The Idled Young Americans

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secretwealth
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Post by secretwealth » Thu May 16, 2013 8:59 pm

"A LOT of work is drudgery with a point."
No...a lot of work is drudgery with a perceived point. Take "face time" at the office--spending 8 hours a day in a cubicle is seen by many as the sine qua non of the corporate world. But increasingly, as Jacob pointed out, people are realizing this does nothing: it makes workers miserable and it doesn't boost productivity. So telecommuting and outsourcing by billable hour have taken a foothold. That was the whole thrust of the recent debate regarding Mayer's no-telecommuting decision at Yahoo.
Again, there is a patina of value and then there is real value. What is called value needs to be heavily reconsidered at all times. And it is--when the employer sees benefit in the re-evaluation. When it benefits the employee, there's less impetus. And sometimes there is benefit that employers don't know they could have.
Again, I'd like to bring up the early 2000's stories about "internet costing trillions in lost productivity"--this was a common thread of many Time/Newsweek/CNN-level pieces. People were slacking off at work, costing trillions. Of course we all know that's bullshit today. (Or do we?)
To put it simply: Management does not always know what's best for their bottom line. Thrusting drudgery on worker bees is not always best for their bottom line. The question is why they so often think it is. I find that question fascinating, and thoroughly underexplored.
"Since even many ERE people can't get past ostentation in the wealthy"
The ostentation isn't the problem. The idea that people are always or almost always being accurately compensated for the value they bring to the table is the real problem. How many CEOs have gotten multi-million dollar payoffs after running their company into the ground? How many of us have had managers who stifle productivity and are payed six-figures plus to do so?
Yes, investors more efficiently allocate capital to where it should be. No, this is not worth millions of dollars in annual income.


Spartan_Warrior
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Post by Spartan_Warrior » Thu May 16, 2013 9:01 pm

"People should feel upside and downside consequences to their actions, it improves individual decision making, and thus the whole."
Person X and Person Y are both unemployed and living on the same basic income per the RICH economy. Person X spends his income on booze, cigarettes, and gambling. Person Y invests his money, saves it, or otherwise spends more wisely. Person X lives poor and in debt. Person Y lives well without working. Upside and downside consequences aren't going anywhere.


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jennypenny
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Post by jennypenny » Thu May 16, 2013 9:08 pm

^^this^^
No matter how you redistribute the money (to investors, to everyone), you're still giving it to hopelessly flawed humans.


Felix
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Post by Felix » Thu May 16, 2013 9:11 pm

I haven't read Isaacson's book, unfortunately. What was the deal? Equal pay sounds like everyone gets the same wages no matter what they do. Is that right? If so, then this is very different from a basic income which would pay even with no work done and also provide unequal pay for different jobs.
I meant things like these:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mincome

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basic_inco ... ementation
I'd like to see more experiments in that direction.


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jennypenny
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Post by jennypenny » Thu May 16, 2013 9:22 pm

spending 8 hours a day in a cubicle is seen by many as the sine qua non of the corporate world. But increasingly, as Jacob pointed out, people are realizing this does nothing: it makes workers miserable and it doesn't boost productivity
Is it the work, or the environment? I lot of people here seem willing to hold on to their jobs if they can do them remotely.
Right now not only do you have to do lousy work, you also receive minimal payment because your bad situation is being exploited. What a basic income will essentially do is redistribute power. Maybe people shouldn't be forced to work bad jobs at lousy pay?
What happens when jobs that don't require much skill or education end up paying the same as typical office cubicle jobs that require a college degree? I can see how it seems fair on some levels, but what would happen if (too) many choose to skip formal education and opt for the jobs that don't require any special education or skill? I know it's vogue right now to say college is too expensive and point to all of the unemployed college graduates, and I agree with that sentiment to a point, but aren't we better off as a society with more people aiming for higher levels of education, and not fewer? Maybe the structure of higher education has to change, but there should be some incentive like higher pay for pursuing a higher level of education.


Felix
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Post by Felix » Thu May 16, 2013 9:39 pm

I guess the effect of raising the pay of bad jobs is to provide incentives to people to do those jobs in the first place and to provide an incentive to replace the workers with robots (it's more profitable to do that then).
Also, these would happen in a basic-income-society. So getting anyone to do bad jobs would require such (or similar) incentives to get the jobs done.
Maybe those jobs will be changed so that they are less repulsive. Better equipment, better hours, more say in structuring your workday, ... things like these can greatly improve the attractiveness of a job.


Spartan_Warrior
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Post by Spartan_Warrior » Thu May 16, 2013 10:48 pm

I think at least some of the disagreement in this thread comes not only from different views of the real world, but different views of the theoretical world that would replace it. The RICH economy requires certain prerequisites--namely, automation of the majority of unskilled work and post-scarcity resource abundance--that can be hard to reconcile with reality, as we're simply not there.
When people talk about "who will do the unattractive jobs?", for instance, I feel like they're looking at this theoretical new economy differently from me. Or, at the very least, we're looking at two different eras along a continuum. To me it seems obvious that the very point of this type of economy is that those unskilled jobs will mostly no longer exist.
On the other hand, some things would clearly NOT change, IMO. For instance, why would the market suddenly start paying the same amount for different skill sets? Of course it wouldn't. The only difference is that those with skill sets that are less valuable to the market would still be able to survive on their basic income--rather than contributing to homelessness, crime, etc, as is the case today.
Likewise, the incentives to improve yourself/work harder/innovate would still be there, and in more or less the same form as it is today--the allure of more money. If you want to consume above and beyond what the basic income provides for, you will go out and get yourself a job or come up with some brilliant innovation. It's not like the idea is to send everyone checks and forbid them from working. (You know, like the current welfare/disability programs.)


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jennypenny
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Post by jennypenny » Thu May 16, 2013 11:13 pm

@Spartan--I know the kind of new economy we're talking about should eliminate all of the lousy jobs, but everything is relative. Unless every job is the same, some jobs will be seen as worse than others. Think of the kind of horrible jobs that were performed by unskilled workers at the start of the industrial revolution, and compare them with unskilled jobs today. Today's jobs seem cushy in comparison.
We'd probably also end up redefining what unskilled and educated meant to fit with the new paradigm.


secretwealth
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Post by secretwealth » Fri May 17, 2013 3:12 am

@jennypenny "What happens when jobs that don't require much skill or education end up paying the same as typical office cubicle jobs that require a college degree? I can see how it seems fair on some levels, but what would happen if (too) many choose to skip formal education and opt for the jobs that don't require any special education or skill?"
This goes back to your suggestion that the issue isn't the work but the environment. With a basic income guarantee, I imagine those who want an easy job to occupy their time would opt for the french fryer, and those who want to tackle puzzles will get a degree in engineering or art history or sociology.

I agree that we're better off as a society with more people aiming for more education, but I don't see any reason why a basic income guarantee would diminish the desire for education. In fact, I bet it would facilitate it--by freeing people up to pursue knowledge for the sake of knowledge.

I wonder--what do people think of this? http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/won ... ic-income/
"No matter how you redistribute the money (to investors, to everyone), you're still giving it to hopelessly flawed humans."
The idea that our current system accurately distributes money to those who deserve it the most just stuns me. Seriously, after 2008, how does anyone think capital is going into the hands of the smartest and most deserving? Seriously?


secretwealth
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Post by secretwealth » Fri May 17, 2013 3:37 am

Sorry, should've put all of this in one post, but anyway...
@Jennypenny: "Unless every job is the same, some jobs will be seen as worse than others."
Yup--and this is why I think Marx's post-scarcity economy is a fantasy.
Imagine if we had all of the food, housing, medicine, energy, and entertainment that all of humanity could ever need or want. Would everyone sit back and just enjoy? Of course not. They'd create artificial scarcity.
This is what branding is all about. When a material hits commodification, people use marketing to brand their version of that commodity to differentiate it in the market. This adds (artificial, subjective, transient) value that is net positive to the producer and net negative to society as a whole. Here's a great case study if anyone is interested: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142 ... 81700.html
In short, as soon as we have the solution to satisfy everyone's needs, we'll find a way to manufacture new needs that cannot be satisfied for everyone.
Human beings are horrible.


FarmOne
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Post by FarmOne » Fri May 17, 2013 3:45 am

"A LOT of work is drudgery with a point."
During my ~25 year experience in the corporate world, I came to an understanding of why I spent a majority of my time doing busy work and not work that was productive to the success of the business. When you pay for time, you get time.
An employer only needs most employees around to serve a task. The law requires that employers pay for time, so they invent tasks to fill the employees time until they are really needed. Institutionalized "doing time".
It seems to me that an improvement on the pay for time ideology would be a return to the pay for task not unlike contract labor performs. When you pay for results, you get results. It would certainly make the working world more enjoyable when you are actually working with a purpose.


George the original one
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Post by George the original one » Fri May 17, 2013 4:22 am

> It seems to me that an improvement on the pay

> for time ideology would be a return to the pay

> for task not unlike contract labor performs.
Except that doesn't work in the service industry. For instance, a restaurant owner needs a cook, but if there are no customers, then the cook would get no income. So then the cook would quit and there'd be no restaurant.
Consequently, the restaurant owner invents chores for the cook to do when there are no customers. Maybe the invented chore is to round up customers? But then why would the cook not quit and open their own restaurant?
So, a restaurant owner is going to pay for time just to have the cook available when customers do happen to show up. The cook will earn a wage whether there are customers or not.
***

I'll go along with pay for piecework, especially if there's an incentive plan to be more productive.


George the original one
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Post by George the original one » Fri May 17, 2013 4:26 am

Also, one has to be careful about paying for piecework that is actually a service industry. For instance, if you pay janitors by how many rooms they clean, then you'll get rushed work & poorly cleaned rooms.


Felix
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Post by Felix » Fri May 17, 2013 9:13 am

If income guarantees rustle too many jimmies, maybe a job guarantee would do the trick. The idea behind that is that when the private sector fails at providing enough employment, people can go to the government and get a job at minimum wage. This way, you maximize the economy's productivity because you always provide employment to all people who want to work. And it stabilizes the economy in times of economic downturn. So this would be like artificial full employment. It would not take away from the private sector because they can always hire people away with better jobs and better payment. But it does create a baseline in terms of working conditions and wages.


secretwealth
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Post by secretwealth » Fri May 17, 2013 3:27 pm

A job guarantee was behind FDR's new deal and is pretty much the implication behind northern European countries' "socialist welfare" states. In Scandinavia, Germany, etc., you are guaranteed a basic income if you do not work, true--but you have to report to employment offices, train for work, and go to job interviews. Not unlike how unemployment insurance works in the U.S. Fail to show up for job training, and your benefits will be cut.
In short, countries that are wealthy enough to provide a baseline tend to do so. Even India and China are starting to roll out welfare programs, and it's clear that their eventual goal is the kind of welfare state that is commonplace in Europe.
In fact, the only people on Earth I have ever met who are vehemently against providing a social safety net for their fellow countrymen are extremist libertarian Americans. I imagine America's unique multiracial history and socio-economic development have almost everything to do with that.


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jennypenny
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Post by jennypenny » Fri May 17, 2013 4:25 pm

I agree that we're better off as a society with more people aiming for more education, but I don't see any reason why a basic income guarantee would diminish the desire for education. In fact, I bet it would facilitate it--by freeing people up to pursue knowledge for the sake of knowledge.

Isn't one of the arguments in favor of higher inheritance taxes that heirs don't do well with the money they inherit and most of it is gone in a couple of generations? That seems to imply that taking away the incentive to earn a living has a negative effect, not positive.
The idea that our current system accurately distributes money to those who deserve it the most just stuns me.

I don't think the current system is better. I think that no matter how you distribute the money, eventually most of it will float to the top while most people sink to the bottom.


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jennypenny
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Post by jennypenny » Fri May 17, 2013 4:37 pm

I'm not entirely opposed to an income program (like a social security program for all adults over 18) provided

* there was an asset test

* all other welfare programs were eliminated

* income tax rates were flexible and tied directly to the new SSI obligations (and military spending)

* all other tax revenues came from consumption taxes (state and federal)


Seneca
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Post by Seneca » Fri May 17, 2013 6:26 pm

I've seen a trend here- drudgery !== Makework
Cleaning out a septic tank is drudgery. So is janitorial work. Cleaning and inspecting greasy, corroded parts to repair a vehicle or bicycle (often the most time consuming part) is drudgery.
Yesterday I had to do trip reports and expense reports following a customer visit. That's following biz travel time away from home and hearth. There's just nothing fun about those, but I need to communicate what I learned for the visit to have meaning, and I need to file my receipts in an IRS approved manner for everyone to get paid.
Due diligence during an exciting financial deal, definitely drudgery.
All this stuff is necessary work that is drudgery, and it consumes many work hours in this country. Some of it automatable, and some of it has been automated, some of it not. But you have to give people a reason to do it, or they won't.


Felix
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Post by Felix » Fri May 17, 2013 9:18 pm

Yup, that's why those who do it should be paid correspondingly instead of having the disadvantaged exploited to to our dirtywork.


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jennypenny
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Post by jennypenny » Fri May 17, 2013 9:44 pm

Here's a blog post from The Last Psychiatrist about that SSDI article from last month. If you've never read TLP, he's decidedly un-PC and has his tongue super-glued to the inside of his cheek. Consider yourself warned.
http://thelastpsychiatrist.com/2013/04/ ... out_5.html
I wasn't sure whether to put it here or in the older disability thread. This thread seemed appropriate based on these two paragraphs near the end...
"We need to create jobs." There aren't any to create. Robots and chinamen, that's the future of unskilled labor. Sorry, I meant chinawomen. College won't help either, you went to Barnard and you can't find a job, what hope is there for the majority on SSI? Zero, not the way we're doing it. TV tells them how to want, no one else is around to tell them otherwise. Here's the advice you need to give your kid: either you find a knowledge based productive skill, from plumber to quantum programmer, or you will be living off the state, regardless of what company you think you're working for.
I know, the idea of people getting paid for nothing gives me the heebie jeebies as well, I'd want to shrug, too. But the point here is not whether poor people deserve living wages, the point, again, is that since this is precisely what they are getting, already and irrevocably, can we do it more efficiently, cheaply? Why do we have to go through all this bureaucracy that massively inflates the costs-- for example, Medicaid (the poor have to first become "patients" and get meds to get disabled, after all)? Why not more efficiently deliver the "assistance"? Cut out the middlemen-- send them directly to an ATM? I see how that might lead to an "entitlement culture", but isn't "disability culture" actually worse AND more expensive?


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