Saturday, February 25, 2017

"The paths to power and success are narrowing. So is the worldview of the powerful."

From The Daily Beast:

America’s New Mandarins
Yesterday, I wrote about the silliness of requiring a file clerk to have a college degree. This morning, a friend sent me the following note about the narrowing of opportunity in modern America:
Random thought inspired by the NYT article re: requiring BAs for everything and your post, especially the note about your IT team and their varied backgrounds, which is far less likely to be true today.

It seems to me that a similar version of that narrowing-entry option is occurring in many fields

You've written in the past about how the top banks have steadily narrowed the pool of candidates whom they'll consider - e.g., only 5-6 schools will even be looked at. A similar phenomenon has been occurring in law as well, and not just post-08 . . . even before the recession.

Not sure I have a handle on the larger meaning of it all: it just seems like a generalized phenomenon to me that entry pathways are narrowing all over.
He also pointed me to a telling passage in Diary of a Very Bad Year, Keith Gessen's interviews with a hedge-fund manager: 
HFM: I’m sure today I would never get hired. 
n+1: Really?  
HFM: Yeah, it would be impossible because I had no background, or I had a very exiguous background in finance. The guy who hired me always talked about hiring good intellectual athletes, people who were sort of mentally agile in an all-around way, and that the specifics of finance you could learn, which I think is true. But at the time, I mean, no hedge fund was really flooded with applicants, and that allowed him to let his mind range a little bit and consider different kinds of candidates. Today we have a recruiting group, and what do they do? They throw résumés at you, and it’s, like, one business school guy, one finance major after another, kids who, from the time they were twelve years old, were watching Jim Cramer and dreaming of working in a hedge fund. And I think in reality that probably they’re less likely to make good investors than people with sort of more interesting backgrounds. 
n+1: Why?  
HFM: Because I think that in the end the way that you make a ton of money is calling paradigm shifts, and people who are real finance types, maybe they can work really well within the paradigm of a particular kind of market or a particular set of rules of the game—and you can make money doing that—but the people who make huge money, the George Soroses and Julian Robertsons of the world, they’re the people who can step back and see when the paradigm is going to shift, and I think that comes from having a broader experience, a little bit of a different approach to how you think about things....