Re: Congratulations, comrade.

1

Isn't the closest real-life example we have that guy who set a minimum salary at his company of something like $80,000? A lot of snideness and insecurity about that too.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 6:14 AM
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everyone is super snarky about communism and how lazy everyone would become,

This is obviously a huge topic, but in actually existing 20th century Communism, my sense is that, among the strictly economic problems, a lack of incentives from wage differentiation was far from the most important (Communist societies found lots of other ways to create hierarchy and elites, regardless). The bigger problems had to do with organizing production and trade without market price/demand signals.

This book on Che's management of the Cuban economy post-revolution is about as sympathetic a commentary as you are likely to find of what most people consider to be a disaster and a farce, but the whole thing is a series of, "what they were trying to do was hard because. . ."


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 6:34 AM
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A related thought experiment that I've heard is, "What if the sole determinant of wage was to be inversely proportional to the number of people willing to do the job?" (With some scaling according to how jobs many are needed of a given type.)


Isn't this the same thing as asking what wages would look like if they were determined only by supply and demand? Because I've often wondered that as well.


Posted by: Trivers | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 8:41 AM
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"What if the sole determinant of wage was to be inversely proportional to the number of people willing to do the job?

I don't know how you would even begin to work that out, because a big part of "am I willing to do this job" is, surely, "how much will I get paid?" Would I be willing to work as a stable-hand two days a week for £15k? No. But for £100k, yes.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 8:47 AM
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You should have people line up for the available job openings, then take people from the back of the line.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 8:50 AM
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If you mean that wages should be determined on a sort of market-clearing basis, by raising or lowering them until exactly one person is willing to do that job... that brings in the question of competence. You might only get one applicant for a job that was advertised as "heart surgeon wanted, 35 hours a week, salary $40,000, must have own rubber boots" but that might not be someone who you actually want to be a heart surgeon.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 8:52 AM
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The question of competence is only imperfectly accounted for in the present system.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 8:54 AM
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Not so much in the heart surgeon line, but management types in general.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 8:56 AM
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"heart surgeon wanted, 35 hours a week, salary $40,000, must have own rubber boots, running for President strictly forbidden.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 9:00 AM
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Let's have a thought experiment about the infeasibility of implementing thought experiments.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 9:05 AM
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"President wanted, 35 hours a week, salary $40,000, must have own Secret Service"


Posted by: Trivers | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 9:09 AM
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I quite like the idea of working for a company where everyone gets paid the same. The differential compensation is, presumably, job security. If you're the receptionist, then you've got a pretty sweet gig at $70k, but you know that if you muck up there are plenty of other people who would love to earn $70k for being a receptionist. But the people with the difficult jobs know they'd be hard to replace.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 9:13 AM
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11:
"Let us suppose that the post to be filled is that of Prime Minister... The first step in the process is to decide on the qualities a Prime Minister ought to have. These need not be the same in all circumstances, but they need to be listed and agreed upon. Let us suppose that the qualities deemed essential are (i) Energy, (2) Courage, (3) Patriotism, (4) Experience, (5) Popularity, and (6) Eloquence. Now, it will be observed that all these are general qualities which all possible applicants would believe themselves to possess. The field could readily, of course, be narrowed by stipulating (4) Experience of lion-taming, or (6) Eloquence in Mandarin. But that is not the way in which we want to narrow the field. We do not want to stipulate a quality in a special form; rather, each quality in an exceptional degree.
In other words, the successful candidate must be the most energetic, courageous, patriotic, experienced, popular, and eloquent man in the country. Only one man can answer to that description and his is the only
application we want. The terms of the appointment must thus be phrased so as to exclude everyone else. We should therefore word the advertisement in some such way as follows:

Wanted-- Prime Minister of Ruritania. Hours of work: 4 A.M. to 11.59 P.M.
Candidates must be prepared to fight three rounds with the current heavyweight champion (regulation gloves to be worn). Candidates will die for their country, by painless means, on reaching the age of retirement (65). They will have to pass an examination in parliamentary procedure and will be liquidated should they fail to obtain 95% marks. They will also be liquidated if they fail to gain 75% votes in a popularity poll held under the Gallup Rules. They will finally be invited to try their eloquence on a Baptist Congress, the object being to induce those present to rock and roll. Those who fail will be liquidated. All candidates should present themselves at the Sporting Club (side entrance) at 11.15 A.M. on the morning of September 19. Gloves will be provided, but they should bring their own rubber-soled shoes, singlet, and shorts."


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 9:16 AM
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In an article about that $70k company they had a receptionist quoted as saying getting the raise was incredibly stressful because now she was much more afraid of losing her job while simultaneously feeling like she could never quit.

Having been in a comparable situation, I see where she's coming from.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 9:18 AM
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Having tried to get in a comparable situation but failed, I'm somewhat lacking in sympathy.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 9:31 AM
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13. You haven't mentioned salary and benefits. Not applying.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 9:44 AM
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14: getting the raise was incredibly stressful because now she was much more afraid of losing her job while simultaneously feeling like she could never quit.

That's such an odd and revealing sentiment. I assume that the fear of losing her job is related to fearing that she won't do the job well enough to hold on to it. Is it really the case that people who make less, or indeed little, money don't feel the need to do much of a good job at it?

What a poor job we've made of our societal arrangements. We've engineered an adversarial relationship between employer and employee, whereby -- according to this woman's testimony -- the principal reason to do the work one finds oneself in is its monetary compensation, and one does it well or less well in accordance with that. And apparently we think this is the best of all possible arrangements.

I'm in a bad mood, as you can probably tell.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 11:14 AM
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10: We basically have that in the PD and it's nice. Obviously sgts and such make more but for the rank and file everyone from patrol to homicide is on the same 8 year salary schedule.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 11:30 AM
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OK, you take that secretary position; I'll take the position where I can embezzle funds to top myself up to the pay grade I feel I deserve.


Posted by: Taprobana | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 11:34 AM
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everyone is super snarky about communism and how lazy everyone would become, and how everyone would race for the lazy secretarial jobs and no one would want to do the shitty executive CEO jobs.

This is the kind of response that always seems really bizarre* to me: it sounds like something that someone who had literally never been an actual human being but only read about them in Freakonomics would say. Money motivates people to do stuff, sure, but above the basic don't-want-to-die levels it's pretty minor all things considered. It's linked to a bunch of other incentives - security and social status seem most significant to me - but if you weaken those links then you also weaken the money related motives even more. The really strong incentives people tend to respond to, from what I vaguely remember of what I read descriptions of at some point, are things like autonomy, a sense of skill or achievement, and a belief that what you're doing serves some kind of (often limited) social good. 'Running a big corporation' might be more difficult or require more work than being a secretary**, but I suspect that it's also a more directly appealing line of work too.

*Maybe a better phrase is "conveniently bizarre"
**Or might not. I'm not entirely convinced of this given what I've seen of both groups.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 11:38 AM
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Or as I've put it to students claiming that without the incentives to force them to work people will just sit around doing nothing all day, "how do you feel in late August?" Usually I get a grudging admission from most of them that, yeah, at that point they're not as interested in indolence as they were at the beginning of summer and kind of looking forward to doing some work again. (There's ambivalence, of course, because they don't necessarily like school, but it's a recognizable pull to them.)


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 11:41 AM
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she was much more afraid of losing her job while simultaneously feeling like she could never quit.

My Dad ran the L. A. office of a tech firm. His managerial philosophy was to find someone good and then overpay them so they'd never leave. Once he found someone to develop graphics and format reports the way he wanted, he never wanted to have to hire someone for that again.

He manipulated his yearly profits carefully as well. Too much and the head office might notice the L.A. office. Too little and they might close down the L.A. office. A reliable couple million dollars a year, and no one would intervene with his fiefdom.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 11:41 AM
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Actually-existing communist systems also had money wages and pay-grades for employees at different levels, and used those as incentives for work. I guess Pol Pot's Cambodia is an exception.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 11:43 AM
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17: No, said the secretary, it's not. If you make above shitty wages at all, you worry that the competition for the gig is stiffer and that they'll decide they want something you can't provide. For instance, I will never again be 20-year-old tits and ass, and a lot of reception work is about being sexy/decorative/ego-boosting. Or they'll decide that for $70,000, they should have a secretary who can also speak Spanish and ASL or something.

Believe me, I don't feel like doing a terrible job merely because I don't make a ton of money.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 11:49 AM
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Not least because when one does not make a ton of money, one needs the gig more. If I made $250,000 a year, I could conceivably sock some of it away, and I'd have a much more powerful social network in any case. Making less, I can save less; and I am more likely to have trouble getting a job that's even sort of as good.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 11:51 AM
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24: Believe me, I don't feel like doing a terrible job merely because I don't make a ton of money.

Nor do I. And I fully agree with 25 that being paid more is less of an incentive to work hard, rather than more.

While I agree also with most of the spirit of 20, I have to -- for the record if nothing else -- take issue with this:

Money motivates people to do stuff, sure, but above the basic don't-want-to-die levels it's pretty minor all things considered.

No. There's basic basic don't-want-to-die, but there's also simply marginal but housed and clothed, and trust me, money's not minor at that level either.

It always irritates me to read those studies that purport to show that making more money doesn't make people any happier. Dude, be serious. Obviously that may apply at and above certain income levels, but come on. Below those levels, it's absurd. I'd be a great deal happier if I lived in better digs, could have a home gym* or even personal trainer, even possibly could have a dishwasher.

* Working on that.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 12:07 PM
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Um, housing and clothing are, typically, needed for survival.

That was why I brought in other incentives like status and especially security - and noted that they're strongly linked to money. Very secure jobs at lower but still reasonable pay are often more attractive to people than less secure ones at (somewhat but not insanely) more pay.

And also "all things considered" means when you hold it up against the whole host of other relevant incentives.

And those studies are pretty explicit about where the doesn't-make-you-happier levels are, so I don't think that's a reasonable description of them in the slightest.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 12:19 PM
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She starts by making the distinction between the bare minimum needed for housing and clothing. Money really does matter above that level and at a level I'd say is neither status or security. Which is to say the dishwasher is a great thing to have. Also, your own washer/dryer. And two toilets, for when it turns out the chicken wasn't cooked through.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 12:29 PM
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Maybe you just need to add "convenience" to status and security.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 12:34 PM
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27: I told you I was grumpy today.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 12:35 PM
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And while money makes a difference to happiness (though that's not the same as being a natural incentive for people - we're not always good at this), it doesn't take too much before it starts competing with things like "longer commute" in ways that are a lot stranger than people think.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 12:38 PM
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27: Very secure jobs at lower but still reasonable pay are often more attractive to people than less secure ones at (somewhat but not insanely) more pay.

"still reasonable pay" is doing a lot of work here. The median income in the US is, I believe, still around $50k, maybe $55k. Is that what's meant by reasonable? As I'm sure we all know, that means that 50% of US households make less than that, and I'm talking about them (I don't think you are). Half the country: I'm not going to agree to a blanket statement that beyond don't-actually-want-to-die, by which I mean food insecurity, money is pretty minor.

I doubt I'm saying anything controversial: I imagine we're talking about different income levels, and you're assuming above median wage. I'm not.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 12:54 PM
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While we're talking about employment and income levels, I see that Marco Rubio is a big fan of empowering the so-called gig economy, disempowering workers. Great guy, that.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 1:00 PM
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Actually-existing communist systems also had money wages and pay-grades for employees at different levels, and used those as incentives for work

I didn't mean to suggest otherwise, but obviously the degree of variation in pay was smaller (as it still is in Cuba, for those not working in the dollar economy). And the variation in social status/power among individuals that did exist had more to do with your role in, or relationship to, the party system than it did with your wage.

My original point was just that, of all the economic problems Communist societies had, "people didn't want to work hard, because working hard wouldn't make them richer than their peers", wasn't near the top of the list.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 1:11 PM
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Yes obviously "reasonable" is doing a lot of work because once you start talking about things that are unreasonable you change a lot of stuff about the situation. If what you're trying to say is "yes money does amount to a large incentive because if you only have enough to live a shitty unpleasant life you'll really want more" then, sure, ok. But that's not really important to the argument that people make about incentives.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 1:22 PM
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Isn't that just wrong though. For example, many people make the argument that we shouldn't have a universal basic income or that we should cut welfare explicitly so people have an incentive to do shitty jobs for low wages.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 1:30 PM
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Yeah, but in this case look at the argument being made. It's that if we paid everyone the same people would want to do the shitty (but easier in some sense) jobs rather than the interesting ones. I don't think anyone has argued that you can't give someone an incentive by putting a gun to their head.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 1:33 PM
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33:

According to Wikipedia, his father was a bartender and his mother was a hotel maid (that's also in the article, along with a bit about how on-demand maid-work would have given his mother "total control over her financial life"). I think Rubio is more than a bit too sanguine about the realities of the on-demand labor economy, but I do get the idea from listening to him, looking over his policy proposals from his time in the senate, and listening t him speak that he's at least sincere in believing it can improve the lives of the working poor even if I do think he's quite wrong.


Posted by: Trivers | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 1:34 PM
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I think the argument is that nobody will do the shitty jobs if there was no strong incentive and that society would collapse because nobody would take the job processing the hog anuses.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 1:38 PM
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or that we should cut welfare explicitly so people have an incentive to do shitty jobs for low wages.

For example, the British Health Secretary.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 1:44 PM
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There are marginal incentives to do horrible jobs. When I was a Swedish factory worker the taxes were so steep and the benefits so generous even at that level that I got more takehome on days when I was sick than when I spent eight hours on my feet doing hard physical labour.

Not that we felt poor. But there was a clear disincentive to work in the system as it was then set up, at least for a moderately lazy person such as I am.


Posted by: NW | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 1:49 PM
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I got more takehome on days when I was sick than when I spent eight hours on my feet doing hard physical labour.

How does this work?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 1:55 PM
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Sick pay must be taxed at a different rate?

Also I bet they have sick pay.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 2:11 PM
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Yes. Sick pay was 90% of normal pay, but there was some kind of tax bracket which meant that I actually got to hold on to more cash from that. Can't remember the details.


Posted by: NW | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 2:13 PM
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That system might be why Swedish alcohol stoves aren't what they used to be.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 2:39 PM
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I worked for 5 plus years in a flat wage pure consensus worker owned collective. It's a sweetly profitable small business (I believe around 75 employees now, was just north of 50 when I left). How and why something like that works or doesn't is super interesting.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 2:57 PM
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DQ, I'm very curious what kind of a small business this was. How it worked (rather than didn't) *is* interesting to me.


Posted by: Penny | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 5:31 PM
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believing it can improve the lives of the working poor even if I do think he's quite wrong.

You know, that may even be possible, but it would involve a model in which the Gig Coordinating Services are owned by the people who do the work for them, instead of by venture capitalists. But I don't think that's what Rubio has in mind.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 6:46 PM
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49:

I agree with you.


All I'm saying is that my impression is that Rubio doesn't actively hate the poor but rather is simply completely ignorant to the realities of the gig economy, so he thinks that having a very small amount of freedom to choose when they work constitutes an increased level of ownership over their work. Of course, Uber fires drivers that turn down to many calls.


Anyway, I think Rubio is wrong about just about everything. He just fails to stir up the unbridled rage that the other candidates (except for maybe Kasich, who just gives me the creeps and Paul, who just makes me roll my eyes) because I get the sense that he is actually trying to be constructive. This probably says more about the incredibly low bar the others have set than about Rubio as a person.


Posted by: Trivers | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 7:47 PM
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49 to 48, typo


Posted by: Trivers | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 7:48 PM
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All I'm saying is that my impression is that Rubio doesn't actively hate the poor but rather is simply completely ignorant to the realities of the gig economy,

This kind of distinction isn't nearly as meaningful as people think it is. Rubio behaves in a fashion that is indistinguishable from the way he would behave if he hated the poor. Period.

I think there really are people who think the Confederate battle standard stands for Heritage Not Hate. Fuck 'em. They're still racists.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 8:44 PM
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48.2: I wish. Or even a GCS that was a flat rate middleman. Hm, is that a chance to disrupt the disruptors?


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 10- 7-15 10:59 PM
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