“Your dad hires economists for intellectual cover, to prove his dynastic fortunes and political influence are the outcome of a complex, self-correcting mechanism with the mystical power to pluck the deserving out of the teeming mass of humanity and elevate them so they can wisely guide us. They have a sciencey vocabulary conceived of solely to praise people like your father. Like *job creator*. As though we need *jobs*! I mean, if there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s that I never want to have a job again. I do math because I can’t stop. Because I’ve found people who need my math to do something amazing.
“If you need to *pay* me to do math, that’s because a) you’ve figured out how to starve me unless I do a job, and b) you want me to do boring, stupid math with no intrinsic interest. A ‘job creator’ is someone who figures out how to threaten you with starvation unless you do something you don’t want to do.
“I used to watch you kids do your Communist Parties, when I was in default and pretending any of that shit mattered. I’d get so *angry* at you, beyond any sane response. It wasn’t until I walked away that I figured out why: because every time you broke into an empty factory and turned the machines on, you proved I was a plow horse whose poor lips had been scarred by the bit in my teeth as I pulled a cart for the man with the whip and the feedbag.
“That’s my point about the difference between the kind of meritocracy we have in the university and the bullshit the sottas swim in. When we say that Amanda is a better mathematician than Gretyl, we mean there are things Amanda can do that Gretyl can’t. They’re both nice people, but if there’s a really important math problem, you’re better off with Amanda than Gretyl.”
Limpopo’s voice ricocheted in Iceweasel’s mind. “But Amanda can’t do it all. Unless she’s working on a one-woman problem, she’ll have to cooperate with others. If she sucks at that, it might take a hundred times more work in total to get it done than if Gretyl — who’s good at sharing her toys and keeping everyone purring — were the boss. This isn’t anecdote — as you keep telling me, the plural of anecdote is not fact. Limpopo sent around this meta-analysis from the Walkaway Journal of Organizational Studies that compared the productivity of programmers. It broke out the work programmers did as individuals and inside groups. It found that even though there were programmers who could produce code that was a hundred times better than the median — one percent as many bugs, 100 times more memory efficiency — that this kind of insane virtuosity was only weakly correlated with achievement in groups.”