That's the predicted "unemployment". There are probably significantly fewer managers per se, than there used to be - companies like GE used to have hierarchies 40 or more levels deep.
I think at megacompanies, the hierarchy can be pretty deep before you get into what is normal for medium sized companies. Global -> Region ("Americas") -> Country ("USA") -> Region ("Northeast") -> State ("New York") and then you just have a company with a CEO (called something else at this level), SVPs, Directors, Managers, Supervisors, Shift Supervisors, etc.
As a rule, businesses exist to make a profit, and make gigantic efforts to eliminate unnecessary positions, such as mass layoffs after mergers. Just because you don't understand the necessity of middle management or "paper pushers" doesn't mean they're not necessary.
The real reason we avoid unemployment is the same reason we've avoided it ever since 90% of households were farmers. It's because however efficient we get, consumers always want better things.
We avoid unemployment not because of "bullshit jobs". We avoid it because humans have an insatiable demand for more travel, novel restaurants, video game consoles with more realistic graphics, fancier theme parks, new blockbuster movies. Our desire for new and better things will never stop. So the desire for people to take jobs to invent and provide those things will never stop.
"Unnecessary managers and paper pushers" has utterly nothing to do with it.
Yes there's absolutely cheap stuff made in China.
But it's also critically-acclaimed novels and television series that speak to the issues of our day. It's desire to travel and experience other cultures. It's things like wanting to learn the basics of another language with Duolingo. Or it's medical advances.
Yes I do think consumers will always want more improved or up-to-date things. But I also think it's awfully judgmental to perjoratively label those things "garbage".
1. Conspicuous consumption is purely competitive. There will never be a point where running faster stops being an advantage in a marathon. If everyone could afford five cars, then some people would still try to gain a status advantage by buying ten.
2. The dopamine hit from spending money is purely relative to the amount of money you have. As you earn and spend larger sums of money your brain adapts to expect even more. It's just like any addiction – a drug user will keep increasing doses forever until they reach some medical or financial constraint.
3. New "needs" are simply created. People get chemotherapy instead of simply dying at age 60 from cancer. People receive expensive mental health treatment from high-skilled practitioners which didn't used to exist. Most people used to be illiterate but now everyone needs a high school education, and more than half even need an expensive college education.
90% of people in the first world have enough money to get all of the things that very poor people "need". But we simply adjust to the new reality. People move to high COL cities and spend all of their money bidding up the cost of houses. It never ends.
This is presumptuous. Having worked in groups where I understood my job and the jobs of my coworkers who held the same position as me at least as well as they understood their jobs themselves: unnecessary paper pushers exist.
> As a rule, businesses exist to make a profit, and make gigantic efforts to eliminate unnecessary positions, such as mass layoffs after mergers.
People say stuff like this all the time—Paul Graham famously trotted it out as a retort to the existence of a gender pay gap—but it doesn't comport with observations. From some of my personal notes on this topic last week:
There's a widespread belief that capitalism seeks out efficiency. With most organizations being capitalist enterprises, so the belief continues, they are an extension of this. You can see this show up in arguments about the gender pay gap. If we could cut costs just by hiring women to do the same job, they say, then we would. The veracity of the claims about the size of the pay gap notwithstanding, the claim that corporations would seize the opportunity to cut costs like this doesn't jibe with reality. Corporations are not observed to be a perfect extension of the law of capitalist efficiency. A corporation as an entity is not a perfectly rational actor operating in its own self interest, following both from the irrationality of the people who make it up and from instances of where they do behave rationally operating in their own individual self interests, counter to the organization's.
There is hardly ever a Taylor-like figure [around].
... i.e., someone tasked with stamping out the sorts of inefficiency in the way that these arguments demand it is being addressed.
We need to coin some sort of shorthand akin "the Gell–Mann amnesia effect", where we comment upon the tendency of people to automatically ascribe e.g. competence and efficiency to institutions, on the basis that they are institutions, while ignoring immediately available evidence to the contrary.
Management isn't and never will be perfect. But just because some small percentage of existing positions are actually unnecessary doesn't mean that's a primary or even secondary explanation for preventing mass unemployment, which was the original topic.
Obviously corporations aren't perfectly rational. Nobody is. But the fact remains that rational profit-seeking is a systemic incentive pushing corporate behavior in a particular direction -- e.g. to eliminate useless jobs. There is no similar general systemic incentive that rewards keeping useless jobs around.
Contrary to your personal notes, capitalism absolutely seeks out efficiency. It isn't perfect, and it isn't the only force. But it is by far the strongest force. In other words, there is an extremely strong trend where the most efficient companies stick around, and the rest go out of business.
> Obviously corporations aren't perfectly rational.
> the rest go out of business.
Right, which is why it's so odd when people respond to criticism about a business's practices with the institutional bias that I referred to.
[EDIT: FWIW, I don't agree with either you _or_ the person you're responding to about "the real reason we avoid unemployment". I don't think they're more right about it than you are, but they're aren't more wrong, either. Not really interested in discussing that, though. I am (was) narrowly interested in the existence or non-existence of paper pushers, and where they're tolerated.]
It seems to me that you're taking this too personally. First of all, the person you're responding to wasn't even talking to you or about you when they wrote the "Just because you don't understand..." line, so you're out here taking offense on behalf of everyone who posits the existence of unnecessary jobs. (#NotAllPeopleWhoPositUnnecessaryJobs?)
Taking "personal truth" out of the equation, as an impartial observer, reading the assertion on the part of a username on HN I don't recognize that useless jobs exist is insignificant evidence in support of that hypothesis - exactly the same as if I heard someone I don't know claiming they saw bigfoot or UFOs. To improve the situation, you could provide supporting details about the examples of useless jobs you have seen.
Assume that I'm not. (I'm not, and it seems surprising to me that it seems that way.)
> "personal truth"
I don't recognize this as a term, and really, I'm just not interested in any discussion about the other things you've mentioned: usernames not recognized, who was talking to whom, advice about improving my situation, and so on. This is both too meta and in a direction that doesn't pique my curiosity.
Fine - maybe I misread simple annoyance as personal offense.
> I'm just not interested in any discussion about the other things you've mentioned: usernames not recognized, who was talking to whom, advice about improving my situation, and so on.
What I said wasn't really about any of those things, so let me try again.
Your response here
> > Just because you don't understand the necessity of middle management or "paper pushers" doesn't mean they're not necessary.
> This is presumptuous. Having worked in groups where I understood my job and the jobs of my coworkers who held the same position as me at least as well as they understood their jobs themselves: unnecessary paper pushers exist.
struck me as a thoroughly unproductive way to debate. You made a bare claim to have seen something that others allege to be rare. Obviously the fact that you have seen it is enough evidence for you, but it shouldn't move the needle on anyone else's state of belief. Therefore, IMHO, it's not a useful contribution.
When I said improve the situation, I was not giving "advice about improving [your] situation"; I meant improving the quality of discussion.
But someone is footing the bill for a salary on the premise that enough revenue will be generated to cover managerial costs and some. Right?
That number may be larger or smaller, but it exists. An organization can't function effectively with 1,000 people reporting to one manager. (See: Valve)
Note: from what I can find, it historically and currently hovers around 10:1.
If we're talking about profits though, headcount matters more, because it requires the other things. If you can run the same revenue on 100 people as you can on 1,000, you save on their salaries, but also on the salaries of all the management and support the extra 900 would require.
Programmers think that they're exempt from this, but they're not.
I used the term "devops shovelware" the other day in reference to the dominant culture that you can see on display in the present. That sort of thing is just another type of unnecessary paper pushing. Resume-driven development, churn for churn's sake, and much of what accounts for the little green squares on GitHub contribution graphs are all manifestations of the very same cost disease.
Its also a tacit admission that most 'jobs' have no relationship to productive labour, or even necessarily create value. But, I'm a believer in the labour theory of value, so there's that...
Note that by unproductive jobs I'm specifically refferring to what could be called BS jobs. Jobs that were previously done by one person, but are now done by 10 people without an increase in measurable output.
Is there any data to support this claim?
The key name to attach to your queries when trying to research this is "Graeber".
I said the relevant name when trying to turn up data would be to search for "Graeber"—which, as your comment indicates, is correct.
Are you suggesting that corporate VPs hire managers with a goal of distributing money unequally so their products get sold? That seems like a huge stretch - they benefit so little in that way from their individual hiring decisions.
Are you suggesting that there is an “invisible hand” which pushes systems towards hiring do-nothing managers, because companies that don’t get outcompeted? I don’t see how that would happen - it seems like the opposite would occur.
Not the OP but in a sense that's what happens, yes, even though I wouldn't use that "invisible hand" metaphor (which I personally find it a little over-used) but more like the "BS-jobs class system" (composed of most of the C-execs, of most middle-managers, of some HR and marketing people) making sure it is successful at reproducing itself.
Abernathy's view was grim: legal discrimination had left more than a third of African American's working in agriculture, but the automation of agriculture was wiping out those jobs. Abernathy thought it was crucial that the civil rights movement open up the rest of the economy for African Americans, before they lost all their old jobs on the farm.
Tom Hayden mentions this in his memoir, though he admits "At the time, I had no idea what Abernathy was talking about."
But the African Americans seemed to have had the clearest and most accurate picture of what was about to happen: millions of jobs would disappear, and vast ghettos would appear in the cities, full of African Americans who had no work, either because of the loss of textile jobs in the city or because of people losing their jobs on the farm and then moving to the cities.
I've noticed increasing productivity leading to unemployment hasn't happened it seems to me because people like to be gainfully employed rather than doing so because the work is essential. Even if they make the same money as being unemployed. Hence my friends have occupations like social media promoter or yoga teacher that mostly didn't exist 50 years ago. Maybe when the robots do all the essential work we shall teach each other yoga and influence each other with beach selfies.
Re the other two revolutions I'm glad MAD (mutually assured destruction) is no longer talked about and think we are making slow progress on human rights, some places more than others.
Yes, it's not talked about much, but there are more nuclear powers than before and the risk is very much still there. I don't know how we'll put that genie back in the bottle.
I just read the other day about Russia's new doomsday weapon. A nuclear torpedo with yield triple that of the largest bomb ever exploded, a dirty bomb on purpose for extra radioactivity, and meant to be detonated near a coastal city to strike it with a 500 meter radioactive tsunami. That kind of silliness continues on, unfortunately.
> The govt is pretty much paying ppl to not do anyshing
To be honest I'm not sure where the government comes into all this.