http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/290127/real-problems-higher-ed-jeff-sandefer

    Does this sound like takers or makers?

  62. mattb says:

    @Mercer:
    That may be the case in Div 1 research universities. However, I can tell you first hand that as soon as one gets to educational colleges (the vast majority of schools in the US), things change FAST — both in terms of income and in terms of course and student load.

  63. tyndon clusters says:

    To conservatives idiots (James and Steven exempted)…when jobs are available Americans work, witness the very low unemployment levels of the 1940s and 1950s/60s after the devastation of the 30s and the very low unemployment rates from the mid 80s to the mid 2000s after the very high rates of the early 80s.

    This constant drone from the right wing c0ck$uckers about the Negriss driving her Cadillac to buy groceries with food stamps is oh so 1978.

    Just as I had to ask my grandparents about the madness of Joe McCartthy and their embarrassment of having to answer that a few crazies got control of the wheel for a few years in the 1950s, I can imagine myself telling my own grand kids a couple of decades hence about the madness of the right wing kooks who almost destroyed America in the 90s and early century, just like their ideological forebears of the 20s almost destroyed American capitalism.

    For example, google Pecora hearings, 1932, Senate Banking committee. Read their conclusions, change the dates 80 years to the present day and realize nothing has changed.

    Which explains my vehement, downright, hatred of conservative thinking. Its like the Pecora hearings and the Great Depression never happened (a Depression btw that FDR made worse according to the twits on the right).

    My outrage at Clinton laughing like a mad hyena during the signing ceremony in 2000 of the Gramm Bliley Leach Act is sickening to an old New Dealer like myself.

    Hmmm. lets see, de-regulate Wall Street, give rich folk a shit load of liquidity to fuck with and lets see what happens. Oh, a financial cataclysm? Who could have thunk it?

    My god, we all KNEW what would happen except for the brain dead conservative retards.

    I tend to vent my spleen when commenting, perhaps to the detriment of my arguments, but the outrage over the destruction to America as a result of well meaning dolts on the right with their ignorant policies is truly maddening.

  64. mattb says:

    James (Joyner),

    Seconding @Ben Wolf and @Brummagem Joe‘s points, I think most of us more liberal posters are hear primarily because of the quality of thoughtful conservative analysis we find at this site. I realize that this has led to accusations about OTB going “lib.” If so, you’ve gone lib in the same way that Daniel Larison is “lib.”

    It’s unfortunate to see that blind partisan/tribalism still sells better than thoughtful reflection.

  65. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Mercer:

    for a nine-month job in which most of their effort goes toward embellishing their academic credentials by writing esoteric journal articles that few people read.”

    Of course some of them are to be found in the notoriously un read pages of the NR. To start with this comment only speaks to a minute number of the high end tenured professors at good schools. It also betrays a devastating but one must say fairly typical example of right wing ignorance of the nature of scholarship. Professors of various branches of medicine no longer publishing in the New England Journal, professors of business and economics not publishing in the HBO, professors of literature not publishing in the NYRB, international affairs in FP, of law in YLR, etc etc etc. No wonder the Republican party is increasingly becoming the party of STUPID. But thanks anyway Mercer for bringing your endorsement of this sentiment to our attention.

  66. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Brummagem Joe:

    Oops HBR!

  67. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @john personna: John, maybe I am following the wrong threads, I still cannot find the word “Deserve” please point me in the right direction.

  68. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Brummagem Joe: Joe, my point is, if one reads the constitution…

    Amendment I: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

    In other words, affiliated people (Unions) have a right to petition the gov’t like other affiliated people (Corporations)

    I don’t understand what is the problem here. I for one, am willing to live with similar limits on both.

  69. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Brummagem Joe:
    Joe, it is in the Constitution, read it, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

    Is it clear now?

  70. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Ojk, now I am getting redundandt….

  71. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @john personna: John, you are not pure. Either you stand for something…. or you are a gutless mf’er.

  72. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: i have no clue what I meant to say there.

  73. MM says:

    I realize that this thread is nearly dead, but as one of those original commenters, I would like the chance to defend myself. I agree that providing a service to the taxpayer in exchange for a salary is nothing to be ashamed of, nor is it the equivalent of being “on the dole”. I have moved between government and the private sector throughout my career, and most of my private sector work has been contract work for state and local government.

    My issue is that Glenn Reynolds cultivates an image of a rugged Galtian, allies frequently and approvingly with people who advocate not even allowing public employees to vote. Glenn Reynolds will argue about the inefficient overpaid government employees, despite the fact that he has guaranteed income for the rest of his life and despite the fact that he has time to pursue multiple other ventures.

    The state of Tennessee believes that Glenn Reynolds provides as much or more value than his compensation, and given that I have no knowledge of Reynolds as a professor, cannot conclude that they are wrong. Would Glenn extend the same courtesy to other governmental employees? He has not in the past and I submit he would not now or in the future.

  74. @Mercer:

    “many tenured professors now teach three classes or fewer a year, often with only a handful of students in each. Meanwhile, the salary and benefits of many full professors have grown to $150,000 or more — for a nine-month job in which most of their effort goes toward embellishing their academic credentials by writing esoteric journal articles that few people read.”

    Mattb is correct: that is a limited to specific situations and not as widespread as this suggests (and even then, the above is a condescending description of what is really a far more complex reality).

    I am a tenured full professor and my base teaching load of 8 course per year (a 10 month year). I teach in addition 5-7 additional classes (including in the summer, so the 10 month isn’t really a 10 month) for additional income (i.e, “overloads”). Even doing that I come nowhere near the income level cited (although I make a comfortable living). In addition to the teaching, there are various service requirements (committees, administration work, etc.) and the “esoteric” research is also part of the job (although I am expected to do far less of it than my colleagues at research schools who teach less). That research, even that which may seem worthless to you, helps bring students (and hence tuition) and funding to the schools in question. This is often indirect, but pubs mean prestige and prestige matters in higher ed.

    Also: since I know that a lot of my students have gone on to successful careers and have personally thanked me for my classes, I like to think that I am not a taker, but a maker of a type (granted, I likely over-estimate my value).

    I am not, by the way, complaining. I have a great life. I control my own schedule and I do things I love to do. The notion, however, that I sit around and get paid huge sums to do very little is misguided, I assure you.

  75. James says:

    The difference between public and private unions is this. Public unions can hold government function hostage as part of their negotiating tactics. No public education because the union goes on strike, no police protection because of the blue flue, no fire services, etc. These services are not the property of the unions, they are owned by the citizens as a whole.

  76. An Interested Party says:

    There is an inherent conflict of interest there.

    Much like politicians who lose elections and then become lobbyists and schmooze the people they used to work with to get tax breaks for the companies they’re lobbying for…

    That is more than subtly different than a contractor lobbying, because a contractor mus make some other case for a public good. You know, defense is good, or a power plant is good, rather than just “help us we are good people.”

    Or the contractor can just threaten to funnel a $hitload of money to the potential opposing candidate of any politician that doesn’t agree to play ball…

    I realize that this has led to accusations about OTB going “lib.” If so, you’ve gone lib in the same way that Daniel Larison is “lib.”

    This is the perfect illustration of how the GOP looks like it has gone bat$hit crazy, as we rarely see any major Republican candidates or spokespeople who seem as reasonable as Daniel Larison or James…of course, I’m sure both would be branded as RINOs by more than a few of conservatives…

    Would Glenn extend the same courtesy to other governmental employees? He has not in the past and I submit he would not now or in the future.

    It is hardly surprising that someone who play around with a simplistic argument about makers and takers would also be a rank hypocrite…

  77. mantis says:

    These services are not the property of the unions, they are owned by the citizens as a whole.

    The citizens don’t own the people who provide those services.

  78. Tillman says:

    @mantis: And, really, you can just frame it metaphorically as the public sector union collectively bargaining against the rest of us, the taxpayers. As in, do we want our firefighters to be paid well enough to save our asses when the house lights up?

  79. James says:

    @Tillman: Do you really want a union to have the ability to hold your kids education hostage every time they don’t get their way? What about a union with holding safety from your children in order to get extra days off? The control of these services should not be in the hands of a union.

  80. MarkedMan says:

    Going back to the reaction of the Reynolds-ites, it delightfully tickled my confirmation bias that the followers of this icon of the right descended en masse and, discovering that there was a mechanism to make any comment they disagreed with disappear, used it over and over and over again. Right Winger = Someone uninterested in hearing any other opinion. Simplistic but satisfyingly simple.

  81. @OzarkHillbilly:

    What’s wrong with you? I said that both education and defense should make their case for public goods.

    That you argue with that is a big problem.

  82. de stijl says:

    @MarkedMan:

    OT – on a Komen thread a few days ago you asked me what I meant about “getting off the boat” and “shorter”:

    When talking about McMegan, never – and I mean never, not even if you’re a New Orleans Saucier – get off the boat. Just trust the Shorter and move on with the rest of your life.

    I didn’t see your question until late last night, so I apologize for not responding sooner.

    “Never get off the boat” started as an Apocalypse Now reference where Frederick Forrest’s character, a chef – a saucier actually, wanted to get off the boat and go into the jungle to fetch some mangoes and they have the memorable encounter with the tiger, and Chef says, “Never get off the boat. Never get off the boat.” (Sheen riffs on this comment later irt Kurtz.)

    In blogspeak, “Never get off the boat” has been hijacked to mean that it is in your best interest to not click on the link and read the original text – or much worse, the comment section, because it will prove to be a jungle of inanity and insanity.

    The “Shorter” – probably most associated with Sadly, No! – is meant to be the comic antidote to getting off the boat and venturing into the jungle – the author read the original post and handily provides a shorter version to give the reader a gist of what the original post said. Mocking recaps, btw.

    Say someone like Ann Althouse chose to point her razor-sharp intellect at a topic the The Susan G. Komen situation and wrote 1000 words about the topic. Someone else could then provide a 20 word “Shorter” version and advise their readers not to “get off the boat” and read the original version and the associated comments (especially the comments).

  83. MarkedMan says:

    @de stijl: Gotcha. Thanks. I’m obviously falling behind in being hep to this cool-cat internet lingo.

  84. de stijl says:

    @MarkedMan:

    descended en masse and, discovering that there was a mechanism to make any comment they disagreed with disappear, used it over and over and over again.

    It was pretty revealing how the Instapundit visitors so quickly chose to avail themselves of the “vote-down” function. I’ve been told that libertarians cannot be authoritarians, so there must be another explanation.

  85. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Steven, if you have time, you definitely should read Mercer’s article and then search http://www.texastribune.org for “Jeff Sanderfer” and “Rick O’Donnell.” These guys are Rick Perry cronies with huge axes to grind against higher ed, and collectively managed to piss off almost everyone in Austin, in the UT System, in the TX A&M system, and the collective alumni associations of both. And – as you know from living here – if you can manage to get *both* the Aggies and the Longhorns pissed off at you at the same time and for the same reason, you really are a piece of work.

  86. mantis says:

    @James:

    The control of these services should not be in the hands of a union.

    A union is just a collection of workers. Workers, not slaves. What is so hard to understand about that?

  87. James Joyner says:

    @mantis: I think it’s widely agreed that people employed in certain public positions–policemen, firefighters, soldiers, EMTs, etc.–can’t be allowed to strike. Taking those positions means giving up certain individual and collective rights because of the public consequences. They’re in a position of public trust and can’t be allowed to use that position to blackmail the public.

    Where one draws that line is controversial. Schoolteachers and air traffic controllers, for example, ought not be allowed to strike in my judgment. Others disagree. But allowing policemen to strike, for example, is to invite anarchy.

  88. @mantis:

    Working back up the @-ladder a bit I find this:

    As in, do we want our firefighters to be paid well enough to save our asses when the house lights up?

    We’ve had discussions in the past about demand for those jobs, and 6000 people showing up for 3 slots, or whatever. I’ve suggested that when you have 100x (never mind 1000x) qualified applicants for a job, it is over-paid.

    The push-back I got was based on the “sympathy” or “deserved pay” argument. That is an argument against economic efficiency, and for “social” wages.

    That is fundamentally a right/left disconnect, though I think anyone near center (be they left or right leaning) is going to at least consider efficiency as a pragmatic consideration. Shrug. Perhaps they’ll balance it with what they think teachers or firefighters deserve, but they won’t want things to get too far out of whack, either way.

    FWIW, my dad was a teacher and HS administrator. We had a fine life on moderate wages. He had a great retirement, with high benefits. What we saw over time though was that “his” bargain, low wages in return for later benefits, was changed. The “fat” decade (or two) saw higher wages AND those high benefits.

    That was, to borrow James’ word for the day, unsustainable.

    It is unfortunate that a rude ax is being taken now to education, but I don’t think the right fix for those problems is to just argue generally for “teachers salaries.” There are a lot of districts across the countries. While there might be some where higher salaries would benefit everyone, the kids included … it a suspect argument that “higher salaries” are the national fix.

  89. Rob in CT says:

    First off: James is a good egg, because he thinks. He tries to tackle his own biases. We disagree on stuff, but he’s usually worth a read and often makes me think.

    I’ve been pondering the argument against public sector unions for some time now.

    The best arguments I have seen against them are these:

    1) They have a monopoly or near-monopoly on the services they provide. This inflates their power.
    2) Their employer is, ultimately, us. The people. Therefore, they organize and bargain “against” us.
    3) Political donations (union gives to pol, pol elected, union negotiates with pol).

    I’ve seen weaker arguments (including waving around an anti-public union FDR quote) too, of course.

    Anyway, in reverse order: the argument regarding political donations (union gives to pol, pol elected, union negotiates with pol) strikes me as weak because that’s what happens with non-unions too (XYZ lobby donates, their guy wins, XYZ industry benefits). It’s not that I *like* that situation, but it’s not unique and therefore uniquely deserving of reform. If anyone can work out a workable solution that results in removing both corporate and union money from politics, I’m game. Until then, I’m highly suspicious about calls for unilateral disarmament.

    #2 I don’t buy either. The subtext to #2 is that since we’re the employer, public sector workers either do not need or do not deserve the right to organize. I find that unconvincing. Do not need: oh, please, as if the public (or rather the representatives of the public) can’t be terrible bosses? Do not deserve: why? “They work for us!” is not an answer. If others have a better answer than that, I’m listening.

    That brings us back to #1. This leads me to wonder whether the optimal solution isn’t to allow unionization but restrict what they’re allowed to do (no strike). Except… isn’t that the status quo? I admit, I’m not especially knowledgeable on the subject, so I might be wrong there

  90. Rob in CT says:

    Btw, I focused on the public sector union thing b/c I don’t think “makes vs. takers” merits any response beyond a derisive snort.

  91. Rob in CT says:

    FWIW, my dad was a teacher and HS administrator. We had a fine life on moderate wages. He had a great retirement, with high benefits. What we saw over time though was that “his” bargain, low wages in return for later benefits, was changed. The “fat” decade (or two) saw higher wages AND those high benefits.

    While at the same time, private sector workers (particularly at the bottom of the pyramid) were getting a worse and worse deal. We all know the story, so I won’t rehash it.

    The lefty comeback is that the government pay is the way it should be and maybe if the private sector unions hadn’t been crushed, things would be better for all. I think there’s more than a bit of wishful thinking inbedded there.

    I’ll argue about the value of public sector work (particularly the much-maligned teachers), but in the end I don’t think you can reasonably expect the general public to support a government compensation package that is clearly better than theirs over time. As you say, the old deal was you made less up front in exchange for better benefits & better job security. I happen to think it was less government workers getting “fat” than private sector workers being starved (for a variety of reasons), but the result is the same: they’re now out of balance such that it won’t be tolerated.

  92. @Rob in CT:

    I happen to think it was less government workers getting “fat” than private sector workers being starved (for a variety of reasons), but the result is the same: they’re now out of balance such that it won’t be tolerated.

    It’s easy to remember the most egregious cases. The cify of Vallejo, California, bankrupted itself on public safety salaries “significantly higher than the state average.”

  93. Rob in CT says:

    Oh, sure, no doubt. And one can find cases where entire towns were economically devastated because the big factory closed (due to increased automation, outsourcing, poor management, whatever).

    I’m sure charts could be created for a macro view to decide whether it was the chicken or the egg.

    Either way, the current mis-match exists and is being challenged.

  94. @Rob in CT:

    It doesn’t make too much sense to set those at odds, chicken and egg.

    If public service wages are set at an efficient price, they are independent of tax base. Though certainly an inefficient wage, combined with falling revenues, hits cities in the worst possible way.

  95. Moosebreath says:

    @James Joyner:

    James,

    The problem with saying that public sector unions being barred from striking is that without an alternative, it is the workers who end up getting blackmailed. In Pennsylvania, police cannot strike at all, but get binding arbitration if the sides cannot agree. This works pretty well for all.

    However, teachers are barred from striking for long enough to prevent the students from reaching the mandated 180 days of instruction per year, allowing at most a 10 day strike per year. On the other hand, there is no provision for resolving disputes. As a result, many school districts, knowing that their hand cannot be forced by a strike or by an arbitrator, give insulting low offers, and refuse to bargain.

    A firend of mine recently left teaching after about 15 years as a high school math teacher, as his district was on its 4th straight year without a contract, and the district imposed rules providing that there were no salary increases plus benefit cuts. The district had to scramble to get a new AP calculus teacher, but I guess they felt it was worth it.

  96. James Joyner says:

    @Moosebreath: I take your point. Given the extreme alternatives, I’d rather that taxpayers have the power rather than the unions. At least the teachers have the option of finding another way to make a living–including moving to another state–to force market wages. And, of course, parents will demand that schools be adequately staffed. There’s no comparable recourse to cops, firefighters, and teachers holding the public hostage.