The reflexive answer is:
The Beatles were unique: there were few bands as creative and innovative as the Beatles.
By Sam Vaknin Author of “Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited”
But, on second reflection, Einstein was at least equally as unique as the Beatles. He is justly considered the greatest intellect of all time.
Mere rarity or scarcity cannot, therefore, explain the enormous disparity in remuneration between the Beatles and Einstein.
In economics, it is common to say that income disparities reflect differences in productivity. Highly-productive people get better remunerated.
But, are bankers, pop-singers, politicians, and athletes truly more productive that, say, construction foremen and biologists? Bankers and politicians actually destroy wealth more often than not and yet they are by far the best paid professionals!
Then let’s try this:
Music and football and films and politics and banking touch upon more lives and affect more people than, say, cosmology. These disciplines are more easily grasped and the barriers to entry are lower. Very little effort is required in order to master the rules of sports, both as a practitioner and as a spectator-consumer. This ready access also accounts for the mass appeal of entertainment – and its disproportionate revenues. In turn, mass appeal translates to media exposure and the creation of marketable personal brands (think Beckham, or Tiger Woods).
The rule seems to be: the higher the number of people affected the bigger the compensation. Pop singers intrude on the lives of millions, so they make millions.
Yet, surely the Internet is as accessible as baseball, as ubiquitous as banking, as pleasurable as any form of pop art, and as influential as politics. Why did none of the scientists involved in its creation become a multi-billionaire? Why did only youthful entrepreneurs benefit from it?
This is because science and scientists are a special case. By all rights the inventors of the transistor, the universal computer, the hyperlink, the World Wide Web, the polio vaccine, the semiconductor, and relativity and quantum theories (to name but a few) should all have been rewarded handsomely for their earth-shattering and highly practical discoveries. Yet, they werent. Many of these luminaries struggled to make ends meet throughout their academic careers and lives.
This is because scientists are secretly hated by the multitudes.
People resent the elitism and the arcane nature of modern science. This pent-up resentment translates into anti-intellectualism, Luddism, and ostentatious displays of proud ignorance. People prefer the esoteric and pseudo-sciences to the real and daunting thing.
Consumers perceive entertainers, bankers, politicians, and athletes as “human”: they are just “like us”, we say. We feel that there is no reason, in principle, why we can’t become instant and well-remunerated celebrities, just like they are. Given a modicum of talent and effort, anyone can become a pop singer, a banker, a politico, or a sportsman, the thinking goes. TV shows like American Idol encourage these grandiose fantasies.
Not so with science. There are numerous obstacles and barriers to becoming an Einstein, or even an average physicist.
Consequently, science has an austere, distant, inhuman, and relentless image. The uncompromising pursuit of truth provokes paranoia in the uninitiated. Science is invariably presented in pop culture as evil, or, at the very least, dangerous (genetically-modified foods, cloning, nuclear weapons, toxic waste, and global warming come to mind).
Egghead intellectuals and scientists are treated as aliens. They are not loved – they are feared. Underpaying them is one way of reducing them to size and controlling their potentially pernicious or subversive activities.
The penury of the intellect is guaranteed by the anti-capitalistic ethos of science. Scientific knowledge and discoveries should be instantly and selflessly shared with colleagues and the world at large. The fruits of science belong to the community, not to the scholar who toiled to yield them. It is a self-interested corporate sham, of course. Firms and universities own patents and benefit from them financially – but these benefits rarely accrue to individual researchers.
Additionally, modern technology has rendered intellectual property a public good. Books, other texts, and scholarly papers are non-rivalrous (can be consumed numerous time without diminishing or altering) and non-exclusive. The concept of “original” or “one time phenomenon” vanishes with reproducibility. After all, what is the difference between the first copy of a digitized tome and the millionth one?
Attempts to reverse these developments (for example, by extending copyright laws or litigating against pirates) usually come to naught. Not only do scientists and intellectuals subsist on low wages – they cannot even augment their income by selling books or other forms of intellectual property which are their mainstay products.
Thus impoverished and lacking in future prospects, their numbers are in steep decline. We are descending into a dark age of diminishing innovation and pulp “culture”. The media’s attention is equally divided between sports, politics, music, and films. One is hard pressed to find even a mention of the sciences, literature, or philosophy anywhere but on dedicated channels and “supplements”. Intellectually challenging programming is shunned by both the print and the electronic media as a matter of policy. Literacy has plummeted even in the industrial and rich West.
In the horror movie that our world had become, economic development policy is decided by Bob Geldof, the US Presidency is entrusted to B-movies actor Ronald Reagan , our reading tastes are dictated by Oprah, and California’s future is steered by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Sam Vaknin ( http://samvak.tripod.com ) is the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, and international affairs.
He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.
Visit Sam’s Web site at http://www.narcissistic-abuse.com