Help wanted for essay about inequality

Single momThe problem with making it in academia is that you don’t make it unless you play their game.  Sadie wrote to me that she has a friend who has to play that game and wondered if we could help, but help in a judo-esque way.  That is, what Sadie would like is to have her young friend write a serious, clever essay that respectfully turns the inequality trope on its head (since the young woman does want to get into the program), and that politely exposes the fact that liberal policies create the worst inequality:

I was a baby-sitter/caregiver/extra pair of helping hands/mentor/confident to a little girl many years ago. She’s almost 20 now and at home visiting with her parents for winter break from college. The poor thing applied to Columbia for a summer internship in her field, healthcare. She called me and asked me to help her with an essay idea.

Silly me, I asked the obvious, “about what?”
Chrissie: It has to be about inequality.
Sadie: What inequality?
Chrissie: Any. Local, national, global that is about race, sex, money….

You get the drift…  Chrissie got the sigh and Columbia is still Columbia.

The exchange was brief and we’ll pursue it when I see her later on this weekend. In the interim, I tossed out the idea that a child born to a single mother by choice set the stage for a basketful of inequalities. Her silence can be best summed up as a “huh” – she either didn’t get it or doesn’t yet know the world is not flat. If you have any ideas for an essay or would like to ask your readers, I sure would appreciate it.

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  • Robert Arvanitis

    A bit of background to get things started.
    First Greg Mankiw of Harvard, on proper measurement of inequality:
    Second, INequality is a sign of a healthy and successful society:
    Money quote from Doug Ross:
    “What’s 1,000 times worse than income inequality? Income equality.
    In truth, North Korea represents the ideal for those who fight for income equality with its one man at the top worth tens of billions of dollars while the entire civilian population starves, largely impoverished.
    In spite of Democrat efforts, there is no better society on the planet simultaneously to improve society and to enrich oneself than the United States.
    Income inequality—in fact, wild inequality — is healthy and desirable.”

  • Charles Martel

    One way to utterly confuse leftists is to ask, “What is inequality? And, having defined it, on what moral basis do you reason it is a bad thing?” Since few of them ever question their definitions, or have a coherent moral philosophy—other than the acquisition and application of brute power—it flummoxes them greatly.
    Robert above is on to something. One of the main gripes of the dupes who were camping out during the OWS demonstrations was that for all their smarts, education, and willingness to take on debt, they had not received the properly compensated positions in society that they deserved.
    Without realizing it, they were subscribing to a hierarchical notion that they were worth more than they were getting. They most certainly were not demonstrating for equality with the unschooled or unsophisticated—even though in Unicorn World there cannot be such a thing as inequality.

    • Danny Lemieux

      Hammer, that is one of the most cogent summations of the OWS movement that I have seen in print.


    Robert, thanks for getting the ball rolling. There is no doubt in my mind the links are beyond her grasp.  She does, however, understand birth control. It was to me that she first announced the “news” that she was sexually active with her new boyfriend in high school and it was I, who told her she must now make the same announcement to her mother and seek birth control, along with a short speech about the difficulties of getting an education with a baby draped over your shoulder.
    Yikes, to think that only three years prior to the big announcement, she was wondering if a boy would ever kiss her. 

  • Robert Arvanitis

    How about a simple calculator, aptly named “Reality Check?”  Gets the point across about what resources a person needs.
    I’ll track down a comparable source for realistic wages, by education etc. The lesson will be in making the two numbers come together…

  • Ymarsakar

    You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink.
    Even if you give her ideas, where will she grow a spine to fight the Leftist evil? Not many have and not many have. Warriors were not originally designed to be 50% of the population. They form only a small elite cadre.
    Equality is a bad thing. Inequality is a good thing. Reference thermodynamics. But that’s like mind crime. Work is only accomplished in a productive closed system, with unequal amounts of energy distribution. If you distribute the energy equally…. you get no work. Amazing isn’t it, how humans act exactly as Divine Laws says we must in the universe.

  • Ymarsakar

    Hey here’s another one for her, Sadie.
    Have her consider the inequality of 2+2=4 in the binary counting system and the trinary counting system.
    Why is it that 2+2=4 (decimal) in binary comes out as 100, whereas in trinary it comes out as 11? Why is trinary inevitably unequal to binary when using the same addition and the same starting amounts?
    (This is a mathematical mind bomb)
    The thing about the Left is they obey authority. People on our side like to use logick and reason, but that’s not as effective as people like to think it is. Placing your personal authority, in their face, so that for them to defend the Left’s shibboleths means challenging your authority, inevitably makes them back down. Because the Left’s authority is far away, but your authority (if they recognize it) is in their face. That’s basically it. There’s no logick or reasoning involved.

  • raymondjelli

    She may want to research Alan Sokal who did the Sokal hoax. He submitted a paper to a left wing journal that was grammatically correct but total nonsense and got it published. She can also check out the online postmodern paper generator .It generates postmodern papers complete with title, author and footnotes. It is brilliant nonsense and there is a link to the paper that the programmers wrote about how it is done.

  • JKB

    I’m not sure what is wanted here but this description of inequality might be visceral enough to strike home
    “In Hookups, Inequality Still Reigns” | Psychology Today 
    How does one get rid of that inequality?  And if you can’t, then why think other types are easy to get rid of?

  • Matt_SE

    “…a serious, clever essay that respectfully turns the inequality trope on its head (since the young woman does want to get into the program), and that politely exposes the fact that liberal policies create the worst inequality”
    Let me put this task into perspective:  Imagine trying to write a serious, clever essay that respectfully turns the “religion of peace” trope on its head, and that politely exposes the fact that Islam is a religion of backwardness and barbarism…then, submit it to your local Imam.
    The left clings to its shibboleths like Islamists cling to the Koran. Do you really think there is any polite way to tell them they’re full of crap that they’ll accept?
    The only other option is to write an attack so subtle that they won’t get it. They’ll think you agree with them. While that may be a worthwhile exercise, it won’t be satisfying in the way your friend wants; it also runs the risk of being interpreted correctly!
    A word of advice, then: In the game of trying to persuade hardened, academic leftists the only winning move is not to play. Tell your friend to pretend she’s a hardened leftist and write the paper from that perspective, even if she doesn’t believe in it.
    Sorry to be such a downer!

  • David Foster

    Again I will argue that the loudest opponents of “inequality” are the last people in the world who really want equality. As I wrote early last year:
    Many people in “progressive” leadership positions are graduates of the Harvard Law School. Do you think these people want to see a society in which the career, status, and income prospects for an HLS grad are no better than those for a graduate of a lesser-known, lower-status (but still very good) law school? C’mon.
    Quite a few “progressive” leaders are members of prominent families. Do you think Teddy Kennedy would have liked to see an environment in which he and certain other members of his family would have had to answer for their actions in the criminal courts in the same way that ordinary individuals would, without benefit from connections, media influence, and expensive lawyers?
    The prevalence of “progressivism” among tenured professors is quite high. How many of these professors would be eager to agree to employment conditions in which their job security and employee benefits were no better than those enjoyed by average Americans? How many of them would take a salary cut in order to provide higher incomes for the poorly-paid adjunct professors at their universities? How many would like to see PhD requirements eliminated so that a wider pool of talented and knowledgeable individuals can participate in university teaching?
    There are a lot of “progressives” among the graduates of Ivy League universities. How many of them would be in favor of legally eliminating alumni preferences and the influence of “contributions” and have their children considered for admission–or not–on the same basis as everyone else’s kids? Yet an alumni preference is an intergenerational asset in the same way that a small businessman’s store or factory is.
    From my post Jousting with a Phantom

  • David Foster

    Also, if you really want to mess with her head, you might bring up the SEX angle…there’s an interesting poem that Kipling wrote circa 1890 about a proposal by the new German Kaiser for an expanded social-welfare system, ideally to encompass other European countries in addition to Germany and to limit “destructive competition” in industry. Here’s what Kipling had to say:
    NOW this is the tale of the Council the German Kaiser decreed,
    To ease the strong of their burden, to help the weak in their need,
    He sent a word to the peoples, who struggle, and pant, and sweat
    That the straw might be counted fairly and the tally of bricks be set.

    The Lords of Their Hands assembled; from the East and the West they drew—
    Baltimore, Lille, and Essen, Brummagem, Clyde, and Crewe.
    And some were black from the furnace, and some were brown from the soil,
    And some were blue from the dye-vat; but all were wearied of toil.

    And the young King said:—”I have found it, the road to the rest ye seek:
    “The strong shall wait for the weary, the hale shall halt for the weak;
    “With the even tramp of an army where no man breaks from the line,
    “Ye shall march to peace and plenty in the bond of brotherhood—sign!”

    The paper lay on the table, the strong heads bowed thereby,
    And a wail went up from the peoples:—”Ay, sign—give rest, for we die!”
    A hand was stretched to the goose-quill, a fist was cramped to scrawl,
    When—the laugh of a blue-eyed maiden ran clear through the council-hall.

    And each one heard Her laughing as each one saw Her plain—
    Saidie, Mimi, or Olga, Gretchen, or Mary Jane.
    And the Spirit of Man that is in Him to the light of the vision woke;
    And the men drew back from the paper, as a Yankee delegate spoke:—

    “There’s a girl in Jersey City who works on the telephone;
    “We’re going to hitch our horses and dig for a house of our own,
    “With gas and water connections, and steam-heat through to the top;
    “And, W. Hohenzollern, I guess I shall work till I drop.”

    And an English delegate thundered:—”The weak an’ the lame be blowed!
    “I’ve a berth in the Sou’-West workshops, a home in the Wandsworth Road;
    “And till the ‘sociation has footed my buryin’ bill,
    “I work for the kids an’ the missus. Pull up? I be damned if I will!”
    And over the German benches the bearded whisper ran:—
    “Lager, der girls und der dollars, dey makes or dey breaks a man.
    “If Schmitt haf collared der dollars, he collars der girl deremit;
    “But if Schmitt bust in der pizness, we collars der girl from Schmitt.”

    They passed one resolution:—”Your sub-committee believe
    “You can lighten the curse of Adam when you’ve lightened the curse of Eve.
    “But till we are built like angels, with hammer and chisel and pen,
    “We will work for ourself and a woman, for ever and ever, amen.”

    Now this is the tale of the Council the German Kaiser held—
    The day that they razored the Grindstone, the day that the Cat was belled,
    The day of the Figs from Thistles, the day of the Twisted Sands,
    The day that the laugh of a maiden made light of the Lords of Their Hands.

    Translated into modern and unpoetic terminology, Kipling seems to be saying that female hypergamy drives male competitiveness, and you can’t level out the second unless you somehow eliminate the first.

    • Robert Arvanitis

      David:  Agree with the Kipling’s sentiments.  But the Germans seemed to have resisted socialism’s worst symptoms and now carry the EU, while England has made a mess of it.

      • Ymarsakar

        Western Germany did. But Eastern Germany still has many Communists in power, such as the SDP and former secret police.

  • Robert Arvanitis
    Nice piece on how the American job market rewards skills, especially numeracy.  And by rewards, we mean unequal incomes.  A statistical validation of the ideas behind “Hard America, Soft America.”

  • JKB

    Here’s a bit of Milton Friedman that covers more than requested but is a good education in any matter.  Looks to be from 1980 as Reagan as mention in “if he wins” in one question.
    Of course, the absurdity is that the inequality is in the process.  She may want to consider who the internship is open to, who is apt to be selected and why the others are excluded.  Can anyone apply?  If not, why not?  Why is the taking of some classes and passing some tests imposed upon applicants?  Could not someone who has not done those things write an essay to compete?

  • jj

    Your first sentence sums it up, and you and Matt are correct.  With more than one trip through grad school under my belt I can attest that school – all levels – is a catering service.  Give them what they want, hold the friction to a minimum, and get through smoothly.  (Friction, let us remember, is waste energy, no matter how satisfying.)  She knows, or should by now know, what they wish to hear.  Her life will be easier and her chances better if she simply gives it to them.  Once she finishes and has the piece of paper in hand there will be time – and the piece of paper will give her some authority they can’t ignore – for questioning the shibboleths.  It’s more effective to say: “this is all s**t!” when you’ve been through it and are in possession of the credential awarded at the end.  Even “they” will in such circumstances have to admit that in such a case you may have a basis for your thoughts on the matter.  Without it, you’re easy to ignore.

  • rwturney

    “Tell your friend to pretend she’s a hardened leftist and write the paper from that perspective, even if she doesn’t believe in it.”
    This is the wisest if one’s intention is to get in. The question is obviously designed to reveal the author’s mindset. So no matter how clever the essay, it must not betray the author’s intent. Perhaps planting a little subtle cognitive dissonance in the reader’s mind is the best path.

  • Gringo

    I find it a howler that people at Ivy League schools are concerned about INEQUALITY, given the elitist sheen of the Ivy League. Would an Ivy League student or graduate support the idea that a graduate of Swampfester State should be given equal footing in competing for a job with an Ivy League graduate? Perish the thought!  Everyone knows that Ivy League graduates are by definition superior beings, and as such should be given preference in hiring. So much for inequality.
    Ivy League people are concerned about inequality, as long as THEY run the inequality programs.

    • Danny Lemieux

      Nails it! 

  • Danny Lemieux

    All people can dumb down. However, people are limited by their abilities to achieve equality upwards…not all of us can become theoretical physicists. Thus, by definition, equality can only be achieved by forcing everyone down to the lowest common denominator.
    I don’t expect Leftists or Progs (I repeat myself) to understand this, of course. But I would propose a criterion for belonging to the “equality” club: any of those that profess a society based on equal outcomes must first be properly certified by full divestiture of their educational credentials and assets. Only then, properly certified (i.e., degreed), are they granted the right to speak with authority.

    • Matt_SE

      I hadn’t thought about it like that before, Danny, but you’re right. That IS the reason “equality” always ends up dumbing down.

  • FunkyPhD

    Matt’s right.  I’ve been under deep cover in academia for 23 years.  Any departure from the usual Marxist dogma–income inequality derives from capitalists’ greed, or sexism and racism–will be sniffed out and the applicant rejected, no matter how clever or compelling the argument.  Well-meaning people still believe that today’s academics will, despite their ideological commitments, always bow to reason.  It’s not the case.  If the applicant tries to show how something the academic left holds dear is actually even touches on inequality, she will be rejected.  And don’t mention a religious affiliation or commitment–that will also provoke the death blow.  

    • Robert Arvanitis

      Reminds me of a saying: “There are Freudians in academia, just not in the psychology department, and there are Marxists in academia, just not in the economics department.”

  • Libby

    So many good suggestions already, so  I’ll just add a few obvious ones.
    The best fictional work to address inequality is Kurt Vonnegut’s short story,  “Harrison Bergeron.” I read this is high school but I bet it’s been purged from reading lists since it takes the goal of eliminating inequality to it’s ridiculous conclusion. If nothing else, this will get her thinking about how impossible it is to even consider eliminating inequality.
    Another area of inequality that is often ignored is sports and entertainment. The Left focuses on treating women and men as physical equals, but what about within the same gender? Is it fair that the majority of the NBA players are one race and over 6′ tall? Is there equality in appearance amongst leading actors and actresses, or are they disproportionately attractive and fit? Female gymnasts & ice skaters are all tiny, and ballerinas are all tall and slender, and so on.

  • Ymarsakar

    Agreed. If she wants in, she should construct an illusion fit for the Left. Similar to constructing a pen fit for cows and/or dangerous serpents.

  • MacG

    Equality is the LOWEST common denominator.
    Strivers will be strivers and sluggards will be sluggards.  TO attain equality you must remove self esteem from the strivers to meet the sluggards half way…that is if you can get the sluggard to move at all…then to be equal you must remove all self esteem from the strivers and we will be a Nation of slugs.

  • MacG

    How about the inequaility of hate crime laws?  It should be bad enough to hit another human – period (save for self defense).

  • MacG

    How about the inequality of abortion? More black kids per capita than whites we need to bump up the white abortion rate.  That will get her in for sure.
    (tongue in cheek disclaimer)


    Ask a loaded question and get a load of answers. I  truly appreciate all the input. It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a question and the feedback has been better than Norm walking into Cheers.

  • DL Sly

    She could turn the affirmative action decision on it’s ear and speak from a white man’s point of view as they are the one’s truly being discriminated against.  Or use the old joke about a Republican father explaining redistribution’s inequality to his college-age daughter by asking her to give some of her gpa points to another girl who doesn’t study or work hard in school.

  • expat

    Sadie, I’m sorry this comment is so late. I’ve had some computer problems.
    I suggest that your friend take the inequality issue to a more personal level. Look at 2 guys who work next to one another in a factory and have the same income. One hangs out in bars, gambles, and has to pay support for a child that resulted from a short-term fling.
    The other married. He and his wife worked and saved money to buy a modest house. They bought furniture and clothing with the idea of it lasting, not according to the latest fashion. After they had gotten themselves settled a bit, they had children and the wife stayed home to raise them. She cooked from scratch, made her own curtains, and canned food from their little garden.
    Both men are laid off. Number one has no source of income and no savings. Number two has a wife who gets a low-paying part-time job to help them get through. He also helps out a local farmer who supplies him with some food. After 6 months both go back to their job, but number one has declared bankruptcy. Number two is still in his house, and his wife has worked her way up to a better paying job. They can finally afford to replace her clunker car with a decent used one.
    They incomes were equal, but the outcomes weren’t. Is that my fault?

  • Ymarsakar

    That’s white man’s fault, yes, because one was black and also homosexual. They wouldn’t give him jobs.