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Mister, Doctor, or Does it Matter?

Mister, Doctor, or Does it Matter?

Mister, Doctor, or Does It Matter?

     

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    My mother was the secretary at Glennwood Baptist Church in Morris, Alabama for about eight or nine years. My parents attended Glennwood for a while, and the pastor (David Bays) is someone I respect and admire very greatly. Even when I moved to St. Louis, after I got married, and after Shannon and I moved to Memphis, we continued to get a newsletter from Glennwood, and I enjoyed staying abreast of what is going on there. The newsletters that came to our house changed shortly after I defended my dissertation in May, 2006. “Mr. and Mrs. William Arthur Carden” became “Dr. and Mrs. William Arthur Carden.” In trademark display of motherly pride, I’m sure Mom really enjoyed changing “Mr.” to “Dr.” in the church’s mail-merge.

    Getting a PhD is an accomplishment and it is rightly something to be proud of; however, it also provides, for many, an occasion for conceit bordering on arrogance and tactlessness. A few days before Christmas in 2007, I was flipping through my in-laws’ copy of the Birmingham News when I came across a letter to “Miss Manners” from someone who had sent a Christmas card to a cousin with a PhD. The card had been addressed to “Mr. So-and-so” rather than “Dr. So-and-so.” Instead of responding with grace, as one might have hoped that someone of Dr. So-and-so’s high stature would, apparently he wrote back with a self-addressed envelope to “Dr. So-and-so,” a copy of his diploma, and a note saying that it is customary to refer to someone of his stature as “Dr. So-and-so” or “Firstname So-and-so, PhD.”

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    My thought: wow. That’s pretty insecure.

    This caught my eye in part because I’ll admit, I sometimes chafe–with tongue planted firmly in cheek–at getting stuff addressed to “Mr. Carden” when I have earned the right to be addressed as “Dr. Carden,” presumably. When I get arrogant about it, I remember Michael Myers in one of the Austin Powers movies as “Dr. Evil,” reminding people that he “didn’t spend five years in Evil medical school to be called mister, thank you very much.” What a joke.

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    Economist Tyler Cowen has blogged about how, apparently, people who conspicuously refer to themselves as “Dr.” or “Firstname Lastname, PhD” are often those with arguments or claims that are somewhat weak and that need to be bolstered with an air of authority. While I will admit that qualifications and affiliations are important signals—I’m much more likely to listen to a PhD economist at Harvard in a discussion of the minimum wage than I am to listen to someone who has never taken an economics class but nonetheless maintains a very strong opinion about the subject—reliance on authority is the weakest form of argument or evidence. There are a lot of smart people saying a lot of very off-base things. Nonetheless, they have the credentials to back themselves up. As people stay in school longer and as life expectancies increase, the letters “PhD” will come to have far less signaling value.

    Dr. F.A. Hayek’s Nobel Prize address was entitled “the pretence of knowledge,” and while it sought to upbraid those who thought that central planning (or coherent macroeconomic policy) were possible, it speaks today to those who think they are something when they are not. Just because you have a PhD doesn’t mean that you have automatically earned glory, respect, and approbation. While it is customary (and wise) for people to address you properly or defer to you in areas where you have expertise, it is grotesquely immature to insist upon it.

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    So what’s the message, then, to the newly-minted PhD and to those around people who have doctorates? For the friend or relative, it is customary to refer to someone as “Doctor” in formal communication. This doesn’t give someone the right to get his or her underwear bunched up if someone forgets to say “Doctor” or “PhD” or “Grand Poo-bah” or what have you. If you have something important to say, let that stand on its own merits. If you want to be respected and loved, be respectable and loveable. Don’t rely on the fact that you spent five, six, seven, or however many years grinding away at a graduate degree to earn your favor in another’s eyes.

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    Art Carden

    Art Carden is an Assistant Professor of Economics and Business at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee.

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    Last Updated on March 24, 2021

    8 Smart Home Gadgets You Need in Your House

    8 Smart Home Gadgets You Need in Your House

    We’ve all done it. We’ve gone out and bought useless gadgets that we don’t really need, just because they seemed really cool at the time. Then, we are stuck with a bunch of junk, and end up tossing it or trying to sell it on Ebay.

    On the other hand, there are some pretty awesome tech inventions that are actually useful. For instance, many of the latest home gadgets do some of your work for you, from adjusting the home thermostat to locking your front door. And, if used as designed, these tools should really help to make your life a lot easier—and that’s not just a claim from some infomercial trying to sell you yet another useless gadget.

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    Take a look at some of the most popular “smart gadgets” on the market:

    1. Smart Door Locks

    A smart lock lets you lock and unlock your doors by using your smartphone, a special key fob, or biometrics. These locks are keyless, and much more difficult for intruders to break into, making your home a lot safer. You can even use a special app to let people into your home if you are not there to greet them.

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    2. Smart Kitchen Tools

    Wouldn’t you just love to have a pot of coffee waiting for you when you get home from work? What about a “smart pan” that tells you exactly when you need to flip that omelet? From meat thermometers to kitchen scales, you’ll find a variety of “smart” gadgets designed to make culinary geeks salivate.

    3. Mini Home Speaker Play:1

    If you love big sound, but hate how much space big speakers take up, and if you want a stereo system that is no bigger than your fist, check out the Play:1 mini speaker. All you have to do is plug it in, connect, and then you can stream without worrying about any interruptions or interface. You can even add onto it, and have different music playing in different rooms.

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    4. Wi-Fi Security Cameras

    These are the latest in home security, and they connect to the Wi-Fi in your home. You can use your mobile devices to monitor what is going on in your home at all times, no matter where you are. Options include motion sensors, two-way audio, and different recording options.

    5. Nest Thermostat

    This is a thermostat that lives with you. It can sense seasonal changes, temperature changes, etc., and it will adjust itself automatically. You will never have to fiddle with a thermostat dial or keypad again, because this one basically does all of the work for you. It can also help you to save as much as 12% on heating bills, and 15% on cooling bills.

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    6. Smart Lighting

    Control your home lighting from your remote device. This is great if you are out and want to make sure that there are some lights on. It is designed to be energy efficient, so it will pay for itself over time because you won’t have to spend so much on your monthly energy bills.

    7. Google Chromecast Ultra

    Whether you love movies, television shows, music, etc., you can stream it all using Google Chromecast Ultra. Stream all of the entertainment you love in up to 4K UHD and HDR, for just $69 monthly.

    8. Canary

    This home security system will automatically contact emergency services when they are needed. This system offers both video and audio surveillance, so there will be evidence if there are any break-ins on your property. You can also use it to check up on what’s happening at home when you are not there, including to make sure the kids are doing their homework.

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