The Cost Of Large Concentrations Of Wealth

One problem when the wealthy, whether individuals or corporations, have so much damn money is that it becomes trivial for them to buy out people (as crass as that sounds). From an article about computer scientists, we find the following (boldface mine):

High entry-level salaries are luring undergraduates to pick the private sector over graduate school, limiting the supply of future professors. The number of graduate students enrolled in computer science Ph.D. programs has only inched up in recent years, to nearly 12,700 in 2017 compared with about 11,000 in 2013, according to the Taulbee Survey, an annual report from the Computing Research Association.

In addition, tech giants and other companies have been poaching professors and hiring new Ph.D.s.

I had a faculty member who came in with an offer from a bank, and they were told that, with their expertise, the starting salary would be $1 million to $4 million,” said Greg Morrisett, dean of computing and information science at Cornell University. “There’s no way a university, no matter how well off, could compete with that.”

There’s a double whammy here. First, the wealthy can just outbid the public and non-profit sectors. Second, and this is as harmful, our current tax code and other policies that do little to meaningfully lessen income inequality, make it possible for someone to ‘hit their number.’ If someone, after ten years at a company, walks away with $10 million or more after taxes, that’s a really big draw. If much of the high income is taxed away, they have an incentive to consider the long haul more. An environment where a few people have the opportunity to land the big score in a relatively short period of time is one conducive to shortcuts and unethical behavior (“I’ll be gone, you’ll be gone“). This is a cost, even if it’s not qualified that often.

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