Dec 04 2008

A redistribution to international affairs?

by at 9:26 am under The World at Work

I’ll continue to crush on The Atlantic.  Henry Blodget’s cover story in the latest issue made me pensive:

Bubbles and their aftermaths aren’t all bad: the tech and Internet bubble, for example, helped fund the development of a global medium that will eventually be as central to society as electricity. Likewise, the latest bust will almost certainly lead to a smaller, poorer financial industry, meaning that many talented workers will go instead into other careers—that’s probably a healthy rebalancing for the economy as a whole.

It seems we should hope that some (or many) of these now-jobless, talented people will redirect their careers into international affairs, thus providing a boost to our work and catalyzing growth in the fields—although it occurs to me that those currently searching for a job in the fields would not necessarily welcome a new influx of talented job seekers to compete with. But before you despair, consider this from an interview by James Fallows of Gao Xiqing, “the man who oversees $200 billion of China’s $2 trillion in dollar holdings.” Gao says, when talking about Wall Street jobs and the possible rebalancing of wealth as a result of so many lost jobs:

I have to say it: you have to do something about pay in the financial system. People in this field have way too much money. And this is not right….

Individually, everyone needs to be compensated. But collectively, this directs the resources of the country. It distorts the talents of the country. The best and brightest minds go to lawyering, go to M.B.A.s. And that affects our country, too! Many of the brightest youngsters come to me and say, “Okay, I want to go to the U.S. and get into business school, or law school.” I say, “Why? Why not science and engineering?” They say, “Look at some of my primary-school classmates. Their IQ is half of mine, but they’re in finance and now they’re making all this money.”

Perhaps what Gao’s suggesting is that the current economic crisis will help (I’ll say it at the risk of sounding socialist) “spread the wealth,” or, more specifically, shift some resources from those fields that have typically been lousy with them (banking, finance, law, etc.) to those that have always been thirsty for them, namely nonprofits and international affairs organizations.

So is it possible that the economic crisis will result in both an influx of new talent and new resources for international affairs (and other underfunded sectors)? You may disagree, and you would probably be right in doing so, as my thoughts on financial matters are about as credible and coherent as Nicolas Fehn’s political commentary.  But anyway.

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