Monday, November 24, 2008

All the Money You Will Ever Earn

57. All the Money You Will Ever Earn

As far as I know humans are the only species on the planet that engage in barter. Other animals may bring each other gifts, or bribes, and certainly there are species that have mutually beneficial relationships, but only a human will give you something expecting to receive a different something in return.
Having latched onto this exchange idea quite firmly, we are very lucky to be able to use money to govern our exchanges. Currency saves us from having to walk around all the time with our pockets full of sparkly stones and seashells just in case we need to barter for lunch.
Many years ago I noticed that certain segments of our society are seemingly indifferent to the idea that people are the source of finance. Admittedly, as the employee of a prosperous corporation, a state university, or a government with civil service protections, your connection to the money’s source can seem rather distant. Nonetheless, all the money you will ever earn comes to you from other people. Whether living or dead, present or absent, people give up money so that you in turn will do something that they find worthwhile. Every now and then I think it’s worth asking yourself about whether or not you’re giving honest value for your half of the exchange.
For instance, it can be quite easy for tenured professors at a state university to complain about their rate of pay. Certainly graduate students do so all the time. It can be an even greater strain knowing that the people working long hours and very effectively get paid the same as those putting in a minimal effort and to a very low standard. Some colleagues seem to be giving themselves credit for just showing up. They feel entitled to their paychecks, just for being who they are, without feeling guilty for their laziness or incompetence.
The fact is, students and taxpayers are spending their money to reward you as a teacher for the valuable education you make available to each and every student in your department (whether that student appropriately values your teaching or not). Feeling sorry for yourself because doctors and lawyers earn more, or faculty at another school make more, misses the point. Do you really earn what you already make?
I can’t do anything about your personal living expenses or the feeling you have that you deserve to be paid more than you are. But perhaps, if you consider for a moment the work thousands of people in our culture do every day, for minimum wage, you might reconsider your disappointments. Further, when you know what is expected of you, what precisely entitles you to shortchange your employer? What entitles you to cheat? Seek always to participate in a ‘fair exchange,’ or respond cheerfully when you, in turn, get defrauded by someone you’ve hired. They may well have been your most attentive student.

No comments: