msinaisuhtlaM

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JasonL
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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by JasonL » 17 Mar 2012, 13:14

This is important Jennifer, there are some things that simply do not make sense to do unless your market is very large. Do you follow the general logic of economies of scale? If you build a big fancy plant to create output at lower cost, you are are relying on the ability to sell a lot of units. If you can't sell a lot of units, you would never build the plant.

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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by Highway » 17 Mar 2012, 13:24

Jennifer wrote:Why do you expect output to drop? Humanity won't suddenly forget the principles of mass production; do you expect increased per-person productivity rates to quit rising, and start falling instead? If so, why?
Because per person productivity can't necessarily make up for falling number of workers, or overcome a weakening ratio of producers to non-producers.
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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by fyodor » 17 Mar 2012, 13:35

Kolohe wrote:
*I know homemakers are not completely "dead wood" to an economy, but I think we would agree that women who are homemakers because of legal or social constraints are not making best use of their abilities.
I would not agree that they are not 'making the best use of their abilities'* - but to be clear that's not the same thing as desiring the existence of legal or social constraints

*being a good 'Mom' is objectively better than being a mediocre mid-level manager.
Are those things mutually exclusive? Can women managers only be mid-level and mediocre? I know you didn't overtly say any of those things, but if they weren't implied, how could there be anything meaningful about your comparison?

Anyway, I'm talking about the effect of constraints. I'm not talking about the relative value of different decisions. I'm talking about the freedom of individuals to make the decision they consider best versus the lack thereof. I know you're not advocating for constraints; likewise I'm not advocating for any particular choice over another.
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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by Jennifer » 17 Mar 2012, 13:45

JasonL wrote:This is important Jennifer, there are some things that simply do not make sense to do unless your market is very large.
Yes, and I call your attention to something I wrote earlier on this thread:
[After listing reasons I think a smaller population could be beneficial] Naturally, there's a point where this breaks down -- if (hypothetically) birth rates were so low that it seriously looked like the entire US population, by the time I reached old age, was only one million people -- uh, no, that's nowhere NEAR enough for us to have a healthy economy with current productivity technology, nor any on the horizon. But "what is the least number of people we can have without becoming poorer as a direct result" is like "what is the most number of people earth can support" -- I don't know that number, but I'm confident in saying we are nowhere near it, and thus need not worry "we're not making enough babies."
World population is seven billion and growing, America's is 330 million and growing, there's lot of people who don't have jobs and lots more who have jobs but don't make enough money to enjoy any sort of financial stability ... no, I'm not convinced "We definitely need to increase the population; we can't let it stand still and especially can't let it get any smaller than it already is."
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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by Kolohe » 17 Mar 2012, 13:49

It's far more common to be a mediocre manager than to be a good parent, even though the latter is harder work.

Eta: what I am saying mostly is that this is the most important graph of the 20th century:
Image

I would not want to return to the state of affairs that existed at the left side of the graph, but I would say (and have said) there are consequences to the right side of the graph that are seldom acknowledged by anyone (because the automatic implication is that they would like to go back to the state of affairs that existed on the left side of the graph)
Last edited by Kolohe on 17 Mar 2012, 13:58, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by Mo » 17 Mar 2012, 13:55

fyodor wrote:Well I guess that's begging the question of whether that's really the most relevant formula to measure productivity, since that's what's being argued about. If that's the formula that's always been used, well then either I'm wrong in my contrary position, or else maybe that formula has been based on assumptions that don't necessarily apply universally.

I admit the stance I'm taking right now is a bit of a paradox for me, because I've also always assumed that increased women's workforce participation, particularly when that's manifested in participation at higher levels of the economy (i.e., management, ownership), would tend to be an economic plus. But then, I based this on two things. One was that it reflected the removal of barriers (albeit usually in the form of soft coercion, though of course there's some hard coercion in places of the world) that would limit freedom of economic decision making. The other was that it reflected a more efficient use of available resources. I never attributed to it being due to the amount of dead wood in a society*, as your argument seems to be based on (I know Jadagul objects to my talk of non-productive people "soaking up" wealth, but I don't see how that doesn't apply). Also, this said, I've wondered if this increased productivity as a function of increased women's freedom to participate and move up in the workforce has really been as clearly manifested as I would expect. You seem to have all this info at your fingertips; do you know if this has been observed? I would also observe that your position would seem to suggest a decrease in productivity as a function of increased life spans, at least when that increase exceeds the associated increase in productive years, which I would expect to happen at least eventually as we live longer as a result of better nutrition and medicine, if it hasn't happened already. Do you see it that way?

*I know homemakers are not completely "dead wood" to an economy, but I think we would agree that women who are homemakers because of legal or social constraints are not making best use of their abilities.
Productivity is output divided by workers. Pretty much always has been. As your workforce balance has more relatively unproductive employees relative to productive ones, they're going to end up being less productive.

As for your second paragraph, women entering the workforce created two things. They allowed the economy to produce more output, without changing the overall population and aggregate demand went up to make up for it. A population that shrinks due to aging will have aggregate demand go down at a slower rate than productivity.

As for lifespans, it's hard to say the impact, though my guess is that net everything it's positive on productivity. Ceteris paribus, increased lifespans alone would put pressure on productivity. However, the things lengthening our lifespans also increase productivity at all ages. Debilitating diseases can be cured, bad hips can be replaced, things that will take you out of work for weeks only take you out for a weekend, etc. These things help people live longer, but it also extends productive years and makes them more productive. It's like how pro athletes can stay in the league longer and play at a higher level than prior generations (except without making many of those innovations against the rules).
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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by Mo » 17 Mar 2012, 13:55

Kolohe wrote:It's far more common to be a mediocre manager than to be a good parent, even though the latter is harder work.
Though the two jobs are not mutually exclusive.
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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by Kolohe » 17 Mar 2012, 13:59

Mo wrote:
Kolohe wrote:It's far more common to be a mediocre manager than to be a good parent, even though the latter is harder work.
Though the two jobs are not mutually exclusive.
But there are only so many hours in the day, and years in a life.
when you wake up as the queen of the n=1 kingdom and mount your steed non sequiturius, do you look out upon all you survey and think “damn, it feels good to be a green idea sleeping furiously?" - dhex

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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by Jennifer » 17 Mar 2012, 14:11

Semi-related tangent: another issue affecting the birth rate, which wasn't an issue for most of history but has been for as long as any of us have been alive, is: for parents, children are an economic liability rather than an economic blessing. All other things being equal, an old-school farmer who required mostly human non-slave labor would be more prosperous with more children, who could do useful farm chores while they were till young, and most of what you needed to raise them, you got from the farm anyway. So in the old days, having lots of kids netted you personal and almost-immediate economic benefits.

Of course it's the opposite now: unless you're an exploitative stage-parent type, children will most likely be an economic liability. Among those who pay their own way* through life in modern society, children are very expensive luxuries.

(* As opposed to people like the woman Jeff and I got stuck behind in the grocery line last night, and it took forever for her to check out because she paid for everything with what I'm guessing were WIC vouchers, each of which required the cashier do something-or-other before taking them; she mentioned having six kids, had a pre-verbal toddler in the shopping cart and was heavily pregnant.)

I've read that the few European countries with replacement or above-replacement birth rates are also the ones where the government spends a lot of public money on things like "subsidized day care" (in addition to socialized medicine for all) to ensure that women who become mothers can still afford to do non-mother stuff like "Work outside the home rather than care for their toddlers." And -- this is merely an anecdote from a very high-tax "blue" state -- the only people I personally know or know of who have lots of kids are the ones being supported by the government. Among my friends and relatives, there's my brother with two kids, one friend with three (and a very good-paying job), and everyone else is either childfree or has only the one.

I was saying to Jeff last night, on the way home from the grocery store, "I understand how people on welfare can afford kids, and I understand how rich people can afford kids, but I just don't know how the middle class does it."

Assuming, for the sake of argument, that a replacement or growing birth rate is necessary, and further assuming you want this birth rate to come about by choice rather than by coercing women into having babies they don't want, I do not see how this can be done without very un-libertarian subsidy programs to offset the fact that "Having and raising children will result in a huge economic net loss for you, personally."
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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by JasonL » 17 Mar 2012, 14:13

Jennifer wrote:
JasonL wrote:This is important Jennifer, there are some things that simply do not make sense to do unless your market is very large.
Yes, and I call your attention to something I wrote earlier on this thread:
[After listing reasons I think a smaller population could be beneficial] Naturally, there's a point where this breaks down -- if (hypothetically) birth rates were so low that it seriously looked like the entire US population, by the time I reached old age, was only one million people -- uh, no, that's nowhere NEAR enough for us to have a healthy economy with current productivity technology, nor any on the horizon. But "what is the least number of people we can have without becoming poorer as a direct result" is like "what is the most number of people earth can support" -- I don't know that number, but I'm confident in saying we are nowhere near it, and thus need not worry "we're not making enough babies."
World population is seven billion and growing, America's is 330 million and growing, there's lot of people who don't have jobs and lots more who have jobs but don't make enough money to enjoy any sort of financial stability ... no, I'm not convinced "We definitely need to increase the population; we can't let it stand still and especially can't let it get any smaller than it already is."
This argument would make sense if the problem with unproductive members of the labor force were absolute levels of resource constraint. It isn't. It would also make sense if you could constrain a reduction in population to ensure only the unproductive types are reduced, but you can't. In fact, you are by necessity doing the opposite by slanting the age of the population older. You are taking a greater percentage of the population and making them unproductive. The point is that you need productive people. They need large markets of productive people to trade with. If you have to employ the jadagul initiative to just pay the 15% unproductive population out of the surplus of productive people, you can do that, it's much better than suffering a reduction in productive people.

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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by fyodor » 17 Mar 2012, 14:19

Mo wrote:
fyodor wrote:Well I guess that's begging the question of whether that's really the most relevant formula to measure productivity, since that's what's being argued about. If that's the formula that's always been used, well then either I'm wrong in my contrary position, or else maybe that formula has been based on assumptions that don't necessarily apply universally.

I admit the stance I'm taking right now is a bit of a paradox for me, because I've also always assumed that increased women's workforce participation, particularly when that's manifested in participation at higher levels of the economy (i.e., management, ownership), would tend to be an economic plus. But then, I based this on two things. One was that it reflected the removal of barriers (albeit usually in the form of soft coercion, though of course there's some hard coercion in places of the world) that would limit freedom of economic decision making. The other was that it reflected a more efficient use of available resources. I never attributed to it being due to the amount of dead wood in a society*, as your argument seems to be based on (I know Jadagul objects to my talk of non-productive people "soaking up" wealth, but I don't see how that doesn't apply). Also, this said, I've wondered if this increased productivity as a function of increased women's freedom to participate and move up in the workforce has really been as clearly manifested as I would expect. You seem to have all this info at your fingertips; do you know if this has been observed? I would also observe that your position would seem to suggest a decrease in productivity as a function of increased life spans, at least when that increase exceeds the associated increase in productive years, which I would expect to happen at least eventually as we live longer as a result of better nutrition and medicine, if it hasn't happened already. Do you see it that way?

*I know homemakers are not completely "dead wood" to an economy, but I think we would agree that women who are homemakers because of legal or social constraints are not making best use of their abilities.
Productivity is output divided by workers. Pretty much always has been.
Okay, but that's not what I understood you to mean when you said, "Because productivity is an average of all people in a population." And you seem to have moved the goal posts if we're only talking about the effect of older workers and not retirees.
As your workforce balance has more relatively unproductive employees relative to productive ones, they're going to end up being less productive.
Sure, but that just might be a statistical anomaly and I would question its relevance, especially considering that...
the things lengthening our lifespans also increase productivity at all ages.


...and this is what I would expect of the social factors (in prosperous countries, anyway) that result in declining population. And, in fact, that's exactly what I'm trying to say.
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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by fyodor » 17 Mar 2012, 14:33

Kolohe wrote:
Mo wrote:
Kolohe wrote:It's far more common to be a mediocre manager than to be a good parent, even though the latter is harder work.
Though the two jobs are not mutually exclusive.
But there are only so many hours in the day, and years in a life.
But there's diminishing returns for just about any endeavor.

You haven't offered any evidence that there have been consequences to the right side of the graph.

That said, I should stress that I am totally sincere in saying that I am not pre-judging the value of either side of the graph, in and of itself. I generally presume (crazy idealist that I am) that maximizing freedom to make choices will maximize the fruits to individuals and societies. Except maybe in certain limited situations. I'm inclined to believe that the left side of the graph was more due to constraints on individual choice than the right side is. I suppose it's possible that feminazis have succeeded in making women feel guilty for not entering the workforce, but my casual observation of things leads me to believe there is very little of this effect in comparison with the power of social expectations that women stay at home that previously existed.

Anyway, this (like the effects of population) is self-correcting if new information points to a lack of wisdom of these decisions. I do recognize the possibility that such issues are "different" from most economic decisions such that factors that incentivize utility for the individual are in direct opposition to the effect on externalities affecting the rest of society, but I'm skeptical about that.
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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by Mo » 17 Mar 2012, 14:45

Unless you have a barbell population distribution, if you have an aging and declining population you will have a bunch of retirees and older workers. Also, you will have, as you see in Italy, people staying in the workforce longer in their less productive years. Older declining population is going to be less productive, solely due to makeup.

The same things that allow older workers to stay productive are the same things increasing the productivity of younger workers. Modern medicine keeps Kobe as a productive player longer, but they also make Dwayne Wade even more dangerous. The relative difference doesn't go away.
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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by Jennifer » 17 Mar 2012, 16:42

JasonL wrote:This argument would make sense if the problem with unproductive members of the labor force were absolute levels of resource constraint. It isn't. It would also make sense if you could constrain a reduction in population to ensure only the unproductive types are reduced, but you can't.
Right now, there's a good chunk of "unproductive types" who are that way not because of some inherent disability or too-young/too-old, but because they either can't be productive (no jobs available, no money to buy the credentials to get the job, too many byzantine regulations for them to start their own), or choose not to be productive (like last night's grocery-store welfare mama, whose offspring, I suspect, will NOT be raised to appreciate the value of self-sufficiency or working to achieve a long-term goal). But in both cases, I blame the problem more on "stupid socio-economic policies" rather than "those people just aren't inherently capable of being productive."

And, of course, if I suddenly found myself trapped in welfare mama's life, I wouldn't WANT to do anything productive because it damages my short-term interest to do so: the types of jobs I could get wouldn't even pay enough for one person to live on, let alone her sprawling bastard family, and she has financial incentives to stay where she is and make yet more babies (which, at least, might mollify the Republicans who worry about American women not making enough of 'em). That, again, is a result of stupid policy.

That said, just to clarify my position after all these pages of the thread: my argument here is not "we must lower the birthrate/reduce the population," but "the fact that the birth rate is lowering is not cause for concern, and is even likely to help the next couple generations."
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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by Kolohe » 17 Mar 2012, 17:04

fyodor wrote:
Kolohe wrote:
Mo wrote:
Kolohe wrote:It's far more common to be a mediocre manager than to be a good parent, even though the latter is harder work.
Though the two jobs are not mutually exclusive.
But there are only so many hours in the day, and years in a life.
But there's diminishing returns for just about any endeavor.

You haven't offered any evidence that there have been consequences to the left side of the graph.
A whole bunch of economists, the majority of liberal blogs, and any given MSNBC talking head have been saying for a bit now that economic conditions for the middle class were a lot better at the time frame of the left side of the graph.

Of course, correlation is not causation, and those same commentators all have their own theories and pat explanations as to why things are the way they are now and not the way they were in the 50's, and none of the them (of course) use rising workforce participation by women as an explanation. And neither do I, for that matter. But I don't dismiss it out of hand either. My personal opinion is that the current dynamics of female labor force participation are an unalloyed boon to boomer and x'er college educated and above women (and the men (or women) that marry them) but a lot more mixed for women on the some-college education level (or less) in the x'er and millennial generations.

(edit: mixed up left and right on the first pass)
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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by Jennifer » 17 Mar 2012, 17:36

Kolohe wrote: Of course, correlation is not causation, and those same commentators all have their own theories and pat explanations as to why things are the way they are now and not the way they were in the 50's, and none of the them (of course) use rising workforce participation by women as an explanation. And neither do I, for that matter. But I don't dismiss it out of hand either.
Marvin Harris wrote a book called America Now: plus a subtitle I can't remember, which I unfortunately lent to a friend years ago and he lost it, but Harris wrote it in the early 1980s, I read it around 2000 after finding a secondhand copy, and was amazed by how prescient he'd been thus far (America will become more religious, religious influence in politics will expand, etc.).

He basically asked not only "Why the women's movement" but also "Why the civil rights movement at the same time, why the beginning of the gay-rights movement, and while we're at it why can't America make a decent car these days (circa 1980, the end of a decade of mass American car suckitude), why all these sudden social changes in a relatively short time?" And his answer to "Why did women go into the workplace" and "why have wages stagnated" was the opposite of what you'd think" basically: that women started entering the workforce in large numbers because wages were stagnating, in real terms.

I cannot possibly do a proper short summary of his argument, because it's kind of like watching an episode of James Burke's Connections with the way it takes a million apparently unrelated threads and weaves them all together into one single tapestry, but here's a sort of Cliff's notes of the Cliff's notes version, much of which will be familiar to you from other sources:

After World War Two, America was basically the only intact industrialized nation in the world, so for awhile we got super-rich by making consumer goods and selling them to people who wanted them. For awhile companies made great stuff, but then they got careless from lack of competition and the knowledge that disatisfied consumers had nowhere else to go, anyway.

Harris had also decried the decline of quality in consumer goods throughout the 50s, and something about how a lot of companies started substituting gimmickry for actual innovation -- I think one example was taking away the simple dial-control of a washing machine, and replacing it with rows of push buttons, more moving parts, more stuff to break down -- anyway, Harris' ultimate point was not "women went to work, and that drove down wages" but "wages were effectively going down anyway, as they were being spent on ever-junkier stuff, so women had to go to work (part-time at first, in many cases) to make up for the lack."

And that in turn led to the so-called Women's Lib movement, Harris said: the idea that women should be submissive to their husbands who after all were supporting them held a lot less weight when the women had to earn money as well, but were still expected to behave like the helpless-protected type.

And Harris' book is where I first considered the concept I mentioned earlier, about how children used to be an immediate economic blessing for the parents, but now children are an economic liability.
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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by Jennifer » 17 Mar 2012, 17:41

Just did a little Googling; the Harris I'd read was called America Now: the Anthropology of a Changing Culture but was reprinted as Why Nothing Works: The Anthropology of Daily Life.
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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by D.A. Ridgely » 19 Mar 2012, 02:07

Jadagul wrote: Services can't be stored in a warehouse.
This assertion alone proves beyond doubt that Jadagul has no future at all in accountancy.

I think the overall teaching point here is that it is impossible to say whether population growth or population decline would be preferable or, in either case, by how much. This is so both because the productivity of most of the world's population is piss poor, a fact which commensurately makes them lousy consumers. Also, resources are finite, although, on the other hand, we've got about the same amount of stuff we've always had, just in different forms now. Your mileage may vary.

Regardless, automation is invariably a failed attempt to solve the servant problem.

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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by Jennifer » 19 Mar 2012, 09:48

D.A. Ridgely wrote: Regardless, automation is invariably a failed attempt to solve the servant problem.
The Economist had an article about that a few months ago: in Brazil and Latin America, there are more opportunities than there were a generation ago, and people are having difficulty finding servants. I remember one clueless woman they mentioned: hired a maid, explained that she would be expected to work pretty much every day and sleep on the floor in the laundry room next to the family dog, was absolutely flabbergasted when the maid promptly quit.

The Economist article concluded that the point of having servants nowadays is to have servants, NOT to have someone do things you simply can't do yourself. It's a status symbol: having a maid wash your dishes is more brag-worthy than an automatic dishwasher, I suppose.

That Brazilian woman who was shocked that her maid didn't want to sleep with the dog, however, is doubtless convinced Brazil needs a higher birthrate. When you tell a maid she will sleep in the laundry room next to the dog, she's not supposed to quit; she's supposed to be poor and desperate enough to be grateful for any roof over her head, dammit! There can't be a race to the bottom for wages unless you have a huge population desperate for any sort of work they can get.
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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by D.A. Ridgely » 19 Mar 2012, 10:31

Jennifer wrote:It's a status symbol: having a maid wash your dishes is more brag-worthy than an automatic dishwasher, I suppose.
Not even knowing where in the house the kitchen is is an even bigger status symbol.

BTW, I assure you that at a certain income level and size of house for two-income couples, cleaning services approach being a necessity.

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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by Jennifer » 19 Mar 2012, 10:43

D.A. Ridgely wrote:
Jennifer wrote:It's a status symbol: having a maid wash your dishes is more brag-worthy than an automatic dishwasher, I suppose.
Not even knowing where in the house the kitchen is is an even bigger status symbol.

BTW, I assure you that at a certain income level and size of house for two-income couples, cleaning services approach being a necessity.
Sure, and if your income level is that high, it's high enough that you can buy your maid a real bed rather than expect her to sleep with the dog. But that woman -- and many of the "make more babbiez NOW!" people -- seem to have a servant-problem version of the socialists' credo: "if I need or want something, it is my RIGHT to not only get it, but get it at whatever price *I* deem fair." I don't predict any shortage of workers to wipe shit off the asses of elderly nursing-home residents; I do, however, predict a shortage of workers desperate enough to clean shit for shit wages. And I think that's a good thing.
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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by D.A. Ridgely » 19 Mar 2012, 10:59

The law of comparative advantage and the market distortion caused by social welfare programs aside, the fact, thanks to our friends the DEMAND KURVE, Say's Law and crap like that is that it is probably impossible for any affluent person in a third world country to avoid hiring people who will take shit jobs for shit wages. While I don't know much about Brazil's economy, it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if that woman didn't have to fight off new applicants once word of the job opening spread.

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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by Jennifer » 19 Mar 2012, 11:05

D.A. Ridgely wrote:The law of comparative advantage and the market distortion caused by social welfare programs aside, the fact, thanks to our friends the DEMAND KURVE, Say's Law and crap like that is that it is probably impossible for any affluent person in a third world country to avoid hiring people who will take shit jobs for shit wages. While I don't know much about Brazil's economy, it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if that woman didn't have to fight off new applicants once word of the job opening spread.
I wish I had saved the article, but its point was that it's harder for Brazilians to find servants as desperate as they were in the Good Old Days, because there are other opportunities for them. And, again, that is only a problem from the perspective of rich people who not only want servants, but want to be able to treat them like crap. It's kind of like the smaller population after the Black Plague -- that was bad for the aristocrats who, for the first time in their existences, had to actually consider their laborers' wants and needs, but very good for the laborers themselves.
"Myself, despite what they say about libertarians, I think we're actually allowed to pursue options beyond futility or sucking the dicks of the powerful." -- Eric the .5b

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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by D.A. Ridgely » 19 Mar 2012, 11:24

Could well be. In terms of its economy, Brazil isn't India or any number of African nations. And those greater opportunities for poor people in Brazil are indeed a good thing and would be a good thing in those other countries, too. Alas, however, in a world where billions are essentially homeless and eek out a living on a couple of bucks a day, a cot by the dog might well be considered a benefit.

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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by Jennifer » 19 Mar 2012, 11:32

D.A. Ridgely wrote: Alas, however, in a world where billions are essentially homeless and eek out a living on a couple of bucks a day, a cot by the dog might well be considered a benefit.
This is true. And according to wealthy proponents of the continuously expanding population, this is a feature rather than a bug. The woman who was shocked when her maid quit would've been ever-so-much happier if she'd had the ability to pick and choose from among candidates desperate enough to sleep on the floor next to the dog. (The servants wouldn't have been happy, but they don't matter to such people.)
"Myself, despite what they say about libertarians, I think we're actually allowed to pursue options beyond futility or sucking the dicks of the powerful." -- Eric the .5b

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