Monday, July 17, 2006

Misidentification

Several year ago I remember reading about how Americans tend to identify with higher socio-economic classes. A recent example of this is the brouhaha over the estate tax (aka the "death tax"). Lots of people oppose the estate tax even though it only affects a really small number of people. So one explanation is that people oppose the estate tax because they subconsciously identify with the wealthy, maybe thinking "yeah, someday that could be me."

I think something similar happens in academia. People get riled up about issues that really only affect a small number of academics teaching at high-profile institutions. That's part of what is going on with the whole question of "are philosophers winning their share of MacArthur prizes?" Again, that's not the real question: the real question is why anyone (other than a potential candidate) should care.

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