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Refuge For Hacks

August 10th, 2009

lpNew York Times published an article that is bound to be the subject of online chatter in the next couple of days. China, as it turns out, is a refuge for hacks, a place filled with second-raters, a destination for American kids who have given up on the hope of finding work at home.

American graduates traveling abroad for work is no new theme, and here I am reminded of “Liar’s Poker” by Michael Lewis. In that book about Wall Street greed in the late 1980s, the author described how he worked in London to take advantage of an opportunity there. A snippet:

None of my activities in the first couple of months made so much as a dent on the bottom line of Salomon Brothers, but all were highly entertaining. What was more important than immediate results, I figured, was my education. I was niggled by those first few months by the feeling of being a charlatan. I kept blowing people up. I didn’t know anything. I had never managed money. I didn’t even know anyone who had made any real money, only a few heirs. Yet I was holding myself out as a great expert on matters of finance. I was telling people what to do with millions of dollars when the largest financial complication I had ever encountered was a $325 overdraft in my account at the Chase Manhattan Bank. The only thing that saved me in meeting after meeting in the early days at Salomon was that the people I dealt with knew even less. London is, or was, a great refuge for hacks.

There are many things that could be said about the NYT article. One thing that strikes me is how many are moving to China now without language training. This fact, as I point out in “Poorly Made in China,” runs counter to claims made by international theorists along the lines that the world will soon be speaking Mandarin.¬†How is it that American youth can function so well in China without mastering the language? The reverse case is certainly not likely. International relations theorists such as Fareed Zakaria (a disciple of Samuel Huntington) ought to weigh in on this subject at some point, as it is curious.

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