26
Jan

Thoughts from the Cafeteria

Written on January 26, 2007 by Max Oliva in Development

J.Pozuelo-Monfort, MSc candidate in economic development at LSE.
Jaime PM.jpg
A unique academic and urban environment surrounds me in the cafeteria of the London School of Economics while typing these few words and drinking a hot capuccino. On my left two Chinese girls talk to each other in mandarin and an apparently Brit reads the university paper ‘Beaver’. A truly cosmopolitan and international environment of a truly global institution that talks about globalization and its discontents, as Stiglitz names one of his last books.
A school that is leader in the social sciences, a school led by top-notch researchers that develop leading academic literature that is input to the economic and political policies developed by the political class of this unequal world. Apparently an institution that teaches some of the future leaders of this society, that will bring about new thinking, new ideas, innovation in the realms of politics and public administration.
Never further from reality. The corporate world leads recruiting at this and other top institutions. The McKinseys and Goldmans of the world where most of the pool of talented future graduates want to work. The current constructors of the system absorb young, high-potential graduates that could, on the long run, make a difference. They absorb the talent because there is no alternative structure that can competitively fight for the same pool of talent. The World Bank, the IMF, the United Nations, and some other International Organisations do hire, one may argue, but not as significantly and at a rather advanced-degree level (mostly doctorates).
Come to a world-class institution, ask your fellow students. If you are better off and have access to a competitive degree, chances are that you will decide to turn your talent to that prestigious consulting firm or that well-known investment bank. Ask your fellow students why they do not consider working for a developing economy, ask your fellow students why they do not consider working for the public administrations in their home countries. The answer is not surprising. Politics are rather disliked on this side of the Atlantic. Politicians have earned a deserved bad reputation. It is not so much a matter of corruption, literally absent in the first world, but a tendency to maintain the same style, set in place the persistent policies, and a stick to a clear lack of innovation.
The world needs talented individuals to move forward, to demand changes. There are currently no alternative structures able to hire from the pool of talent out of some of the best graduate schools. Corporations have the power to attract the talent, and it seems that nothing can do about it.

Comments

Zach Skyles Owens January 27, 2007 - 10:06 am

Being someone who is interested in making a meaningful contribution to society as a whole in addition to doing interesting work and providing a solid financial foundation for my future, this topic is something I often contemplate.
As far as I can tell, the most promising model is to follow in the foot steps of someone like Martin Varsavsky http://www.martinvarsavsky.net or Bill Gates, who have been extremely successful in business and used that power to make a meaningful contribution to world politics and society.

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