Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Unpaid internships

If I were to walk into a store and take something without a compensating the person I would be stealing the item from that person. There is little debate about this issue, and the vast majority of people believe it to be wrong. Someone is for the poorer, in terms of the time, money, and resources they spent and to have a system where people do this without ever being compensated will not work in the long run.

On the other hand, if I were to hire someone and agree that they will get paid in "experience" many people will say that this is fair and the person who is getting paid in experience is young/female/black. The thing about getting paid in experience is you can't walk up to a grocery store and say "I would like to pay you with 50 experiens which is the equivalent of $50." You can't pay your rent in experience and you can't pay for gas with experience. Economists have a saying that nothing in life is free. But this is exactly what is happening with the internship economy. This ties into a wider developing cultural phenomenon where the social contract is degrading when so many extremely wealthy people don't want to pay for what they get. If I were to walk into a store and say that I was just going to take my food but the farmer would get paid in experience people would say I was stealing. However, if I hired someone to do a job for me and tell them I would get paid in experience at this massive Fortune 500 corporation they would say that is fair. There is no real difference between claiming that the farmer will get paid in experience and claiming the recent college graduate swimming in debt is getting paid in experience in their internship. In economics the factors of production are land, labor, capital, and entrepreneurship. Each of these has value, and we need to pay for labor just like we would pay for the other three of the factors of production. We need to make it illegal for a for-profit corporation to hire people to work for them in internships and restrict such work to non-profits alone.

Another important issue that is tied to this is the destruction of the public commons. We have significantly reduced the amount of money going into research and development every year moving towards a a charity model. Scientists today have more sporadic and less funding than they used to have and the amount of I public grants available has diminished. We don't have grants for long-term research that can be easily renewed and private charity has not made such investments part of the economy. This wastes valuable time for scientists who spend their time writing grant proposals as opposed to doing research and expanding our knowledge about the world. This is a symptom of people having an unrealistic assumption that things should be free, that people should not be compensated for their work, and if they are compensated are at a level that is below subsistence. The same thought process that leads to the unpaid internship. What is even more is that I have found the people who are most behind the destruction of science funding in our country are the people who get most agitated about the increase of China's economy and the massive scientific development they have done due to their investment in research and infrastructure. The hypocrisy is sickening. We need to move to an economy where we value scientific research and can invest more because people with illnesses can't wait forever for us to learn how to cure these diseases. The other problem is there are so many projects needing funding that if every disease had a private charity people wouldn't know where to start and we might actually find a decrease in private charity in scientific research given the number of charities needed to fund every project.

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