Sunday, June 07, 2009

Why You Have Bad Government

This is arguably going to be the most important post of my entire blog, so please pay attention.

The below chart is confusing.



The reason it is confusing is because there are many different types of majors that it is hard to see any kind of trend or relationship. But if I simplify it into the chart below;


Now you start to see where I'm going with this.

The two charts above are simply a breakdown of the House of Representatives in the state of Minnesota by major. I further simplified the chart into "Worthy Degrees" and "Worthless Freaking Crap." And for the sake of informing my readers I defined "Worthy Degrees" as degrees that would actually have some kind of net positive benefit to society and "Worthless Freaking Crap" as degrees rich spoiled kids pursue as a hobby with no real intention of ever finding a real job, but just an excuse to go and chase tail for 4 - 6 years during your twenties. They break down thusly;

Worthy degrees;

Math
Nursing
Agriculture
Engineering
Biology
Economics
POLICE Science/Criminology
Votech
Physics
IT

Worthless degrees;

Business
Education
Poli Sci
Sociology
Pre-Law
English
Geography
Philosophy
Psychology
Communications
History
Journalism
Environmental Studies
Music/Arts
Foreign Language
General Studies
Rhetoric
Broadcasting
Home and Community Services
Metropolitan and Urban Studies
Fashion Merchandising

(*note, "business majors" were considered worthless as they were either general business, HR, or marketing, none of which are real degrees. Interestingly enough NO ACCOUNTING majors were listed...which goes a long way in explaining why the budget is always out of balance).

Now the reason I bring this up and point this out is that while it is as clear as day to me why we have incompetent government and incompetent legislatures across this nation, it seems to be the ever elusive question as to "Why can't we just have competent government? Why do we have such bad government."

So allow me to tender you a "theory" (which I already know to be law and will bet my life on it) as to why, not just here in Minnesota, we have incompetent morons in government, but why across the entire nation, as well as the entire western world we all suffer an unacceptable level of incompetent government.

UNDERSTAND that the VAST majority of people who go into government do not originally set out to do so. THey are a by-product of their own laziness and abhorrence to engage in real work or engage in any meaningful activity that will result in REAL, TANGIBLE PRODUCTION for society.

THIS MANIFESTS ITSELF when they are young and have to choose what kind of career they are going to pursue.

NOW UNDERSTAND that the past roughly 2-3 generations have benefited from the massive fruits of capitalism that have made it possible that you really don't HAVE to work if you don't want to. Your parents are rich enough to carry you through, and though you may not be a veritable trust fund baby, you can essentially major in fluff and get by if you so desire. This results in the decision, by what is essentially 18 year old children to major in a subject that is NOT in their best long term career interests, but something that is more of a luxury or hobby and suits their childish, short term desires (on a related note see this).

THE SINGLE MOST DETERMINING VARIABLE AS TO WHAT THESE LAZY SPOILED CHILDREN CHOOSE AS A MAJOR IS MATHEMATICS. The MORE math a major has, the LESS likely these lazy slobs are to pick it as a major. Ergo, they are not majoring in a discipline or study that actually will produce something of worth to society, they choose to major in a hobby that requires little to no math simply because math is difficult.

Now, in due time, those with real degrees and real disciplines will go out and find REAL work that will produce real goods and services society desires. Oh, sure I know, the sociology major will tell you they contribute to society by helping the poor. And the environmentalist major will tell you he's saving the planet. But the empirical evidence, known as MONEY, tells you something different. Sure, the effeminate "global studies" major will tell you he's saving the planet, but he spends all of his money on his I-Pod, cell phone and Prius, ALL OF WHICH WAS CONCEIVED, DESIGNED and BUILT BY THE REAL MEN (also known as "engineers.") Regardless, the point is those with worthless freaking el-crapo degrees will find no obvious employment and are thus relegated to a few employment options.

Some will become euphemistically named "Barristas" at coffee shops.

Some will actually do something of economic value and flip burgers.

Others will just marry and engineer and work part time as a "social worker."

And a disproportionate amount of them will enter public education.

But there is one other venue of employment for these talentless and worthless souls and that is government.

Now understand, not everybody can run for government. The natural laws of economics will ensure that those foolish enough to major in "English" IN A COUNTRY WHERE IT'S THE NATIONAL FREAKING LANGUAGE will inevitably become unemployed (though very verbose). However, if you have rich parents or well connected parents, you now have the funds to run for public office.

Allow me to point out just a couple bits of anecdotal evidence.

Humphrey. I know Hubert H was the original Humphrey, but hey, look at Jr. Why, daddy's little boy is so damn bored, he guesses he'll just run for public office.

Mark Dayton. Awwww. The little Heir to the Dayton's empire is bored. Good thing Grand Daddy stored away $22 million for you. Go buy yourself a senate seat!

Nancy Pelosi. Daddy's little girl. And when I say "Daddy" I mean the former mayor of Baltimore (that urban utopia). Do you really think she had to pay her way through college to get that political "science" degree. Wow, for an "independent woman" she really depending on a rich dad and a rich husband. And I don't think she started in the mail room to work up that wealth.

Al Gore. Wasn't his daddy a senator?

And just to show you I'm not slamming on just democrats, this criticism EQUALLY is laid on Repulicans as well;

George W. Bush. Well Jesus, H Christ, we'll prove to the nation we're not a group of elitists! We'll nominate THE SON OF A PREVIOUS FREAKING PRESIDENT!

It is here that those who are by all accounts and standards morons can run for elected office, which practically guarantees that you will have BAD GOVERNMENT.

And the reason is simple;

1. Rich people are shielded from the everyday struggles and strife that normal, even poor people face and therefore cannot sympathize. However, even more important is

2. They NEVER HAD TO FACE REALITY. THEY HAVE NO CLUE WHAT THE REAL WORLD IS. And therefore cannot make effective decisions or policies because it is based in the utopian idealism afforded to them by the parents and not the harsh real world the remaining 95% of the population live in.

A very common criticism by talk radio show hosts such as Jason Lewis and Rush Limbaugh is that NONE OF THESE GUYS EVER HAD TO MAKE A PAYROLL. Barack Obama, for all his cuteness and nice pecks and pretty words and pet unicorns, never worked a real job in his life. His mom paid for everything. He never had to strive. He has as much in common with the poor on the south side of Chicago as Jesse Jackson does. The same applies to the Humphries, the Bushes, the Pelosi's and practically every publicly elected official out there.

THEY DON'T LIVE IN REALITY BECAUSE THEIR PARENTS MONEY SHIELDS THEM FROM IT.

Furthermore, AND THIS IS KEY SO YOU UNDERSTAND, they do not choose to go into public office for anything as "noble" as "public service."

They go into it for themselves.

They are bored.

They are otherwise unemployable.

And (you MUST UNDERSTAND THIS) they are better that you. They aren't going to dirty their fingers working manual labor.

They aren't going to work the third shift as a security guard to make ends meet.

They aren't going to change diapers in hopsice care.

Why, "they have a college degree in philosophy. Why, that work is for the underclasses. Certianly not an "educated, elightened" person like me!"

They go into public office FIRST AND FOREMOST for themselves and NOTHING as noble as public service.

In short they are politicians, they are NOT statesmen. They put themselves first and will tell you whatever you want to here to keep them in office.

This is why you have bad government. Because NONE of these politicians want to do what's good for the state or the nation. They just want to do what's going to keep them in office and away from REAL work for as long as possible. This is why you get idiots parroting things like;

"Hope and change."

and

"We'll bail you out of this mortgage crisis."

and

"Don't worry, we can print off money and everything will be alright."

Of course, the real problem isn't the politicians. You will always have scammers and scumbags who wish to live off the population without providing anything else in return. The real problem is the American population. Such a spoiled, uneducated, uninformed, ignorant bunchs of brats. 300 million people who'd rather watch "American Idol" or see some moron swing a wood stick at a sphere and then run around a diamond while their entire country and livehlihood is stolen from underneathe their noses. Veritable children who borrow more money than they could ever hope to pay back and then blame their ensuing financial woes on a presidential administration. Genuine, USDA 100% certified dumbasses who vote for candidates because they say pretty words and promise them cake, bread and circuses, while completely oblivious to the impending financial disaster of social security and medicare which will make this housing "debacle" look like a joke.

Sadly there is nothing that can be done about it, because how do you defeat ignorance on such a grand scale. The only thing that will defeat it is when the children who are now currently in government run this country into the ground so fast and so destructively that we're no longer able to feed ourselves and will have to entertain euthenasia as a viable means by which to keep the economy from truly collapsing.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy your cute little hobby majoring in "Rhetoric," "Metro and Urban Studies," and "Home and Community Service" (all of which were REAL majors "earned" by current house of representative members). Yeah, THAT will get us out of the recession!


POST SCRIPT - FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO ARE CLAIMING THE CHART ADDS UP TO 135%, PLEASE NOTE THAT IT SHOWS THE NOMINAL NUMBER AND THEN THE PERCENTAGE

52 comments:

James McKenzie said...

I'm a math genius getting a philosophy degree and loving it.

I am putting myself through school working two jobs.

Your categorization of degrees as either useless and useful is arbitrary. Clearly there are useless and useful people in this world, and there can be useful people in any of the fields.

I was in an engineering program for a while; let me assure you, not all engineers are 'real men'. The vast majority are idiots just like the rest of the world; they scam, cheat, and BS their way through their degree and are destined to life in a cubicle. Sure they will be 'productive members of society', but they are productive meaningless little robots. I am still haunted by the words of a peer, "my life will be complete when I have my name stamped on a Bridge".

This is a free country, and I will do whatever the hell I want. If I like Philosophy, I'll take Philosophy.

Furthermore, I am fully aware of and accountable for my choices. I'm not sitting on any piggybank, if I fail at turning a Phil degree into a career then I will continue roofing for the rest of my life. It is hard to make a living writing, especially in Philosophy, and I will have to strive to be the best in order to achieve my goals.

I like a lot of what you write, but in this case your generalizations have gone way too far. You are envisionaing the University system as though it is some kind of perfect strainer, categorizing and classifying people according to usefulness and intelligence.

Captain Capitalism said...

My simple question is;

Why pay somebody to teach you philosophy (as well as have government taxes subsidize your education) when you can check out the library books for free and get the same thing.

Anonymous said...

Mathematics courses make a filter that separates those who can deal with rigorous logic and a clear distinction between right and wrong from those who cannot.

Minimal fluency and the parroting of received wisdom will get you a decent grade on a sociology paper, but you can't talk you way out of an incorrect solution to an equation or the botched proof of a theorem.

BS is a lot easier than logic and far too many people take the easy route to educational credentials.

Carin said...

That is an excellent point.

I was an English major, and then an advanced degree in teaching (double ouch?), BUT - it was in grad school that I finally learned how to think. Something that education had failed to do up until then.

Ironically, it was a philosophy course. That whole rational argument dealo. It rocked my world. Found I could no longer support ideas just because they felt like the right ideas. I wish I learned it earlier, but it is what it is.

As for a person not being worthy unless they take a course load heavy in math? Well ... that sounds like a comment made by most engineering majors.

Overall though, point is well made. I figured that most of our politicians were lawyers.

Anonymous said...

Good thing you put a caveat on the business degree captain, I doubled, accounting and finance, very worthwhile (and lucrative).

Adam said...

James, only in my liberal arts classes was I told that Roosevelt was a hero.

Only in my liberal arts and my philosophy classes was I graded on my subjective opinion.

Only in my liberal arts classes did writing in pure, post-modernist B.S. get me a good grade.

I tried that once out of amusement in a physics class lab write-up. What happened as a result ultimately distinguished mathematically-based majors and softy ones for me:

My physics instructor crossed out the entire page and wrote "Bullshit" in 3-inch tall letters.

'nuff said.

The Meatriarchy said...

Poly Sci is more useful than a Business Degree?

You lost me on that one.

daniel_ream said...

You're almost right on the degrees, Cap. I have degrees in Engineering and Math/Computer Science, and IMHO the real divider isn't math/non-math, it's applied/theoretical. The more your major requires you deal with the way things work in the Real World as opposed to how they're supposed to work in the classroom, the more likely you are to not be full of shit when you graduate.

When I took my math degree after my engineering degree, I ran into a lot of handwaving and po-mo bullshit in the theoretical math courses. They were just as bad as the basketweaving courses I had to take. Theoreticians are used to being able to set the boundaries and conditions for their work; applied mathematicians have to work with what the real world gives them. In applied math, you don't have the option of saying "Well, assume such-and-such is true..." when faced with a messy problem. You have to deal with the mess, and when you have no other option but to say "Well, assume such-and-such is true", you tack on a 50-100% safety margin to your resulting answer, just in case.

There's an old physics joke (that CBS actually used in a sitcom!): A farmer can't get his chickens to lay eggs, so he calls a theoretical physicist. The physicist does some calculations and then says "I have an a solution! Unfortunately, it only works for spherical chickens in a vacuum."

Most of us live in a world where chickens sometimes won't lay eggs. And we've got a political cadre of legislators happily assuming their space orb chicken solution will fix that.

Anonymous said...

I have degrees in Math, Economics and Engineering. I agree that math is an obstacle to getting through many of the majors you mention. However, regarding engineering I think a bigger obstacle is the work involved. The hard sciences require a lot of actual schoolwork that takes up a lot of time. The non-engineering classes I took were ridiculuosly easy compared to the math/engineering classes, requiring virtually no work or time for a grade of "A".

What you are seeing is a legislature that simply isn't used to actual work.

CBMTTek said...

Cap't, As I see it, and I am not disagreeing with you here, the problem with the "Worthless Freaking Crap" degrees is when the people that study and receive those degrees expect to start out with a six figure salary.

Philosophy is a fascinating subject, well worth exploring, but last time I checked, the job prospects are limited. Nor is a healthy discussion of mankind's place in the universe likely to move society forward much.

The defining factor seems to be more of what do you do with the degree than what degree you have. I have worked with high school dropouts that could run rings around MS and PHD engineers. Why? Because of their work ethic.

Perhaps the problem is not the degree, but the emphasis society places on getting a college education.

Mike Kelley said...

How dare you call my Psychology degree crap? It allowed me to graduate despite drinking huge amounts of booze and skipping lots of classes.

Eric said...

Hmmm. Not a single engineer in the whole bunch.

Remember when they blamed the 35W bridge collapse on not enough taxes? Now I know why.

Mongol said...

Captain,
First time reader, pleasure to be here...
I generally agree with you post. I would make one more observation about the topic. As Adam Smith points out in "Wealth of Nations" (a must read for anyone who wants to understand how real world works, get unabridged version though) - one of the greatest inventions, so to speak, of humankind was separation of labor. I am not going to go into why's (really you should read the whole book, it's fascinating), but it allowed for efficiency and prosperity on unprecedented scale. Adam does, also, mention the creation of the profession of "philosophers" as the further progression of the trend in separation of labor. It makes sense on a certain level why that would happen and the benefit of it. Herein lies the danger and the nature of our problem that was overlooked. This is what makes those degrees you mentioned - worthless!

In order to explain it, allow me to make an example:
Think of a factory. Let's make it fun - it's a beer factory. There are machines. One machine loads up the beer bottles, another moves the conveyor with those bottles, third pours in the beer, forth closes the bottles, fifth puts stickers on and so on. You get the picture. As Mr. Smith explains, each of those machines replaces a procedure of the process that used to be manual, and even before that had probably been performed by one or two people performing all those functions.

Now here is the catch. All of those steps when they were extracted from one single process, and later when they were mechanized, still had to jive with each other. If one was out of sync with reality, the final goal would not be accomplished. Bottles would break, beer would get spilled, etc. In other words the reality was an ultimate check of a sorts. It had to work in real world.

Now move to "philosophies". There are some such as engineering, mathematics (I know they are not a philosophy, but Adam broadly defines it as such) that are grounded in physical world. They can be checked. They have to jive. What about social sciences? actual philosophy? politics? Those also have been specialized, like labor, BUT they have for the most part were created in ACADEMIA and are "functional" only in minds of people. In fantasy world so to speak. Now please understand I do not dismiss "philosophies" all together. There is a place for them and we need them. What I am saying though, is at the moment there is a lot of fantasy crap out there that has not been validated by real world, in fact been disproved multiple times, but puffy "academics" insist on its viability and teach that trash to students. But it doesn't jive with real world. Take socialism for example. 80 years of it in USSR, over 30 million killed as a result, the whole ex union one giant ecological disaster and in places still civil wars zone, and the "academia" in this country still teaches this crap as a brighter future. It doesn't jive with human nature, but still they brainwash the students, because they are "experts".
P.S.: sorry for the long post

Anonymous said...

I would like to put in a humble word for Historians, if only in that if you know no history you are much more likely to commit the same fargin' errors again and again.

I.e. If you believe all men are good, then communism sounds like a good deal.

Cynical historians will both look at "men are good" hypothesis, and laugh derisively, and a brief history of commu/socialism and run away screaming in horror.

Of course, a history major does not a historian make.

Anonymous said...

20 years ago I did a degree in Politics with a Philosophy minor ... my dad told me every that it was a waste of time and money, but I did it ... he was right, you are right ... bummer about that ... but I did not stop there. I went back and am now an engineering technologist ... I guess that counts are real work. Doesn't mattter though, I'm still unemmployed today thanks to low commodity prices.

Nonetheless, the heart of what you're saying is correct ... most of my friends either went into Law or became bureaucrats ... government jobs ... while I went to grad school (before realization hit that Dad was right) the Brightest went to law, the dimmest went to the bureacracy. This should not be a surprise. Bad advisors are part of bad government on a exponential scale,if you consider how many bureaucrats exist for every elected official.

Anonymous said...

Generally, I'd agree, although there are a few important places where I'd consider people with some of these degrees to be not just useful but necessary in certain parts of the economy.

History: The news would be a few orders of magnitude better if it was reported by people educated in history rather than 'journalism' and 'communications'. That is, if they had a real history education that dealt with things as they actually happened rather than filtering it through the postmodern-cultural-relativist-light-fluffy-socialist lens that can't grasp anything except in terms of exploitation, destruction, and consumption.
But presumably, people who actually understand what did happen would be in the best position to explain what is currently happening and what sort of consequences might be predicted. It would make for a better presentation of the news, anyway.

Marty said...

It's funny, it took me a long time to realize I could learn philosophy and psychology w/o the classes. Unfortunately, I learned this lesson after getting my degrees in Phil + Psych. Now I walk dogs for money.

Well, I wish I walked dogs. Or could afford a dog, or that McDonalds would hire me. Or that I had money for doggy figurines, posters or books.

Mootinator said...

"If you believe all men are good, then communism sounds like a good deal."

That misses the point... Communism didn't fail because some men are bad, it fails because all men act in their own self-interest. There's nothing wrong with acting in your own self-interest until you introduce communism into the mix.
Most people I've come across who think socialism is a good idea do so because they don't trust themselves or others to look out for 'less fortunate people' without being forced to.

amcz said...

Adam Smith was probably using the term "philosophy" in its original sense; that it covered all branches of knowledge.

One branch was "natural philosophy" which turned into science. The other half of philosophy couldn't keep up with all their discoveries, leading to obscurantism and all that other crap.

Masterchief said...

I loved this. Keep on rockin Captain!

Mark Robertson said...

What concerns me the most about this post is that you focus on how the most worthless degrees are the ones that disregard the math - and to prove it, you provide pie charts that add up to significantly more that 100%.

Sorry, but I had to mention it. I agree with the sentiment, though (speaking as a poli-sci major who got a law degree).

Anonymous said...

Although some university majors may be useless (Women's Studies, for example), I think you generalized too much. Some people have a calling to pursue subjects which may not necessarily have immediate career opportunities. Society is enriched, for example, by the works of great artists and musicians, and no doubt, people who study history, for example, may sometimes become historians, responsible for creating an accurate account of our past. It is especially unfair to designate the study of foreign languages as useless. In a world full of languages, it is necessary to have experts in more than one language to act as translators. It is through these people that we can read English translations of great literature. Courses such as English and History help to teach good writing and analytical skill which is useful in any career and to the society at large.

I know, also, that many people who study "useful" subjects such as medicine or engineering to so only for the money or prestige, and, as a consequence, end up being lousy professionals.

Anonymous said...

You forgot Chemistry!
Degfinitely in the worthy category.
Even the inorganic... :-)

Fan of prof Prlwytzkofsky
Calgary

Ryan Fuller said...

"That misses the point... Communism didn't fail because some men are bad, it fails because all men act in their own self-interest."

Even if that were not the case, Communism still lacks a price mechanism to allow rational economic calculation.

A lot of people say that Communism would work if people weren't selfish. It's not true; even if everyone were a willing drone for the State, it still wouldn't work because there is no feedback mechanism to show what people's preferences are and no price system to tell you whether your ouputs are actually greater than your inputs.

Anonymous said...

Cap'n - you make good points with this post.

I'm just a bit concerned about how spooled up you get when you write so passionately and perhaps angrily(?).

We do have freedom of choice to be what we want to be and that's as it should be. But no whining if you choose a degree field that doesn't leave you satisfied in terms of what you do with it and what you earn.

I'm not sure the problem is that our nation has "Worthless Freaking Crap" degrees, it's more of a problem of having way too much "Worthless Freaking Crap" and way too many people taking "WFC" because everything else is too hard or requires too much work.

I don't have a problem with the best of the "WFC" graduates, because those find a way to excel and provide societal benefit.

In terms of the composition of the MN house, I share the concern about the lack of "worthy degrees" - supposedly the house is supposed to be somewhat like the general population it represents.

May I pose another thought - suppose the brightest and best of "WRC" and "WD" graduates have better things to do with their education than serve in the house.

So not only does the house have a skew toward "WRC" graduates, but probably also has a skew toward mediocre (or worse) people in the house.

A final point - not only does the house need a few competent accounting majors, but some actuaries are sorely needed.

Brad in Waterloo said...

My only quibble is -- and I'm serious here -- often 'none' in the category of university degree is an advantage over most of your 'worthless' list. Why? Because though these individuals lack the training of their peers with useful degrees, they at least were not subjected to the mind-numbing leftist drivel of their peers who graduated with a degree in the liberal arts. At least those with 'none' still have their common-sense. Many arts grads lack even that.

RL said...

Regarding the reference to Iggy(Ignatieff):

While I agree he's probably not the best person to lead a country, you should cut him some slack. He's quite knowledgable about Adam Smith, and anyone who's read Wealth of Nations can't be all bad.

http://www2.macleans.ca/2008/12/24/a-lesson-in-iggynomics/

Aside on Canada in general:

All our politicians suck, regardless of education. Neither the aforementioned Iggy, nor our Conservative, economist Prime Minister, nor the (Socialist) NDP leader Jack Layton opposed the auto bailout. OK, so that last one's not such a surprise but you get the point. Not a single major party thought spending $3.3 Billion taxpayer dollars on failing companies was a bad idea.

It wasn't always like this. We used to have a budgetary surplus. Sigh...

Greg said...

Hmmmm,
I feel like a stranger here.
High school grad, no degree, some supervisional skills.
That's probably why the mayor of the small burg in which I used to live appointed me to a vacant city commision seat.
He thought I'd be a pushover.
He wanted to replace a perfectly good city hall with a brand new shiney one, for the low, low, price of 2 mil.
The city had less than 2,000 residents, do the math.
He used the ADA as the reason for it, citing potential lawsuits against the city. I read the ADA, and cried bullshit, citing the grandfather clause in the act. Needless to say, I was suddenly the most popular official in town, not so much with the mayor.
The idea of a new city hall went down in flames as a result of public outcry.
At reelection time I garnered 5 more votes than the mayor. (About 120 turned out, sad.)
Most pols just want thier name on a plaque, or equivalent, at the taxpayers expense.
I served one term and out. The way it should be.

mm said...

You aren't concerned about the math/nonmath divide, rather your whole problem is based in the notion that post-secondary is job training (which is where philosophy majors will be happy to disagree with, because we all know that philosophy factories don't exist), but then I remember that it's stupid to argue with someone who doesn't know how to argue back.

It's like playing tennis with someone who thinks that you're an asshole for whacking a green ball at him.

I can't really argue 'cause I'd start using things like the GE Moore shift and Aristotle.

But you don't care about those things and will continue to not care about those things. You'll continue to call me an asshole for whacking a green ball at you because you won't listen for a few minutes to someone who actually knows what they're talking about.

tl;dr, taking philosophy has made me violently conservative because it's given me the ability to cut through the bullshit that most people my age accept because they want some things to be ethical or true, not because they actually are.

Anonymous said...

Did you intentionally list Political Science under desirable degrees and Poli Sci under worthless crap?

They're the same.

Adam said...

mm,

Then by all means, make your argument. I've never known the Captain from my reading to ignore statements or fail to disseminate information presented to him.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I essentially agree, if you will accept the caveat that these are generalizations. Some social workers sort out the mental health triage in the ER; some history, language, or communications people are ROTC and serve us well. In the main, however, you are spot on.

In a related point, there were only three US Senators with any scientific training last time around: a doctor, a veterinarian, and an engineer, John Sununu from here in NH. Sununu was defeated for reelection by a former teacher. The bulk of the Senate is made up of lawyers and business/econ majors who went straight into government.

mm said...

Hi Adam,

It would take forever to type out a philosophical argument because it's a system that precious few people have bothered to learn. And I'm sure that those who haven't bothered with that system (not System system, stay away, you Hegel pushers) would gain no benefit from having it trotted out fully formed.

But the Capt's argument rests entirely on his feeling that the worth of a degree is measured only by its ability to get you a job in a field that he deems good for society.

If you've ever met anyone who ever took a degree for any desire other than to gain employment in that field, then you have to destroy the entire argument that that's the point of taking a degree.

There are half a dozen other ways to destroy this argument of Capt's but you're better off calling up a friend with a phil degree and asking for an explanation.

It's a private joke to philosophers that "Why philosophy?" is actually two questions -- What is philosophy? and Why should I study philosophy?

Unless a person is willing to understand what philosophy is about, then there is no hope in trying to defend it.

Bruce said...

I have felt the same for a long time. I have no issue with some liberal arts grads or the "soft" fields, and I even support requiring philosophy, languages, and others for engineering and physical science students. I am an engineer with a life-long interest in philosophy, sociology, theology, art and art history, history in general, etc. It was obvious to me at a very young age that 1) I could study those things on my own, 2) technical courses scare the pants off most people, 3) I have a passion for both engineering (chemical/process) and politics (my party affiliation is "conservative Constitutionalist" - I may be the only member).

You may find some interesting and parallel thoughts here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121858688764535107.html. This was the first time someone else actually expressed my observation! The education system, media and politicians have diluted the value of a HS diploma, and raised the cost of a college education by virtually insisting that "everyone" has to go to college. Our beloved President has promised an affordable college education to all. This just requires creating more classes that those who have no real interest or talent for education to be able to pass, and more remedial math classes, adding useless faculty and counseling positions to the universities, at much more cost. The spiral into oblivion, but we can all feel good about it!

Alice Finster said...

Yes, of course, Captain, but then what do you do with all that? Waiting until the economy collapses and mass euthanasia becomes the national sport seems a bit self-defeating.

Philosophy and social science are total crap, because the underlying theories are non-falsifiable. James McKenzie and mm simply illustrate the self-absorbed inanity of the breed. They do not live in the real world, because THEY DON'T HAVE TO!!!!

You realize that a huge chunk of working engineers and technologists are retiring within the next 8 years? Mr. Obama will certainly drive a huge proportion of physicians, entrepreneurs, and other honest professionals into premature retirement.

Only trial lawyers, union fatsos, and government workers will be sipping the cream and retiring fat, while the rest of the country struggles to pay interest on an exploding national debt.

So what are you going to do?

Becky said...

I agree with the math commenter about theoretical verses real use.

I also have degrees in math and chemistry. The statics and dynamics classes I took for engineering were known to be the make it or break it classes for aspiring engineers.

I have heard some colleges are considering reducing bachelors to three years in reaction to getting more through the job training system quicker, I guess.

I'm hoping the education bubble will burst. Before government compulsory education, learning didn't have to happen in a pre approved government program. It still doesn't happen that way.

I have read that someone said "liberals think their education ends when they graduate, and conservatives think theirs begins when they graduate".

Anonymous said...

First post I ever read from this site, I was taken here from Phi Beta Cons at NRO. This post makes a lot of sense, and you don't hear things like this very often. I attended Johns Hopkins and saw firsthand the difference between students who want to work in real, tangible fields vs. those who don't. Lots of people want to be doctors, but when they are introduced to chemistry they look into other career paths. Competitive fields should be tough.

As it was said earlier, our political class is dominated by people with junk degrees. There is nothing wrong with an arts/humanities degree, but these people live in a fantasy world with no accountability, and want to control how other people live their lives. In the old days (1800s), significant numbers of seats in the house and senate were occupied by doctors.

What's a real shame is that because these people are running the show, they can subvert our system to their own advantage and undermine capitalism with fake businesses. Look at the initiative for the "creation of green jobs", or the thousands of college students who graduate and want to work for non-profit organizations.

If anyone is going to "fix" the environment, it's not going to be some environmental studies major who wants to raise awareness. It will be an engineer who develops superior energy sources, or a geneticist who creates a strain of bacteria that eat spilled oil or carbon dioxide. And the same goes for every problem we face as a society, let's get to work!

Terbreugghen said...

After getting out of the Marines I went to school for engineering. Dropped after two years because I realized I would never fit in. Instead took an apprenticeship in photoengraving, a skilled trade in graphic arts. Within ten years photoengraving was computerized and run by tech school certificate grads at 1/3 the wage. I saw that writing on the wall and went back to school, but since I was self supporting, decided to major in what I felt like, which was art. Five years later I finished a philosophy degree. No regrets whatsoever, because they got me to a grad program which got me to a terminal degree in fine art, which got me a nice stable teaching position in a commmunity college in a nice small town.

I do agree agree that there are "crap degrees" that are offered simply to "pad the enrollment" of an oversupply of post-secondary schools. In the community college system we spend two years basically doing what should have been done by the high schools.

And the art majors I see are generally (but not always) "math averse." I advise them to take math anyway. I also stress the idea that the arts are one of the most "dangerous" degrees in the system; the student is in the most danger of getting absolutely NOTHING for their time and money spent. ON the other hand, though, the freedom of those degrees also enables a motivated student (and I have seen a number of those, too) to get an education that could not be achieved in any other area. As someone earlier has said, motivation is the issue, and applied/theoretical is a discriminator. I see students who want to study architecture because they like designing buildings, but they fail to realize that the people who actually design that stuff are the children and friends of the well-off, and that their architecture degree will enable them primarily to make lists of building materials for someone else's design, probably something thrown together by the kid or grandkid of the managing partners.

Finally, someone also properly noted that while there may be degrees and areas of study that are acadmecally worthless, the freedom we all admire includes the freedom to decide what our interests and choices will be. Restricting course offerings to the "good" degrees will make higher education look like a grocery store in 1980's Moscow instead of the decadent Wal-Mart that it is. But I kind of like it that way!

Terbreugghen said...

After getting out of the Marines I went to school for engineering. Dropped after two years because I realized I would never fit in. Instead took an apprenticeship in photoengraving, a skilled trade in graphic arts. Within ten years photoengraving was computerized and run by tech school certificate grads at 1/3 the wage. I saw that writing on the wall and went back to school, but since I was self supporting, decided to major in what I felt like, which was art. Five years later I finished a philosophy degree. No regrets whatsoever, because they got me to a grad program which got me to a terminal degree in fine art, which got me a nice stable teaching position in a commmunity college in a nice small town.

I do agree agree that there are "crap degrees" that are offered simply to "pad the enrollment" of an oversupply of post-secondary schools. In the community college system we spend two years basically doing what should have been done by the high schools.

And the art majors I see are generally (but not always) "math averse." I advise them to take math anyway. I also stress the idea that the arts are one of the most "dangerous" degrees in the system; the student is in the most danger of getting absolutely NOTHING for their time and money spent. ON the other hand, though, the freedom of those degrees also enables a motivated student (and I have seen a number of those, too) to get an education that could not be achieved in any other area. As someone earlier has said, motivation is the issue, and applied/theoretical is a discriminator. I see students who want to study architecture because they like designing buildings, but they fail to realize that the people who actually design that stuff are the children and friends of the well-off, and that their architecture degree will enable them primarily to make lists of building materials for someone else's design, probably something thrown together by the kid or grandkid of the managing partners.

Finally, someone also properly noted that while there may be degrees and areas of study that are acadmecally worthless, the freedom we all admire includes the freedom to decide what our interests and choices will be. Restricting course offerings to the "good" degrees will make higher education look like a grocery store in 1980's Moscow instead of the decadent Wal-Mart that it is. But I kind of like it that way!

Hello Birdy said...

I dropped out of high school and became a musician. I traveled a lot for many years. Played a lot of classy as well as seedy lounges, taverns and college bars back in the sixties. I leaned a lot about human nature over the years. When people get drunk they let it all out.

Because I learned to read and write pretty well during my brief tenure in the Catholic school system ... (they taught those skills with veracity back in the fifties when I attended), I was able to learn anything else I needed to know.

Without wasting huge amounts of time and money on higher education and after tiring of drunk people I hung up the horn and went into business. Now I pass those savings on to my customers.

If you have some dignity and pride (not the false self-esteem they teach you in elementary school nowadays) and a willingness to work, higher education is not necessary to have a prosperous and fulfilling life. Just use your head if you have one.

We are all born with a set of smarts, schooling cannot give you more of it, but it sure can diminish what you may already have going for you. In short, I have noted that sometimes a lot of schooling makes people stupid.

It takes more than education to survive and prosper, it takes a bit of guts and risk, you need to overcome preconceived ideas about not only yourself, but those around you. It is exciting to not know what's coming up next. Some people get that on a roller coaster at theme parks. I prefer the real thing.

Anyone who wants a primer to get you going. I suggest a great little easy read by Harry Browne called "How I Found Freedom In An Unfree World." If you like Objectivism, Libertarianism and real freedom, you will love Harry.

As usual ... a great post Cappy.

gimbol said...

Captain:

Go do a search on "america not for dummies".
You'll find the same theme as your post but in a much more simple terminology.

Anonymous said...

You forgot one of the most worthless majors: religion! They are hands down the most worthless people on or off any college campus

Anonymous said...

Please explain how Criminology is a useful degree while Sociology is useless when the former is essentially a sub-field of the latter.

Captain Capitalism said...

Because criminology leads to becoming a police officer, a legitimate profession that society wants.

Amy Anne said...

Wow, now I am even more lost. I have no idea what I should go into.
I just finished high school, currently working at a care facility, which has made me decide against a social work degree (No one gives a shit about finding work for a recovered alcoholic).

Philosophy and Sociology sound so interesting yet some comments make it out to be a "brainwashing" degree...?

I have been on my own since age 16, and will likely need to upgrade before post secondary.
I hope not to have to work twice as hard as I already to to pay for a degree that will do me nor anyone else any good.
Any advice or opinions would be greatly appreciated, send me an e-mail if you have a chance: amy-anne@live.ca

This is a fantastic article,
definitely made me pause and reconsider all my ambitions.

Anonymous said...

I am going to assume that when you say "useless" degrees you are referring their uselessness to a person in a leadership role. If not, you can fuck yourself with a spiked club for putting education on that list.

Captain Capitalism said...

Yep, education, completely worthless and unnecessary degree.

You don't need a 4 year degree to teach, let alone a masters or doctorate to be a principal.

Education degrees are nothing more than a means by which other education majors scam millions of dollars out of lazy children who want to major in an easy subject for a cake job where they get 3 months off a year.

And given your vehemency and violence, I presume you will be working against Wisconsin Gov. Walker all while hiding behind the "it's for the children" shield while claiming to be a peaceful leftist too.

Anonymous said...

Teaching is a complex skill that requires a great deal of specialized training. You have to know how to keep a classroom under control, how to engage students so that they actually learn, how to construct a lesson plan that will cover the material intended and keep the 50-minute period from being 15 minutes of the teacher talking at the inattentive kids and 35 minutes of chaos. An untrained teacher is not going to be able to handle it.
There are two alternatives to education degrees--very small class sizes or on-the-job training.
Small classes would be great, but impractical on the scale required considering the present state of federal and state budgets.
On-the-job training would be interesting, because it's very like a master-apprentice education. The teacher in training would be a poorly paid or unpaid intern to weed out the unenthusiastic and trim costs, and since they won't have to do the work of grading and designing lesson plans, they would have time to hold a second part-time job to support themselves. It would be a good way to put the abstract majors to use.

It is not a cake job. After a minimum 8-hour work day, no less than a standard desk job, they go home and do grading and design the next day's lesson well into the night. They are not especially well paid, because their pay typically takes into account the 3 months of "free time" that they typically spend working on curriculum, teaching summer school, or holding another job to keep themselves above water. Teachers provide a service as important if not more important than police officers.

Cogitans Iuvenis said...

I wouldn't have a problem with philosophy and history if it was real philosophy and history and not the indoctrination that passes for such today in school.

Steve Adams said...

If all liberal arts majors turned out as knowledgeable as Victor Davis Hanson this would be a shorter discussion. The problem with these degrees is that there is no real standard of knowledge and the students mostly favor a degree over really learning the material. Thus, even the amateur historian is much more knowledgable and better able to get things done then the average history major.

Tytalus said...

I realize I'm 4 years too late to the party, but Biology is The. Worst. Major. Of. Them. All.

I work in Institutional Research for a university and we study out student's outcomes as well as nation wide.

Anything, I repeat, anything is better than Biology. Even Art History, i.e. The History of Paintings and Sculptures.

Anonymous said...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYGaXzJGVAQ