Sunday, March 15, 2015

A bridge too far

"That's a trade-off people generally seem happy to make."

I love Megan, who doesn't? I'm probably fourth or fifth on the blog in intensity thereof.

But I think this column is a touch careless. Her main point, people need and want work, is absolutely sound. (Is that you, Scott Walker?) Her ruminations about automation, eh, okay.

But who are these "people" she is referring to who "seem happy" to make the trade off she discusses? And for that matter, how tight is the link between trade policy and her other points?

She references only a few people who are of course experts and highly sophisticated. They, presumably, are in fact happy to suggest the trade off is a good one, or anyway they may be happy to do so.

But the idea that "people" are willing to make this trade off seems ludicrous. I wouldn't think more than 1 in 1000 could articulate it, much less be happy with it. (Is my guesstimate off? Should it be one in 500? 100? 10,000?)

Now, if she's suggesting but forgot to make explicit that the only people who will have jobs in Obama's remade America will be the couple of experts she references, okay, now I'm with her, and I admit, that does seem a reasonable possibility. And I'm not so stressed about the 999 in 1000 who won't have jobs or self worth, as clearly Secretary of the Interior Paul Verhoeven or his avatar will give them jobs, generating a suspicious amount of nutritive paste.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Megan has apparently been scarred by being without a job, and can't forget it. The real test, even though it's impossible to administer, is to take a thousand or more people and give them a choice--you will have a job for the rest of your life making $50,000 a year, or you will be given $50,000 a year by the government for the rest of your life. Megan apparently believes most will opt for the former. I'm not so sure.

10:40 AM, March 15, 2015  
Blogger ColumbusGuy said...

Now that's interesting.

I'm not convinced that's the real test. It doesn't ring true.

Given a choice of $50k free or $50k in exchange, clearly any rational person will take the free, since they will be $50k better off.

Should I conclude that it's either immoral or bad public policy to do so, all we are really measuring is the price at which I will do the immoral thing. As to bad public policy, that's no choice at all. It's like arguing conservatives should not serve in government, since they don't like government to do too many things--which is to say, it's nonsense, and self serving nonsense if made by a liberal hoping to push conservative policy out of government. Really, in the case of being offered the $50k, the thing to do is take the money and pursue whatever it is you are interested in--including changing the public policy if you are so inclined.

1:42 PM, March 15, 2015  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A job gives you control over your life, or at least the illusion of control. That's what people really want.

6:45 PM, March 15, 2015  
Anonymous Denver Guy said...

I think the test would be an offer of $50,000 a year though say age 65, vs. $1,000,000 right now. Depending on your age you can be sure of the ability to live off a million for the rest of your life (a guaranteed return might be just 20 or 30 thousand a year. And if you go riskier, you might get a better return, or you might lose what you have. Of course, at age 55 I would take the million.

8:19 AM, March 16, 2015  
Blogger ColumbusGuy said...

I'm going with A2. (DG, you may be right, but it sounds suspiciously like a present value problem.)

1:32 PM, March 16, 2015  

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