Linky Friday #36

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Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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188 Responses

  1. Avatar LeeEsq
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    says:

    L1, this makes sort of intuitive sense but it seems kind of implausible. Does geeky stereotypes prevent non-geeky men from pursuing STEM careers to?

    R2, how are skinny homes different from the shot-gun homes? I wish people would stop coming up with cute neologism for things that we have perfectly adequate terms for.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe in reply to LeeEsq
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      says:

      In other contexts, they’re called spite houses. (though not all spite houses are tiny)Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to LeeEsq
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      says:

      FWIW, I find “skinny home” to be a clearer term than “shot-gun home”.Report

    • Avatar DavidTC in reply to LeeEsq
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      says:

      I have three comments about these houses:

      1) In what possible way is building two houses separated by a few inches better than building townhouses with shared walls? It takes more material, more heating and cooling, more of everything, and has no actual advantage at all except ego pumping to live in an ‘actual house’ instead of a condo.

      They assert that the fees are ‘smaller’ than condo fees, but that can’t possibly be _caused_ by how they’re building the houses. (Shared walls, apparently, have really expensive upkeep? Somehow?) That’s just because they’re getting less amenities than condos usually provide, like no pool.

      2) Five hundred thousand fucking dollars. At the low end. For 1000 square feet of house.

      Yes, I know these are in the city, and land cost is high, but, uh, we’re talking about 600 square feet of land.

      3) Nice to see they’re wasting all their space on stairs and garages and external walls. Instead of, I dunno, building a damn building of flat condos with shared garage and elevators and houses you didn’t have to walk up a two flights of steps to go to bed in.

      Why do I get the suspicion that when the analogy was made to a ‘Prius’, it wasn’t because of the reason that normal people buy a Prius, it was that asshole stereotype Prius buyer.

      I guess buying giant pointless super-expensive houses got too mainstream for those twits. Now they must buy _tiny_ pointless super-expensive houses.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to DavidTC
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        says:

        1) Soundproofing. Duh. Ain’t never lived in a duplex, have ya?
        2) cost of living/standard of living. probably still cheaper than san francisco.
        3) Stairs are good for people. Exercise is good for people
        4) yes, impoverishment of america. Yet another reason that moving out to the suburbs right now is a really dumb idea.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to DavidTC
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        says:

        1) Soundproofing. Duh. Ain’t never lived in a duplex, have ya?

        Except they could just _buy_ soundproofing material and put it in walls during construction for a good deal less money than building two exterior walls, and it will work much better at soundproofing. (Depending on what the walls are made of, it’s entirely possible that the existing setup is not very soundproof anyway.)

        2) cost of living/standard of living. probably still cheaper than san francisco.

        Looking at the cost of houses in Echo Park, it’s not apparently that far out of line for houses of that square footage. So this is less an absurdity of ‘skinny houses’ and more an absurdity of LA’s housing market.

        3) Stairs are good for people. Exercise is good for people

        Except that constantly going up and down stairs is not good for your knees. And in a flat condo, you have to walk _farther_, which is just as much exercise. There is no health benefit to translating horizontal movement, which our legs are designed to do, into stair movement, which our legs are _not_ designed to do.

        Now, yes, if you live on the third floor of a block of condos, walking up the stairs instead of taking the elevator is better, because any movement is better than none. But stairs are not better than walking, so it’s even better for you to take a lap around the garage and then take the elevator up.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to DavidTC
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        says:

        David,
        use of knees is good for knees.
        Humans are not designed for sitting, either, you know?

        Vertical movement is much more energy generating than horizontal movement.
        Check the difference between “Hiking” and “Walking” on the calories per minute charts.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to DavidTC
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        says:

        use of knees is good for knees.

        It’s not ‘use of the knees’ that’s the problem.

        Repeatedly dropping your body weight seven inches (Like when you go down stairs) onto a single leg is not good for your knees. And it’s often not that awesome for your feet, either.

        That is not something that happens anywhere near as often in nature. In nature, people walk slowly on slopes, and people don’t take downhill slopes of the same slope as stairs at anywhere near the speed they take stairs. (I have lived in a house with a driveway of much lesser slope than stairs…and it’s annoying as hell to walk straight down. And that’s _concrete_, where I’m sure to have good footing…we go even slower down hills.)

        Stairs gave us the ability to just repeatedly drop, over and over, and land well enough we can do it very quickly. It’s great for efficiency…it’s not great for the body.

        This is not to say it going to always, or even usually, turn into a problem. However, if you have any sort of knee problems, repeatedly going down stairs will exacerbate them.

        Upward climbing, OTOH, is fine. That we _are_ designed to do perfectly well. Which is probably why there are ‘stair climbing’ machines but no ‘stair descending’ machines.Report

    • Avatar Cathy in reply to LeeEsq
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      says:

      “Shot-gun house” is a specific type of house plan, not just a generically small-front-long-sides design. It’s characterized by having only one story, and being one room wide and several rooms deep, with no hallway; you walk through each room to get to the next. Most common in NOLA and the surrounding area. Not having the hallway adds more useful space, at the cost of individual privacy. You would never build them new today, for that reason, which is something some people were concerned about after Katrina; living in a house like that, particularly when an entire community lives in houses like that, has implications for community structure and values, that might be changed if you rebuilt all the houses in, say, a more modern ranch design. (Or it might not, but people who care about architectural design of houses prefer to believe that it matters.) The 9th Ward had a lot of shotgun houses, for example.

      tl;dr – shotgun houses are basically the opposite concept to these skinny modern things, except that they both are longer than they are wide.Report

  2. Avatar Kazzy
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    says:

    F1: I saw a show on HC called “How the States Got Their Shapes”. It went into some depth on the New England town that is bifurcated by the US/Canadian border that the video touched one. Apparently, everything more-or-less worked until the border security crackdown post 9-11. Now it is such that people can’t cross the street to see their neighbors without going through a checkpoint. It is entirely possible that this was sensationalized for the show, but it was really interesting to watch.Report

  3. Avatar Pierre Corneille
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    says:

    About the “science” myths [E1], the first “myth” is one example why I often don’t like the “let’s expose the myths” mentality: “The brontosaurus never existed.” : when I hear that, I take it to mean there was never any such animal or any animal comparable to it, and all the skeletons, etc., were just figments of the imagination or very skillful mispairings of fossils. But the article’s the explanation goes on to say that there’s a very similar animal to the brontosaurus and some paleontologist thought what we call the brontosaurus was actually a different species from that animal. It’s a question of how you define species, and not one of incontrovertible fact and something dead wrong.

    I suppose this is all harmless as far as it goes, but it’s irksome.Report

  4. Avatar aaron david
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    says:

    Just want to say, excellent set of links. Lots to ponder on a Friday.Report

  5. Avatar LeeEsq
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    says:

    L2 and E3 lead to the same page.Report

  6. Avatar Michael Cain
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    says:

    No one has remarked yet that the Energy and Entertainment sections are both labeled E1, E2, etc?Report

  7. Avatar Will Truman
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    says:

    Lee & Michael, fixed!Report

  8. Avatar Kim
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    says:

    r3,
    Yeah, will go ahead and fix structural problems (SPRAWL!) by throwing more people at Detroit.
    I’d be far less concerned about doing this in Detroit than in Pittsburgh. Hispanics actively emmigrate From pittsburgh at a rapid clip.Report

  9. Avatar Kim
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    says:

    H1,
    Yeah, let’s let one ignorant person take down other ignorant people.

    [Translation: author has zero access to commercial research,
    and is unconcerned about epidemiology, for all his knowledge
    of chemistry.]Report

  10. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist
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    says:

    EE3 – Does Germany have similar problems to the US in regard to what technology can be installed into a reactor? I am not an expert on the state of BWR & PWR design, but I hear a lot about not only how hard it is to build a new plant with state-of-the-art technology, but also how hard it is to upgrade existing plants to make them safer.

    If that is the case, well, then coal is the devil they know…Report

    • …but I hear a lot about… how hard it is to upgrade existing plants to make them safer.

      I don’t know about the NRC, but I would be reluctant to authorize any substantial changes to a reactor that is 30-40 years old, based on 40-50 year-old designs. You could tinker with things like better circulation pumps (and I think those things have been done), but for the most part, they are what they are. Economics seems to work against it as well — SoCal Edison declined to spend another billion dollars on San Onefre (where they weren’t even touching the reactor proper) and shut the suckers down instead.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Michael Cain
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        says:

        I think I phrased that wrong. How hard is it to get newer technology approved for older plant design?

        For example, a computer system can react thousands of times faster than a human to avoid an accident. How hard would it be to get such a system approved for use?Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Michael Cain
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        says:

        For example, a computer system can react thousands of times faster than a human to avoid an accident.

        So can analog electronics. Some (not all) US reactors have been upgraded to digital (ie, software) primary I&C systems. But even the remaining analog systems are electronic, reacting at electronic speeds. Most of the problems that have occurred over the years have involved peripheral components: pump and valve failures, damaged mechanical items, bad sensors, actuators that fail to respond to automatic control signals, etc. It doesn’t matter whether a human, analog electronics, or digital software “hits the button”; a bent control rod is not going to drop into the reactor.Report

  11. Avatar greginak
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    says:

    L2- Good bit, The Wilkinson guy must be some kind of commie to point out the obviously circular nature of the rights view on pay. I mean it is circular and simplistic, but still. The left view is presented reasonably although it will never be functional in any large scale which is the problem. His points about unions are well taken and does delineate the conflict.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to greginak
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      says:

      What market wages are is efficient—they induce people to seek out the jobs where their labor will have the highest marginal productivity. “Fair,” not so much. It’s not fair that American workers earn much more than workers in third-world countries just because they were lucky enough to be born in the US.

      But it’s no sillier than the rubbish on the left about oppression and bargaining power.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Brandon Berg
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        says:

        Bargaining power is of no importance, because if it were, Adam Smith would have said so.

        It’s not fair that American workers earn much more than workers in third-world countries just because they were lucky enough to be born in the US.

        And supply curves are of no importance even if Adam Smith said so.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg
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        says:

        Right. The guy talking about marginalism thinks Adam Smith had the last word on economics.

        And supply curves are of no importance even if Adam Smith said so.

        Yes, obviously the wage differentials are caused by supply and demand. But the fact that people are born into economies with market wages for more or less equivalent labor that vary by orders of magnitude isn’t “fair” in any meaningful sense of the word, despite having a perfectly rational explanation.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Brandon Berg
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        says:

        Ah, the “You didn’t earn that” speech.Report

  12. Avatar Michael Cain
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    says:

    EE4: A variety of thoughts…

    Natural gas pipelines are not being built because NG prices are already too low. In North Dakota, for example, NG is a free byproduct from pumping oil. However, current prices are too low to justify building the gas collection network, so the NG is simply flared off. The cost of building out the collection networks for shale gas fields is exacerbated by the well characteristics: very high decline rates mean short well lifetimes [1], so the collection network is constantly having to be torn down and rebuilt. The companies that are pure, or nearly pure, NG fracking businesses are bleeding money.

    The simplistic Peak Oil Theory (global production is about to fall off a cliff and civilization will collapse) was never held by most serious analysts. Serious analysts predicted an “undulating plateau” for production with a steady upward trend in prices. Higher prices support production from more marginal resources, as well as tempering demand. But prices aren’t going to drop very much, because if they do, production from the marginal resources declines quickly [2]. There have also been a bunch of stories recently saying that we have reached peak oil demand, so the peak oil supply arguments are worthless. Not correct (at least IMO), since the serious peak oil argument is not that we “run out” of oil, but that the cost of extracting the remaining oil is too high to support large demand.

    Brent pricing is based largely on European demand. There’s a bunch of evidence suggesting that more of Europe is headed back into recession, which will drop the price of Brent as demand declines. The question about how far global oil prices fall depends on the marginal consumer as well as the marginal producer. The growing middle class in China/India are the marginal consumer today (and for the foreseeable future): if they keep selling cars at the current rate and those new owners buy a few gallons of gas per month, global crude prices stay up.

    [1] A few years back Chesapeake Energy finished the first of a set of wells on the grounds of the DFW airport. Among the claims made by Chesapeake at the time were that the wells would be producing for 50 years or more. Several of those have now been shut down and plugged because the gas flow rates had dropped to the point where keeping them open was impractical.

    [2] North Dakota’s Bakken is a fascinating case. We know enough now to put a reliable estimate on the cost of producing there at about $80/bbl. Like shale gas wells, oil wells in the Bakken Shale have very high decline rate. Everyone who plugs the data now available into a appropriate depletion model gets the same result: at current drilling rates, North Dakota production reaches a peak at about 850,000 bbl/day in 2014/15 and then begins to decline. If they stop drilling, production falls very quickly (around 50% per year). If crude oil prices drop towards $80/bbl, Bakken drilling will stop.Report

  13. Avatar NewDealer
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    says:

    L1: I wonder how many guys in geek culture or comp-sci/engineering want it this way. I am not part of geek culture but have read a lot of debates about it on the net in recent years. It seems to me that there are still a lot of guys in geek culture and tech who want it to be their little tree house/No girls allowed.

    I also say as a San Franciscan, I am rather not interested in tech. I am not anti-science or technology but conversations about startups, apps, VC, and disruption bore me.

    E2: This is nothing new. In the 19th century, there used to be a concept called The Well-Made Play and it was literally a formula/very detailed structure of a play and what should happen and when.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Well-made_playReport

    • Avatar Kim in reply to NewDealer
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      says:

      Relatively few guys want there to be “no girls”, because, umm… it’s hard for them to date as is, and it’s nice that girls can share interests.

      This is far different from wanting to preserve “geek culture” (a perspective the military shares…)Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Kim
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        says:

        Relatively few guys want there to be “no girls”, because, umm… it’s hard for them to date as is, and it’s nice that girls can share interests.

        When Kim is right, she is right. We would all have loved it had there been more female math majors. I do have a theory for what there aren’t, but I’m saving it for when I want to be banished from this site forever.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Kim
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        says:

        We would all have loved it had there been more female math majors.

        The math department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has demonstrated that you can attract women to mathematics at both undergraduate and Ph.D. level, and that they can succeed. But damn, it took Jim Lewis and his supporters 25 years to make it happen.Report

      • Avatar trumwill in reply to Kim
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        says:

        If I recall, women in math actually isn’t the problem. Like medicine, they’re well represented there.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Kim
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        says:

        Not at Berkeley when I was there, they weren’t.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Kim
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        says:

        Can’t speak to Berkeley, and I suspect it may have changed in the intervening years, but women are 40+% of math majors. Which isn’t parity, but isn’t bad. Much of the rest of STEM would be very, very happy with that.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Kim
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        says:

        Time is probably the issue more than location.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Kim
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        says:

        If I recall, women in math actually isn’t the problem.

        UNL continues to be singled out for its program and results. I suspect that would not be true if there were a broad perception that there’s no longer a problem to solve.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to NewDealer
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      says:

      I always liked having girls in the clubhouse, even though I am married.

      It’s always nice having a different perspective on the things that are important to you.Report

  14. Avatar ScarletNumber
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    says:

    [R1]

    Actually, if you look at the study, housing vouchers DO disperse crime. They just can’t prove causality. Also, the study controls for race and income, which is like saying that over-eating doesn’t cause weight gain, controlling for caloric intake….

    Either way, the effect is negative. Saying that the crime goes up because the recipients are poor NAMs rather than housing-voucher recipients per se is really an academic exercise.Report

  15. Avatar ScarletNumber
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    says:

    [H2]

    As America gets fatter, acceptance of fatness is not abating.

    Do you mean disapproval instead of acceptance? #confusedReport

  16. Avatar DavidTC
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    says:

    I’m confused about the ‘fracking chemicals don’t reach the water’ thing.

    Mainly, I ask: Who said they did?

    Everyone knows the chemicals they’re using for the fracking don’t generally reach the drinking water, or we would detect them _in the drinking water_. Duh.

    Wasn’t the problem that the natural gas reaches the water? That’s why people can light their water on fire.

    Also, is anyone else baffled at the idea they’re allowed to call such chemicals ‘trade secrets’? From what I understand, to keep a trade secret, you have to attempt to protect it…you can’t just assert trade secret protections for every random thing.

    You know how not to protect a trade secret? Insert it into the ground and leave it laying there where anyone can drill down and recover it, and run it though a mass spectrometer to find out what it is.Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to DavidTC
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      says:

      You know how not to protect a trade secret? Insert it into the ground and leave it laying there where anyone can drill down and recover it, and run it though a mass spectrometer to find out what it is.

      It’s been a long time since I had intellectual property protection training at Bell Labs, but IIRC all you really need to do is declare that it’s a trade secret, then act internally as if it is. Never tell anyone on the outside, on-pain-of-death clauses in employment contracts, etc.

      Coca-Cola’s formula is a recognized trade secret and they sell the stuff in job lots to anyone who wants to buy it. The contents have been largely reverse-engineered. There are still tightly held “secrets” to the process of mixing those ingredients — sequence, temperature, pressure, etc. Fracking is the same way. It’s not just what’s in the fluid, but the order in which various steps — fracturing, introduction of proppants, acid etch — are applied, and at what pressures.

      Drilling down to reach the remnants of the fracking fluid is likely illegal. The company that drilled the well and used the fluid you’re trying to sample has an ironclad license to be the only party drilling that structure. Besides, wells are expensive and hard to hide. Recovered fluid generally has to be trucked to a disposal site and it’s much cheaper to bribe a truck driver. In either case, the used fluid is contaminated with other stuff from the rock — historically, it’s one-time-use stuff. The oil field service companies are just now introducing equipment to allow on-site treatment of the recovered fluid to get water that’s clean enough to use to mix fresh fluid.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Michael Cain
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        says:

        It’s been a long time since I had intellectual property protection training at Bell Labs, but IIRC all you really need to do is declare that it’s a trade secret, then act internally as if it is. Never tell anyone on the outside, on-pain-of-death clauses in employment contracts, etc.

        Erm, that’s all you need to do in generally, because generally it doesn’t actually _matter_. There’s a lot of ‘trade secrets’ out there that are just called such.

        But if you want trade secret protections _under the law_, if you want extra penalties and gag orders from people who have illegally taken it from you, you have to do more than just assert it’s a trade secret.

        And if they can get a hold of it without breaking a single law or NDA, it’s not a trade secret at all. If, for example, you have placed it on random people’s property who have not signed NDAs.

        Fracking is the same way. It’s not just what’s in the fluid, but the order in which various steps — fracturing, introduction of proppants, acid etch — are applied, and at what pressures.

        Um, yes, that clearly is a trade secret…but that’s not actually what anyone wants.

        What people are actually demanding is the _chemical composition_ of the stuff put in the ground.

        Which people can get by pulling it back out, if anyone else had a well. So _that_ isn’t a trade secret. You cannot insert something underground under an entire region, and then assert it is a trade secret in court.

        I.e., if Coca-Cola tried to assert the _chemical composition_ of Coke was a trade secret, in a lawsuit where someone is suing them asserts there is arsenic in it (And for some reason couldn’t get a sample of Coke for themselves to test.), Coca-Cola would get laughed out of court.

        Drilling down to reach the remnants of the fracking fluid is likely illegal.

        Drilling down certainly isn’t illegal, if you do it on someone’s land that allows it. Mining rights give a certain individual the right to _extract_ a certain thing from the ground…they don’t forbid anyone from putting holes in the ground.

        Now, whether or not they can extract the fluid is another issue. But mining rights generally don’t include stuff that _other people_ put down there. If someone else has the gold mining rights to my property, that doesn’t mean they can dig up a box I buried in the yard with gold in it. Mining rights almost always are of a certain compound, and only cover _natural_ deposits of that thing, so asserting mining rights over a random liquid they themselves put there won’t work.

        So I’m pretty certain that mining rights don’t cover the liquid…but the drilling company might attempt to assert the liquid is _still their property_.

        Which might actually stand up in court, but probably not. If I spray liquid on someone else’s property, I generally am considered to have given up my property rights to that liquid. I can’t demand they return my water or oil or urine or whatever. And that probably applies to inserting liquids deep underground on other people’s property.

        But regardless, I’ve certainly lost any trade secret protections of what that liquid is.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Michael Cain
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        says:

        What people are actually demanding is the _chemical composition_ of the stuff put in the ground.

        I understand all of your arguments, but would rephrase this sentence. What people are actually demanding is that the company doing the fracking (often a service company, not the owner/operator of the well) reveal something for free that those people could obtain legally through other methods, but those methods cost a million dollars. No one ever claimed that just because I can run Coca-Cola through a mass spectrometer that Coke is required to hand me a list of ingredients.

        I’m sympathetic to the problem. I’d like to see the states set up some sort of testing process, analogous in some way to sealed court records, that test water samples against the list of stuff in the fracking fluid and if there’s no match, there’s no disclosure. If there is a match, only the offending substance is identified.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Michael Cain
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        says:

        What people are actually demanding is that the company doing the fracking (often a service company, not the owner/operator of the well) reveal something for free that those people could obtain legally through other methods, but those methods cost a million dollars.

        Those people are demanding the company doing the fracking reveal, for free, something that _that company is injecting into the ground that those people own_.

        Fracking companies certainly have the right to drill and take natural gas, and I’m sure the mineral rights they got from the state specifies they can do it via fracking.

        But they’re leaving material on (Or, rather, in.) other people’s property. Mineral rights don’t give someone the right to _leave unknown shit laying around on someone else’s land_ when they’re done mining. No, it’s not the job of the property owner to pay millions of dollars to recover _someone’s else_ waste and test it.

        It’s like suddenly with fracking everyone forgets how property rights work. Just because I have bought mining right from the state to someone else’s land doesn’t mean I can dig a hole and dump random chemicals in it that I refuse to disclose and say ‘It’s mining! I’m allowed!’.

        No one ever claimed that just because I can run Coca-Cola through a mass spectrometer that Coke is required to hand me a list of ingredients.

        And that analogy makes no sense. No one is asking for what’s in it, or if they are, it’s because they think it’s the easiest thing. They would be entirely happy with a sample of it.

        And if you think a court wouldn’t direct Coca-Cola to hand over a sample of their product, you’re very confused.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Michael Cain
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        says:

        I’d love to have a lawyer or three chime in on this.

        My sense of things differs from David’s, but I could be wrong.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Michael Cain
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        says:

        I don’t actually know what the law says.

        I do know a little about trade secrets, so I know the idea the chemical composition of the end result, which they _leave laying around on other people’s property_, cannot possibly be a ‘trade secret’. You cannot have a trade secret that consists of things you’ve randomly distributed buried under the ground of people not under an NDA. That is complete and utter nonsense.

        And hence, with it _not_ being a trade secret, it seems rather odd that courts have refused to make them hand it over. At least the general chemical composition of it, if not the specific amounts and whatnot.

        But, of course, we’re talking about asshole ‘pro-business’ courts, who forget entirely how property rights work when that property is owned by individuals and businesses randomly harm it. See also: A system that will refuse to arrest or even _question_ bank officials for burglary when they accidentally ‘foreclose’ on (Aka, steal all the stuff of) the wrong people, but will happily convict protesters of trespassing if they accidentally stray over an imaginary line on the ground.Report

      • Avatar George Turner in reply to Michael Cain
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        says:

        You can infer the chemical composition from the application. It’s going to be a lot of water, salt (NaCl or KCl), and sand. To an immense amount of that, you might toss in a few gallons of Tide detergent, a few cans of WD-40, some Rust-O-Leum, some 10W-30, and maybe a jug or two of HCl or battery acid to attack the rock a little bit. It’s not going to be nearly as nasty as what was already in the ground.Report

  17. Avatar ScarletNumber
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    says:

    [H1]

    On the other side of the fence is cyclamate, which is used in Sweet’N Low in Canada, but is banned here.Report

  18. Avatar Pinky
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    says:

    H2 – Of course we don’t like overweight people even as we become more overweight. That’s the psychology of eating disorders. Put skinny girls on fashion magazines for years and sooner or later everyone’s going to become bulimic and hate fat people, or become obese and hate fat people. You see a lot of this reaction to one extreme or the other, especially in matters involving self-control.

    Worth noting – the picture accompanying the article had a different (wrong) aspect ratio than the original.Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to Pinky
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      says:

      On the other hand as people get more over weight it becomes much more a health issue than one of aethstics. Being 20 or 30 or even 40 pounds over suggested weight isn’t necessarily that much of a health issue for a variety of issues. Being 80 or 100 pounds over, is often a health issue.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to greginak
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        says:

        Health, and the fact that it’s self-induced and allegedly repairable, are the shoddy platform on which the self-righteousness stands.

        The discussion on obesity, and how we treat the obese, in my view, tracks cultural disgust far more closely than it tracks health risks.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to greginak
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        says:

        I agree obese people often get treated poorly. That is, besides being mean and wrong, also unhelpful. Obesity can also be unhealthy. To many conversations get bogged down with people talking about health risks, which are real, when they really mean “disgust.” Then people who rightly rail against the disgust downplay the health risks.

        Culture is often a real PITA. We all, i think, struggle with how much power we ascribe to culture and what to do about it.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 in reply to greginak
        Ignored
        says:

        There’s also the fact that while, at it’s root, obesity is simple calories in, calories out — some people’s bodies are just jerks.

        Take PCOS — it’s a lovely problem wherin a woman’s hormone balances and blood sugar and insulin resistances basically conspire to create feedback cycle that worsens constantly, with the net effect of providing too much testosterone AND convincing the body it’s both starving AND should use every calorie to produce fat.

        Used to be “lose weight and exercise” (which didn’t work very well, because the feedback cycles were ugly. Sure, a starvation diet and heavy exercise would flat out work — but you’d have a person that constantly had no energy and was miserable, and all that work would have a fraction fo the results it would for others).

        Then there was “use birth control” — stabilized the hormone side of the reaction. Now? They often use glucaphage (to treat insulin resistance) and birth control pills (attacks both sides of the feedback cycle).

        A girl I knew had it. She took glucaphage — glucaphage alone (she was trying to get pregnant) for her PCOS. In eight to ten months, without a single change in diet or exercise, she lost 20% of her body weight. She went from ‘obese’ to ‘overweight’ just by fixing a single feedback cycle among several that regulates how the human body manages energy input and output.

        That’s the problem with obesity in America. Maybe you’re a glutton. Maybe you have health problems. Who knows? But we’re all happy to judge you and claim you’re a fat fat fatty who can’t keep his fat mouth closed.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to greginak
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        says:

        It seems likely to me that many of the health problems that can promote obesity are the result of genetic hypersensitivity to the awful diets that almost all first-worlders eat. Which is to say, yes, it’s likely true that many obese people have the same eating habits as many non-obese people, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be helped by dietary interventions.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to greginak
        Ignored
        says:

        This is confusing. I have no idea now what you are trying to say, so I will not take a chance of further confusing matters by guessing… See, I don’t even understand what comments like this are supposed to mean.

        Fair enough.Report

  19. Avatar George Turner
    Ignored
    says:

    Some more links.

    A cute new mammal has been “discovered”. link.

    Contrary to the article’s closing, we find new mammals all the time. There’s the giant muntjac (Muntiacus vuquangensis) discovered in 1994, the leaf deer (Muntiacus putaoensis) described in 1999, the Truong Son muntjac, described in 1997, the Saola, or Asian unicorn (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis), one of which was finally captured in 2010, the arunachal macaque (Macaca munzala) from 2005.

    Just in the 2000?s we disovered four new species of possum, a bandicoot, a new species of elephant (how often does THAT happen?), three new species of lagomophs (rabbits), a dolphin, two whales, a giant peccary (like a pig),a mouse deer (chevrotain), 16 lemurs, 9 monkeys, 30 bats, and a whole bunch of rodents.

    In medical news, scientists may have just found the culprit behind Alzheimers.

    In a groundbreaking study from Stanford University School of Medicine, researchers detailed the significance of a protein called C1q, which was previously known as the initiator of the immune system response. After analyzing brain tissue in mice of varying ages, as well as postmortem samples of a 2-month-old infant and an elderly person, they discovered that C1q exponentially increases in the aging brain – creating as much as a 300-fold buildup. Comparatively, most age-associated increases of proteins in the brain are only three- or four-fold.

    The protein is the one that triggers the cascade of actions that cause the immune system to flush dead tissue. In Alzheimer’s patients, its building up on dendrites. linkReport

  20. Avatar roger
    Ignored
    says:

    Thanks for the cool Economist link. Here is what I posted on thei comments to Will’s piece. The rest is. It and pasted…

    WW mocks both sides.

    “As a practical matter, everyone sees wage determination as a matter of both supply and demand and bargaining power… For those on the right, supply and demand tends to be the dominant explanatory variable. For those on the left, bargaining power is the dominant explanatory variable.”

    This is true, but it misses an essential point. As competition improves, bargaining position becomes insignificant (of very marginal, though not zero significance). In a reasonably competitive and transparent market, each party accepts the best offer. Most importantly, the emphasis on power misses that the real competition was never between the employer and employee, but between employers and competing employers, and between employees and other interested applicants.  The left’s framing is simply unsound.

    Said another way, bargaining power can determine which brick layer gets the higher wage.  Long term, absent coercion, it won’t have much if any effect on average brick layer salary. 

    “People on the left are much more likely to see effort, time, the inherent human dignity of work, and the overall social value of the general enterprise all as part of the contribution and thus relevant to the question of proportional or just compensation.”

    Another way to say this is that people on the left believe that their personal opinion on the value of the dignity of work is an objective reality worth coercively forcing on those that disagree.  

    “In contrast, people on the right are more likely to see the operation of supply and demand in competitive labour markets not only as the primary measure of the economic value of labour, but also as the primary measure of merit, or moral desert.”

    Then those on the right are just as wrong and economically confused. This is indeed “laughably simplistic.” Supply and demand do not reflect merit or moral desert any more than the scoreboard in football represents moral desert at the end of a game, (and Will knows this.)  This is conflating fairness according to the rules with some kind of cosmic justice.

    “The wages of public employees, set outside the “real” market, reflect special-interest politics, not supply and demand, and therefore are likely unmoored from the simple justice of the market.”

    He mocks both sides with this one.  I will agree that special interest politics does indeed erase competition and supply and demand and convert it into a game of power politics.  Let us not forget that there is a taxpayer who is being held hostage. The politician and union boss are in cahoots to fleece the victim, and the victim is the last tax payer to leave Detroit.

    “the key explanatory difference is that people on the left are more likely to see markets as creatures of politics, and to see wage-determination therefore as a combative process of political and legal bargaining.”

    In other words they see everything through a zero sum, win lose dynamic, and that which is positive sum (voluntary cooperation), they pervert by squeezing into a zero sum box.

    “With the decline of private-sector union power, the working classes have lost their practical ability to claim a decent share of profits, and therefore have gotten buggered by capital. Public-sector unions, on the other hand, have maintained the very practical power to successfully negotiate fair wages and benefits for government employees.”

    Unions — if successful in attaining above market wages — destroy the industry )if it is competitive.) This is inherent in the dynamic of relatively free markets. Above market wages lead to higher prices and lower profits and investment. The market adjusts by moving capital to other-than-labor or to non union labor or to another industry with normal market returns.  I oversimplify, but that is the basic dynamic. Public unions are coercive monopolies with docile sheep to shear. Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to roger
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      says:

      In a reasonably competitive and transparent market, each party accepts the best offer.

      And then there are labor markets.

      How much do the people doing the hiring understand about what skills matter? How much does the guy sitting next to you make? How much does the guy doing your job at the competitors make? What does the guy doing your job halfway across the country make? How much of your manager’s compensation comes from keeping your salary down? How much is compensation set as a pissing match between you and your manager? How good are the people who determine your pay at figuring out how much you contribute?

      Given the lack of information and transparency, labor is the last place you can apply generalizations based on efficient markets.Report

      • Avatar roger in reply to Mike Schilling
        Ignored
        says:

        Q How much do the people doing the hiring understand about what skills matter?

        A To the extend one firm understands better than others it is rewarded and vice versa. Thus the dynamic rewards accuracy over bias.

        Q. How much does the guy sitting next to you make?

        A. You again miss the point. The issue is not how much you can negotiate out of your employer, it is how much you can get from another employer. Like others have said, finding out what others make is both trivial and often counterproductive. You frame the problem wrong and make a mountain out of a you know what.

        Q How much does the guy doing your job at the competitors make?

        A. Wrong Q again. The question is what you can make at a competitor firm. Information and the ability to connect supply and demand countrywide has never been anywhere near as good as it is today.

        Q. How much of your manager’s compensation comes from keeping your salary down?

        A. Again, please try to think in dynamic terms. Successful organizations will set up institutional processes which incentivize managers to keep wages as low as possible to contain expenses and as high as possible to retain and motivate good employees. Less succesful firms will not fo as well.

        Mike, I spent untold YEARS in all-day sessions doing nothing but long drawn out meetings discussing and arguing salaries, raise amounts, comparative studies on who made what, and so on. The goal was to find this balance and also ensure individual managers were in line (and that we were balanced by gender and race).

        If the firms you work for are less worker friendly, then my suggestion is to find a better firm. Again there are ratings on proven family and women and minority friendly firms, of course we are again talking dynamics. The reason firms want to be on the worker friendly lists is because it attracts better class of employees and allows them to add this to their total offer to prospective employees. Yes, it is selfishly motivated. The other question you should ask is why a given employee isn’t seeking out proven worker friendly employers? Are they too greedy — going for a slightly higher wage considering their skills from a less reputable firm?

        Markets have already solved this problem.

        Q. How much is compensation set as a pissing match between you and your manager?

        A. For more successful firms, approximately the right amount. Again though, average brick layer salary is not a function of pissing matches. It is supply and demand. The real pissing match has always been between you and the other people who want your job. Failure to notice this is really odd. The false consciousness of BS worker solidarity.

        Q. How good are the people who determine your pay at figuring out how much you contribute?

        A. See above on competition between firms. Those firms paying too much or too little are very prone to falling to the dingo dogs of market competition,

        Mike, to understand wages, you need to properly grasp the nature of the competition and the incentives and dynamics of free markets.

        Will Wilkinson pointed out how conservatives and progressives think about just wages. My take on it is he was mocking both sides.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling
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        says:

        This is the difference between economics as practiced on the internet and actual science. In physics, you observe and measure things, and try to determine the rules that govern them. In internet economics, you assert the rules, insist that they apply, and never measure or observe anything:

        Does the market do an efficient job of setting wages? Of course it does. It’s a market. Next question.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Mike Schilling
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        says:

        It seems like if “If you don’t like it, you can see if you can find something better elsewhere” is always your answer, then it never even mattered what the question was, or what the facts that spurred it were. If that fact is always good enough as an answer, then what does it matter what other facts there are?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Mike Schilling
        Ignored
        says:

        Does the market do an efficient job of setting wages? Of course it does.

        The word “market” can be defined as “the most efficient mechanism of setting wages”! If labor markets (contingently!) don’t set wages efficiently, that fact (necessarily!) can’t be blamed on markets. Obvs. QED. Next question!Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumber in reply to Mike Schilling
        Ignored
        says:

        You are correct about labor markets.

        The employer-employee market is an oligopsony, not a free market. Anyone who thinks otherwise is letting his slight knowledge of economics be a dangerous thing.Report

      • Avatar roger in reply to Mike Schilling
        Ignored
        says:

        @stillwater And Michael and Mike,

        Mike, sorry, but I practiced the art of practical economics for thirty years and am very proud of my creations and accomplishments. My experience is substantive and concrete, not theoretical. Though in my case my experience revealed the theory is broadly correct. 

        I did not assert perfect efficiency of markets or of any other human institution. I simply pointed out the undisputed fact that market dynamics reward firms for optimizing the balance between knowledge and ignorance, efficiency and investment. If you disagree, please explain how and let me know which systems have better feedback mechanisms. Argue with me, not some efficiency hypothesis. I would love it if you could teach me something useful. 

        Michael,
        I am not sure that is what I said, but I suppose my argument probably does reduce down to “if you can find a better system to set wages then please let me in on it,” Please do be willing to show your work though. Mike didn’t introduce facts, he asked questions which IMO revealed he has mis-framed the problem. If I am wrong show me how and why. 

        SW,
        You are spinning me.  I do not define markets as the most efficient way to set wages. I define markets as institutions of agreed-upon-rules of property and exchange.*

        Or use this definition… 

        http://economics.about.com/cs/economicsglossary/g/market.htm

        I do agree though that markets do a great job of discovering where supply meets demand, and the more efficient and transparent the market, the better it will be at this.  This is not their definition, but it is one thing that they are good at. If you know of a better method, let me know. If you think there is another place where wages should be set instead of where supply meets demand, then we can have that discussion too. Certainly I will agree that a less efficient market can be superior to a more efficient market in some cases based upon some values. For example, if you hate redheads, then you can get superior outcomes for redheads (total destitution) by preventing them from entering the job market. 

        My take on the WW piece is that both sides are wrong on their beliefs about a just wage.  There is no such thing as a just wage or a just price in terms of some cosmic process.  There is no proper, absolute wage.

        Shifting to the price of bread, what is the proper price of bread? There is none. There is the actual price charged, and in relatively free markets that happens to be attracted like gravity toward that place where supply meets demand.

        There are really, really good arguments why you want to allow the price of bread to gravitate to this ever changing point. I am pretty sure you guys know them. My favorite, is that this is the place where at that point in time the highest possible number of positive sum, win win interactions occur. Every other price has fewer mutually positive sum interactions.

        Again there are reasons to override where supply meets demand. Granted. But whenever we do this, we need to be fully cognizant of the costs and negative side effects, especially the hidden ones, that go with it. 

        * SW, you frequently accuse me of circular reasoning. I never, ever GET it when you accuse me. However, I suppose if I was doing it, I would be the last one to notice.  I push back on your accusations, but if I really am doing this, you are doing me a favor by pointing it out. Sincerely. I will try to keep as open a mind as possible.Report

      • Avatar roger in reply to Mike Schilling
        Ignored
        says:

        Scarlet,

        Welcome to the conversation. I am assuming that you are disagreeing with me in some way. If so, please feel free to be specific with what I actually said. I value the dialogue.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Mike Schilling
        Ignored
        says:

        Roger,

        Pearls before swine, friend pearls before swine.Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumber in reply to Mike Schilling
        Ignored
        says:

        @roger The “you” in my comment was directed @mike-schilling.

        You stated “[i]n a reasonably competitive and transparent market, each party accepts the best offer”.

        That is a true statement. However, I agree with @mike-schilling that “reasonably competitive and transparent” does not accurately describe the labor market, particularly for low-level employees. The word for it, IMHO, is oligopsony.

        An economist has no problem with a take-it-or-leave-it offer, but when dealing with actual humans it is problematic. Theoretical economics has to be balanced with life in the real world.Report

      • Avatar roger in reply to Mike Schilling
        Ignored
        says:

        Thanks Scarlet,

        Certainly the word “reasonably” is carrying a lot of weight. Let’s dig deeper…

        I certainly agree that making it more competitive and transparent would make it more efficient and effective of meeting supply with demand. Furthermore I would say this is usually a good thing. Do you agree with both statements?

        More importantly, do you know of better methods of allowing supply and demand to meet other than markets. What do you suggest?

        Or are you arguing for another goal for wages other than where supply meets demand? If so, what is it and why?

        “Theoretical economics has to be balanced with life in the real world.”

        Amen. Feel free to offer some more concrete ideas….Report

      • Avatar roger in reply to Mike Schilling
        Ignored
        says:

        James,

        Shows the value of a California Public education. I had to look up the phrase. LOL.

        Actually I am still grumpy you stopped tagging in on the poverty mega thread. The progressives piled on me but good. I may not be able to sit for a week. ;^)Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumber in reply to Mike Schilling
        Ignored
        says:

        [Edited] I like pie.
        Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling
        Ignored
        says:

        No, ScarletNumber, we don’t play that way here.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling
        Ignored
        says:

        I’ve spent decades observing how poorly compensation matches value. I find the incantation “markets!” unable to persuade me otherwise.Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumber in reply to Mike Schilling
        Ignored
        says:

        @mike-schilling 7:43

        Why was my comment edited while @jm3z-aitch 4:14 allowed to stand?

        Seems like a double standard to me.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Mike Schilling
        Ignored
        says:

        SN, because the original comment didn’t say f/o. I can’t say that I am thrilled with Aitch’s comment, and disagree with its content, but he was essentially trying to be helpful to Roger by suggesting that you are not worth engaging. Proving him wrong is better than f/o.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling
        Ignored
        says:

        There’s a single standard. One comment directed an obscene suggestion at another commenter and one did not.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Mike Schilling
        Ignored
        says:

        The only double standard which might theoretically be invoked is squaring up the smallish mercies you have been shown by the Folks in Charge over and against the way you have failed to observe the policies of this place.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Mike Schilling
        Ignored
        says:

        “Show your work” is condescending as hell (“Can you demonstrate that?” actually treats us like we’re equals rather than a teacher and a pupil), but fine:

        “The issue is not how much you can negotiate out of your employer, it is how much you can get from another employer.”

        “The question is what you can make at a competitor firm.”

        “If the firms you work for are less worker friendly, then my suggestion is to find a better firm.”

        “The real pissing match has always been between you and the other people who want your job. Failure to notice this is really odd. The false consciousness of BS worker solidarity.”

        “Those firms paying too much or too little are very prone to falling to the dingo dogs of market competition,”

        Kind of over and over again. Your basic point is that all other facts in this realm are “insignificant” compared to this basic one. But that basic one is as much a judgement as a fact. It’s not clear to me that is the facts were significantly different this wouldn’t still be your attitude; that it’s just your approach to the question, not an assessment of the actual dynamics.Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumber in reply to Mike Schilling
        Ignored
        says:

        @will-truman
        @jm3z-aitch ‘s comment was personally insulting to me. I responded in an appropriate way, insult for insult. Also, your comment about “proving him wrong” instead is condescending.
        @blaisep I haven’t been shown any “mercies” here. No one is doing me any favors by letting me post here. It isn’t some honor and privlege.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Mike Schilling
        Ignored
        says:

        No condescension was meant, sorry for coming across that way. My point was that prior to this blow-up, you’d been conversing in a productive nature and that is a better approach to Aitch’s comment than f/o.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Mike Schilling
        Ignored
        says:

        Good comment MD. I’m not too proud to piggy back off your work here, so…

        “The issue is not how much you can negotiate out of your employer, it is how much you can get from another employer… The question is what you can make at a competitor firm.”

        Why isn’t what you can negotiate out of your employer? Why isn’t that a just compensation? Also, to actively try to discover the salaries and wages paid at competing firms requires information that most people don’t have at their disposal until they’re openly looking for another job. Which jeopardizes the job they currently hold. If there was more transparency in compensation, then the idealized model might be workable. As it is, it’s a catch-22.

        “If the firms you work for are less worker friendly, then my suggestion is to find a better firm.”

        Sure, from an emotional pov. If a person’s unhappy with their current situation, they should find a better one. But that presupposes a couple of things. One is that there’s a better situation they can move to (is that necessarily so, in your view?). Another is that you’re suggesting that the only choice they can rationally act on is to find a better solution, rather than compel their employer – with whatever leverage they have! – to provide a more worker friendly environment (are employees exempt from using leverage to achieve their goals?).

        “The real pissing match has always been between you and the other people who want your job.”

        Yes, on one level. But that pissing match is what gave rise to the union movement – because people realized that competing against each other wasn’t improving anyone’s condition.

        “Those firms paying too much or too little are very prone to falling to the dingo dogs of market competition,”

        Not true, except by (a priori) definition. Wage prices are just right for firms that succeed, and aren’t for firms that fail. But that presupposes that a whole bunch of conditions are in play that only exist in the idealized case, and the idealized case doesn’t exist in the real world (or we wouldn’t be having this discussion).

        now, I get that you’re trying to advocate for movement in the direction of the idealized case. I don’t object to that. I just think that you view the idealization as a realistic possibility. I don’t. Maybe that’s my conservative side showing thru (smiley face!)Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling
        Ignored
        says:

        Really, your California public school didn’t teach you about the New Testament?Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Mike Schilling
        Ignored
        says:

        On further reflection, the thing about ‘show your work’ being condescending was oversensitive. I can roll with that. I get the basic point being made.Report

      • Given the lack of information and transparency, labor is the last place you can apply generalizations based on efficient markets.

        Bring the rule of law into the equation, especially with the efforts to unionize low-wage service workers, and a discussion of “markets” gets even more complicated. It’s an idea I’ve kicked around a bit and needs a full-length post to discuss. I don’t have the time though.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Mike Schilling
        Ignored
        says:

        Scarlet,

        Given the threading, I can see why you thought my comment was about you. I assure you it wasn’t. I hadn’t yet read your comment(s) when I wrote that. I apologize for the confusion.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Mike Schilling
        Ignored
        says:

        Scarlet, I can vouch for James on this. The only person he’d call a swine on this board is me!Report

      • Avatar roger in reply to Mike Schilling
        Ignored
        says:

        @michael-drew

        “Your basic point is that all other facts in this realm are “insignificant” compared to this basic one. But that basic one is as much a judgement as a fact. It’s not clear to me that is the facts were significantly different this wouldn’t still be your attitude…”

        Mike, I think there really is a foundational truth under here on the nature of markets. If this foundation is if different than I understand I (and it very well might be) I will reform my views.

        The tricky part here is that *negotiation power* isn’t a pristine, stand alone concept. Part of the power is itself derived from supply an demand.  Fewer workers and more demand increases worker bargaining power. Wages will tend to go up due to market forces. Similarly, if you provide a living wage of a thousand dollars a week to workers, you will lower their need to enter the market and thus drive up wages. Again, market forces.

        The area of dispute is that WW posits that some on the left see wages as emerging out of power balance. To the extent it is market force power balance, supply and demand, I agree. Or we agree.

        To the extent it is little guy vs the big guy, I disagree. Let us call this pure power imbalance. I will concede that pure power imbalance could lead to some small marginal effect on average wages. Interference with transparency will also distort markets and wages. I will even concede that rules against sharing wage info could be a harmful interference.

        My argument is that if you trained every brick layer to become a master black belt level negotiator and you built a web site which created perfect transparency on wages and openings that the average clearing price or wage would be about the same. A brick layer is only worth so much.

        Perhaps your argument is that…
        1) worker salaries should be significantly higher (if so why is the best way to do so via market interference? Why should the guy offering a job be the one that pays?)
        2) we can interfere with supply and demand via aid to workers, minimum wage, mandatory benefits and non voluntary unions. This is good because it Increases bargaining power for those we like (workers) for those we disfavor. (what again is your reason to prefer workers over employers? And what are the longer term ramifications on investment and economic growth on workers of doing so?). 

        Excuse me for putting a straw man out there. Please feel free to totally revise it. But at this point it would be helpful to know what exactly you are for.

        A union which is able to establish a monopoly position would severely cripple market based negotiation. It is no longer about supply and demand. It is about pure power. Monopolies work by using coercion to eradicate competition. In this case they make it illegal for non union workers to compete with them for jobs. Unions take from non union members (consumers, capitalists and potential workers) and give to those willing to use force to get their way.  This is why I see coercive unions as equivalent to institutional extortion. The fact that they bleed the industry and undermine themselves over time just makes it worse.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Mike Schilling
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        says:

        The tricky part here is that *negotiation power* isn’t a pristine, stand alone concept. Part of the power is itself derived from supply an demand.

        I don’t think Mike is saying otherwise. (I myself am not really arguing anything here, just observing with passing comments.) I don’t think he’s saying that broadly, or certainly on average, labor market prices are divorced from supply and demand quantities. I think he’s just arguing that these markets tend to be far from perfect for various reasons including coordination among buyers, significant heterogeneity in the supply of labor in markets above the most unskilled ones (and even there), and imperfect information on all sides. Inefficiencies that manifest themselves as instances superior or inferior negotiating positions that depart from prevailing (“average”) market conditions on either side abound. None of this is inconsistent with prices generally being determined by supply and demand, but it can be the case that at the same time, individual negotiating situations can be characterized by distinct conditions that lend one side or another unusual bargaining power.

        As a basic matter, it seems almost like you’re forgetting what an average is: an intentional operation that obscures idiosyncratic and particular data. If someone’s saying “Variety!” and you’re shouting back “Average!” it is a quintessential case of discussants talking past each other. I’m sure that’s not actually true, but it almost seems like that’s what you’re missing. Another way I think you are talking past each other is that I think you may each think you are each arguing merely for the inclusion of the factor you are emphasizing, against your partner’s exclusive dismissal thereof. I’m not going to say I don’t have an opinion who is closer to being right about what both he and the partner is doing, but I will say that I can see how you could each reasonably think that about the others argument.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Mike Schilling
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        says:

        … I also think you’re understanding his argument to have much more of the “just wage’ component that Wilkinson was addressing than it’s really meant to have. I think he’s really a more positive than normative point about the efficiency of labor markets and the role of bargaining position in them. (Certainly *I* am not advancing any arguments about a just wage; as I said, I’m not arguing anything per se in this discussion.) Maybe he’s right and maybe he’s wrong about that, but I don’t think he’s making an argument about a just wage. I think he’s responding to a part of your account of wage setting whose practical accuracy he simply disputes.Report

      • Avatar roger in reply to Mike Schilling
        Ignored
        says:

        @stillwater

        Stillwater,

        “Why isn’t what you can negotiate out of your employer? Why isn’t that a just compensation?”

        My point is that average worker salaries are based upon supply and demand not negotiation power. If one worker had better power, he would might be able to get more than the guy next to him. The competition here is between relative power of prospective employees. They are not making the pie of available wages bigger. If they all got better negotiation power at the same time, they would do little to change this number (absent power imbalances which in effect change supply and demand — see my comment to Michael).

        “Also, to actively try to discover the salaries and wages paid at competing firms requires information that most people don’t have at their disposal until they’re openly looking for another job. Which jeopardizes the job they currently hold. If there was more transparency in compensation, then the idealized model might be workable. As it is, it’s a catch-22.”

        Are you suggesting that brick layers would make significantly more if it was easier to compare wages? I suspect you are wrong short term.  Long term I support anything which increases transparency, as it fosters market efficiency, which itself fosters prosperity and a growing pie (and eventually more going to average wages). If this is your argument though, then why aren’t progressives arguing for improved wage transparency systems? Or are they? I will sign on to good ideas here.

        On the issue of workers favoring employee friendly firms, to the extent they do so, they will create demand for such firms.  Those failing to respond will have to pay a wage or other premium. Of course this is another way of saying if workers preferred worker friendly companies they would also lower their wages, as that is why companies selfishly act in employee friendly ways. It allows them to retain and attract workers.  In the end, the average total employee package is going to gravitate toward marginal productivity.

        “…that pissing match is what gave rise to the union movement – because people realized that competing against each other wasn’t improving anyone’s condition.”

        Exactly. For thousands of years the guilds and craftsmen learned that if you coercively restrict local competition and restrict imports, you can extract higher margins with less work.Unions continue this long tradition of beggaring each other. The term free markets pertains partly to eliminating this coercive beggaring of fellow humans. This institutional exploitation. Those with a preferred position (union job) use their privileged position and force to screw those without a job, and force consumers to pay higher prices. 

        “Not true [that firms paying too much or little tend to fail], except by (a priori) definition. Wage prices are just right for firms that succeed, and aren’t for firms that fail. But that presupposes that a whole bunch of conditions are in play that only exist in the idealized case, and the idealized case doesn’t exist in the real world (or we wouldn’t be having this discussion).”

        Nope.  If a firm pays significantly below or above the market price for a significant good (let’s say facilities), they are going to either waste money or get substandard facilities. They will be less efficient and this will act as a headwind in their pursuit of sales and capital.  This is not theoretical. Most of my career involved managing these various levers and dealing with the very, very real consequences.  I saw success and failure in terms of market share gains and losses and beyond.  Really. Countless times.  

        The basic dynamic does not require perfect or idealized markets, and never has. This is a red herring. Granted markets work best in an idealized case. They still work in non idealized cases though.  If you are arguing you know a process that works better than a real labor market, let me hear it. The cry that markets are imperfect means nothing absent a recommendation for something more perfect. 

        My guess is you are really arguing that you have values for wage rates that are different than those based upon efficiency. Your argument is really that markets are not perfectly efficient (agreed) AND you would prefer them to be set by other than efficiency even I they were perfectly efficient. Sorry if I assume too much though… Please correct me.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Mike Schilling
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        says:

        Seems to me that the left’s characterization of the labor market applies least where they most want it to apply. That is, yes, in cases of specialized skills where the number of employers is small, transaction costs make it difficult to arrive at an efficient wage. But leftists generally aren’t complaining about the wages of rocket scientists. They’re complaining about fast-food workers making minimum wage instead of $15/hour.

        But this is the segment of the labor market where the perfect-market assumptions most closely match reality. In any given city there are many different employers of unskilled labor, and there’s minimal firm-specific investment by workers. Furthermore, unemployment in this segment is quite high. If employers are getting a screaming deal on these workers, why aren’t they hiring more?Report

      • Avatar roger in reply to Mike Schilling
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        says:

        Brandon

        I was hoping to get into this same line of discussion based upon Scarlet’s opening argument, but then he Left.

        Your point on looking at where the unemployment is was especially good.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Mike Schilling
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        says:

        So when Mike argued that we shouldn’t generalize about labor markets that they operate efficiently, despite the fact that he’s right that many don’t so we really can’t accurately generalize, because he’s a leftist, he must have been specifically denying that the parts of the labor market that are more likely to be close to efficient – the market in unskilled labor from plentiful, interchangeable laborers – act substantially like efficient markets. He couldn’t have been referring to the parts of the labor market where inefficiencies arise. Because he’s a leftist.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Mike Schilling
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        says:

        Re: Swine. That’s just a biblical reference, not seriously calling anyone swine. Nit that there’s anything wrong with swine–they’re smart sociable animals that are exceptionally tasty. In fact the Old Testament ban on bacon-wrapped shrimp is actually proof that God really had it in for the Israelites.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Mike Schilling
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        says:

        The competition here is between relative power of prospective employees.

        But only in the ideal case. If what you’re saying is true, then the company SOP’s wouldn’t prohibit wage/salary disclosure to others in the firm. I mean, look, Roger, this strikes me as entirely obvious: firms put those restrictions in place for an entirely obvious reason: to prevent individuals from leveraging up their pay demands. I hope we can agree that as a matter of capitalistic logic employers desire to pay their employees the lowest wage possible all other things considered. Can we agree on that? (I hope so!)

        But what you argue a step beyond that: that it is morally (or libertarianly?) correct that employers act this way. Why? I mean, you’re argument is so complex at this point I can’t see the thread of it. In some cases it’s because that normative ideal is consistent with the non aggression principle. At other times, it’s because doing so increases efficiency. At other times it’s because it helps the poor. At yet other times it’s because it lowers prices in general. All of those aposteriori reasons are contingent on a bunch of other principles being in play not only for the a posteriori argument to go thru, but for the a priori one to go thru as well. I don’t think that claim is controversial, is it?

        If a firm pays significantly below or above the market price for a significant good (let’s say facilities), they are going to either waste money or get substandard facilities. They will be less efficient and this will act as a headwind in their pursuit of sales and capital. This is not theoretical.

        Of course it’s theoretical. On the empirical level, we witness a bunch of firms fail and a handful succeed. On the theoretical level, we propose that forms that succeed are acting on fully general necessary principles which are jointly sufficient. The specifics of those principles in practice are revealed by identifiable successful firms. So the particulars of what constitutes a successful firm are entirely theoretically determined. It’s no different, it seems to me, than identifying the necessary conditiona of what constitutes a successful professional golpher. It changes as the game changes. Saying that there are immutable as well as specific necessary conditions for a successful firm presupposes that a theoretical (read: a priori) framework.Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumber in reply to Mike Schilling
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        says:

        @jm3z-aitch

        Thank you for clearing that up.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Mike Schilling
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        says:

        That is, yes, in cases of specialized skills where the number of employers is small, transaction costs make it difficult to arrive at an efficient wage. But leftists generally aren’t complaining about the wages of rocket scientists. They’re complaining about fast-food workers making minimum wage instead of $15/hour.

        I get the point you’re making BB, and on some level I don’t disagree. At the entry level McService job, wage discovery isn’t really an issue since wage rates at other entry level McService is public information. The complaint is more at the principled level where the suggestion is that wage compensation is determined by competition between employees. That’s just false in the vast majority of situations. In most cases I’m familiar with in the real world, compensation is determined by employers given a baseline of what constitutes an adequate compensation package for the talent required. That is, it’s more or less unilateral unless the employee gets “uppity” or threatens to quit because of a lack of commensurable remuneration.

        Comparative wage rates (that is, competing against other employees*) doesn’t have anything to do with that process, in my own anecdotal experience.

        *And what does it mean to “compete” against a nameless, faceless person who wants your job? That’s not a competition in any sense of the word. It’s a negotiating platform, I’ll admit. But it isn’t a “competition”.Report

      • Avatar roger in reply to Mike Schilling
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        says:

        @stillwater

        Yes, employers seek to minimize costs compared to quality received all things considered. Yes employees look at maximizing benefits/pay/experience/working conditions vs required work. Yes these are both good things in markets. It leads to the efficient allocation of resources and stimulates creativity and problem solving which advances widespread human welfare. 

        I think the non aggression principle is a useful rule of thumb. In markets, with properly defined property and contract rights, mutually agreed upon voluntary interactions maximizes the number of positive sum, win win interactions. Interference with supply and demand lowers this number. If wages are set one dollar too low, then some win win offers will not be accepted that otherwise would.  If they are one dollar too high then an offer will not be extended that should. Where supply meets demand, win win interactions are at the max. Thus as a rough rule of thumb, utility is optimized without knowing individual utilities and comparing them among individuals (two things which are probably impossible to know). 

        Yes, markets lead to efficiency of human cooperation and resource allocation.  This is good. Yes, effective markets increase prosperity. This is good.  Yes, interference with wages leads to unemployment, and this is bad for the poor, young and unskilled. Yes I do make all these arguments, because I agree with them and can explain how they are true for hours on end. Indeed i am pretty sure that you agree they are true too, though you may be willing to override them in some cases which I disagree with. 

        On this issue of prohibiting salary disclosure, I have many thoughts. First, I have never experienced it. I am sure it exists somewhere, but is it rare, common or widespread? Second, is it in any way effective? Why wouldn’t employees share secrets with each other? Third, I think prohibiting disclosure is a bad idea as far as transparency and efficiency goes, but this. Ay not lead to the outcome you think (see five).  Fourth, George was right that there are much better reasons than negotiation power for an employer to discourage specific wage sharing. My experience is they really will get all freaked out. Everyone will spend their day harping on why so and so doesn’t deserve such and such.  People are envious and petty, and it is quite possible they are better off focusing elsewhere. Fifth, if every employees knew what every other employee made, average wages would be insignificantly higher. It is just as likely that employees would use the knowledge to undercut other employees as to demand higher salary, and it is more likely that employers will be more cautious in salary to avoid starting upward escalation. I am totally unconvinced wages will be appreciably better. They may be worse. And employees may be totally pissed off over the whole affair.

        On the issue of paying above market rates for any input, this is totally an empirical point. It is as empirical as adding a pound to a horse in a horse race. Of course one factor doesn’t guarantee success or failure ( nor does adding a pound). Firms pay for millions of inputs, have totally different quality, strategic plans, etc etc. the long term success and failure is the cumulative total of all these. It is very much like fitness in Darwinian terms. 

        Note I am not saying paying low wages is better than high wages. It depends upon the quality of worker desired, the business plan etc.

        On the topic of competition, of course people are competing with many people they never see. Why do you assume you need to know or see your competitor? This is exactly what I mean by competition.  Perhaps this is an area of confusion between us. 

        When I had an opening for a product development director, I put out a search for prospective candidates.  They competed with each other without seeing each other. I then chose the best candidate considering the salary range. Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Mike Schilling
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        says:

        Roger, I’ll reread this comment to make sure I’m not off base here, but the whole comment strikes me as an example of condescending classism. That people who receive pay are squabblers who need to be kept in line, and the only way to do that is to hit them with some market principles. To keep them in line.

        In line for what purpose? Towards end?

        There’s a strain – I hate to say it – of fascism running thru your comments I find grating. It often sounds to me roughly like this: all the little people need to suck it up and do the right thing for the Higher Good. To achieve the uber society.

        That sounds like crap to me.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Mike Schilling
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        says:

        Yes, employers seek to minimize costs compared to quality received all things considered. Yes employees look at maximizing benefits/pay/experience/working conditions vs required work.

        In other words, the employers act like the consumers they are, and the employees act like the suppliers they are.

        Noticeably, in a hypothetical perfect market, all sellers are price-takers, not price-setters. Yet somehow when labor markets function that way–with labor suppliers being price-takers–some folks think it is a indicator of a market failure, rather than a market functioning well. Is the problem in the theory, or the understanding of the theory?

        (Of course no stigma is attached to wanting to be a price setter in the labor market. Every supplier wants to be a price setter, so it would be silly to expect labor to act differently.)Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Mike Schilling
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        says:

        Yet somehow when labor markets function that way–with labor suppliers being price-takers–some folks think it is a indicator of a market failure, rather than a market functioning well.

        James, I know we’re supposed to avoid each other and all, but the only people arguing that labor markets function this way in practice are you, Roger and apparently George. Everyone else is denying that labor markets function this way.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Mike Schilling
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        says:

        Stillwater,

        You folks are denying that most labor suppliers are price-takers instead of price-setters? Are you really sure about that?Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Mike Schilling
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        says:

        Noticeably in a hypothetical perfect market, all sellers are price-takers, not price-setters. Yet somehow when labor markets function that way–with labor suppliers being price-takers–some folks think it is a indicator of a market failure, rather than a market functioning well. Is the problem in the theory, or the understanding of the theory?

        Did anyone make that claim? And what does that phrase even mean? I actually am awaiting a post from James K on that. All kinds of markets have various inefficiencies, but we don’t always charge “failure” when we see them (and merely pointing out those inefficiencies can’t be seen as a claim that a market is failing); OTOH, are we sure that a market working properly according to a theory of markets might not ever be failing in a way that reflects a proper understanding of what market failure is. (I realize there will be significant resistance to that idea, but, again, I’m unclear on what it is I’m supposed to think market failure is, so for all I know that’s possible.)

        Given that the phrase is being put in others’ mouths here, it matters what they might mean by it, even if that would be a misunderstanding according to a proper understanding of the concept. Except, actually, no one has charged market failure in this thread. So who knows what those hypothetical uses of the term might potentially even mean?

        It’s hard to say.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Mike Schilling
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        says:

        James, (I would really like to know you cool guys do that @linky thing)

        You folks are denying that most labor suppliers are price-takers instead of price-setters? Are you really sure about that?

        No, that’s not my complaint at all. It’s that according to one definition of the term, all laborers are necessarily price takers since they’re receiving – rather than demanding – something. I mean, they only get paid when their employer voluntarily hands over a signed check, right?

        On the other hand, in the ideal market all employers should be price takers as well, yes? and all that that entails. Or is that too much to demand from ownership in our perfect, idealized world?Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Mike Schilling
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        says:

        Michael,

        Go back to Schilling’s original comment. It indicates, very clearly, market failure in labor markets. If you, he, or others, don’t see how his comment invokes market failures, then you, he, or they, don’t understand what market failure means. And I could try to explain, but I am unpersuaded anyone sincerely wants to know. Instead, too many oeople here want to argue against economic ideas without really taking the effort to first accurately understand them. I think they want to stick to their misunderstandings, and are unwilling to gain an accurate understanding of those ideas. This is why I said “pearls before swine.” Roger’s understanding of economics is wasted on those who do not have ears to hear. After numerous such debates, all very repetitive now, I have lost hope that even the smart people here are willing to learn if it might challenge them.

        Look at Schilling’s reply to Roger about theory v, real-world economics. It was itself a theoretical statement, completely devoid of anything resembling evidence, and constructed with nothing remotely approaching the logic Roger used to build his comment. Schilling’s an intelligent man, who in other domains would clearly distingish between a mere assertion and a logically and evidentiarily based argument, and favor the latter. But in every one of these economic discussions he limits himself to assertions and snarks, and yet persuades himself that despite providing no evidence and despite not building a logically structured argument, he’s making the stronger argument.

        Look at LWA assuming the intrinsic value of work isn’t accounted for in the economic models. Look at Stillwater’s confusion, and your own. Everyone’s arguing from a position of moral discomfort, and that means, it appears, that they aren’t encumbered with the burden of bothering to accurately understand what they’re critiquing. It is no different than creationists critiquing evolutionary theory without bothering to study it, or anti-vaccers not bothering to learn the epidemiology of epidemics and vaccinated populations.

        I like to discuss these issues, but not with foks who either simply won’t try to learn, or who will ask questions only with the goal of trying to find another angle of attack, not with a serious intent to understand.

        are we sure that a market working properly according to a theory of markets might not ever be failing in a way that reflects a proper understanding of what market failure is

        Yes, we’re sure. It’s definitional. A properly working market has no market failures. But markets are just about efficiency. There are values the market doesn’t take into account–non-efficiency values, like making sure the mentally disabled do not die helplessly in the streets–but failure to satisfy those is not a market failure because that’s not what markets are about. It’s important to distinguish between what markets are supposed to do (but maybe don’t, due to failures), and things markets aren’t even supposed to do. If you don’t think that’s a “proper” understanding of market failure, you’re substituting your judgement for the collective judgement of the economics profession, and since the profession understands economics rather better than you, you might want to pause and reflect whether they might have learned something iver the years that you don’t yet know.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Mike Schilling
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        says:

        No, that’s not my complaint at all. It’s that according to one definition of the term, all laborers are necessarily price takers since they’re receiving – rather than demanding – something. I mean, they only get paid when their employer voluntarily hands over a signed check, right?

        This is confusing. I have no idea now what you are trying to say, so I will not take a chance of further confusing matters by guessing.

        On the other hand, in the ideal market all employers should be price takers as well, yes? and all that that entails.

        Yes, and in competitive labor markets they are. Do you think McDonalds doesn’t want to pay even less per hour? Have you noticed that wages rise when unemployment is low? If employers aren’t price-takers, it’s because there’s slack in the labor market. And why do we generally have slack in the labor market? Look to government–that’s the tradeoff of the Fed keeping inflation low. (Yes, the labor market is imperfect, but it’s not necessarily a marey failure; consider the potential of what we might call gov’t failure, too (depending on what we think government is supposed to do)).

        Or is that too much to demand from ownership in our perfect, idealized world?

        See, I don’t even understand what comments like this are supposed to mean. How could being a price taker be “too much to demand from ownership”? If labor’s tight so they’re scrounging for good employees, they ave to be price takers. That’s all. It doesn’t impose any unique demands on them, whether in an idealized workd or in this real one. I can’t even puzzle out what demands you could be thinking of. This is the kind of question that persuades me you’re engaged in an argument about something you haven’t bothered to learn yet.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Mike Schilling
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        says:

        Everyone’s arguing from a position of moral discomfort,

        Ehhh. No. We’re arguing something else. Which is pretty evident from the content of our arguments.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Mike Schilling
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        says:

        P.S., I’m going to leave it at that. Our off-blog conversation still stands.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Mike Schilling
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        says:

        Go back to Schilling’s original comment. It indicates, very clearly, market failure in labor markets.

        I mean, no. It doesn’t. You’re basically saying “He said it’s market failure but what he’s pointing to isn’t market failure,” except the first part isn’t true, and you’re mistaken (I think) about what he’s actually pointing to. You’ve just decided he’s trying to incorrectly apply a term to things that (you say) it would would be incorrect to apply it to (though I think you are mistaken about what he’s actually pointing to) – outcomes in an efficient labor market in your mind, though in fact I think he’s pointing to the kinds of inefficiencies Brandon mentions – when in fact what he’s doing is pointing at other things and saying something that reasonably follow from them (namely that there are lots of inefficiencies in lots of different labor markets, so it’s unfounded to apply an assumption that generally labor markets are efficient), one of which does not include the specific claim of market failure.

        On my own confusion about the term, obviously, I know that you’re sure that you think that a market functioning as it’s expected to in theory can’t be failing. The question would be whether the term should be understood in a broader context – i.e. do markets functioning as expected in theory possibly fail to perform the social function that is actually used to justify them in apolitical context. I don’t necessarily think so and would probably agree with your arguments why not if you wanted to make them, but at the same time, I don’t find that every time a market doesn’t perform as the theory books lay out, people are quick to call it a failure. So ultimately I don’t really have much use for the term. Perhaps you can tell me why I should.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Mike Schilling
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        says:

        I guess I also have to speak to the suggestion that I’m inclined to second-guess the economics profession on their own usage of their terminology.

        As I said, I’m awaiting an explanation of this from an economist in our community. In the meantime, I’m ruminating on possible understandings of therm that might make sense in broad – that is, popular, not technical – context. I’m not asserting that they’re the right ones, just wondering whether they might be.

        It’s a little odd that in a response to a comment in which 1) I say I don’t know what a term means exactly, 2) say I’m waiting on a requested post from an economist to help explain it, and merely suggest some some possible heterodox understandings of the term, someone would react as if I actually am saying that economists have misdefined the term within their own field, suggesting I think I know better than them how the term should be used in their profession. For the record, no, I don’t think that.

        I do think that “market failure” seems to me like a term that is likely to and legitimately could have both technical and popular meanings; it does seem possible to me that the term could be useful in discussions about whether markets are failing to do tasks they’ve been assigned by society (which perhaps society was wrong to assign to them). Does the fact that economists have defined the term for their purposes mean that it cannot be used differently in society, that is it not possible that the definition in one place that is proper isn’t quite proper for the other, and that it would be better perhaps on the whole for the term to be available in the popular conversation to help, as was suggested, “distinguish between what markets are supposed to do (but maybe don’t, due to failures), and things markets aren’t even supposed to do” – that it might be proper for such a popular usage to be available, which would not render the technical definition in economics improper?

        All I did was ask that question, yet it was suggested that I might think I know better than economists how the term should be defined in their profession. This was not justified.Report

      • Avatar roger in reply to Mike Schilling
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        says:

        Please do reread, SW.

        You know. I actually spent several hours thinking about and typing these answers. On them, I offered specific arguments which could have been logically or empirically or morally disagreed with. To paraphrase Popper, I went out on the skinny branches. In doing so, I actually learned more from myself by thinking what arguments you could respond with, than I did from what you guys actually responded with. Granted I never suspected I would be called an uber fascist. That one threw me for a loop.

        Though there were a few good exceptions, when I present an argument, rather than respond with an intellectual affirmation or counter, you guys frequently just change the conversation or attack. When that no longer works, i get called a fascist. It is almost as if you guys are not trying to learn, or find a meeting of the minds, but rather to defend your political ideology at all costs.

        Now, I lay out arguments why accusations that employers restrict salary discussions is not proof that average prices are set by negotiation as opposed to supply and demand. I gave you five or six specific answers. Your chosen counter — is that I speak like a condescending fascist hitting unruly squabblers with economics to keep them in line. Last week two progressives did the same thing when they didn’t like my arguments. I was called “dickish” twice for two different reasons (once for responding to a question with a question) once for presenting data on hours worked by quintile which upset a commenter’s preconceived notions.

        DO YOU GUYS REALLY WANT TO DISCUSS THIS STUFF? Are you willing to directly take on challenges to your worldview?

        Btw, implicit in my argument is not that the workers should “suck it up.” it is that negotiation power is an improper way to frame the problem. I have provided several thousand words and arguments defending my view. Furthermore, my view is that absent coercive interference the best path for all of us, especially the poor, is freer markets and safety nets. This is not fascist, it is actually the opposite.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Mike Schilling
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        says:

        not proof that average prices are set by negotiation as opposed to supply and demand

        Was it anyone’s argument that they are, much less their assertion that they’d offered proof of that proposition? I’m honestly unclear about this.Report

      • Avatar roger in reply to Mike Schilling
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        says:

        The discussion started by my stating that both the left and right caricatures were examples of framing errors. The right caricature involved framing wages as justice based upon supply and demand. My comment was that projecting moral weight on where supply meets demand is indeed silly. Nobody disagreed. Motion seems to have carried.

        I stated the error on the left was to assume average wages come out of bargaining power, other than those already implicit in the dynamic of supply and demand. This brought a panoply of rebuttals, direct and indirect. Many dealt with the purported angle of employers consistently and routinely using prohibitions against wage-sharing to reduce employee negotiation or bargaining power.Report

    • Avatar George Turner in reply to roger
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      says:

      Yeah, if only someone would make a website where people could post job data, even employers, and maybe some kind of way to exchange salary data with your friends using your cell-phone. That would be awesome.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to George Turner
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        says:

        If only employers released that information instead of keeping it confidential and making it a firing offense for their employees to discuss salaries, that would be nice.

        “What’s the current spot price for low-sulfur crude?”

        “None of your damned business.”Report

      • Avatar George Turner in reply to George Turner
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        says:

        If only employers could find employees who were smart enough to find a place where they could discuss their salaries without their supervisor listening in, perhaps over beer. If only. Sadly, employees just aren’t that intelligent.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to George Turner
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        says:

        True story: I got a 20% raise once. Retroactive! But, I was told, not to tell anybody. That Friday, a group of us went to a bar after work. I’m not good at reading facetiousness, so when he facetiously guessed that I had gotten a twenty percent raise, I didn’t realize that he was joking. I locked up. He went nuts upon finding out that I got that kind of raise because, seriously, who gets a 20% raise without a promotion? (I technically did get a promotion, but it was doing the same job with a better title.)Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to George Turner
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        says:

        Really, though, I think confidentiality is probably for the best. I remember a previous employer where we talked openly about such things. I found out that this useless sack of [potatoes] was making a dime an hour more than me. It was a dime, but holy crap it pissed me off because he was worthless. Productivity went up when he left. And everybody knew he was worthless. But he’d asked for a raise at the right time and I hadn’t. So he got his ten cent raise and I didn’t. And it just caused a lot of ill-will over a really stupid amount of money.

        I see a lot more of that sort of thing happening than of people using this information to successfully extract more money.Report

      • Avatar George Turner in reply to George Turner
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        says:

        And you’ve zeroed in on the problem. The reason employers don’t want employees to discuss wages is because if they do, and you give one a reward for excellent work, everybody else thinks they didn’t get a piece of birthday cake. It has nothing to do with keeping wages down, it’s about keeping the employees from despising each other, backstabbing each other, or having a few gather together and declare the whole pay thing a giant Jewish conspiracy.

        The reason employers tell people it’s a firing offense is that if such a little backstabbing bitch fest starts, then in all cases the chief troublemaker has climbed on top of a table and announced his pay to his coworkers to stir up ill will, hatred, and trouble, and needs to be removed before secretaries are stabbing each other with letter openers.

        What employers are trying to do is try to reward good performance (and thus encourage more of it) without firing up the demons of jealously and ill will. So promotions and pay scales are often posted right on the wall in the break room, where it can do some good without starting feuds and resentment.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to George Turner
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        says:

        And you’ve zeroed in on the problem. The reason employers don’t want employees to discuss wages is because

        control of information is power. Period.

        True story: Once when Ron Fairly was with the Dodgers, he went into the GM’s office to discuss his salary for the upcoming year. While they were talking, the GM got a phone call, and told Fairly “I’ll be about ten minutes. Wait here.” While he’s waiting, Fairly notices some papers on the GM’s desk. He’s curious and sees that it’s Tommy Davis’ contract for $21K. Hell, thinks Fairly who was going to ask for $22K himself. There’s no way they’re going to give me as much as Davis. When the GM returns, Fairly settles for $19K.
        A few days later, at batting practice, he can’t help telling Davis (who had just won the batting title and finished 3rd for MVP) that he’s worth a lot more than $21K. Hell yes, Davis says, that’s why I make $35K.Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumber in reply to George Turner
        Ignored
        says:

        @mike-schilling I have heard the same story, except the principals involved were Ted Lindsay Jack Adams, and Gordie Howe.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to George Turner
        Ignored
        says:

        …because, seriously, who gets a 20% raise without a promotion?

        To show my age… At Bell Labs, in the late 1970s, when inflation was raging, 10% raises were the norm and 20% was common for better performers during the first few years. No change in title; if you didn’t go into management, you would stay a Member of Technical Staff for an entire career. Also, no cap on what an MTS could make; rumor was that a Nobel Prize put you in the quarter-million-dollars-per-year ballpark. Of course, mortgages rates were in the 14-17% range at the same time. Our first mortgage was at 14.5% because we could put more than 10% down. I have occasionally wished that I was in the position of one of the older MTS who was nearing retirement and put his entire retirement fund into 30-year Treasuries paying 13%…Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to George Turner
        Ignored
        says:

        I got a 28% after my first year of full-time work. It still left me grossly underpaid, but it took awhile to figure that out. (You know, confidentiality.)Report

  21. Avatar LWA
    Ignored
    says:

    I don’t think it makes sense to think of wage negotiations in market terms.

    The market theory of work assumes that a wage is a reward, like a mokey pressing a button to get a cookie- the monkey only wants the cookie, and will do anything no matter how ridiculous or demeaning to get it.

    For most people, work is not merely a cookie, and represents a value to most people beyond its actual economic value.

    For most people, their job is central to their identity and sense of self; Most people love to work, they strive simply to be able to do what they do, whereas for the employer, another employee is merely an expense, one they strive to eliminate if they could.

    This is shown by empirical evidence- even when people can make a living without working, they invariably work anyway. People deliberately choose jobs that pay less than they could make working at other occupations, simply because their work satisfies a deeper desire for fulfillment.

    Having a public policy stance that labor is merely an economic transaction damages our culture- it trivializes work, and assumes that any outcome is as good as another. Yet our culture is driven by a different asusmption- we assume (rightly so) that work is morally superior to idleness; this is what explains the conservative outrage over welfare cheats.

    It is proven time and again that corporate welfare costs us many times more than malingering welfare mothers- yet it doesn’t inspire the public outrage- why?

    Because sloth is a sin, and work is noble. If we truly embraced the marketplace theory of work, we would gladly accept the idea that someone is clever enough to get the cookie without work.

    Work itself IS the cookie- the wage is the price we accept for the privilege of doing it.Report

    • Avatar roger in reply to LWA
      Ignored
      says:

      Fascinating and thought provoking, LWA. Your comments have been awesome lately, especially when I don’t agree – ’cause they force me to think.

      I agree with the core argument that work isn’t just about the monetary rewards. I also vehemently agree that corporate welfare is worse than personal.

      However — you knew this was coming — I fail to get why the nobility of work negates the working of markets. Indeed, doesn’t it make markets more important because someone has to still do all the less noble activities? The wage helps adjust and ensure even the least noble and intrinsically rewarding jobs get done.

      On the other hand my jobs were super rewarding personally and they paid fine too. I used to always say I would do my job at half my salary. Oddly, nobody ever paid me less.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to roger
        Ignored
        says:

        I fail to get why the nobility of work negates the working of markets. Indeed, doesn’t it make markets more important because someone has to still do all the less noble activities? The wage helps adjust and ensure even the least noble and intrinsically rewarding jobs get done.

        This. What’s not understood much around here us microeconomics, at its essence, marginalism. Leys’s all agree the average person prefers work to non-work. There’s still the questions of whether they actually will work, and what work they’ll do. They might prefer work over non-work, all else being equal, but we find few people willong to work for zero pay. At zero pay they’d rather stay home, or perhaps do charity work. And if they get more intrinsic reward from working in a library than being an accountant, how do you get them to be an accountant? Offer them enough more pay that the lower intrinsic reward of accounting + the accountant’s pay is greater than the higher intrinsic reward of librarianship + librarian’s pay.

        The point here us that the intrinsic value is built into the economist’s model, because economics–particularly microeconomics, which is what’s relevant here–is about comoaring values. And anyone who thinks economists only think about explicitly monetary values is demonstrating that they missed the basic lessons of microeconomics. Sure, your intrinsic reward from being a librarian or vwhatever gets expressed in dollar value, but that’s to create a common measure for comparison, like converting yards into meters. And it’s really not hard–you may not think of the intrinsic reward in dollar terms, but there are dollar values (wages) at which you would not give up that reward to be an accountabt, and dollar values (again, wages) at which you would give up thay intrinsic reward. And somewhere is the break point between, and that is the dollar value of that intrinsic reward. So, contra what we might think from LWA’s comment, the intrinsic value is in fact part of the economist’s model.

        And anyone who knows too little microeconomics to understand that shoukd be hesitant to use phrases like “the market theory assumes…” because the level of knowledge is insufficient to finish that statement well. It’s like me saying “the physics model of the atom is….” It’s going to bear some relation to reality, but it’s not going to be very correct.Report

    • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to LWA
      Ignored
      says:

      The market theory of work assumes that a wage is a reward,

      It’s funny how many people around here like to talk about “the market theory” when they clearly aren’t familiar with actual market theory. Market theory actually assumes a wage is a price for a labor input.

      The funny thing about LWA’s argument is its perverse consequence for wages. If you get intrinsic value out of work, then a lower wage should be sufficient to motivate you to work. LWA says it himself. And he treats this as better than just seeing work as an economic exchange. So if he’s right–from a liberal perspective–then the liberal complaints about low wages are logically problematic.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to J@m3z Aitch
        Ignored
        says:

        Not to speak for LWA, but ….

        I think he’s rejecting an external-incentive-only model of employment. I think he’s saying that the ideal case is where people receive intrinsic rewards for engaging in productive activity but also receive remuneration commensurate with, say, the cost living without government subsidies. So, I don’t think that view is logically problematic for liberals (or that type of liberal). It might be factually problematic. Or practically problematic. But we’re talking about normative stuff here, it seems to me.

        In fact, that very distinction – between descriptive and normative – continues to be a problem in my discussions with Roger. I can’t tell when he’s offering a descriptive account vs. a normative account of these issues. And he’s probably similarly confused about what I write as well.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to J@m3z Aitch
        Ignored
        says:

        What’s the practical difference between your theory and LWA’s Skinner Box, with the monkey pushing the button to get his peanut? The monkey will stop pushing the button if the reward isn’t reliably frequent enough.

        Where do the Libertarians come down on rewiring the Skinner Box so the monkey doesn’t always get his peanut?Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to J@m3z Aitch
        Ignored
        says:

        “If you get intrinsic value out of work, then a lower wage should be sufficient to motivate you to work.”

        But isn’t this true? People don’t always take the highest offer. They consider a number of factors. Employment is indeed an exchange, value for value, but the value isn’t only financial (for either side).Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to J@m3z Aitch
        Ignored
        says:

        But isn’t this true?

        Sure it’s true. All other things being equal. Or rather, equal enough.

        I think the issue is that intrinsic rewards ought to be determinative. And in some cases – as a matter of description – they are. Just as monetary compensation in some cases is determinative. As is location. Established history. Lethargy. Etc, etc. There are lots of variables in play, it seems to me, descriptively speaking. .Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to J@m3z Aitch
        Ignored
        says:

        Where do the Libertarians come down on rewiring the Skinner Box so the monkey doesn’t always get his peanut?

        Blaise, I have to disagree. The libertarians at this site – it seems to me! – aren’t interested in rewiring to make the monkey OK with not getting his peanut. They’re interested in rewiring the monkey so that he’s rewarded by a different peanut.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to J@m3z Aitch
        Ignored
        says:

        OK, “rewiring” sounds … sinister. That’s unfortunate.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to J@m3z Aitch
        Ignored
        says:

        Imagine a God Peanut. Now make an atheist who still believes in God Peanuts… WITHOUT THE GOD PART.

        Now give them some wine.

        Keep going.

        Keep going.

        Keeeeeeep going…Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to J@m3z Aitch
        Ignored
        says:

        A few electrodes here, a few electrodes there, a few microvolts of Labor Input — hey presto, it’s just like Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times!Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to J@m3z Aitch
        Ignored
        says:

        “God made man / but the monkeys applied the glue”

        -DevoReport

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to J@m3z Aitch
        Ignored
        says:

        Keeeeeeep going…

        I’ll get there. Just give me a sec to fire up some medicinal….

        Ahh. YES!Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to J@m3z Aitch
        Ignored
        says:

        Awesome. Now all you have to do is ask “should my dog be shot for this?”

        Viola.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to J@m3z Aitch
        Ignored
        says:

        Vie-oh-luh. Yeah. That’s just about right.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to J@m3z Aitch
        Ignored
        says:

        I’d rewire the dog, too. Surely the NSA has a few boffins on this, e’en now.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to J@m3z Aitch
        Ignored
        says:

        But to answer your question, without making lame quips about a spelling mistake … the dog shooting thing seems to me like a Big Deal. And no-knock raids. And SWAT called out for drug infractions. I think the tide is turning. Liberals need to get caught up to speed on this. But we seems to be easily distracted.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to J@m3z Aitch
        Ignored
        says:

        Where do the Libertarians come down on rewiring the Skinner Box so the monkey doesn’t always get his peanut?

        Did somebody buy you an Acme Nonsense Phrase Generator for your birthday?Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to J@m3z Aitch
        Ignored
        says:

        Seems to me you’re once again fresh out of answers, Hanley. This is how you get on such occasions. Intellectual bankruptcy.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to J@m3z Aitch
        Ignored
        says:

        Yes, Blaise, that is exactly the type of dishonest game you play. Ask a nonsense question, and then pretend thexreadon it’s not answered is because thecoerson can’t answer serious questions, not because it’s the nonsense question of a guy who’s off hs meds.

        Now, before we quit bickering for the night, don’t forget to remind us how mean you are. It’s been a few days, and I might have forgotten how scared I’m supposed to be of you.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to J@m3z Aitch
        Ignored
        says:

        Please. Your Market Theory is nothing more than Market Theology. We both know it, too. Logically problematic: I asked you a question you won’t answer: what differentiates your vision from LWA’s vision? Absolutely nothing. Wages are a Skinner Box. Do you think the monkey likes pressing the fucking button? He’ll press it as many times as it takes to get his fucking peanut, provided he believes he will eventually get one. But there comes a point where that belief dies, all your jackanapes Libertarian Flat Earth Theology to the contrary. Pitiful little monkey, pressing that button, eventually he will stop pressing.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to J@m3z Aitch
        Ignored
        says:

        Sound and fury, and we all know what that signifies.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to J@m3z Aitch
        Ignored
        says:

        And still no answer to what differentiates your vision from his. You always get like this when you’re cornered. Just answer the question, as asked. You want to find out how many times you can get the monkey to press the button before he gives up — some sort of sadistic game of Wage Limbo — how Lowww can you Goooo — wages are compensation, a reward for trading time for money.

        I will put this to you plainly, your anger is proof enough your theory is nothing more than theology.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to J@m3z Aitch
        Ignored
        says:

        Blaise,
        Take your meds and don’t inflict your mental problems on me. Let’s keep the distance we agreed upon, crazy boy.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to J@m3z Aitch
        Ignored
        says:

        Still, I’m pretty sure Roger is presenting his model as normative because it’s descriptive. That is, it’s what we should do because it’s what has worked so well. This is why, when I’ve criticized his model on normative grounds, he’s tended to defend it with empirical arguments (basically, the market has produced a huge leap in standard of living over the last 3 centuries), and when I’ve criticized it on empirical grounds, he’s tended to defend it on normative grounds (basically, this is the way it should work because things would be better). It’s the sort of is-ought circle that characterizes a lot of lay economic reasoning, I think, in large part because the initial justifications are a product of the fairly predictable interaction between ideology and experience.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to J@m3z Aitch
        Ignored
        says:

        Chris,

        Or–as much as I try to keep “is”es and “ought”s separate–it could be because making people better off is a normative good, and markets making people better off (materially*) is an empirical fact, so that the two are hard to keep separate, particularly for those who haven’t been trained to ke is and ought separate.

        *Which doesn’t mean they’re perfect/ideal, or that every single individual is better off under markets than some other system, nor that they are particularly conducive to all non-material values.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to J@m3z Aitch
        Ignored
        says:

        James, that’s definitely the descriptive-to-normative part, for sure.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to J@m3z Aitch
        Ignored
        says:

        If only we could find out how markets make people better off, independently of their being able to buy things in those markets. If a poor man walks down Rodeo Drive, will he be improved thereby?

        The Kings of France used to have Easter Dinner served in a great hall, where people could come and watch Le Roi and his court eat. The audience wasn’t served any food, mind you, but they did get to see their betters served.

        Markets only improve things to the extent they can fulfil needs. I have yet to see a treatise on Free Markets which showed how markets did anything but concentrate wealth into the hands of the few at the expense of the many. Well, a treatise where the math actually works.Report

      • Avatar roger in reply to J@m3z Aitch
        Ignored
        says:

        @chris

        Yes, I can and do defend my market views on empirical and normative grounds. Yes the two do intertwine. I am willing to concede that for those not valuing improved living standards or life itself, that my empirical arguments hold no sway. I doubt that includes anyone on this site though and if I am wrong please correct me.

        In other words, I find your comments condescending. If you and your friends want to debate me on markets please roll up your sleeves and do so. I am sure we can both gain from the sincere discussion.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to J@m3z Aitch
        Ignored
        says:

        Roger, it wasn’t meant to be condescending. I apologize. There is nothing inherently wrong with the normative-descriptive circle that characterizes most lay reasoning in economics (or at least political economics), including my own (and that of pretty much every non-economist here). It can have problems in practice, in that it leads to some predictable reasoning errors, but I don’t think you’re any more susceptible to such errors than anyone else.

        But no, I’m not going to wade into such conversations with you anymore. They’re pointless, because I don’t think you’re particularly interested in dialogue, or particularly open to alternative views/arguments/evidence.Report

      • Avatar roger in reply to J@m3z Aitch
        Ignored
        says:

        Apologies then. I am totally willing to discuss this topic with you and would love to be able either to learn and/or to improve my ability to converse on the topic.

        You and I come from polar opposites. This leads to inherent opportunies for conflict. That said, it also prevents a valuable opportunity for learning.Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to J@m3z Aitch
        Ignored
        says:

        James,

        Did somebody buy you an Acme Nonsense Phrase Generator for your birthday?

        This is not acceptable. Whatever your opinion of BlaiseP’s comment, if that was your best, for future reference, I ask that you not respond at all. There was no reason for you to say what you did both above and in your responses.

        Had I seen this two days ago, the comment would have been deleted. I wish someone else would have stepped up and dealt with this. I really really really hate seeing this kind of garbage.

        Consider this a warning. The next time this happens, there will be consequences.Report

  22. Avatar LWA
    Ignored
    says:

    @James-
    What I mean by “the market theory” is the theory that is being presented here on this blog, by the commenters here. I’m not referring to a theory external to this discussion.

    The argument is that wage negotiations are fundamentally no different than negotiating over a new car; both the buyer and seller have roughly equal power.
    But this is just not borne out by empirical evidence. The desire of the seller of labor is almost always irrational, and unequal to the buyer. Just asserting that the microevconomics model takes this into account doesn’t solve things. How does microeconomics deal with a seller who sees himself as unwilling or unable to leave the bargaining table?

    But further- your theory is agnostic about outcomes- you assert that the wage negotiations should be freed, untouched by outside influence.

    This argument assumes that whatever outcome results must be the “right” one. “:Right” in this case meaning one that is morally satisfactory.

    Yet this is a rejection of the concept of labor having an intrinsic moral value,; Assigning a moral value to labor means there must be limits to the acceptable outcomes. In this case, a floor beneath which we are not willing to allow labor to be valued, even if it is economically inefficient, even if it restricts the liberty of the participants.Report

    • Avatar roger in reply to LWA
      Ignored
      says:

      Just to clarify, my argument is that power differential doesn’t significantly alter average wages for a given skill in a given market. Competition between firms for workers, and between workers for jobs is where the action is.

      Once you frame the issue as workers competing with each other, the power differential argument begins to fall aside. Nor do labor markets need to be perfect for this dynamic to hold.

      On just wages. My argument is that there is no such thing any more than there is a just or proper price for bread. There simply is a price. Framing the issue as about justice again misses the boat. It is an error which leads us into a dead end which we can’t get out of.

      Granted there are wages and prices that are set according to the rules, and those which are not set fairly based upon the rules, and we can always have debates on what those rules should be.

      For the record, the same power differential holds between Walmart and me when I buy bread. It doesn’t matter though. What matters is supply and demand and at what price other firms are willing to sell bread.

      Feel free to disagree or correct me. However, let us be clear what position I started the thread with.Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to roger
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        says:

        I think this clarifies what the disagreement is- there is a moral postulate about the just level of wages, about which we disagree.

        I would be curious to know what you think this “dead end” is- what would happen if we framed economic issues in terms of justice?Report

      • Avatar roger in reply to roger
        Ignored
        says:

        Thanks for asking…

        My initial opening answer, above, is this: “Another way to say this is that people on the left believe that their personal opinion on the value of the dignity of work is an objective reality worth coercively forcing on those that disagree.”

        What would happen if we framed wages as just or unjust in this way?

        1) We would introduce an unnecessary and destructive third party voice into the hundreds of millions of voluntary transactions. That party would supposedly use their position to override positive sum, mutually welfare enhancing interactions. This would reduce the number of voluntary gains via exchange and thus destroy value all else equal. It would also reduce the efficiency of markets, which would reduce their value creating potential. This would on average make us and our descendants less prosperous, and it would do so on the backs of the least advantaged.

        2) It would introduce a zero sum, win lose dynamic into a positive sum interaction. There is now a debate on what the so called just wage is. It thus elevates the clearing price to some kind of pretend cosmic significance. Everyone can use any reason or value they want and attempt to force it upon others. Thus it doesn’t just override an agreed upon value enhancing interaction, it actively introduces a new zero sum dimension to human society, one with extremely dangerous power and influence. He who controls the definition and enforcement of this make believe number controls and overrides other humans, even though the interaction is already by definition value-enhancing on both sides.

        In summary, it elevates a fictive “JUST PRICE” into a coercive interference which can only destroy value.

        Three additional points. I do agree that exchanges that do not go by the defined agreed-upon rules of the market (using fraud, or deception or duress) are unfair, and should be overridden. Again, we are overriding likely non-positive sum, non-voluntary interactions though. See the distinction?

        Second, if the argument is that we can CHANGE the rules to include a third party coercively enforcing JUSTICE, then see the first two arguments on why that would be a value destroying idea which would lead to less prosperity especially for the poor. We do define the rules. The first step is setting effective rules.

        Third, just wage has nothing to do with what we believe fellow humans should live off of. We have dozens of safety nets, and my defense of non interference in markets on this dimension does not reflect what we could or should do with health care, aid and such. Indeed dumping this burden on employers is counterproductive.

        *Special request…. attacks from anyone on my position are appreciated. Do try to keep them on my position, not my character.*Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to roger
        Ignored
        says:

        I assert that the belief systems of human dignity, the value of work, and many other things beside, ARE something that can legitimately be imposed on others.

        Our Constitution and legal structures are premised on exactly this belief; that there is a purpose, a just order to society, and within defined limits, the citizenry can legitimately coerce people to comply.

        Note your argument, that 3rd party interference would inhibit economic freedom- who made a value judgement that this was of paramount importance?

        I certainly didn’t. Why should your moral valuation be binding on all of us?Report

      • Avatar roger in reply to roger
        Ignored
        says:

        I too clarified that we could set the rules where third parties forced their opinions on others even where it harms the other’s interests. What makes your judgment, removed as it is from the situation and values of the poor person you override, better than theirs? Certainly we would demand a high burden of proof.

        Just as importantly, it specifically and demonstrably destroys value according to the person you are trying to help. Again, I would require a huge burden of proof before you could convince me this stood any chance of helping those you are specifically limiting.

        My argument was not that you shouldn’t do it based upon my values. My explicit argument was that you should not do it if you value prosperity or the well being of the poor. They were logical arguments and could be negated if you show my premises or conclusions are incorrect. Care to try?Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to roger
        Ignored
        says:

        On just wages. My argument is that there is no such thing any more than there is a just or proper price for bread. There simply is a price.

        Among mainstream economists, the concept of “just price” died out long long ago. It was always more of a churchman’s idea. The problem, for economists, is that it imports a moral theory that doesn’t fit well alongside the positive–non-normative–structure of economics. To an economist, if I give you $1 for bread, I must have valued the bread at least as much as $1, if not more, so by my own subjective valuation, I am no worse off, and probably better off, than before. And since you have given me bread for $1, you must have valued the $1 at least as much as the bread, if not more so, so by your own subjective valuation you are no worse off, and probably better off, than before.

        A “just price” pretends to be objective, but in reality is also necessarily subjective, some third-party’s* subjective belief about what price is appropriate. And on what basis a third party could have a better understanding of, say, bread’s value than the individuals who are choosing to party with it for something else of value, or part with something else of value to get the bread…that leads us into some very indeterminate, very speculative, areas, unbounded by anything we can actually measure happening. It’s just got no place within economic analysis; it’s totally exogenous to it.

        If you want to rely on something that, to my mind, is as fluffy and ungrounded as just price, you have that right. But understand that you’re not actually critiquing economics from inside–you’re critiquing it from outside, but not in any way that’s likely to cause an economist to do more than shrug his shoulders and say, “Oh, that old idea again.”

        __________
        *Even if that third party can plausibly be called “society,” although imputing anything like will, motive, or belief to an abstraction like “society” is an intellectually dubious prospect.Report

      • Avatar Mr. Blue in reply to roger
        Ignored
        says:

        I’ve probably told this story before, and I’ll tell it again, but when I first got to Houston I was shafted by the employer that sent me there and was suddenly out of work. The third job I interviewed for is my current employer. The boss (the owner) said, pretty much, that this is a small company that is trying to get off the ground. He was paying me out of his pocket, so he couldn’t afford to pay me much by the hour. But I could work as much as I wanted as long as I was making progress (which, it turned out, was sixty hours a week at minimum). Hourly, I was literally getting paid less than I would have if I’d decided to answer phones for Convergys. But it was a start.

        It seems to me that LWA and a lot of people would say that I was taken advantage of. I was pretty desperate for a job. But to get a job I needed experience. To get experience I needed a job. What could I offer? I could offer a willingness to work $7 an hour as a software developer. No wife, no kids, and no student loans.

        When people want to talk about forcing certain wages or even suggesting that I am being exploited for working below it, they are wanting to take away the only “in” I had at the time in Post-Enron Houston. My only opportunity. And what may well have been the only opportunity of my employer at the time to get off the ground. I was the fourth employee and now there are over 100 and I earn a great living.

        Exploitation is the best thing I could have asked for. Or, as I look at it, they took a chance on me without any experience and I took a chance on them making a barely-livable wage. I’m not a big fan of outsiders trying to negotiate something better on my behalf, especially when it’s because of my own irrationality.Report

      • Avatar Mr. Blue in reply to roger
        Ignored
        says:

        When it’s done because of my own alleged irrationality, I mean.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to roger
        Ignored
        says:

        Good story Blue. I’ve stayed out of this but i have a little story that does absolutly nothing to shoot down your story. I had a client who had been a cashier for several years at local chain grocery store. The management told her they wanted to make her an assistant manager. Well the wanted to make her an AM in about a year. Between now and then they wanted to see how she did even though she had already worked there for several years. What it meant in reality was they wanted to see how she did if they, changed her shifts often, asked her to work extra hours and didn’t watch to carefully how much they paid for those extra hours. They wanted to get as much out of her that they could which they couldn’t do with the rest of the regular cashiers. She had two kids and was a single parent, so she tried to work her ass off at the wildly shifting hours but left her kids home alone. She didn’t make it.

        Was anything illegal done? No. Was she exploited? I’d say yes. Their offer was contingent on using her in ways they couldn’t get away with without dangling a job offer they clearly didn’t care that much about filling. Is there any law i can see to change that? No. But exploitation exists. Mostly nothing can be done about it, but it still happens. Trying to figure out where something can be done and where it can’t is hard.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to roger
        Ignored
        says:

        @mr-blue

        I wouldn’t call that exploitation. You knew what the situation was, and the lowered wages effectively turned into an investment, as you grew with the company. and it sounds like you’ve been treated honestly and fairly.

        Now, suppose you’d been there for a year and found out (accidentally, because it’s rude to discuss these things) that the other people who did the same job were making twice what you were because they had had more choices, how would you have felt?Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to roger
        Ignored
        says:

        @greginak

        How can it be exploitation when it was a mutually agreed contract? It was her fault for greedily agreeing to conditions she should have known she couldn’t meet.Report

      • Avatar Mr. Blue in reply to roger
        Ignored
        says:

        Greg,

        Thanks. I am aware that my story could have turned out differently. They could have, as Mike says, been paying the next guy more just because he was less desperate than me. He could have dumped me once the company “made it” for someone with more experience. Though each of these things would have carried risks that he couldn’t have afforded. The longer I’d been there, the more I was needed. And at some point, I had the experience that I didn’t need the job as much as I did to begin with.

        That’s not always the case, acourse. In the case of your friend, they could just use her up and then find someone knew to siphon the life’n’blood outta. Which I know happens. I mentioned having been shafted by the employer that relocated me. There’s a story there. I guess one of the differences for me is that while sometimes my would-be defenders would do me harm and sometimes my employers would, at least there isn’t much pretense that the latter is my friend. Not to me, anyway, unless it’s earned. Under current management, I do consider my employer my ally because the owner earned that over the years, but if he sells out, the company is the same company that shafted me, as far as I’m concerned.

        Mike, the “exploitation” I refer to is that I was desperate for a job. While my boss didn’t know the specifics when he interviewed me – he may of been able to tell from my resume, but obviously I didn’t tell him I was desperate – I think someone would have had to be pretty hard up to take the job under the conditions he put forth. He gave me reason to be confident that the company could do well (even then, hearing “Electronic Health Records are going to be huge, and here’s why…” made a lot of sense) I am not sure how necessary it was. It was either there or Convergys. The latter paid more per hour, but the former let me bring home a better paycheck through sheer hours worked.Report

    • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to LWA
      Ignored
      says:

      The desire of the seller of labor is almost always irrational, and unequal to the buyer.

      This doesn’t make sense. What do you know about the “desire” of the seller of labor, and on what basis do you judge it “irrational”? From my perspective these types of statements are difficult to respond meaningfully to because they literally make no sense.

      How does microeconomics deal with a seller who sees himself as unwilling or unable to leave the bargaining table?

      See, this is the kind of thing that gets me all pissed off here. Either you are asking that with the assumption that microeconomics doesn’t deal satisfactorily with that, in which case it is a dishonest question, or it is a serious question, but one you are not willing to actually figure out an answer to before you engage in argument about it. If you want the classic economic work on bargaining, I recommend Thomas Schelling’s seminal and phenomenal The Strategy of Conflict.

      But see, I already dealt with this question, at least in part, and you didn’t bother to pay attention to it. I said that loose labor supplies can allow employers to be price setters while employees are price takers, and part of the cause of that is the Fed’s decisions. Why should I bother answering your questions when you ignore my previous answers? It suggests to me that you’re not willing to engage honestly; not actually willing to listen and learn anything about the economic perspective that doesn’t comport with what you already think it is.

      your theory is agnostic about outcomes- you assert that the wage negotiations should be freed, untouched by outside influence.

      So you think the Fed should continue to keep inflation at a rate that ensures a fairly loose labor supply? I don’t. Maybe you didn’t notice just what kind of criticism I made about outside influences? But, yes, in general, I do. You think society has the right to enforce your morally preferred outcomes on everyone, but I lack that hubris, and think that just because I find a particular outcome morally preferred–and just because lots of people agree with me–does not automatically make it either wise or just to impose that on others.

      Your position is at its root no different than right-wingers who want to ban SSM and imprison homosexuals–you all believe that morality ought to be, and can both justly and effectively, be imposed on a society of individuals who are not, by your standards, behaving morally. The great thing about the market is that it is far less morally arrogant, and far less domineering of individuals. It allows individuals to seek their own version of the good life, rather than have to live by LWA’s version of the good life.

      This argument assumes that whatever outcome results must be the “right” one. “:Right” in this case meaning one that is morally satisfactory.

      Morally satisfactory to whom? If the outcomes of my market exchanges are morally satisfactory to me, to whomever I exchange with, and no third party is harmed, I don’t give a flying fuck at a rolling donut whether you find it morally satisfactory. My great grandpa the bold temperance fighter would find my trip to the liquor store morally unsatisfactory. Fuck him and his memory. My neighbor kid wants to earn some money, so I’m going to offer him some yard work. If I pay him below the minimum wage but he’s happy to do the work for that amount, you might find it morally unsatisfactory. Fuck you and your moral satisfactions. Our lives, to the extent they don’t affect others are none of your goddam business, you damned busybody. If you force me to pay my neighbor kid more than I’m willing to, he won’t actually make more because it won’t be worthwhile to me to hire him, and I’ll just do all the work myself. Wouldn’t you be proud of yourself then for the good deed you did in preventing him from earning some money!

      Yet this is a rejection of the concept of labor having an intrinsic moral value. Assigning a moral value to labor means there must be limits to the acceptable outcomes. In this case, a floor beneath which we are not willing to allow labor to be valued, even if it is economically inefficient, even if it restricts the liberty of the participants.

      Whoa, hold on. I agreed labor had intrinsic value…to the person doing the work. I never claimed it had intrinsic moral value. I don’t even know what that would actually mean. I don’t think your claims about not letting it be monetarily undervalued actually follow from the claim that it has intrinsic moral value. For one, you run into the perverse outcome that you may actually prevent the moral value of work from being realized, because you want it to be paid more than it’s economically valued. If your moral theory can actually prevent moral good from happening, you might want to rethink its structure.

      Second, you’re clearly assuming the moral value of work is greater than the moral value of liberty. That’s purely a normative assumption, of course, and my rejection of it is also purely normative. But holy cow do I find that a bizarre phrasing of the issue. If work has intrinsic moral value that outweighs the value of liberty, then you’ve justified forced labor–those who don’t want to work ought to be forced to do so. Maybe we shouldn’t let old people retire, because their liberty-choice to not work the last thirty years of their life is outweighed by the moral value of work. Put my 83 year old ma in the salt mines, LWA! Obviously I’m being a bit facetious, but it seems clear to me you’re not thinking about the consequences of emphasizing the intrinsic moral value of work* over the moral value of liberty.

      In a nutshell, it seems to me that you dislike the basic economic approach because it strips away moral valuation, and allows each individual to make their own moral valuation, even if that is at odds with what “society” prefers. But that’s exactly why I like the economic approach. I’m fine with talk about not harming others against their will, but when I hear people talk about morality I reach for my gun.

      If I seem to be drawing a very firm distinction between us–a line in the sand worth fighting over–I am.
      ___________________________________
      * “intrinsic moral value of work” hits my mind the same way “colorless green ideas sleep furiously” does; as grammatically correct, but semantically nonsensical.Report

  23. Avatar LWA
    Ignored
    says:

    “In a nutshell, it seems to me that you dislike the basic economic approach because it strips away moral valuation, and allows each individual to make their own moral valuation, even if that is at odds with what “society” prefers.”

    Yes, exactly. I am asserting that economcs is only one of several, equally valid methods of addressing how we organize ourselves into a society. Liberty is only one of several, equally valid, goals that we should set for ourselves.

    Ultimately, all normative principles are value judgements- there just isn’t some universal and self-evident principle that is unnassailable. If you say that labor laws in America should be oriented towards generating maximium wealth production and efficiency, that reflects your value judgements, nothing more.

    Are you asserting that your preferred policies would make us happier, our lives more meaningful and rich? Would our families be stronger, our communities more tightly bonded, would a spirit of brotherhood and comraderie increase throught the land?

    Or do you even accept these as legitimate goals of a state?Report

    • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to LWA
      Ignored
      says:

      LWA,

      And contra what you seem to think, nobody here has ever argued that there are competing values that can be considered.

      But I quibble with your “equally valuable.” For one thing, you clearly ranked the intrinsic moral value of labor (whatever that is) above liberty, so you must not actually think they are of equal value. Let’s be very clear about where we each stand, and not fudge things, eh? For another, no, I don’t think these other ways are “equally” value with liberty.

      That doesn’t mean they are not valuable. But let me answer two specific points in your response to make myself clear.

      If you say that labor laws in America should be oriented towards generating maximium wealth production and efficiency, that reflects your value judgements, nothing more.

      But we don’t say that. Neither Roger nor I, nor Brandon Berg, nor anyone else who passes for libertarianish around here. This statement is the sound of liberals refusing to listen and repeating their own perverted interpretations of what we are taking pains to express clearly. The primary goal is freedom to make one’s own choices, from which economic efficient arises wealth, which enables people to pursue their preferred vision of the good life. The wealth production is both byproduct (of liberty) and mechanism (of helping people pursue their definition of the good life). Market advocates are not arguing that wealth is the end in itself.

      Can you hear me on this, or are you going to stick to your belief about what we’re really saying, so that we’ll have to explain this again in the near future?

      Now, on a subsidiary point, if you denigrate wealth production and efficiency you are at best a fool, and at worst an evil man. That doesn’t mean efficiency is the end-all and be-all and that never in any cases can it give way to other values. But it means that far too many liberals–in my not even remotely humble opinion–are far too cavalier about the value of wealth and efficiency. If you want people to live longer, healthier lives with more freedom from want, then you’re going to need wealth; shitloads of wealth; obscene amounts of wealth. It may not be evenly distributed, but you’ll need it to fund the necessary infrastructure for longer healthier living, and you’ll need it to fund the medical and other technological advances that improve the lives of the non-rich (even if it takes a generation or two to become inexpensive enough for the masses of the non-rich to afford), and you’ll need it to build the safety nets you want.

      Efficiency is just as important. People sneer at efficiency, but they don’t get that when they do so they’re asking for inefficiency, and what economists understand and apparently few other people do is that inefficiency means waste of resources. If you waste resources, you can’t provide as much material well-being for as many people out of any given amount of that resource. And wasted resources are often an environmental nightmare. Do you know what oriented strandboard (OSB) is? It’s literally a product of efficiency, as they figured out how to use wood waste from the sawmills to make a useful product. Everybody loves to attack John D. Rockefeller as an evil man for creating the Standard Oil trust. But what none of his critics ever acknowledge is that when he got into the oil business, about the only fraction of the oil that was being used was kerosene, with the rest being dumped into waterways for cheap disposal. I appreciate environmental laws that prohibit that kind of negative externality–a market failure–but let’s not forget that Rockefeller’s pursuit of efficiency (and wealth) led him to pioneer uses for the other fractions of oil, so that a lot less oil got dumped into the water.

      Think about your own business. Are you careful about efficiency? IIRC, you’re an architect. Do you design structures to use more than the necessary materials to achieve whatever the design goal is (which can include aesthetics, as well as functionality and structural soundness). If not, then in your own activities you value efficiency…highly.

      Are you asserting that your preferred policies would make us happier, our lives more meaningful and rich? Would our families be stronger, our communities more tightly bonded, would a spirit of brotherhood and comraderie increase throught the land?

      I’m asserting that there is no system on earth that can reliably produce all these ends, and anyone who says so is deluded or lying.

      Markets can do many of these things, although they–like any other system–are not guaranteed to do so. Markets make people wealthier, which–up to a point, at least–can indeed make them happier, because struggling for survival is a bitch. Brotherhood and cameraderie don’t disappear in systems where liberty is highly valued–liberty allows us to freely choose the groups with which we will associate, with whom we will build brotherhood and cameraderie. Are poorer families stronger? Are families that have to sell their daughters into prostitution because lack of functioning markets in their societies leave them impoverished “stronger”?

      Or do you even accept these as legitimate goals of a state?

      And here you confuse ends and means, which I see happening every time we libertarians have a discussion with you liberals. It’s astonishing to me. We don’t like your means, so you assume we’re opposed to your ends. It’s either the most blatant dishonesty, based on trying to make the other side look as bad as possible, or the most blatant failure of intellect in not understanding the difference between ends and means that every college-educated person ought to have learned.

      There’s nothing wrong with a state promoting these values. The question is how they do it. And in your world view, where–based on your repeated statements about individuals and society it appears that the society subsumes the individual, almost–but not quite–owns the individual–I find your means both despicable and ultimately non-conducive to your goals. I don’t think you can create brotherhood, tightnit communities, and happy people with meaningful lives where the community is able to exert as much dominating authority over them as you would seem to allow; where they are directed toward a particular vision of the good life; the one that you and your fellow commissariat define as a morally satisfactory life.

      I think you have to allow individuals more liberty to define what is the good life for themselves, or they cannot truly have the meaningful lives you hold up as a goal. Remember, value is subjective, as I think you have essentially agreed when you wrote “all normative principles are value judgements- there just isn’t some universal and self-evident principle…” It’s precisely because value is subjective that to achieve the goal of people living meaningful fulfilled lives you must allow them to set their own course in life, to define for themselves their own moral goods–within the bounds of not harming others and depriving them of that same opportunity–rather than just being constrained to what those who hold power say it is, whether they are a minority or a majority.

      And here’s one of the most curious things. A system of liberty actually allows you to pursue your goals with a group of like-minded people. You could form your own community that could be as social-oriented as you can manage. It could even be a commune, if you or some others wanted to go that far. The system of liberty happily allows for that. But your system does not allow for a community of individualists, a group of happy peaceful anarchists building a community of minimal rules. That gets to the nub of why I think my preferred system is superior–it offers liberty for experiments like yours, while yours doesn’t offer liberty for experiments like ours. Your system needs to exert extensive control over people; our system exerts only the minimal control needed to keep people from harming each other.

      I’ve said it before and I stand by it. I find what you say about society vs. the individual to be downright wicked and dangerous. It’s the same approach as the politburo, the Khmer Rouge, or religious fundamentalists. You are like Dostoyevsky’s Grand Inquisitor:

      “‘Receiving bread from us, they will see clearly that we take the bread made by their hands from them, to give it to them, without any miracle. They will see that we do not change the stones to bread, but in truth they will be more thankful for taking it from our hands than for the bread itself! … Too, too well will they know the value of complete submission! And until men know that, they will be unhappy… Who scattered the flock and sent it astray on unknown paths? But the flock will come together again and will submit once more, and then it will be once for all. Then we shall give them the quiet humble happiness of weak creatures such as they are by nature. Oh, we shall persuade them at last not to be proud, for Thou didst lift them up and thereby taught them to be proud. We shall show them that they are weak, that they are only pitiful children, but that childlike happiness is the sweetest of all. They will become timid and will look to us and huddle close to us in fear, as chicks to the hen. They will marvel at us and will be awe-stricken before us, and will be proud at our being so powerful and clever that we have been able to subdue such a turbulent flock of thousands of millions… Yes, we shall set them to work, but in their leisure hours we shall make their life like a child’s game, with children’s songs and innocent dance… And they will have no secrets from us. We shall allow or forbid them to live with their wives and mistresses, to have or not to have children according to whether they have been obedient or disobedient- and they will submit to us gladly and cheerfully…

      You may not think so, but this is exactly where your approach leads, to kindly inquisitors ensuring that above all we don’t disrupt the peaceful working of that society to which we must all unhesitatingly submit.

      Your world is the great enemy of my world. You’re not like so many other liberals here, just asking for some smoothing of the sharp edges. You attack the liberty inherent in markets in a way that is much different from them. I can live in their world, and grumble quietly about its little inefficiencies, because they still value the individual and they and I will stand side-by-side to protect the individual’s right to choose their own life. But your world is ultimately totalitarian in scope, because you continually emphasize the society over the individual, without expressing any real constraints, without ever saying “here is where society’s preferences must give way to the individual’s preferences.” It sounds good, this bonded community you talk about, a good end–but as you would build it, with your means, it is a prison, not a society of free individuals.Report

  24. Avatar roger
    Ignored
    says:

    A call to progressives…

    James and I have extended clear arguments on our positions that strike at the heart of some of your beliefs. I can resummarize them again if interested. This would be a great opportunity for those on the left to step up and show what is wrong or missing with our facts, assumptions, rationale, arguments or values.

    When we lay it all out there and you guys disappear and then rehash the same arguments again next week ignoring everything which we have written, can you see how we will assume you are either not serious, or just not getting it?

    Note this call does not go to unmentioned individuals who have proven their inability to have a dialogue without name calling and threats.Report

    • Avatar Dave in reply to roger
      Ignored
      says:

      Roger,

      I don’t count myself among the Progressives but I think I’ve laid out a few points that may be worth a read.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to roger
      Ignored
      says:

      *snerk*
      My issues are these:
      1) you’re out of date
      2) you (Hanley) appear unwilling to call a spade a spade, and to recognize monopolistic behavior for what it is.
      3) Duh, I’m on your side. Markets are good, really. We just disagree about how functional our markets are currently, and (possibly, somewhat) on how to fix ’em.
      4) Science accounts for much more of our growth than markets, in my not so humble opinion.Report

  25. Avatar Dave
    Ignored
    says:

    I’m way to this game, but I want to respond to James. I’m no economist, but I’ll do the best I can.

    Go back to Schilling’s original comment. It indicates, very clearly, market failure in labor markets. If you, he, or others, don’t see how his comment invokes market failures, then you, he, or they, don’t understand what market failure means.

    I guess my view of market failures is more narrow than yours since mine only takes into consideration instances where markets break down and parties refuse to transact (think of the 2008 crisis). I understand what you’re saying here because I think Schilling is pointing out that the inefficiencies in labor markets lead to sub-optimal outcomes, especially in certain segments of the labor markets. I think that there is some validity this although I don’t know if I would take it as far as the resident liberals.

    And I could try to explain, but I am unpersuaded anyone sincerely wants to know. Instead, too many people here want to argue against economic ideas without really taking the effort to first accurately understand them. I think they want to stick to their misunderstandings, and are unwilling to gain an accurate understanding of those ideas. This is why I said “pearls before swine.” Roger’s understanding of economics is wasted on those who do not have ears to hear. After numerous such debates, all very repetitive now, I have lost hope that even the smart people here are willing to learn if it might challenge them.

    As you know, to the extent I am questioning the use to traditional economic theory in this discussion, it is not because I want to stick to misunderstandings or not gain knowledge. I know you know this and I also know this comment was directed towards other people. As I try to approach these discussions from the viewpoint of a businessman (which is what I am), I start to wonder how much of the economic theory matters. At different points in this discussion, I have noticed people mention a disconnect between the “theory and the practical”. I’ll give you one example from Roger:

    To the extent it is little guy vs the big guy, I disagree. Let us call this pure power imbalance. I will concede that pure power imbalance could lead to some small marginal effect on average wages. Interference with transparency will also distort markets and wages. I will even concede that rules against sharing wage info could be a harmful interference.

    My argument is that if you trained every brick layer to become a master black belt level negotiator and you built a web site which created perfect transparency on wages and openings that the average clearing price or wage would be about the same. A brick layer is only worth so much.

    The last paragraph is 100% dead-on accurate IMO. While I don’t agree with his assessment of pure power imbalances (I’ll explain why in a moment), Roger raises two interesting points:

    1. He concedes that pure power imbalances can affect wages. He is willing to concede that it’s a small amount. I’m not so sure that it’s a small effect, but I’m not sure it’s a large one either.

    2. He also concedes that interference with “transparency” can cause distortions in the market. This makes sense given transparency’s function in the pricing mechanism.

    James, I know that you’ve criticized others for making assertions, but I’m going to make a few of my own. I will be careful with my wording, but I think there’s enough publicly available evidence behind what I’m saying to make my statements credible. I am going to agree with both Mike and Roger at the same time and introduce a real world example (albeit carefully):

    Wal-Mart’s stance on union labor is well-known and has brought itself under fire more times than I can count. As much as I am of the belief that the company has the right to oppose the unionization of its employees, I am also of the belief that the proper way to go about this is through the rule of law. Given the amount of material I have read on Wal-Mart’s labor practices, I have an extraordinarily difficult time believing that Wal-Mart shows any kind of respect for labor law. It doesn’t have to. The costs the company incurs in fines, a pittance relative to its profits or cash-on-hand, are far outweighed by the perceived benefits of remaining union free. Furthermore, regulators are far more pro-business than not so having “referees on the field” is more akin to what goes on in a professional wrestling match than a NFL game.

    Adherence to the rule of law is a prerequisite for efficiency. Efficient markets can and do exist where one party to a transaction has some kind of power imbalance (or negotiating leverage if you will). As Roger explained (and I agree in part), some of it is based upon competition in the market. However, when companies can flout the rule of law and can get away with it either due to the power it exerts in the marketplace, it’s wealth or its status as a favored political interest group (Wall Street), there is no way to determine whether or not the outcomes are either efficient or optimal.

    The main reason for this is based on a very large disagreement I have with Roger:

    Unions — if successful in attaining above market wages…

    Now THIS is where theory and the real world depart in a significant way. There is no question that labor unions have the ability to secure wages higher than what is secured by non-union labor, and non-union labor is a reasonable proxy for a market wage assuming reasonably free markets etc., etc. From an educational perspective, I understand the need to separate union wages vs. market wages as such separation says a lot about what can happen (i.e. wage disequilibrium, exclusion of workers, etc.).

    However, for example, if I am pricing a real estate development and I want to know what the labor is going to cost and I also know that I’m in a union labor market, the price I am going to pay for that labor on a voluntary basis is what the market will bear. Yes, union labor is more expensive, but it is silly to suggest the labor is “above market” in any realistic sense when it’s the only labor available. James, you may be right to say it’s above market on a theoretical basis but I see no reason this matters on a practical one. Wages available to workers in a given market are a function of whether or not workers can successfully unionize and engage in collective bargaining in order to improve wages for its members. That wage level is probably above some theoretical construct of “market” (or actual wages paid to non-union labor), but the going wage rate is the going wage rate. That’s what people are going to pay.

    Because I assume that market wages are a function of the ability to unionize, this is why I hold the belief that bargaining power can matter in some situations. It is also why I believe that pure power imbalances can distort markets through the violation of the rule of law by preventing otherwise legal processes from taking place and reducing the ability of the rule makers to protect participants.

    I’m not sure how well I’ve explained this so I know if you either disagree or have questions, you’ll be able to direct the conversation to make it more meaningful so I’ll leave it at this for now.

    Roger’s understanding of economics is wasted on those who do not have ears to hear. After numerous such debates, all very repetitive now, I have lost hope that even the smart people here are willing to learn if it might challenge them.

    I don’t have to agree with his arguments to have respect for his understanding of economics. I happen to approach things from a different perspective is all.

    Look at Schilling’s reply to Roger about theory v, real-world economics. It was itself a theoretical statement, completely devoid of anything resembling evidence, and constructed with nothing remotely approaching the logic Roger used to build his comment.

    I have nothing against Schilling at all other than the fact that he’s probably taller than I am, but one reason that I decided to participate in this discussion (albeit I’m late) is that I found what I thought was a bit of common ground between both Mike and Roger and thought I could respond to you through my own path. I feel like I’m somewhere between both sides of this debate, a middle ground so to speak.

    Everyone’s arguing from a position of moral discomfort, and that means, it appears, that they aren’t encumbered with the burden of bothering to accurately understand what they’re critiquing.

    I am hoping that I successfully avoided arguing from a position of moral discomfort. I didn’t argue for a more favorable outcome. I simply suggested that markets can fail is one side doesn’t follow the rule of law. I used Wal-Mart as an example. I suppose a labor union could do the same thing, but I’m not sure if there are any left with the sort of power or political pull of Big Business.

    I like to discuss these issues, but not with foks who either simply won’t try to learn, or who will ask questions only with the goal of trying to find another angle of attack, not with a serious intent to understand.

    Then discuss them with me. I’m not looking for an angle of attack. I’ve held this view for about a year or so and have never had the chance to fully vet it.

    A properly working market has no market failures. But markets are just about efficiency.

    We agree. Awesome!!!

    James, again, I apologize if I rambled or if some of this makes no sense. This is a bit of a brain dump. Feel free to critique, redirect, etc.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Dave
      Ignored
      says:

      ” He is willing to concede that it’s a small amount. I’m not so sure that it’s a small effect, but I’m not sure it’s a large one either.”
      Bear in mind that it tends to compound over the course of someone’s career. So a small effect can snowball.Report

    • Avatar roger in reply to Dave
      Ignored
      says:

      @dave

      “He [Roger] concedes that pure power imbalances can affect wages.  He is willing to concede that it’s a small amount. I’m not so sure that it’s a small effect, but I’m not sure it’s a large one either.”

      The more I think about, the less sure I am of even the direction on average wages.  Said more explicitly, I believe the influence is small, but I am not sure if it is up, down or more likely contextual.  

      I agree that a company flouting the rule of law is a bad thing.  I am not sure if this actually applies to Walmart.

      On union wages, let me first say I am a fan of collective bargaining where employees want it and no coercion is involved.  The problem is that unions can only achieve above market wages by monopolizing labor and eliminating competition. Absent coercion and monopoly (and monopoly can usually only be maintained by coercion) firms will seek non union labor (often by changing location), potential employees will seek to undercut union workers, and new non union firms will be incentivized to enter the field.  This is exactly what has happened in last century. 

      In the public sphere, we have a monopoly, hence unions can indeed exploit taxpayers for privileged wages and we have a stable situation.  In places where unions are private and coercive, the trends are longer term. The union gains higher wages via profit, higher prices, less R&D, and replacement of labor with automation. This moves capital and jobs elsewhere. The net effect is to starve private industry union jobs.  They slowly self extinguish. There are some great papers quantifying the effect.

      In summary, long term, non-coercive unions are unlikely to maintain average wages above the market rate. 

      As for monopolized unions, such as those using coercion or in the public sphere, they certainly do influence wages via bargaining power. They do so exactly via supply and demand. They eliminate all competition and then set wages at a privileged bargaining position. This is how guilds have worked for centuries, if not millennia. Report

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