Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Workers: Beggars or Choosers?

My comment on John Cochrane's blog entry: Summers and the nature of policy advice

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I remember way back in the day... when I was in the army infantry... my buddies and I would sit around discussing how easy it was for ugly army chicks to hook up with good looking army dudes. It wasn't because the ugly chicks were particularly charming... nope... it was simply because of supply and demand. I have no idea what the actual ratio was... but it sure seemed like there was at least 100 guys for every girl. Guys were a dime a dozen. And, as the saying goes, beggars can't be choosers. Ladies had the upper hand... they could quickly and easily replace guys on the slightest whim.

Can you imagine if Larry Summers had been there? "Hey!  I have an idea!  The army should make it harder for women to join!"  Even the dumbest guy in the entire army would have instantly recognized just how massively moronic Summers' idea was.

Maybe the problem is formalism?  Summers didn't join the army infantry right after high school. Instead, he went to some university... got a PhD... and now he uses so much technical jargon that regular folks aren't able to instantly recognize just how massively moronic his ideas are. I wouldn't be surprised if he was related to Paul Samuelson.

Eh, Samuelson did get the free-rider problem right. And it's not like we can get rid of technical jargon... "that one problem where people have an incentive to lie about how much they value things like national defense and it results in the wrong amount of defense being supplied."  Well... since I'm here... if you get a chance I'd appreciate a second opinion on my argument that the free-rider problem is equally applicable to democracy.

Getting back on topic... Scott Sumner recently wrote this paragraph about employers having the upper hand...

Regardless of how you feel about monetary policy, it's clear that if employers feel they have a "captive audience" of workers, who are terrified of losing their jobs, it would be easier for the employer to crack the whip and drive the employees to work extremely hard. One advantage of a healthy job market is that workers have more power to negotiate pleasant working conditions.

To reinforce my comparison...

[Justice Anthony Kennedy] ignores the fact that polygamy imposes real costs, by reducing the number of marriageable women. Suppose a society contains 100 men and 100 women, but the five wealthiest men have a total of 50 wives. That leaves 95 men to compete for only 50 marriageable women. - Richard Posner, Supreme Court Breakfast Table

Heh... half the ladies be gold diggers?  Posner's been listening to too much Kanye West. Anyways, if we did legalize polygamy... and Posner's estimate turned out to be correct... then Summers' bright idea would be to make it harder for American guys to marry foreign ladies.  "Hey!  Let's send all the foreign ladies to Mars!"

You say that Summers is a smart guy... but he wants to help workers by building up, rather than tearing down, barriers to entry. He wants there to be more workers and less employers.  He prefers barrierism over builderism.  How is that smart? Not only is it bad for workers... but it's also bad for consumers. It also increases instability/volatility. The economy has more eggs in fewer baskets.


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Out of curiosity... I searched Google for the title that I chose for this entry... Workers: Beggars or Choosers?   Here's a snippet from one of the results...

Labour advocates say there are no publicly traded manufacturers in China that get this yet. Some will eventually figure it out. Until they do, companies like Yum! Brands Inc, which invests in employee development at its KFC and Pizza Hut fast-food restaurants, offer a better alternative. - Alexandra Harney, China's migrant workers: from beggars to choosers

This made me chuckle when I read it.  Isn't it funny that labor advocates are the most qualified to run businesses... yet they rarely do so... which is why we need labor advocates!


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