The Harvard Law grad continues his suck-uppy ways!
Schoenfeld has an op-ed in today’s Journal called “Air Jordan and the 1%.” In it, Schoenfeld makes one of the most bizarre arguments to justify growth in income inequity that you’ll ever stumble across: That the enormous salaries of elite basketball players such as Michael Jordan raised salaries for their teammates, whereas if you redistributed the income of the NBA’s Michael Jordans to other players, everyone would suffer, and that this principle holds true for society at large:
…top players would be disincentivized to play for the team in the future, knowing that such repossession could also happen to them. And without an objective measure of overall player performance, the team could one day decide that even a high-performing player was overcompensated and therefore should see some of his proceeds redistributed to his teammates. The team would quickly become uncompetitive.
In other words, the poor should actually be grateful to the super-rich, for making them try harder.
There are lots of ways to address this argument, whether on a micro- or macro- level, but I would just point out that the NBA has a salary cap, meaning that, in effect, the more money today’s Michael Jordans make, the less their teammates get paid. So the analogue that Schoenfeld is using to demonstrate the virtues of a free market society is not itself a free market.
Schoenfeld does points out that the 1% shouldn’t completely forget about the poor.
Certainly there are reasons for concern if lower-income Americans aren’t able to save or acquire sufficient capital to pursue innovative ideas, or to see their children attend decent schools. They will suffer, and the country will lose out on significant intellectual capital and growth opportunities. But this should not be confused with inequality.
Yes. The foremost threat to lower-income Americans is that they aren’t able to acquire sufficient capital to pursue innovative ideas. On the question of whether they have enough money to buy groceries, pay their rent and go to the doctor from time to time, we should not worry too much, because inequality is healthy—just ask Michael Jordan’s teammates.
What planet exactly does Mr. Schoenfeld live on?
Now, all this is, of course, suck-uppy to the investment banks which Schoenfeld hopes to work for. But here’s the most egregious suck-up in the piece: He quotes Larry Summers, for whom he worked (works?) writing speeches.
“From the time of Pericles until the end of the 18th century in London—2,300 years,” notes Harvard Prof. Lawrence Summers, “standards of living on Earth increased perhaps 100%.” In the U.S. since 1790, by contrast, real per capita gross domestic product has increased nearly 4,000%.
Set aside the merits of such clever thinking for one moment. In the interest of intellectual honesty, shouldn’t you at least mention that you are quoting the guy who paid/pays you to write stuff for him?
But Schoenfeld—and the Journal—don’t. And as a result, we think that Schoenfeld is impartially quoting an expert whom he happens to think made a good point, as opposed to making his former/current employer look good in print.
Oh, the cheesiness of it all.
When last I wrote about Schoenfeld, some people thought I was being too tough on someone who wasn’t a public figure (not a prominent one, anyway). Well, now he’s writing in praise of the 1 % in the Wall Street Journal in a way that almost completely negates any concepts of community and social responsibility. I’m not sure I was tough enough.