Conan the Contrarian

I caught sight of two controversial articles today.

The first article asserts that there is no wage gap between men and women. In fact it goes a step further and claims that in particular cases, women in a particular study earn 8% more than their male counterparts. The study is true, but the trending increases for younger college educated women are explained in much greater detail here and suggest there are factors related to hiring during downsizing, and factors related to the still-prevalent glass ceiling, that impact these numbers and ultimately negate their effectiveness in serving as an argument that gender pay disparity no longer exists.

Women on average continue to earn less than men (the current figure is somewhere between 77-85%, as sourced here, hereherehere).  It's important to note that for many women, this is not an issue about whether woman are doing better than men economically and more an issue about whether society uses the same indicators in rewarding women for doing the same jobs as men.  The evidence, as of 2011, still points to no.

The second article asserts that higher education is an overvalued bubble and in some cases, an impedance to innovation.

Ok, let's take stock.

The first article is written by Carrie Lukas, the Executive Director of the Independent Womens Forum. A quick glance at this organization immediately tells me it's all about 'building support for free markets, limited government, and individual responsibility.' In case you didn't know, that's code for: we're all Libertarians and we'll spin any issue to keep Government's hands off it.

This cursory fact check on Lukas's statistics and numbers reveal them to be disingenuous. While the numbers don't lie, they are misleading. As I mentioned above, the discussion about wage equality between men and women has never been about whether men earn more than women, but rather, whether women are paid less for doing the same work as men. So, while Carrie Lukas has answered a straw man argument - one might argue a straw woman - she is purposefully avoiding the real issue for sake of her political agenda, and hoping an array of statistics will distract from that.

The second article about the 'higher education bubble' is about Peter Thiel. He's the famous Hedge Fund manager, Facebook angel investor, Paypal co-founder, Libertarian Seasteading advocate and possible immortal who single handedly personifies the apex of success in Silicon Valley. I am inclined to agree with him that higher education can be a pretty risky, potentially ruinous gamble with very little payback. I am also inclined to agree with him that the prestige factor in assessing the cost of higher education, particularly in the elitism of the Ivy League, is due for a reboot. Thiel's a smart and forward-thinking guy, he's made a lot of bold predictions that have turned out true.

My gripe, one not remotely lost on Thiel or his interviewer, is that he is Ivy League educated, and this 'prestige factor' continues to set the stage for up and coming tech pioneers. Mark Zuckerberg, one famous Thiel investment, may have experienced a very different trajectory in the development of his famous creation had it evolved outside of the 'elitist' Harvard culture. It was the notion of exclusivity inspired by working through Harvard's culture that spurred the very notion of 'The Facebook,' after all. In other words, Facebook was a direct product of the 'higher education bubble' and wouldn't exist without it.

Thiel's in a unique position, as any profit motive he might have had has long since been supplanted by boatloads of capital and idealism, so I suppose he has earned the right to try and change to a new paradigm from a position of having rode the coattails of the old one. I really can't take umbridge at the notion that College can be a let-down.

However, when it comes to the notion of women having it as easy, if not easier, than men, I take great offense. After all, I am a college dropout inexplicably pacing the earnings of my brilliant, college-reared spouse, and we will likely be paying those student loans off for the rest of our natural lives.


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