Lion of the Blogosphere

Archive for the ‘Labor Markets’ Category

The salary taboo

with 142 comments

For Yakov, who thinks I’m “trolling” when I write that the people should know how much money other people make. This is something I wrote 11 years ago:

* * *

In America, it’s taboo to talk about your salary.

It’s a pretty strange taboo because most of the other taboos have something to do with sex. The salary taboo seems even stronger than sex taboos. Today, you turn on HBO and see gay men kissing each other on Six Feet Under [10 years later, you see gay men doing a lot worse on Sense8], yet the characters on the show never mention what they get paid, so someone watching the show who is thinking about entering the death care industry has no idea whether it’s economically rewarding.

Because no one knows how much anyone else gets paid, this assymetry of information benefits employers. Employers know exactly what people working for them get paid, and have a pretty good idea of what people at other companies are getting paid. The salary taboo gives employers an unfair bargaining advantage over employees, and employers already have a huge bargaining advantage on account of it being a lot easier for the employer to lose an employee than vice versa.

There has been much talk about how the top 1% is getting all the benefits of the economic expansion. Maybe the salary taboo is a big part of the reason. Because no one talks about salaries, no one realizes that someone with the same job skills received a 10% raise, so they don’t know to ask for one themselves.

If people really want to stick it to The Man, they’d freely and openly tell everyone how much they earn.

Bloggers can therefore do more for equality in America than any government policy. All we have to do is start a new trend in which we tell the world exactly how much money we make. Post it in your blogs, or leave a comment here.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

May 7, 2017 at 6:31 pm

Posted in Labor Markets

It will soon be illegal for employers in NYC to ask about salary history

with 43 comments

Reported at the National Law Review:

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has signed into law a bill that will make it unlawful for private employers to inquire into or rely upon job applicants’ wage history during the hiring process, with limited exception. The law will take effect on October 31, 2017.

As we previously reported, the law prohibits employers, employment agencies, and their agents from inquiring about an applicant’s salary history, and/or relying on an applicant’s salary history in determining the salary, benefits or other compensation for that applicant during the hiring process, including as part of the negotiation of a contract.

This law is a great idea.

There cannot be a fair “free market” transaction when there is unequal knowledge between the parties. In the labor markets, the employer knows that salary history of every job applicant, while the applicant knows nothing about anyone else’s salary, not the salaries of other people applying for the job, and not the salaries of people who currently work for the employer.

The result of unequal knowledge is unequal bargaining power which means that value is transferred from the party with the weaker bargaining power to the party with the stronger.

De Blasio said:

It is unacceptable that we’re still fighting for equal pay for equal work. The simple fact is that women and people of color are frequently paid less for the same work as their white, male counterparts.

I wouldn’t assume this law will close any “gaps.” Because it gives everyone better bargaining power, including white males, white males will benefit from it just as much as women and minorities, and the gap will remain.

Despite popular belief that women and minorities are paid less than men for the allegedly same work, I think the opposite is more likely to be true. This new law might increase the gap.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

May 5, 2017 at 9:15 pm

Posted in Labor Markets

Jobs and class

with 132 comments

For people who forgot that I previously posted this (but here I add some extra categories, hewing closely to Paul Fussell’s class categories):

Poor people: Don’t work at all.

Proles: Work crappy jobs that are injurious to their health like construction or coal mining.

Middle class: Boring meaningless cubicle jobs.

Upper-middle class: Boring and meaningless jobs (but less boring and meaningless than middle-class jobs) with a private office which pay better (in some cases a lot better) than middle-class jobs.

Upper class: CEO, hedge fund manager, etc.

Top out of sight: Work that is meaningful and enriches their lives, making them better people while helping others, and achieving what Abraham Maslow called self-actualization.

Class X: Trying to self-actualize like the TOOS class, but living in poverty and unable to afford to have children.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

April 30, 2017 at 12:33 pm

Posted in Labor Markets

Jeb Bush believes in robots

Reported by the Washington Examiner:

“The looming challenge of automation and artificial intelligence and the rapid advancement of technology brings great benefits but also creates huge challenges,” Bush told radio host John Catsimatidis on AM 970 in New York.

The threat of a number of jobs being lost to automation is “real,” he said. “This is not something that’s science fiction. This is happening as we speak. And yet we still have this big skills gap.”

. . .

The solution, Bush said, is in education and job training so that people can obtain the skills needed where there are currently job openings and for the jobs of the future.

Jeb Bush is right that automation and artificial intelligence taking away jobs is a real problem. But why is he suddenly talking about this now? I think it’s in response to Donald Trump, who is the first president in a really really long time to be concerned about jobs moving overseas. What Jeb is saying here is “Donald Trump, you are STUPID for thinking that the jobs problem can be fixed with tariffs and withdrawal from trade agreements. Because robots.”

In fact, Jeb is the stupid one. He is very stupid to believe that education is the magic elixir that will fix everything. It’s HBD denialism. The people not already educated are that way because they just aren’t college material, and no amount of time spent sitting in classrooms will change their low-IQ genes into high-IQ genes.

This is not to say that Trump’s way will work in the long run, but at least his heart is in the right place. As long as our economy is based on people only being able to obtain resources by working at jobs in a capitalist economy, then Trump’s way will help a little by increasing the demand for domestic labor.

But I predict that eventually, Jeb Bush’s way will win out. The establishment hates Trump and they want none of his solutions A few days ago I predicted that the government will pay people to drive virtual trucks. I was being a little tongue-in-cheek. It’s a lot more likely that the government will pay people to attend “education.” No one wants to pay people to drive virtual trucks because people think it’s useless make-work, which they think is a bad thing. But paying people to get education, almost everyone believes that education is a good thing, and worth paying for. Yes, education is a form of make-work that the establishment can get behind.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

April 2, 2017 at 8:54 pm

Posted in Labor Markets

The Acela Express isn’t that elite

Salena Zito writes in a NY Times op-ed:

Nearly everyone getting on the Acela Express that day is either on their way up the ladder or, more than likely, already at the top; they are wealthy, successful, powerful, in the crosshairs or on the boards of what moves and shakes this country.

I’ve ridden the Acela Express many times, and this is ridiculous hyperbole. Most of the people riding the train were cubicle drones like me. And I certainly wasn’t moving up any ladder.

My most memorable trip on the Acela Express was when two guido types almost got into a fight because one accused the other of making noise in the “quiet car.”

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

April 2, 2017 at 8:39 am

Posted in Labor Markets

In the future, will the government pay people to drive virtual trucks?

Self-driving trucks will soon put all truck drivers out of work. What will they do instead? Every other industry they might migrate to will also be laying off workers because of automation. Pizza delivery will be done by robots. Stores will no longer have cashiers. Even the cashier-less McDonalds won’t be hiring anyone, because robots will be in the kitchen making the hamburgers.

The government could simply give everyone a basic income check. But there’s too much political opposition to that. The idea of poor people getting something from the government without having to work for it drives a lot of people, especially conservative blog commenters, crazy. Even free healthcare for everyone, which is an important first step towards a basic income, outrages the conservative types.

Furthermore, there are some legitimate concerns about people without the kind of structure to their lives that comes from having a job becoming social problems, joining gangs, committing crimes, etc.

Thus paying people to do virtual jobs like driving virtual trucks could be a necessary first towards a true post-scarcity economic model. And it’s a lot better than paying people to drive real trucks because the virtual trucks don’t pollute and don’t waste any scarce natural resources. Plus the truck simulator provides reinforcement of civic values because you have to obey the traffic laws.

* * *

Am I serious, or is this just tongue-in-cheek?

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

March 29, 2017 at 12:37 pm

Videogames in the lives of the unemployed.

Commenter “Simba of the Blogosphere” brought to my attention a rather long essay at The Economist [link has now been fixed] about the role of videogames in the lives of the unemployed.

There’s a lot of musing about whether the gamers are unhealthfully addicted to the games, or they are benefiting from a distraction from depression, and about whether it makes sense that those who choose to work so they can buy big houses with expensive furniture are lauded, while those who choose not to work to play videogames are looked down upon.

But nothing about the future I’ve envisioned when the government solves the unemployment problem by paying people to play videogames.

* * *

Overwatch got better, but now I think I am growing tired of it. I lose more “ranked” games than I win, and my rank keeps going down and down. Down to 1071, which is in the lowest category. You have to get to 1500 to get to the next skill category (and then you probably get some sort of stupid reward like a new player icon or points towards getting a gold weapon which works the same as a regular weapon except it’s gold). There doesn’t seem to be any chance of me becoming a top player.

In this sense, gaming is just like the real world: I am stuck at the bottom.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

March 19, 2017 at 12:31 am

Posted in Labor Markets

Men who play video games instead of working

I’ve had this Washington Post article bookmarked for months, but never wrote a blog post about it.

“When I play a game, I know if I have a few hours I will be rewarded,” he said. “With a job, it’s always been up in the air with the amount of work I put in and the reward.”

That sounds exactly like something I wrote about World of Warcraft in 2006 (more than 10 years ago!):

… Most people toil away at jobs where they never see any direct benefit from their hard work.

This is where World of Warcraft comes in and meets people’s unmet psychological needs. In WoW and similar games, your status increases slowly but surely every time you play. After so many hours in the game, you can see exactly how many more experience points you have, maybe your level has increased, maybe you have better armor or weapons than you had before. Unlike the real world, where you can work 40 hours of overtime and not even get paid for it, if you put an extra 40 hours into WoW you will definitely have something to show for it. Your status within the virtual world of WoW will have increased in ways you can clearly ascertain.

The question is, are video games the cause of men retreating from the conventional workforce, or a symptom?

I do think that video games, as well as other high-tech diversions like internet, social media, high definition TV, make being out of work more bearable and to some extent demotivates people from wanting to get back into the labor force (which for people without self-actualizing jobs is often unpleasant).

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

February 15, 2017 at 12:56 pm

Not so easy to become a plumber

There a certain chorus in the comments on this blog and other “alt-right” places advising that young people should become plumbers because it’s a lot better than getting a college degree.

This article at CBS New York is interesting:

Hundreds of young men are sleeping on the streets of Queens Sunday night for a shot at a job.

CBS2’s Ali Bauman reported they are waiting for an application to the Plumbers Union Apprenticeship Program. One thousand applications are handed out in order Monday morning. After tests and interviews, only a percentage are accepted to the five-year program.

“It’s a long shot, so hopefully I get it,” Anthony Hughes said.

It’s my impression that the open call for a thousand people to fill out the application is for show, and that the real way to get admitted is to know the right people.

* * *

It’s interesting that the article says “Hundreds of young men.” I would have expected it to say “hundreds of young people.” Is there not a single woman who wants the job? Isn’t it politically incorrect to imply that only men can become a plumber? Or is it because the SWPL who write the article has such contempt for the job, he assumes that women are smart enough not to want it?

* * *

Of course the reason why plumbers make such good salaries for blue-collar workers is because of barriers to entry like described in the article. If anyone who shows up could become a plumber, salaries would tank. There are already many times as many applicants as there are slots available, so it’s bad advice to advise even MORE people to try to become plumbers.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

July 18, 2016 at 2:50 pm

The NY Times editorial board moves in the correct direction on college, but…

So the NY Times editorial board finally notices that there are too many college graduates and not enough jobs.

[T]he economy does not produce enough jobs that require college degrees. Private-sector white-collar jobs can increasingly be moved offshore and automated, while public-sector jobs that require degrees, notably teaching, have been decimated by deep layoffs and feeble hiring. Business investment and consumer spending have suffered in the busts of recent decades, and government spending has not picked up the slack, leading to chronic shortfalls in demand for goods, services and employees. One sign of the downshift is that much of the recent job growth has been in lower-paying occupations. Worse, there is little evidence of a turnaround. In the past five years, postings for jobs that do not require a college degree have steadily outpaced postings for those that do.

Unfortunately, the Editorial Board is clueless about the most obvious way to increase outcomes for college graduates. We need less immigration. Immigrants are streaming into the country and they are taking jobs that could have been done by American college graduates.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

May 22, 2016 at 9:57 am

Posted in Labor Markets

%d bloggers like this: