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Low unemployment isn’t worth much if the jobs barely pay (brookings.edu)
646 points by weare138 11 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 653 comments





We must do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian-Darwinian theory, he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living. - Buckminster Fuller

One in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a wage. - Buckminster Fuller

... via https://github.com/globalcitizen/taoup


Also it is a total lie and a very narrow definition of utility. Arguably, we’ve actually under priced some of the most important labor in our society (caregivers, teachers, social workers, etc), and over priced some of the dumbest (sorry, but if Uber disappeared tomorrow, society would be moderately inconvenienced, but little else).

Finally, nothing in evolutionary biology teaches us that human beings ought to work. Studied hunter-gatherer societies are as multi-faceted as agrarian and technologically driven ones, but they all seem to share a 20 hour work week and a strong affinity for story telling and art.

Honestly, if you followed evolutionary biology we all should be working quite a bit less and producing way more art. The idea that people will fall into dissipation without work is supported by very little science, and certainly no biological science.

Human beings need missions, not labor, to be fulfilled. The market economy seems capable of only supporting a very narrow slice of mission oriented work, the rest does seem like drudgery to me.


>if Uber disappeared tomorrow, society would be moderately inconvenienced, but little else

If you inconvenience 100 million people by costing them 15 minutes more a day, or a few dollars more for lack of competition, then the cost per person may be low, but the cost altogether will be high.

This is the essential problem I see with the articles, they say so many jobs are useless, but often they're useful but only a small part of what is visible.


Totally, but now play the same scenario in your head if all the social workers or teachers disappeared tomorrow. Uber would be a societal inconvenience, but losing all of our teachers would be a catastrophe.

Wages vary according to marginal utility rather than total utility. The question is not "what if all teachers disappeared", but "what if one particular teacher disappeared".

Wages for public sector workers are legally defined and, at least, in this case, have very little to do with any measure of utility. Our society is horrendous at measuring utility in almost all long term cases.

I'm not complaining that teacher salaries are too high or too low. I'm complaining that: A) you're reinventing the Paradox of Value; and B) you're challenging the norm without proposing an alternative economic model.

"Just pay teachers according to the intrinsic value of their profession." But it's not immediately obvious what this means in practice. Suppose wages were set not by congress and not by the market. According to your moral calculus, what is the correct wage and how is it determined?


Indeed. Oxygen is very valuable too, but it should not be expensive for this reason alone. It's abundant, and therefore cheap, and that's a good thing.

Similarly, hypothetically speaking, perhaps teachers are the most valuable profession to society, but if there's plenty of people willing to become a teacher, and plenty capable, there's no reason to reward these people with vast extra sums of money for the sake of their value.

Such a system would lead to extreme inefficient allocations of resources, an oversupply of teachers.

Yes, if teachers are valuable and you can't find people willing or capable to do the job, then by all means, raise their pay. That's the reason I think many teachers deserve more pay. Not because they're intrinsically valuable.


>Wages for public sector workers are legally defined and, at least, in this case, have very little to do with any measure of utility.

Public sector workers can leave for private wages, and for most comparable jobs, are paid similar wages, perhaps more so when adding benefits of most public sector jobs compared to volatility in private equivalents.

So maybe the wage is not the result of public artificial restriction, but of the value placed on the jobs themselves in the open job market.

Also not US teachers are among the highest paid in the world, certainly the OECD, likely because of Baumol's Cost Disease (which would imply US teachers are intrinsically overpaid, but receive the wages they do because schools must compete with outside even higher paying jobs to attract teachers). So perhaps it's not simply the US or public systems, but this is around the value on such skills worldwide.

So either the entire planet places similar utility on teaching as measured by pay, or the entire planet, public and private, has reached the same wrong conclusion.


In fact, many public sector jobs exist because they are too valuable (or difficult) for the market to pay. In the time before lighthouses were automated, try to calculate the value of the lighthouse keeper who prevented deaths and lost cargo.

I agree. And to be clear I think I think it would be an immediate catastrophe as parents would not be able to work as they would have to take care of their children. Teaching is obviously vastly more important than childcare but teachers on their undervalued salaries provide both of these salaries.

If parents did not have to work or could take their children to work, they could be both caregivers and teachers.

No, it wouldn't really be any sort of calamity. Online-Courses/tuitions/bootcamps/home-schooling will take the place of traditional teachers in no time assuming some overlord disappeared them.

[flagged]


You’re assuming they we

a. Are accurately pricing teacher pay (if the upper bounds of private schools are any indication, we are not)

b. The downstream effects wouldn’t be catastrophic.

Certainly most American parents could not afford to properly educate themselves enough to do this job, let alone educate their children.

Finally, a miseducated generation of children would probably end up costing us trillions of dollars in incarceration, health care, etc.

You must think about the nth order effects of these things. Hence our completely inaccurate valuation of them.


> [are we] accurately pricing teacher pay (if the upper bounds of private schools are any indication, we are not)

Why would you look at the upper bounds?

> Private school teachers make way less than public school teachers. Average salaries are nearly $50,000 for public, and barely $36,000 for private.

https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2013/10/why-ar...


I think a problem with this line of reasoning is that people forget what we used to do before we had certain conveniences. If Uber disappears, people would just read a book for 15mins or plan everything to take the extra time into account.

Another problem with this line of reasoning is that people assume that they can always utilise 15m in a productive way or that not doing anything is not productive. How many times do you need a break everyday? How many times would a 15m break to relax and refocus or meditate actually benefit you rather than trying to force some work?


> I think a problem with this line of reasoning is that people forget what we used to do before we had certain conveniences. If indoor plumbing disappears, people would just read a book for 15mins or plan everything to take the extra time into account.

Of course people would get by, but their lives would be worse and advocating for making people's lives worse is kind of a shitty thing to do.


False equivalence. Indoor plumbing is nothing like an app to call a taxi.

Also see both my points. You don’t know if their lives would get worse. You’ve just assumed that the main goal of everyone is to hyper optimise their lives.


Yes I do know their lives would get worse[1] and yes it is an equivalent. You think when indoor plumbing came around people weren't arguing how it was an unnecessary luxury and making people soft and how that wasted time walking to the outhouse builds character and refocuses the self and how we'd all be better off without it?

[1] Because they have said they do, repeatedly, with their wallets.


I think work is pretty important to being human, but working 40-60 hours a week is absurd. 30 seems like a sweet spot to me. If we could remote, do only 30, and reduce pointless meetings than I bet we'd have a lot more time for the things that make us happy like family, side projects, exercise, and Netflix.

Why do you think work in and of itself is important? Being useful to your community is absolutely important, but our definition of that utility is absurdly narrow in this market economy. In fact, sometimes what we value and what is useful are totally orthogonal (again teachers are probably undervalued way too much, because we are poor long term thinkers).

Because nearly everyone wants to feel they're contributing to society in some way. I think we agree here. I'm not saying you need a horrendous office job.

I think people care less about contributing to society and more about having something meaningful to do.

Many jobs are quite meaningless, and the only reason people work them is because they have bills to pay.

On the other hand, creative people will find something meaningful to do that may or may not ever be a contribution to society.


Work is important but labor is not, so to speak.

Work is important because we value a high quality of life. Things like comfort and shelter and medicine and protection from violence and all of the other trappings of civilization never mind luxuries like cars, Internet, cell phones, etc. These things have never existed apart from work. I keep hearing about how awful capitalism is and how absurd and morally wrong it is for humans to need to work, but no one has offered a better solution (certainly nothing that bears up to a layman’s understanding of economics). Substantiate your claims about how “absurd” things are—articulate a system that can appropriately channel resources “where they really should go” (e.g., caregivers) better than capitalism (specifically what imbues your system with more moral authority than a market? If your system depends on a majority of voters feeling the same way as you, what happens when you can’t guarantee that invariant? What happens when you realize that voters and their representatives are even less efficient at allocating resources efficiently than a market? And how does your system guard against corruption better than capitalism?).

change netflix to gaming and you might be onto something

What exactly is overpriced about Uber? The drivers aren't making that much and despite Uber's cut they still aren't profitable

Because that core business isn't where all the money is going. The basic concept of software connecting buyers to sellers (riders to available drivers) is a simple software problem, easily solvable by a few guys and servers given time. Uber spends money on expansion, marketing and a constant game of legal stratego against any town/city/country that seems to get in its way. We are overpricing, over-rewarding, those companies who live to rise their stock price. We should be rewarding those companies whose continued existence is of the greatest benefit to society. That probably isn't Uber.

> Studied hunter-gatherer societies are as multi-faceted as agrarian and technologically driven ones, but they all seem to share a 20 hour work week and a strong affinity for story telling and art.

Yes, and in pretty much every conflict against hard working agricultural societies, they got wiped out.


> we’ve actually under priced some of the most important labor in our society (caregivers, teachers, social workers, etc),

Who is we? Who sets the price?

People obviously don’t see more value in teachers or caregivers, price should not be mandated by law


Prisons are arguably less important to society than education (since it represents the failing of citizens being productive members of society). However, prison expenditures were increasing three times faster than education from 1990 to 2016 [1]. Much of it going to corporately run prisons.

And given the marijuana legalization trend as of late, I really don't believe that people see the value of locking people up we are angry at. People we're afraid of, sure, that's a different story. But a non-violent marijuana offense shouldn't get a 15 year sentence.

Let's be clear, government should control the market, not the other way around.

[1]https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/07/07/the-s...


I’d say it is important to lock up those that hurt society

But I agree that in most countries prisons are true hellholes

In the US laws mandate certain level of care, and government prefer to pay someone else than handle the costs: unions, pensions for those prison staff


> I’d say it is important to lock up those that hurt society.

That's part of how we got here. Prison is just one option. Fines and orders to curtail freedom is another. E.g. Court ordered monetary restitution and loss of one driver's license are examples.

Here's a short version of how we got here:

1. Make more crimes to felonies subject to incarceration.

2. Imprison more people.

3. Remove felon's right to vote to make change to the current system.

4. Build more prisons

5. Privatize the prisons because government needs so much more of them now.

6. The prison lobby now argues for more harsher sentences.

7. GOTO 1.


> Let's be clear, government should control the market, not the other way around.

Missed this one in my earlier comment

Wow


What about farmers, miners, bakers,..., surely they are more important than caregivers and teachers or social workers? This is a silly argument to assign value to a certain profession based on how one feels. And what do hunger-gatherer societies do when they run out of food for whatever reason. Do they just say, no our 20 hour quota was already fulfilled this week, we'll starve now. The a amount of work neccesery to enable our modern lifestyles today is sometimes unimaginable to a person who has everything brought to them.

Evolutionary biology can only tell us the bare minimum about what we need to survive as a species. If you want anything more than that (say for example, a cushy third-world quality of life), evolutionary biology is the wrong field (or rather, not the complete set of fields) to look at.

Why do you think caregivers, teachers, and social workers are undervalued? Last time I checked, care facilities, classrooms, and social centers were fully staffed. On what basis can you claim that their pay is too low? Who gets to decide the right salary? You? Why?

A particular job being important in aggregate does not entitle each individual who does that job to a salary higher than people who do some other job that might be less important in aggregate.

Oxygen is very important and it's free. Certain comic books are expensive despite being of very little importance to our survival. The value of a thing is the price of one additional unit of that thing, not some statement about the moral significance of all of that thing in aggregate.


Why do you get to say that working a "full time" job should not have to cover your full time living expenses?

Why are people entitled to a particular set of benefits in exchange for a particular time spent doing some activity? Who gets to decide what benefits should result from that amount of time? You? Why?

> Who gets to decide what benefits should result from that amount of time? You? Why?

Practically speaking, voters do because we live in a democracy.

It is perfectly fine for a society to decide "a full time job should have to pay enough to cover a person's full-time living expenses", to define all those terms reasonably, and presto enforce it as law.


It is also perfectly fine for the free market to decide this. This is society too and captures relative value far more effectively and adaptably than a fixed one-time vote.

The free market considers the monetary tradeoffs in this.

Comparing it to a holistic societal value (quality of life, family time, other non-monetary factors) is a disservice, that I believe negates the (subjective) "effective and adaptable" value measurement of the free market.

Otherwise you're just distilling people's lives and communities down to a dollar value, which in many people's eyes is the dark/down side of capitalism and how we ended up here to begin with.


(PS: I did not downvote you). People have the same rights. However, relative economic value is definitely different from person to person. Denying this is denying basic reality.

Taking an example from a parent post - caregivers do NOT have high relative economic value. Anyone over 18 can become a caregiver without even passing high school and become a certified home care aide. Enforcing a higher pay through law will is only likely to increase un-employment. The market on the other hand is self-correcting.

The federal government being the lender for loans has only lead to higher cost of loans and un-employed arts graduates who cannot get a job and cannot payback those loans. Without the federal government backing, those loans were un-likely to have been offered in the first place, unless there was current/future demand for arts graduates.

I strongly believe that most aspects of living (for people and communities as you put it) indeed need a dollar value otherwise un-realistic and un-workable economic expectations come into play.

We have seen this play out in the past with failed governments and we will continue to see this in the future.


> just distilling people's lives and communities down to a dollar value

What's wrong with that? Our resources are finite. Our attention is short. We have to prioritize society's investment. How can anyone decide on the relative priority of two things without casting them to some common unit? It's only when we describe people's lives in terms of dollars that we can make intelligent decisions about where to apply society's scarce resources.


This. All professions have relative economic value. The free market - a market without permanent subsidies, monopolies and correct application of import tax (to balance non-free foreign subsidies) is the best and most fair judge of this.

Not some social welfare activist or even some elected representative of the party in power.


My mom and i were just discussing my dog's visit to the veterinarian. She said that her father would never have taken a dog to the vet for those symptoms, but my dog got a blood analysis and a stomach X-ray. I spent a lot of money on all this, which paid the vet and their staff and the lab and the equipment manufacturers. Conclusion: increased wealth creates increased opportunity to work.

Medical is a special market due to emotional heartstrings. At a certain point, people will pay anything when death or health are involved.

At a political / social impact / behavioral hacking level, there's probably an argument to make near human grade medical services for domestic pets free, as it would likely assist with the reduction in human population growth (aside from companionship, etc.).

I am consistently amazed how cheap and fast medical services are in developing countries. The equipment costs so much less outside of western regulatory oversight, and to the consumer standard blood test batteries are often ~5-10 minutes and ~free.


> I am consistently amazed how cheap and fast medical services are in developing countries. The equipment costs so much less outside of western regulatory oversight, and to the consumer standard blood test batteries are often ~5-10 minutes and ~free.

This makes me wonder how much other countries indirectly benefit from the regulatory oversight that exists in the west. It's the regulatory oversight, compounded with capitalism, that produces medical equipment. Then the oversight over its usage probably adds to the cost of deploying the equipment.

Does the lack of, or reduced, latter oversight contribute in any major way to the pricing discrepancy for procedures for which that medical equipment is necessary?


We in the east are well aware that we benefit in some ways from the extremely risk averse regulators in the US and Europe and others. It's often explicitly acknowledged with labels like "treatment developed in the US" though it can also be hard to separate the real from the false claims of such.

On the other hand, not only does the east manufacture many of the pharmaceuticals sold in the west, it is a vast market which provides additional revenue with a convenient geographical separation which is difficult to arbitrage (Ibuprofen costs nothing in India compared to the US, but you don't see Indians flying to the US with suitcases of pills for sale).


> Medical is a special market due to emotional heartstrings. At a certain point, people will pay anything when death or health is involved.

This is a common misconception of what healthcare services are. People pay more for unsafer cars every day or decide to travel by plane that carries life&death risks for the pleasures of tourism. Life is a currency we pay with anything, from eating garbage to smoking and drinking and fundamentally, taking risks.


Meh, I trust pilots to handle planes well.

That being said, I don't like commuting by bike because of all the dorks going 50-60mph in a 35mph area. Not worth it. Also makes you think twice before slamming the accelerator when I myself drive. Something like every 10mph faster you go equates to like 50% higher risk of fatality- and when your knees and back are the crumple zones, no thank you!

Risks are an inherent part of life. I've dealt with a popped lung before- likely because of athletic activities- and I wouldn't not do those because I might get hurt. If you don't take risks, are you really alive?


Of course. Thats why the whole line of "a healthcare provider can get your entire life's savings and future earning because otherwise you die" is an idea that doesn't make any sense in theory or in practice.

Well put. Also most of the commenters here don’t realize that people who have been unemployed for a while can’t just get to a regular job without a low wage job in between that helps to pay for some of the costs of going to school.

Also, wages in the low wage jobs ARE GOING UP, as mentioned throughout the comments


its not even going to school sometimes, often you won't get hired if you've had more then 8-10 months of unemployment without reasonable explanation.

often you won't get hired if you've had more then 8-10 months of unemployment without reasonable explanation.

I do a lot of hiring. You are correct and further - literally any gap at all is viewed as suspicious. And there aren't many reasonable explanations that help the situation.


I also do a lot of hiring, and can say that it's also NOT correct. We'll query it, but it's rarely a problem. Different companies have different process and expectations, so let's steer clear of absolute statements like "this is correct" and "this is not true" as it's unhelpful to folks in the situation. Generally speaking, if you have a gap, make sure to explain in a cover letter. These are important and can make the difference between a rejection from HR and being passed onto a hiring manager.

Edit: spelling


I must disagree, anecdotally.

I walked off one job, and went traveling for six months. Another job I was on the losing end of a political maneuver, and used my severance to take another six month sabbatical.

Each time I returned to the market I received 20%+ compensation over what I had before. The second time I was promoted into management with hiring authority.

Let me know who you turn away for gaps in their resume. Maybe I'll hire them. :-)


I too have found I get a significant salary bump with each job departure. But I have usually had either economic factors or 'sabatical' as a reasonable explanation.

Unrelated, but the cover letter is my least favorite part of job hunting, because I'm often hard pressed to explain why I want to work there beyond "you're hiring, I'm looking, and this job looks suitable for me, and at least mildly interesting".

Curious to know how you would distinguish between unemployed, volunteer, and self-employed.

So... "I gathered savings and wanted to rest for half a year" is suspicious?

Maybe I am misunderstanding here.


This is hopefully a specifically US thing, some companies' HR departments are extremely risk averse and will likely interpret that as you were in prison or rehab for six months.

I once, as an intern, had an HR assistant bring my application for a permanent position back to me because she wanted an explanation for why I was unemployed between June and August of the previous year (a year in which I was enrolled at a university.) I explained that I was in school and most companies don't hire people for only 3 months over the summer so I spent that time learning a programming language. She walked away looking annoyed.


Honestly, would have put 'Student at Blah' during those three months from there on.

Started a business that ultimately failed, consulting, taking a health break, there are plenty. Which field do you hire for? I’ve taken 2 years off before and didn’t have a bit of a problem getting back into my field.

He who does not work, neither shall he eat. - Paul the Apostle

... via https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/He_who_does_not_work,_neither_...


I've come to find comments like these ones very frustrating as an amateur economist. In the end, this idealization of how productivity should be used ends up being a proposal of political power: productivity should be what I think it should be, so we must collectively act as if it is.

Shouldn't you find the current state of things to be equally frustrating then? It's just another example of the same thing.

We never got to choose how our economic/productive output is valued or disposed of, we just were born into this highly unequal and unfair system and had to play along or die. I'd find that a lot more frustrating than the proposal that, if the technological and resource capacity exists to provide enough for all, it should be shared relatively evenly.


> We never got to choose how our economic/productive output is valued or disposed of,

Bastiat said it long ago: men have the tendency to overvalue their own work and diminish the work of others. There is no better system known to man to solve that issue than the free exchange and refusal of services between them.

When someone says that a farmer that can produce food for a thousand people thanks to productivity gains should mean that people eat for free, does he mean the farmer should not get paid, or does he mean that there should be no farmer? Clearly the idea that because productivity is up there is free labor is a fallacy.


While I wouldn't disagree with anything you have put forward here, I would assert that "free exchange" cannot really happen if there is massive wealth inequality. Private property will necessarily lead to labour exploitation that involves unequal circumstances and thus unequal terms of exchange.

Although I also perceive the same things I wonder if there is adequate incentive for the one to create something that provides for others

Simply taking their economic output is not incentive


Take a look at all of the open source projects listed here: https://paragonie.com/software

Especially random_compat (145 million installs) and sodium_compat (6.5 million installs + WordPress 5.2).

My revenue for all of this OSS work was precisely $0.00.

When was the last time any of us looked something up in Encyclopedia Brittanica instead of Wikipedia?

The carrot-and-stick incentive model doesn't work for fully self-actualized adults.

I posit that it only works when you use an oversimplified model of human behavior, rather than the messy truth that is humanity.


> My revenue for all

Your revenue may be, but people behind Gstreamer, Linux and other important serious opensource product do it for money (sometimes pretty big money, Linus has $2millions income).

> When was the last time any of us looked something up in Encyclopedia Brittanica instead of Wikipedia?

Wikipedia is looking for money constantly, the have sponsors, donators, without them it would cease to exist.

Also Wikipedia's quality often is pretty abysmal, especially when it's not in English.

> The carrot-and-stick incentive model doesn't work for fully self-actualized adults.

Sure, let's suggest to abolish patent system and see how many fully self-actualized adults will oppose.


As someone who has done quite a bit of patentable work in the past 10 years, I would applaud abolishing patents.

Cryptography patents makes us all less secure, because nobody uses patented cryptography. It's a net-negative in my industry.


You'll mainly get opposition from people who own patents, not inventors.

You're talking about a niche of products with marginal cost = 0 for production, distribution.

Call me when you start building houses for free. ;-)


> The carrot-and-stick incentive model doesn't work for fully self-actualized adults.

But for those who could be fully self actualized but arent yet and have to exchange time for food and shelter?


I had already covered that with the sentence that followed the one you quote-replied to.

To explain: I said it doesn't work with people who are X. Then I posited that it only works in condition Y. Y covers all cases, including non-X, and therefore answers your question (with respect to what I'd posit).

If your mental model of humanity is deeply flawed, you expect carrot-and-stick motivations to work. It doesn't matter if they're self-actualized.

If anyone is still confused, this might be worth a read: https://www.amazon.com/Drive-Surprising-Truth-About-Motivate...


> It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest.

What does that mean? Supporting all the rest at 1970 first world living standards? And how is that a fact exactly?


The one in ten thousand does not make that breakthrough alone either. They are "standing on the shoulders of giants" of the past and also relying on infrastructure, education, healthcare, social support, etc. that is provided by the broader community. Of course everyone should share directly (not in some "trickle down" way) in the fruits of such success -- they were all a part of nurturing it!

> broader community

And in most cases a broader community of people working jobs! Huh, turns out those jobs ARE useful. (Sorry in advance for sarcasm.)


Tell that to the 3 billion people who are just scraping by with no local government help.

The amazing thing about Bucky is that his insights are more applicable today than when he conceived them ~50+ years ago.

This was also popularly known only a few years back as 'On the phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs'

Technological breakthroughs mean that goods become more affordable, not that the inventors must be punished by making them support people who aren't productive.

I don't think low unemployment is the unequivocal positive sign that politicians/ think it is ("We're putting millions of Americans back to work!").

Maybe it's not something to be so proud of. If people are having to come out of the woodwork to take jobs that aren't moving the average wage up, maybe they're doing it because they have to, in order to get by.

Is it a good thing that a 60+ year old goes back to work at a low paying job because he/she can't pay the bills?


Up until the 80's wages and productivity moved in lock step, and since then wages have flatlined due to a various factors (weakening of unions / globalization).

Furthermore, we are reaching the limits of what monetary stimulus is able to achieve in driving the economic wellbeing of everyday Americans; history has shown that fiscal stimulus is better at that. A decade of easy monetary policy and balance sheet expansion has yielded a large divide in inequality and asset inflation. The non-asset owning working class have effectively been left behind, with now a larger wall to climb in order build relative wealth.

I personally don't think unions and collective bargaining are the best solution, as it can in some cases be overbearing on industry---and the burden can be non-uniformly applied across industries. Also, due to globalization, there is effectively a fixed marginal cost for labor: any inefficiencies will be arbitraged abroad. Even if unions and collective bargaining were the solution, there is no inherent law that labor demand and labor supply will always be near parity---especially with increased automation.

I think the best solution to resolve this, both uniformly and with minimal aggregate complexity, would be expand the Federal's reserves responsibilities into the fiscal space.

The Fed currently has two mandates: low unemployment, and stable currency. I propose a third mandate: wage and productivity parity. This would be facilitated by direct fiscal policy in the form of a floating universal basic income. This would enshrine the fed with ability to affect fiscal policy without politics. The stimulus could be progressive, but would be much more uniform---unlike today's pork projects that have a smaller share of winners.

This coupled with universal health, easing the burden of hiring and firing, consolidation of existing entitlement/social programs, could really open up the economic landscape.


> would be expand the Federal's reserves responsibilities into the fiscal space.

This is a very complex solution for a problem we already have the tools to solve. Politicians should just execute proper fiscal policy instead of leaning on the fed for every solution. We already have a decent system for this, which has historically worked, but no one is using it.

Other countries are able to execute proper fiscal policy without complex central banking paradigms or measures.

The real issue is our inability to plan long term fiscal policies at almost every level of our political system.


> Other countries are able to execute proper fiscal policy without complex central banking paradigms or measures.

Which countries?


Historically we've had the opposite problem. Countries tend to move toward austerity at the wrong moment in time, due to political pressures or pressure from debtors. (Though this is much more difficult to navigate when the country's debt is denominated in a foreign currency e.g. Japan with 200%+ debt to gdp which is having a hard time meeting inflation targets vs Argentina).

Even today, the European Central Bank is signaling that it has effectively done all it can do (without permanently harming the banking sector with negative rates), and that it is time to open the doors to fiscal stimulus; but, Germany, which is going through a manufacturing recession, is loath to update their constitution to facilitate fiscal stimulus.


All of Scandinavia, most of Northern Europe, Australia, parts of Asia, Canada.

> This would enshrine the fed with ability to affect fiscal policy without politics.

By what means would you give this third mandate to the Fed? Surely, politicians give this mandate, through the voters. In which case: how can you say it’s “without politics”? Because politicians create the laws that govern central banks, central banks cannot be said to be politically independent.

I guarantee you, if a central bank — any central bank — stopped monetizing its government’s bonds, the currency produced by its member banks would quickly lose its legal tender status and tax privileges.


It's surprising to me that this comment is so highly upvoted, given how fundamentally it misunderstands unemployment.

What you are implying is that "low unemployment" means people who didn't want to work are being forced to. But that is not what the usually-quoted (and quoted here) unenmployment number means. When people quote "unemployment" they usually mean U3, which is the number of people who are actively looking for a job.

If what you describe were happening, that dire economic conditions were forcing more people to look for work, the "unenmployment rate" would go up, not down.

The unemployment rate is not the labor force participation rate. And even the labor force participation rate is deeply misleading, because it encodes demographic statistics in a way that has complex effects that are hard to account for.


Yes it's a ludicrous notion that working for work's sake is a good thing.

I just watched the documentary "American Factory" (highly recommended), and it's pretty clear to me that doing repetitive manual labor work in a factory is grueling, mind-numbingly boring, dangerous, and not something we should be doing if we can automate it - not to mention low status and low pay. I'd bet that most of the politicians idealizing manufacturing jobs have never worked a manufacturing job before. It's absolutely nothing like any cushy office job. At the end of the movie when they talked about how they were replacing the humans with robots, that should be something to celebrate (but it's not because our society forces people into employment to make a living).

Those workers were making $12/hour at the Chinese owned company despite having made $29/hour in their unionized jobs at GM before it closed. It's not as if the $29/hour jobs were some utopia, but it's a massive difference in pay that affords one a middle class lifestyle. And as a worker, feeling like you have no representation and no say can make any job soul crushing.

Yet politicians talk about "jobs" as some unequivocally good thing as if we're all partners at law firms with corner offices making six figures or whatever they're used to (not that I'd ever want to be a lawyer). They're so clearly out of touch.


I wouldn't act like you're better than politicians when your "expertise" is based on a documentary. My experience is that factory work is not dangerous[1] and companies try to eliminate any danger if it's brought up because any OSHA/medical costs are very expensive. My experience is also that the work is pretty easy. It can be boring but so are most programming jobs. I don't understand how writing CRUD day after day isn't as boring as working in a factory.

As for whether it is something that should be done or not: why should programming be done? How do most apps benefit the average person. I'm willing to argue that FAANG companies have been detrimental to society.

I've also been well-payed at the factories I work at, but $20/hr in rural Iowa goes way further than in LA or wherever. There were quite a few people who had moved from cities to work where I was at.

The idea that automating these jobs is a good thing demonstrates how out of touch you are. A lot of people were worried that long-term our jobs would be automated or moved to Mexico.

[1] This may depend on what is being done and more importantly on the age of the company.


I don't know why you're getting so defensive as I'm simply providing an anecdote from a documentary I just watched. I'm happy that your experience at the factory wasn't dangerous. In the documentary some of the workers suffered serious injurious, and many were justifiably greatly concerned with the safety of their working conditions. Working any hard labor job like construction is extremely grueling and involves coming home sore everyday in a way that no office job entails. Meanwhile the worst I've ever had to deal with as a software engineer is avoiding carpel tunnel and eye strain.

Great, if you like working in a factory, then all the power to you. Personally I'd probably be contemplating suicide if I had to work on an assembly line in a work environment similar to how the film portrayed the factory in China, working 12 hour days with only 4 days off per month for crap money.

I never claimed that all programming benefits society.

> the idea that automating these jobs is a good thing demonstrates how out of touch you are

The fact that you'd write such a dumb baseless insulting comment shows how out of touch you are. Since you didn't provide an argument, I'm not going to waste my time trying to decipher whatever your reasoning was and respond to it. Also it doesn't even really matter if it's a good or bad thing because it's happening, and there's nothing you can do to stop it (unless you're suggesting some kind of ludditism movement of breaking machines for the sake of preserving jobs, which is just flat out stupid).


> The idea that automating these jobs is a good thing demonstrates how out of touch you are.

That's such a ridiculous statement for someone on HN. If we were to believe such a thing, why would you want to advance at all, if not for removing/reducing the work load imposed on people, or, equivalently, improving productivity per working hour?

EDIT: An article in the NYT regarding this topic came to my mind - about automation/robots etc. in Sweden. Can highly recommend it: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/27/business/the-robots-are-c...


$29/hr wasn’t sustainable based on what the consumer would buy the product/service for, hence the inevitable closure.

Unskilled labor isn’t worth a whole lot, and our country has a lot of it.

How do you make everybody an engineer? or... is it not even possible? Are some (most?) people mentally incapable of being engineers with the proper education?


People should be able to pursue whatever work they want so long as it doesn't harm anyone else since we can afford it.

> I don't think low unemployment is the unequivocal positive sign that politicians/ think it is ("We're putting millions of Americans back to work!").

It's just the kind of marketing that happens to work with the Protestant mentality of the majority of people here. And that's slowly starting to change, with Sanders and other progressive politicians asking about the well-being of Americans as opposed to raw numbers about whether they can work 4 part-time jobs or not.


Is it a good thing that a 60+ year old goes back to work at a low paying job because he/she can't pay the bills?

A 60 year old who is voluntarily retired is not "unemployed". If they later end up taking a job due to financial hardship, that changes the unemployment rate very little; it just adds 1 to the denominator of people in the labor force.


The point is there are a lot of people in this position. I personally know many people 65-75 working/trying to find work because of financial instability.

Edited to add that there's a further problem: it's hard to find work when you're 70, and it's even harder to find 'knowledge work' for most 70-yr-olds. So the 70-yr-olds I know looking for work are working freelance or contingent sorts of things, or working retail/post office/food service -- and some of those jobs are physically difficult. One guy I know was doing a 6-week temporary USPS gig, working 4 am-noon shifts loading things from here to there. He mentioned he'd never been as sore in his life as he was the first few weeks. Many people would not be able to physically do this work at that age, frankly.


The point is there are a lot of people in this position.

Even if there are, that's not going to lower the unemployment rate significantly; it's more likely to raise it. Say there are 100 million people in the labor force, of which 4 million don't have jobs. The unemployment rate is 4% (4/100). Now 10 million previously retired people suddenly realize that they need to go back to work, and they all get hired instantly. The unemployment rate falls to 4/110=3.6%, not a huge change. And in reality all of those people won't get jobs immediately, and while they're looking they're counted as unemployed. If 1 million out of the 10 million former retirees haven't found jobs yet, the unemployment rate rises to 5/110=4.5%.


What is the mechanism to identify and count people who were voluntarily retired but now wish they could find a job but can’t?

If they're actively looking for work, then they're unemployed. If they're not looking for work because they assume there are no opportunities, they're "discouraged workers": https://www.investopedia.com/terms/d/discouraged_worker.asp. Discouraged workers aren't counted in the primary unemployment rate, but are counted in U4 and U6, which are also historically low; see https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/U4RATE and https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/U6RATE.

I think they meant if lots of them were doing it, not just one, in which case the denominator would go up, well, a lot. I think this was also an example of a hypothesis:

Why have people doing crap jobs that are better automated just because they can’t afford to live otherwise? The system is broken, in that we need to better support the folks on the fringes so we can just automate away a lot of mindless, repetitive boring work. The remaining jobs can pay well, and we can stop benchmarking the economy of how many people we put to work regardless of the meaningfulness of what they’re doing.

Why waste a human life flipping burgers or banging away in the mines? Make robots do that, and let’s provide a solution to the displaced, like for instance basic income but totally open to alternatives.


> Why waste a human life flipping burgers or banging away in the mines? Make robots do that, and let’s provide a solution to the displaced, like for instance basic income but totally open to alternatives.

Because we don’t have the technology to actually do that? We don’t even have the technology to replace the guy taking drive through orders. (“You want one Big Mech?”).

This discussion is pointless and premature. There are enormous economic incentives to automate away every job that can be done efficiently though automation. It’s just that our technology is actually very primitive, and that shows when trying to apply it to replacing service workers.


We don’t even have the technology to replace the guy taking drive through orders

Yeah we do, touchscreen menus (or ATM style pushbutton menus in places with bad weather).

There are factories that assemble frozen mini burgers for supermarkets. There are pizza vending machines out there. So an entire fast food restaurant could be turned into a vending machine with current technology.


If you think the technology is there, what explains its lack of adoption? I don’t think McDonalds et al. are in the business of leaving easy optimization on the table.

(My own guess is that touch screens are still more expensive and buggy than humans, and machine-made food still trades off novelty to be profitable. But I don’t know.)


McDonalds seems to be rolling them out slowly, but are actually cutting staff while simultaneously increasing their fleet of touchscreens. I see a lot more employees alternating between doing work in the kitchen vs. taking orders at the cashier. This is even during relatively high demand times with long customer wait lines. This is just an anecdote though, the data may disagree.

I'd also be curious to see any user interface studies on these touchscreens. In my limited experiences, they are completely slow and thus an awful experience. They clearly are trying to sell more at every step instead of being useful and efficient for the end user.


McDonald's already uses touchscreens in some locations. I'm guessing the rest comes down to tradition and the availability of cheap labor preventing the motivation to turn existing technology into a packaged franchise of automated restaurants.

We have the ability to replace order taking just not while maintaining a speech interface.

You will ultimately order on your phone or a kiosk


To add to this, only those who are actively seeking work and are not employed, are considered unemployed. A retired person (or a person who has given up looking for work) is not counted as unemployed, but will be counted once employed.

I guess the question is what age should a person retire? For those of us born after 1960, retirement with full benefits, is age 67. Technically, you can retire at age 62... and draw a percentage. (Bonus, if you can wait till you are 70, you get an even higher multiplier).

Most people don't have savings like they should. There are older folks who are gobbling up jobs tat were historically what younger kids would work. Those benefits are not large sums, so one could imagine someone working into the late 60's to maximize the actual retirement cash flow.

For those who did save... likely don't need to start pulling benefits early.

Over all... wages rise if there is competition for talent. Even if it is on the low end of entry level jobs. If there should be so many low end jobs, without 'normal' benefits... is another really good question.


Unemployment only counts people who are looking for work, but don't have it, so I don't think that framing is accurate.

Someone who is not working by choice is not unemployed.


It’s certainly a good thing if a 60+ year old can go to work because he/she can’t pay the bills or whatever other reasons they choose to add income. And when jobs are plentiful, it’s inevitable that wages go up as well. Employers are competing for employees, and the skilled and useful ones inevitably become better compensated as a result.

... and if the same conditions which create work for said sixty-year-old person to return to are the same conditions that led to them being unable to retire at sixty (perhaps because they never had the opportunity to do anything other than low laying work with no opportunity for growth and existed at the poverty line)?

I don't think most politicians are ignorant enough to believe this.

It's part of the marketing used that also seeds self-doubt into many citizens and saves politician's faces:

"How can something so complex (at scale) and studied as unemployment be wrong? I must be the problem finding gainful employment, everyone else is doing great based on these numbers, I guess I need to work even harder to pickup my slack. My representatives even tell me everyone is doing great, look at the GDP and DOW soaring! What am I doing wrong?? Why cant I find a job, I guess I'll have to take whatever I can get." etc.


Is the alternative better?

If the retiree didn't get a low-paying job (Uber driver etc.), his neighbors would be forced to care for him through social welfare taxes. With a job, he supports himself. All the resources freed up can be put to more productive use.


I don't think politicians actually believe it's a positive. They can't possibly be that naive. They must have basic economic awareness of how $30 p/h FT job in their district has different implications than a couple $15 p/h PT jobs.

They don't discuss the important details because it doesn't drive votes. They also as a challenger during the election want to hold the incumbent to a standard they might not be able to maintain. Politicians, as a breed, are adverse to "live by the sword, did by the sword." As a result we get politician-speak as the normalized standard.


That or all the people working multiple of these mcjobs. If one job were enough for every American to at least provide for their basic needs and some reasonable leisures then I might be impressed by low unemployment.

Exactly. In the same vein, is it a good thing that someone in their 20s/30s/40s has to take on 2 or 3 jobs, working 10+ hours per day, just to get by?

Yes, it is. As opposed to starving or being a freeloader.

Freeloader... like those women who have been unable to work due to being full-time caretaker for a disabled spouse or child, or cared for their own parents until death, and so didn't have much or any income to save from...

Is it still good if that 60+ year old has never been a 'freeloader' and has made the best choices possible to provide for their self/family with the income that the person was able to make prior to retirement? If the 60+ year old has been a net benefit to society, should they not be provided a means of living after retirement age?

Are you discounting social security and Medicaid here? If you have to live on social security alone, you will have a meager existence, but you need not starve. If you want a better retirement, saving along the way is strongly recommended.

If that 60 year old is expecting to live until he is 90 then it is rather funny he or she thinks retirement at 60 is the thing unless that person has enough money to saved to cover half of his or hers lifetime.

Wouldn't it be a third?

If a person is 60 and expects to live until 90 then:

90-60 = 30

30 is 0.5 of 60.


Even the lowest wage bracket of jobs has kept up with price inflation overall.

Do you have any sources to back up that claim?

I'm sure it varies by region and time period, but for 2000-2019 in california, the cumulative inflation was 49%, while the minimum wage rose 108%.

And in the most recent years, wages are going up across the board at the low pay tier: https://www.wsj.com/articles/rank-and-file-workers-get-bigge...


Continuing to talk about "average" inflation, rather than housing / asset inflation, is borderline disingenuous. Of course the price of consumer products has fallen - that was the primary gain of technological progress and outsourcing it all to China. The price of housing (and healthcare, education) is what has everyone over a barrel, and that's a direct result of the policy to make that average continue to go up in the face of technological progress.

Was this comment meant for me? I think the parent commenter used the word "overall" and not "average". I was simply providing a source and not making any sort of argument from it.

That doesn’t ring true but I’d be to learn otherwise. What data are you referring to?

> Market failures abound: Education and health care are out of reach for many, child care is often prohibitively expensive (even as child care workers are woefully underpaid), and decent, affordable housing is scarce in many regions.

It’s utterly ridiculous to call these things “market failures.” Every single one of those areas is not a market but is heavily regulated in a way that limits supply. Education mostly a government service, even at the tertiary level. Fully 50% of college students attend a public school.


If the market were able to solve the problem better, private schools could just provide better service at lower costs (compared to public school cost + state subsidy) and few would still go to public schools right? State subsidies for public schools are not that large anymore (34% of budget for UC Berkeley comes from tuition+fees while 13% comes from state of California).

These are actually IMO all examples of Baumol's Cost Disease as healthcare, child care, and education simply do not scale or require less workers with improved technology (at least so far). The fact that BCD hits so hard is evidence of most of the efficiency gains over the last decade(s) not being shared with the majority of people.


How are private schools supposed to offer better service at a lower cost, when public schools are effectively free?

This is hardly a market. Even if people wish to move their children out of public schools en masse, it's not like governments are going to reduce property taxes accordingly.


> public schools are effectively free

It's actually even worse than that because you pay for public education even if you don't use it.

So in that regard, if you send your kids to private schools, you're paying for their education twice.

This makes it very difficult to compete, and as a rayiner pointed out, isn't a real market.

I think the best solution to this is vouchers, which is a nice blend of public dollars but competitive schools.


Controversial opinion: I think everyone should have access to good education, and I don't see why a public system is incapable of providing it.

Private systems aren't outcome orientated, they're profit orientated. If a public school and a private school are both given $n to educate a kid, the private option will maximize the proportion they get to keep.

Elite schools are a different story because they have significantly more resources.

The free market is good at some things, but the public wellbeing isn't one of them.


A profit oriented system doesn’t make outcomes irrelevant. A grocery store could maximize their profit margins by selling rotten fruit at the same price as fresh fruit, but of course no one would buy it.

Maximizing your profit margin is one strategy for increasing profits, but growing market share by producing higher quality outcomes is another (arguably more common) strategy.

This is the case because markets have competition, which the public sector lacks. It’s why spending on public education continues to rise despite decreasing quality of outcomes.


A profit oriented system doesn’t make outcomes irrelevant. A grocery store could maximize their profit margins by selling rotten fruit at the same price as fresh fruit, but of course no one would buy it.

This argument falls on deaf ears to be honest, considering Amazon deals with a very similar situation due to rampant fakes and yet it's more profitable for them to simply do nothing.

The problem is that for-profit industries only work when the consumer and business interests are aligned. In education the best way to earn a profit is by offering a low quality degree and spending the least on teaching, facility etc. That's the entire reason why McDegrees exist. Considering schools are also highly tied to physical locations, there's less possible competition than you think.


This example actually show the fundamental value of separating infrastructure from service.

Amazon's infrastructure (1 day delivery) is good and valuable, but their service (products, etc) are severely lacking. It would be beneficial, in the free market sense, for the government to break up Amazon, split out that infrastructure part make it rentable, and have the rest of Amazon compete with other providers to provide a service on top of this infrastructure.

Same goes for all natural monopolies (e.g. gas pipelines, optic fibre internet, rail, ...).


I think Amazon is a bad example. First, because the Amazon problems are fairly recent on the scale of human reaction, let's see how it will go in 3-5 years. Look at Facebook drop in users after the scandals like Cambridge Analytica, it is real and this is where Amazon is heading to. Sooner or later, the market is fixing problems, even if sometimes it's slow and painful.

This exactly. private education has a greater incentive for raising quality than government education does - which is why private schools produces better outcomes.

I am one that actually agrees with the spirit of what you're saying. Unfortunately, where I have to admit shortcomings with that philosophy is that there's no evidence that the government of the United States can reliably yield good education for students. My own public schooling was a nightmare, and I know many who had an equally bad experience.

Part of this is due to the fact that there isn't (and probably shouldn't be) a singular national system for education. Another part is the fact that quality education is insanely high-priced because a parent has to pay for the public and the private system concurrently. This pressure pushes private tuitions upward and makes the private schools more exclusive because they can't take on kids below certain income thresholds at all.

This is one case where I believe regulation has actually hurt the US citizens a lot. No child left behind was a staggering failure, and most people would be better off making their educational choices for their children based on what makes the most sense for them, not based on a legislated prescription of certain topics (or the intentional avoidance of others, namely human health and biology...)


> Another part is the fact that quality education is insanely high-priced because a parent has to pay for the public and the private system concurrently. This pressure pushes private tuitions upward and makes the private schools more exclusive because they can't take on kids below certain income thresholds at all.

How does that hurt public schools? I would assume that would help public schools. Because instead of the top 50% of kids (e.g.) going to private schools, now only the top 10% of kids go to private schools. Thus public schools are filled with smarter kids.


Realistically, it hurts private schools by reducing the number of students they could take on. Public schools, however, are governmentally forced to abide by a certain curriculum, which hurts students dramatically (basic biology and sex education is a big one here).

Because of this, what actually happens is the top half of students that can't go to private schools get an underwhelming education. Compounding on that, local districts can mismanage funds and security to an extent that reduces the likelihood of a student's success in the classroom to near-zero.

Net result - <10% of students get a great education and greater opportunity. 40% come out 'fine' but not particularly ready for entering the workforce or higher education. The rest come out with an education that is measurably substandard, resulting in a significant hardship.

Example numbers, based on your comment.


Let's not forget that george jr. And Biden made college debt slavery a thing. And no child left behind was meant to cripple public education. So you have poor uneducated kids mad at the system voting conservative. And then you have kids that escaped and went to college to only strap them with so much debt, they to become conservative. Saying, well I had to pay, why do they not have to have decades of their lives paying back bad faith loans?

> Private systems aren't outcome orientated, they're profit orientated

Based on what I've read about the US education system (primary schools), one of the main problems is the "no child left behind" policy, which makes the public system not "outcome oriented" either - kids simply have no incentive to even try (and are disruptive instead), as there's no valuable outcome to achieve - the (fake) "outcome" is the same for everybody (finishing school), regardless of their actual level of education.

It's a hard problem.


> I think everyone should have access to good education

How do you define everyone, access and good?

Does access === free where I currently live?

If parents can’t afford to live in an area with good schools should they be forced to get better jobs or moved to LCOL area so their kids get a better education?

or no matter where you live or how you live a third party should make sure your kids get a proper education?


>How do you define everyone, access and good?

Everyone means everyone. Access means that based on where you reside, there is a school within a reasonable distance, or transportation to one. Good is more tricky to define for me because I'm not an educator. The US has metrics and tests for math skills and reading comprehension. I'm sure we can gin up something. Use other developed countries as a benchmark.

>Does access === free where I currently live?

Sure.

> If parents can’t afford to live in an area with good schools should they be forced to get better jobs or moved to LCOL area so their kids get a better education?

The whole point of my comment is that people shouldn't have to make that decision.

> or no matter where you live or how you live a third party should make sure your kids get a proper education?

parents should have to send their kids to a nearby school. The rest should be taken care of.

You're introducing way more complexity into this. Good schools vs bad schools, HCOL vs LCOL. Not every school has to be exceptional, just bring up the average.


I like to think I'm not too ideological about which sectors should be public and which should be private (this is not a moral question as far as I'm concerned). I think some sectors work better privately and others work better publicly. Essentially I think letting the free market do its thing is a good idea if I can be confident that the profit motive broadly aligns with public interest (and using regulation where it doesn't, for instance for pollution). Education is a sector where I have very little faith that the free market profit motive aligns with the public interest.

The problem lies with evaluating the quality of education. Children aren't very capable of evaluating the quality of their own education (and if they are they often aren't taken seriously or they don't have any choice in the matter anyway), and parents are too far removed or often don't know the subject matter very well themselves. The only way (and even that is an inaccurate way) to evaluate schools is by doing statistical analysis on outcomes. The crucial point is: the only data you have is outdated by years, perhaps even a decade or so. Education is a strongly reputation-based sector for a reason: reputation is the only way people have to evaluate your product. I don't believe there's a way around this.

In a for-profit corporation, particularly in a publicly-traded one, there's often pressure to optimize profits on the short term. So if I'm the unscrupulous CEO of a for-profit school, I can always deliver very easily by simply cutting costs even if it dramatically hurts the quality of the education, confident in the knowledge that by the time the effects start getting noticeable I'm long gone. The short term profit motive of a publicly traded corporation works perversely here: there's always the temptation to sell the reputation you built up yesterday to turn a bigger profit today; no one will be any the wiser until it's too late (and they paid a lot of money for sub-par education).

Of course public or non-profit institutions are also vulnerable to bad management, but at least no one has a strong incentive to gut their expenses, as no one stands to gain.


Maybe there's a way to align incentives? E.g. schools are (partially) government-funded, but the funding is a function of the taxes that people who have attended the school pay.

Still there are a few issues that would need to be fixed, off the top of my head: (1) the function should simply be a mean, to make schools focus on desired outcomes (e.g. the minimal (or 5th percentile) education) - otherwise they'd just focus on producing a few outliers, like VCs; (2) there needs to be a "default" funding available (e.g. average of all schools) to enable innovation (starting new schools); (3) there needs to be some funding available for "non-profit" education (e.g. art) but maybe there should be a limit on the number of people that can attend such schools (for free).


Well in the example I provided, state money only amounted to a 28% subsidy (assuming if the state funding were cut, the only way to raise as much money would be to raise tuition+fees). Doesn't seem effectively free to me.

Keep in mind I was replying to a critique of "Education and health care are out of reach for many" which obviously implies higher education


Even if it’s not a public school they mostly get government guaranteed loans.

Childcare (aka mom has a child, goes back to work 6 weeks later, pays $x/week for daycare or a nurse) isn’t a government service and it’s very expensive. Why is it so expensive?

There is a child to caretaker ratio to maintain. And you have to pay for the caretaker wages and benefits, rent, liability insurance, support staff, etc. So those costs are divided among all who are paying for it. It will not scale any better than that.

What’s the solution? Don’t have children?

The government would have to subsidize it as a cost of keeping society functioning.

Would that not just directly lead to it swallowing an amount of federal tax revenue proportional to other services that are subsidized? E.g. healthcare/education? And then proceed to munch on GDP bit by bit?

It might counterbalance a bit. It might create jobs for people. And having affordable childcare means someone might get back into the workforce and contributing taxes.

What does education, healthcare, childcare, and housing have in common? They didn't get cheaper from outsourcing and automation.

The types of education that are most like an efficient market are recognized and necessary certification based training in fields like nursing and agricultural tech/safety (probably other “skilled trades” too), the product of regulation. When you “deregulate” education, you get predatory actors like ITT Tech that try to imitate real trade education.

Great article, but I find it only takes the "wage" side of the equation and not the "cost" side. I'm not an economic expert but the biggest line items for most people seem to be housing (high and regular), healthcare (high and irregular), education, and childcare.

If we fix these I'm sure the equation changes a lot for many, many, people.

If the market is broken for pricing these main things, then even if everyone suddenly gets an income increase, it probably wouldn't matter much.


The standard macroeconomic approach is to keep inflation low so that wages will ‘catch up’ to costs. This isn’t working though, low wages seem to be sticky. This implies that there aren’t enough new jobs, and there are plenty of people who will take whatever they can get.

But if costs come down, that is effectively a raise in wages. The cost of many goods has come down (for some of the same reasons wages are down!), but as OP said housing/education/medical have gone up. So if we can target those rising costs, that can be very effective, without raising wages.

Agreed, this is mostly unsupported conjecture, but I think people underestimate how far mitigating healthcare costs would go. Since healthcare costs can be unpredictable (a sudden severe injury, or even just the opacity of health insurance) and costly, they force people to maintain more savings, take less risk, and generally constrain freedom as economic actors.

Do away with, or at least reduce, this bogeyman and I wonder how much economic activity we’d unlock.


I don’t think you’ll fix high housing costs.

There’s a supply and demand problem. Limited supply (real estate), lots of demand, therefore prices go up. Those who can afford it do pay it and are competing with each other to pay for the property they want. Why would New York or Bay area housing ever go down?

Time for more people to admit they can’t afford to live in the best + most popular places and instead move to “less desirable” places, like Iowa.


Actually, housing is easiest to fix, just allow building more densely and provide public transportation.

>>Limited supply (real estate)

This is just artificially limited, because existing home owners don't like to see their property prices fall due to increased supply.


It would still make these things more affordable. And, save perhaps childcare, increasing the cost of low waged labor would not have an outsized inflationary effect on them.

Certainly not on housing. The cost of housing/rent is predicated on a shortage of hoarded, largely untaxed land.


Wouldn't be the opposite? Supply-constrained, limited housing. Everyone is suddenly twice as rich competing for the same fixed number of units. Price has to go up.

>Everyone is suddenly twice as rich

Not everyone makes makes minimum wage.


Untaxed? Where? Got the car gassed up.

Untaxed as a verb. E.g. California reducing property taxes to absurdly low levels with prop 13, diverting the spoils of the land to the owners instead (in the form of ridiculously high valuations and streams of rental income).

If it's a DeLorean, just head back to 1978 when Proposition 13 passed in California.

I would like to advance a different opinion. There are many that are proponents of Universal Basic Income (UBI). However, many state that one problem with UBI is that it comes at the expense of personal gratification and economic productivity.

I am of the opinion that low wage jobs are a form of UBI. In this manner, individuals are paid a basic income in exchange for their productivity. However, these jobs are not meant to create wealth. They're meant to provide subsistance. This is much the same goal of UBI.

For those that say that benefits (health, retirement, sick pay, family leave, vacation) are necessary in addition to low wage income which often does not supply many or any of these benefits, I would say that is the case for UBI as well.

For UBI to work, there must be a base of benefits to support the UBI. As such, I see UBI and low wage as fairly synonymous except that UBI is seen as providing income without any productivity required of the individual, and low wage being UBI with required productivity.

In many ways UBI and low wage work come at odds. The more that UBI is offered, the less that individuals would want to do low wage work. Rather than pushing up wages for low wage work, dis-incentivization of low wage will push employers towards automation. As such, low wage is a support of employment generally. The more that employers move towards automation, the more that low wage jobs are eliminated, the more that UBI becomes the only alternative to low wage. As such, low wage jobs do provide a necessary function in the economic system.

This is just food for thought.


The "goal" of a low wage job is for an employer to make a profit from someone else's labor, and to only allow them to subsist.

UBI promotes subsistence but crucially allows someone enough time to find more substantial opportunities.

And UBI won't necessarily kill low-wage work – in some ways, it makes space for it. I'm an EMT, and I make minimum wage, and I work 48-72 hours a week on the ambulance. UBI would make it so that I don't need another job to support a family, and could live healthily and with dignity on just those 48-72 hours a week.


>>The "goal" of a low wage job is for an employer to make a profit from someone else's labor

That is the goal of all jobs, high, low, middle

Employers are not charity, they do not employ people so they can have a good income.

Employers employ people because they need work done to make money off that work, the second you cost your employer more than they make off your work you are out of a job.

Sometimes that cut off is more direct (i.e if you make widgets your per hour the rate of manufacture can easily be factored into the cost of making the widget) but if you some do something more nebulous like cleaning the floors, or filing papers, that can be harder to calculate but every business does.


That's right, but we don't have a society unless people have incomes so maybe this isn't a good model for funding a civil society?

This is not the case - there's plenty of civil societies that have existed over the millennia that are subsistence economies. They aren't wealthy, but that isn't the point.

> However, these jobs are not meant to create wealth. They're meant to provide subsistance. This is much the same goal of UBI.

I'm not even a proponent of UBI, but I immediately see a few problems with your argument here:

1) They often don't provide subsistence, hence the necessity for many people to have multiple jobs. While we can adjust UBI accordingly (to some extent, obviously CoL is a thing), it's significantly more difficult to adjust around people working multiple jobs.

2) You're missing a critical component of UBI, which is that people are free to pursue whatever they might like (including nothing at all) without the fear of losing basic necessities. Low wage jobs obviously preclude you from doing that--because you're, well, spending your time working those jobs.

This is hyperbole of course, but we may very well be missing out on a modern-era Emily Dickinson or Darwin because they're spending all their time working minimum wage jobs.

3) Everyone's already moving heavily towards automation. Corporations don't employ people out of the goodness of their hearts. The second it becomes cheaper to automate something, those jobs will disappear. You can already see this to some extent with automated checkout lines, internet vs. retail shopping, etc. Unless you do something drastic ala NJ and Oregon with enforcing low-wage work like gas station attendants, those jobs quickly fade away.


> one problem with UBI is that it comes at the expense of personal gratification and economic productivity

I wholeheartedly disagree with this. UBI allows people to pursue what they are passionate about, work where they truly want to, and help start a new business. The data backs that people will not work less, but be able to have more freedom in what job they do work in. I highly recommend Yang's book about this: https://www.hachettebooks.com/titles/andrew-yang/the-war-on-...


> However, many state that one problem with UBI is that it comes at the expense of personal gratification and economic productivity.

Personal gratification in the form of extremely boring, demeaning, repetitive work which barely gives you enough money to live in poverty?

> However, these jobs are not meant to create wealth. They're meant to provide subsistance.

Minimum wage jobs are not meant to provide subsistence. They're meant to extract maximum profit from financially vulnerable people.

> Rather than pushing up wages for low wage work, dis-incentivization of low wage will push employers towards automation.

That's already the case regardless of UBI.

> As such, low wage is a support of employment generally.

Not really, I doubt Google's software engineer hiring gets harder or doctors go out of work if less people are willing to work minimum wage at Walmart.


Why does it make sense to force private industry to provide a UBI? A minimum wage job puts a floor on what can be paid and this fundementally distorts the labor market. If a job does not provide enough value to the employer to meet minimum wage it will not exist for very long. This rules out many types of work where the value is hard to capture and pushes all of that work into the domain of either being funded by government or non-profits. This also potentially prevents labor participation by certain categories of handicapped individuals who have the potential to provide value to society and experience satisfaction in their work but can't compete in a marketplace distorted by a minimum wage.

If anything, a UBI enables low-wage work, especially when that work provides satisfaction to the employed. It also can increase economic productivity because the labor market will be able to distribute labor more efficiently.


This brings up the interesting (to discuss) idea that if a UBI is implemented, there should no longer be a minimum wage as the UBI places a floor on income. In many ways the minimum wage doesn't offer benefit in an economy where the self-employed will participate out of their free will in income generation through service such as Uber, DoorDash, Etsy. Often those self-income sources generate less on a per-hour basis than minimum wage, however, since the income earner is free to stop and start at will the presence of a floor of hourly wage has no impact.

It seems like you could pair a gradual introduction of a UBI with a commensurate reduction in the minimum wage and slowly find the sweet spot for our current economy. It seems like this could be a good form of economic stimulus during downturns.

I think employers will move toward automation regardless, so in a way UBI has an advantage there. I also think preventing automation just so humans have something to do isn't reasonable. Let's progress technology, and think of ways to give more dignity to humans at the same time!

Lastly, the benefits point you made does make sense, except a "retirement" benefit shouldn't be needed (it only exists because eventually you can't do work but need money - basically what UBI already is)


Yes, Social Security and Pension benefits are indeed a form of UBI, earned through employment contributions.

Also to add to your points above, in the scenario where all possible low wage jobs are eliminated through automation, this would require a dramatic restructuring of the labor pool and economic environment. This is further evidence of the role low wage plays in current economy.

In the situation where low wage jobs are fully eliminated, all that remains are concentrations of high wage / self-employed pools and a very large amount of automation systems that would require management.

Perhaps one alternative to UBI is the creation of patronage systems that can support human endeavors where no productivity output is required, but human creativity output is desired. Something to think about.


The typical low wage job is meant to (using your term) build wealth for the employer.

That is often the case. The function of the low wage job is for the benefit of the employer, not the employee. The function of UBI is neither to build wealth for the individual nor the economy as a whole. Wealth still becomes concentrated with the smaller pool of individuals in control of resources and means of production.

It seems to me that the difference is that with UBI you can use the time that you would otherwise be working to prepare for a new job, look for a new job, or to do work that doesn't pay (e.g. art).

On the other hand, a low wage job takes up the same amount of time as a regular job but doesn't provide many of the benefits (e.g. financial security, sufficient discretionary money to pursue your goals, the ability to purchase a house, etc.).


Just that earning that little and not being able to just quit and being highly dependend is exactly what a ubi is trying to fix.

My position pays well and I'm an expert. I can choose my job to a certain degree and people are looking for me to keep me.

This is luxury. You are at the grace of your shift manager.

Our society needs a way to ubi to find a new more fulfilling future with tons of automatization. Like in Star trek.


Unfortunately the existing landscape of flipping burgers and driving for Uber Eats is fairly limited.

UBI allows people to be productive in ways that haven't always been appreciated by society such as raising children, producing a profound portfolio of art, or caring for the disadvantaged.


I hear agreement that the economy is good, but also that jobs are paying less for more work and that income inequality is larger than ever. At the same time, the housing market where I live is absolutely exploding. I feel like I'm missing something about the real condition of the economy...

Politics infests everything, so inevitably all economic news is propaganda to be twisted however is deemed appropriate.

When unemployment is high, the house organs lament the poor people out of work. When unemployment is low, the house organs lament that it’s the wrong kind of employment. And always, the problems can be solved with putting my candidate in charge with access to a lot of other people’s money.


Well, maybe it's just that these are actual problems felt by many people and things need to be done about them. The problem is, rarely are things actually done (say, about housing affordability, healthcare accessibility or economic inequality), mostly because doing things endangers interests of privileged groups (property owners, the insurance industry, executives etc.)

> At the same time, the housing market where I live is absolutely exploding

That's because the US housing market is open to the richest people around the world who are looking for a place to store value. US property rights protect value better than property rights in China.


Everyone has an agenda but be especially careful of real estate as an economic barometer. There’s so much speculation going on that the level of distortion can often seem criminal in retrospect. A recent example: Manhattan developers seem to be keeping thousands of new, unsold condos off the market. I don’t think it’s difficult to imagine why. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-01-06/manhattan...

Re: unsold condos, anyone want to try explaining how withholding stock makes sense? I understand flooding the market would depress prices further, but I don’t understand what market would buy up all this stock. If these units can’t sell in what seems to be a nicely growing market, isn’t it going to be a long time before they sell at all? Like, so long that just sitting on them and paying taxes doesn’t make sense?

The calculation: Prices will skyrocket from lack of supply more quickly than the taxes paid on the units.

Development and renting it out locks you into contracts where you can't flip as quickly (low liquidity). So you don't develop or use the land, just wait for your investment to accrue.


It is extremely simple to see why: flooding the market will lower the prices and reduce the profits, waiting and selling at high price can be more profitable, it's a simple math comparison between the options.

It's worth discussing subgroups. An unemployment rate of 5% is probably fine if it is uniformly distributed; but we know it's not.

Some subgroups, like minorities and young adults, have been plagued by much higher numbers which are a problem. Someone who can't get a foothold in the job market will likely have lifelong challenges.

A rate of 3.5% almost certainly mean improvement for these subgroups.


This is based off of 2016 data and an self admitted overly expansive view of what the proper cohort is.

(eg, they include college age students when they are usually left out because things like increase college enrollment would skew the numbers).

All their distributional data and numbers for what counts as low wage workers comes from a 2012-2016 Census Bureau survey. They then claim without much justification "we think it is unlikely our finding would change significantly if we considered more recent wage data" for the 2017-2019 period.

edits:

strangely enough they exclude graduate and professional student, but still include 18-24 year olds in high school or college. And they exclude self-employed for reasons similar to why you would want to exclude 18-24 year olds. And that 18-24 year old group accounts for only 4% of mid and high wage work, but 24.3% of low wage work, so it is clearly skewing the results.

And the largest category of low-wage workers (a plurality) is classified as "low-wage workers in a family with mid- to high- wage workers". I'm not really sure we care about that as much.

Reading more, they have some very strange inclusion/excisions, such as they exclude professional and grade students because they are seen as having a career path, they include "springboard jobs" because some might not transition out of them. That's just sloppy and lazy.

Sounds like some serious data hacking going on.


I tend to think work gives some sense of purpose to a person’s life. That’s incalculably valuable.

This was why when Argentina swapped out a job guarantee (plan jefes) with a UBI-type program, many of the women who did the job guarantee jobs of caring for the elderly, etc. kept doing the work in spite of the government telling them it wasn't "necessary" any more.

While it's theoretically possible that they might have spontaneously started doing these jobs if a UBI program had been initiated I'm not aware of any example where this has happened.


Yes. Many types of extremely valuable work in our society is not valued by the market and so is not compensated.

Caring for the elderly, caring for children, my elderly neighbour who sometimes picks up trash on the street, etc.

There are all kinds of crucial work our society desperately needs done, but which are often not even conceptualized as work because there's no wage attached to it.


Also, commercialization can create fake economic growth.

For example, suppose in the past one spouse worked a job for a wage/salary and the other spouse cared for some of the couple's ailing parents, provided childcare, and cooked for the couple's children and parents. Now instead, the second spouse also works a wage job, both spouses pay higher taxes some of which go to caring for the old people, and with the extra income they instead purchase prepared food and pay for daycare. The economy grew a lot because formally unpaid labor is now being paid for, but is everyone better off?

Note: I don't think women should be limited to being homemakers, this is just an example.


If you like your job that's a very useful benefit.

If you don't like your job and you don't think it's actually worthwhile it serves as a reminder that you're wasting your potential, and that can be incredibly detrimental.


You can hate your job and still see that it serves an important purpose.

You can also hate your job and see that it serves no purpose, or worse that you are doing harm (like working collections for predatory lenders or in a factory that churns out bombs that will be dropped on someone).

You can even love your job and see that it serves no purpose!

That's mostly the work that you want to do. The work you must do when being forced by economic factors, especially the extra job one might take in order to make ends meet, gives a sense of dread to a person's life. We can talk about a sense of purpose when people are more-or-less financially stable (at least nothing threatening their first level in Maslow's pyramid) and they get to pick whatever they get to work on. But when you're one step away from homelessness, the sense of purpose and the value derived from that takes the backseat.

Yeah, so here's the problem. We now, more than ever, have a key metric for measuring the economy that doesn't really measure the right thing. Just like in every other situation, businesses and startups included, this leads to gamification and optimization for that metric.

"Oh, you want more jobs, great! here you go! We'll cut the hours by 1/2 and employee twice as many people!"

Unemployment goes to 0% but so does quality of life. So the real question remains, what are the metrics we really value as a society and what do we need to do in order to optimize for them?


You’re right that this one metric doesn’t tell the whole story, but no metric does and they aren’t meant to. Of course you need to look at other metrics besides employment to understand how well your society is doing.

Right, but the point is that not only does this metric not tell the whole story, but that it tells the WRONG story.

Unemployment isn't a useful metric anymore.


Perhaps, but your rationale (“it’s not meaningful if jobs pay half of what they used to”) supports my interpretation (“not the whole story”), not your thesis (“WRONG story”). Correct me if I missed something; haven’t had my coffee yet.

What’s the metric to use instead?

# of households in America + average household income?


It sounds silly but happiness should be the metric. If everyone is happy you presume employment is probably good.

happiness, some equivalent, or some series of metrics that equates to it, yeah.

I honestly don't know what it would be (happiness, freedom, life expectancy, etc) but that's the goal.


When you could house, feed and clothe a family of four (or more!) on a single unskilled labor job, unemployment numbers meant something. Today they mean nothing.

A measure of how many households live above the poverty line would be a step in the right direction, but also frankly the poverty line in America is set too low. People 10% above it are still too poor to live comfortably on their income.


That state never existed. If you were white and in the US you could--it's just we were pushing the bad jobs off on those we didn't notice. Now we can't.

Hate to break it to you but the vast majority of people living in poverty in the united states are and have been white. The majority of government assistance goes to poor whites. Poverty doesn't discriminate. The bad jobs were not pushed off on those we did not notice. The wealth of minorities was rising until we implemented the civil rights act of 1964 which has screwed every minority applicant at a small business. It is riskier to hire and fire than it is to not hire.

The civil rights act prevents minority only businesses ta boot!

The worst thing to happen to minorites in the US was the civil Rights Act of 1964.


> civil rights act of 1964 which has screwed every minority applicant at a small business....The worst thing to happen to minorites in the US was the civil Rights Act of 1964.

That's an...interesting perspective on what most consider to be landmark legislation in American history. So I looked it up, because I didn't know what you were talking about.

"Small businesses with fewer than 25 employees were originally allowed to continue discriminating under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Equal Opportunity Employment Act of 1972 changed the law to require all businesses with 15 or more employees to adhere to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964."[1]

I'm still shocked that discrimination is allowed for any business at all. But you weren't entirely correct.

Also, the Act's other benefits have to be weighed against allowing discrimination in small businesses. Small businesses that were racist and discriminatory before the Civil Rights Act could continue to be so after it, but could only grow up to a certain size. That's still an improvement on what existed previously, which was that they could be racist and discriminatory forever and always.

If I was a minority in the 60s I'd consider federally guaranteed right to vote, equal education, stay at any hotel, use any public water fountain or bus, and be considered on an equal basis for federal jobs, private sector jobs in 15/25+ employee firms, loans, assistance programs and the rest to be a massive gain over the status quo. You're entitled to your opinion on the CRA of 1964, but to most people it's going to sound bizarre. Sorry.

> The civil rights act prevents minority only businesses ta boot!

I don't know what "ta boot" means so the meaning of this statement is unclear.

1. https://aapf.org/civil-rights-act


Just because a law makes it illegal to discriminate does not eliminate discrimination. In the United States small businesses account for the most employees. Small business owners do not hire minorities because they risk being sued when they fire them. There is less risk to not hire than there is to hire due to the Civil Rights Act. This results in less minority hires.

If a minority runs a business and only wants to hire minorities they have a greater risk of being sued because it is easier for a person in majority race to prove discrimnation.


> Just because a law makes it illegal to discriminate does not eliminate discrimination.

It increases the cost of doing so, which is really the point. People and businesses respond to incentives.

> small businesses account for the most employees.

That's not been remotely true for the past 26 years (you're welcome to find data before that). Businesses with up to 19 employees (i.e. the ones exempt from the Equal Opportunity Employment Act of 1972) employed only 20% of employees in 1993. And that share has fallen over time - it was about 17% in 2019.[1]

And even if it were true, all the other benefits of the CRA would still outweigh this one flaw. I think you underestimate the effects of generations of violent voter suppression, and segregation in education, businesses, housing, and other opportunities.

> If a minority runs a business and only wants to hire minorities

A small business (< 15 employees) that only wants to hire minorities would also be exempt from the Equal Opportunity Employment Act wouldn't they? I'm not a lawyer, I still can't believe this is actually legal, and maybe there's some other law elsewhere that makes this illegal. Discrimination is wrong, no matter who does it. But what you're saying wouldn't happen either.

1. https://www.bls.gov/web/cewbd/table_f.txt


> It increases the cost of doing so, which is really the point. People and businesses respond to incentives.

The CRA increased the incentives to discriminate for small businesses as I am trying to illustrate above and below.

> That's not been remotely true for the past 26 years (you're welcome to find data before that). Businesses with up to 19 employees (i.e. the ones exempt from the Equal Opportunity Employment Act of 1972) employed only 20% of employees in 1993. And that share has fallen over time - it was about 17% in 2019.[1]

It is not about the mandates in law. It is about reality and risk. If I want to sue my employer for firing me due to racial reasons, I have to prove in court(or EEOC has to prove) using company statistics(unless explicit evidence exists) that they have a practice of discrimination. This is easier to do against larger employers with more employees. For me to sue a small employer, whether they employ 100(52% of jobs are attributed to 100 employee or less businesses according to Texas Law Now;2012) or 19 employees the statistics are harder to prove because of the small sample size. Employers know this. That establishes a difficulty for minorities to sue small businesses, which allows small businesses to discriminate.

Combine that with the fact that if an applicant does not get hired, it is incredibly difficult to even begin a suit without internal knowledge of the company, ergo it is less risky for employers to not hire minorities to begin with.

> And even if it were true, all the other benefits of the CRA would still outweigh this one flaw. I think you underestimate the effects of generations of violent voter suppression, and segregation in education, businesses, housing, and other opportunities.

I find little comfort in being able to vote, go to school, etc if it results in poor opportunities to be gainfully employed. As I stated before, prior to the CRA wealth(power to influence vote/education/business/etc) of the largest minority group in the US was rising; according to Thomas Sowell.


> The CRA increased the incentives to discriminate for small businesses as I am trying to illustrate above and below.

And as I showed, small businesses make up a minority of employment opportunities. The CRA increased employment opportunities literally everywhere else such as in government jobs. To go from "100% of businesses discriminate" to "50% of businesses discriminate" is an improvement in absolute terms. It didn't take away job opportunities that existed. If a small business was racist before, it would continue to be racist afterward. Do you have proof that small businesses began discriminating more after the CRA than they did before?

> This is easier to do against larger employers with more employees.

Citation needed.

> For me to sue a small employer, whether they employ 100...or 19 employees the statistics are harder to prove because of the small sample size.

Citation needed. In a business that small, everyone knows everyone else. It should be way easier to gather data.

> That establishes a difficulty for minorities to sue small businesses

Whereas before the CRA the option to sue didn't exist at all and all businesses, of every size, could discriminate with impunity.

> I find little comfort in being able to vote, go to school

Fortunately most people disagree with you.

> As I stated before, prior to the CRA wealth...of the largest minority group in the US was rising; according to Thomas Sowell.

That would appear to coincide with the post-WW2 economic boom. I imagine every group in the US got wealthier in that period. I'm not well-versed with all the factors and history after the CRA, but correlation ain't causation.


I was trying to logically explain the reality of the situation. I would have a hard time trying to find sources that are going to admit to discriminating publicly. I cannot imagine that survey exists. I'm done.

> I was trying to logically explain the reality

So was I. My logic is simple to explain:

Pre-CRA - 100% of employers (small businesses, large businesses, medium business, non-profits, governments) could discriminate, and many did.

Post-CRA - < 100% of employers could discriminate

Therefore, the number of jobs available to everyone (minorities and non-minorities alike) went up. It's simple math.

I don't understand what your logic is. Because you've said both:

"Small business owners do not hire minorities because they risk being sued when they fire them."

and

"If I want to sue my employer for firing me due to racial reasons, I have to prove in court that they have a practice of discrimination. This is easier to do against larger employers [than]...a small employer. That establishes a difficulty for minorities to sue small businesses, which allows small businesses to discriminate."

So minorities find it harder to sue small businesses, but, also, small business owners don't hire minorities because they risk being sued. What? And small businesses only worry about lawsuits by fired employees, but not ones by candidates who feel illegal bias was a factor in their rejection. Why?

> I would have a hard time trying to find sources that are going to admit to discriminating publicly

Don't necessarily need that. Economists have all sorts of ingenious ways to tease out this information from other labor and employment data, EEO surveys that many employees and candidates fill out, and other things. If there's any evidence of what you're suggesting, there would be clues in that data.

> I'm done.

Me too, friend. Take care and a (slightly belated) happy new year. :-)


>The worst thing to happen to minorites in the US was the civil Rights Act of 1964.

Well this is certainly an interesting take of the situation.


I should have phrased that differently. While it is still my opinion, in this context I should have phrased it: "The worst thing to happen to minority employment..."

While your comment does not add much to the conversation, I appreciate your skills in ambiguity.


> When you could house, feed and clothe a family of four (or more!) on a single unskilled labor job

Life in those days were in extreme poverty by today's standards.


While true it's important to point out that salaries are rising and most for the lowest income.

https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/us-wage-growth-for-...

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/01/02/minimum-w...


In these cases I somehow always have the Goodhart's law immediately coming to my mind: When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goodhart%27s_law


>In a recent analysis, we found that 53 million workers ages 18 to 64—or 44% of all workers—earn barely enough to live on.

>The majority of low-wage workers (77%) have less than a college degree,

So there are 53 (1-0.77) = 12.2 million workers with college degrees who are only able to earn "barely enough to live on".

Poor instruction or irrelevant majors in college? Or drug use, criminal convictions, disabling disease or injury after college? Long term career success has a lot to do with parents, friends, spouses, and children as well as a large helping of luck.


Are you assuming that everybody who is able-bodied and has a scale degree should be able to find employment?

Did over 12 million people in this country really get worthless degrees or become incapacitated?

Getting a "good" degree might not matter so much, if so many other people also got those degrees. One could say that degree is therefore no longer so good, but there is not an endless train of "even better" degrees for people to move on towards.


I'm thinking mostly poor instruction/irrelevant majors.

> Long term career success has a lot to do with parents, friends, spouses, and children as well as a large helping of luck.

Long term failure also has a lot to do with parents, friends, spouses, and children as well as a large helping of luck.


I'm guessing also high COL areas.

How true. But even pay is misleading. Ultimately, it's about cost of living / affordability. For example, if hourly rate increases but housing - sensing the market can bear more - soon follows then the pay increase is a wash, or worse.

I see the future as grim anti-utopia:

Further advancements in AI and automations will make more and more jobs obsolete. Therefore, we will end up with high unemployment, low pay jobs, and fierce competition for decreasing number of available positions. The owners of businesses will mostly benefit from the automation. It would be a good solution to introduce convenient life long education and universal basic income. Since businesses benefited most from the progress it is reasonable to tax them in order to pay for social policies.

I am afraid, as soon as we tax businesses more they will move to the countries with low taxes, that are less social towards their citizens. The automation actually can make that move fast and not expensive.

In the end, it will be win for companies and loss for the citizens of both countries.

Is such scenario realistic? What can we do to counter it?


> Further advancements in AI and automations will make more and more jobs obsolete.

In 1000BC men and women did flour of wheat manually. They do no more, these jobs are obsolete.

In 1000AD men and women did butter of milk manually. They do no more, these jobs are obsolete.

In 1500AD men and women did threads of fur manually. They do no more, these jobs are obsolete.

In 1940s women did manual calculations and typing for military, science departments, newspapers. They do no more, these jobs are obsolete.

The whole history of humanity was full of obsolete jobs. Could people in 1000BC ever thing that women would write programs in Python instead of beating wheat? No, they could fancy neither Python nor computer.

People will simply explore other possibilities being free from obsolete jobs, making more services available, more possibilities open.

Two hundred years ago a massage would be totally unavailable for an avg peasant. Today you could have a massage any day because automation let more people do it getting the price down, as well as overall welfare up.

Future is pretty bright exactly because automation, technology would make some jobs obsolete, so more people could navigate spaceships or do other stuff we couldn't even fancy yet.


The problem is that the old jobs didn't require high IQ but the new jobs increasingly do.

In the old days even the dumbest man could carry grain from one place to another or push a plow. Even the dumbest woman could churn butter or milk a cow when told to.

These low-IQ individuals do not have the mental capacity to switch to Python programming - regardless of education.

So the "IQ floor" of the economy is rising. The result is that the high IQ people are fine, but low IQ people end up simply unemployable at any job. It's only in the last 50 years that the IQ floor rose above an undeniably noticeable chunk of the population. 10% of people are under IQ 85, which is too dumb to join the US army (by law). Too dumb to be trusted with powered construction equipment.

Leftists can't conceptualize this problem because of their egalitarian worldview, and rightists either talk about bootstraps or might not even care, seeing it as a sort of justified Darwinism.


> Leftists can't conceptualize this problem [of perpetual rising unemployment due to technology] because of their egalitarian worldview, and rightists either talk about bootstraps or might not even care, seeing it as a sort of justified Darwinism.

This. So much this. And it would take a Julius Cesar for everyone to see the truth… With physical force. But this hypothetical ruler that saves the day would be an unseen actor, its ideology nonexistent as it corresponds directly with truth as it functions; in contrast to any flawed human character that reasons from humanity, that is, from emotion, prejudice, and mistaken bias. Not seeking glory and fame but instead, letting go of lustful passions, giving what must be given and withholding what must be stored or withheld—achieving balance with the Force. So this implies that the brave Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker was actually Julius Cesar.


> So the "IQ floor" of the economy is rising

I bet this is a wrong implication. Agriculture is way harder than writing php.

> The result is that the high IQ people are fine, but low IQ people end up simply unemployable at any job

Even if this implication were true, there is a whole bunch of new jobs that don't require you to be smart.

You could do sports, train people, be a waiter or a beauty blogger or a web programmer or a politician. I would dare say that the amount of stupid work is growing.

And avg person is not dumb at all, never was. The dumbest few always would find some way of doing some service job, especially when service field is growing. All kind of grooming does not require you to be especially smart, even chimps can do that.


>agriculture is way harder than php

an illiterate man can pull potatoes out of the ground.


> an illiterate man can pull potatoes

You need to put it there first, and do so avoiding the eruption of soil. Agriculture is very hard and requires much knowledge. Without knowledge you'll destroy both the crop and the land.


The potato puller is not fulfilling the role of agricultural designer. He or she is literally visually identifying a potato and using physics to pull it out of the ground.

It's like the difference between programming (fulfilling tasks), and system architecture, which is something I can't do because I don't have experienxe with huge enterprise stacks.


Yes.

For a visual example, look at John Malkovich's character in the film version of Of Mice and Men. He's mentally retarded. But people tell him - "carry these bags over there". And he does it, and he's useful. There is no job like this now. He's too dumb to be a barista or a gas station attendant or a line cook.


Agree wholeheartedly. As corporations grow into the trillions of dollars range of valuations and work becomes even more complex due to automation, we soon will live in a world where it will be difficult to find a way to purchase the things needed to live.

But x% of us will live really well.


No Sorry. Once you understand how a loop and a decision statement works, most of the programming is already demystified. You can make bank on incremental learning and writing applications.

The stakes in agriculture are higher. Who ever thinks manual labor is easy doesn't know what they are talking about. Apart from the tiredness, fatigue part of it. You also get injured, could lose crop to disease, floods etc.

Agriculture is harder than writing code. In fact that's the whole reason why so many of us chose to write code than be a farmer.


You seem to be misunderstanding.

A person who cannot read and write in any language cannot, by definition, write source code.

However, that same person can still receive a verbal command telling them to pull a potato out of the ground. Or move a box from one place to another.

This statement has nothing to do with the detrimental aspects of manual labor. Sitting at a desk as a programmer also has detrimental aspects.


>What can we do to counter it?

You may want to keep an eye on the global protest trend.


How would flooding the economy with “free money” (UBI) not just cause mass inflation? Every experiment I’ve read has been on a small scale. How do economists know what will happen if you give an entire country (both rich and poor) extra money to blow every month?

The term UBI is misleading. Think of it as UBS. Universal Basic Sustenance. If you were given X amount of eatables, a home and healthcare, you could now focus on a lot more.

Sure, you could then say food, home and healthcare wouldn't be much worth(inflated). Then yeah that's the whole point. That's where we want to be.


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