Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Upside Down World and Jeremy Bentham


Three things hit me the other day when I drove to Home Depot on a too hot for March afternoon. First there was the 35-40ish looking woman coming out of Domino's pizza with a stack of pizzas and getting into a rusted heap of a car. It was a delivery car and she was at least 8 months pregnant.

Across the street from the Home Depot a middle aged guy was sitting in the front of a dirty pick up truck. He was on the passenger side with the door open and his feet dangling out. His tool belt was hanging on the door and on the windshield was a hand-written sign "Will do electrical work $35."

Inside Home Depot was a man trying to sell A/C inspections in hopes that, if you got one and found out how much energy you were wasting you would buy a new unit. He looked like a moonlighting high school teacher. He also looked tired. No one paid any attention to him. In fact, there was hardly anyone in the store.

If you are a Law Professor, like I am, after seeing these things you may go to work and find:
1. Elitist A is all up set because another law professor wrote an email he did not like.
2. Privileged person B (employed for life, like A) is all torn up because her favorite faculty (also privileged) candidate did not get a positive vote for what in all likelihood would become a forever job.
2. And then there is over-affirmed C going office to office to gossip about a student who was not properly submissive in class because C is always looking for something to stress about.

These are all examples of the upside down world of the privileged. The pregnant pizza delivery person, the out of work electrician, and the moonlight school teacher probably sensed less than a tenth of the misery and injustice as privileged professors who have everything they do not -- a steady and relative easy job, a good salary, infinite flexibility, etc. The have-nots seem also to be the want nots. The haves seem distressed over things that would not even register with the have nots. If anyone thinks the theory of relative deprivation does not explain elitist angst, think again. And if there are any utilitarians still out there, think again about whether the disutility some people feel has any moral importance. What the have nots do not feel seems infinitely more important.

1 comment:

eric said...

I often have similar thoughts, for example, when I read a life-tenured federal judge quoting a tenured law professor extolling the virtues of employment at will as an efficient means of inducing good work performance from proles lacking the virtuous self-motivation of federal judges and law professors. Makes me wanna holler.