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Monday, October 10, 2005

A Call for a Brain Drain.

A large part of the problems with America is that most of our intelligent citizens choose to work for large corporations and their cronies, eg., insurance companies and corporate defense firms. The motto of University of San Francisco, where I attend law school, is "educating hearts and minds to change the world." Sadly, I feel that most of my colleagues won't be changing the world for the better. In this post, I propose that all intelligent people stop sacrificing the interests of the common good for the interests of their bank account. Smart people need to stop selling out.

It's only natural to want to earn money and become rich. Everyone wants to live a life free of stress as much as possible. No one wants to worry about creditors and living paycheck to paycheck. Everyone wants to own their own home and provide for their family. For the most part, these are noble goals and I share them. The problem is that most people I know, even if they don't explicitly express it, want more than basic security. They want the luxuries and the unneccessaries. They want to be able to take large vacations, get that 50inch plasma television and have that shiny new Mercedes in the driveway. As such, smart people mostly just want to get the jobs that pay the highest so that those smart people can maximize their own individual happiness and pleasure.

The problem with this approach is that it assumes the world exists in a vaccum. It assumes that all of our lives are meaningless other than how much money we earn. It assumes that we, as individuals, have no power to change the world for the better.

The reality is that when you choose to work for an insurance defense firm, you are hurting the world. You are ensuring that the rich and powerful get the best and brightest minds to work for them which the poor and powerless are stuck with the remainder. Of course, everyone deserves a defense, even corporate polluters and insurance companies. The real question is: do you want to be that person?

I propose a massive brain drain, particularly among lawyers since that's my future profession and I know the most about it. If smart people stop working for evil corporations (distinguished from socially responsible corporations), corporate defense firms and insurance defense firms, then those interests will suffer as a result. The other side -- plaintiff's firms, government agencies, nonprofits, etc -- will have their interests increased because the quality of their representation will be so much better. The result: more social justice in the world, less corporate activism creeping into the law. In my world, the insurance defense companies will still have lawyers -- but they'll have relatively crappy lawyers because the most sought after, exclusive jobs will be those that HELP the world rather than injure the world, and the top tiers will work at those positions.

I have no empirical evidence to back up this claim, but I'm 99.99% sure it's true: liberals, on the whole, are smarter than conservatives. This is true at least until we enter the working world. Many one-time "liberals" find that their new jobs at corporate law firms put their personal beliefs in direct opposition to their professional beliefs. Slowly, without noticing, these "liberals" become conservatives because the mental schism is unsustainable over a long period of time. People don't want to feel like they are hurting the world or that their jobs are pointless, so they change their personal beliefs to accomodate their professional life.

Why are liberals, on the whole, smarter than conservatives? This is a pretty dicey issue, but let me consider it nonetheless. First, many conservatives are very intelligent. I'm just talking about comparing the two groups on the whole. We all know that people like John Roberts are genuises. Second, liberals tend to value empiricism and facts while conservatives value emotion and faith. Many conservatives believe in a literal reading of the Bible and shun science that says global warming doesn't exist. Denying proven facts defies reason and intelligence. Third, being liberal necessarily requires a more critical mind than being conservative. Conservatism is all about reaching back to the past and maintaining the status quo. Liberalism is about critically thinking about the errors in our society and coming up with solutions for progress. This kind of thought requires a higher intellectual capacity than mere maintenance of the status quo.

Now, of course, many very poor and under-educated people are very liberal nonetheless. I'm not addressing these people in this article however. My point is that of the educated class of people who compose tomorrow's lawyers, executives and other high level jobs, the vast majority of these people start out their professional lives as liberals.

So what are all these liberals selling out their bodies, minds and skills to help further the corporate agenda? Many of them won't ever ask themselves this question. It's too dangerous to their fundamental beliefs. They'll say that someone has to do it, that they donate a lot of money, that they don't really make a difference anyways, that they couldn't do any good if they tried. These are all post-hoc rationalizations for why you decided to ignore your values in favor of cold hard cash.

So if you choose to work for Greenpeace, you may not have that Mercedes in your driveway. You might not be able to watch HDTV on your new plasma screen. But when you die and your life's work is complete, you will have made a difference. You will have used your "heart and mind to change the world." Your plasma screen won't go into the coffin with you, but the lasting impression that you've made upon this world will. If only smart people could resist the temptations of greed and opulence, we could make this world a better place. I've made my choice.

Comments on ""


Anonymous CriminLMstrMind said ... (1:28 PM) : 

Taking the terms liberal and conservative concretely, then yes, conservatives look to the past. However, to say that being liberal requires a more critical mind is irrational.

Any moderate can tell you the true difference between a conservative and a liberal is this: Conservatives like things the way they are, not out of deference to the past but because the status quo favors their goals and preferences; liberals are "critical" but not in the sense of thinking, rather, in the sense of complaining because they do not like the status quo and think it should change.

To say that either group thinks more critically, or contemplates better solutions is to completely overlook the inherent truth that each group merely thinks "critically" about and provides solutions aimed towards its own goals.

Furthermore, while conservatives deny facts such as global warming, it should be noted that liberals deny facts as well. For instance, a liberal will look at the racial-profile of our nation's prison system and say, without any restraint or restriction, that it is indicative of discrimination. However, liberals often completely overlook and refuse to address the fact that it is just as possible (I dare say likely) that these "discriminated" groups are, in fact, perpetrating a greater number of crimes. That is not to say that discrimination is not a factor, it is just not the sole or most substantial factor. Statistically speaking, the gap between the races may denote underlying discrimination, however, such a large gap cannot be solely attributable to discrimination, but must also include a larger criminal base. While liberals tend to skew the numbers, claiming that discrimination is the sole or substantial cause, conservatives make the opposite argument. NEITHER SIDE thinks critically, statistically, or logically enough to recognize the faults in their own arguments or the truths in their oppositions'.

A truly "critical" thinking individual would recognize that the heart of the problem goes far beyond discrimination and economic status. I don't have time now to go into a full blown discussion of the matter but I will put it out there that a complete lack of COMMUNITY RESPONSIBILITY on the part of those of "discriminated" classes also plays a substantial role. Feel free to use Asian-Americans as a prime example of how community responsibility can overcome discrimination and economic status...


Blogger Michael Alexander said ... (2:38 PM) : 

My original post was mainly about encouraging a liberal brain drain. I don't think liberals should be helping support Corporate Evil and helping further the interests of the Republican Party.

Of course, the part that has gotten the most attention in my post is when I claimed that liberals, on the whole, were smarter than conservatives. I had two primary justifications for this claim: 1) being liberal necessarily requires a more critical mind than being conservative and 2) liberals value empiricism and facts while conservatives value emotion and faith.

First, I stand by my claim that being a liberal requires a more critical mind. criminlmstrmind may be right when he says that conservatives favor the status quo because it suits their goals and preferences and liberals favor a change in the status quo because they just don't like the status quo.

To me, being a critical conservative involves coming up with methods and reasons for keeping things the same. New ideas are shunned in favor doing things the way that they always have been done. Strategies such as gay-baiting and race-baiting become tools in maintaining the status quo. Being a critical liberal, on the other hand, involves coming up with drastic solutions to social problems. Every Democrat candidate for President tends to propose novel solutions to society's needs. And every Republican candidate is there to fight those novel solutions in favor of the way things have been done.

In my mind, simply working to keep things the same requires less brainpower than working to create and implement new solutions and new ways of looking at things.

Of course, the modern Republcan isn't really "conservative" in the traditional sense. Today's GOP are actively committed to altering the status quo -- in favor of conservative experiments never before tried. The modern GOP isn't conservative because they despite the status quo b/c it isn't right wing enough. Still, coming up with solutions that impede social change requires less knowledge of the way the world works and less innovation in the way your brain works.

Second, I also stand by my claim that liberals value empiricism and facts while conservatives value emotion and faith. criminlmstrmind tries to equate conservatives denial of global warming, a proven fact, with liberals alleged over emphasis on discrimination.

I have two points here. My first is that global warming is a scientific fact that no one can deny. Even assuming that liberals really do blame all the problems on our prison system on discrimination, that denial of facts is far less egregious than denying global warming.

More importantly, most liberals do not claim that discrimination is the sole or most substantial factor in the racial imbalance in our prison system. Part of the problem is discrimination in prosecutions, convictions and sentencing against blacks and latinos in particular. I assume this is the discrimination of which criminlmstrmind speaks.

Another part of the problem is that, yes, a larger percentage of blacks and latinos commit crimes than whites. This isn't due to discimination in the legal system but rather to institutionalized racism in the United States. Poor people committ more crimes because they have greater incentives to do so; Blacks and Latinos are dispropotionately poor.

Blacks and Latinos grow up in disproportionately poor neighborhoods with terrible schools and bleak prospects of breaking out of the slump. Black and Latino rolemodels are essentially non-existent. Their parents and grandparents were poor; the single largest predictor of how wealthy you will be is how wealthy your parents are.

So to those who try and say that "slavery ended and blacks should get over it," that's total hogwash. The sons and daughters of slaves grew up dirt poor and unable to move up in society. They were given terrible schools and discriminated against in jobs. How quickly we forget that just 40 years ago Blacks were denied basic civil rights. Every Black person alive today is directly affected by the racism that their ancestors received. As such, they grow up on an uneven playing field that sets them up for failure.

What else, besides discrimination in the legal system and institutionalized racism in the rest of American life, could possibly cause Blacks and Latinos to dispropotionately cause crime? Surely it's not because Blacks or Latinos are somehow genetically predisposed to commit crime -- that's an inherently racist statement that lacks no basis in fact whatsoever. Pointing to "community responsibility" suggests that somehow Black communities are to blame for the racism inflicted upon Blacks. Are you suggesting that Blacks, due solely to their race, lack a sense of "community responsibility"? If there is a lack of responsibility, which I doubt, it's due to the fact that Black parents are forced to work longer hours in more dangerous areas and may not have the kind of time to spend with their children as rich white people do. Further, the whole "community responsibility" argument is a red herring designed by the right wing to get people to ignore the problems of racism and blame it on those who are being discriminated against. Of course people should be responsible, but no reason exists to believe that any one segment of our society is any less responsible than another.

Finally, comparing the experience of Blacks and Latinos to Asian-Americans is like comparing apples and oranges. All Blacks and most Latinos started this country on the absolute bottom rung of the social ladder. As a result, their progeny also struggled to get out of the bottom rung. Not true when it comes to Asian Americans. Most Asian Americans had ancestors who came to the United States by choice, not by force. Most Asian Americans were moderately weathly and/or educated because otherwise a move to the United States would be unreasonable. Of course Asian-Americans do better than other minorities because the Asian American population was financially and educationally better off when they initially migrated to the United States.

To wrap up, conservatives deny facts like global warming and use emotions and antecdotal evidence to support fictions such as "reverse racism." Liberals, while they may occassionally leap to conclusions, are not guilty of patenting lying about the truth like a child with their hands over their ears.


Anonymous CriminLMstrMind said ... (6:06 PM) : 

I think a brief history lesson is in order. Take a train anywhere across the US, and you will be riding over the broken bodies of Asian Americans who lived in absolute poverty. They did not come here because they were wealthy, and they did not have good financial standing.

The majority of asian americans came to america as indentured servants. They took extremely low paying jobs and lived in poverty. They died constructing the railroads and were literally buried beneath the tracks (without graves). They also took similarly bad mining jobs, etc. Look it up, its a historical fact. However, the Asian-American community highly praises success and instills a deep motivation to succeed in its youth. That is community responsibility at work.

Furthermore, Latinos were not brought to America by force. Not a single latino ever existed until the spanish arrived on these shores and "intermingled" with the indigenous people. That occurred in the southern-most region of the U.S. and in Central and Southern America. Since the inception of the US, Latinos have entered this country by choice, and continue to do so (often illegally). They are not forced here.

While you make a valid point that discrimination effects blacks and latinos on many levels, you fail to recognize the truth that blacks and latinos are in part a cause of their own situation. Asian Americans DID (and do), in fact, suffer substantially the same discrimination, and yet, have managed to take advantage of the same social institutions that appear to be failing other minorities.

Your argument that there are no role models is off the mark. Often, when a black man succeeds and moves to a better neighborhood trying to do well for his family, he is called a sellout. It is not that rolemodels are lacking, its that they are improperly chosen. Rappers and athletes are considered rolemodels, while successful businessmen are called "oreos" and "sellouts".

Furthermore, people of all races have parents who work long hours in bad areas. Not all of these people become criminals. Some of them go on to work their way through highschool, then college, and into lawschool (yourself included). Community responsibility means stepping forward and admitting that the community itself has responsibilities to its members. These responsibilities include reporting crimes, acting as a witness to crimes even though one may dislike the police and distrust the system, instilling values in one's children, or acting as a rolemodel for a child not one's own. It is absurd to argue that simply because one works long hours, and had parents who were poor, one is incapable of rising above and becoming a positive role model for a child. Any parent can take 5 minutes to explain to their children the value of an education and the virtue of hard work. A bum can be a role model simply by telling a child not to make the same mistakes he did. Community responsibility means that members of the community step forward, acting as a network, to ensure that when a child begins to misbehave he is immediately reprimanded.

The point is that social reform alone will not repair the situation. Members of the African-American community need to step forward and act as role models. That is community responsibility. This requires affirmative action on the part of African-Americans; nothing else will substitute. You simply cannot substitute any government program for a proper "raising". While social reform may cure the symptoms, it cannot cure the illness.

This argument should not be misconstrued as being conservative. It is not, it is a portion of a moderate view. It is merely a recognition that neither liberals or conservatives are taking a realistic approach to the problem. Any liberal who states that minorities are in any way responsible will lose his voters, and thus, none do. Resolution of these issues will require both social reform and an acceptance of responsibility within the community.

Neither party is prepared to admit the validity of the others' arguments and that is truly the underlying problem as far as the government is concerned. So long as liberals refuse to admit that there is some community responsibility, and conservatives refuse to admit that greater social reform is necessary, we cannot move forward.


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