With the chattering classes consumed by concern for the devastated value of their 401K funds, and their suddenly precarious lifestyles, there has been much anger and scorn directed at those former masters of the universe, financiers.
But the shock to the world of finance has been echoed by a shock to the world of academic economics that is just as profound.
In the long post WWII boom, as free market ideology triumphed, economists have won for themselves a privileged place inside academia.
First there is the cash. It astonished some when Washington University, a school with an economics department of modest prestige, hired economists David Levine and Michele Boldrin by offering salaries well in excess of $500,000. But most high ranked economics departments have professors earning in excess of $300,000. Not much by the pornographic standards of finance, but a fat paycheck compared to your average English or Physics professor.
It is not just the stars. Journeyman assistant professors in economics routinely come in at $100,000 or more. And, unlike the hard sciences, they do this fresh from their PhDs, without a publication to their name and without years of low pay as post-docs.
The high salaries have been accompanied by dramatic declines in the teaching burden. The research demands of our advanced science leave little time for the classroom. In good universities faculty typically teach only two courses a year - one of which has to be a graduate seminar. The masses in the Econ 1 classes are often abandoned to the tender mercies of graduate students.