Re: IT Talent: Ugly "Realities"
"And you think that is right, just 'market forces'?"
I agree with your sentiment, Terry. I'm often dismayed by the way that phrase is bandied about to cover all manner of sins. Some discussions of "market forces" have merit, of course. But there's a significant difference between the notion of "free market capitalism" that most of us would support and the actual implementation of "free market capitalism" at work in our economy.
It's true that the global economy is more competitive, that people can't be complacent with their skills and need to frequently evolve, etc.-- but there are also a lot of bad actors and emotional actors that mess things up. To pretend these things are "natural forces" in the popular sense of the term is patently disingenuous. This is veering a bit of the IT talent shortage topic, but the continued existence of high frequency trading alone makes me certain that most people who praise "free markets" have no idea how the economy actually works. I defy anyone to explain to me how "dark pools" are anything more than a mechanism for freezing most people out of the market, and for allowing some financial institutions to discretely profit by working against their clients' best interests. Moreover, if you want to fully describe the ways in which the economy is artificially constructed and abstracted from any notion of actual value added, HFT is only one of many places you can look. So often, the notion of "market forces" is applied in the service of either blind faith or political duplicity. Complicated topics demand complicated discussions with many shades of gray, not the sort of "free market" jingoism that seems so popular in certain crowds-- such as the ones that include many of the people who benefit from the current trends.
To redirect to Terry's point, some people like to argue that the Lexuses and luxury boats to which Terry refers are necessary because extraordinary people need to be motivated by extraordinary perks. That's undeniably true to an extent. I personally have no problem with the CEO making many times more money than his or her employees. But there's a breaking point for any model; in some industries, we're at the point where at least some of the perks for CEOs amount to redundant indulgence, which is problematic in and of itself, and only grows more so when the vast majority of people are denied perks of any kind. In other words, any attitude that says "the CEO only cares about his bonus and that's okay" raises a real problem over time. As wealth continues to concentrate among fewer individuals, general employees are forced to become fiercely competitive, and, if the concentration of wealth continues unabated, to finally conclude that because the competitive landscape offers so few opportunities, they have no incentive to continue buying in. I want to tread carefully here-- certainly, today's U.S. economy, however broken in its infrastructure, still supports a degree of upward mobility, particularly for people willing and able to invest in the most-demanded new tech skills. But if you extrapolate the last three decades' worth of economic activity over the next thirty years, what do you think the social and economic attitude will be for CEOs who value their bonuses above all else? Even if you don't project as extremely as, say, Thomas Piketty (who forecasts that inheritance will become the primary way in which wealth is accrued), I think it's hard to conclude that the economic outlook dwatkins describes is viable in the long run.