Morning Ed: Labor {2018.07.30.M}

[Lb1] Adam Ozimek argues in favor of subsidizing working. Ideologically I prefer basic income, but my experience tells me job guarantees are better when and if the time comes.

[Lb2] Not bad work if you can get it, in part because of how hard it is to lose it.

[Lb3] How American corporations smack down worker interests.

[Lb4] I hope they at least give these permits a cool name like, I don’t know, “medallion” or something.

[Lb5] Maya Salam wants women to stop volunteering to do housework at work.

[Lb6] I know this is ultimately a good thing because reliance on human labor has lead to a lot of inefficiencies in the industry and it’s easier to move things to West Dakota and West Texas than people, but it still makes me nervous even more than most automation stories because of my fondness for boomtowns.

[Lb7] For people hiring, things are just tough all over.

[Lb8] It turns out, if they’re doing work you gotta pay your employees, even if you’re Starbucks. I’m find with some flexibility in theory but in practice I’ve seen it too effortlessly abused.

[Lb9] Unemployment keeps going down but there’s still more down to go.

[Lb0]


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Will Truman is the pseudonym of a former para-IT professional who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He is also on Twitter. ...more →

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18 thoughts on “Morning Ed: Labor {2018.07.30.M}

  1. [Lb1] It is important to have something that you are doing with yourself, to have a sense of purpose, to have work to do in the world. That doesn’t have to come from a paying job. Also, UBI would allow one to figure out a new job at one’s own pace. Maybe make cute, brightly colored wooden windmills, like one of my uncles did as a hobby, and ended up selling.

    Or you could make wood carvings, like one of my wife’s uncles. You could spend time building some sense of community and try to reverse the trend of atomization.

    Inequality isn’t getting better. I see very little way to stop automation, we need to think about how to best transition people to a new way of being with each other. The industrial revolution is over, and we won, but we’re in danger of losing the peace.

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    • A great many jobs that would make other folks’ lives more pleasant just don’t “pay.” How much would anyone who had to care about the economics of it pay for school-day crossing guards or cafeteria staff (known in my day as “lunch ladies”) or someone to come by every day and check on whether known old people are OK and maybe pick up groceries for them. Although these are all functions that would make life nicer for us, you can’t pay such people a decent wage on an economic basis, so we do without. Subsidizing such jobs would give people who lack the skills or inclination to do the rapidly disappearing work that pays for itself, with some left over, dignified functions in life and make things better for the rest of us.

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  2. Lb2: The genre of the piece is the screed against the government, using the DMV as the, umm…, vehicle. This is an evergreen form. The curious element here is that the writer completely misses the point in his own story. Here we have an incompetent employee, with incompetent supervisors. Better supervisors would have documented her incompetence and long since gotten rid of her, but they couldn’t be bothered. Once this came out, the supervisors were dinged and sent to retraining, while the employee was told to shape up. Why was nothing more done to the incompetent employee? Because her incompetence hadn’t been documented. duh. In other words, given the fact set, this is the correct outcome. There is still a story here, but it is a more abstract story of a managerial failure. This lacks the pizzazz of talking about the employee sleeping at her desk and getting away with it because Government!

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    • Now you can’t go spoiling everyone’s fun with facts and common sense. It just isn’t fair. And FWIW, my own experiences with DMV have been pretty OK. Far better, for example, than with any number of privately-owned utilities I have to mess with.

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      • My own experience has varied pretty widely from place to place, but relatively consistent from region to region. Where we live now lives up to nearly every DMV stereotype out there. In the Mountain West it was actually pretty good. The South not so much. The Pacific Northwest (sample of one, in this case) was very impersonal but they got the job done.

        Anyway, to put it another way, if they care and can find the right people they can do a pretty good job. Some places do and a lot of places really don’t.

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        • I have dealt with DMVs in four states. California’s was fairly dire after the Prop 13 budget cuts. Go figure. I have no idea what it is like now. Arizona was find. Pennsylvania is, well, weird. Many of the functions I would expect to go to the DMV to do are essentially farmed out to private tag and title outfits. It is essentially impossible to do these functions without paying a private entity. On the other hand, these tend to be small businesses, and there is a lot of competition. Put these together and the prices typically are reasonable and the service excellent. Maryland, where I am now permanently ensconced, is fine, or even a bit better than fine. The seats in the waiting room are even comfortable.

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          • Concur on Arizona and Washington. The DMV experience in both places has been about as painless as one can expect.

            Actually, for Arizona, my wife and I got our DLs at the same time, but went to different windows to do the processing. Somehow the paperwork got crossed and my pic was showing up on her license (& vice versa). The two employees quickly put their heads together and got it straightened out right quick.

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      • The DMV in my town has pretty long times, but you can make appointments online when you have to come in (we can renew online at least once before we have to come to the office), and the appointments ease the time considerably. It’s not horrible.

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        • This one isn’t the fault of the local DMV folks, but your comment reminded me of a bit of an irony/disconnect where I currently am:

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    • I read it somewhere, but I think some conservative antipathy to the DMV among a certain class of conservatives and such is that it’s something they can’t have somebody else do for them. They have to get among the hoi polloi and get their license renewed.

      Also, it’s always a good time to remind people that the IRS has consistently has positive approval ratings, despite the GOP wanting to supposedly abolish it.

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      • I’ve seen it elsewhere that things like the DMV, USPS and road crews loom very large in the gummint/ private sector debates, because these are the few manifestations of government power that most people will ever encounter.

        Although the military/ security apparatus consumes almost a third of every tax dollar we pay, almost no one actually has any contact with Boeing, KBR, or any other contractor.

        Most of the government machinery hums along in the background, like the Amazon servers that are ubiquitous yet hidden from view. Its only rarely that we encounter the outcropping of something we can touch and feel.

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  3. Lb5: I hate to get all gender essentialist but what happens if there is a different baseline between the two teams playing chicken?

    The driver who doesn’t even notice s/he is in danger will usually have the upper hand against the driver who can’t help but notice that OH MY GOD I AM DRIVING A CAR DIRECTLY AT ANOTHER CAR

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    • In an ideal world, there would be a rota for cleaning. When our colleague who liked washing glassware retired (no, seriously: they said it helped them relax at the end of the day and “think about nothing”), the intro-lab glassware was hard to keep clean. All too often it fell to the person teaching the last lab of the week (ME) to do ALL the glassware. I lobbied hard for a rota so it would not be unfair.

      We did wind up last semester with a student who got paid by the hour to do it. (Faculty are salaried for something like 40.8 hours a week, but most of us work more than that, and doing additional tasks just means we’re donating labor to the university).

      In the real world I find it’s often the person who is most bugged by a mess who cleans it. Or the person who’s around when it has to be done. (The colleague with whom I share a teaching lab was out of town all summer when SURPRISE we had to transfer all chemicals to new, locking, metal cabinets – because of new regulations – even though those chemicals were already in a cabinet in a locked prep room). I wound up moving all the chemicals myself. If my colleague can’t find something come fall he’s not allowed to complain at me about where I stored it.

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  4. Lb2:
    Notice the tone of the post. See how angry it is, filled with righteous indignation?

    Why is that? Who was harmed?
    A government employee cheated her employers out of labor, and it earns the wrath of people who are in no way harmed or even connected to it.
    It can’t be the anger stems from the miniscule amount of taxes that were wasted, since obviously there are massive amounts of waste and fraud created by private government contractors, which is ignored.

    There seems to be something intrinsic to idleness that is immoral, just wrong by its very existence even if no actual harm is done.

    Compare this to the essay in Lb1, where Ozimek talks about the harm of idleness.

    Now add in Lb6, and the article I linked the other day about how AI is taking over the high value problem solving jobs at Amazon.

    The conclusion I take away is that workers are being squeezed from multiple fronts.
    On one hand machines are taking away even the high value high intelligence tasks, leaving us with only the low valued human interface skills like home nursing care.

    We have a culture that structures labor as a marketplace exchange, where buyer and seller are on equal terms.
    Yet we live and swim in a culture that stigmatizes idleness as immoral where refusing to accept a job is taboo.

    So workers are in a marketplace where they have no right of exit, where the labor they have to sell is steadily becoming irrelevant, and the lucky few gather more and more power and wealth, leading to the world Rufus speaks about in his essay on gentrification, where the class divide reaches Dickensian levels.

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