Re: Unconditional Basic Income

1

On topic (sort of):

http://thelastpsychiatrist.com/2010/11/the_terrible_awful_truth_about_1.html


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 4:36 AM
horizontal rule
2

It takes a year to get SSI, because you need to demonstrate that you can't work for at least a year, and that's the easiest way. The state welfare department (TANF) gives you a loan and takes back the money once you qualify for SSI.

They won't necessarily give it to everyone, and there are incentives to get you back to work.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 4:51 AM
horizontal rule
3

That blog post is irritating me. People wit social security--either/or SSDI or SSI do indeed have to pay child support. It probably isn't the full amount, but their benefits are garnished.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 4:52 AM
horizontal rule
4

1 is very interesting, but it's sufficiently wrong about state cash assistance (at least as it's practiced in my state) as to make me doubt the rest of it.

My guess is that this guy sees the "positive" outcomes (the people who get it) and doesn't see the people who don't.

One thing that is beyond stupid are the limits on cash you're allowed to earn if you're on SSDI. There is no reason that people who can't hold down a 9-5 job shouldn't be able to earn what they can on the side, over and above the pathetically low threshold they currently face. It's not hurting anyone, and it's certainly helping them.

The part I agree with him about is that the system is a horrific mess, albeit a semi-functional horrific mess. I'd be interested to know what Bostonian Girl thinks.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 4:55 AM
horizontal rule
5

Ugh. My clients are somewhat less stable than your ordinary poor, chaotic types, but they frequently don't show up to appointments, so our clinics lose money. We keep them, because it makes it easier for us to manage our risky clients by coordinating their other care without HIPAA releases. Okay, sorry to go too far off topic.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 4:57 AM
horizontal rule
6

What interested me about the post linked in 1 (and other posts in that guy's blog) is what it reveals about how we've (mal)adapted to the much ballyhooed "end of welfare as we know it".

The need for it never went away and, at least as that guy tells it, psychiatry and medicine have been recruited to supply cover for providing financial assistance that would cause conservatives to loose their shit if it was simply called "financial assistance" instead of something health related.

Since I know nothing about SSI I have know idea how accurate that picture is.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 5:06 AM
horizontal rule
7

The health insurance piece is a big problem too, even in MA. If you go to work for a company with health insurance you're supposed to take it*. Target does offer benefits through United, but the subsidized CommonWealth Care programs are much better, particularly for mental health. So, there's a big incentive to work if you want but not so much that you lose your benefits entirely, since you risk getting inadequate benefits. (Clients don't always see this, but our benefits specialists would probably counsel an older person working a menial job to do this. If we had a young person with the potential to have a full career, we'd be gung ho to get them not just out of our psych rehab services but out of the public system entirely.

The complexity of the system is one of the reasons that I'm passionate about health reform and divorcing healthcare from employer benefits and student status (i.e. crappy student health insurance.)

Free health coverage paid for with payroll and progressive taxation would do a lot toward approximating a bastardized minimum income.

In MA there is a program for the "working disabled" who wouldn't be able to work without MassHealth. I don't remember how time-limited that is.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 5:11 AM
horizontal rule
8

A separate but related issue is institutionalization. The total percentage of people in institutions (state mental hospitals, prisons and nursing homes) has stayed fairly constant with shifts in the numbers allocated to each. In recent years we've seen an increase in the number of people with major mental illness in nursing homes. Many of them are genuinely sick or unable to live safely in the community--even in supported housing. They may, for example, represent a huge fall risk or be unable to get out of their housing unaccompanied in less than 2.5 minutes in the event of a fire. BUT the crucial point is that they wind up in nursing homes earlier.

There is a poverty connection. Rich people (something more than UMC) were often able to absorb the cost of a disabled relative who could then avoid a state hospital and stay at home rather than go to a nursing home, but this is largely transfers within the healthcare system and not a wholesale transfer of the problem of poverty to the medical realm.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 5:24 AM
horizontal rule
9

earlier than the general population (even the general poor population).


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 5:25 AM
horizontal rule
10

I strongly disapprove of UBI, on the grounds, among many others, that it is neoliberal, a privatization of what should be the commons. Much like Obamacare, we would give people money to buy commodities and services-for-profit.

1) Expand the commons to handle sustenance. Free food, free housing, free health care, free entertainment...at a minimal level.

2) Job guarantee. Anyone who wants to pretend to be useful should be paid minimum wage. Count crickets, bury and dig up bottles of pennies, tell your stories to children, show up once a week to get the check. The pretense, the narrative that everyone is useful and valuable just by being around needs to be positively affirmed.

3) After these, perhaps the least functional could be given money, although this should be covered under 2), and workers chased down by other workers. Here's your paycheck for guarding this refrigerator box. And a neat box it is.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 5:36 AM
horizontal rule
11

Nursing home placement means not in prison, at least.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 5:37 AM
horizontal rule
12

4

1 is very interesting, ...

1 is in fact very interesting although I wouldn't trust it 100%.

One feature of the system is that people with real mental illnesses, particularly if they are severe enough to actually prevent them from working, often find it difficult (or impossible) to establish and maintain eligibility minimal as these requirements may be.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 5:38 AM
horizontal rule
13

3

That blog post is irritating me. People wit social security--either/or SSDI or SSI do indeed have to pay child support. It probably isn't the full amount, but their benefits are garnished.

According to this only SSDI can be garnished to pay child support.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 6:09 AM
horizontal rule
14

13: I think you're right about that, James.

11: Just as expensive though.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 6:13 AM
horizontal rule
15

Why, I can't imagine two people I'd rather see debating a citizen's basic income proposal than....Bob and Shearer!

As John Hegley put it, "if the world's/two worst lays/finally got together/they'd have/Great Sex."

Anyway, Bob's selling out. His proposal still uses money. After the revolution, the unified national cybernetic real-time economic plan will simply allocate resources administratively.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 6:13 AM
horizontal rule
16

15.last: It's nickname will be Fed Plenty.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 6:20 AM
horizontal rule
17

14.1: Unless things have changed a whole bunch, SSI isn't enough to garnish.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 6:21 AM
horizontal rule
18

Or live on.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 6:22 AM
horizontal rule
19

Hopefully 1 doesn't count as derailing Heebie's post.

It's sort of related, and it raises the issue that, if we ever did adopt something like UBI, we would probably be compelled to pretend that it was something else in order to prevent about half of the voting public from going completely insane.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 6:22 AM
horizontal rule
20

17: DON'T TELL ME WHAT I CAN AND CAN'T DO, MAN!


Posted by: OPINIONATED PARSLEY | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 6:23 AM
horizontal rule
21

Free health coverage paid for with payroll and progressive taxation would do a lot toward approximating a bastardized minimum income.

I've recommended this book here before, but Ira Katznelson's When Affirmative Action Was White is well worth reading (decent review here). Its relation to this topic is its coverage of the positive role governments can play in making money less important through providing things like free education, free health care, low-interest loans, etc.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 6:29 AM
horizontal rule
22

17 18

According to the post linked in 1 SSI is $600/month. Which I believe some people do live on.

Enter SSI, Supplemental Security Income. You can earn lifetime SSI benefits (about $600/mo + medical insurance) if "you" can "show" you are "Permanently Disabled" due to a "medical illness."


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 6:42 AM
horizontal rule
23

My father, in mental health and previously in a sort of safety-net organization, has seen the general trend described in 1.link.

That's without relation to its Beckian specifics. Just because it's possible and getting more common doesn't mean it's easy, or intended as such, or approaching anything like universality, or effective at stopping individual violence, or enough to live on.

I actually feel like a universal minimum livelihood might be politically easier to provide in kind than in cash: spartan but sufficient room and board available on demand and without limit.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 6:44 AM
horizontal rule
24

Providing people with a place to live would be huge.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 6:45 AM
horizontal rule
25

Ned has never seen a studio apartment.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 6:47 AM
horizontal rule
26

25: You should invite him up to yours to show him your etchings.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 6:48 AM
horizontal rule
27

My prejudices are generally in favor of UBI and creating the social safety net through simple transfer payments rather than state-administered services and regulatory regimes. However, I actually have to do some work now, which means I won't be able to defend these prejudices against charges of neoliberal stoogism for at least a few hours.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 6:51 AM
horizontal rule
28

18: Section 8 or state-based subsidies usually mean that your rent is 1/3 of your income. So, with food stamps you can live on $400 a month. It's tight as hell, but it can be done. MA supplements SSI so that you get around $772.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 6:53 AM
horizontal rule
29

There was also a proposal I read a while ago from a political scientists that argued for a universal income that was graded based on employment income, such that nobody fell below a decent level, but you would always make more by working than by not working.

Economists would say that would still encourage less work once the value of leisure is added into the equation, though.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 6:53 AM
horizontal rule
30

Basically a UBI requires us to dispense with the idea that work is virtuous.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 6:55 AM
horizontal rule
31

30

Basically a UBI requires us to dispense with the idea that work is virtuous.

I don't see why. You can certainly set things up so people who work are clearly better off.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 7:01 AM
horizontal rule
32

My prejudices are generally in favor of UBI and creating the social safety net through simple transfer payments rather than state-administered services and regulatory regimes.

I generally think means-testing is difficult, expensive, and often counterproductive, so I like the idea of a UBI. But as long as we're dreaming, I think I'd prefer to first fully fund the free provision of high quality healthcare, transport, education, and other public goods for all.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 7:04 AM
horizontal rule
33

Follow up question: who here would switch careers if you were guaranteed a UBI? What would you do with your time instead?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 7:07 AM
horizontal rule
34

I love the corollary to UBI proposals that the shittiest jobs would become well-paid because you'd actually have to entice people to do them.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 7:08 AM
horizontal rule
35

Or share them out for everybody to take turns at doing, like we do with cleaning the microwave at work.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 7:15 AM
horizontal rule
36

re: 33

I'd have to assume that the UBI would be set significantly lower than my current income, so no. But if I could work less hours and maintain a reasonable standard of living, definitely my ninja-fastness plan.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 7:19 AM
horizontal rule
37

Devote myself to revenge on my enemies.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 7:26 AM
horizontal rule
38

Problem: Your enemies could have just as much free time as you.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 7:27 AM
horizontal rule
39

Come to think of it, that's an argument for Dean Baker's Artistic Freedom Voucher. Would you donate yours to the Project to Humiliate Neoliberal Wankers? Or the foundation set up to manage the former University of Chicago Economics Department as a historical monument to the crimes of capitalism, like the Germans did with the Stasi HQ?


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 7:28 AM
horizontal rule
40

Even though I understand the major practical and moral problems with means-testing, indeed hate it, on self-examination, I do still have a problem with the idea of automatically giving a significant income to people who make a lot of money and will continue to do, even if more has already been taxed from them. I don't know if there's any way for the pony parliament to address it. Require opt-in? Phase out at the top levels based only on employment/investment income from tax records and presume someone qualifies unless proven otherwise?


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 7:32 AM
horizontal rule
41

re: 37

Yeah, that was the ninja-fastness thing. Training implacable martial arts masters/mistresses to go out and make life unpleasant for the Goves and Lansleys of this world.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 7:32 AM
horizontal rule
42

Hey, I wrote one of those squinting modifier things ("on self-examination").


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 7:32 AM
horizontal rule
43

41: You'll have to talk Kawakami around.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 7:36 AM
horizontal rule
44

'Mr Gove was due to make a speech in parliament this morning on further education privatisation, but is unfortunately in hospital due to being repeatedly booted in the balls by a masked intruder who scaled the walls of his apartment building, in what police are calling a baffling and mysterious attack ...'


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 7:36 AM
horizontal rule
45

"...so far we have narrowed the field of possible suspects by excluding people in wheelchairs, people with broken legs, toddlers and the clinically obese, but that still leaves us with around fifty million people with both the motive and the means in mainland Britain alone."


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 7:41 AM
horizontal rule
46

33: I'd like to say that I'd enroll in graduate studies in math, take a few courses in music and write a novel. Not to mention exercise more.
I suspect I'd just constantly refresh Unfogged.


Posted by: Spiro Agnew (For Undisclosed Weird Reasons) | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 7:53 AM
horizontal rule
47

I think that might be the only Last Psychiatrist post that doesn't use the word "narcissist"," but it does contain the trademark condescension, as well as the most key part of a TLP post, which is that it sort of seems to make sense when you read it but doesn't really make sense when you think about it for a while.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 7:53 AM
horizontal rule
48

How much are we talking about for this UBI? I'd be in favor of a fairly restricted one that aimed mostly at keeping people off the streets and providing enough of a backstop that the lowest rungs of society had a fighting chance at making it into the working class. I don't know what that level is, though. I admit I would be bothered if the UBI was generous enough that otherwise perfectly employable people mooched off it, but I don't know how you prevent that.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 7:55 AM
horizontal rule
49

Well, it would have to be at least minimum wage. I'm a fan of setting the income tax threshold at that level too - whatever we have decided is the minimum amount of money that adult people need to live decently in our country.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 8:09 AM
horizontal rule
50

Employable people mooching is a benefit. On average, we need to consume much less, which requires people to substitute leisure for consumption and work. As a bonus, maybe some of them will have hobbies that are interesting for the rest of us.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 8:19 AM
horizontal rule
51

How does not working require consuming less? It could be set up that way, but it doesn't seem necessarily so.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 8:23 AM
horizontal rule
52

I'm assuming as a whole we would be poorer. We would make less and use fewer resources.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 8:26 AM
horizontal rule
53

LOL to 47. Are we allowed to say LOL here? TLP posts are lots of fun for about the first half to two-thirds until the 'wait, this doesn't really make sense' part of your brain kicks in.

I also want to point out that Bob made a thoughtful and sensible point in 10 that was then picked up by lots of people below, except he got abused for it and others didn't. Not that he cares.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 8:27 AM
horizontal rule
54

Totes in favour of a UBI here. Imagine the savings from abolishing all the bullshit bureaucracy that goes into administering the current social security regime!


Posted by: W. Breeze | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 8:31 AM
horizontal rule
55

SEMPER UBI SUB UBI


Posted by: OPINIONATED HIGH SCHOOL LATIN STUDENT | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 8:34 AM
horizontal rule
56

Once we accept that a certain portion of people are going to fuck their lives up regardless of what society does, I think the UBI makes sense. It will help a lot of those whose circumstances prevent them from achieving what they want, and removes excuses from the fuck-ups.

Current UK welfare budget is £209 billion (source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/mar/21/welfare-10bn-cut-2012-budget). This works out to about £3500 per person, which is about right. More if children don't receive it.


Posted by: W. Breeze | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 8:40 AM
horizontal rule
57

PGD in 53: Are we allowed to say LOL here?

No. HA! is preferable.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 8:50 AM
horizontal rule
58

It is interesting that a number of prominent conservatives -- notably Milton Friedman and Charles Murray -- have been led to advocate a UBI as the cleanest and least interventionist way to handle the social welfare problem. (It is particularly consistent for Murray -- if you think that poverty is genetically fated you shouldn't be as worried about incentive effects). This gives more creedence to Bob's point in 10 re a UBI being essentially neoliberal. But it seems to me that if you retain the market sector income redistribution is indeed the lowest-overhead way to do redistribution.

Here is a good review of Murray's UBI plan that attacks its conservative presuppositions.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 8:50 AM
horizontal rule
59

I'm happier with bob's ideas than I am with any other UBI proposal, unless it was just categorically undoable.

I wonder if, with a UBI, you'd see more of a grey market emerging, a la Bobby Newmark's observation, in William Gibson's Count Zero, that cash wasn't technically illegal, but that no one ever used it for anything legitimate. If you had your UBI, and you were set as far as shelter, basic food, medical care, education and transit went, mightn't we see the growth of an economy outside the taxed, legitimate one, for clothes, luxuries, intoxicants, etc? That is, more of a one than we have now.

Anyway, down with money, wage slavery, and social class & caste!


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 8:55 AM
horizontal rule
60

My instinct tells me that about a month after the UBI was created, the various bills that working-class people have to pay would go up by roughly 100% the amount of new income they have. I don't know why my instinct says "Provide people with things they need, not money" and the consensus of economic commentators is "That is hideously inefficient and paternalistic. Give them money for fuck's sake".


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 8:59 AM
horizontal rule
61

re: 56.last

The minimum wage in the UK works out at about approximately £12,000 a year.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 9:05 AM
horizontal rule
62

bills that working-class people have to pay would go up by roughly 100% the amount of new income they have

My suspicion as well.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 9:05 AM
horizontal rule
63

60: Much of a UBI wouldn't be "new income" as there are whole bunches of transfer payments happening now.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 9:12 AM
horizontal rule
64

I haven't thought about this much, but:

1) Doesn't seem to be much point in thinking about this when we can't even get the basic minimum welfare state provisions (eg single payer health care) set up in this country.

2) I imagine any really-existing UBI scheme would be set at an extremely low level to not make that much of a difference above and beyond existing payments, and then used as a justification to strip spending on public infrastructure across the board, as well as to strip workers' rights when employed more broadly. A high enough payment to stop those things from happening is basically politically impossible.

3) If you were going to do it, to make the politics work it should be a flat payment of some amount -- $10,000 a year, say, indexed to inflation. Everyone at every income gets the payment. That way it becomes politically untouchable as people get used to their "Freedom Bonus" every year.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 9:24 AM
horizontal rule
65

I'll sign on to 60 as well.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 9:31 AM
horizontal rule
66

If you were going to do it, to make the politics work it should be a flat payment of some amount -- $10,000 a year, say, indexed to inflation. Everyone at every income gets the payment. That way it becomes politically untouchable as people get used to their "Freedom Bonus" every year.

Which is essentially what happens in Alaska, isn't it?


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 9:37 AM
horizontal rule
67

You know who advocated a universal right to work? That's right, your friend and mine, Fichte.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 9:38 AM
horizontal rule
68

Doesn't seem to be much point in thinking about this when we can't even get the basic minimum welfare state provisions (eg single payer health care) set up in this country.

Exactly. Why would someone even waste finger strength on a blog post?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 9:47 AM
horizontal rule
69

Why would someone even waste finger strength on a blog post?

If it were part of a WOD?


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 9:48 AM
horizontal rule
70

WHY WOULD YOU WRITE THIS WHEN WE"RE ALL GOING TO DIE?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 9:50 AM
horizontal rule
71

If you were going to do it, to make the politics work it should be a flat payment of some amount -- $10,000 a year, say, indexed to inflation. Everyone at every income gets the payment. That way it becomes politically untouchable as people get used to their "Freedom Bonus" every year.

I like this idea. One major question, however -- would it only be available to citizens and or people with a social security number? It seems unavoidable that one of those restrictions will be imposed, but it will mean that many people who need assistance won't be able to get it.

This is particularly important if it replaces existing services.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 9:55 AM
horizontal rule
72

There's no easy answer to the question posed in 68.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 9:56 AM
horizontal rule
73

Why would someone even waste finger strength on a blog post?

To build future finger strength!


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 9:58 AM
horizontal rule
74

When the income tax was first imposed in the US, the net initial effect was a huge transfer of wealth way from NYC to other places.

The US is enormous, heterogeoneous, and crosscut with internal hatreds. Any transfer program that ignores this will have unforeseen consequences if it works well, and run into enormous implementation obstacles. Existing programs transfer wealth away from the cities to a countryside that apparently hates everything.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 10:03 AM
horizontal rule
75

Red State America is our prodigal son.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 10:07 AM
horizontal rule
76

I'm sure some of those NYC fortunes came from selling things (including intangibles) to other New Yorkers. A whole bunch else came from raping and pillaging out in the countryside.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 10:27 AM
horizontal rule
77

I don't know why my instinct says "Provide people with things they need, not money"

Those are good instincts. An example I wish was fictional: You or I or other Unfogged regulars would foolishly think the answer to "what should I purchase with my tax refund" might be "clothes and back to school supplies for my five neglected children." The answer of course is "an elaborate neck tattoo with my boyfriend's name in it."


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 10:32 AM
horizontal rule
78

And when you talk about transferring wealth to other places, you have to take into account who benefits: money spent on Marines to safeguard the interests of United Fruit are spent outside of NYC. But it wasn't really for the benefit of Central Americans now was it.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 10:33 AM
horizontal rule
79

Do children get a Freedom Bonus? I see a bit of an incentive problem there if so.

(I suffer from System Analysis Syndrome. Given a system, I want to analyze the corner cases and the ways those could be screwed up, rather than looking at the overall impact.)


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 10:34 AM
horizontal rule
80

money spent on Marines to safeguard the interests of United Fruit are spent outside of NYC. But it wasn't really for the benefit of Central Americans now was it

United Fruit was based in Boston, as a matter of being a little bitchery fact.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 10:38 AM
horizontal rule
81

Or to take the modern example, how are you scoring federal funds used to buy prescription drugs for rural people, at prices set far above what the market would be for a customer that size. Federal transfer to South Dakota?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 10:38 AM
horizontal rule
82

I don't know why my instinct says "Provide people with things they need, not money"

And we will decide what things the people need!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 10:40 AM
horizontal rule
83

80 -- Who owned it? (Serious question: I don't know. But 'base' didn't mean much 100 years ago, and means lass now.)

[I was thinking of UF having just read an account from a distant relative who was running a 1,000 acre UF operation in Cuba that was overrun by revolutionaries in 1917. Family just got out with their lives.]


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 10:41 AM
horizontal rule
84

that was overrun by revolutionaries in 1917. Family just got out with their lives.

95 years later!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 10:43 AM
horizontal rule
85

NYT story: http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9805E5DA123BEE3ABC4A52DFB566838C609EDE


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 10:43 AM
horizontal rule
86

84 -- It's a long swim.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 10:44 AM
horizontal rule
87

Sure, I'm just saying that appeals to justice within US borders will run into similar problems as appeals to justice across national borders.

On providing housing, here's one vision. (basically securitized private equity absentee owners will collect rent and not perform maintenance).

United Fruit was Sam Zemurray, basically. Guatemala and Honduras do not remember him fondly.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 10:48 AM
horizontal rule
88

Follow up question: who here would switch careers if you were guaranteed a UBI? What would you do with your time instead?

Yay, explicit invitation to be self-obsessed: I actually rather wonder about this. I've basically accomplished nothing in the 15 months or so I've been back in the US and ostensibly been trying to find a new career, aside from a few months of part-time tutoring; I'm honestly not sure whether a UBI would have helped or hurt with that kind of situation. In some ways I'd be exactly the worst case scenario from a PR perspective, a perfectly employable person mooching off the system, but I wonder whether I'd have found the challenge of figuring out what to do with my life now, and moving past the paralyzing sense of shame about past mistakes, less insurmountable if the stakes were somewhat lower. OTOH I'm in the mess precisely because I always had such a robust safety net to catch me.

Obviously my case isn't the sort to build policy around, but for many folks in genuinely tough situations, the work requirements of welfare programs seem to often make it impossible to actually get the credentials that would allow for a long-term escape from poverty, or so this article claims. And even from my "if you called your dad he could stop it all" perspective, it seems true even a merely subjective urgency to just find a job now, damnit makes it difficult to make and execute longer-term plans. (In hindsight, devoting myself full time to learning to code a year ago, and trying to volunteer/intern in my spare time, would have been a much better use of the year than what actually happened; but I couldn't accept this at the time, thinking that of course I ought to be able to find something any day/week/month now.)

I agree that Bob's points in 10 are worth taking seriously, though I'm not sure they're decisive.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 11:07 AM
horizontal rule
89

I've basically accomplished nothing in the 15 months or so I've been back in the US and ostensibly been trying to find a new career, aside from a few months of part-time tutoring; I'm honestly not sure whether a UBI would have helped or hurt with that kind of situation.

I don't know about your situation, but my person belief and experience is that it takes time to make major shifts in your goals. Goals are inherently tied into one's worldview -- when you were pursuing an academic career you did so because you valued certain things and cared about them. Figuring out what to do next involves, in part, figuring out what of the things you valued still matter to you, and which of them are now going to cause problems for you and need to be modified or dropped.

That isn't intended as critical, I just think that the more self-reflective you are, the harder it can be to change course (and the harder it can be to have a reasonable feeling of closure about what you had been doing previously).


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 11:12 AM
horizontal rule
90

Not to mention that it is fucking hard to find a job right now.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 11:15 AM
horizontal rule
91

88 -- Met a man (your age, maybe) the other day who's putting off the 'what shall I actually do' question by riding his bike around. 11,000 miles last year. He picks a place to go, and posts Craigslist ads for temp work. A friend of ours took him in for a week or so, and I think I can set him up for a few days in Glacier.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 11:20 AM
horizontal rule
92

Not to mention that it is fucking hard to find a job right now.

Yeah.

I've mentioned before, whenever I see the unemployment numbers for recent graduates I'm boggled by them.

I didn't know what I was doing, and wasn't good at knowing how to look for work when I graduated and it was really frustrating -- and that was in a much better economy than this one.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 11:23 AM
horizontal rule
93

People just need to get into one of today's hot industries:

Fracking
Crossfit
Tumblr Porn
Reselling smartphones on Ebay


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 11:26 AM
horizontal rule
94

90: Ugh. I know all too well. I am applying for long shot jobs at this point, anything where I meet 50% of the qualifications and feel like I could fake most of the rest.

If we had a less fucked up health care system I'd be looking at trying to set up a small business using my emergency funds as startup capital. As is I cannot afford to be without health care and COBRA is fucking expensive.

One of the many failures of imagination on the innovation-worshiping right is not understanding how much innovation is crushed by mundane bullshit issues like the need to keep health care. I know a number of people who have interesting ideas for startups who are prevented by the fact that they need to eat and stay healthy during the phase where there is no investment capital. UBI and single-payer would fix this and unleash a Ponytopia of innovation and Good Things(tm).


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 11:42 AM
horizontal rule
95

We just picked a guy to make a job offer to. I hope he takes it.


Posted by: Gerald Ford | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 11:48 AM
horizontal rule
96

If you were going to do it, to make the politics work it should be a flat payment of some amount -- $10,000 a year, say, indexed to inflation. Everyone at every income gets the payment. That way it becomes politically untouchable as people get used to their "Freedom Bonus" every year.

Which is essentially what happens in Alaska, isn't it?

In political terms, yes, although structurally the system is somewhat different. The amount of the payment is based on a rolling average of the Permanent Fund's investment income over the previous few years, divided by the number of people who apply for the dividend. In recent years it's been about $1000, but it's projected to go down next year because of the economy. It's definitely not enough to live on.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 11:56 AM
horizontal rule
97

In recent years it's been about $1000, but it's projected to go down next year because of the economy. It's definitely not enough to live on.

Well, sure, but there's also the natural bounty--each moose must have enough meat to feed a person for two weeks, right?


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 11:59 AM
horizontal rule
98

each moose must have enough meat to feed a person for two weeks, right?

More than that:

A 1,600-lb (726-kg) moose will dress out at about 950 lbs (431 kg), yielding approximately 500 lbs (227 kg) of meat.

Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 12:04 PM
horizontal rule
99

Moose are hard to find sometimes. I prefer to go for the musk ox. And you can make so much money on Etsy with all the qiviut.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 12:09 PM
horizontal rule
100

From what I've heard, it's pretty usual to get a quarter-moose from a big hunting trip and then inflict meat on everyone you know for the rest of the winter. You can probably barter your frozen mooseburgers with the guy who has a shitload of salmon jerky, etc.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 12:11 PM
horizontal rule
101

99: Yes but which one would win in a rap battle? Moose or Musk Ox?


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 12:11 PM
horizontal rule
102

100: Sounds like a kids' show: "The Yukon Adventures of Froz Mooseburger and Sam Jerky".

Or an Alaskan answer to that book with a similar name set in Mexico: "Like Mooseburgers for Jerky".


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 12:15 PM
horizontal rule
103

Muskox numbers have been down lately, so they've been restricting the hunt in some areas. Nome is apparently being overrun with them, though, so that might be your best bet.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 12:15 PM
horizontal rule
104

101: Cannibal Ox definitely beats Big Moose Da Pro.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 12:18 PM
horizontal rule
105

I found a qiviut smokering for sale in a New York City goodwill! The guy at the register rang it up as a tube-top.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 12:22 PM
horizontal rule
106

Read this over lunch. Perfectly on (sub)topic, and maybe if it gets enough clicks, they'll pay her more / commission more articles.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 12:33 PM
horizontal rule
107

Qiviut is so awesome and luscious.

Oh, and I support UBI for the reasons everyone would expect, but am not sure about how best to implement it or anything like that. Qiviut for all?


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 12:39 PM
horizontal rule
108

'Mr Gove was due to make a speech in parliament this morning on further education privatisation, but is unfortunately in hospital due to being repeatedly booted in the balls by a masked intruder who scaled the walls of his apartment building, in what police are calling a baffling and mysterious attack ...'

How can any assault on Michael Gove be described as baffling or mysterious? It's more baffling and mysterious why he hasn't actually been subjected to GBH yet.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 12:46 PM
horizontal rule
109

I found a qiviut smokering for sale in a New York City goodwill

There's about a 30% probability that this item came from my aunt.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 12:49 PM
horizontal rule
110

88: I think you're exactly right about how difficult it is to transition. After my layoff (and my wife's simultaneous firing), we debated a lot of options. While I like what we came up with, it was possible mostly because we had great reserves + steady unemployment income. Without savings + steady income, we never could have made the transition.

The other thing that sucks about being out of work is that the uncertainty eliminates most of the benefits. If you knew that 3 months from now you'd be employed, you could treat the intervening time as a nice vacation, or as a block of time to master a skill for your new job, etc. When you're always aiming to be employed tomorrow, and frustrated when it doesn't happen, all of your free time is wasted. (You're constantly concerned and can't be confident that a splurge now won't just move up the day you start starving.) If that could be solved--via something like UBI--it might be easier to see the good in the situation.

And re:Health Care keeping people in jobs they hate... we ran "naked" for almost two years. It was constantly worrying--even with things were going well, we knew that one bad accident could undo our hard work. Health care is much of the reason I'm willing to commute 150 mi for my current employment.


Posted by: MooseKing | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 12:54 PM
horizontal rule
111

I am so fucking sick of being unemployed and feeling like I should just send out my job applications pre-shredded (or pre-deleted).


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 1:10 PM
horizontal rule
112

Health care is much of the reason I'm willing to commute 150 mi for my current employment.

Oh my god. Do you have a separate apartment in that town or are you doing this daily?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 1:13 PM
horizontal rule
113

and feeling like I should just send out my job applications pre-shredded (or pre-deleted).

Oh god yes. This, this, this.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 4:08 PM
horizontal rule
114

My brother, who has severe enough ADHD and bipolar that he ought to probably receive special services but is currently holding down a job that pays poorly, just reported on fb that he had his car ticketed and impounded. When he had the money to pick it up, he found that someone had spraypainted D/CK C/TY and a large phallus on the hood. I have no idea how he's going to pay for getting it fixed, but know he doesn't want to drive around like that.

It's incredibly unlikely he'd bother to call his insurance, assuming he has insurance. (Maybe my parents pay? Something they said recently tells me he's still with their agent.) Several years after he stopped living at home, he still gets his checks delivered there because he can't manage to get his address changed or fill out direct deposit forms. We've offered to do it for him, most recently a week ago, but he never gets his act together enough to get over here with the paperwork.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 4:48 PM
horizontal rule
115

Can he add more lines to turn the phallus into an amusing face with a long nose?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 4:53 PM
horizontal rule
116

And maybe change it to "Deck City"?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 4:57 PM
horizontal rule
117

Re 108

Oh aye. Like most of the current front bench it's a national embarrassment that they aren't constantly cradling their recently booted nads or giving speeches through swollen lips.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 5:02 PM
horizontal rule
118

76 A whole bunch else came from raping and pillaging out in the countryside.

The countryside has natural defense mechanisms, Charley. That couldn't have produced any legitimate wealth.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 5:04 PM
horizontal rule
119

I really liked the article CC linked to in 106, though I can see how some folks might find it insufferable.

It took me six months to find a job, writing ad copy for an online sporting goods retailer. "You'll love these skis!" I'd write. "These skis will make you so fast and good." I made $9 an hour, and by the end I started to unravel. I remember a description for a $200 child's ski jacket. I wrote: "You should probably buy your kid this ski jacket, or else something really bad is going to happen."

Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 5:06 PM
horizontal rule
120

To be more on topic and less ranty for a moment, I think the stigma that attaches to being out of work might still apply even in a ponyland basic income-having society. I know I'm stating the obvious here, but having work really does seem to lead to more work. People I know in the fields where I'm failing to find work who actually had or have jobs almost all had or have multiple jobs while others couldn't find even one.* Those who had jobs one at a time have gotten a number in succession.

A basic income is great for the money, but for jobs you really need a good jobs program.

*I was actually ineligible for a bunch of jobs** because of being an international student. Now that I've graduated, they've changed the rule on student jobs.

**At least 10 or 15 during the years I was there. I stopped paying attention after a while.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 5:37 PM
horizontal rule
121

Also, this is a good interview on how employers could be doing more in the way of hiring and training.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 5:38 PM
horizontal rule
122

33: who here would switch careers if you were guaranteed a UBI?

As ttaM says in 36, I assume the UBI would be lower than what I currently make. I'd need to see the nature of the UBI spelled out: How much is it? Do I get it along with whatever I make on top of it, or only if I'm unemployed (according to some unspecified definition of unemployment)? I assume the latter, in which case it's not much different from unemployment insurance.

I haven't read much of the thread. bob's argument in 10 is interesting.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 5:48 PM
horizontal rule
123

Do I get it along with whatever I make on top of it, or only if I'm unemployed (according to some unspecified definition of unemployment)?
If reading the thread is too much, how about the title?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 6:02 PM
horizontal rule
124

94

One of the many failures of imagination on the innovation-worshiping right is not understanding how much innovation is crushed by mundane bullshit issues like the need to keep health care. ...

I have seen this claim before and I don't believe it. The type of people who start their own companies don't worry about mundane matters like health care.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 6:05 PM
horizontal rule
125

James, I'd invite you to reread that sentence and try to contemplate a world in which you've got the causality backwards.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 6:14 PM
horizontal rule
126

124: It's interesting to see what happens when rightwing Econ 101 thinking clashes with rightwing Ubermensch thinking. I honestly thought that Econ 101 would have won out here for you.

I wonder, James: In what other areas do you believe that large subsidies have no impact on behavior?


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 6:16 PM
horizontal rule
127

124: Health care is not a mundane matter if you have a chronic condition. You seem to be buying into the idea that people who start companies are Randian ubermenschen, but a fair number of them are just regular shmoes who decide to take a chance and go for it. My Dad, sister, and mom are all in that category. I am the only person in my immediate family who has never started a company.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 6:17 PM
horizontal rule
128

123: Really? So heebie means an unconditional basic income for every citizen, just a check, and then anything you make on top of that? I'd need to know how much it is.

I do apologize for not reading much here lately, yet still commenting. I'm in the midst of a back pain flare-up which is kind of grim. I shouldn't even comment.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 6:19 PM
horizontal rule
129

The article linked in 106 is surprisingly well-written, and she comes off as modestly likable for someone who is publicly burning bridges nonstop.

Then I remember she's 30, and apparently hasn't learned the common courtesy that my toddler nieces and nephews already have. Yeah, less sympathetic.

I've been extraordinarily fortunate to make a decent-to-excellent living doing work that I love and am passionate about for most of the last two decades. Given UBI, I'd go right on doing it.

I still keenly remember my least-liked job, and the trapped misery of my colleagues who couldn't easily escape.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 6:23 PM
horizontal rule
130

Sorry, 123 came out meaner than intended. I just thought it was funny. You should totally comment.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 6:24 PM
horizontal rule
131

128: You really don't want to sit around with back pain watching the walls and not commenting.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 6:28 PM
horizontal rule
132

128: I am also experiencing a flare up but my pain management doctor gave me opiates so I am mildly out of my gourd right now. The thought of not having that option and needing to function at the level of running a business without anything to mitigate the pain is scary. I hope this passes quickly.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 6:32 PM
horizontal rule
133

132: Hey, thanks, tog. I don't want to derail the thread. But yeah, it's a really busy time at work right now, so I basically work for an hour, then lie down for 10 minutes, then again for an hour. 800 mg ibuprofen. Cold-pack when I can. In this case it's sciatica. My leg is killing me. I have a thing where I don't want to whimper or tear up, so I keep that private, though I am terse with people at times It's getting a little better, and I have tomorrow off. Soon I'll be able to start back with the exercises.

Jesus. Sorry, folks.

Talk about this UBI thing.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 6:47 PM
horizontal rule
134

My dad has a very successful surgery for spinal stenosis which had given him such leg pain he couldn't walk but short distances.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 6:50 PM
horizontal rule
135

S/b "had" not "has". It's not like he developed the procedure.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 6:51 PM
horizontal rule
136

The article linked in 106 is surprisingly well-written, and she comes off as modestly likable for someone who is publicly burning bridges nonstop.

Then I remember she's 30 . . .

The comments on the article are interesting in that they precisely match both halves of the statement quoted above.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 6:55 PM
horizontal rule
137

So sorry to hear that, parsimon. Sciatica is the pits.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 6:56 PM
horizontal rule
138

126

It's interesting to see what happens when rightwing Econ 101 thinking clashes with rightwing Ubermensch thinking. I honestly thought that Econ 101 would have won out here for you.

The Econ 101 analysis goes something like this. If you decide to quit your job and start your own company you are giving up the security of your existing salary and benefits in hopes of doing better on your own. So you weigh what you are giving up versus what you hope to gain. Certainly if your existing job includes a health plan this is part of what you are giving up. But it usually isn't that big a part. Perhaps your salary is $40,000 a year and your health benefit is worth $4,000 a year. So it affects your decision on the margin but most people aren't on the margin.

Note a heath benefit has a different value to different people. Many people would take the cash if they had the option to do so. The value to you depends on large part on how likely you think you are to get sick. Just as the value to you of starting your own company depends in large part on how likely you think you are to succeed. The same optimism that leads people to believe they are likely to succeed with their own business also leads them to believe they are unlikely to get sick. Companies are founded by optimists not pessimists who see all the thing that can go wrong.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 7:07 PM
horizontal rule
139

127

Health care is not a mundane matter if you have a chronic condition. ...

If you have a serious chronic condition you are a poor candidate for starting your own business even in a world with universal health care. Getting free medical treatment doesn't stop you from losing your business and everything you put into it if you are unable to work for medical reasons.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 7:12 PM
horizontal rule
140

You don;t actually get out all that much, do you James?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 7:18 PM
horizontal rule
141

Good wishes, parsimon and togolosh! Pain is the worst.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 7:19 PM
horizontal rule
142

Oh come on. There are plenty of chronic conditions that require constant maintenance and can make a person pretty much uninsurable outside of a group plan, but that are perfectly manageable if you have steady access to medical care.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 7:20 PM
horizontal rule
143

The value of the health benefit can't be measured in dollars, you arrogant buffoon.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 7:20 PM
horizontal rule
144

138: If you decide to quit your job and start your own company

Isn't it the case that many people who start their own businesses haven't exactly quit their jobs, but have been laid off or never had that job with benefits to begin with?

That is, health insurance benefits are one very significant reason people decide to work for some company rather than start a business. Please acknowledge that.

You say, bizarrely, Certainly if your existing job includes a health plan this is part of what you are giving up. But it usually isn't that big a part.

Say what? It is a big part. Providing yourself with health insurance as a self-employed person costs quite a bit more than it does as an other-employed person.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 7:24 PM
horizontal rule
145

140 and 142 are exactly right but lack needed profanity.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 7:26 PM
horizontal rule
146

shitsucking assfaced fuckwitted cockheaded buttnuts apply as nec.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 7:29 PM
horizontal rule
147

Read this over lunch. Perfectly on (sub)topic, and maybe if it gets enough clicks, they'll pay her more / commission more articles.

It's your local paper so click away but I wouldn't want to see articles from her in my paper. And aside from some kind of "welfare queen in a Cadillac" scenario it's going to be hard to top that girl as an example of a person likely to inspire more hostility towards something like UBI.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 7:29 PM
horizontal rule
148

143

The value of the health benefit can't be measured in dollars, you arrogant buffoon.

People decide between health benefits and dollars all the time. When deciding whether to purchase an individual plan. When choosing between jobs. When deciding whether to pay for some medical procedure.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 7:30 PM
horizontal rule
149

There is no such thing as an individual plan if you have, for example, Type I diabetes.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 7:33 PM
horizontal rule
150

I would prefer an Unconventional Basic Income scheme. Maybe issue rat-orgasm vouchers redeemable at with the Karen Finleys of the world?


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 7:36 PM
horizontal rule
151

144

That is, health insurance benefits are one very significant reason people decide to work for some company rather than start a business. Please acknowledge that.

Why should I acknowlege it when I don't believe it?

Say what? It is a big part. Providing yourself with health insurance as a self-employed person costs quite a bit more than it does as an other-employed person.

So if you are an optimist you go without it.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 7:36 PM
horizontal rule
152

I continue to be amused that anyone treats these statements from Shearer as anything but trolling. Maybe some of you would like to come on a ride along and talk to some hobos about drinking less and getting a job.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 7:36 PM
horizontal rule
153

Maybe some of you would like to come on a ride along and talk to some hobos about drinking less and getting a job.

Like, a consulting job?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 7:37 PM
horizontal rule
154

The math department hires hobos, from the looks of things.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 7:38 PM
horizontal rule
155

151.1: Why should I acknowlege it when I don't believe it?

You don't believe that people choose to work for a company (for the benefits) rather than be self-employed?

Wow. I hate to shift topics, but that's kind of like people refusing to believe that victims of rape or statutory rape or incest become pregnant.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 7:50 PM
horizontal rule
156

I continue to be amused that anyone treats these statements from Shearer as anything but trolling.

Word.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 7:54 PM
horizontal rule
157

I think of trolling as more of a spectrum than a binary proposition. To some extent, we're all trolling.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 8:00 PM
horizontal rule
158

That is, saying things to provoke a response. "Trolling" implies that you're doing so in bad faith, but I have no idea how crazy Shearer is or isn't in his heart of hearts.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 8:01 PM
horizontal rule
159

I think Shearer is rather simple-minded, frankly.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 8:13 PM
horizontal rule
160

I realize that is a very rude thing to say. Uh. Sorry, Shearer.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 8:16 PM
horizontal rule
161

I think she writes well, and is honest. I'm not planning to offer her a job. Someone from the anarchist collective got one of our angry leftish bloggers to write a furious rejoinder. I'll link it when I get to a computer.


Posted by: CCarp | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 8:17 PM
horizontal rule
162

155

You don't believe that people choose to work for a company (for the benefits) rather than be self-employed?

I think people primarily choose to work for a company for the money. A good benefits package can make working for a company a bit more attractive but it is rarely the most important part.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 8:43 PM
horizontal rule
163

Do you have dependents? A fleshlight you're especially fond of?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 9:12 PM
horizontal rule
164

Employers provide fleshlight insurance?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 9:26 PM
horizontal rule
165

I think she writes well, and is honest.

Sure, but the whole "thirty is the new nineteen" theme makes me want to kick people in the groin. So she wants to step into her father's lifestyle of cruising around in a VW van smoking weed but minus the 30 years of blue collar manual labor to make it happen? Hey, me too! In the meantime maybe someone could mail her a poster.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 9:35 PM
horizontal rule
166

Employers provide fleshlight insurance?

Obamacare mandates it in 2014.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 9:38 PM
horizontal rule
167

So that's why Roberts voted to uphold it.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 9:42 PM
horizontal rule
168

163

Do you have dependents? ...

People with dependents like the security of a steady job. Startups are for young healthy energetic single people.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 9:57 PM
horizontal rule
169

Her marijuana article will make you like her less, gswift.

Blog post mentioned earlier.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 10:38 PM
horizontal rule
170

I liked the Molly Laich piece linked in 106. She's a good writer. Writing is work, it's not her fault that the internet killed the economics for it. She strikes me as a good candidate for a UBI, she clearly would produce a steady stream of writing without pay. She seems like a pleasant if not very high-functioning person who is probably a positive presence in her community.

On the other hand, the comments show exactly why a UBI wouldn't work -- because we need to actively punish people who don't suffer for their jobs as much as we do. We'll never give up the pleasure of spite. Loafers who sleep late need to pay the price. My favorite comment from that article:

Shame on Molly Laich for writing this personal essay! I condemn her life. Who hired this person? Nobody should hire her to do anything. Also, she should get a job and stop talking. This woman is always talking! Talking and writing -- often about her "feelings" and "insights." I feel sorry for her. Also I hate her. Go to work for a company. Learn to be a good employee; you are not a child. Stop asking so many questions. Nobody cares about your feelings. Shame on the Independent!

Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 10:38 PM
horizontal rule
171

169: that blog post is horrible. Talk about spiteful, the guy seems like a dick.

The marijuana article is one of the more effective anti-marijuana pieces I've ever seen. I've known potheads and it wasn't as damaging for them as it seems to be for her (I think she has some issues she is trying to escape), but the mechanics of the quasi-addiction seemed similar.

I think one thing about pot is that although it's not really physically addictive and doesn't have the horrible negative personality effects of meth/coke/heroin/pills, it's an incredibly powerful complement to all the other quasi-addictive non-productive pleasures of modern life. It increases the pleasures of cable television, video games, takeout food, recorded music, cheap sex, etc. by so much. Makes it easy to disappear down a rabbit hole.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 10:44 PM
horizontal rule
172

141 is exactly right.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 10:49 PM
horizontal rule
173

169 me, obvsly.


Posted by: CCarp | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 10:52 PM
horizontal rule
174

The style of the excerpt in 170 makes me wonder if it's actually parodying people who are expressing similar sentiments.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 10:52 PM
horizontal rule
175

174: I had the same thought. It can be hard to tell, though.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 11:10 PM
horizontal rule
176

PGD, it's not about spite (well, for a few it is). But most functional adults probably aren't going to have a lot of tolerance for eternal children yammering about living their dreams in their employment. A bit of disdain for loafers is just fine. The overwhelming majority of jobs are not callings. Societies don't function without loads of people putting in time doing what needs to be done. The entire point of a strong govt. doing things like 40 hour work weeks, health care, mandatory holidays, minimum wages, SS/pensions, etc. is to make it bearable. It enables people to put in their hours contributing to a functional society and then they can go hoist one with their buddies, play with their kids, go fishing, and all the other things we actually like doing. But it doesn't work without people chipping in and I see no reason to have patience with a seemingly able bodied thirty year old who's mom still pays her cell phone bill and apparently wants to enjoy a society built on a lot of work but can't be bothered to put something back into it.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 11:28 PM
horizontal rule
177

UBIs are often a sort of super-vouchers plan. (Often couple w/ flat tax.)

I dunno, there's never going to be one so I am not super fussed about the thing itself/


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 12:16 AM
horizontal rule
178

And aside from some kind of "welfare queen in a Cadillac" scenario it's going to be hard to top that girl as an example of a person likely to inspire more hostility towards something like UBI.

Just wait til I restart my blog.


Posted by: trapnel | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 1:15 AM
horizontal rule
179

Writing is work, it's not her fault that the internet killed the economics for it.

Is there a good data series on either the aggregate compensation flowing to authors or the total number of folks for whom writing is their primary source of income? Because while I know it's basically true that Craigslist &c. destroyed the economics of newspaper classified sections, I've never actually seen such numbers, and I'm genuinely curious. There's more music being produced now than at any previous time; I suspect there's also more writing getting written; though yes, both facts are certainly compatible with the musicians/writers not getting paid.


Posted by: trapnel | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 1:20 AM
horizontal rule
180

Essentially having a miinimum income tax threshold is identical to having a pure flat tax plus a UBI, at least from the point of view of people who have incomes.

I think people primarily choose to work for a company for the money

If this means "the chief benefit most people get from paid employment is the pay" then, yes, correct. If this means "people primarily choose to work for company X rather than company Y because it offers more money" then it's barely even in the same time zone as correct. It's Crazy Standard Time.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 1:20 AM
horizontal rule
181

The overwhelming majority of jobs are not callings. Societies don't function without loads of people putting in time doing what needs to be done.

True; but the overwhelming majority of jobs are also not "doing what needs to be done," either. For example: there's a bunch of smart, highly educated folks in the Zy/nga headquarters making gobs of money applying their talents to the problem of how to turn office drones into rats hitting that lever for one more hit of crack-ville. They are actively making the world worse--yes, that's a value-laden claim, but I believe it, and feel I could defend it. From the handful of pieces I've read of hers, I'm willing to claim that this Molly person likely contributes more of genuine value to the world than all the -villes that come out of Zy/nga.

Much of what's genuinely valuable is not rewarded by the market; and much that's actually socially destructive, is. Getting what needs to be done, done, doesn't require everyone to work 2000 hours a year. What do we do, then, when technological improvements and capital deepening mean that far fewer total hours of labor are socially necessary? Well, if "we" is America in 2012, we increasingly organize our economy around artificial scarcity, guard labor (no offense meant), and winner-take-all tournaments for the privilege of surfing the commanding heights, while those who have no role to play are at best, relegated to the role of consumer, at worst, jailed or on stingy gov't aid, and made to feel worthless.

I'm too sleepy to be making any sense now, so I'll just link to this Peter Fra/se piece on the problems with fetishizing "work," and this one on the general problems of scarcity and abundance.


Posted by: trapnel | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 1:42 AM
horizontal rule
182

181.1: The overwhelming majority of jobs are not designing online multiplayer games, trapnel. You have a very skewed view of your country's economy. Here's a chart:

http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_table_201.htm

The US really does need most of these people to go on doing what they're doing.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 1:50 AM
horizontal rule
183

And "Getting what needs to be done, done, doesn't require everyone to work 2000 hours a year"?

At present, even with all these unnecessary jobs, about 70% of working-age people in the US are working 1780 hours a year.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 1:52 AM
horizontal rule
184

At present, even with all these unnecessary jobs, about 70% of working-age people in the US are working 1780 hours a year.

Yes, and ~1400 in the Netherlands and Germany (despite noticeably lower labor force participation in the latter than here), and ~1500 in Denmark. I'm not really sure what your point is, and I'm too tired to actually engage.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 2:06 AM
horizontal rule
185

No, wait, one last thing:

Okay, I'll get more specific about value. One might say: she's a talented writer, so she should work harder to find a job as a writer. And yet when I look around at what writers--particularly short-form, magazine and periodical writers--get paid to produce, I think the vast majority of it is absolutely awful. And I don't think this is the fault of the writers, not entirely. Many of the game designers at Zy/nga could probably be producing quality games if they were in other circumstances, but that's not what the market is rewarding; the same goes for most writing. So, specifically, as a writer, she may well be maximizing her contribution to society precisely by not putting herself in a position where her talents are used purely to maximize advertising revenue.


Posted by: trapnel | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 2:14 AM
horizontal rule
186

184: just that you're not quite right about everyone needing to work 2000 hours a year, because they aren't. Minor point.

when I look around at what writers--particularly short-form, magazine and periodical writers--get paid to produce, I think the vast majority of it is absolutely awful.

Apart from anything else, de gustibus non disputandum est. Don't you think it's odd that every other industry produces, largely, stuff that works - most cars work, most cutlery works, most clothes work, most plumbers can plumb - but the one industry in which you have only your own personal taste to use as a measure of quality is also the one industry that you think is largely producing rubbish? Isn't it more likely that the vast majority of paid writing simply isn't to your taste?

And, again, most people are not working as game designers or writers. Even were it the case that market forces are compelling most game designers to produce low-quality games which people unaccountably want to play in their millions, that still doesn't have much to say about the rest of the economy.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 2:29 AM
horizontal rule
187

106 and 129: It sounds totally unwise on so many fronts, and yet I find her totally likeable. When that student of hers said she was majoring in human resources, my heart nearly broke. It seemed like such a sad thing to be studying as an undergraduate (as opposed to some sort of certificate), and I can't help thinking that you shouldn't need to borrow money to study that in school.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 5:01 AM
horizontal rule
188

186: I blame cutlery for the rise in obesity.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 5:36 AM
horizontal rule
189

I'm a lot closer to gswift's 176 than I am to trapnel's comments. My view on this is colored, I admit, by my experience working with young people who are genuinely unaware of what it takes for the world around them to function.

Walking them through the enormous range of jobs that society needs doing is part of their learning curve, but I admit to being privately judgmental about the fact that they've wandered through life without the curiosity to think about how the work around them gets done.

The problem definitely exists for older adults too -- it's basically a Pauline Kael problem. ("Nobody I know works as a train conductor or a building engineer, therefore I believe that most people have play jobs that aren't really very necessary.")


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 5:51 AM
horizontal rule
190

I blame curiosity for the rise in obliquity.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 5:57 AM
horizontal rule
191

When I was younger, I wasn't very willing to ask lots of nosy questions of strangers, but I have now found that it isn't very hard to get people talking about their jobs. You learn a fair bit.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 5:58 AM
horizontal rule
192

Most of what you learn is useless, but that happens with all learning.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 6:03 AM
horizontal rule
193

One more for gswift and Witt. The old saying in relation to the army was that it takes ten men in support to keep one man in the field (it was men when I heard it). I think it applies equally to civilian life: it takes far more than ten people shifting garbage, driving groceries around the country, putting them on shelves, taking cash at tills, mending roads, maintaining schools, etc ad nauseam to keep one special snowflake crafting beautiful sentences on their macbook.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 6:09 AM
horizontal rule
194

180

... If this means "people primarily choose to work for company X rather than company Y because it offers more money" then it's barely even in the same time zone as correct. ...

Sure the nature of the work and the geographical location are also important factors. I can think of plenty of people who have changed jobs for these reasons (better pay, more desirable work, more desirable location). Better medical plan not so many.

Of course this is due in part to the fact that above a certain level most jobs tend to provide a medical plan and the plans don't vary that much (in part because they are heavily regulated).


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 6:23 AM
horizontal rule
195

FFS, have you met people.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 6:28 AM
horizontal rule
196

That cite was a little old.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 6:29 AM
horizontal rule
197

I can think of plenty of people who have changed jobs for these reasons (better pay, more desirable work, more desirable location). Better medical plan not so many.

How about people who have changed - or who have picked one offer over another - because one job offered medical cover and the other one didn't? By limiting this to a question of "better medical plan" only you are deliberately avoiding the strongest argument against your position.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 6:35 AM
horizontal rule
198

193: except in the army it takes seven special snowflakes crafting beautiful paperwork with nice air conditioned accommodation and hot food to keep one Tom in the field being miserable.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 6:37 AM
horizontal rule
199

The article linked in 169.1 was depressing.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 6:37 AM
horizontal rule
200

193: In general terms, this is true, but we are living in a time where a serious economic problem is that there aren't jobs available for the people who want to work. There's plenty of room for a lot of special snowflakes to smoke pot and write before society feels the lack of their labor.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 6:38 AM
horizontal rule
201

I blame curiosity for the rise in obliquity what happened to that poor cat.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 6:40 AM
horizontal rule
202

Mara's mom has switched from waitressing to cleaning jobs, though I'm not sure why and would guess it had something to do with why she decided to get her life back in order. She just quit a cleaning job because she found bedbugs in a room and wasn't willing to deal with that, and she hasn't been able to find a new one as quickly as she'd hoped.

Nia's grandmother also cleans, though in an office building and then under-the-table for people she knows. Nia has said that when she grows up she wants to clean bathrooms like her grandma. It is very clear that her grandma does not want that for her. (She is not allowed to clean bathrooms at our house and won't be allowed to do dishes until she's 7. Her job right now is to be a kid.)


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 6:41 AM
horizontal rule
203

196

That cite was a little old.

You could say that. If this (2007 reference) is to be believed:

Well, you can certainly ask, but if you do, any honest interviewer will explain that it has been illegal since 1996 for employers to deny medical coverage to new hires because of pre-existing conditions.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 6:43 AM
horizontal rule
204

SO CREEPY.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 6:46 AM
horizontal rule
205

203: You can't deny coverage but in most states you can exclude the condition.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 6:48 AM
horizontal rule
206

Also, you've not responded to 197 which is a crucial point.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 6:49 AM
horizontal rule
207

200. Good point. I suppose I have to agree that as long as this person's mother is content to support a thirty year old teenager, I'd rather any opening for a supermarket cashier went to somebody who wanted to earn a living.

Look, I've been there. In the early 70s there was what is laughingly known in retrospect as "the little recession", so trivial in view of subsequent events that even economists have forgotten about it. But people were much happier not to hire disabled people in those days. I spent a lot of time smoking pot and writing, to fill the time, but I also applied for a shitload of jobs and volunteered somewhere I got a free lunch. I was eventually hired as a loading bay attendant through a friend, which is a fucking insane job for someone with cerebral palsy, but it came with a wage cheque. By what right would I have turned it down? "Oh, I've published a story in New Worlds Quarterly, I can't push cages of stock around." I don't think so.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 6:54 AM
horizontal rule
208

203: If that's true, why did I need a certificate of creditable coverage (or something similarly named) to stay insured for a pre-existing condition when switched jobs in 2001? Or is the catch there that the new plan wouldn't have excluded coverage but only made me wait X amount of time before it kicked in?


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 6:57 AM
horizontal rule
209

Ah, 208 answered by reading further down the page of the link in 203:

As long as you and your family have been covered by an employer's group health plan for at least 12 months, with no interruptions in that coverage lasting more than 60 days (due to, for example, a job hunt during which you had no insurance), the law ensures that your new employer can't refuse to cover you or your family because of a pre-existing condition.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 7:02 AM
horizontal rule
210

Now this is what I call interning.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 7:04 AM
horizontal rule
211

Plus doesn't it often take a while for employer coverage to kick in? If you start work on Monday and break your arm on Tuesday, you may not be covered? I seem to recall that coming up previously. Three months without coverage is a scary thing if you have, say, young kids.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 7:15 AM
horizontal rule
212

211: In my case, the new plan didn't kick in for 60 days. Had it been 61, I could (and would) have bridged with Cobra. And IIRC, I had a grace period to decide about Cobra which meant that if something catastrophic occurred on day 45, I could have retroactively elected Cobra so as to provide coverage. Which was nice, because Cobra was going to cost a couple of grand that would have really hurt to have to pay.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 7:31 AM
horizontal rule
213

Cobra is great that way. (That's probably the only way.) A friend of mine used to have an adjunct teaching position that was set up so that he would always be left without health insurance for two months in the summer. One of the group plan administrators recommended that he get the Cobra forms, fill them out to have at the ready, and then let them sit on his desk all summer, only to be mailed in the case of a catastrophic health event.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 7:39 AM
horizontal rule
214

I'm a lot closer to gswift's 176 than I am to trapnel's comments. My view on this is colored, I admit, by my experience working with young people who are genuinely unaware of what it takes for the world around them to function.

Thinking about this overnight I would say that I'm closer to trapnel's position but I would go farther than him in one regard and say that I think she's actually a good argument for UBI.

As far as UBI, I find myself thinking about the diary excerpts published in the New Yorker a while back about Mavis Gallant living abroad in Spain and starving while waiting for a check from the New Yorker. There have always been people who are willing to suffer to pursue there artistic ambitions. I'm happy with the trade-off that providing more social support, and allowing them to suffer less, means that some people will spend a couple years trying to become a writer (or musician or filmmaker) and never produce anything. I think it's good that Molly was able to get food stamps.

As far as finder her sympathetic I would argue this: (1) She is clearly working -- her writing is not only good, it show effort, which matters to me, even if it does mean that I'm fetishizing work. (2) She clearly knows that her current life isn't working out for her. I haven't read the essay about marijuana, but my sense from the essay about work is that even if she would like to drive around and be stoned the whole time, she knows that isn't happening. (3) I've spent periods of my life feeling (mildly) depressed and frustrated and I remember the feeling of, "what I'm doing feels counter-productive, even to me, but it also feels like it reflects some internal need." Most often in those cases it felt like my non-productive behavior was a response to avoiding something that I was anxious about and, in some cases, being stuck in a holding pattern for a couple months did get me to eventually address the anxiety. In some cases I ended up giving up and deciding that it just wasn't something I was ready to tackle head-on, but in the cases where I was able to make a change or break-through I don't know that I could have done it without the period of time of just living with that anxiety. It seems entirely possible that she's in a similar pattern.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 8:40 AM
horizontal rule
215

OK, well it seems like:

1) Anxiety about not being able to support oneself makes many people less productive than they should be. This favors UBI.

2) Plenty of people do slack off when they're able to. This argues against UBI.

Obviously the solution is to guarantee a minimum income, but make entertainment obtainable only by productive work (instead of the backwards way we've got it set up not). If you can't find a job, you should be safe, with no risk of being hungry, unsheltered, or dead - but you should be incredibly bored.

Deal?


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 8:54 AM
horizontal rule
216

214: I don't disagree with most of this, but she also wrote a confessional article in which she disclosed an significant amount of unethical behavior on her part (particularly the writing about the house after promising not to -- and I do NOT think it excuses her that one of the residents asked her to "write something for the paper" when they were threatened with eviction).

Lots of people go through periods of angst, unhappiness, unemployment, unfocusedness. That doesn't preclude one from being an honorable and respectful human being.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 9:39 AM
horizontal rule
217

particularly the writing about the house after promising not to

Here are the two things that strike me about that: (1) she foregrounds that fact in the article and mentions it explicitly three times (she also foregrounds the fact that her portrait of her mother is somewhat unflattering -- in both cases she almost invites the reader to disagree with her position) and (2) she doesn't reveal anything that I could think of as a secret -- she writes very little about the lives of the other people in the house and mostly writes about her own experience and reactions to the situations.

Now (2) may or may not be exculpatory -- I don't know what conversations she had with the people in the house, and I am not in a position to decide whether what she wrote was appropriate or not.

But I am inclined to believe that she's conscious enough of the ethical lines that she's coming up against that it is possible that she's still (more or less) an "honorable and respectful human being."


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 9:48 AM
horizontal rule
218

I don't want to give her carte blanche, I'm just saying that as far as violating ethical norms go, she's pretty careful in the choices that she's making.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 9:50 AM
horizontal rule
219

There have always been people who are willing to suffer to pursue there artistic ambitions.

Suffer everything but an actual job.

It only took a year of office work for me to arrive at a fundamental truth. Working hard in order to make a living doing what you love isn't just important: It's the most important thing...Who cares that I'm way too old to be living with a bunch of 21-year-old punks? Anything's better than getting a job.

Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 10:04 AM
horizontal rule
220

How does bob's job guarantee work? Can you be fired for poor performance (or for not showing up)? If so, what happens? Are you guaranteed another job? Or are you just SOL for life? Three strikes and you're out?

If you can't be fired for not showing up (or are just guaranteed another job in the event you're fired), this doesn't seem very different from UBI.

On some level, the idea of just doubling the minimum wage and providing a government job guarantee of a job shortage develops seems much more attractive than a UBI. But I can't figure out how the job guarantee would work. I also prefer white ponies to brown ones.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 10:10 AM
horizontal rule
221

I also prefer white ponies to brown ones.

Racist.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 10:17 AM
horizontal rule
222

Here's a topical Kickstarter: Some folks want to make a movie about a woman who wants to quit her service-industry job to become a graphic designer, but can't because of health insurance.

Not sure I totally agree with the framing, but it's an interesting idea.

N.B. If anyone is going to argue that graphic design is indulgent, let me introduce you to the shock-ad campaign from the United Way of Milwaukee, against statutory rape. Warning: includes snakes and rats.



Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 10:18 AM
horizontal rule
223

217: It isn't about whether she reveals secrets; it's about consent. They didn't consent. And by repeatedly mentioning it, she's basically celebrating her violation of that.

I don't feel enormously strongly about this, so I will drop it here. Everyone should go look at the horrifying United Way ad campaign anyway. Why isn't Todd Akin talking about THAT?


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 10:21 AM
horizontal rule
224

209: As long as you and your family have been covered by an employer's group health plan for at least 12 months, with no interruptions in that coverage lasting more than 60 days (due to, for example, a job hunt during which you had no insurance), the law ensures that your new employer can't refuse to cover you or your family because of a pre-existing condition.

I just love (not) how these kind of clauses serve to separate those who "deserve" things like health insurance form those who do not. Structured to "work" for pluralities of those who are likely to vote*. Truly procedural neo-liberalism at its finest.

*I suspect without the GFC and ensuing recession causing many young adults from even "respectable" families to not be able to get health-insurance-providing jobs ACA would have gotten slaughtered. (maybe that is so obvious that it goes without saying, but there is strain of righteous asshole who likes to berate Obama for not solely concentrating on the "economy").


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 10:23 AM
horizontal rule
225

From 222:

"The shock value isn't the outcome we're going for," Angresano said Tuesday. "The outcome we want to impact is changing attitude and behaviors so young people and their families are making healthier decisions about their sexuality."

Mm-hmm.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 10:24 AM
horizontal rule
226

219 - What did Wallace Stevens know about writing?


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 10:24 AM
horizontal rule
227

219: Gosh, you totally captured the context of the sentiment she was expressing.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 10:37 AM
horizontal rule
228

[B]y repeatedly mentioning it, she's basically celebrating her violation of that.

That wasn't my reaction, but I don't know enough about the situation to know whether your reaction or mine is more accurate.

I did have one more thought about why I appreciated the essay. I thought about CC's comment, "maybe if it gets enough clicks, they'll pay her more" and realized that her writing doesn't feel like it's crafted to maximize page-views, and I appreciate that. It feels like the writing gestures in the direction of Joan Didion more than most contemporary online writing (not that I read enough to justify that generalization) and that's a good role model to have.

I wouldn't put too much weight on that response, but it is part of my positive reaction.

(Side note: read this article about how common "writing for page views" is for aspiring writers these days.)


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 10:38 AM
horizontal rule
229

219: Gosh, you totally captured the context of the sentiment she was expressing.

Come on, the entire godamn article is explicitly about her avoiding getting a regular job.

It's not true that I don't want to work. Or, it depends on your definition of work. I want to make my living as a writer

She then goes from there to describe her parent's careers, state she doesn't want to do anything like those jobs, and then tells us how a year in an office job caused her to "unravel". This is hardly reading between the lines.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 10:49 AM
horizontal rule
230

Nobody should hire her to do anything. Also, she should get a job and stop talking.

That about sums it up.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 10:51 AM
horizontal rule
231

229, 230: 99% of people with "jobs" are people who have failed at living without a job. You two are clearly jealous.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 10:56 AM
horizontal rule
232

She then goes from there to describe her parent's careers, state she doesn't want to do anything like those jobs, and then tells us how a year in an office job caused her to "unravel".

My impression is that her opinion about that question may shift significant over the next couple of years and that, in fact, part of what she's writing about is the question of how and what will change her mind.

I could be wrong, but I don't think it's a stretch to draw that conclusion from her essay.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 11:03 AM
horizontal rule
233

I'm a little surprised at the hostility to Molly Laich. I haven't finished reading the article -- the one linked in 106 -- but I know people like that: they wound up training and working as a masseuse (Laich mentions making a living giving people back rubs). Or they design, make and hawk jewelry. Or they work on an organic farm in-season, and do environmental research stuff off-season (taking water samples and such). These jobs have in common that they don't stress 9-5 presentism on the job. They also don't come with health insurance, and they don't bring in a hell of a lot of money, but there are whole swathes of endeavors like those that enrich our societies.

I have no idea whether Laich herself will find something like that, but for heaven's sake, if everyone felt the need to find an "actual" job, we'd effectively be popping out future drones from our wombs.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 11:26 AM
horizontal rule
234

My personal heuristic for the job market places nearly all jobs into one or (often) more of the following categories:

1) jobs that require physical injury or constant humiliation from superiors
2) jobs that require you to smile and interact with people nearly all the time
3) jobs for which competition is insane
4) mid- to high-level tech jobs
5) medicine
6) ENTREPRENEURSHIP

There may also be a useful category 7), jobs that do not pay a living wage. 1), 2) and 7) are the high-growth areas.

Once I've bottomed out with pessimism and am left with nothing but optimism, I may try 6), although I suspect that all of 6) really belongs in 2).


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 11:41 AM
horizontal rule
235

That is probably spot-on.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 12:24 PM
horizontal rule
236

234: My job is very sucky by any reasonable standard, but it doesn't fit well into any of those categories. A little humiliation and some smiling and interacting. Mostly just boring and pointless.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 12:28 PM
horizontal rule
237

1), 2) and 7) are the high-growth areas.

With a great deal of overlap between the three, naturally.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 12:28 PM
horizontal rule
238

236: Governnment work?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 12:29 PM
horizontal rule
239

Nah. In bookselling, for example, competition is insane, you might have to interact with people all the time (if you have an open shop) but you don't necessarily have to smile, it's entrepreneurial for sure, and sometimes winds up with physical injury if you're not careful.

Those categories sound like they're locked into a mindset, gleaned from reading help wanted ads maybe, that is not quite the reality out there.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 12:31 PM
horizontal rule
240

I have a peep-type job more than any of the others.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 12:44 PM
horizontal rule
241

A little humiliation and some smiling and interacting. Mostly just boring and pointless.

Peep is the third point guard on an NBA team.



Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 1:01 PM
horizontal rule
242

Those categories sound like they're locked into a mindset, gleaned from reading help wanted ads maybe, that is not quite the reality out there.

Maybe you'd like my "8 Categories of Online Dating Profile" better? I wrote it up for Slate.

I mean, I really am completely fucked if that heuristic is substantially accurate. It's just an index of my own frustration, based on past/present work experience as well as amorphous fears and something close to Trapnel's hatred of SoMAVille*. I worked in a bookstore for a while, but under the rubric of 7).

All y'all's federal tax dollars, incidentally, will be supporting my lavish lifestyle for the next six months or so. (I've been subsidized by the gov't before, but never at a five-figure sum.) How should I squander them?

* not to be confused with Somerville, which I suppose I still love.


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 1:01 PM
horizontal rule
243

241: Or starting for the Charlotte Bobcats.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 1:02 PM
horizontal rule
244

My take away from 234 is that you need to have skills that are very much in demand if you want to avoid having to make nice with the obnoxious people who want you to do stuff for them.

Which is true.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 1:04 PM
horizontal rule
245

All y'all's federal tax dollars, incidentally, will be supporting my lavish lifestyle for the next six months or so. (I've been subsidized by the gov't before, but never at a five-figure sum.) How should I squander them?

Just go nuts with the food and shelter. Three meals a day, a roof, all that good stuff. Live it up to the max.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 1:09 PM
horizontal rule
246

My job is fairly interesting, not very entrepreneurial, and unlikely to injure me. But I still want paid more.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 1:16 PM
horizontal rule
247

241.2: That's my dream job! (I guess for it to really resemble my 12-year-old self's dreams would require some Jeremy Lin type circumstance)

238: No.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 1:18 PM
horizontal rule
248

My job doesn't really fit into any of the categories in 234; it's pretty easy and safe, doesn't require much interaction with people, and wasn't extremely difficult to get (only somewhat). It doesn't really pay a living wage if you look narrowly, but given the overall context and benefits it actually does. It can be pretty boring and frustrating at times, but it's been a good gig overall, and I'm a little wistful now that it's drawing to a close.

I start my new job on Monday. We'll see how it measures up.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 1:25 PM
horizontal rule
249

and wasn't extremely difficult to get (only somewhat)

I'm not saying it gives you an automatic "extreme" difficulty measure, but the fact that the job is in Alaska has to count for something.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 2:30 PM
horizontal rule
250

162: People with dependents like the security of a steady job. Startups are for young healthy energetic single people.

I understand that this is conventional wisdom, but this seems completely wrong to me. If you take someone deciding between taking a job at Pinterest (looking to hire employee #36, last time I talked to them) or some boring job at IBM, it's hard to imagine anyone, no matter how risk averse, taking the job at IBM.

IBM's much more likely to be around, but what difference does that make? They lay people off all the time. I'd place better odds on the job at Pinterest still existing in five years. Even if you wouldn't take that bet, having N years at Pinterest before their demise is going to look better on on a resume than N years at IBM, unless you're in one of the few groups at IBM that does something interesting.

A friend of mine recently started looking for a (programming) job after hitchhiking for a year and a half. He had a previous one year gap on his resume from travelling around the world. It took him three weeks to land a job. The risk of going to a startup and then being un-able to find a job after it implodes is virtually zero. The only people I've seen who have had trouble are people who've spent a long time at a "secure" job in a boring group at a big company. They let their skills atrophy, and now no one wants to hire them. That's the real risk, and it's one you won't see at a startup.


Posted by: sral | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 3:45 PM
horizontal rule
251

Oh my god trying to fill in a badly laid-out Word 2003-format application form for a temp agency, using LibreOffice, makes me want to kill everyone at Microsoft, everyone at the temp agency in question, and myself. Typing in anything breaks the formatting for everything else. (I suppose I could get angry at the LibreOffice team, but I'm sure they did the best they could.)


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 3:52 PM
horizontal rule
252

How does bob's job guarantee work? Can you be fired for poor performance (or for not showing up)? If so, what happens? Are you guaranteed another job? Or are you just SOL for life? Three strikes and you're out?

To be honest, the number of people who are fired for poor performance is so small that realistically, assuming some kind of government HR/social worker on steroids combo that would flag them up, they should mostly be funnelled into further training/counselling, in this utopia of universal work.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 4:02 PM
horizontal rule
253

If you take someone deciding between taking a job at Pinterest (looking to hire employee #36, last time I talked to them) or some boring job at IBM,

Let me make the obligatory comment that this isn't a large group of people.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 4:05 PM
horizontal rule
254

242: I mean, I really am completely fucked if that heuristic is substantially accurate.

Oh, I totally didn't get that you were joking. My radar is off.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 4:11 PM
horizontal rule
255

250: I understand that this is conventional wisdom, but this seems completely wrong to me

Indeed. Forget Pinterest and IBM; my work partner quit a job with the city planning department (boring, brain deadening as hell, so stupid) in favor of starting a book business. The latter has worked out, though the work is harder.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 4:17 PM
horizontal rule
256

Further to 253, I continue to be amazed by the job market for programmers, from all I hear on the internet. Back when I was in college I was hearing about how the boom in programming job opportunities had led to an unsustainable boom in people getting programming degrees, and they were all going hungry anyway because of the H1B visa or whatever it's called. Now it seems like finding a job for programmers is several orders of magnitude easier than anyone else except chemical engineers specializing in natural gas extraction.

The fact that programmers literally make up the substructure of the internet and therefore are everywhere generalizing from their own experience may be one reason nothing is being done to improve the economy.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 4:18 PM
horizontal rule
257

256.1: I'm kind of confused by it too. Luckily, I've avoided having to face down my confusion by foregoing lucrative programming jobs in favor of grad school.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 4:25 PM
horizontal rule
258

256.2: About right. Programmers are not the people celebrated upthread in, roughly, ajay's 186. The people who actually make things work.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 4:29 PM
horizontal rule
259

Sorry for generalizing, but I tend to assume that people are talking about engineering when I hear the word 'startup'. There's no reason you couldn't call a new restaurant a startup, but no one does.

I think 256.2.1 explains 256.1, to some extent, although I still expect the job market to crash at some point. It's hard to imagine that happening in the immediate future, but that's probably what lawyers thought about the legal job market cratering before it actually did.


Posted by: sral | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 4:32 PM
horizontal rule
260

I am pretty sure that's not what Ned is saying, parsimon.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 4:33 PM
horizontal rule
261

I was sure the job market for programmers had crashed for good in 2001. That is because I am a keen-eyed observer of the coming future.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 4:34 PM
horizontal rule
262

if everyone felt the need to find an "actual" job, we'd effectively be popping out future drones from our wombs.

Depends on how you define "actual job," I suppose. "Job with which I can support myself (and those, if any, for whom I am responsible)" roughly covers it for me.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 4:40 PM
horizontal rule
263

Actually, maybe I'd make that "...can reliably support..."


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 4:41 PM
horizontal rule
264

260: Oh. What does he mean "nothing is being done to improve the economy"? What does that have to do with the valorization and rewarding of programmers at the expense of people who build and maintain real things? I thought it meant that the latter persons improve the economy.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 4:45 PM
horizontal rule
265

A bookseller story.


Posted by: CCarp | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 4:46 PM
horizontal rule
266

264: no. He meant that programmers do not see an affirmative need to take action to approve the economy because, in their limited worldview, it is not difficult to get jobs. It would be silly to say that programmers do not "actually make things work" because that is explicitly what they do.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 4:46 PM
horizontal rule
267

Jesus Christ, I'm trying not to respond to Parsimon's comments, but the idea that computer programmers aren't people who "build and maintain real things" is just so goddamn dumb. That's pretty much exactly what they do.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 4:48 PM
horizontal rule
268

"approve" s/b "improve", as one might imagine.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 4:48 PM
horizontal rule
269

267 gets it exactly right.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 4:51 PM
horizontal rule
270

If you take someone deciding between taking a job at Pinterest (looking to hire employee #36, last time I talked to them) or some boring job at IBM, it's hard to imagine anyone, no matter how risk averse, taking the job at IBM.

The one reason someone might take the job at IBM is work/life balance. Not that it's guaranteed to be better at a large company, but you've (generally) got more of a shot at it than at a startup.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 4:54 PM
horizontal rule
271

Sorry for generalizing, but I tend to assume that people are talking about engineering when I hear the word 'startup'. There's no reason you couldn't call a new restaurant a startup, but no one does.

Hmm but restaurants start at the size they mean to go on at, basically. I'd definitely call an aggressively expanding catering company a start up.

Also it is absurd to try and classify usefulness/not on the basis of occupational category. Many people digging ditches are doing nothing really useful. There are pointless manufacturing jobs.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 4:57 PM
horizontal rule
272

The one reason someone might take the job at IBM

Are you guys trolling Shearer or what


Posted by: L. | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 4:59 PM
horizontal rule
273

Some programmers are engaged doing nothing of any use!

Fuck the valorisation of usefulness anyway.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 4:59 PM
horizontal rule
274

I don't really agree with 181, but it's true that it's trivial to get a high paying job doing something of dubious value (by working on social + any buzzword you like, fragmenting the ARM processor market even further by creating yet another clone, launching junk into space, etc.), but it would be pretty much impossible for me to get paid to do many things that have obvious concrete value.

I often see people doing spending tens or hundreds of hours doing something that could be automated trivially (often in minutes, sometimes in an hour or two). In college, I thought that would be a good way to make money, but it turned out to be much easier for me to make money doing research in pure math (likely of little value, even if I was a genius, and of zero value, since I'm not) and playing poker (perhaps not zero-sum because of the entertainment value, but still no one's idea of productive employment).

A number of my friends run small businesses, and I've offered to automate tedious stuff for them for free. They've always declined. I don't think it's because they don't want to impose. They really don't see the value. That's not unique to programming. An accountant I know complains that small business owners spend hundreds of hours doing work that would take him a few hours.

Most people don't see value in automation. Drive a truck? That's real work. Use basic OR/IE knowledge to write a program that tells you where to drive trucks to deliver things twice as quickly using half as much gas? Give me something I can see.


Posted by: sral | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 4:59 PM
horizontal rule
275

I'm very surprised by how many of the Pinterest job descriptions list a math degree as a qualification. Maybe I will have a job someday!


Posted by: L. | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 5:03 PM
horizontal rule
276

272: Are you guys trolling Shearer or what

I didn't mean it that way. IBM's research arm is really cool, and I think that's where he was employed. Their linux group is also top notch, their POWER architecture team seems to be doing good work, etc. It just used them as an example because they have lots and lots of jobs that are tedious and boring. Unlike, say, MS and Google, they don't even pretend to try to make the work environment nice for most employees.


Posted by: sral | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 5:03 PM
horizontal rule
277

What is the deal with programming startups, though? A high school friend of mine whose career trajectory was Yale Law -> big NY law firm and zillions of $$$ -> disillusionment -> investment banking -> more disillusionment suddenly jumped to a Silicon Valley programming startup despite having no apparent prior interest or knowledge in programming. There was maybe a month in between of bemoaning how difficult it would be to change careers, and then suddenly she had an apparently highly-paid and rewarding programming job.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 5:04 PM
horizontal rule
278

Yeah, 266 is what I meant. Just as people in Washington D.C. have not been experiencing a recession any time in recent history.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 5:04 PM
horizontal rule
279

277: things move so fast that hiring somebody with the actual specific necessary skills is often impossible, so you look for people who are really sharp and have quantitative skills. At least that's how it used to work.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 5:09 PM
horizontal rule
280

277: What was she doing in investment banking? And what kind of job did she get? (Actual product development, or something else?) If there was an analytics aspect to her job in i-banking, that kind of a jump wouldn't surprise me.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 5:11 PM
horizontal rule
281

A number of my friends run small businesses, and I've offered to automate tedious stuff for them for free. They've always declined. I don't think it's because they don't want to impose. They really don't see the value.

Because they won't understand how to fix it when it stops working?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 5:11 PM
horizontal rule
282

Unlike, say, MS and Google, they don't even pretend to try to make the work environment nice for most employees.

They must be offering something though that trumps this `nice' thing.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 5:14 PM
horizontal rule
283

267, 269: Computer programmers don't actually build the things they design. They don't physically make them, in most cases. I don't see how there can be an argument about that. They contribute other sorts of value, but they don't actually put on the welding mask or pour concrete or dig a hole, with an earth-mover or otherwise.

Now, Halford, please stop calling me dumb.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 5:17 PM
horizontal rule
284

283.1: which... has nothing to do with anything.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 5:18 PM
horizontal rule
285

Apologies, I hadn't seen 266 before.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 5:23 PM
horizontal rule
286

Computer programmers don't actually build the things they design. They don't physically make them, in most cases.

I'm struggling to understand this. What exactly is it you think most programmers *do*?


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 5:23 PM
horizontal rule
287

Yeah, real men programmers(?) would design a piece of logic by actually physically ripping the computer apart and re-wiring the bits to the um, registers?, and then solder the whatsit to the whosis. Probably some rivets should be involved too.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 5:25 PM
horizontal rule
288

There is some special irony in saying that programmers don't do real work on a *website*, though.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 5:25 PM
horizontal rule
289

My dad spent a couple-three decades working in a factory, but an awful lot of that time was spent monitoring various safety indicators and deciding when to start and stop things, so it's not like he was actually making things. It was a chemical plant, so the real people building things were the ones getting their hands dirty and stitching those covalent bonds together the old-fashioned way.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 5:27 PM
horizontal rule
290

Welding! Concrete! Digging holes! You know, making things.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 5:28 PM
horizontal rule
291

But erm what about logics embedded in systems of people? Is that real work? Surely we won't let MBAs into the sanctity of real work!


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 5:28 PM
horizontal rule
292

296: They write code, don't they?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 5:28 PM
horizontal rule
293

281 is correct, and is a perfectly good reason to prefer putting in the labor yourself. Depending on something that might randomly and inexplicably break and require thousands of dollars in outside help to fix is not a good idea for mission-critical functions unless you have the money lying around.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 5:29 PM
horizontal rule
294

Are holes things?


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 5:29 PM
horizontal rule
295

293 -- but presumably you can design automation to fail gracefully and still allow a manual process if needed.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 5:30 PM
horizontal rule
296

294 is very deep.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 5:32 PM
horizontal rule
297

292: Yes. But what would it mean to "physically make" a website? Or any piece of software?


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 5:32 PM
horizontal rule
298

295 is exactly what I was going to say. There's some slow tedious process that's being done by hand. What's the worst that could happen if the program that's doing it automatically breaks? You go back to doing it by hand, and you're no worse off than you were before.


Posted by: sral | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 5:33 PM
horizontal rule
299

287 is how I prefer to program. Wiring relays together makes for very robust (albeit difficult to modify) computation. I can half-ass it in half a dozen languages but I'm top-notch at relay logic. Unfortunately the market for expertise in the field is zero.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 5:35 PM
horizontal rule
300

291 makes a good point.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 5:40 PM
horizontal rule
301

282: I don't know. I'll bet my answer says more about my own biases than it does about IBM, but I'll give it a shot.

First, I think they have a much lower hiring bar than most of the big name alternatives, outside of a few select groups.

Second, I think they basically trick people into working there, and that many people have a very hard time leaving a job. One of the best engineers I know took a job there right out of school. They offered him a mediocre but not exorbitantly low salary, and his raises have barely kept up with inflation. He's so miserable at his job that he's considering changing careers, but he won't switch to another engineering job because interviewing and changing jobs would be so stressful that he doesn't want to do it, find out he doesn't like his new job, and then have to do it again when he switches careers. He could easily land a fun job where he makes twice as much if he were just willing to interview, but he has a very hard time doing anything outside of his routine.

NI, a big local company, is good trapping people, too. The pay is worse than at any other engineering company I've heard of. They hire new grads almost exclusively, and they something that's supposed to be prestigious that they call their Engineering Leadership Program, which means that you do tech support for a couple years and then move on to a normal career. People go there because they have a "leadership" program, and then they stick around because they're used to it.


Posted by: sral | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 5:44 PM
horizontal rule
302

295: You need to make sure it's part of the spec so you don't end up with vital information stored in formats you can't read. Someone who really knows what they are doing would make sure that you can just go back to doing it by hand, but there are thousands upon thousands of people who know enough to automate tasks but not enough to cover the bases properly. In my experience designing systems to be robust is not an obvious requirement to most people.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 5:46 PM
horizontal rule
303

287: I qualify. We programmed our psycho-rat-running experiments with patch-wired hardware logic modules in 19" racks.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 5:57 PM
horizontal rule
304

293/281 is correct. I understand what togolosh is saying in 302: I myself will not hand over my data in a format I don't understand enough to control. (I'm talking work here.)


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 6:00 PM
horizontal rule
305

294 gets to the core of things.

303: I read 287 and I thought "hey man with a VAX you had to wire all that shit up with patch panels". Of course the people doing that were programmers, but not in a way that we would understand anymore.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 6:04 PM
horizontal rule
306

298

295 is exactly what I was going to say. There's some slow tedious process that's being done by hand. What's the worst that could happen if the program that's doing it automatically breaks? You go back to doing it by hand, and you're no worse off than you were before.

It isn't that simple. Perhaps the program breaks in an unobvious way and costs you a lot of money before you notice. Or perhaps you no longer employ the people who know how to do it by hand.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 6:06 PM
horizontal rule
307

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-2NBsM6xOdsk/SBzsjTJrUwI/AAAAAAAAPrk/VTeWpsbBWqw/s800/Yankees1970174.jpg

The woman in this picture is dead now, and I presume the logic racks in the back were dumped in a landfill long ago. From 1968.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 6:08 PM
horizontal rule
308

And before Moby strikes, I'll say it first. "Fuzzy Logic".


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 6:11 PM
horizontal rule
309

A man, a VAX, a canal: a nacaxavanama!


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 6:11 PM
horizontal rule
310

A man, a plan, a canoe, pasta, heros, rajahs, a coloratura, maps, snipe, percale, macaroni, a gag, a banana bag, a tan, a tag, a banana bag again (or a camel), a crepe, pins, Spam, a rut, a Rolo, cash, a jar, sore hats, a peon, a canal--Panama!

-- Guy Steele


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 6:20 PM
horizontal rule
311

but he won't switch to another engineering job because interviewing and changing jobs would be so stressful that he doesn't want to do it, find out he doesn't like his new job, and then have to do it again when he switches careers. He could easily land a fun job where he makes twice as much if he were just willing to interview, but he has a very hard time doing anything outside of his routine.

You know Jammies?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 6:22 PM
horizontal rule
312

250

... The only people I've seen who have had trouble are people who've spent a long time at a "secure" job in a boring group at a big company. They let their skills atrophy, and now no one wants to hire them. That's the real risk, and it's one you won't see at a startup.

This is true and it is one reason it is a bit misleading to say the job market for programmers is great. It's great for the top candidates like recent graduates in hot areas from good schools. But if you aren't a top candidate, if instead you are say a laid off fifty something programmer from HP it probably isn't very good at all. And of course as has been mentioned before there are lots of people who claim to be programmers who can't actually program.

I should also note that being forced to constantly learn new things is not something that everybody likes (or finds easy). So they might prefer a more "boring" job.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 6:25 PM
horizontal rule
313

288 - I was going to say that it's running on an application I have even contributed to, but then I realized that the code is so antiquated that that's probably a lie.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 6:32 PM
horizontal rule
314

301, 312 - I can't speak to HP, but isn't a vast amount of IBM's work actually consulting? Deliver an enormous DB2/Lotus installation and customize the workflow, etc.? That's not a skill that translates well to startup land, because startups generally hate and fear enterprise sales.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 6:37 PM
horizontal rule
315

314.2 made me shudder involuntarily.

I have a friend who has (very) successfully made his way on the enterprise side of things, but goddamn what a world.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 6:40 PM
horizontal rule
316

IBM has over 400,000 employees so generalizations about specific employment situations there are probably even more ridiculous than usual for that kind of thing.

HP's (which has over 300,000 employees) biggest consulting piece is the remnants of EDS (Perot's baby waay back in the day) which they bought in 2008 for $14B. It has been a fiasco, and they recently took an $8B write-off related to the purchase.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 6:59 PM
horizontal rule
317

but he won't switch to another engineering job because interviewing and changing jobs would be so stressful that he doesn't want to do it, find out he doesn't like his new job, and then have to do it again when he switches careers. He could easily land a fun job where he makes twice as much if he were just willing to interview, but he has a very hard time doing anything outside of his routine.

This is me as well. Thankfully I like my current job, which has turned out much better than I expected, because I hate looking for work (and am not good at it).


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 7:01 PM
horizontal rule
318

Over on the hardware/data center side of things, I'm trying to decide whether Facebook's sharing of their datacenter specs (By releasing Open Compute Project technologies as open hardware, our goal is to develop servers and data centers following the model traditionally associated with open source software projects. ) is potentially a thing or not.

There is, of course, some irony.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 7:04 PM
horizontal rule
319

What's the worst that could happen if the program that's doing it automatically breaks?

Data loss (which item did my customer use last year?) or expensive accounting error.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 7:04 PM
horizontal rule
320

318. Competing with Amazon or Hadoop? Not sure which, maybe neither.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 7:06 PM
horizontal rule
321

320: Amazon yes (I believe they operate their own datacenters). But also Google, Microsoft, Apple, and various other more behind-the-scenes folks like Digital Reality, Equinix, Rackspace, Terramark. But not necessarily so much *competing* at first, but as an early step in a direction where an "Open Hardware" community*(ies) develops that could lower the cost of entry for what is currently an extremely capital-intensive undertaking. Not clear there is any win there, at least compared with open software. But I do hope I live long enough to have a mini-container modular datacenter buried in my backyard with systems that cache everything I am potentially interested in for near zero-latency access.

*For data-center class setups, clearly something like it is already there at a smaller scale.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 7:39 PM
horizontal rule
322

I have a friend who has (very) successfully made his way on the enterprise side of things, but goddamn what a world.

Eh, there's enterprise and then there's enterprise. Before this one, my two previous jobs were working on enterprise products, and there was plenty of interesting work to be done in both places.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 7:42 PM
horizontal rule
323

Further to 322: And there's *plenty* of value in working on products that people pay for with actual cash moneys.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 7:43 PM
horizontal rule
324

At the startup where I work (hey, I work at a startup now, some of you may not have known) one of the engineers made a tower of soda cans with his hands.

I refute you thus, parsimon.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 8:16 PM
horizontal rule
325

Congratulations.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 8:35 PM
horizontal rule
326

Work the diaeresis. There's money in the diaeresis.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 8:36 PM
horizontal rule
327

319: This isn't only a reply to 319, but what the hey.

It depends on the circumstances, but being worried about mistakes and data loss do not seem like a good reason to avoid automation. I say that not because I don't take bugs seriously, but because I do.

I work for a hardware company. A serious hardware bug would mean a recall, which would bankrupt a small company like us. A minor bug (something that can be patched by microcode) means that OEMs have to re-validate their systems with our patch, and will probably not want to deal with us again for years. We employ many more testers than developers, we use industry standard formal verification tools, and we have our own formal verification group, because industry standard tools aren't good enough. We once delayed the shipment of a chip for three months because that's how long it took to track down a bug that occurred approximately every two days if you continuously looped a DVD while running two webcams as well as a benchmark suite on a multiprocessor system. We weren't even planning on selling any multiprocessor configurations of that chip, but we couldn't afford to ship a chip that had some behavior we didn't understand.

If we had to rely on manual human checking, we wouldn't be able to create anything even 1/100000000000th as complex as what we do. Humans are bad at tedious manual tasks. We're especially bad at verifying that the results of a tedious manual task are correct, because that's doubly tedious. If you're worried about mistakes, doing it manually is very rarely the correct solution.

Something I've heard a lot lately now that the Google's self driving car is getting a lot of press is that you can't trust software to drive a car. There are 10M car accidents a year in the U.S, despite systems like ABS and stability control that have been shown to drastically reduce the rate of accidents. You can't trust humans to drive a car, either.

I'm not going to put that level of effort into verifying that some 10 minute one-off script is working correctly, but if you've got some minimum wage worker doing the same thing, he or she isn't putting that much effort into it either.


Posted by: sral | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 8:39 PM
horizontal rule
328

You can't trust humans to drive a car, either.

No, but you think you basically understand how they behave.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 8:42 PM
horizontal rule
329

301

Second, I think they basically trick people into working there, and that many people have a very hard time leaving a job. One of the best engineers I know took a job there right out of school. They offered him a mediocre but not exorbitantly low salary, and his raises have barely kept up with inflation. He's so miserable at his job that he's considering changing careers, but he won't switch to another engineering job because interviewing and changing jobs would be so stressful that he doesn't want to do it, find out he doesn't like his new job, and then have to do it again when he switches careers. He could easily land a fun job where he makes twice as much if he were just willing to interview, but he has a very hard time doing anything outside of his routine.

I suppose he doesn't want to change jobs within IBM for the same reasons.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 8:50 PM
horizontal rule
330

328: You of all people should know that we understand how robots behave, too.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 8:55 PM
horizontal rule
331

330: not the same way!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 9:18 PM
horizontal rule
332

An accountant I know complains that small business owners spend hundreds of hours doing work that would take him a few hours.

My motherfucking accountant charged me $600 to do my taxes this year. He saved me no money (and I don't mean net) and no time*.

I have a strong opinion as to whether he did any real work, but I won't kick that hornets nest.

* because I still had to compile every bit of info he plugged into the forms; me typing miles driven into his form so that he can type it into a tax form ≠ efficiency


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 9:27 PM
horizontal rule
333

I suppose he doesn't want to change jobs within IBM for the same reasons.

I think so. The barriers to moving within IBM are lower, but being even the least bit assertive* stresses him out a lot. It's hard to imagine that he would have problems transferring internally, because he's gotten their highest performance rating on every review except one. The reason his manager gave him for not giving him top marks was that he was in a small group, so there was only one top rating to go around, and there was another person who was equally deserving, so the only fair thing to do was give neither person an exemplary rating.

About five years ago he mentioned wanting to move into logic design to his them manager, who told him that he'd really have to push for it, because those positions were coveted. Well, that was that. He didn't push for it, and he hasn't really steered his career in any direction. In that case, I think pushing would have meant saying that he wanted the job, and perhaps reminding his manager once or twice at his six month reviews until he got transferred.

Since he doesn't make noise about his preferences, and other people do, he ends up with roles that other people don't want. He now works in a lab related role, which he doesn't like because there's lots of tedious work and, as is common for lab roles, the hours can be bad. I remember him mentioning that he didn't want to do a lab job when he started at IBM, seven years ago.

I almost wish I still worked there, because this is the kind of problem that's easily solved by chatting with the right people in the hallway for a few minutes.

Another reason he won't transition internally is because he'd feel locked in. He doesn't want to move to another role and then possibly try to change again or quit and change careers, without giving it at least a year. For about four years after his phone contract was up, he wouldn't renew his contract for a year to a free up to date phone, because he'd be locked in for a year. The screen eventually stopped working, so that he couldn't see who was calling. Then, the hinge broke in a way that he needed to keep the phone closed with a rubber band all the time. Eventually, the phone broke in half and he got a new phone.

After years of thinking about it, I've pretty much given up on trying to help. He's really unhappy, but nothing's going to change until he wants to change. He has a standing job offer at my company, and I pass the info on to him every time a buddy at local competitor needs to fill a req, but I don't really expect him to do anything about it.

Heebie, let me know if you ever figure out how to solve the problem in 311, because this makes me sad.

* the exception is if something is wrong, in a strict engineering sense.


Posted by: sral | Link to this comment | 08-22-12 9:50 PM
horizontal rule
334

1) jobs that require physical injury or constant humiliation from superiors
2) jobs that require you to smile and interact with people nearly all the time
3) jobs for which competition is insane
4) mid- to high-level tech jobs
5) medicine
6) ENTREPRENEURSHIP

There may also be a useful category 7), jobs that do not pay a living wage.

- jobs which involve a camel hair brush
- jobs belonging to the federal government
- jobs which from a long way off resemble fun
- jobs not included in this classification
- jobs which have just broken the water pitcher


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-23-12 1:35 AM
horizontal rule
335

What does that have to do with the valorization and rewarding of programmers at the expense of people who build and maintain real things?

Other people who, according to Parsimon, do not have real jobs:

farmers
hotel cleaners
truck drivers
firefighters
deep-sea fishermen
paramedics
the President of Brazil


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-23-12 1:38 AM
horizontal rule
336

lawyers
philosophers, classicists, lit profs
mathematicians, theoretical physicists
booksellers
policemen

... no wonder the no-good lot of us are here all day.


Posted by: Awl | Link to this comment | 08-23-12 5:44 AM
horizontal rule
337

I'm only guessing at the identity of the woman in 307. But it's a beautiful picture. Thanks, Biohazard.


Posted by: Penny | Link to this comment | 08-23-12 6:15 AM
horizontal rule
338

335: Farmers might get in based on hole-digging.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-23-12 6:42 AM
horizontal rule
339

294 to 338.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-23-12 6:45 AM
horizontal rule
340

Parsimon was very explicit in 283.1 that digging holes counts in her system. It's unclear from her comment whether one has to actually do any welding or if simply putting on the welding mask suffices. Parsihermeneutics is hard.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-23-12 7:01 AM
horizontal rule
341

Why all this parsimon mockery? Not friendly.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 08-23-12 7:03 AM
horizontal rule
342

Good point. That also includes, in that case, archaeologists, undertakers, construction workers, sewer, gas and electric workers, and the Robert de Niro and Joe Pesci characters from "Goodfellas".


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-23-12 7:04 AM
horizontal rule
343

334 at first seemed like a further argument for automation -- but because "look like fun" made me smile, I support ajay's ongoing employment as a human commenter.

I also (morally, not financially) support neb's employment per 324, for as long as he wants it to last. Derail follows:
||
Years ago I had this vision of how universities could support humanities research without hiring more professors-- I think it involved low-cost fellowships and sponsorships of people employed elsewhere. I.e., let's say you didn't want to leave NYC and so you're working as a paralegal in a niche firm. Some humanities center, or department, or dean, could offer you a semi-competitive fellowship where you'd have a university ID, a library card, and a few thousand dollars a year either directly to you or kicked back to your employer to buy you time off for research and writing. You could give talks at the university (or other universities), go to conferences, publish, and be welcomed as a member of the discipline, and if your primary employer was game, you could teach a class from time to time. But this seemed ro be an unhappy compromise between more radical and more stodgy views of credentialism and the university's gatekeeping function, and raised too many questions it doesn't answer adequately. It still bothers me that humanities research, being so very portable, should be strangled by university hiring pressures. I can think of a lot of reasons for it, but not a lot of reasons that are worth ending thousands of promising scholarly careers every year.
|>


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 08-23-12 7:06 AM
horizontal rule
344

(hey, I work at a startup now, some of you may not have known)

Congratulations, I had not known that.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-23-12 8:36 AM
horizontal rule
345

335: Other people who, according to Parsimon, do not have real jobs

Apparently I was deeply unclear in my original comments, since most of the people in 335's list would count. Also, in no way was I making a distinction between "real jobs" and non-real jobs: just a distinction that I thought was obvious between jobs that involve making our societies work in the most fundamental way, and jobs that are, what, higher up in the food chain.

Not unlike 193's sentiment that it takes far more than ten people shifting garbage, driving groceries around the country, putting them on shelves, taking cash at tills, mending roads, maintaining schools, etc ad nauseam to keep one special snowflake crafting beautiful sentences on their macbook.

Re: hole-digging, yeah, I was thinking about farmers, specifically about putting up deer fencing to protect the crops (because some people I know just did that).


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-23-12 8:45 AM
horizontal rule
346

Some folks think ranching is just sitting around: http://www.jontester.com/featured-items/2012/rehberg-defines-ranching-as-sitting-around/

Maybe this will make the difference -- http://www.jontester.com/news/press-releases/2012/dennis-rehberg-not-a-rancher-after-all/ -- but Todd Akin is helping too.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-23-12 9:16 AM
horizontal rule
347

346.last: It looks like McCaskill is now in the lead in polling, by as much as 10%, in Missouri. That's according to a Rasmussen poll, which usually leans conservative. It's a bit surprising.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-23-12 10:57 AM
horizontal rule
348

341

Why all this parsimon mockery? Not friendly

For whatever reason Parsimon sometimes has trouble communicating clearly with the rest of us. So she gets into (sometimes heated) arguments that appear (to me at least) to be largely mutual misunderstandings. Some of us are more willing to make allowances for this than others.

Her comment about programmers did come across as bonkers.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-24-12 7:00 AM
horizontal rule