This is an interesting discussion. It is always pleasant to talk to someone from a different culture. Well, maybe not always, but usually. Here are some random thoughts sparked by your thoughts.
you don't know is that there were a couple of good things about it. One of the good
parts about communism was that is was rigorous. Every text I ever read as a teen was
spelled right. Every mathematical demonstration was correct. There were next no social
I think that we never-communists are aware that communism got education down pretty well. However, I wouldn't overstress the rigor. On the flip side, a lot of pretty shoddy goods were made by communist countries, such as Chernobyl, for example. Also, you have to consider Lysenko and the rejection for a long time of the theory of Relativity because of seeming conflicts with "dialectical materialism." Overall, though, I think the education record of communism has been pretty good.
Back to the topic: since education was such a controversial issue in the communist
agenda, the most incompetent people were chosen to decide things in this area. This
resulted in good old teachers being thrown out of education (they represented the
capitalists (?)) and the pay for being a teacher got to be lousy.
As others have pointed out, the same is true in most of the "first world." Secondary science education is particularly terrible. As far as the lousy pay, isn't that the idea? From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs?
Reading enough of those
spelling-tainted books, I started having problems with spelling myself - problems I didn't
have when I was seven!
Heh. What ruined my spelling was having to code in FORTRAN and compress meaningful variable names into six characters.
Do you have a work-related hobby? What I mean is, do you do hobby projects - which
would potentially be required in your job - by yourself, with no request from your
business environment? Didn't think so. You know these things would make you a better
professional, but why bother? You're good enough anyway, right?
Do you write code? If you do, is your code always nicely formatted? (not to mention
Well, now that you mention it, yes. I think this is not a particularly appropriate audience for this notion, as there are quite a lot of people here who value craftsmanship. For the population at large, though, I think you are right.
If you wonder why I started with the examples about communism, I did so because I
learned about this problem in the western society only after being exposed to it. Before
that I was 100% convinced that people are driven far enough by the capitalist
self-interest - which was not present in a communist society - to be perfectionist by
their own. I was terribly disappointed when I found that's not even by far the case. I
found that perfectionists are driven by self-determination rather than interest in money
- that's because they can apparently make the same money by being lousy
I think that there's something important about the free market (which is different from capitalism, which we don't really have). Above all, it is supposed to be free. This means that people have the choice of being good, lousy, or mediocre.
Because there are market pressures pushing up and down all the time, goods and services tend to cluster around an are where they are most sensitive to market pressures, which usually means mediocre. People aren't going to pay more for something unless there is a significant marginal increase in quality, which means that the lower-priced product has significantly reduced quality. The average quality, therefore, is going to be less than perfect. It has to be, or else the free market doesn't work.
In many areas, of course, the market is not free. These are usually cases where the level of quality that a free market would produce would be at a level that is unacceptable to people. People can spend less money on a car that is less safe, for example, but only within certain limits, which are mandated by the government.
I don't think you're quite right to say that perfectionists are driven by self-determination. It's not that people can make the same money by being lousy professionals. It's just that the extra money that they can make by improving their skills is not enough to warrant the effort. This is a very different thing. Once one can have a reasonably comfortable life, becoming ultra-rich is not so appealing for most people.
It is still possible to make more money by being better, but there is a strong Puritan ethic in the U.S. which says that avarice is bad. I, personally, am motivated to make a lot of money, but I am unusual in that a couple of years ago I was extremely poor, and it has burned out my desire to be voluntarily impoverished. Nevertheless, I too am making enough that I don't see a lot of need to better myself for the purpose of making more money.
The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett