640px-Herbert_Spencer_5A few weeks ago, ThinkProgress published an exposé of the allegedly ugly roots of Rand Paul’s “libertarianism.” The title of the piece tells you all you need to know: “Rand Paul’s favorite philosophers Think Poor People Are ‘Parasites.'”

In addition to the usual unsympathetic and uninformed attack on Ayn Rand, the piece produces some scary-sounding stuff from Murray Rothbard and, every leftist’s favorite 19th century Victorian bogeyman, Herbert Spencer.

As does almost every hit piece on Spencer ever written, ThinkProgress brings out what is arguably the ugliest quote in Social StaticsRegarding those who fall into poverty as a result of their own bad choices, Spencer writes:

If they are sufficiently complete to live, they do live, and it is well they should live. If they are not sufficiently complete to live, they die, and it is best they should die.

And just like almost every hit piece on Spencer ever written, ThinkProgress fails to quote or even acknowledge the opening line of the very next paragraph:

Of course, in so far as the severity of this process is mitigated by the spontaneous sympathy of men for each other, it is proper that it should be mitigated: albeit there is unquestionably harm done when sympathy is shown, without any regard to ultimate results. But the drawbacks hence arising are nothing like commensurate with the benefits otherwise conferred.

If the folks at ThinkProgress can’t be bothered to read four lines down, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that they display no evidence of having read the rest of Spencer’s book. Let alone any of his other books.

Spencer’s political philosophy is still widely misunderstood. So, as my small part in an ongoing effort to correct this misunderstanding I’ve written a new paper which attempts to dispel some common misconceptions, and to arrive at a more accurate understanding of Spencer’s thought. “Social Darwinism and Social Justice: Herbert Spencer on Our Duties to the Poor” is available for download on SSRN, and will be published later this year in a Routledge volume on Distributive Justice Debates in Social and Political Thought: Perspectives on Finding A Fair Share

As an added incentive to take a look, here’s a tease – did you know that Spencer actually gave a qualified endorsement to the Poor Law? As a general rule, he thought that public welfare was a violation of the “law of equal freedom.” But he did explicitly argue that under certain circumstances, a Poor Law could be compatible with the requirements of justice. Want to know why? Read the paper!

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Some people who do badly in life never had a chance, whether because of bad genes, bad parents, and/or bad social environment. Others had every chance in the world, but made bad choices. Most people fall on the spectrum in between.

Sometimes when we see someone failing, we rush to say, “It’s not really your fault. You couldn’t have helped it. It isn’t you.” Sometimes such assurances are true; sometimes not. A person hearing “It’s not your fault” is often relieved–psychologists have found, not surprisingly, that people want to blame their failures on external circumstances and their successes on their own agency.

Still, in some cases, there’s an odd hidden disrespect hidden in such expressions. Consider the difference between a typical child and a typical adult. Both are moral patients, but the typical adult is a full moral agent. And you don’t have to be Kant to think that something about agency is what makes (most) human beings uniquely worthy of a special kind of respect. To deny agency to someone who lacks it is not an insult. But to deny agency to others, or to oneself, when one has it, is to express a kind of disrespect. To treat others or yourself as if they or you are mere children, when they or you are not, is disrespectful. Sometimes, in our rush to show concern, we also disrespect people. 99% of the time, they thank us for it, though.

Of course, agency isn’t an off and on-switch. Some people are more agental than others, and the degree to which we are agents is something that we’re partly in control in. So, for instance, if you get drunk and drive around, you’re not a full agent as you drive, but you made choices that made you less of an agent. Or, if you have anger management problems but choose not to do therapy to gain more self-control, you aren’t a full agent in the moment that anger overtakes you, but it’s partly your fault for not working on being more agental.

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For those sick of this topic, I expect this will be my last post.

According to the BLS, the median hourly wage in the US is $17.09, and the mean hourly wage is $22.71.

The typical adjunct around the country gets about $3000 per course. Some schools (e.g., Brown, Georgetown) pay much higher rates. Others pay a little less. But let’s go with $3000, since that’s about the norm.

A typical class is 45 contact hours. A faculty member should also hold 2-3 office hours per week for 15 weeks. (However, that’s not per class. That’s total, regardless of number of classes.)  3*15=45. 90 hours total so far.

Now, the general rule is that one should spend no more than 1 hour of prepping/grading outside of class per class. Many faculty do in fact spend more time, but this is bad time management. So, total of 135 hours for one class, including prep, office hours, grading, and teaching. (Really, as Phil Magness has pointed out, a professor should be able to teach most intro classes in her field without prep, and most adjuncts just teach intro classes.) Also, I’m treating office hours and prep time as distinct. That’s not really true: Students don’t always come to office hours, so most faculty use those hours to do research or prepping.

For one class: $3000/135 hours = $22.22/hr. Higher than the median pay per hour, and close to the mean. (At Georgetown, we pay our efficient adjuncts more than $60/hr.)

Let’s say the person teaches 2 classes. That’s another 90 hours of in-class time and prep, but no new office hours. So, now $6000/225 hours = $26.67/hr.

Let’s say the person teaches 8 classes over the course of a year. That’s two semesters of office hours (90 total hours) and 720 hours of total in-class time, prep, grading. (This is probably an exaggeration, because most won’t teach 8 separate preps, but instead teach multiple sections of the same class. Further, most will have already prepped classes in previous years, and so won’t need to do much new prep.) Total compensation? $29.63/hr. Not great, but still better than what most people in the US or in the world make.

Keep in mind that’s $24,000 for 810 hours of work per year. When I worked at GEICO, my annual salary was higher, but I worked a standard 2000 hour work year.

Objection: Ah, but they’re not paid for their commuting time! Response: Neither am I. Hardly anyone is.

Objection: People spend more time outside of class than that. Response: Yes, but they shouldn’t.

Objection: No health insurance! Response: Yep, and that sucks. https://www.healthcare.gov

Objection: That’s too little time to spend teaching. I love teaching, and I plan to spend 10 hours of prep for each class. Response: Then that’s your choice, and you’re blameworthy for making that choice. Your university doesn’t expect you to do that. You’ll never get anywhere doing that. You’re either working past the point of diminishing returns, or you’re taking that long to prep because you are incompetent. In the first case, you should spend less time prepping. In the latter, you should quit and do something you’re good at. (That’s not a mean thing to say. I’ve quit things in the past because, try as a I might, I remained incompetent. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. If you try, try, try, try again and fail, maybe that’s not your forte.)

Since Kevin Carson will likely read this, I would like to call attention to something: He’s mad that I “trolled” Precaricorps. To be clear, they first started posting my pic around Twitter, and then some of them or their readers sent me harassing emails. I then posted a link to the GEICO career page on their website and said something like, “I’m not joking when I recommend GEICO as an alternative.” Then they deleted it and cried foul and bullying. That’s a bit like the leftist kids who shout speakers down on campus, and then cry foul when someone criticizes them.

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