Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Jobs, economists and stupidity

What to Expect When You’re Free Trading - New York Times: "All economists know that when American jobs are outsourced, Americans as a group are net winners. What we lose through lower wages is more than offset by what we gain through lower prices."

This is what the economist thinks of all the jobs that are being outsourced, he is also the guy who thinks more sex is safer too.

He is also a major poster child to the saying, "you manage what your measure." When you measure the wrong thing, what you manage will get you results you don't necessarily want.

He is probably looking at the GDP and employment numbers and inflation rate and the consumer price index. Those are really big and pretty abstract numbers. He plugs them into his models, all these things are mathematical models not reality, and sees what comes out.

He never stops to check to see if his numbers are matching up with what is really happening out there.
One consequence is an upending of the traditional pattern, in which middle-aged children take in an elderly parent. As $15-an-hour factory jobs are replaced by $7- or $8-an-hour retail jobs, more men in their 30s and 40s are moving in with their parents or grandparents

If your pay is cut by half to one-third of what it used to be, you have a serious problem. You might not be unemployed but you had to throw away your self-respect to take that fast food job. Your wife has taken a job or another job on. You not a well off DINK but a family with mom and dad working dual jobs and maybe even an older child adding to the family pot.

I don't know what he buys, but I know that gas and milk and bread and vegetables and cheese and even flour have gone up in price. The only thing that I see that consistently goes down in price are computers and electronics, but quite frankly I don't buy that kind of thing more then once in five years or so.

And it isn't limited to blue-collar work either.
The big problem is that the American workplace doesn't make technical jobs attractive enough. The pay is okay, but less than that of other professionals, like lawyers. And the working conditions for engineers and scientists are generally quite poor -- too much Dilbert, not enough Skunk Works. They act as if there's a positive conspiracy to take all the fun out of it, according several of my friends who work in the area.

I never saw anything beyond a keeping-up-with-inflation raise when I was in the engineering field. I used to design computers and now the only jobs out there for me seem to be computer support positions of the type I thought I had left behind in college. And when your backup skillset is being outsourced too, what then?

But it is even worse then that.
The tendency to denigrate the positions of those who actually make things work is endemic in the American business culture, which even after decades of supposed “streamlining” is top-heavy with a relatively useless management culture.

But you never here about the economic toll that is incurred because of this attitude, people who not just hate their jobs but are physically repulsed by them. So they turn to therapy, anti-depressants, alcohol, drugs, extreme sports or worse things.

“I’ve actually experienced the same kind of talk from my supervisor. And I don’t really blame her in the end, because she was just doing her job.”

Rico, you are absolutely right. She was a nice lady, and just trying to get me to fall in line, which, of course, is never too much to ask of an employee. It was my own fault that I wasn’t very good a job I couldn’t stand.

The economist says they are good things, money changing hands being paid to the psychologists and pharmacists, doctors and the like. But that is just the broken window fallacy. They are looking at the wrong numbers and so we may appear to be looking good on paper but in real life there are real problems. The only time we see past the numbers is when something tragic happens, like people going postal in the local school.

If you are measuring the wrong thing what you are managing will be mismanaged. I went to a self-employment workshop last week and it was pretty good, we discussed one of the major reasons that businesses go under, one is not getting the numbers to work. The example story was a couple of guys buy a truck to haul vegetables to the market, they would buy watermelons for a dollar and sell them for a dollar and came to the conclusion they needed a bigger truck. He had been on a bank advisory board to help new companies get thing in line when they ran into trouble and he has seen that same scenario happen many times. Often because the numbers they were looking at were the wrong ones.

I still believe that most people want to and can be much for then what they are. We just don't know how.
I had to love this post if only because one of my last day jobs was training green horses for riding and jumping so they could become steady, dependable school horses. Some made it, doing the job perfectly. Some had quirks or small issues that would stick forever unless the owners invested a lot of time and money into resolving the horse’s psychological problems.

One would never make it. Scared shitless because of a bad past, terrified to trust people, and absolutely craving that love and attention he needed to shine, he needed a lot of help to get to the point where he could achieve his fullest potential.

He wanted to, but he couldn’t - not without a lot of retraining and help.

I always think about this horse like the person that really wanted to succeed but just didn’t know how. And he didn’t have someone who cared enough to bother helping. Sounds like that cage of a job you’re referring to.

Can we overcome the pain? Not when most people seem to be of the opinion you are lazy or stupid and you deserve what you got. There seems to be this weird twist to the Protestant Work Ethic that it is not only more virtuous to suffer for your work but it is actually sinful to enjoy what you do. After enough of this propaganda you begin to believe that you never enjoyed doing anything and now you are in real trouble.

But Hope is still alive (she's on life support), there are things you enjoy doing and you keep reading motivational books and you want to get started but you keep trying.

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