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Who Is Overpaid?

Not engineers.

Engineer's salaries, taking into consideration education and responsibilities, the stress of accelerated delivery schedules and their direct impact on corporate profits and overall success of the company, seem absolutely inadequate.

Well, I've known a few who were. But no, not in general.

In many of these overpaid professions, there's some kind of government-induced market failure going on (e.g., longshoremen), but in a lot of cases, it's just the occasional irrationality of the market place.


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Carl Pham wrote:

it's just the occasional irrationality of the market place.

You wish. Sorry, Charlie, but the cold ugly fact o' life is that people in general value the contribution of Peyton Manning, a good cosmetic surgeon, and your average scumbag divorce lawyer higher than the contribution of any aerospace engineer ever born.

Thing is, people are basically naked apes. Power over others matters way more than creature comforts. The Mongol emperor of half the world, squatting in his sweltering 99-degree sweaty smelly hide tent, flicking flies off his revolting meal of day-old raw horseflesh and sour milk, is far happier than Joe Sixpack, wage slave at the local Wal-Mart, sitting in air-conditioned comfort in his own home, watching free entertainment on the tube, with a tasty dinner a mere trip to the freezer and microwave away -- because Joe has power over nobody, while Ghengis Khan can command the life or death of millions at his whim.

Not surprisingly, we value highest those services that can give us power over others much higher than those services which merely promise to make our lives more comfortable. A sad fact for those of us who find invention and construction much more interesting activities than intratribal warfare and the competition to see who has the most brightly colored ass.

Rand Simberg wrote:

Carl, I think you make my point. A thirst for power or celebrity might be human, but it's not necessarily rational, particularly when it comes at the expense of personal comfort (and even true happiness).

Carl Pham wrote:

Point taken, Rand, but it depends on the definition of "rational," doesn't it? Unfortunately, the operative definition here is Mother Nature's, and she defines it as that which maximizes the survival of the genes driving the behaviour. So far as I can see, it just turns out that those of our ancestors who were really good at acquiring social power reproduced at higher rates than those who were merely good at understanding and exploiting the natural world. Oh well. Wish I could emigrate to Vulcan, but they're stingy with their visas, the elitist shits.

ken anthony wrote:

It seems to me, those spending other peoples money tend to overpay. Those spending their own money tend to underpay.

Those spending other peoples money on themselves pay as much as they can get away with.

Mike G in Corvallis wrote:

The problem is the time scale of the feedback loop. Poor decisions today in determining our society's priorities won't really bite us in the ass for years or decades -- but by then it'll be too late.

Ask a high school student, "Which would you rather do -- go to the beach or study for exams?" Short-term gratification usually wins out over long-term benefit.

David wrote:

I have been a Mechanical Engineer for over 23 years working military weapons development and testing. My family and I make a comfortable living. We are not rich but we are (usually) not struggling. Would I like to make more, sure. Could I do so much more for my family with more, absolutely. Could I get by with less, not if I want to continue to properly educate my children.

But there is a couple side benefits to being an engineer that salary doesn't cover.

1) Almost every engineer I have ever met or worked with loves doing what they do. Many of them work a lot of unpaid overtime. Not because they can't get their work done during regular hours. But because for many of them, their job is also their hobby.

2) I get to design, test and build things that go BOOM!!!!!

Now that said do I think things are fair? No! Several years ago I listened in on a conversation by a couple engineers and a couple managers who had a problem that they were not able to solve. Later that evening I woke up in the middle of the night with an either stupid or brilliant idea. I scribbled a couple notes on the pad I keep by the bed for just this reason and when back to sleep. The next day I presented my idea to the engineers and with their support approached the managers with my idea. Six months later I had an engineering software tool developed that would in seconds provide certain answers to questions that in six months earlier would have taken weeks of intensive labor to answer. Management estimated that over a 10 year period my idea saved their development team thousands of man-hours of labor and close to 5 million dollars in costs. My reward for this was a certificate thanking me for my contribution to their program (which is in a box somewhere) and a $250 on the spot award. Oh, and the enjoyment of developing something that no one else had thought of in the 30 history of that program. Knowing all that would I stick my nose into that program's business again - absolutely.

FC wrote:

Then there was the telecom engineer I sat near in an airport who spent twenty minutes on the phone whining about management to his colleague, then called his wife to ask what had come in the mail. Poor bastard.

Habitat Hermit wrote:

Angry rant warning!

Mike G in Corvallis wrote:
"The problem is the time scale of the feedback loop."

Yes! Add a bit of precision to that by specifying that it is the feedback loop as perceived by the decider(s)/shareholders/"executives".

However the next part is what is truly offensive; the above fact is currently (and has been for at least a decade if not more) enshrined as "good management" when the opposite is true. This is both a cause and effect of companies etc. completely loosing track of the horizon and any chance of perceiving the likelihood of what might lie beyond it. It's a lose-lose situation.

Not just in businesses and endeavors that utilize engineers but across the board.

And just to clarify: I don't think this has anything at all to do with market forces or capitalism, it's beyond both and has everything to do with a lack of culture/"group intelligence". It doesn't just mistreat workers but destroys companies, businesses, and organizations that would otherwise do just fine and be both more rugged, more productive, and more profitable (and as a guess I would think that more often than not they would be leaner too).

SAS might be the best example of doing things the right way.

Habitat Hermit wrote:

Might as well correct myself: "loosing" should be "losing".

Carl Pham wrote:

Might as well correct myself:

No, no, on the contrary, that's what we're here for. You are taking our modest daily pleasures from us, as well as violating the spirit of blog-conversation. Try this:

You: ...loosing...

Me: You misspelled "losing," you ignorant illiterate hypocritical probably sexually-inadequate naive wingnut bozo. Why would anyone trust a thing you or Bushitler/The Obamessiah [cross out one] say?

You: Fuck off! [Hitler comparison] [more non sequiturs and ad hominem attacks] [blah blah screw you too]

Now, doesn't that seem much more natural, more 21st century?

Harrid habit Hermit wrote:

I'm aghast, you you seem to suffer from an troll addiction withdrawal! ^_^ (So in sympaty I spised up this commment errors).

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on September 9, 2008 8:10 AM.

Mike Griffin's Frustration was the previous entry in this blog.

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