Elitism Causes Dead-Weight Loss

by Will on November 6, 2010

The last few days I was spending a lot of time learning about the human immune system. One of the things the immune system does is to create fevers to help it fight infections. The material I’m reading says, “Fever occurs when leukocytes secrete pyrogens that increase the heart and metabolism rates.”

Now, that sentence is half in English and half in Latin. The term most people use to describe leukocytes is “white blood cells.” The word pyrogens means, literally, “fire seeds.” Why not say, “Fever happens when white blood cells let off fire-seeds that make the heart and metabolism work harder”?

I’ll tell you why not. Because people like me are smart enough to work with the Latin words, and we don’t want competition from all the people who could potentially understand the material, but only if it were in plain English. We profit by keeping them out. We take advantage of this and ask for more payment than those lower-status people would ask for. But what are we making the extra money for? For our ability to use Latin words — an ability of little concrete utility in the year 2010, long past the glory days of Roman rule.

So we earn extra money on a useless skill, and the people who could have mastered the material in English don’t pass the class, and take lower-paying work instead. The cost to them, and the cost to you for not having their cheaper services available to you, is the cost of elitism. The benefit of elitism accrues entirely to people who aren’t really working for it, but are successfully practicing a con game where they convince other people that they (the other people) are not quite as good.

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