Lion of the Blogosphere

Archive for the ‘Labor Markets’ Category

Libertarians are wrong about taxation

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Libertarians believe that if Lazy Farmer works in his fields for 6 hours a day, and Industrious Farmer works in his fields 12 hours a day, and Industrious Farmer consequently grows twice as many crops, that it’s not fair to assign a higher tax rate to Industrious Farmer because that would punish him for his hard work in creating value.

If we still had an 18th century agrarian economy, I too would be a libertarian economist! But that’s not how our modern economy works. People aren’t rich because they put in more hours tilling the fields. They are rich because they own monopolies. They are rich because they have the right degrees, the right contacts, the right personality, to get into the high-paying career tracks. Wealth has become divorced from actual value creation. The people doing the real value-creating work, like the engineers (many of whom are from foreign countries because value-creation is work that Americans don’t want to do), are paid salaries on the high-end of middle-class but they are not wealthy.

Another libertarian talking point I see a lot is that high taxes suppress value creation because people will choose not to work. But all empirical evidence from the real economy shows this argument is bogus. The people most likely to be sitting home playing videogames are those who would have had the lowest tax rates had they been working in the labor force. Those putting in the most hours, like BIGLAW partners and investment bankers, have extremely high hourly incomes (and thus the highest tax rates). And the argument assumes that these rich people create value in the first place. There’s a case to be made that our nation would be better off if BIGLAW partners and investment bankers worked fewer hours instead of more hours.

As we move more into a post-scarcity economy, we see jobs being a luxury for the rich rather than the means to create value. Remember my blog post about Toby Milstein? She is an heiress who never needs to work a day in her life, and she lives in the Dakota, but she still has a regular job in “business development” for a tech startup, because not having a job is for the lower classes.

Libertarians say that taxation is “theft.” But as I’ve shown, REALLY rich people voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by a 3 to 1 margin. Even though it was well known that there would be higher taxes under Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. People don’t vote for theft.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

July 19, 2017 at 9:35 am

Unemployed men playing videogames, in the New York Times

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In the Upshot column in the New York Times: Why Some Men Don’t Work: Video Games Have Gotten Really Good.

More than ten years ago, I first wrote about how games like World of Warcraft mimic work but provide a better experience because your efforts are always rewarded. I’m so ahead of everyone else, yet I have a crappy job with no career future.

People, especially men, want to feel like they are working to accomplish something, but labor-market work doesn’t give most people that feeling. Especially not those without college degrees and good career tracks.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

July 6, 2017 at 8:13 am

Posted in Labor Markets

More on the topic of unemployed young men who play video games

Commenter “Simba” provided me a link to this article (or maybe more of an essay than an article) at Reason:

It’s another take on the topic of young men who are playing video games instead of working.

All of these types of articles are addressing a topic I addressed many years before (I was way ahead of the times.) This is what I wrote in 2006:

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.

* * *

In Overwatch, although your skill rank never goes up, they do give you some consolation prizes like a higher “level” and loot boxes that give you things like “skins” and “victory poses.” But I don’t care about that stuff. I feel like the real game in Overwatch is your competitive skill rank, and therefore Overwatch kind of depresses me because it demonstrates that I’m not even very good at playing video games.

Maybe I should switch to a role playing game (one of many WoW clones) which gives you the illusion that, as long as you keep putting in playtime, you’re becoming more powerful.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

June 14, 2017 at 7:37 am

The salary taboo

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

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

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

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