Not-for-profit versus for-profit economy

Today’s Boston Globe carries two contrasting front-page stories.  “As economy gains, outsourcing surges” talks about how American workers at for-profit companies must compete with 84 million Filipinos, many of whom are well-educated, speak good English, and are delighted to work for $300/month.  Things are looking more cheerful for U.S. workers in the not-for-profit sector.  A front-page story on Boston University’s search for a new president revealed that the school decided to pay Dan Goldin $1.8 million in exchange for… not working at all.  Considering that Mr. Goldin had yet to start his job, that’s a pretty good hourly rate.  You could hire a staff of 45 Filipino engineers for ten years with that $1.8 mil!

[Update:  the Globe runs a three-article series on “the white collar job migration”.  Article 2 is “US workers see hard times” and includes a quote from a venture capitalist:   “Right when you think about Employee 11, you should think about India.  My view is you should not start a company from scratch in the United States ever again.”  Article 3 is “US business students find opportunity is global” and talks about how MBAs are adapting.  A more interesting article appears in the same issue, November 4, “As work shifts, internship in India the new rite of passage” and starts with “An increasing number of US students are going to India to intern at top information technology services firms or to participate in tours that allow them to network with the country’s corporate elite.”  The American interns, most of whom are MBAs or MBA students, get paid about $350/month (compared to their old internships of $7000/month in the U.S.).]

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Cuban artists

One of our friends has a young Cuban lover and she goes to visit him there periodically.  This situation spurred some reflection:  “Why are there so many artists and musicians in Cuba?”  The next thought “Well, why not?”  In the U.S. when Johnny decides to ignore his family’s advice and take up oil painting or guitar playing instead of investment banking it is a big crisis.  Johnny is very likely giving up the opportunity to own real estate, send his kids to private school, and otherwise enjoy the great festival of materialism that is the United States.  In an economy with hardly any opportunity, however, why wouldn’t a person choose to do art or music?

Art doesn’t require a lot of capital investment.  You really just need a crayon and some paper (or scissors and paper if you were Matisse).  If human ability is equally distributed across the globe you’d therefore expect the best art to come from the poorest countries where people have no competing bourgeois job offers.  Yet paradoxically the art for which people are willing to pay the most money seems to come from advanced economies such as Germany, England, Japan, and the U.S.

For the comment section:  Why?

[I’ll start by throwing out a personal opinion:  art can only touch you if the artist shares a similar social and economic environment, which is why Westerners mostly like the art that is produced in Western countries; art produced in poor countries is actually much better but we can’t appreciate it because, despite heavy doses of ecotourism, we can’t understand the milieu in which it was produced.]

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