Can You Buy an Internship on Snobster?

Timothy Noah has described the growth industry in internship sales at Slate:

[T]he internship-selling racket has slipped the surly bonds of philanthropy and entered the for-profit marketplace. An outfit called the University of Dreams guarantees placement or your money back. Summer-internship fees (the University of Dreams prefers to call it “tuition”) range from $5,499 to $9,499. For 3 percent extra, you can pay on an installment plan. The interns have been placed with firms like Hill and Knowlton and Smith Barney (did a rich, dumb intern start the credit crunch?)

“It’s a huge misconception to say this is a program for rich kids,” Eric Lochtefeld, CEO of University of Dreams, told the Journal. “The average student comes from the middle class, and their parents dig deep.” To whatever extent that were true, inegalitarianism would shade into encyclopedia-salesman-style exploitation.

Cyberspace appears to be catching up to real space in stratification potential:

Affluence, the online social network for millionaires, a Facebook for elitists that launched late last year[, has] the aim of becoming “the exclusive organisation of the world’s wealthiest people.” . . . A whole segment of internet entrepreneurs are working hard at building exclusive communities like this, online worlds that strike a balance between openness to new members and a hostility to the great unwashed.

A prime example is the social network A Small World, known by those outside its gates as Snobster. The network (which received a large start-up investment from the film producer Harvey Weinstein) relies on cool rather than cash as the determining factor for membership, in an attempt to create that magical mix that keeps many a nightclub in business: brilliant and beautiful side by side with the rich and clueless.

Given the rise of economic policy designed to help the “rich and clueless,” we shouldn’t be surprised by a social network that does the same. From private college admissions counselors to internship sales to lucrative I-banking jobs to bailout-funded bonuses–life’s got a lot of crystal stairs for those at the top and their kids. Fortunately sites like Little Sis and Political Friendster keep some tabs on elite interconnections.

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