Last week a Reason.tv video went viral when a reporter gave Matt Damon the “absurd” suggestion that job insecurity makes people work harder. Matt Damon gives the rebuttal that teachers aren’t motivated by financial incentive to teach, but are basically saints who just want to teach children. You can see the short clip here:
According to Matt Damon, because teachers have to work long hours and receive shitty pay, they must due it for the love of teaching. Thus, a worker at Taco Bell who works long hours and receives minimum wage must do it because he loves making tacos. Okay, perhaps comparing a teacher to a low skilled worker’s need to work isn’t exactly fair. Let’s take the notion that teachers receive poor wages. Perhaps at one time this was true, but due to the teachers unions being in bed with liberal politicians and voting themselves greater benefits each year, this isn’t exactly the case anymore. Conservatives will be the first to attack this claim, and one can hop on any website such as the Heritage Foundation to find charts showing how public sector teachers jobs are starting to earn wages comparable to average private sector jobs. Then when you factor in benefits such as summer and holiday vacations, as well as health and retirement benefits then this can tip the scale in favor of the teacher.
But let’s take the biggest fallacy of his argument, that teachers are not motivated by financial incentives. If history has taught us anything, it’s that one of the things driving human nature is self interest. The communists tried to remove this incentive, and you all know how that went. Sure, there are a lot of teachers out there who love to teach, are good at what they do, and care about a child’s education. But by claiming that financial motives play no rule at all in a teacher’s job is completely absurd and without reason. Being able to provide a house over one’s head and food on the table is typically the biggest motivating factor of why anyone works, and the fear and insecurity of possibly living on the street is a pretty strong motivating factor that makes people do the jobs that they do (thus the Taco Bell worker, or janitors, or garbage collectors, ect.). Matt Damon can claim that actors and teachers are above all of this, but this is completely elitist in thinking and removed from reality. Liberals like Damon need to come down from their high horses and not be afraid to admit that people are self interested. In fact, there is nothing wrong with this notion, and as Adam Smith famously claimed in his theory of capitalism is that when people act based on self interest, it helps not only themselves directly, but also the community as a whole indirectly. Thus, it’s not only the most practical and successful economic system, but also the most compassionate and compatible with human nature.
And as one final jab to Damon, he tries to sound all smart by saying this line of thinking is “intrinsically paternalistic.” Honestly, I don’t even think he knows what he means by this and is just saying it to confuse the reporter and everyone around him. But if you think about what he said, isn’t the federal government and the Department of Education “intrinsically paternalistic?” It’s basically setup as a central planning authority with a hierarch on top, ie President Obama. Thus, proponents of a free market who argue for the abolition of the Department of Education and a more decentralized control of education are arguing for a system that is completely not paternalistic.