Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Getting a Boost Up the Ladder of Success

New York Times: By Ben Stein

...[H]ere I am writing this column about economics and finance. But how do I know a tiny bit about them? Because my father was a learned economist who talked about it around the dinner table, along with my mother, who was also a highly educated economist.

Because my father and mother’s close friend from grad school at the University of Chicago, C. Lowell Harriss, was my teacher for three economics classes at Columbia University and was especially kind to me, often walking with me for a long time after class to elaborate on what he had just been teaching. Because another great economics teacher at Barnard College, Robert Lekachman, was also a family friend and took extra time with me.

And because I had grown up around economics, I just assumed that I could learn it and assimilate it, and so I had confidence in my abilities in the field. This led to my getting good grades and helped me get into Yale Law School and Yale’s graduate school, where I studied with still more friends of my parents, like Henry Wallich and James Tobin.

And how did I get started as a writer? Because I had written an essay about Richard Nixon and pop culture and did not have a clue about where to sell it. My mother and father were friends with the powers that be at the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal, and that greased the skids there, during and after my time writing speeches about economics for Mr. Nixon and Gerald Ford at the White House.

And of course, I got my first full-time writing job there in good measure because my father was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers for President Nixon from 1972 to 1974.

From then on, I’ve been writing about economics, especially how it affects individuals. ...

If you are like me and a great many other people who fly first class, you started out with some connections and made the most of them, or at least made something of them.

When I consider my friends who are extremely successful (much more successful than I am), many of them were given a big push in their education and career from family members.

A nice juxtaposition to recent articles on the very rich and their "deservingness"...

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