Morning Ed: Labor & Econ {2018.09.25.T}

Will Truman

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

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11 Responses

  1. Aaron David says:

    EC4 – No, modern business management was not learned from slavery, and that is one of the worst articles I have read in a long time, full of inferences lacking any logical provenance. The bottom line is that when one has a workforce, no difference if it is chattel slaves or industrial robots, you manage it to be most effective. Correlation is not causation. Mideaval apprentices were also used as effectively as could be applied. No one ever has had their workforce running around willy-nilly doing things as the workforce wants too. That the intro paragraph has quotes from labor sources to decry managing a workforce is quite telling (and I was in a union at one time.)

    I am guessing the author has never managed anything, including their own time.Report

    • George Turner in reply to Aaron David says:

      Well, our colleges are turned out a ton of graduates who’ve been taught that all things can be explained by racism, sexism, or colonialism. To a kid with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Nevermind the long history of books on production techniques. Galileo wrote about the incredible production efficiency of the Venetian arsenal. There was a Renaissance book on mining that was outstanding and highly influential. Taylor was not by any means the first person who thought “How can we do this faster and cheaper?”

      But on the bright side, tying things to slavery does make click-bait quality articles easy to write. Google and Facebook have employee cafeterias to feed their workforce more efficiently than having them wander out to restaurants that are off campus, thus upping productivity by squeezing every last minute out of the laborers. You know who else did that? Big plantation owners in the South!Report

    • j r in reply to Aaron David says:

      I had similar thoughts when reading the piece. But I did some Googling on Caitlin Rosenthal and now I’m wondering if the problem wasn’t Boston Review’s framing and editing. Here is an interview with Rosenthal in another outlet in which her points come across as much more measured:

      For instance, she says this:

      There were times when I thought I was going to find the smoking gun, the origin of modern management on a slave plantation. But I never found that one link, because I came to realize the whole story is much more complicated. Southern planters were corresponding with Northern manufacturers about industry innovation. There was a lot of cross-pollination in terms of where people got their management techniques at the time.

      Also, Rosenthal was a McKinsey consultant between undergrad and grad school, so she does have some management experience even if it was mostly evaluating the management practices of others.Report

  2. dragonfrog says:

    [Lb2] if I’m reading the article right, the bad idea was the USPTO granting a patent for the roll cage in 2016. If the patent examiner who granted that drove to work that morning, they were literally surrounded in prior art.

    [Ec3] yes, what Second Life lacked, clearly, was blockchain sprinkled all over it. Just generally, i don’t get how that sounds like a good idea – we’ll take data, the whole point of which is that they’re limitless, that your enrichment needn’t deprive others, oh look the Singularity, and improve it by adding scarcity. To whom does that sound like progress? (I mean, from the perspective of a profiteer I get the motivation, but…)Report

  3. PD Shaw says:

    [Ec4] The critique of free labor as wage-slavery predates the Civil War, and remained a fairly consistent critique of labor afterward. I don’t believe Taylorism or Gantt charts have some particular secret origin in slave systems, rather they reflected repackaging of concepts under the rubric of “scientific” by astute self-promoters.Report

  4. Oakinhouston says:

    EC 5

    The way distribution tariffs are set in the USA (at least in VA) would be laughed at in almost any mid sized country anywhere in Latin America.

    Most regulations do not allow for specific assets to be included or not in the regulatory base. They follow “efficient company” international indices and set up a theoretical asset base and efficient O&M.

    In the particular case of a grid extension to accommodate a new customer, most regulations establish the utility has an obligation to connect anyone within 100 mts (300 ft) or a similar distance. Beyond that, the new customer must pay the investment, and transfer it (for free or for some sort of credit on future invoices) to the utility.

    It seems to me there were several things wrong in this Amazon/Dominion deal.

    1- Dominion offered to build the line (overhead) at their cost. Fine, Dominion is free to give away stuff.

    2- The Amazon facility is located at a site far from the grid, apparently separated from it by a historical site.

    3- Because crossing the historical site with an overhead line was unadviseable or impossible, they used an underground line. Notice that putting an aerial line along the borders of the field doesn’t seem to have been considered as an option, even though it was probably cheaper than the underground one.

    4- Once built, the utility argued that the underground vs overhead variance because historical surrounds should be covered by the customers. Mind you, this would be standard and unobjectionable if the line was reaching to a community at the other side of the field. You don’t want poles and wires crossing Gettysburg, so everything around it is buried and the cost added as a (microscopic) surcharge to customers. The objection here is that this is a dedicated extension that should have ALWAYS had to be paid by the customer.

    If only we could send US regulators for training to places like Panama or Jamaica (or really good places, like Colombia, Chile, Brazil) so they could learn their tradeReport

  5. Marchmaine says:

    [Ec1] Was an interesting read. I find Kolozi’s selection of thinkers slightly odd as if he’s looking for thinkers to validate his intellectual history theory rather than picking the strongest thinkers; it also suffers (or so I’m guessing) from a very American bent… which on the surface seems justifiable as this is an American project… but I find that trying to survey a history of ideas constrained (artificially) by geography – especially after, say, 1800 – likely to miss very important contributions.

    So it looks like someone looking in and guessing at what a conservative critique of capitalism might encompass… but not (from what the review hints at) a solid conservative critique itself which would pull from rather different sources. Or at least so would the branches I’m most familiar with. So maybe its just not the book I’d have written… but I’ll stand by my initial sense that the choices seem somewhat… idiosyncratic.Report

  6. James K says:

    Ec2 makes a lot of sense to me – I always found the previous studies that showed no link being income and subjective wellbeing suspicious. Given how versatile money is, it would be really strange if it satiated as quickly as previous studies had indicated.Report

    • Troublesome Frog in reply to James K says:

      People also seem to neglect that whether or not more consumption makes you happier, money insulates you from a whole host of bad things that make life worse. All else equal, I’d expect the freedom from worry alone to be a major driver of overall life satisfaction.Report

  7. Lb4 [mystery shoppers]: When I started reading that article, I was all primed to say, “Amen.” And I agree with the author that mystery shopping really does rub me the wrong way and while it’s probably, arguably a useful tool for management in some ways, I’ll keep my knee jerk opposition to it.

    But…..the author goes too far in a lot of ways:

    The only other employees that blindly adhere to [arbitrary rules of the sort mystery shops are supposed to grade them on] are the natural slaves of retail who never question anything and are easily exploited like pawns.

    That sounds too much like the condescending notion of Lumpenproletariat or the notion of anti-Stachonovism. Both are a way to look down on others without seeking context.

    “An employee can often sense when someone is not genuinely interested and there are all kinds of reasons why they will be inclined to be less helpful.” Good enough as far as that goes and most of that paragraph makes sense, but the sentence–“The mystery shopper may have a resting bitch face.”–is unnecessary. I confess that when I worked customer service, I often judged people by their looks and probably was wrong at least 51% of the time. But that’s not a good thing.Report