Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Portrait of the Liberal Artist

Here are a couple of hypotheticals illustrating the insights of prospect theory. They're taken from Daniel Kahneman's new book, Thinking, Fast and Slow:

In addition to your present wealth, you are given $1000. Would you prefer an additional $500, or a 50% chance of gaining an additional $1000?

In addition to your present wealth, you are given $2000. Would you prefer an additional certain loss of $500, or a 50% chance of losing an additional $1000?

These situations are identical in terms of what economists call expected utility: Each generates an expected gain of $1500 over your previous situation, no matter what choice you make. If you are indifferent to risk then you won't have any reason for preferring any of these scenarios to the others. Yet in the first situation the vast majority of people prefer the sure thing to the gamble, while in the second an equally large majority prefer the gamble to the sure thing. Why?

The answer is that people hate losing more than they like winning. This is why most people are risk averse when considering potential gains but risk seeking when considering potential losses.  They (we) consider the mere fact of being a "loser" a bigger negative than the fact of being a "winner" is considered a positive. And this psychological fact helps explain how law schools make money.

Consider this discussion on TLS regarding whether Virginia is worth sticker (that this discussion is even happening on a site like TLS is itself a sign of progress).  After several people -- including a current UVA law student -- suggest that it isn't,  a poster responds:

For many of us who want to be lawyers and have shitty liberal arts degrees, paying sticker at a T10 law school with a 50/50 shot at a[n initial] 6 figure income is a "safe" gamble compared to our alternatives. There are no guarantees.
Another liberal artist [h/t JDU] expands on this:

There really aren't a lot of options for a large number of college grads. For those of us who attended average undergrads, didn't major in engineering, and don't have any connections, the likelihood that we will only be able to work retail/food service jobs (or--if we're lucky--a 35K or less a year job) is very high. Higher than one's likelihood of not landing a good job from a top 14 law school. And before someone responds with the obligatory "but if someone has the credentials to get into a top 14 then surely they have many other great options" that's total garbage. The barrier to entry for law school, even a top one, really only consists of a high LSAT and a 3.0 (and really not even the latter depending on how high the LSAT is). The barrier for getting a good paying job straight out of undergrad is MUCH higher. Often it requires specific very difficult majors (engineering/accounting etc.) that one would have had to have chosen at 18 years of age; or a degree from a prestigious institution (again something someone would have had to have the foresight to choose at 18), or that classic way that most people get great jobs--connections.

For many, law school is the one ticket into the middle or upper middle class lifestyle. This isn't the 80s or 90s where entry level jobs are relatively plentiful and are good long terms paths to success. Companies are NOT trying to hire young college grads and work is being outsourced. All of these so called "options" for recent college grads that people on this forum seem to think exist are mostly out reach for the average college grad. Ironically enough, as much as TLS accuses the average college student of not knowing how bad things are in the legal field; and of being out of touch with reality. The average TLS poster is even more out of touch with how bad things are for those who only have a college degree.
And there you have it.  Law school -- even a top 10 law school -- is a bad gamble, but a bad gamble is going to be preferred by many people to what they consider a certain "loss," even if the expected return on that gamble is worse than the certain loss.

So, in addition to the people who remain confused enough to consider law school a good investment in straightforward terms, legal academia is living off the desperation of bright ambitious young people who have looked carefully at their options, and concluded that in a "post-industrial economy" they're all bad.  Such people are considering choices between what they see as potential losses rather than potential gains, so as a consequence they're risk-seeking.  Better to borrow $200,000+ to go to George Washington (a gamble that at present has perhaps a 10% chance of paying off) than to take the smaller but more certain "loss" of accepting a low-status low-wage job with little prospect for advancement.

Some day this war's going to end.







123 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. "You smell that? Do you smell that? What? That's Bullshit, son. Nothing else in the world smells like that . . . I love the smell of Bullshit in the morning, smells like . . . young people being duped out of their future earnings (if any)"

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  3. The second option of the second hypo should be "50% chance of gaining an additional $500." Guess LP was one of those folks who went to law school to avoid math.

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  4. 5:52, 50% of $500 is $250. Guess you should have paid more attention in your "law and economics" seminar.

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  5. 5:52, you are incorrect.

    Scenario A or B as stated in the OP:
    - option 1 = result is certain 1500.
    - option 2 = result is either 1000 or 2000.

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  6. I love that one commenter felt that Virginia at sticker price was a gamble worth taking, but that Emory, Notre Dame and WUSTL weren't.

    Why, I remember just yesterday when a TTT was any school just beneath the ones where you were accepted, and now look at these youngsters with their Internet and well-founded skepticism of all but a handful of law schools nationwide.

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  7. 0Ls should not be weighing three years of T14/non-HYS law school at sticker against no law school. They should weigh one year of T14/non-HYS law school at sticker against no law school. You should drop out if, after your first year, all of the following conditions are not met: (i) your grades don't put you in the top third of your class; (ii) you don't have a decent summer position with a firm, judge, or government agency (research assistant for a prof does NOT count); and (iii) you still really want to practice law.

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  8. In a broader sense, this is really a stinging indictment of the liberal arts model of higher education.

    Wow, we have so much further down the hole to go.

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  9. I think one of the factors that leads lemmings to law school is a form of procrastination. That is to say, given the choice between (1) pain today and (2) worse pain tomorrow, a lot of people will go with option two. Nobody wants to graduate from college only to end up living back home and working the cash register at Starbucks for $10 an hour. So you go to law school for three years - not as fun as college, but better then the Starbucks gig. And of course, after three years and 150K in debt, you end up wearing a green apron all the same

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  10. "First, and better today."

    Dude, why don't you get your frustrations out by writing a memoir and self-publishing it on Amazon as a Kindle book? It's free (aside from your time) and ridiculously easy if you're fairly computer-literate.

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  11. "Often it requires specific very difficult majors (engineering/accounting etc.) that one would have had to have chosen at 18 years of age; or a degree from a prestigious institution (again something someone would have had to have the foresight to choose at 18)"
    Wow. Wow. Why work at "difficult majors" when your alternative is partying Thursday through Sunday and summers traveling in Europe. Why expect an 18 year old to exercise foresight (as I think about the consequences of giving them a vote, putting a gun in their hand, allowing them to drive - I guess dependency through age 26 a la the ACA is the right answer). For that matter, why expect their parents to help them exercise foresight - is there an adult in this picture? And apparently high school guidance counselors are AWOL. There is something deeply deeply disturbing about this particular quoted comment.

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  12. Seems to me, if this is the type of discussion going on at TLS, then the consumers actually are sophisticated enough to deserve their outcomes at this point.

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  13. For unemployed college grads, might I suggest vocational training-- machining, plumbing, electronics, and the like? There seems to be at least a somewhat reasonable demand for these skills.

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  14. Professor Campos,

    I am a long-time lurker and first-time commenter here on this blog. Your work, along with that of Big Debt Small Law (Scott Bullock, areyouisane, etc.) and JDU saved my working class, no connections-having, foolishly-majoring-in-liberal-arts ass from a lifetime of debt slavery - so I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for that.

    That's all I really have to say. Please keep up the good work you do here, and know that you really are saving lives out here in the real world.

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  15. For unemployed college grads, might I suggest vocational training-- machining, plumbing, electronics, and the like? There seems to be at least a somewhat reasonable demand for these skills.

    From what I can tell, these guys have great lives. As long as they're halfway capable, return phone calls and show up, and don't charge obviously outrageous amounts, they have work coming out their ears.

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    Replies
    1. Um, "great lives" is an overestimation. My brother-in-law is a 35 year tradesman in Chicago, and those guys work very hard and have a lot of competition too. So please use Dr. Campos's meta-lesson here, and do research on ALL career choices, before you jump in with rose-colored glasses.
      (This is like "Green Acres" with Eddie Albert's lawyer-character romanticizing the easy life of the local carpenters.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Acres)

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  16. 6:40 - adults of the boomer/gen-x crowd tell kids to "follow their dreams" an "do what you love." Whether parents or counselors. And yes, counselors are AWOL. High school ad especially college. The most useless aspect of my ivy undergrad education was the counseling dept, as in I received none. High school counselors tried to steer me in pre-set directions. We know how bad the CSOs at law schools are.

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  17. It bodes ill for our "culture" that the global economy our leaders hold in thrall deems liberal arts grads useful as little more than consumer units and shelf-stockers.

    Still, a one-way trip down the Nung River is a better option than law school.

    The horror... the horror!

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    1. Yeah, our culture is doomed. We should establish a "Ministry of Culture" and control the direction 'culture' takes by controlling the decisions of citizens. Because the free market isn't valuing people who are good at 'culture' yet they cannot sell their skills in the marketplace. BTW, how much have you purchased from the locals who are cultured lately?
      Source

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  18. It's not just liberal arts degrees that have difficulty. Management / business, construction engineering, architecture, and even nursing degree holders are now unable to find many entry level jobs with a chance of advancement.

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  19. This post is lacking. Instead of tracing your thought through to it's logical conclusion (we need a massive redistribution of wealth, effectuated through copious additional government jobs), you stop short. The answer isn't convincing young male college grads to be Clown Collar Bitches for the rest of their lives; it's redistribution.

    You are doing a disservice by pretending to be apolitical.

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    1. Hey troll, you forgot to include a link to your blog, so you can display 'effective apolitical writing'.

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  20. "hold in thrall"

    I don't think that phrase means what you think it means.

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  21. 7:18, Maybe not.

    In your case, I believe law school is an excellent option.

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  22. LawProf doesn't pretend to be apolitical. He has stated before that hes a big fan of redistributing wealth.

    "I personally am very much in favor of forcing rich people to transfer wealth to poor people . . . "

    From: http://insidethelawschoolscam.blogspot.com/2012/05/clueless-baby-boomer-judge-orders-poor.html

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  23. "I personally am very much in favor of forcing rich people to transfer wealth to poor people . . . "

    Physician, heal thyself.

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  24. Anons, please.

    There's nothing wrong with liberal arts as a field of study. And even if we were all foresightful young social climbers in college and studied engineering, that'd just depress wages and spike unemployment in the engineering sector. The building trades sure sound great when you're not doing them. But you don't make nearly so much as you think, and again, that well's not deep enough for everyone either. (And to the extent that these guys haven't been ground under the heel yet, it's because they have strong unions -- and do you really think you're still going to be able to do that work past 50?)

    The problem here is that our society has chosen scarcity of opportunity. Young people are not being irresponsible--we (I guess "they" by now, sigh) are majoring in business in droves, in econ all over the place; and as if that weren't enough of a waste of human capital, those majors still aren't getting jobs. "Lie back and accept your lot" is advice for a terminally ill society.

    This is not fate or inevitability; it's a choice. It's a choice between the phenomenally wealthy minority and the kind of wide-spread job growth that would lead to a richer society overall. But it's only that wealthy minority that gets to make the choice any more, and what do you think they choose?

    It's not just a law school scam. It's the whole system that's a scam. Even the lemmings are strivers who want to get out of their parents' basement; the best we can do with that drive is milk its credit rating? Sneer at them because they're trying something, anything, other than stagnating jobless or at minimum wage in retail service positions that will *still* never allow them to have independence, a home, a family?

    Quit blaming the victim.

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    Replies
    1. well thought, well written, well done.

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  25. A bas les aristocrats!

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  26. 7:40 had a good comment.

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  27. I'd like to hear some specifics.

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  28. When I started UVA in 2006 at least half of the class had prior work experience (govt, consulting, etc.) so they were coming to the school from pretty good jobs. I acknowledge things might be different now.

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  29. Between working for minimum wage and making 35k and health insurance as a lawyer, I'll take the job as a lawyer. Relying on IBR is scary, but it's better than trying to pay the rent with a McJob.

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  30. 7:40,
    I was a business major and I can tell you the skills that you learn as a business major will see you through life far better than what you learn in something like poli sci.

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  31. Due to LawProf’s prodigious efforts, we’ve been reading his insights on the scam for about a year now. So it’s probably a good time to sit back and judge the impact of this blog (and current market conditions) on the 2012 law school admissions cycle. With apologies for appearing to hijack today’s discussion, I suggest all the LPs (and other law school-connected readers out there) start dishing on their school’s current admissions experience – even if anonymously. At the very least, Law Prof and DJM can offer insights into the experience at CU and OSU.

    Specifically, are schools down the pecking order having difficulty filling their classes? Are they lowering admission standards to do so? Or, are they maintaining historic LSAT/GPA thresholds and reducing 1L class size? Are they offering more money to attract higher-quality candidates?

    On the transfer-side (in and out), are schools experiencing greater-than-historic-average movement? Is more money being offered to retain top students? Perhaps most critically, are lower-ranking rising 2Ls choosing to leave school entirely? If so (and this attrition creates budget shortfalls), are schools responding by increasing their entering 1L class size and/or accepting more transfer students? (After a while law schools may become like Service Academies, where Plebe classes are by design typically one-third to one-fourth larger than classes eventually commissioned.)

    With roughly 30 days before the start of 1L orientation, I’m sure there are many, many LPs out in the ether who know what’s going on. Let’s hear from them.

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  32. 7:56,

    I was a business major (with honors) and now have a JD (again, with honors + law review. And I have to tell you, I didn't learn a fucking thing in either of those programs that any employer that I've come across cared about.

    Education has to be the biggest waste of resources. 7+ years, hundreds of thousands of dollars, and not a single skill for which a company will pay you more money.

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  33. 8:00,
    Did you take an accounting class? I'm not saying business is the way to go, only that it's much better than poli sci by comparison.

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  34. Sort of following up on 7:40's comment re: trades. Yes, they do have strong unions, and yes, some members make a very good wage because of the union, but those unions are definitely a mixed blessing. The union controls who works and who doesn't, so the most senior/best connected are the ones who get the steady work, and the newbies get what is left over which, often times, isn't much. Young union plumbers can go years without getting a call from their hall. Want to strike out on your own? Forget it. The Union takes care of your training apprenticeship costs, but within your agreement it says if you ever try to earn $$ outside of the union they can come after you for those expenses, and, as protectors of the guild, the Union surely will. The boomers have a generational chokehold on the tradeswork as well.

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  35. @7:59 IIRC maybe 9 months ago there was an admissions person who started an anonymous blog about the scam at their school. LP blogged about it but then it got taken down pretty quick. Wonder what happened to that poor bastard.

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  36. "Seniority sucks; if you ain't senior."

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  37. Trades have also taken a hit due to the downturn in the economy. Less construction means less electrical work.

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  38. Obviously, the admissions (including transfer) and financial aid situation is very fluid right now. Most likely it will be right up to orientation day. I’ve even heard stories about schools not being too sure who will show up, especially with students making multiple deposits. But all this will soon enough be public anyway, so there must be someone willing to share now.

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  39. LOL @ "Clown Collar Bitches."

    That's what the 1% want the economy to be: Billionaires, Butlers, and Bitches.

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  40. Perhaps a better way of seeing the issue is that scammed once "[psychology/anthropology/poli-sci/international relations/history of art/journalism/English/communications/Econ] is a very versatile degree, there are so many things you can do with it and the employers are queuing up to hire grads with this degree" - that graduate is absolutely ready to be suckered with the same arguments for law school - "there are so many things you can do with a JD...."

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  41. IOW, once you're hooked on crack, it's a small step to becoming a crack ho.

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  42. Excellent post. I have arrived.

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  43. BCLS is cutting its class size from 270 to 250. Source alumni magazine. It did not state when the reduction is to start.

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  44. @7:59 assumes that law professors aren't at their summer homes. Or give a shit about what's happening during the summer. Or would have the guts (audacity) to inquire. Wait till September for this type of information.

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  45. @MacK - I prefer the way things are in the UK, where essentially, unless you're applying for a job requiring specific knowledge (in which case they won't take an arts student) or you are applying to be a teacher, one arts degree is pretty much like another to an employer. People don't even bother looking at the subject - they just cut everyone who got less than a 2:1. It's understood that university didn't teach you anything about how to do the job (and no university course could have). At best the fact you graduated shows you worked at it for three years and didn't mess up, and can do the same in your new job.

    Of course, this doesn't stop people trying to market masters/PhD courses to the very same people who graduate with generic arts degrees as the way of turning their largely-useless knowledge into something that'll make them more attractive to employers or give them a leg-up into academia. It wouldn't matter if what they said was entirely true - there simply isn't enough work around at the moment to take all these graduates.

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  46. @8:07 - I am that poor bastard, and I'm still working in law admissions, although I recently found out that I narrowly missed being fired a year or so ago. I am not sure if the blog had anything to do with it, but I felt that I couldn't take the risk of keeping it up, so I deleted it.

    To answer @7:59's question, we've lost about 15% of our entering class in the last three weeks. They've either been picked off by "bigger fish" or offered big scholarships by other schools with reputations/rankings comparable to ours. (I assume the "smaller fish" schools still have scholarship money left because they had an abnormally high number of admission/scholarship offers turned down earlier in the application cycle by people who got admitted to higher-ranked schools.) My guess is that the vast majority of law schools in the country are in the same situation.

    I read this blog every day. I love it. I do have problems reconciling my job duties with my true feelings about the value of a law degree. To maintain some semblance of integrity, I don't even attempt to recruit people who have not arrived at the place where they're considering law school on their own, and I take any chance I can get in my personal life to preach to people about avoiding student loan debt at all costs. I also invite prospective students to ask me to calculate their total cost of attendance for them (including 12-month living expenses). Usually this ends up in me saying something like, "See? You are going to be in debt for the rest of your life. Maybe you should rethink this."

    The other day, for example, one of our entering students told me he was considering enrolling at a middling top 100 school because it was ranked higher than my school, but he had no scholarship and had already figured that the other school was going to require taking on $200K in debt. He hadn't calculated the monthly payment on the debt, so I did that for him ($1400/month over 25 years at 7%). I also asked him whether he had detailed employment stats from the other school, and he didn't - he only had the placement rate and average starting salary. I told him in so many words that choosing the other school was a mistake, that that kind of debt could wreck his financial life, and that maybe he even ought to reconsider law school altogether. He ended up paying a seat deposit at the other school and is apparently still deciding what to do.

    I'm sure there are a lot of readers of this blog who are really pissed off by this comment and that I continue to do what I do even though I know that suffering law students are paying my salary and benefits. If it helps any, (a) I don't make that much money and (b) I pretty much hate myself for doing this job. It is boring and totally unsatisfying. It requires me to compromise my integrity on a daily basis. I don't really have any marketable skills, though, despite having an undergraduate and a master's degree (at least that's the impression I get based on the non-responses and rejections I've gotten from the 100 or so jobs to which I've applied in the last 2 years). So I kind of feel stuck. And so I continue to do the job because I need it.

    Thanks, Prof. Campos. Keep up the good work.

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  47. Thanks 8:36. Very much appreciate the information. I get information pretty much every day indicating that, for example T-14 schools are offering money to people they're admitting off their wait lists and even to potential transfers, while lower-ranked schools are begging people to apply and promising them "scholarships" if they do.

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  48. OT: Is anyone reading the Investigative Counsel's report on Penn State? I'm in the middle of it - amazing stuff. Seems like at least two attorneys failed to advise their client properly (at a minimum).

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  49. This is getting crazy here, it really is.

    To all the guys and gals talking about the trades and blue collar route: you get it.

    To all the guys and galls talking about how 35k as a lawyer beats a Mcjob and/or to people that say blue collar work sucks: you do not get it.

    Its that simple.

    Does working outside in extreme weather conditions with your hands suck? Absolutely. it sucks a lot. Does doing back breaking work suck? Absolutely, it sucks a lot. Yet, here is what you people in the second category fail to fucking understand: making 35k (or 55k), while working 60-80 hours a week doing mind numbingly boring work, as a lawyer after spending 7-8 years of your life and becoming a debt slave to the tune of 150k-250k sucks infinitely more. Making 9 bucks an hour at a Mcjob with a bachelor’s degree sucks more than doing said back breaking work too (although not as much as the law outcome).

    There are not enough white collar jobs to go around. End of story. Globalization killed that gravy train. If you can go to HYS or CCN (with decent grades), fantastic, that is great. If you can go to MIT, Caltech, etc. for Engineering, fantastic, that is great. If Obamacare does not result in making doctors paupers, and you can get into a US medical school, fantastic, that is great. If your parents are rich, fantastic, that is great, do whatever the fuck you want.

    Otherwise, I am sorry, the white collar train is just not for you. If blue collar work is so abhorrent to you, and you do not come from money, then you have to accept that you will most likely be i) poor, ii) overworked, iii) overstressed, and iv) you will have minimal chance of social mobility.

    There is no magic white collar job anymore. White collar professionals, including every kind of Engineer, are being outsourced (I know) and droves of liberal artists are going to law school. That’s it, pure and simple. We are in a global economy, and if your job can be outsourced, it will. There is no way around it. There are not enough white collar fucking jobs.

    The only jobs that will pay a decent wage are jobs that i) HAVE to be done in the US as a matter of geography AND ii) garner political protection. Those jobs are blue collar, end of story.

    The following jobs require almost no educational debt, and they pay 65-150k: i) big city tradesmen, ii) big city bus drivers, iii) big city sanitation works, iv) big city maintenance workers, v) big city utility workers, vi) big city cops, vii) big city firemen, viii) big city transit workers… I can keep going.

    If you do not want to do this work, if the concept of blue collar work offends you so, then you just have to stop complaining. Pure and simple. There are jobs, but your (our) boomer fucking parents will refuse to accept that shit has changed, and they have brain washed you.

    30 years ago being a cop sucked. Now you can become rich doing it. 30 years ago being a plumber sucked, now if you become a super in a big city, you can make 300k doing if (is it likely, no, but at least you will not be a debt slave and worst case you will make 65k with bennies).

    Your boomer parents will never comprehend this, no matter what you say, in their heads, being a lawyer is what it was 30 years ago, and being a tradesmen is what it was 30 years ago. Break the conditioning and save yourselves.

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  50. @7:55

    Relying on IBR may start to get a bit lot scarier. Check out this report from CNBC on Barclays projections for the program: http://www.cnbc.com/id/48148304.

    According to Barclays, the feds have underestimated the cost of this program through 2020 to the tune of $190 billion. At this rate, who knows how long IBR will be around?

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  51. FOARP

    Except that in the UK a 2:1 in media studies gets you cut too, and a few other degrees. Numbers degrees - physics, math etc. are more likely to get you hired even with a 2:2 or less

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  52. Oh and FOARP - UK universities don't use the curve - in fact I don't know if any European universities do. Exams are treated as fixed hight knowledge hurdles - which is why there are constant complaints about dumbing down and grade inflation. Maybe there is grade inflation, or maybe the subject is being taught better.

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  53. 9:15.

    IBR and GRAD Plus loans are the biggest scam going. They are the only thing propping up the hole damn educational industrial complex.

    End them and end the scam. Fuck the universities. We don't need them.

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  54. Please don't use the term "liberal artist."

    Not only does it sound like something a tea-party supporter would say, but it suggests the that choice of majors is the problem when the reason is that its a structural problem with the global economy. Sure there are always going to be more in demand majors at a given time, but it's hard to predict these and even STEM majors are having trouble right now.

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  55. To the blue collar guy, what if all of the liberal artists went into plumbing or construction or became cops? There wouldn't be enough blue collar positions to go around. Also, plenty of women are going to face hurdles getting hired in blue collar positions because of lack of physical strength or perceived lack, sexual harassment, etc. It's not as simple as saying we can all become cops and plumbers.

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  56. Great post!! very informative.
    Thank you very much for such a lovely and informative post.
    Top Engineering college in jaipur

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  57. "it suggests the that choice of majors is the problem..."

    even in the good times, choice of major matters. in hard times, it matters a lot more.

    i work with a 1l and 2l. all their friends in their undergrad science program have jobs in their field. granted, its a small sample size, but choice of major matters.

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  58. No, 10:01, choice of major doesn't matter. Because if every English major became a STEM major, those fields would be flooded too.

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  59. Choosing a STEM major doesn't mean you'll get a STEM degree because the curriculum is designed to weed people out. I have an engineering degree, and many of my classmates dropped out or changed majors between sophomore and junior year.

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  60. Women entering the workforce drove the wage down. Women entereing increased the supply of labor, while Technology and globialization decreased the demand for labor.

    Sucks, but thats economics 101. Add supply with reduced demand, price (wage) goes down.

    Not saying that women shouldn't work, because eveyone should be able to do whatever they want to, women included. It's just that the system as currently constructed breaks with this number of people seeking work.

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  61. First off, not "every English major" will become a STEM major (or a cop or a plumber). We're talking about advising yoots who are willing to be advised. And telling them not to major in liberal arts is good advice.

    Second, even if a STEM major does not guarantee a decent job, your prospects are a hell of lot better than if you major in poli sci or philosophy or comp lit. A cold day-old hamburger may not be appetizing, but that doesn't mean there's no difference between a cold day-old hamburger and a dog-crap sandwich.

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  62. 7:40 got it right

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  63. An unemployed lawyer (or law student) with $250,000 in debt ranks higher in the dating pool than a blue collar worker with $900,000 in the bank and a $120,000 income.

    This concept is at least 200 years old. This is the reality, and social status can not be ignored when discussing the reasons behind the education bubble.

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  64. "but choice of major matters."

    I'm not denying that, at all, but a term like "liberal artist" helps place the blame on students instead of the economy. Read about the plight of science postdocs in this country and ask yourself how many more computer science majors the economy could withstand before demand / salaries dropped dramatically.

    Someone else wrote:
    "It's not as simple as saying we can all become cops and plumbers."
    Right. It's also not as simple as saying all liberal arts majors should become computer science majors.

    This blog is about how law school is mostly a bad choice. It doesn't have to get into the more broad discussion about poor job prospects for young people generally, but if it does it should stay away from playing into the narrative that everyone could get jobs if they just chose the right major.

    And when the professor is trying to argue that "bright ambitious people" are being exploited, a term like "liberal artist" doesn't really help. The term suggests they aren't that bright and instead that they are flakes who lack foresight.

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  65. @ 10:16

    Yeah, women (especially attractive women) are lining up in droves to date unemployed lawyers who have six figures of debt, little or no job prospects, and live with their aging parents.

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  66. Oh god, are we back to the "bitches be golddiggin'" thing? AGAIN? Give it a rest, guys.

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  67. Another important point is that 9:08's lucrative government jobs aren't going to be around in their current form for too much longer. The states that have those types of government jobs are in terrible financial shape (three cities in California have already filed for bankruptcy). The federal government is $16 trillion in debt with ~$150 trillion in unfunded liabilities for Medicare and Social Security, so there's no federal bailout coming either and merely raising taxes on the "rich" (although families who make $250,000 a year are certainly not rich in places like NY and LA) won't solve the problem on its own. In order to balance the books, state and municipal governments are either going to have to lay off workers, cut salaries, or have workers take much less generous pensions and healthcare plans. If this doesn't happen, all levels of government (including the feds) will go bankrupt.

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  68. Only the most clueless rubes think lawyers have "social status" anymore. And that would be the case regardless of whether John Q. 0L was finally getting wise to the law school scam.

    10:16 sounds like a certain JDU troll who is not even a lawyer.

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  69. I agree with 10:10. I have a few STEM degrees and the levels of math required creates natural barriers of entry. Calculus, Differential Equations, Linear Algebra.

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  70. 10:32 AM

    I agree with most of your points, but stop perpetuating the stupid falsehood that the federal government can go bankrupt. The US is a sovereign nation with debts in its own currency, it always have the option to print money. This is different from state governments or Greece/Ireland/Spain.

    Printing too much money may lead to a series of other problems (mostly inflation, but the problem right now is deflation and stagflation, not inflation - especially not wage inflation), but bankruptcy is not one of them.

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  71. 10:39,

    if the federal government prints too much money, we'll have radical inflation like that of Weimar Germany in the 1920s, which will lead to a societal cataclysm. No one can say for sure what the outcome of such inflation will be, but it won't be pretty.

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  72. Weimar Germany's problem were debts denominated in foreign currency, not Deutschmarks. The hyperinflation was the outcome of the economic problem, not the cause.

    See Japan - huge government debt to GDP ratio, yet somehow the Yen is still a very strong currency.

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  73. I don't have kids, but if I did I'm pretty clueless what courses of study I would advise them to pursue. Not too long ago, law school was a reasonably good bet for at least the top half of the top 60 or so schools. Now there seem to be no secure, readily attainable, well paying white collar jobs. I know people say it's engineering but it will probably be just a matter of time before that gets saturated too.

    Maybe the best advice to give a young person is to avoid racking up any significant student debt and do what you can with whatever education you can afford out of pocket. Even if you don't get a great job, all of your options will still be open when the dust settles, and you wont be saddled with toxic debt for life.

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  74. "Women entering the workforce drove the wage down. "

    illegal aliens too. They are taking jobs unemployed teenagers used to do and well as jobs un(under)educated adults used to do.

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  75. @MacK - Media Studies, maybe, I dunno - I'm thinking of a classical language scholar I know. Speaking as a guy with a physics degree I know plenty of people who couldn't get jobs with science degree 2:2s. Not marking on the curve, at least when I went to university, meant they don't have to award a 1st if no-one gets that high - I didn't mind it that much. It's grade inflation for A-levels and GCSE exams that I mind, since companies use these to (by computer) screen application. Didn't get a B in your GCSE maths exam? Tough luck getting a job in accountancy ten+ years later.

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  76. Actually, if I understand the hypos correctly, the first has two options:
    1. Add guaranteed $500 to the $1000 = $1500
    2. Risk 50% chance of adding $1000 = $1000 or $2000

    The second hypo has two options as well:
    1. Certain loss of $500 from intial $2000 = $1500
    2. Risk 50% chance of losing $1000 = $1000 or $2000

    So, while, each hypo is identical in outcome. It does not generate a $1500 expectation in all four options. That is where LP stumbled.

    But it does not detract from the loss aversion > gain satisfaction meme underlying the post.

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  77. 9:08 - I agree with your comments. The world is a changed place.

    Since the late 80's, I have long thought we would have problems with the globalization of the economy. This is not because I think the US as a nation was not able to intrinsically compete, but rather because we seemed to be head in the wrong direction from a policy perspective if we wanted to maintain employment and opportunity in an increasingly knowledge based global economy.

    Way too many of our government policies subsidize the less productive or those who engage in behavior which is not in the long run helpful. What we subsidize, we get more of. The examples are endless. Rather than make progress in 50 after the civil rights era, we have gone backwards, with 70 percent out of wedlock births in minority communities, a sure way to cause an impediment to building human and educational capital. We have permitted unfettered immigration from Central America, imposing all sorts of social costs and impairing productivity. Yes, the PhD in engineering from Asia who comes to school here must be deported, but the family of 8 which sneaks across the border to take advantage of our social safety net can stay. We encourage our large companies to have major operations in Washington - to some - the most important arm of the company (ask the investment banks). There is a cost to all of this - and our demographics stink in terms of global competitiveness. Education? Thrift? Ability to delay gratification? Avoidance of irresponsible behaviors? And since are demographics are lousy, the valued added, knowledge based jobs are not created here in sufficient numbers and neither do they stay. We are paying for legions of people who are economically ignorant in a big way.

    I have one small example of just how economically ignorant we are as a population, and how it affects jobs. Our corporate tax rates are sky high - among the highest in the world. Do our large multi-nationals care? Not really, unless you are Boeing and stuck manufacturing here. Big companies pay around 17% as opposed to the highest 39% marginal rate - they can move people, resources, cash - you name it - around the globe at light speed - no need to do to much in a high tax jurisdiction. So who gets hurt? Small and medium size businesses, and especially, the ordinary joes seeking work. Of course, the bulk of our population doesn't understand this, susceptible as they are to soaking the rich memes. But they are really damaged by all of this. My grandparents - post Depression people - knew economics all too well. They lived it. We don't teach it much any more in the liberal arts fields - I mean - there are too many isms to master - racism, sexism, hetero hegemony - you name it - but not economics.

    I understand these comments will make some uncomfortable, but nothing that has happened since I first starting seeing these trends in the late 80's surprises me. We are not focused driving a sound private economy. We are now a nation of rent seekers. Good luck.

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  78. Look, it boils down to the fact that if you have to finance your undergraduate education, you don't have the luxury of pursuing a degree that, while broadening the mind, forecloses meaningful participation in our post-industrial, globalized economy.

    Nevertheless, let's not denigrate the value of a liberal arts degree. Some few people ought to carry forward the patrimony of Western Civilization, or a thousand years from now archaeologists sifting the emphemera of our culture will conclude that we were devoted exclusively to entertainment and hyperconsumption. Oh, wait... We're already doomed!

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  79. @11:17 (first one) - I agree. I was thinking the same thing but didn't have the balls (or the time) to write it.

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  80. 11:09: The expected (meaning ex ante) value of all four options is $1500. Two options feature a 100% probability of a $1500 return. Two options each present a 50% chance of a $2000 return and a 50% chance of a $1000 return. Those two options each have an expected value of $1500, meaning that a risk neutral person would be indifferent to getting either $1500 or either of those options.

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  81. It is crazy to me that no one from the major i-banks or mortgage lenders is doing time right now. We bailed out Wall Street to prevent a collapse and got business as usual in return.

    Call me crazy, but financiers should not be billionaires. (Ok, maybe Charles Schwab -- a guy who started a new industry, discount brokerage). They don't add anything or create anything new. They are pure middlemen.

    I don't begrudge innovators profiting from the success of their entrepreneurial endeavors. If you found Google in your garage, or start the world's newest fashion label, or develop a pesticide that makes corn crops 20 percent cheaper to grow and a lot more productive, congrats Mr. Billionaire.

    But I simply don't get what Goldman Sachs Managing Directors do to earn the millions. I mean, I know what they do, but I don't know why society puts up with it.

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  82. @10:37, 10:10
    I am proof that STEM weeds the mathematically challenged out. I started in chemistry, did great at labs but hit the wall with differential equations. Transferred to liberal arts, wandered about through economics and history, then ended up with a degree in rhetoric and a minor in classics. Probably well over 75% of my peers joined me in seeking the J.D. Well over half of the upper division courses offered by the department focused on legal subjects, so inertia rather than a desire to practice carried many of us into law school. Fortunately, outcomes seem to be better for those of us who graduated in the latter half of the 1980s.

    Maus

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  83. @11:37 (first)
    11:09 here. Thanks for clearing it up. Apologies to LP. I don't have a finance background or much experience with options theory; so I'm glad to have learned something new wrt expectation ex ante.

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  84. @ 11: 17,

    I appreciate your endorsement, and I agree with some of the things you say.

    I would add this though: the government is not the sole culprit here. It is true that politicians are vermin that will be bribed, it’s their nature. However, finance capital has had a deliberate objective for at least the last 45 years, and that objective is to increase the global labor supply to dramatically reduce wages and aggregate wealth at the top. They also are attempting to establish direct governance and centralization as a result of said aggregation; in the process, the United States and Europe will become like the rest of the world from a freedom and prosperity point of view, and not the other way around.

    Tax rates will never compensate for the fact that we will never be able to compete with countries that are totally i) corrupt, ii) impoverished (India and China), and iii) in some instances under totalitarian regimes (China). They will continue the economy there no matter what our tax rate may be (although it is way too high). The wages are too low, and the governments of these countries will actively work to ensure wages remain lower than necessary, while also playing currency games to ensure that the West is always at a trade deficit.

    The truly perverse thing is that we are subsidizing this situation. Without our military spread all over the world, finance capital in its present form would not be able to so dramatically weaken our country while empowering our enemies. Without our military securing places from reacting to these policies, the profits would not be flowing in as they do now.

    Yet, you will not here any major politician or political party frame the issue in those terms.

    The Tea Party understands that the Federal Government is the problem because it serves these interests at the people’s expense; yet it is unable to grasp that those interests will continue to operate with that agenda irrespective of the size of the Federal Government. Reduce the Federal Government, and they will achieve their goals by other means, i.e. bribe the state governments.

    The hard left, i.e. Occupy Wall Street, has a superficial understanding of finance capital, i.e. they know that someway and somehow the members of that class are responsible for what is going on. Yet, what this movement fails to grasp is that expanding the scope of the Federal Government increases the power of the finance class. Also, the attempt to increase taxes will amount to nothing more than transferring even more money from the middle class, upper middle class, and moderately rich to the finance class (which owns the government).

    Only when both the left and the right see the reality of the power dynamic do we have a chance.

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  85. "Call me crazy, but financiers should not be billionaires. (Ok, maybe Charles Schwab -- a guy who started a new industry, discount brokerage). They don't add anything or create anything new. They are pure middlemen."

    You're crazy.

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  86. Regarding the math barrier to entry for many STEM fields:

    There are many millions in Asia and around the world who are able to do that level of math. The fact that they believe it's their ticket out is the very reason they're motivated to do it by the way. More Americans would accomplish it if it was properly incentivized but right now the salaries don't justify the huge increase in effort. And having taken differential equations I do believe much of it is effort and not raw brain power.

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  87. @ 12:11,

    Barring attending the elite schools, if your parents are not wealthy, going down the higher education is a probably a mistake today.

    I would have said that medicine was also an option before Obamacare was passed, but now doctors are going to be crucified:

    GED Champion: What do you mean 100k aint enough? I make 100k and I bust my ass out in the cold, you gots yourself a real sense of entitlement.

    Doctor: BBBUT I went to school for 2 decades and I owe half of a million dollars in student loans.

    GED Champion: Fuck you, what are you saying you are better than me? What I do is damn hard, you couldn’t do what I do.

    Politician: The sense of entitlement by these doctors is unbelievable. They should want to do the job to help people. Vote for me and I will take care of you mediocre masses. You deserve it because your job is “hard,” after all you are risking your life, working outside, [fill in the blank of bullshit/jaded and outdated kiss ass response].


    Nothing is worth the effort when you can be outsourced and/or when you have to compete with a super-inflated, desperate, tyrannized, and impoverished labor supply. Especially when any exceptional group that manages to escape this effect is then fucked by the politicians. (Unless of course you are part of the elitists massaging the masses to rob them and the remnants of the productive capacity even further; but that requires an Ivy League education).

    The only salvation is political protection. You need someone to intervene on your behalf in a manner that sets reasonable barriers as to the level of exploitation that can be mustered against you under these circumstances. In other words, you need to work in a politically protected goverment job, and for non-wealthy and connected people that means a blue collar goverment job.

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  88. I'm reminded of an earlier Law Prof quote "the main problem is simply that there are not enough jobs. Nothing we (as students) do will change that".

    No matter how the young people study, there still aren't enough jobs (and nowhere near enough well paying jobs). STEM, liberal arts, math, programming, JD, phd, MBA, blue collar, white collar, it doesn't matter. Some fields are better than others, but the total number of good jobs is simply much less than the total number of job seekers. Anyone who offers a "guaranteed" career path these days is selling something.

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  89. LawProf: I've very interested in your thoughts about the new Yale PhD in law. How out to lunch are the folks at YLS?

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  90. How are they out to lunch? I know Leiter thinks they are, and his reasons are set out pretty clearly. But, I don't get the objection.

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  91. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  92. My "present wealth".

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  93. But Lawwwwwproooof, if there were more jobs for market entrants, demand inflation would occur and there might not be sufficient unemployment for human couches, etc. that the 1% enjoy.

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  94. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  95. http://law.uoregon.edu/ol/summer2012/message-from-the-dean/

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  96. "Tax rates will never compensate for the fact that we will never be able to compete with countries that are totally i) corrupt, ii) impoverished (India and China), and iii) in some instances under totalitarian regimes (China). "

    Same old bullshit. First of all, America is in fact just as corrupt as any other nation, except a lot of the corruption is legal! Secondly, it's not THOSE nations that are the real problem re outsourcing, its the Federal Reserve printing of money that has exacerbated the price differential between U.S.A and other nations, along with America's barbaric obsession with profits.

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  97. @9:08 AM

    "30 years ago being a cop sucked. Now you can become rich doing it."

    Try telling that to the cops and firefighters of Scranton PA. They just had their wages dropped to minimum wage.

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  98. "Someday this war's going to end."

    Oooh. Tres dramatique!

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  99. Charlie don't surf!July 12, 2012 at 5:02 PM

    @4:48 P.M. was really pissed Coppola took the French plantation scene out of the original 1979 theatrical version.

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  100. What's all this talk about poli-sci being less useful than a business degree? From what I read and hear, everyone is equally unemployed. I wish there was a safe major, but there's no such thing. The education you get in college is determined by what you learned in high school, and what classes you did well in during high school depended on earlier stuff. I initially wanted to go into the sciences, but my math skills had always been mediocre and I found out that college wasn't the place to catch up. I hear it's never too late to learn programming though...

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  101. For me at least, It's important to remember that those of us with college degrees are better off than 70% of the population (though a slightly higher number have some college.) I'm a product of the community college system (and an non-selective public uni for upper division courses) I come from a family of carpenters and HVAC installers, and contrary to what's being written here there is very little work in these fields right now (as in you're lucky if you break even on a job) Going this route means you can get an education cheaply, though it's only for the determined (the transfer rate to 4-year colleges in my state is something like 25%) Total cost of my undergrad education (at present rates) in tuition is $16,400.

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  102. From JD Painter at 3:18pm ==> "Do your family and the rest of us a favor and sober or grow up, or both."

    An infantile, debt-ridden drunkard like JDP admonishing someone else to "sober or grow up."

    It just doesn't get any better than this.

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  103. Political Science is not less useful than a business degree. A number of studies have indicated that employers aren't too thrilled with the product. Here's a part of an article from the Times:

    "What's ironic about this glut of business majors is this: The students, often egged on by their parents, are pursuing their vocational degree because they assume that it's the ticket to a six-figure income. The evidence, however, suggests otherwise.

    When PayScale conducted its latest annual survey of starting and mid-career salaries for college grads in dozens of college majors, business came in as the 60th best-paying college degree. It fared worse than such supposedly impractical degrees as history, political science and philosophy.

    Why the lousy showing? Employers have repeatedly emphasized that they want to hire college graduates whose talents include writing. Ah, writing. Not something that biz majors are expected to do very often. After all, how can you require extensive writing in business classes when they can be packed with hundreds of students? Nobody would want to grade all those papers. Obviously this is a problem that business schools need to address.

    In the meantime, if I was an employer who had to choose between a business major and a philosophy major, I'd pick the grad who could write well, and I know who that would likely be."

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  104. 11:45 - this is 11:17 again. I think we do not know how badly the rot of economic ignorance has set in. Clearly, whether through lack of opportunity or an educational system focused on indoctrination to the exclusion of critical thinking and sound economic valuation, we have way too many young people taking absurdly horrid bets on a law school education. The value proposition is so completely irrational I cannot figure out why 100 law schools have not closed already. Of course, thousands of investment bankers were selling all over the world collateralized debt obligations rife with completely fraudulent assets which in many cases were at most only 30% of their stated value, so heck, I should not be surprised.
    Here's an anecdote. I was discussing careers and the economy some time ago with a Harvard grad, a bright woman and mother of two. Yes, she likely was an affirmative action admit, and this greatly shaped her views on things, but make no mistake, she is bright and articulate, and a nice person to boot.
    I mentioned to her that the most important thing I related to my two kids was that it is important to be in a position where one can continually add more value than their cost of compensation, and that measuring one's value add in a realistic and non-inflated way was essential to being employed in the long term. I told her I though this was really important for my kids since they both attend schools at the top of the Ivy League, and that the disease of credentialism is a real threat to them. She looked at me like I was nuts. Value add? It made no sense to her. She saw the world entirely in terms of credentials and the parceling out of benefits based on these credentials and other fairness factors such as race. Indeed, when I told her that the linchpin of the labor market and non-transitory job creation is having people with sufficient human capital to who can create value in excess of their wages, she simply drew a blank. It had no meaning to her, as her view that certain categorical achievements or attributes should be the determinant of the flow of economic benefits. There was no concept that this view was not sustainable in a global, hyper-competitive, knowledge based economy. Again, is this story anecdotal? Yes. Nevertheless a window into a mindset which is all too common? I believe so. And one can only imagine how few college students can grasp this point today. Fewer than half of California's universities graduate their charges within six years, and only one, Cal Poly, requires an economics course to graduate. Think they understand the need to obtain value add, and the urgency which underscores it? I doubt it. The massively poor value law school now represents, the consumer slavery joke that is now the educational loan program, the limited understanding of economics of our political leaders (ask Obama about the concept of labor value add and it would be greeted with perplexity - community organizers only intermediate wealth), all of these are symptoms of our general economic ignorance. No large group of rational, educated economic actors would put up with any of it. As I said, we are now a nation of rent seekers. And young people can place the blame squarely on my generation, no question about it. I am not proud of it.

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  105. All good comments. I've said this before but the gov't gravy train has to stop. The gov't must get out of the business of student loans and student loans should be bankruptable after 7-10 years if a graduate is clearly unable to pay. These steps would restore some sanity to the morass of higher education funding.

    The Occupy Wall Streeters have the wrong solution--they want more government intervention which is the cause of the problem--but they have correctly identified the problem. This country is ruled by a political and financial elite which is completely detached from, and unaccountable to, the vast majority of US citizens. This elite--our elected representatives, lobbyists, schools, and the banking/financial industries--are plundering the population for their own gains.

    To LawProf, Nando, and the other scam bloggers--you have done a great public sevice. Things are changing and it is because your efforts are making a difference.

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  106. "Total law school applicants in the current cycle were around 66,500, a level last seen in the mid-1980s."

    Maybe some schools will actually close this year.

    http://www.startribune.com/featuredColumns/162300916.html

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  107. 10:10 writes, "Choosing a STEM major doesn't mean you'll get a STEM degree because the curriculum is designed to weed people out. "

    Oh yeah. My chemical engineering class started with about 375 and we graduated (IIRC) around 160.

    I don't know if other engineering fields are quite this bad, though. (Most of the chem-E drop outs from my class actually switched to mechanical or civ-E.)

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  108. 11:09 writes, "Risk 50% chance of losing $1000 = $1000 or $2000. ... It does not generate a $1500 expectation .... That is where LP stumbled."

    If you don't realize that a 50-50 chance of ending up at either of 1k or 2k generates an expectation of 1.5k, you can not be helped.

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  109. @ 7:43 PM

    Get a load of this from the article you cite:

    But law school deans can only change so much, which is why they defend their programs by insisting employers in any number of fields will value a law degree.

    "If you are talking about a job at a 500-person law firm in midtown Manhattan, our numbers do not look too good," said Hamline's Lewis. "Neither do anybody else's. ... No one has made a persuasive case to me that the need for legal knowledge has declined."

    Oh, brother...

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  110. "Same old bullshit. First of all, America is in fact just as corrupt as any other nation, except a lot of the corruption is legal! Secondly, it's not THOSE nations that are the real problem re outsourcing, its the Federal Reserve printing of money that has exacerbated the price differential between U.S.A and other nations, along with America's barbaric obsession with profits."

    4:05,

    This is just asinine. Your first statement is factually incorrect. All flag waving aside, you are clearly ignorant of the extent of corruption throughout the world. You clearly have - literally - no clue about what corruption is like outside our borders. You state that America is corrupt - and I agree - but that "the corruption is legal". There is corruption in America, and it is at an intolerably high level if only because frankly ANY corruption is intolerable, but claiming that the "legal" level of corruption that you imply matches every other nation demonstrates a profoundly ignorant conception of the heights that corruption reaches around the world. It doesn't make you sound coolly cynical or "f*** the man" knowledgeable; it makes you sound uniformed. Stop doing that, for your own sake.
    Your second statement is also lacking basis. If the Federal Reserve really did start printing money, that would be absolutely the BEST thing for student (and any other) debtors, as "printing money" would significantly DEVALUE the US Dollar. This would be horrible for anyone holding ASSETS marked in USD (hey, "the rich! the boomers! the law school scammers! China!) and f***ing great for anyone holding DEBT in USD ("my debt used to be 300 dinners at La Grenouille, and now it's just 300 dinners at Applebee's!").
    As for America's barbaric obsession with profits? Meh, I'm a capitalist, I think profits are cool. What I find offensive is fraud and deceit, and that is what's driving this plainly indefensible scam right now, not America's level of corruption, not a hilariously ill-informed view of the Federal Reserve, and probably not America's (or anyone else's) desire to put capital to work, provided that it is put to work honestly, in the absence of fraud. Fraudulently? Yeah, that's a problem. But honestly? Hey man, do your thing.

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  111. 2:02 - Like you, I'm no fan of socialism or 99%conspiracy theorists, but with respect to the Fed, you might want to Google search the words "quantitative easing."

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  112. I work for a 500 person firm in midtown on 5th avenue. I live around the corner because I grew up on park avenue.

    The only people who should go to law school are people like me:
    1. Wealthy so I have no debt. So I can leave this firm if I want.

    2. Workaholics. I love my job. I am the only associate I know who loves the work, the hours and the deals. Everyone else hates it.

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  113. How do we get these sticker payers at UVA who have no other options to see reason? What will convince them?

    Why don't more of the posters here help to back up those of us fighting the good fight on TLS?

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  114. Lawprof: that thread was about UVa - no one on TLS would support gw at sticker.

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  115. Prepare for best ged book Testing by Following a Few Simple Guidelines

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