Moral philosopher Saul Smilansky at Haifa University in Israel writes with the following interesting remarks:
I thought that you might be interested in a topic of concern to our profession, that I've recently raised in a short paper in Ratio called "The Paradox of Beneficial Retirement".
It should be easiest to explain the issue by thinking about philosophical jobs: in every junior jobs search we've had in my department, we have had applicants in double figures. Half aren't very good, and maybe 3-4 will get a job in another research university in Israel (there are just 5 of those!). This means that every few years a number of promising young
philosophers won't find good jobs. And some potentially excellent candidates will not pursue their studies even up to that level, knowing that "few die and none retire".
But at the same time there are in every department philosophers who are not as good, and are closer to retirement. Were they to leave their jobs earlier, those younger philosophers would be able to get in, to the benefit of the department, the students and the profession. I don't know the American scene very well (my only lengthy presence in the US as an adult was two years ago during a sabbatical at Rutgers, whose graduates should do very well in the job market), but I suspect that - apart from the numbers, of course - the situation is similar.
My argument is an "argument from integrity", suggesting that professionals who are below average (the left side of the bell curve) should consider leaving their profession, since (given certain plausible assumptions) if they leave, they are very likely to be replaced by someone
better than themselves.
Perhaps you will be interested in airing this "dark secret" of our profession.
It has recently been taken up in the economics blog "marginal revolution" (though most of the economists who responded did not get the argument and were uninterested in the philosophical and moral aspects, and many were simply nasty. It's an interesting sociological document.)
The situation in the U.S. isn't always as stark--partly because the awarding of lines isn't always tied to retirements, and partly because a retirement doesn't necessarily guarantee a line (sometimes the "line" is given to another unit). But I wonder what philosophers think of the issue raised by Professor Smilansky?