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Social Aspects of Working in IT


Social Problems in Enterprise Unix Administration

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Diplomatic Communication Corporate bullshit
Toxic managers Micromanagement Female Sociopaths The psychopath in the corner office Borderline Psychopaths Toxic stress Bully Managers
Surviving a Bad Performance Review Overload Bureaucracies Bureaucratic alienation Bureaucratic ritualism Rules of Verbal Self Defense Informing yourself to death: obsession with Internet Browsing and Social Sites
Insubordination Threat Authoritarians Office Stockholm Syndrom Learned helplessness Socratic Questions Computer-related Variants of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Machiavellians Manipulators Tricks
Communication with Corporate Psychopaths Office Slaves: the rise of bullshit jobs Bureaucratic Inertia Military Bureaucracy Bureaucratic avoidance of responsibility Military Incompetence Social Problems in Enterprise Unix Administration
Coping with the toxic stress in IT environment Sleep Deprivation Mental Overload The Fiefdom Syndrome F-scale Justice system  
Burnout IT Offshoring Skeptic Workagolism as escape path from social problems Education A Slightly Skeptical View on Usage of Open Source in Developing Countries Humor Etc


One major aspect of programming is creativity. And it used to be a really creative job for the most part of previous century. But IT radically changed during the last decade and especially the last five years.  From a very nice environment with a lot of talented people it became an environment dominated by fear of outsourcing/offshoring populated with toxic managers, especially micromanagers and infected with high level of stress.

Entry-level wages of recent college graduates fell in the early and mid-1990s and have only recently returned to their pre-recession 1989 level (see the November 10 Snapshot). Wage offers (in 1998 dollars) to all recent college graduates started falling in 1985 and plummeted $3,414, or 9.8%, from 1989 to 1995. Although this decline finally began to reverse in 1997, when the low unemployment levels precipitated a rapid up-tick of $4,600 in wage offers to college graduates, it was not until 1999 that the offers exceeded their 1985 level. (Incidentally, it should be noted that these data on wage offers exaggerate the recent growth in actual wages paid, since a recent graduate with several exceptional offers gets counted for each offer, not just the one accepted).

This pattern, perhaps surprisingly, is the same for wage offers to students who accepted jobs in the computer science field. Entry level wage offers peaked in 1986 at $39,005 (in 1998 dollars), fell to $36,321 in 1989, and bottomed out at just $33,434 in 1994. Thus, employer wage offers to computer science employees fell 14%, or $5,571, from 1986 to 1994. Wage offers in computer science have bounced back, particularly since 1997, but it was not until 1998 that employer wage offers for computer science personnel returned to their prior peak in 1986. It should not be surprising, then, that enrollment in computer science programs declined in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

According to Paul Craig Roberts in 2004, nationally, enrollments in computer science and computer engineering are down 23 percent this year. At MIT, the premier engineering school, enrollment in electrical engineering and computer science has fallen 33 percent in two years. The New York Times (March 1) reported that even MIT’s best graduates are abandoning their computer engineering profession for investment banking. Presidents and deans of engineering schools are expressing concerns that engineering education has no future in America.

John Mashey, current custodian of the California "UNIX" license plate, presented an overview of where computer technology appears to be heading in 1999 Usenix conference.  He compared us with people standing on the shore when a large wave comes rushing in to crash over us.

Mashey began with a definition of the term "infrastress," a word that he made up by combining "infrastructure" and "stress." You experience infrastress when computing subsystems and usage change more quickly than the underlying infrastructure can change to keep up. The symptoms include bottlenecks, workarounds, and instability.

We all know that computer technology is growing: disk capacities, CPU speeds, RAM capacity constantly increase. But we need to understand how those technologies interact, especially if the growth rates are not parallel. The audience looked at a lot of log charts to understand this. For instance, on a log chart we could clearly see that CPU speed was faster than DRAM access times.

Most (all?) computer textbooks teach that a memory access is roughly equivalent to a CPU instruction. But with new technologies the reality is that a memory operation, like a cache miss, may cost you 100 CPU instructions. The gap between CPU and disk latency is even worse. Disk capacity and latency is another area where two technologies are growing at different rates. Disk capacity is growing at a faster rate than disk-access time decline. We are packing in a lot more data, but our ability to read it back is not speeding up at the same rate. This is a big concern for backups. Mashey suggested that we may need to move from tape backups to other techniques. One interesting side comment had to do with digital cameras and backups. Virtually everyone in attendance probably has to deal with backups at work. Yet how many people bother with backups at home? Probably very few, since most people don't generate that much data on their home systems. Yet the proliferation of digital cameras, we can expect that home computer systems are going to become filled with many gigabytes of irreplaceable data in the form of family snapshots and photo albums. Easy and reliable backup systems are going to be needed to handle this.

The slides for this talk are available at <>.

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[Sep 07, 2018] Procrastination Is More About Managing Emotions Than Time, Says Study

Sep 07, 2018 |

BeauHD on Saturday September 01, 2018 @09:00AM from the it's-all-in-your-head dept. An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC: [A new study] identified two areas of the brain that determine whether we are more likely to get on with a task or continually put it off. Researchers used a survey and scans of 264 people's brains to measure how proactive they were. Experts say the study, in Psychological Science , underlines procrastination is more about managing emotions than time . It found that the amygdala -- an almond-shaped structure in the temporal (side) lobe which processes our emotions and controls our motivation -- was larger in procrastinators.

In these individuals, there were also poorer connections between the amygdala and a part of the brain called the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (DACC). The DACC uses information from the amygdala and decides what action the body will take.

It helps keep the person on track by blocking out competing emotions and distractions.

The researchers suggest that procrastinators are less able to filter out interfering emotions and distractions because the connections between the amygdala and the DACC in their brains are not as good as in proactive individuals.

[Feb 05, 2018] The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fck A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life

Feb 05, 2018 |

Self-improvement and success often occur together. But that doesn't necessarily mean they're the same thing.

Our culture today is obsessively focused on unrealisticallv positive expectations: Be happier. Be healthier. Be the best, better than the rest. Be smarter, faster, richer, sexier, more popular, more productive, more envied, and more admired. Be perfect and amazing and crap out twelve-karat-gold nuggets before breakfast each morning while kissing your selfie-ready spouse and two and a half kids goodbye. Then fly your helicopter to your wonderfully fulfilling job, where you spend your days doing
incredibly meaningful work that's likely to save the planet one day.

But when you stop and really think about it, conventional life advice -- all the positive and happy self-help stuff we hear all the time -- is actually fixating on what you lack. It lasers in on what you perceive your personal shortcomings and failures to already be, and then emphasizes them for you.

You learn about the best ways to make money because you feel you don't have enough money already. You stand in front of the mirror and repeat affirmations saying that you're beautiful because you feel as though you're not beautiful already. You follow dating and relationship advice because you feel that you're unlovable already. You try goofy visualization exercises about being more successful because you feel as though you aren't successful enough already.

Ironically, this fixation on the positive -- on what's better, what's superior -- only serves to remind us over and over again of what we are not, of what we lack, of what we should have been but failed to be. After all, no truly happy person feels the need to stand in front of a mirror and recite that she's happy. She just is.

There's a saying in Texas: "The smallest dog barks the loudest." A confident man doesn't feel a need to prove that he's confident. A rich woman doesn't feel a need to convince anybody that she's rich. Either you are or you are not. And if you're dreaming of something all the time, then you're reinforcing the same unconscious reality over and over: that you are not that.

Everyone and their TV commercial wants you to believe that the key to a good life is a nicer job, or a more rugged car, or a prettier girlfriend, or a hot tub with an inflatable pool for the kids. The world is constantly telling you that the path to a better life is more, more, more -- buy more, own more, make more, flick more, be more. You are constantly bombarded with messages to give a fuck about event hi ng, all the time. Give a fuck about a new TV. Give a fuck about having a better vacation than your coworkers. Give a fuck about buying that new lawn ornament. Give a fuck about having the right kind of selfie stick.

Amanda Henry on October 30, 2016

A Much Needed Reminder to Choose Your Battles Wisely

As someone who has given far too many f***s about far too many things their entire life, this book was exactly the wake up call I needed. Even as a child in elementary school, I would have a miniature meltdown when I got a bad grade or if a friend was mean to me that day. As an adult, I got better at hiding these emotional upheavals and intense reactions to the world around me, but they never really went away with my maturity like I had hoped. I took to heart every disheartening news article I read and every crappy thing that happened to me at work or in school. I'd let it consume me, because I was never told to live life any other way or that controlling my reactions was even remotely possible; I thought it was just a permanent part of my personality. I always knew that it was more of a vice than a virtue, but I felt like I couldn't fully control it.

Mark Manson's The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*** employs a witty use of profanity laced with satirical comedy that's bursting with philosophical wisdom. Much of Manson's inspiration originates from nihilists, Buddhists, Albert Camus, and Charles Bukowski, but he brings those philosophies into a more modern and palatable perspective. He reminds us that life is too short to react so passionately about every little thing. We have a limited emotional capacity, and we often squander it on reactions to mean-spirited people or unfortunate events, completely forgetting that, although we can't control the world around us, we can control ourselves. This book has empowered me to exercise control over my reactions.

Shortly after reading this book, my husband commented at how "zen" I've become. I'm no longer angrily venting to him about all of the various ways the world upsets me. I still allow myself to feel and talk about things that bother me (I'm not aiming to achieve nirvana as a Buddhist monk), but petty things no longer have a hold on me. I let the negativity wash over me now without letting it absorb into my soul, and my life has been much more enjoyable as a result.

I was so inspired by this book and its philosophy, that I wanted a permanent reminder for myself to further ensure that I use my f***s wisely from now onward. For my birthday, I got this simple, but meaningful tattoo on my right wrist. The ∞ symbol reminds me of the infinite nature of time and outer space, and the 0 on the bottom represents humanity's relevance to time and space as a whole. It can also be translated as don't make something (∞) out of nothing (0) or a reminder that there are infinite opportunities to give a f***, but that I will remain steadfast in giving 0 f***s about things that don't really matter.

If you're the type of person who's struggled to keep their temper in line or if you're like me and you find yourself on an emotional roller-coaster because you take every event in the world and within your own life to heart, I strongly encourage you to read this book. If profanity is so much of a problem for you, that you can't tolerate reading the first half of this book (the last half is much less profane) you're probably too narrow-minded to have taken away any of the many philosophical benefits this book offers.

[Dec 13, 2017] Business Workers want bosses to get lost

Aug 19, 2005 |
Most workers reckon that their bosses are excessively bureaucratic, apportion blame wrongly and are inconsistent in decision making, a report has found.

Sirota Survey Intelligence questioned 3.5 million staff over three years at firms including global giants Shell, Tesco, Microsoft and Dell.

The belief that managers hamper staff is deeply ingrained, the report showed.

Instead, workers want to know what is expected of them, have competent bosses and better cooperation across the firm.

'Out of the way'

Sirota argues that the biggest challenge for many companies is creating an enthusiastic workforce as this is a key element of a successful organisation.

Dr David Sirota, Chairman of the research firm, believes that too often managers get in the way and hinder their staff's natural enthusiasm.

"People come to work, to work," Mr Sirota said.

"Unfortunately, they often find conditions that block high performance, such as excessive bureaucracy burying them in paperwork, and slowing decision making to a crawl.

"Management has to help employees perform, which in many cases means getting out of the way."

[Oct 27, 2017] The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fck A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson

Oct 27, 2017 |


By Amanda Henry on October 30, 2016

A Much Needed Reminder to Choose Your Battles Wisely

As someone who has given far too many f***s about far too many things their entire life, this book was exactly the wake up call I needed. Even as a child in elementary school, I would have a miniature meltdown when I got a bad grade or if a friend was mean to me that day. As an adult, I got better at hiding these emotional upheavals and intense reactions to the world around me, but they never really went away with my maturity like I had hoped. I took to heart every disheartening news article I read and every crappy thing that happened to me at work or in school. I'd let it consume me, because I was never told to live life any other way or that controlling my reactions was even remotely possible; I thought it was just a permanent part of my personality. I always knew that it was more of a vice than a virtue, but I felt like I couldn't fully control it.

Mark Manson's The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*** employs a witty use of profanity laced with satirical comedy that's bursting with philosophical wisdom. Much of Manson's inspiration originates from nihilists, Buddhists, Albert Camus, and Charles Bukowski, but he brings those philosophies into a more modern and palatable perspective. He reminds us that life is too short to react so passionately about every little thing. We have a limited emotional capacity, and we often squander it on reactions to mean-spirited people or unfortunate events, completely forgetting that, although we can't control the world around us, we can control ourselves. This book has empowered me to exercise control over my reactions.

Shortly after reading this book, my husband commented at how "zen" I've become. I'm no longer angrily venting to him about all of the various ways the world upsets me. I still allow myself to feel and talk about things that bother me (I'm not aiming to achieve nirvana as a Buddhist monk), but petty things no longer have a hold on me. I let the negativity wash over me now without letting it absorb into my soul, and my life has been much more enjoyable as a result.

I was so inspired by this book and its philosophy, that I wanted a permanent reminder for myself to further ensure that I use my f***s wisely from now onward. For my birthday, I got this simple, but meaningful tattoo on my right wrist. The ∞ symbol reminds me of the infinite nature of time and outer space, and the 0 on the bottom represents humanity's relevance to time and space as a whole. It can also be translated as don't make something (∞) out of nothing (0) or a reminder that there are infinite opportunities to give a f***, but that I will remain steadfast in giving 0 f***s about things that don't really matter.

If you're the type of person who's struggled to keep their temper in line or if you're like me and you find yourself on an emotional roller-coaster because you take every event in the world and within your own life to heart, I strongly encourage you to read this book. If profanity is so much of a problem for you, that you can't tolerate reading the first half of this book (the last half is much less profane) you're probably too narrow-minded to have taken away any of the many philosophical benefits this book offers.

By VH on September 14, 2016
A surprisingly serious book - in a good way

There are a dozen of topics Mark goes through in this book. Some of the main themes are these:

(1) Choosing what to care about; focusing on the things/problems that are actually meaningful/important (= "giving a f*** about the right things")
(2) Learning to be fine with some negative things; always aiming for positivity isn't practical, and is stressful in itself
(3) Taking responsibility of your own life; it's good for your self-esteem not to keep blaming the circumstances for your problems
(4) Understanding the importance of honesty and boundaries, especially in relationships
(5) Identity; it might a good idea not to commit strongly to any special identity such as "an undiscovered genius", because then any challenges will make you fear the potential loss of that identity you've clinged to
(6) Motivation; how to improve it by accepting failure and taking action
(7) Death; how learning to be more comfortable with one's own mortality can make it easier to live

The first 20% of this book were a little bit boring to read, but after that, the experience was very absorbing. Just like Manson's previous book (Models), I will give this one five stars.

(BTW this book wasn't as humorous as I expected. It was much more a serious than a funny book to read. The final chapters, discussing the acceptance of death, made me actually a little bit tense and distressed.)

[Sep 17, 2017] Colleagues Addicted to Tech

Notable quotes:
"... dwelling on the negative can backfire. ..."
"... It's fine to acknowledge a misstep. But spin the answer to focus on why this new situation is such an ideal match of your abilities to the employer's needs. ..."
Apr 20, 2015 |

Discussing Bad Work Situations

I have been in my present position for over 25 years. Five years ago, I was assigned a new boss, who has a reputation in my industry for harassing people in positions such as mine until they quit. I have managed to survive, but it's clear that it's time for me to move along. How should I answer the inevitable interview question: Why would I want to leave after so long? I've heard that speaking badly of a boss is an interview no-no, but it really is the only reason I'm looking to find something new. BROOKLYN

I am unemployed and interviewing for a new job. I have read that when answering interview questions, it's best to keep everything you say about previous work experiences or managers positive.

But what if you've made one or two bad choices in the past: taking jobs because you needed them, figuring you could make it work - then realizing the culture was a bad fit, or you had an arrogant, narcissistic boss?

Nearly everyone has had a bad work situation or boss. I find it refreshing when I read stories about successful people who mention that they were fired at some point, or didn't get along with a past manager. So why is it verboten to discuss this in an interview? How can the subject be addressed without sounding like a complainer, or a bad employee? CHICAGO

As these queries illustrate, the temptation to discuss a negative work situation can be strong among job applicants. But in both of these situations, and in general, criticizing a current or past employer is a risky move. You don't have to paint a fictitiously rosy picture of the past, but dwelling on the negative can backfire. Really, you don't want to get into a detailed explanation of why you have or might quit at all. Instead, you want to talk about why you're such a perfect fit for the gig you're applying for.

So, for instance, a question about leaving a long-held job could be answered by suggesting that the new position offers a chance to contribute more and learn new skills by working with a stronger team. This principle applies in responding to curiosity about jobs that you held for only a short time.

It's fine to acknowledge a misstep. But spin the answer to focus on why this new situation is such an ideal match of your abilities to the employer's needs.

The truth is, even if you're completely right about the past, a prospective employer doesn't really want to hear about the workplace injustices you've suffered, or the failings of your previous employer. A manager may even become concerned that you will one day add his or her name to the list of people who treated you badly. Save your cathartic outpourings for your spouse, your therapist, or, perhaps, the future adoring profile writer canonizing your indisputable success.

Send your workplace conundrums to, including your name and contact information (even if you want it withheld for publication). The Workologist is a guy with well-intentioned opinions, not a professional career adviser. Letters may be edited.

[Apr 19, 2017] What would Jesus disrupt? Clearly the banks. He would be all about debt forgiveness.

Notable quotes:
"... Cynicism does derive from Socrates; from that part of the Socratic approach that questions community norms so aggressively that they have to kill you to shut you up. As for Socrates, so for Jesus. ..."
"... What would Jesus disrupt? Clearly the banks. He would be all about debt forgiveness. ..."
"... I believe Lambert's point was exactly that: that the money-changers should be thrown out of the temple; that Blankfein is not doing "God's work"; that the whole article was a depiction of the deliberate debauchery of the Christian message by conflating it with material enterprise. That article in the links was a spiritual horror show. ..."
"... Has someone written a good book on the history of usury? When did it become acceptable in the Christian dominated US? Islam bans it. Shakespeare talked about it. Our founders lamented their usurious debts. Think I read somewhere that the Zionists pledged, after WW2, to get out of banking altogether? ..."
Apr 19, 2017 |
PhilM, April 17, 2017 at 12:10 pm

"What have I to do with thee, woman?"

Christ was apparently a true cynic. See the wikipedia article on Cynicism before judging that; it's not original with me. Cynicism was open in its denunciation of all human convention. Nevertheless, it was non-violent, so "bringing a sword" means not the waging of organized war, but rather is a metaphor of conflict between those who support conventional morality and those who support the Cynical way of life; if indeed those were Jesus's words (if there were any words of Jesus, for that matter), as they are mostly incompatible with the rest of his speech.

Cynicism does derive from Socrates; from that part of the Socratic approach that questions community norms so aggressively that they have to kill you to shut you up. As for Socrates, so for Jesus.

It's amazing the doors that open onto the understanding of Christianity once its Cynical features are recognized, and the neo-Platonist frosting that was applied by Paul, and the forces of order later on, is demoted. The cake is actually quite inspirational; the frosting, pretty revolting. But the natural selection of ideas, that process which favors the survival of ideas that enhance power and authority, has decisively suppressed the Cynical core.

UserFriendly , April 17, 2017 at 2:14 pm

What would Jesus disrupt? Clearly the banks. He would be all about debt forgiveness.

AbateMagicThinking but Not money , April 17, 2017 at 9:51 am

Re: What would Jesus disrupt? (just the question, not the linked article)

Wasn't there something about money changers in the temple? My view is that Forex is the great threat to whatever commonwealth anyone lives in – if not now, sooner or later. Always cheaper elsewhere.

So I reckon Jesus would disrupt the system of foreign currency exchange. I imagine that something more turbulent than disrupting the equilibrium of Forex trader's desks would be involved. Now, that would be a miracle!

PhilM , April 17, 2017 at 12:33 pm

Jesus rendered unto Caesar those things which are Caesar's. He was getting the money-changers out of the temple, not getting rid of them altogether. The spiritual path is not material, or military, it is in the mind and the soul. People cannot pursue a material, political, or social agenda of any kind, even one of redistribution, and still be truly "Christian," as Christ would have had it. They must give all they have and find their way in poverty. They must abandon judgment of the actions of their fellows. Just as Diogenes lived in a barrel, but did not much care about the decor of the Athens' St Regis lobby one way or another.

Ultimately the message was that to be poor and angry is to be a slave twice over; to be poor and happy is to be free of the chains of both wealth and resentment. Hence also the point that the poor are always with you; that has come up often here, and the real message is missed: that the most important thing is not necessarily to help the poor, but to be among them: to eliminate concern for material things from life entirely. The same goes for pain; turning the other cheek is not metaphorical; it is a statement that suffering imposed by others has only the meaning one gives it, and to deny that meaning is to deny them power over your mind.

I'm not saying that all of that is right, or even arguable; I'm just saying that I think the philosophical basis of it should be considered more profoundly, and given more respect, than it often is, when it is used for political polemic.

I believe Lambert's point was exactly that: that the money-changers should be thrown out of the temple; that Blankfein is not doing "God's work"; that the whole article was a depiction of the deliberate debauchery of the Christian message by conflating it with material enterprise. That article in the links was a spiritual horror show.

HopeLB , April 17, 2017 at 7:22 pm

Has someone written a good book on the history of usury? When did it become acceptable in the Christian dominated US? Islam bans it. Shakespeare talked about it. Our founders lamented their usurious debts. Think I read somewhere that the Zionists pledged, after WW2, to get out of banking altogether?

[Apr 17, 2017] Ostara, Ishtar And A Happy Easter Walk

Notable quotes:
"... Just as the day of rest was a spiritual discipline that demonstrated there is more to life than production and consumption - and so was a threat to every narrative of power and control... ..."
"... The spring festival was originally a fertility celebration, so the bunnies connection runs deep. And shallow. ..."
Apr 17, 2017 |
Ostara, Ishtar And A Happy Easter Walk

Easter echoes the eons old human festivity to celebrate the March exquinox (in the northern hemisphere) and the arrival of spring. The dark and cold days of winter are gone. The bright time of fertility has come.

Today's fertility symbols of Easter, the egg and the hare, relate to the old Germanic fertility goddess Eostre (Ostara). Ishtar, a Mesopotamian goddess of love, stepped down into the underworld of death but was revived. The Christian resurrection of Jesus is probably a transformation of this older hopeful tale.

When the Christian message spread from its eastern Mediterranean origin its incorporation of old local gods and fables helped to convert the multi-theistic societies to the new monotheistic * believe. The gods of the pre-Christian religions were not completely discarded but their tales transformed to support the new united message the Christian preachers were spreading.

But whatever. - It is spring, the darkness vanishes and it is my favored holiday. This year the Julian and Gregorian calendars coincide. We thus follow the Russian Barbarians and wish us all

Happy Easter

Faberge egg with spring flowers and music box- bigger

Please join me, v. Goethe and Dr. Faust in our traditional Easter Walk:

Look from this height whereon we find us
Back to the town we have left behind us,

Where from the dark and narrow door
Forth a motley multitude pour.

They sun themselves gladly and all are gay,
They celebrate Christ's resurrection to-day.

For have not they themselves arisen?
From smoky huts and hovels and stables,
From labor's bonds and traffic's prison,
From the confinement of roofs and gables,
From many a cramping street and alley,
From churches full of the old world's night,
All have come out to the day's broad light.
How it hums o'er the fields and clangs from the steeple!
This is the real heaven of the people,
Both great and little are merry and gay,
I am a man, too, I can be, to-day.

* The Christian Trinity , the three aspects of the one God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is a doctrinaire addition of the 4th century. It just adds an explanatory layer on top of the Abrahamic core of the monotheistic Christian message.

Glorious Bach | Apr 16, 2017 7:41:48 AM | 1

Hope, always hope--even in this dreariest of mean times.
Jen | Apr 16, 2017 7:52:22 AM | 2
Happy Easter to all and may we celebrate more Happy Easters to come!

Thanks B for reminding us that as long as we continue to celebrate Easter and remember what it represents, we are also celebrating hope, the possibility of renewal and setting humanity on a path towards peace and away from greed, violence, exploitation and lack of care for our fellow humans, animals and other travellers on this planet.

John Merryman | Apr 16, 2017 8:15:44 AM | 3
Actually the Trinity was one of the earliest pantheistic traditions incorporated and the most foundational to Christianity, as it incorporated the Greek Year Gods, essentially past, present and future. (Father, Son, Holy Spirit)
A good book on the subject;
John Merryman | Apr 16, 2017 8:19:09 AM | 4
Of course, the Catholic Church, as the eternal institution, didn't really care for a foundational concept of renewal and did its best to fudge the message. Which they did a good job of, resulting in the need for Luther to push the reset button.
John Merryman | Apr 16, 2017 8:27:01 AM | 6
Then again the essential fallacy of monotheism is that absolute is basis, not apex, so a spiritual absolute would be the essence of sentience, from which consciousness rises, not an ideal of wisdom and judgement from which it fell. The new born babe, not the wise old man.

It's just socially effective to assert the laws are given, rather than emergent with the processes they describe. The assumptions are still deeply embedded in western culture, even if the folk concepts have faded.

Frosty | Apr 16, 2017 8:55:06 AM | 7
sonnet 114

Or whether doth my mind, being crowned with you,
Drink up the monarch's plague, this flattery?
Or whether shall I say, mine eye saith true,
And that your love taught it this alchemy,
To make of monsters and things indigest
Such cherubins as your sweet self resemble,
Creating every bad a perfect best,
As fast as objects to his beams assemble?
O! 'tis the first, 'tis flattery in my seeing,
And my great mind most kingly drinks it up:
Mine eye well knows what with his gust is 'greeing,
And to his palate doth prepare the cup:
If it be poisoned, 'tis the lesser sin
That mine eye loves it and doth first begin.

William Shakespeare

fast freddy | Apr 16, 2017 9:11:27 AM | 8
Christianity proclaims that it is righteous and it is at war with (battling) ALL the other religions which are deemed to be (at best) false. The adherents to these other religions are misled (at best) or evil. Christianity says that it cannot tolerate (must destroy) evil. Accordingly, one day the king of Christianity will return to rule the world.

Islam offers up the same story.

What a perfect formula we have for fomenting war. Inspiring youths to kill for their (faith) religion.

Religion is a fundamental component in the justification of mass murder. It's been used this way for centuries and it has not ebbed.

les7 | Apr 16, 2017 12:24:55 PM | 11
Just as the day of rest was a spiritual discipline that demonstrated there is more to life than production and consumption - and so was a threat to every narrative of power and control...

So the resurrection is a symbol that the alternative narrative of the Kingdom of Heaven does triumph over the fear and death we all live in. Not only does the Kingdom of Heaven out-survive death, it transforms it. The resurrection narrative does not defeat the powers of this world through conflict. It 'outlives' them, most especially with those eternal qualities of mercy, forgiveness, life, light, and yes, love.

May we all celebrate this day and the lives of those who have pointed us all to a life of wholeness.

thank you b, for this site and for your work to host it.


John Merryman | Apr 16, 2017 1:08:03 PM | 14

Lol. The spring festival was originally a fertility celebration, so the bunnies connection runs deep. And shallow.

Piotr Berman | Apr 16, 2017 1:11:18 PM | 15
I checked and indeed, you can find Russian greeting cards "Happy Easter", but that seems to be copied from the West. More standard is to greet people on that day with words "Christ has resurrected", and post cards have those words but there are also other, less religious versions. From Holy Internet: " Traditional Easter greeting is Христос воскрес! (Christ is risen!) and the response is Воистину воскрес! (In truth He is risen!) ".
smuks | Apr 16, 2017 1:43:24 PM | 16
There was a nice cartoon in the paper yesterday:

A muslim couple walk past a shop, there's eggs & stuff and a big sign reading 'Happy Easter'.
One of them to the other: 'From what I understand, some rabbit was born to them...'

Happy Easter!

John Merryman | Apr 16, 2017 2:29:48 PM | 17
I think the next phase change of human evolution will involve a switch back from the linear, growth oriented view of the last several thousand years, to a more cyclical, thermodynamic conceptual foundation.

For instance, we think of time as the point of the present moving past to future, but the reality is change turning future to past. Tomorrow becomes yesterday because the earth turns. Events have to occur, in order to be determined.

Alan Watts used the example of a boat and its wake, as analogy, in that the wake doesn't steer the boat, the boat creates the wake. Events are first in the present, then in the past.

This makes time an effect of activity, similar to temperature, color, pressure, etc.

If you consider the actual, physical manifestation of time and history, this concept on which human culture is based, it is residue in the present state. What is measured as time; duration, is the state of the present, as events form and dissolve.

The overwhelming physical reality is the thermodynamic convection cycles/feedback loops in which we evolved. They underlay all aspects of biology and civilization. Right now, you might say we are at the crest of an enormous wave and it's mostly foam and bubbles, with a massive undertow.

fast freddy | Apr 16, 2017 2:52:32 PM | 19
Something biblical for Christians to ponder:

Everyone whom had died remains dead and knows and senses nothing.

There is NO afterlife for ANYONE without the second resurrection which you await.

There is no purpose for a second resurrection if everyone who has died gets a free pass to a glorious afterlife.

Check it out.

Curtis | Apr 16, 2017 7:15:24 PM | 23
The Christians of the Middle East must be very resilient to withstand the onslaught.

james | Apr 17, 2017 12:24:33 AM | 24
thanks for the easter reminder, amidst everything else that is being focused on.. new beginnings which we surely do need... looking for new leaders to pave a new direction here at this moment and don't see anything on the horizon yet..
Curtis | Apr 17, 2017 12:44:41 PM | 31
It's shameful what has happened to Christians in the Middle East. In the west, I've only heard the Catholics say anything about this.

[Mar 23, 2017] F@ck Work?

Notable quotes:
"... By Scott Ferguson, an assistant professor of Film & Media Studies in the Department of Humanities & Cultural Studies at the University of South Florida. His current research and pedagogy focus on Modern Monetary Theory and critiques of neoliberalism; aesthetic theory; the history of digital animation and visual effects; and essayistic writing across media platforms. Originally published at Arcade ..."
"... requirement ..."
"... You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone ..."
"... F-k Stupid Jobs with Bad Pay ..."
"... F-k Work ..."
Mar 23, 2017 |
Posted on January 5, 2017 by Yves Smith Yves here. The reason I prefer a jobs guarantee (with an income guarantee at a lower income level) is that the time an income guarantee was implemented on an open-ended, long term basis, it produced an unskilled underclass (see our post on the Speenhamland system for more detail).

Moreover, the idea that people are brimming with all sorts of creative things they'd do if they had an income to allow themselves to do it is bunk. For instance, MacArthur Foundation grant recipients, arguably some of the very most creative people in society, almost without exception do not do anything productive while they have their grant funding. And let us not kid ourselves: most people are not creative and need structure and pressure to get anything done.

Finally, humans are social animals. Work provides a community. If you are extraverted and need to be around people during the day, it's hard to create enough opportunities for interaction on your own.

By Scott Ferguson, an assistant professor of Film & Media Studies in the Department of Humanities & Cultural Studies at the University of South Florida. His current research and pedagogy focus on Modern Monetary Theory and critiques of neoliberalism; aesthetic theory; the history of digital animation and visual effects; and essayistic writing across media platforms. Originally published at Arcade

In the wake of Donald Trump's alarming election to the White House, historian James Livingston published an essay in Aeon Magazine with the somewhat provocative title, " Fuck Work ." The piece encapsulates the argument spelled out in Livingston's latest book, No More Work: Why Full Employment is a Bad Idea (The University of North Carolina Press, 2016).

In both his book and the Aeon essay, Livingston sets out to address several overlapping crises: an alienating and now exhausted "work ethic" that crystallized during the Protestant Reformation; forty years of rampant underemployment, declining wages, and widening inequality; a corresponding surge in financial speculation and drop in productive investment and aggregate demand; and a post-2008 climate of cultural resentment and political polarization, which has fueled populist uprisings from Left to Right.

What the present catastrophe shows, according to Livingston's diagnosis, is the ultimate failure of the marketplace to provision and distribute social labor. What's worse, the future of work looks dismal. Citing the works of Silicon Valley cyber-utopians and orthodox economists at Oxford and M.I.T., Livingston insists that algorithms and robotization will reduce the workforce by half within twenty years and that this is unstoppable, like some perverse natural process. "The measurable trends of the past half-century, and the plausible projections for the next half-century, are just too empirically grounded to dismiss as dismal science or ideological hokum," he concludes. "They look like the data on climate change-you can deny them if you like, but you'll sound like a moron when you do."

Livingston's response to this "empirical," "measurable," and apparently undeniable doomsday scenario is to embrace the collapse of working life without regret. "Fuck work" is Livingston's slogan for moving beyond the demise of work, transforming a negative condition into a positive sublation of collective life.

In concrete terms, this means implementing progressive taxation to capture corporate earnings, and then redistributing this money through a " Universal Basic Income ," what in his book is described as a "minimum annual income for every citizen." Such a massive redistribution of funds would sever the historical relationship between work and wages, in Livingston's view, freeing un- and underemployed persons to pursue various personal and communal ends. Such a transformation is imminently affordable, since there are plenty of corporate funds to seize and redirect to those in need. The deeper problem, as Livingston sees it, is a moral one. We must rebuff the punishing asceticism of the Protestant work ethic and, instead, reorganize the soul on more free and capacious bases.

Lest we get the wrong idea, Livingston maintains that social labor will not simply disappear in a world organized by a tax-funded Universal Basic Income. Rather, he envisions an increasingly automated future, where leisure is our primary preoccupation, social labor becomes entirely voluntary, and ongoing consumption props up aggregate demand. Eschewing utopian plans or prescriptions, he wonders,

What would society and civilisation be like if we didn't have to 'earn' a living-if leisure was not our choice but our lot? Would we hang out at the local Starbucks, laptops open? Or volunteer to teach children in less-developed places, such as Mississippi? Or smoke weed and watch reality TV all day?

Enraged over the explosion of underpaid and precarious service work? Disaffected by soulless administration and info management positions? Indignant about the history of unfree labor that underwrites the history of the so-called "free market"? Want more free time? Not enough work to go around? Well, then, fuck work, declares Livingston. Say goodbye to the old liberal-democratic goal of full employment and bid good riddance to misery, servitude, and precarity.

"Fuck work" has struck a chord with a diverse crowd of readers. Since its release, the essay has garnered more than 350,000 clicks on the Aeon website. The Spanish publication Contexto y Acción has released a translation of the piece. And weeks later, Livingston's rallying cry continues to resonate through social media networks. "Fuck Work" has been enthusiastically retweeted by everyone from Marxists and small "l" liberals to anarchists and tech gurus.

The trouble is that Livingston's "Fuck Work" falls prey to an impoverished and, in a sense, classically Liberal social ontology, which reifies the neoliberal order it aims to transform. Disavowing modern humanity's reliance on broadscale political governance and robust public infrastructures, this Liberal ontology predicates social life on immediate and seemingly "free" associations, while its critical preoccupation with tyranny and coercion eschews the charge of political interdependence and caretaking. Like so many Universal Basic Income supporters on the contemporary Left, Livingston doubles down on this contracted relationality. Far from a means to transcend neoliberal governance, Livingston's triumphant negation of work only compounds neoliberalism's two-faced retreat from collective governance and concomitant depoliticization of social production and distribution.

In a previous contribution to Arcade, I critiqued the Liberal conception of money upon which Marxists such as Livingston unquestionably rely. According to this conception, money is a private, finite and alienable quantum of value, which must be wrested from private coffers before it can be made to serve the public purpose. By contrast, Modern Monetary Theory contends that money is a boundless and fundamentally inalienable public utility. That utility is grounded in political governance. And government can always afford to support meaningful social production, regardless of its ability to capture taxes from the rich. The result: employment is always and everywhere a political decision, not merely a function of private enterprise, boom and bust cycles, and automation. There is therefore nothing inevitable about underemployment and the misery it induces. In no sense are we destined for a "jobless future."

Thus upon encountering Aeon Magazine's tagline for Livingston's piece-"What if jobs are not the solution, but the problem?"-I immediately began wondering otherwise.

What if we rebuffed the white patriarchal jargon of full employment, which keeps millions of poor, women, and minorities underemployed and imprisoned? What if, in lieu of this liberal-democratic ruse, we made an all-inclusive and well-funded federal Job Guarantee the basis for a renewed leftist imaginary?

What if we stopped believing that capitalists and automation are responsible for determining how and when we labor together? What if we quit imagining that so-called "leisure" spontaneously organizes itself like the laissez-faire markets we elsewhere decry?

What if we created a public works system, which set a just and truly livable wage floor for the entire economy? What if we made it impossible for reprehensible employers like Walmart to exploit the underprivileged, while multiplying everyone's bargaining powers? What if we used such a system to decrease the average work day, to demand that everyone has healthcare, and to increase the quality of social participation across public and private sectors? What if economic life was no longer grounded solely in the profit motive?

What if we cared for all of our children, sick, and growing elderly population? What if we halved teacher-student ratios across all grade levels? What if we built affordable homes for everyone? What if there was a community garden on every block? What if we made our cities energy efficient? What if we expanded public libraries? What if we socialized and remunerated historically unpaid care work? What if public art centers became standard features of neighborhoods? What if we paid young people to document the lives of retirees?

What if we guaranteed that Black lives really matter ? What if, in addition to dismantling the prison industrial complex, we created a rich and welcoming world where everyone, citizen or not, has the right to participation and care?

What if private industry's rejection of workers freed the public to organize social labor on capacious, diverse, and openly contested premises?

What if public works affirmed inclusion, collaboration, and difference? What if we acknowledged that the passions of working life are irreducible to a largely mythical Protestant work ethic? What if questioning the meaning and value of work become part of working life itself?

What if we predicated social critique on terms that are not defined by the neoliberal ideology that we wish to circumvent?

What if we radically affirmed our dependence on the public institutions that support us? What if we forced government to take responsibility for the system it already conditions?

What if we admitted that there are no limits to how we can care for one another and that, as a political community, we can always afford it?

Livingston's argument cannot abide such questions. Hence the Left's reply to "fuck work" should be clear: fuck that.

1 0 24 0 0 This entry was posted in Credit markets , Economic fundamentals , Free markets and their discontents , Guest Post , Income disparity , Politics , Social policy , Social values , The destruction of the middle class on January 5, 2017 by Yves Smith .
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Subscribe to Post Comments 131 comments BecauseTradition , January 5, 2017 at 4:58 am

Again the seemingly endless conflation of work, good, with being a wage slave, not so good. Progressives would do well to focus on justice and that does not include making victims work for restitution. One would think Progressives would wish to f@uck wage slavery, not perpetuate it.

Finally, humans are social animals. Work provides a community. If you are extraverted and need to be around people during the day, it's hard to create enough opportunities for interaction on your own. Yves Smith

I solve that problem with volunteer labor at a local laundry. I do it ONLY when my favorite worker is there because I like her, she has a family to support, she is overworked, she is in constant pain from fibromyalgia, has carpal tunnel syndrome and because of the interesting people I get to see there.

How can I afford to do meaningful work for free? Because I'm retired and have a guaranteed income from Social Security and a small pension.

And let's be honest. A guaranteed job as opposed to a guaranteed income is meant to boost wages by withholding labor from the private sector. But who needs wages with an adequate guaranteed income?

cocomaan , January 5, 2017 at 8:58 am

I'll also piggyback onto this, even though I am not keen on basic income until I see a little more work put into it.

Many people aren't actually contributing anything in any given work environment in our current system. To expect differently if we have a guaranteed jobs program seems naive.

In the administrative structures I've worked under (both private and non profit, often interacting with government), many workers have obstructionist compliance responsibilities. Decisions are put off through nonsense data gathering and reporting, signatures in triplicate, etc. It's why I've become a huge proponent of the Garbage Can theory of administration: most of the work being done is actually to connect or disconnect problems from decision making. When it comes down to it, there are only a few actual decision makers within an organization, with everyone else there to CYA. That goes for any bureaucracy, private or public.

David Graeber has detailed the "bullshit jobs" phenomenon pretty well, and dismantles bureaucracy in his book, and says all this better than I. But the federal job guarantee seems like a path to a bureaucratic hell. Of course, an income guarantee for the disabled, mental, physical, otherwise, is absolutely critical.

Left in Wisconsin , January 5, 2017 at 11:46 am

There is no magic bullet, whether JG or UBI. But I think the author and Yves are absolutely correct in asserting that there is no workable UBI under the current political economy. It would by definition not meet the needs its proponents claim it could because private (and non-profit!) employers would scream about how it was raising labor costs and otherwise destroying the "real" "productive" economy. A UBI after the revolution? Perhaps. Before? Extremely problematic.

On the other hand, a JG that emphasized care work (including paying people to parent) and energy efficiency would meet screaming needs in our society and provide many people with important new skills, many of which would be transferable to the private economy. But even here, the potential pitfalls and problems are numerous, and there would no doubt be stumbles and scandals.

Jesper , January 5, 2017 at 1:35 pm

Two things:
1. Goverments can hire people without a JG, the argument that the JG is necessary for the goverment to find employees is therefore not a very convincing argument.
2. Increasing and enforcing reduced hours an employer can demand of a worker will strengthen the bargaining position of all workers. But the people advocating the JG appears to see the reduced hours of work as a bad thing? People get to meet people at work but the more pleasant interaction (to me) comes outside of work with the same people.

How many paid days off should a person in JG get? As many as Germans get? Or the Japanese? Or?
When can a person in JG retire? At 60? 65? 70? When does work in JG stop being a blessing and instead living at leisure is the bliss? Are we all to be assumed to live for work?

And finally: If income guarantee is too liberal, isn't job-guarantee too much of one of its opposites – totalitarian?

Lambert Strether , January 5, 2017 at 2:28 pm

Why on earth is a Jobs Guarantee totalitarian?

Jesper , January 5, 2017 at 3:12 pm

most people are not creative and need structure and pressure to get anything done.

How does JG put pressure and structure onto people?

lyman alpha blob , January 5, 2017 at 3:46 pm

I think a combination of both would be best. As has been said many times here, a lot of current jobs are complete BS anyway and I don't really want to be guaranteed a job just so I can take the dirt out of Boss Keen's ditch and then put it back in.

Then there's automation which has already taken away a lot of jobs and will continue to do so. That's not a bad thing as long as people are still getting an income.

As there likely isn't enough productive work to go around, ideally there would be a UBI and instead of a job guarantee, have a minimal job requirement . That exact amount of work required could be tinkered with, but maybe it's a couple days a week, a few months a year, or something similar. You'd have to report to work in order to be able to collect your UBI when your work was no longer required.

When you're not doing required work, you can relax and live off your UBI or engage in some sort of non-essential free enterprise.

Yves Smith Post author , January 5, 2017 at 3:53 pm

I don't know what sort of fantasy land you live in. Being an adult means doing stuff that is not fun so that you and your family can survive. This is the nature of the human condition, from the hunter-gatherer phases of existence onward. You see to believe that you have the right to be paid for doing stuff you enjoy. And the sort of jobs you deem to be "bullshit jobs" would seem like paradise to coal miners or people who had to go backbreaking manual work or factory workers in sweatshops in the 19th century. Go read Dickens or Karl Marx to get some perspective.

Kurt Sperry , January 5, 2017 at 4:07 pm

Was this meant to be a reply to cocomaan's post? It seems like it's replying to something else.

If I understand "Bullshit jobs" aren't bullshit because they are unpleasant to do, but because they are to some significant degree unproductive or even counterproductive. Administrative bloat in acedemia is pretty much the gold standard here from my perspective. They are great jobs to have and to do, just useless, unnecessary, and often counterproductive ones. High rise office buildings are, I have always suspected, staffed with a lot of these well paid administrative types of bullshit jobs.

rd , January 5, 2017 at 4:12 pm

The Civilian Conservation Corps is, to my mind, the single most important civilian jobs program of the past century because it provided millions of people meaningful work at a time when they could not get it.

The military also provides a similar function to many people with no other way out of a poor situation. It is likely that one of the reasons that there was such a huge economic post WW II economic boom is because many people (men and women) learned discipline and skills in the military and industrial work places during WW II.

Problems with deadlines are the key drivers for productivity. If there are no problems defined with no deadline, then most people will simply drift. Occasionally a Faraday, Edison, or Einstein will show up who will simply endlessly grind through theoretical and experimental failures on ill-defined problems to come up with something brilliant. Even Maxwell needed Faraday's publications of his experiments showing electro-magnetic fields to get him to come up with his great equations.

Waldenpond , January 5, 2017 at 12:33 pm

The assumption that work (for profit) is good is very entrenched in culture. The argument that people aren't motivated to work (Americans are lazy) is disputed by the sheer amount of 'volunteerism' (unpaid labor).

Corporations are not going to give up on marketing jobs as they get the vast benefit of labors efforts.No one system works it will take employee ownership to counteract the negatives of private ownership and a ubi along with a job guarantee and expenditures on leisure to shift from a consumer based economy.

I always thought that people were supposed to argue for more than they want and then settle. Here the argument is always on the right side of the political spectrum capitalism and private ownership. Privatize schools and then use a transfer of wealth through taxes and a captured labor force to work in them?

swendr , January 5, 2017 at 5:27 am

Job guarantee all the way, as long as our bosses aren't dicks. We've already kicked people off of public assistance and into shitty underpaid jobs. If having a job is so important, there should always be a good one available. And anyone that can't or won't work can live off a limited basic income. Makes for a smooth and just transition too when our dirty, dull, and dangerous industries are shut down or automated out of existence.

philnc , January 5, 2017 at 10:42 am

Which brings us, along the way, to the need for meaningful educational opportunities for those who the system has heretofore failed.

Concrete case in point. My cousin is a young, single mom in central North Carolina who works hard but is just barely scraping by. Recently my wife and I decided to help her out by giving her the money she'd need to get broadband service so that she and her teenage daughter could take advantage of free, high quality online resources like ( , check it out if you haven't yet). But actually getting her hooked up has been a challenge because the Internet provider Duopoly dropped their most affordable plans sometime last year (around $15/mo) so that the cost will now be a minimum of $40/mo before modem rental, taxes and whatever other fees the carriers can dream up (for the techs out there, even DSL costs $35/mo in that service area). This in a state where there's a law prohibiting local governments from providing Internet services to its citizens in competition with the Duopoly, and where a private initiative like Google Fiber has stumbled so badly that it actually has had a negative impact on price competition.

Of course you might say this is a first world problem, heck at least we have (semi) affordable electricity nowadays. But this happens to be a first world country, where big business pushes paperless constantly to cut its own costs and a semester in college is basically the price of a recent model preowned sedan, _every semester_.

So, a guaranteed job for everyone PLUS the resources to learns what's needed to obtain a job that's more than another dead-end.

P.S. Anyone who has ever tried to use free Internet services at their local library knows that's not a viable option both because of restrictive timeouts and bandwidth caps.

Waldenpond , January 5, 2017 at 1:01 pm

Bosses will be more likely to be dicks when their employees are a captured labor pool. If you don't comply with commands you'll be out of your 'job guarantee'.

jgordon , January 5, 2017 at 5:37 am

I support Yves' idea for a basic income as a default position for disabled people. Although I'll advocate for something a bit different if possible for the ambulatory: instead of a monetary income, let's provide free basic rations and solar panels, along with a small plot of land in a rural area, free gardening and household supplies, (including free seeds that are appropriate for the given area). And free classes in ecology, cooking, composting, soil management, blacksmithing, carpentry, appropriate technolies and any other good stuff I happen to think of.

As for what the guest poster wrote–well he seems like a good guy but this social justice warrior thing is a dying fad that'll provoke a very unpleasant counter reaction if it keeps up for much longer. I'm positive that Trump garnered thousands of votes in those vital Midwestern swing states thanks to the highly visible sjw activities on campuses, and theis backlash is only going to increase as this goes on.

Moneta , January 5, 2017 at 8:01 am

I have a son with a disability. Without a job, he would watch movies all day.

With a job he becomes a productive part of society. He loves it and he is dedicated. It also gives him the opportunity to bond with people which is hard when you don't have full autonomy because of some aspects of your disability.

From my personal experience, a large percentage of people with a disabilities would prefer a job to income guarantee.

And many would be quite happy with what most consider shit jobs.

Arizona Slim , January 5, 2017 at 9:56 am

Amen, Moneta!

My mom shops at a store that hires intellectually disabled people to do things like shopping cart roundups and bagging customers' groceries. These aren't the kinds of jobs that most of us would flock to, but that's our perspective.

Uahsenaa , January 5, 2017 at 10:25 am

I have to second this. Having worked briefly with developmentally challenged students, they have a much easier go of things when they feel empowered, when they feel like they have some control over their lives, despite the challenges they face. Rendering them even more helpless simply increases frustration and exacerbates existing problems.

Which I think should be brought into the larger argument. It surprises me that any Marxist worth her salt would glomp onto this, when, it seems, the purpose is to further alienate people from the means of production and control over the political economy. When Silicon Valley types and Charles Murray are arguing for it, you have to wonder what the underlying reasons might be. Murray never met a poor or uneducated person he didn't want to drive into the ground, so I find it rather curious that he would suddenly be all for a form of social welfare.

And as to the boss point above, there's nothing stopping anyone from making the jobs program have a cooperative structure. As the article says, these are all political choices, not naturally occurring phenomena.

Romancing The Loan , January 5, 2017 at 12:00 pm

When Silicon Valley types and Charles Murray are arguing for it, you have to wonder what the underlying reasons might be.

My tankie friends on Twitter think that basic income is a trojan horse that's going to be used to try and trick the American public into ending Social Security and Medicare. They're usually right, sadly.

Stephanie , January 5, 2017 at 1:47 pm

It seems to me as if basic income would also be a great excuse to chip away even further at the idea if public education and single-payer health care as social goods. If your parents aren't able to shell out for them, well, you don't need to be healthy or literate to recieve UBI.

lyman alpha blob , January 5, 2017 at 3:49 pm

If there were both a UBI and a job requirement rather than a job guarantee, that might solve the problem you mentioned.

If everyone were required to work a certain amount in essential services like housing, food production, health care, etc before they could collect a UBI, that would require a trained and healthy workforce.

Lambert Strether , January 5, 2017 at 2:52 pm

Yep. The level will be set by the requirements for rental extraction, and nothing else. There will be no surplus over that amount.

RC , January 5, 2017 at 12:58 pm

As a disabed person myself I would argue it's not jobs that disabled people are necessarily after, it's being able to actively participate in society in a contributing, meaningful and productive way, to be included in something with a purpose, a purpose you believe in. If income is not an issue, most people would still engage in projects. Your son would watch movies all day only because there is no better role to play, we are at a transition stage where disabled people, still considered invalids, are being discovered to be not so invalid.

I take issue with the notion that disabled people would be happy to do any deadend work. We deserve more and better than that, everyone does.

I'm a deaf person with a talent which fintech wants and needs, which so happens to be ensuring our tech is accessible, inclusve, making it so much better; so disabled people can truly participate in society, to do all the same things tech supposedly does to liberate while making it truly liberating for all.

But we are also socially responsible for finding meaningful and significant work for the talents disabled people actually have, as opposed to getting them to do something stupid because it's something to do and they're disabled and so should be satisfied with whatever they get. We're not vegetables, nobody is. So that goes for non-disabled folks too.

Which brings us to the heart of this UBI/JG discussion, either you're coming to this from a perspective of people should have jobs, any job, cuz they're basically vegetables or some kind of autonomous machination which goes through motions and capitalism doesn't work without those machinations so there's some kind of moral imperative to labour or wage slavery, and the measure or class of a person is whether they are jobbed machinations/slaves, or UBI/JG is secondary to the question of are people as a whole happy and doing what they'd rather be doing, are they truly participating in society, as part of the human project.

That's the reality most corporations are facing at the moment. The meaning and nature of "work" itself is undergoing change, becoming "play", as capitalism shoots itself in the foot and in the drive for profit either necessitates socialism and classlessness, or mass social upheaval and less profits.


Waldenpond , January 5, 2017 at 1:41 pm

Thank you. It gets tiresome that the default is people are lazy. People are describing what seems to be human nature . the desire to connect with others and to contribute.

Laughingsong , January 5, 2017 at 1:49 pm

After reading some of these arguments, and thinking about what I have experienced and seen, I think there are merits to both approaches (UBI and JG). From experience I can't entirely agree with Yves that people would remain unskilled and not pursue activities that engage with others and improve their lives and skills. Perhaps this is because I have always been fascinated by and have known many Hippy communities. I live in Eugene Oregon now, but grew up in San Francisco. The running joke I was told was that all the hippies left SF and came to Eugene because there were no jobs :-). I did see hippy groups in SF that did pretty much nothing but play all day. They didn't last. However, here in Eugene I see many lasting legacies of what they built after they "dropped out"; many if not most of my favorite businesses were created by these people: the alternative groceries like Sundance (supposedly Whole Foods was purported to model themselves after this store-bah!) and Kiva and Growers Market, the Saturday and Farmers Markets, Tsunami books. The Oregon Country Fair, the coops. Not all were directly started by "hippies" per se but the early hippy groups did much to create a culture and an environment that encourages this.

I also know a lot of people here that work "precariously" and there are times when work is hard to come by. But these people do not seem to sit around, they find other things to do, like learn about gardening, or get skills volunteering for Bring recycling (they do things like find creative re-use or "decom" houses slated for demolition and take out useful items), or Habitat for Humanity, or Center for Appropriate Transport (bicycle and human powered), or local tree planting and park cleanup. They often find work this way, and make connections, and get new skills. They don't have to But they want to stay active and involved.

This is why I think UBI is not such a bad thing.. I know many people who would benefit and still do many things like I've described I also am aware that there are more general tasks that society needs doing and that is where the JG might come in. But maybe Eugene is too much of an exception?

Of course, all this is besides what these policies may be used for by the PTB. That's an entirely different discussion; here I am arguing the merits, not the agendas.

Moneta , January 5, 2017 at 2:52 pm

I was careful to use the word many and not all people with disabilities.

My son has an intellectual disability. He needs to be instructed and the routine will not come on its own unless it is well practiced. But as long as someone is directing, he does great work.

It is obvious by your post that the menial job he would enjoy does not correspond to what you could offer the world!

I spent hours holding him in the NICU, worrying about his future until one day, instead of feeling sorry for the both of us, I looked around and noticed a regular guy, apathetic looking, spending his entire day cleaning and disinfecting the room then the thought came to me that someone with special needs could do the same job and actually be happy.

Around that time, I read an article about the problems they were now encountering with the integration of people with special needs in France. It would seem that when the job became boring, many would just stop showing up to work Why bother when the state and society has always been there for support that's what happens when individuals never get to feel true independence.

Any action that produces a good or a service is a form of work. Hugging is a service. So are smiling and cleaning a toilet.

For some reason we have huge trouble putting monetary value on many of the most essential services.

We are also having a very hard time filling the jobs with individuals who have the right skill set and temperament.

I don't know how we solve these issues.

rd , January 5, 2017 at 4:20 pm

Amidst the miserable news of 2016, this uplifting story of a woman with Down's syndrome retiring after working 32 years restored my faith in the potential of humanity.

Waldenpond , January 5, 2017 at 1:38 pm

Oy .. make the disabled do hard labor of agriculture? Blind? Deaf around heavy machinery? Wheelchairs on plowed land?

You are proposing this as it seems enriching, gets them out of your community, and is economically sound. This lifestyle choice should apply to everyone. Let any who want do this and you will have removed people from the labor pool (made up unemployment number magically goes down) less resource consumption.

Marco , January 5, 2017 at 5:39 am

Thanks Yves for pounding this issue. As a former lazy BIG'er I am naturally wired to stare at my navel all day. I think at the heart of it we have an existential problem with toil. Tcherneva's succinct take-down of BIG vs JG also set me on the straight and narrow. Plus she spanks Yglesias which is always enjoyable.

Marco , January 5, 2017 at 8:51 am

My biggest quibble with JG is that "work" often involves needless consumption. Most people (in America) require a car and 1-2 dangerous hours a day getting to and from "work". Personally this is a very good reason NOT to work.

Leigh , January 5, 2017 at 8:59 am

1-2 dangerous hours a day getting to and from "work".

The reason I get to work 2 hours before I'm required to is because I find driving to work is the most stressful part of my day. I commute while the roads are quiet. The deterioration in driving etiquette is maddening. It is dog eat dog out there. The fact that we are all flying around at 70 MPH in 4,000 pounds of steel and glass is lost on most drivers.

dontknowitall , January 5, 2017 at 12:58 pm

I think there should be an indicator on the dashboard showing the probability of surviving a frontal impact at your current road speed, people might slow down as they saw the number approach zero

George Phillies , January 5, 2017 at 6:12 am

"If you are extraverted and need to be around people during the day, it's hard to create enough opportunities for interaction on your own."
People have all sorts of mental quirks, but to what extent do we rig society to handle them? As a justification for work, this one sounds expensive.

I Have Strange Dreams , January 5, 2017 at 7:01 am

We are social creatures. That's not a quirk, just a fact. The average work environment already has people with various "quirks". Some are chatty, some not. Not a big deal, no need for a radical redesign.

As for costs – unemployment imposes devastating costs in sickness, addiction, crime, etc. JG is a no-brainer. It's been tried with great success in Argentina. It works. There's a slogan for ya: Work Works .

roadrider , January 5, 2017 at 8:05 am

We are social creatures.

Well, OK, but we all vary in the level of our sociability. Some need people around them all the time others value their solitude and still others are in between.

That's not a quirk, just a fact.

One that you're overstating.

The average work environment already has people with various "quirks". Some are chatty, some not. Not a big deal,

Actually, it is a big deal since noise and lack of privacy are two of the biggest problems in today's workplaces, particularly those with "open work space" designs. I speak from personal experience here.

no need for a radical redesign.

Ummm, yeah, there actually is.

Massinissa , January 5, 2017 at 1:41 pm

Whether or not JG is the answer or not, there is most definitely a need for a radical redesign of the capitalist workplace

jgordon , January 5, 2017 at 8:15 am

I'd rather be out in the woods spending my time growing fruit trees. I hate people–and reading above about all the inspirational work the government would be giving me and the people I'd have to be around while while doing it left me wondering about whether or not going postal would be a good idea.

Secondly, the wishlist I saw above for everything the government is supposed to be doing to help people was pretty scary. Ehile the intentions might be good, power like this given to government never, ever turns out well for the people. As an example, let's say Scott waved his magic wand and suddenly Trump had all the power and authority he needed to accomplish everything on Scott's list today. Alright, now try to imagine just how awful the next four years would be. Not good!

Uahsenaa , January 5, 2017 at 10:32 am

I sympathize with the desire to just be alone and do your own thing–I'm like that as well–but I think you're missing an important aspect of the argument, one which Tcherneva makes more forcefully, which is that there is a knock on benefit of people being more engaged in public life: they are harder to politically disenfranchise. I wouldn't be surprise if one of the reasons why elites are so gung ho about UBI is that it would serve to further alienate people and fragment communities, thus preventing them from organizing anything like meaningful resistance to state power.

Also, Ferguson kind of already addressed this:

What if private industry's rejection of workers freed the public to organize social labor on capacious, diverse, and openly contested premises?

Tivvy , January 5, 2017 at 11:26 am

The problem with a JG and that line of argument, is that JG does not propose to engage people more in public life than an Unconditional Income, as an Unconditional Income is by definition, far more inclusive of all kinds of work that people may do for others.

You may even do things that nobody in a society approves of, with an Unconditional Income, like trying to prove that the world is round, not flat.

JG got nothing on enabling people to be active citizens. It's a policy to look backwards, or it's so inclusive that it's basically an unconditional income to everyone. You gotta be willed to take a long shot sometimes (increasingly often, looking at the world as it is today and might increasingly be tomorrow), to properly empower people so they can be active citizens.

jsn , January 5, 2017 at 4:03 pm

As best I can tell UI doesn't engage people at all: by what mechanism does UI engage people "more in public life?"

Waldenpond , January 5, 2017 at 1:46 pm

How about we have more public housing I would like to see boarding houses come back but another option could be monastery type living? There could even be separate ones for men, women and families that way you could select a monastery that is focused on agriculture and you could have space away from women.

Laughingsong , January 5, 2017 at 2:00 pm

I sometimes have incredibly vivid dreams. One of them I hade a couple of years ago was somewhat apocolyptic; something had happened (unknown) and I was in a dilapidated city of middlin' size. The blocks of cheek-by-jowl houses and storefronts were all boarded up. But I entered one and found that 1) they had been connected by knocking down walls between them, and 2) the Interior Of the block was completely open. All the buildings faced inward (no boarded windows) and that had been transformed into a Commons with gardens, vegetables, corrals, parklands, small outbuildings. Maybe something like that .

Waldenpond , January 5, 2017 at 3:45 pm

It would never happen but eminent domain should apply to abandoned buildings. If it's been unused for x amount of years, it's raffled off for public use . housing, education etc. Heck, it could apply to manufacturing. If a corp wants to leave, don't let the door hitcha, but that building is going to the employees as a coop as competition is as good for the goose as it is for the gander.

I would imagine more people will be having dreams like yours if things keep declining and people try to imagine what's next.

jjmacjohnson , January 5, 2017 at 6:54 am

Actually I know a few artist who won the Guggenheim Award and I beg to differ. Art is not something that given bunch of money produces great work. It comes with time and time spent contemplating and thinking. Most of the artists who won had to work to pay the bills before. Many were teachers and many still are. There are so few fine artists who just make art. The 1980s really pulled the wool over non-artists eyes.

Case in point since getting the grant, not right after of course, Cara Walker made one the best pieces of her career. A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby, an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant.

Plus she continues to teach.

timround2 , January 5, 2017 at 7:09 am

She won the MacArthur Foundation Award.

Yves Smith Post author , January 5, 2017 at 3:58 pm

Sorry, it was MacArthur Foundation grant winners who typically do not do much during the grant period. Fixing the post.

Disturbed Voter , January 5, 2017 at 6:55 am

Job guarantee maybe, but not corvee. We can have jobs for everyone, if we build pyramids. Forced labor is totalitarian. But entitlement and free lunches are destructive of society. Neo-liberalism involves entitlement and free lunch for some people, and for some countries (I see what you are doing to everyone else USA, GB, Germany, Japan). Entitlement isn't just for individuals. I love my work, as long as it is "sort of" a free choice. Economic necessity works for most of us, and while wage and debt slavery aren't fun, they are both better than chattel slavery.

I Have Strange Dreams , January 5, 2017 at 7:05 am

In a country like the USA, the only limit on socially useful, meaningful work for everyone is the will and creativity to do it. Off the top of my head I can think of more programs that could be implemented than people to fill them.

Moneta , January 5, 2017 at 8:26 am

I agree. But the problem seems to reside in the link between the services and the hard goods.

One is unlimited while the other is limited so the human tendency is to use money from the unlimited side and consume/stock up/hoard the hard goods creating a scarcity.

I don't see how we can solve that problem with property rights as they are protected now.

In my mind, land and resources would have to be a common good why should someone get the waterfront property or more arable land or pools of oil just because of a birthright or some other non sharing policy.

Going even further, why should some groups/countries benefit from resources while not sharing with others?

Lots of sharing problems to deal with nationally and globally before we get it right

For the last few decades, our system has been based on debt to income and debt to GDP. Those nations and individuals who loaded up on it did ok . so we did not think of the fair distribution of resources.

But now that debt levels are hitting what we consider ceilings we will be changing the rules of the game you know what happens when someone decides to invent their own rules in a board game midway through the game!

All this to say that even if we guarantee jobs the physical world of resources will constrain us.

Waldenpond , January 5, 2017 at 3:56 pm

There needs to be a shift from work and consumption to leisure. Leisure is infinite . walking trails, biking trails, parks, movies/music in the parks (our community puts up a big screen and a 150 or so show up with lawn chairs, snacks and blankets), art shows, community theatre, festivals, music, picnic areas, chess/checkers concrete tables .

I want to start a game library: sort of a pub/restaurant with games. Have a bite, beer and a game of scrabble. I like the idea of pub nites with quiz events. If there were public buildings, gathering spaces would not have to make a 'profit', public health would be the benefit.

schultz , January 5, 2017 at 7:13 am

"What if public works affirmed inclusion, collaboration, and difference? What if we acknowledged that the passions of working life are irreducible to a largely mythical Protestant work ethic? What if questioning the meaning and value of work become part of working life itself?

"What if we predicated social critique on terms that are not defined by the neoliberal ideology that we wish to circumvent?

"What if we radically affirmed our dependence on the public institutions that support us? What if we forced government to take responsibility for the system it already conditions?

"What if we admitted that there are no limits to how we can care for one another and that, as a political community, we can always afford it?"

First, thanks for this article – this is a good and interesting debate to have.

It makes me suspicious that the author's sort of trump-card, climactic 'takedown' of UBI is a series of questions rather than answers. Things which even the author can't figure out the answer to, apparently, so how can they expect UBI to have the answers.

Think about the answers (i.e. in terms of, policy changes to people's material lives) to the questions posed above. What would any of those policies look like? Who knows?

My point is, it's easy to make things (including UBI) look dumb by comparing them to impossibly high vague standards like "no limits to how we can care for one another."

If the author had a better more concrete, specific reason why UBI is bad, they would have used that, yeah?

Tivvy , January 5, 2017 at 11:47 am

In my view, Unconditional Incomes answer these questions without being wasteful of human life, and with being unconditionally pro-labor, as opposed to being conditionally pro labor as a JG would be. JG only empowers labor that is recognized immediately, by some body of people who do not represent the valuations of all who are part of society.

Unconditional Incomes recognize labor that only later might generate appreciable results, and it recognizes broad valuation of the fine grained process where it is societally worthwhile, as individuals perceive it. If understood as enablement and pay for all labor related time, unconditionally.

Pay beyond that would be representation of how much respect you command, how much you desire to obtain monopoly incomes, and how much you might hate a job. But not the labor value. That's what unconditional incomes can provide. To the guy writing open source for a greater benefit to many, to the hardworking construction worker whose job involves a lot of undesirable factors (for which he may demand additional comensation), to the superstar/superbrand owner who seeks to maximize customer awareness and monetization with a blend of natural and artificial marketing and monopolization strategies, and to the guy who strategically maximizes market incomes to do even greater things for society than what he could be doing with just writing open source.

On that note, thanks Amazon for pushing the envelope. At least for the time being. We can financially burden all of these market/rent incomes to provide unconditional (labor) incomes, to ensure that there's not too much emphasis on just cashing in on your good (brand) name and market position. Coca Cola is a prime example for what such a cashing in would look like. Customers are beasts of convenience, unless there's breakthroughs that radically improve on some process of delivery or production, that somehow isn't taken notice of by the big brand, before another active citizen takes the opportunity to compete by help of it.

tl;dr: No to turning society into a glorified Arnish settlement, yes to Amazon as it is today, though with a higher tax burden, yes to unconditional incomes, yes to political activism, independent research, parenting work, work for being a decent person among equal people that may look however like you chose.

jsn , January 5, 2017 at 12:17 pm

Its way back up there at the top:

BIG was tried before with disastrous results. When a BIG program can be proven to address its deep and complex past failure, it may be worth a try. I agree with Yves on when and where an IG is appropriate until someone somewhere test drives a better one.

Tivvy , January 5, 2017 at 2:00 pm

Don't worry, most UBI experiments and proposals nowadays aren't 'Income Guarantees' but rather Unconditional payments to all, or Tapered negative income tax proposals (britain's RSA has a UBI equivalent NIT proposal like that at least), on top of which people could earn more. Only experienceing regular taxation or a modest clawback rate of the benefit.

UBI is commonly understood to not be a top-up to the same point for everyone as the speenhamland system was, which of course destroys motivation to expose oneself to a strenuous environment, when you can't actually get compensated for your troubles. Any sensible person would tell you that the speenhamland system was an insane offer to the people, it asked of people to work for free, basically.

As for UBI experiments, they're generally rather encouraging. Particularly this coincidental observation might give prove to be useful, if you're concerned about the timely restricted nature of pilot projects/experiments.

jsn , January 5, 2017 at 5:37 pm

By what mechanism does UI prevent employers from bidding down wages? As Yves post form last year says, "Taxes would therefore need to be increased to offset those effects. The best tax outcome you could expect would be a progressive tax on income. Thus the end result in a best-case scenario would be tantamount to a means-tested BIG, graduated so as to avoid any sudden cutoff for someone who wanted to work. Thus the result (whether achieved directly or indirectly) is likely to resemble Milton Friedman's negative income tax, with the zero tax rate set at a living wage level." Meaning the UI just pushes free money into an otherwise unchanged system incentivized from the top down to soak that money back up and out.

So pushing more money into the system just inflates the system while sustaining the ongoing upward redistribution.

Thus: "The trouble is that Livingston's "Fuck Work" falls prey to an impoverished and, in a sense, classically Liberal social ontology, which reifies the neoliberal order it aims to transform. Disavowing modern humanity's reliance on broadscale political governance and robust public infrastructures, this Liberal ontology predicates social life on immediate and seemingly "free" associations, while its critical preoccupation with tyranny and coercion eschews the charge of political interdependence and caretaking. Like so many Universal Basic Income supporters on the contemporary Left, Livingston doubles down on this contracted relationality. Far from a means to transcend neoliberal governance, Livingston's triumphant negation of work only compounds neoliberalism's two-faced retreat from collective governance and concomitant depoliticization of social production and distribution."

craazyamn , January 5, 2017 at 7:33 am

It sounds like it's is going to be a lot of work - to abolish work.

Who's gonna do all the work involved? LOL.

If you think of sub-cultures where nobody works - like ancient Roman nobles, Europes aristocrats, gang-bangers, southern antebellum planters– mostly they got into fights about nonsense and then killed each other. That is something to consider.

craazyboy , January 5, 2017 at 9:05 am

The crap jobs will be the easiest to get rid of, but then we won't have any necessary goods and services. The Romans knew this, which is why they had a pretty good run before collapsing.

OTOH, with so much more humanity getting their creative juices going, we could end up with lots and lots of art. There would be so much art, it would probably be given away for free!

Then there is the start your own biz path. I've been keeping an eye on our local self serve dog wash. The sign outside changed to "Self Service Pet Wash". Has me wondering what's that all about. Expanding the biz into cats, hamsters, parrots and turtles maybe? Good to see success in the entrepreneurial class, but then I wonder if that's really for everyone and there may need to be some larger organizational structure geared towards producing some more complex thing or service. Dunno, but that could be food for thought as a next step for analysis in this whole job creation subject.

craazyman , January 5, 2017 at 12:06 pm

If anybody actually expects to get paid for their "art", that's when all hell will break loose.

A self-service dog wash is interesting, but if you let a dog wash itself it may not do a good job. Dogs hate to get washed. I'm not sure if this is gonna work.

craazyboy , January 5, 2017 at 6:06 pm

Good point. But there is risk in business. Any businessman knows that.

cocomaan , January 5, 2017 at 9:06 am

Kwame Anthony Appiah talks about the end to duels in his book on Honor. It's interesting stuff.

One takeaway I remember is that the lower classes actually began to clamor for an end to the idea that murder was okay if you were in the upper classes, since dueling was a matter of challenging, preserving, and reifying an upper class. The other way to look at it is that the lower classes wanted in on the action.

It also ended when everyone was embarrassed and fed up that their leaders were slaying each other by night.

craazyman , January 5, 2017 at 7:36 am

Great philosophical thougths are cauught. In the Moderbator!

Even the moderbator is already working to thwart illumination and enlightenment. That should be a lesson of some sort. I'm not sure what though. That wouldd mean mental work. I'll do it but it's still kind of early. I'll do it later.

From Cold Mountain , January 5, 2017 at 7:38 am

Yup. There is a big difference between work in a Capitalist ecosystem and work in an Anarchistic ecosystem. In the first you have to ask for a Universal Basic Income and equality, etc. In the second there is no need to ask for it.

So maybe "F@ck Work" is really "F@ck Capitalism" or "F@ck Authoritarianism", but they just don't quite get it yet.

Carolinian , January 5, 2017 at 8:33 am

Agreed that what the author is really saying is f@ck capitalism. Pretending it's all about the current fad for neoliberalism ignores the reality that neoliberalism is simply old fashioned laissez-faire capitalism with better excuses. The problem with left utopianism is that human nature works against it. So the author's "what ifs" don't carry a lot of intellectual punch. What if we all loved each other? Well, we don't.

Personally I'd rather just have the BIG and the freedom. The Right may be just as paranoid as the Left when they claim all forms of government social engineering are totalitarian but there is a grain of truth there. Neither side seems to have a very firm grasp of the human problems that need to be solved in order for society to work.

JTFaraday , January 5, 2017 at 4:18 pm

"neoliberalism is simply old fashioned laissez-faire capitalism with better excuses"

I think it has worse excuses, actually. No excuses. There is no excuse for the centrally managed wealth extraction in the name of "markets" that we have been seeing since Bill Clinton made nice with Goldman Sachs in the 1990s.

Pelham , January 5, 2017 at 7:52 am

While MMT correctly conceives of money as a limitless resource, what it doesn't take into account is the fact that continuing to allow vast accumulations of the stuff at the top of the economy inevitably translates into political power.

And I suspect that those with such power, principally the financial industry, will work assiduously to reinforce conventional notions of money as finite, which in turn enhances their power and their ability to profit from widespread misery.

Higgs Boson , January 5, 2017 at 9:15 am

That is the taproot of The Big Lie – keeping the masses convinced of money scarcity, which goes hand-in-hand with scare mongering on the national "debt". The delegitimizing of the national currency as worthless IOUs, mere "scraps of paper".

The .01%, who have accumulated political power through this con, will not just give it up.

It reminds me of the (probably apocryphal) anecdote about Queen Victoria hearing about Darwin's Origin of Species and asking, "Is it true?"

"I'm afraid so, your majesty."

"Well then, let's hope the commoners don't find out!"

UserFriendly , January 5, 2017 at 7:58 am

Great piece!!! Does anyone know of any proposals or white papers for a State or City wide Job Guarantee? Laboratory for democracy or something. I know the lack of a currency printer throws a wrench into the MMT aspects and clearly there would be migration affects greater than on a national scale, but I think that a state or local program would almost necessarily have to come before a national one, or at least would make the debate about a national one less arduous. This is something I am pushing with my state house rep (Raymond Dehn, who recently threw his hat in the ring for Minneapolis's Mayoral contest)

DanB , January 5, 2017 at 8:01 am

"What if we admitted that there are no limits to how we can care for one another and that, as a political community, we can always afford it?" MMT acknowledges that the availability of natural resources is a limit to money creation and, overall, economic growth. I wish this essay had addressed this issue, as I believe we are in the post-peak oil world and still not facing how this fact -peak oil when properly understood is an empirical fact to me- is dismembering modern political economies. Simultaneously, this destruction is proceeding in accord with neoliberal domination.

Moneta , January 5, 2017 at 8:41 am

And most of the time, when I see MMT, it seems to be associated with projects and investments that are incredibly energy and resource intensive.

Many MMT supporters seem to work on the assumption that the US will always have the right to consume an inordinate share of global energy and resources.

Alejandro , January 5, 2017 at 12:36 pm

It seems that many attempting to pigeonhole MMT, seem to not recognize the role of fiscal policy to regulate and modulate. Full employment need not correlate to consuming " an inordinate share of global energy and resources." IMHO, how the term "growth" is often used with and within "economics" seems misleading and disingenuous.

Moneta , January 5, 2017 at 3:13 pm

And Trump has all the answers on how to modulate fiscal policy under MMT?

MMT will not help the people unless the right leaders are modulating.

Alejandro , January 5, 2017 at 4:39 pm

Its not about messianism it's more about recognizing that the constraints on the user are not constraints on the issuer of a currency.

fresno dan , January 5, 2017 at 8:04 am

It seems to me we have done that no work experiment for .OH, 70 years. Its called social security.
Maybe every single person on social security doesn't have as many friends as they should – the book "Bowling Alone" as well as many other publications about the isolation of modern society address what is a problem. But many people with jobs are isolated, as well as not getting social interaction on and off the job. I think if you asked the average social security recipient, the first thing they would want is mo' money, mo' money, MO' MONEY.

People on social security can work, volunteer, follow a hobby or take up one. In CA old folks used to be able to "audit" college classes, where you could attend for free but get no credit. Alas, no longer the case (as well as when I was young and went to college, it was dirt cheap – how did it get so frigging expensive?).
And to the extent old people are isolated, more money would do a lot to allow old people to take cruises and other activities that cost money and give people the opportunity to mingle. I imagine young people would do the same, especially if the stress of wondering where there income would come from was removed.

There were people at work who said they would never retire because they wouldn't be able to fill their time. I find that just sad. Somebody has to give these people something to do because in there whole lives they have never developed any interests?
I was very lucky to have a career that was interesting. It was also frustrating, difficult, and stressful, and besides the friends from work, there were also the assh*les. It was fine for 26, but it was time to move on. And though I thought about getting another job, I have found that not working is ..WONDERFUL.

B1whois , January 5, 2017 at 9:55 am

I also do not work, and I enjoy it. I need to find things to fill my days (other than NC), but this is complicated by not having competence in the local language. I could speed up my citizenship process by getting a job here in Uruguay, but I don't want to go back to a stressful life feeling like I don't have enough time to do interesting things. So learning Spanish is my job now.

Katharine , January 5, 2017 at 10:28 am

as many friends as they should

How about, as many friends as they want? There surely is no obligation to have some number defined by other people.

rusti , January 5, 2017 at 11:18 am

I think if you asked the average social security recipient, the first thing they would want is mo' money, mo' money, MO' MONEY .

And to the extent old people are isolated, more money would do a lot to allow old people to take cruises and other activities that cost money and give people the opportunity to mingle

I suppose it's a much larger ambition in many ways, but I've always thought that a more worthwhile aim than a basic income guarantee would be de-financialization. Private health care and car-based communities put people in the very precarious position of having to worry about their cash buffer for lots of basic survival needs. I live in a country with government-funded health care, and even though my income is a fraction of what I made when I lived in the US it would be easy for me to quit my job and live on savings for an extended period of time, since the only real expenses I have are food and housing, and the other necessities like clothes or bicycle repairs can be done on the cheap when one has lots of free time.

Public transit connecting libraries, parks, community colleges, and other public forums where people can socialize are much preferable to cruise ships!

Lee , January 5, 2017 at 12:52 pm

I too have for years now enjoyed and sometimes struggled with not having to work for money. While my ability to engage in many activities is currently limited by health issues, I have previously gone back to university and earned a degree, learned fine woodworking, volunteered as a charity fundraiser and done field work for the wolf reintroduction program in Yellowstone. I have also spent a lot of time reading, gardening, fixing up my old house, watching movies, political activity, fishing, motorcycling, the list could go on. However, to be honest, I do suspect that the years I did spend working and the earnings therefrom did lay a foundation upon which I could build an edifice more of my own choosing.

Gaylord , January 5, 2017 at 8:07 am

Make work more interesting and rewarding by directing it toward esthetic goals. Promote the arts and education at all ages. Put art, design, music, theater, & crafts back into the curriculum, identify people with special skills & talent, support them and provide venues for learning, exhibits & performances with low- or no- cost access to the public. Elevate culture to the epitome of human achievement in all walks of life and expand involvement. Discourage commercial television watching, especially for children.

jabawocky , January 5, 2017 at 8:12 am

I do wonder if there's a kind of circular argument to this piece, or at least there is a continuum between this job guarentee solution and the basic income. In one sense, it is said that people cannot be left to themselves to create because they just won't. So the solution is some kind of municipal creativity, an entitity which does the creating and then forces people to work on its projects in return for income. The more top down 'new deal'-like this is, then it looks like a JG system. If it can be bottom up, it more closely resembles a basic income.

diptherio , January 5, 2017 at 10:26 am

That's why my personal proposal for a JG incorporates aspects of Participatory Budgeting to determine what jobs are getting done by JG workers:

Basic Income vs. Job Guarantee

Clark Landwehr , January 5, 2017 at 8:21 am

There is little difference, in the real world, between sitting on a park bench all day and sitting in a cubicle filling out spreadsheets, because most jobs are already busy-work. So most people are already doing corvee labor in a totalitarian civilization: digging holes and filling them up again. In a typical office building, the only people who are doing real, productive work are the janitors and maintenance engineers.

Eureka Springs , January 5, 2017 at 8:31 am

I think it would take a long time, as in many generations, to begin to know who we are, what we would do and be without a Protestant work-ethic. It's almost impossible for most to imagine life in some other form just as it's impossible for most to imagine a democratic process, even within just one party. Idle time scares the beejesus out of so many people I know. I've watched people 'retire' and move to these beautiful Ozark mountains for decades and do nothing but destroy them, over and over again, out of boredom and idle guilt. I can't remember the last time I cut down a live tree for firewood.. since there are always mountains of forrest being laid to waste.

But we must face the fact most work is useless, crap, BS, and or outright destructive. MIC and Insurance come to mind immediately. To enforce human work for the sake of it is to perhaps destroy the big blue marble host at – at best an highly accelerated rate. If we keep making ourselves act like drones our world will continue to look like it's what we are doing / who we are. Just drive down any street America built post 1960 looking for something esthetically pleasing, somewhat unique, that isn't either mass produced or designed to fall apart in a few decades or less.

Or maybe with a jobs guarantee we should just outlaw bulldozers, chainsaws, 18 wheelers, private jets, dwellings/offices with more than four units, and large farm equipment.

If we are going to force labor then give every man and woman a shovel or a hoe with their HS diploma – not a gun, not an office for predatory FIRE purposes. That way we wont destroy ourselves so quickly.

Joni sang.. You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone . What about the people who never knew what was there to begin with? Will some of us live long enough to morn the passing of parking lots?

JohnL , January 5, 2017 at 10:03 am

Thank you. When a "job" means profit for someone else and more destruction, consumption, and waste, we fewer "jobs", not more.

Tivvy , January 5, 2017 at 9:21 am

"A job at a decent wage, set by public policy, will eliminate at least 2/3 of poverty. we can then work on eliminating the rest thru compassion."

Doesn't strike me as morally agreeable to reduce the right to nature and ideas that anyone may reason to have, to a matter of compassion.

"This is the high road that can increase productive capacity"

Giving people an unconditional income and letting people earn money on top, could also increase productive capacity, and having a JG scheme in place might as well reduce productive capacity where it pretends to people that they're doing something important, when they're not. Overpaying work can be a disservice to the people and society alike. Let individuals themselves tell others how much they think something is worth, in respect and in monetary terms. We just need to equip people with money (that maintains relevance in relation to the aggregate of all money), for that.

The high road that can increase productivity is a commitment to enabling people as individuals, unconditionally, to make economic expressions, rooted in their rights to nature.

Octopii , January 5, 2017 at 9:34 am


financial matters , January 5, 2017 at 9:36 am

""Modern Monetary Theory contends that money is a boundless and fundamentally inalienable public utility. That utility is grounded in political governance. And government can always afford to support meaningful social production, regardless of its ability to capture taxes from the rich. The result: employment is always and everywhere a political decision, not merely a function of private enterprise, boom and bust cycles, and automation. There is therefore nothing inevitable about underemployment and the misery it induces. In no sense are we destined for a "jobless future."""

Wouldn't it be interesting if it took someone like Trump to get the fact that money is a public utility into the public mindset.

This is a strong and powerful tool. Seems like it could be up his alley.

Praedor , January 5, 2017 at 12:21 pm

But Trump WONT do that. He's very much a super 1% elitist who thinks of people as winners and losers. He thinks the government is like a business that has to balance its books and "live within its means" (means = tax receipts + fees).

Trump is NOT an MMTer. He's closer to gold standard idiots in the GOP (whether they actually want the gold standard to return or not means nothing the idea that the federal budget needs to be balanced is 100% outgrowth of the gold standard dinosaur days so they are ALL goldbugs at core).

financial matters , January 5, 2017 at 3:53 pm

Probably true, but he now has his hands on the biggest business around.

He has a lot of money available which could make him a popular and useful leader.

Michael , January 5, 2017 at 9:53 am

Great Article and food for thought.

I agree with many of the skeptical views above. In the endeavor to provide equitable incomes an underlying problem is who decides what industries or groups get funded from the taxes collected? Is there private capital? How do you keep certain people from manipulating the system to assure they can collect more wealth than someone else?

All of these might be questions may be resolved with strict laws, but I can recall in my childhood such laws and such cultures that assured a more equitable system, but these too were corrupted by people who wanted to "keep their wealth", because "they earned it", or inherited it ("Death to the Death Tax!").

This utopia sounds good on paper, but it appears to me that the execution is most times corrupted by the connected and powerful.

In any case the most difficult task in this process will be getting enough power to take any sizable wealth away from the "shareholders" , ie owners, to redistribute in a society controlled via media and laws by our lords and masters.

David , January 5, 2017 at 10:04 am

I think we need to remember just how modern is the concept of "work" is that's being debated here. In nearly the whole world a century ago (and still in parts of it today) people didn't have "jobs", they raised crops, tended cattle, caught fish, practised manual crafts, played a role in the community and family etc. and were in general productively occupied most of the time. Even with the factory system, and the beginning of paid employment, many of the workforce were skilled craftsmen with years of training and a high social status. The modern idea of a "job" as an unnecessary task carried out to gain money you don't need to buy things you don't want would have seemed incomprehensible. Indeed, there are parts of Africa today where a "job" is what you get to earn enough money to live on for a while and that's it.
The real problem then is a sense of purpose in life. There's some evidence that work can and does provide this, provided that work is minimally useful and satisfying. Certainly, the psychological damage from long-term unemployment as well as the psychological dangers of working alone are extensively documented. But the opposite is also true – work can make you ill, and the line between guaranteeing work and forcing people to work is a treacherously easy one to cross.
It would be better to move towards thinking about what kind of society and economy we want. After all, much of the contemporary economy serves no useful purpose whatever, and could be dispensed with and the assets invested elsewhere. Without getting into the magic wand thinking in the article, it must be possible to identify a host of things that people can usefully "do", whether or not these are "jobs" in the traditional sense.

Katharine , January 5, 2017 at 10:57 am

You're onto something here. Reading the post and comments, I couldn't identify what was bothering me, because when I think of work now (having been out of the paid workforce a while) I think in terms of things that make life more livable, either in very practical ways or through learning, enlarging my view of the world, and I don't in the least want to see the elimination of that kind of work. It's the other kind of work, that expects you to feign devotion to the manufacture or marketing of widgets, that probably needs to be largely eliminated (I won't say wholly, as there may be some for whom widgets are mentally rewarding). The author seems too certain of what needs to change and how. I think you're right that we need to give it more thought.

akaPaul LaFargue , January 5, 2017 at 12:18 pm

The author of this review misses much of what James Livingston is all about. JL spends some time discussing how to imagine a meaningful life and he refers to Freud (!) that we need work and love. If work is no longer available then how do we imagine love as the basis for social solidarity? OR, is solidarity another way to express love? The author's concerns for wonky policy BS takes us down the wrong path into the scrubland of intellectual vapidity.

And btw Fred Block has devastated the Speenhamland analogy long ago. I think not many folks have gotten beyond Andre Gorz on these topics.

Massinissa , January 5, 2017 at 1:56 pm

Yeah, I'm sort of skeptical of BIG myself, but I really don't think Speenhamland is a good comparison at all. Speenhamland had too many particularities that separate it from most modern BIG proposals IMHO.

Lambert Strether , January 5, 2017 at 2:22 pm

It would be helpful if you'd list some of those particularities.

River , January 5, 2017 at 2:15 pm

I think we need to remember just how modern is the concept of "work" is that's being debated here. In nearly the whole world a century ago (and still in parts of it today) people didn't have "jobs", they raised crops, tended cattle, caught fish, practised manual crafts, played a role in the community and family etc. and were in general productively occupied most of the time

Too true. If you want to see what someone's ancestor most likely did, look at their last name. Tanner, Cooper, Fuller, etc.

Waldenpond , January 5, 2017 at 2:35 pm

People used to have a right to land with which they could harvest building supplies, roofing supplies, food to feed themselves, fuel to heat and cook, raise livestock for food and fiber. The people have been stripped of the rights and ability to provide for their basic needs by force. They now have to have a job, the majority of their labor benefits someone else, to gain money in a system where nearly every transaction isn't just monetized but exploitative.

There is still the pull towards liberalism . to develop a hierarchy of needs, and a hierarchy of the usefullness/productiveness/profitability of tasks. There needs to be a ubi along with the jg. When the focus is on developing hierarchies, the end result will be a rigid bureaucratic structure and the use of force to ensure compliance.

Tivvy , January 5, 2017 at 10:04 am

"What if we predicated social critique on terms that are not defined by the neoliberal ideology that we wish to circumvent?"

To do this, I propose that we give everyone, unconditionally, an income, as expression of their potential (and natural desire) to contribute to society, and all the prerequisite time that goes into that, and for the very contributions themselves. An unconditional labor value derived income, for all. An income that both enables all kinds of work, and pays that labor value in the same stroke.

From there, additional earned income becomes a matter of how much respect you command, how well you utilize monopolies, and how much you hate your job and require compensation for how much you hate it. But the labor value would be accounted for, unconditionally.

In a world where there's superstars (and superbrands) who command respect and natural monopolies to make a lot of money, and people writing open source for the greater benefit of everyone else predominantly, it makes sense to make a statement such as that, about labor value, and to pay it to everyone. Mothers and fathers in active care of their children too, could agree, I'd imagine.

But making a list of things that you think might be cool for society, and try to have tangible compensations for only those, seems problematic, if not to say, counterproductive. Rather recognize ALL the time that people spend, to be decent people among fellow people, to educate themselves formally and informally, be it in the process of being an entrepreneur in a broader sense, at times. A sense of justice that can only be achieved by the state deciding for its people what is purposeful, will fall flat on its face when it comes to practicality, unless we have artifical super intelligence. Because you will have to literally know better than the people, what they will appreciate to what extent. And you don't know that. Neither do I.

There's great things in community/entertainment space happening today, that nobody was thinking of 5 years ago. Because people still have some power to recognize things as individuals, that others do, as purposeful (as much as aggregate demand is increasingly in a sorry state, as the result of a 3+ decade long trend that seems to still keep going. Just fixing that issue would already help a lot.). I say we should build on that, and further empower people in that direction. Which to me means to give money to all the people of the society, so they can more directly at times, express what benefits society, that is themselves. And for macro economic/long term considerations we can always have direct democracy.

Schwarmageddon , January 5, 2017 at 11:31 am

The sorts of psychopaths that tend to be in control of modern human societies clearly prefer money as a tool of social control to money as any sort of public utility that would facilitate individual productivity and/or affirm human dignity, whether in the context of neoliberal derangement or not. That's the view from the long-frozen Rust Belt and certainly nothing new in history.

It also appears that any human capacity for moral innovation is easily constrained by our basic feces-hurling primate OS, particularly if said primates consider money to be something finite and concrete.

On the real balance sheet, though, the sweet old Earth likely can't afford a JG for a population of 7 billion, at least not under any current or previously existing model of labor exploitation. As all NCpeeps know, we're resource-constrained, not dollar-constrained.

So we arrive back at the same old power relationships, the coercion, desperation and ecocide to which we have been accustomed, in the absence of any disruptive® (!) moral innovation. Can anyone suggest that modern humans have demonstrated a capacity for moral innovation outside of prison camps? Actual, non-hopey-changey varieties of moral innovation? If so, is that capacity retarded only by misperceptions regarding the nature of money? Retarded perhaps by an exceptional propaganda system? One might only answer that for themselves, and likely only until the SWAT team arrives. It seems unlikely that some rational and compassionate bureaucracies will be established to compensate in their stead: Congress is wholly unable to formulate policy in the public interest for very good reasons, none of them admirable. It seems the social economic entities they protect require human desperation just as much as they require currency liquidity or juvenile male soldiers.

In the absence of representation, rule of law or some meager rational public policy, a reproductive strike may be a better individual approach than FW, as not having children avoids the voluntary provisioning of debt slaves into a corrupt and violent system of social control. There is also the many ecologically salubrious effects of less humans and a potential opportunity to avoid being forced to constantly sell one's labor at a sharp discount. Couples I know, both having made catastrophic errors in career choice (education, research, seriously OMG!), are able to persist with some degree of dignity only and precisely because they have avoided begetting, in the very biblical sense, more debt slaves.

Shom , January 5, 2017 at 11:48 am

The author's contention that JG is better than BIG is persuasive; however I am not convinced that JG is best implemented by the govt. We have had systems like these, e.g. USSR, and it is very clear that central planning for large masses never works.

Why not implement that JG as saying that the govt guarantees X $/hr for up to T hrs per week for every one, no matter where they are hired. Advantages:
– small business owners are afforded breathing space to get their dreams off the ground,
– Walmart workers will walk off if Walmart doesn't up its game significantly beyond $(X x 4T) per month,
– Non profits will be able to afford to pay volunteers more reliably,
– People who want to be alone / not work can setup their own "self preservation" business and earn the minimum $X/hr for T hrs.

This form of decentralized planning may help implement JGs in a more sustainable manner than centralized planning. It also puts a floor on minimum income. Also, when combined with barriers on moving jobs outside the US, it helps provide a sharper threshold on how good automation needs to be in order to replace labor.

X and T can be the $15 and 40 hrs that is being implemented in big coastal cities, progressive states. Or it could be set to just above poverty level earnings, depending on how comfortable we are in letting go of our Pilgrim/Protestant shackles.

Praedor , January 5, 2017 at 12:16 pm

Past time to kill off the Protestant Ethic. The future has always supposed to be made up of robots doing scut work while people get to chill out and NOT do shit work.

The job race is why people STILL don't take enough vacation or full vacation. It is why they feel COMPELLED to not take days off because if they do, their boss will hold it against them come promotion time.

Not all jobs are worth doing and forcing people to take them doesn't do anyone any good, and makes people into commodities, THE biggest problem with neoliberalism. People are NOT commodities and work should NOT be a measure of one's value. CEOs outrageously overvalue themselves for doing little or nothing while engineers and workers they mistreat do EVERYTHING. That is neoliberalism and capitalism in a nutshell.

Guaranteed Basic Income ends that. Set a max income so there will be no more over-compensated CEOs AND provide a decent income for EVERYONE, gratis, so they are not forced to take a job polishing the shoes of the useless eater CEOs.

Praedor , January 5, 2017 at 12:08 pm

I prefer the Universal Basic Income guarantee to the Work guarantee. The Work guarantee guarantees MAKEWORK . "Here, have a broom and do some sweeping with it. Somewhere."

Or, "Here's a desk and a pile of papers with staples in them. Remove the staples."

"You! Toss this box of trash in the street and you, walk behind him and pick it up and put it in THIS box!"

Fuck work. In particular, fuck MAKEWORK. A job, ANY job, just to say you have a job is CRAP.

Better: Income guarantee. Period. Gratis. If a company wants you to do a job for them then they will have to provide incentive enough to get you to take the job. You don't HAVE to take a shit job because you have a guaranteed income so employers better offer a sweat deal like good pay and benefits (and LESS pay and benefits for CEOs, etc the lazy do-nothing self-entitled class).

Lambert Strether , January 5, 2017 at 2:50 pm

I hear the make-work talking point over and over again. It's nonsense. It didn't happen where the job guarantee was implemented , and it doesn't have to happen if the work is under democratic control.

Adam Eran , January 5, 2017 at 12:21 pm

The basis of job guarantees would universally empower or improve the public realm–shared goods.

The "anti-collectivist" propaganda that dominates most mainstream media now forbids anything but public squalor and private opulence.

We work to construct a pyramid of Democratic skulls , January 5, 2017 at 12:35 pm

The basic income and the job guarantee are natural complements. In terms of the acquis that any sovereign state must comply with (the UDHR,) you have the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of [your]self and of [your] family, and the right to free choice of employment. Two different rights. That means work should be an option.

The idea is, you're not on the treadmill, it's the state that's on the treadmill, working continually to fulfill your economic and social rights. It's the state that bears duties, you have rights. So if you want to do something and you need structure, knock yourself out, work for the state or some customer or boss. If you want to spend all the time you can with your kid before the mass extinction starves her, that's fine too.

When you ask people, Do you exist for the state, or does the state exist for you? People are quick to say, I don't exist for the state, that's totalitarianism! But people seem to accept that they exist for the economy. They accept that their life depends on acceptable service to the labor market. Just like I don't exist for the state, I don't exist for the economy. The economy exists for me. That is the revolutionary import of the ICESCR (and that's why the US strangled Venezuela when Chavez committed the state to it.)

Human rights is a complete, consistent and coherent alternative to neoliberal market worship. The idea sounds so strange because the neoliberal episcopate uses an old trick to get people to hold still for exploitation. In the old days, the parasitic class invented god's will to reify an accidental accretion of predatory institutions and customs. Everybody nodded and said, I see, it's not some greedy assholes, it's god's will. After a while everybody said, Wait a minute. The parasitic class had to think fast, so they invented the economy to reify an accidental accretion of predatory institutions and customs. So now you submit to that. Suckers!

Sandwichman , January 5, 2017 at 1:22 pm

I would prefer not to.

anon y'mouse , January 5, 2017 at 2:17 pm

i love you.

please marry me!

wait, i think i know what the answer will be

Lambert Strether , January 5, 2017 at 2:37 pm

Thank you, Mr. Bartleby.

jerry , January 5, 2017 at 1:30 pm

"All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone."

I am in favor of the job or income guarantee program. We really should not and do not need to work nearly as much as is common in U.S. (nevermind the even more repressive slave labor in Asia). The claim that "algorithms and robotization will reduce the workforce by half within twenty years and that this is unstoppable" seems like a pretty likely scenario at this point. Why have we been working for millenia to build this advanced civilization, if not to relax and enjoy it and be DONE slaving away?!

I recently sold everything I had and travelled around the US for 6 months, and it was delightful. I was next to broke, but if I had an income guarantee I could have had way more freedom to stop here and there, get involved in who knows what, and enjoy myself with very low stress.

I agree most people will not do anything productive unless forced, but that is what we need to finally work on: ourselves and our crippling egos. The world is plenty advanced technologically, we have made incredible inventions and that will continue to happen, but people need to start working on themselves inwardly as well or the outward world will be destroyed.

Waldenpond , January 5, 2017 at 1:58 pm

What does being productive mean? Besides making a profit for an oligarch. Everything is work. Cook for yourself, not work. Cook for someone else, work. Garden for yourself, not work. Garden for someone else, work. Travel for yourself, not work. Travel for someone else, work. etc.

Has anyone run the numbers for a 4 day work week, or 3? How about if full time work were lowered to 30, 25 hours per week?

Automation was supposed to free up labors time. Workers have participated in designing automation, installing automation, testing automation and training others for automation. It's time labor takes the share of their labor and if oligarchs get the permanent financial benefit of labors efforts to automate, so does labor.

Lambert Strether , January 5, 2017 at 2:34 pm

> I agree most people will not do anything productive unless forced

That sounds like the persistent notion that the pyramids were built with slave labor. Michael Hudson has debunked this :

We found [the pyramids] were not built by slaves. They were built by well-paid skilled labour. The problem in these early periods was how to get labour to work at hard tasks, if not willingly? For 10,000 years there was a labour shortage. If people didn't want to work hard, they could just move somewhere else. The labour that built temples and big ceremonial sites had to be at least quasi-voluntary even in the Bronze Age c. 2000 BC. Otherwise, people wouldn't have gone there.

We found that one reason why people were willing to do building work with hard manual labour was the beer parties. There were huge expenditures on beer. If you're going to have a lot of people come voluntarily to do something like city building or constructing their own kind of national identity of a palace and walls, you've got to have plenty of beer. You also need plenty of meat, with many animals being sacrificed. Archaeologists have found their bones and reconstructed the diets with fair accuracy.

What they found is that the people doing the manual labour on the pyramids, the Mesopotamian temples and city walls and other sites were given a good high protein diet. There were plenty of festivals. The way of integrating these people was by public feasts.

Now, you can argue that labor is no longer scarce, so the logic doesn't apply. But you can't generalize that people won't work unless forced; it's not true.

Sandwichman , January 5, 2017 at 3:27 pm

Perhaps the best solution would be a Universal Beer Income?

jerry , January 5, 2017 at 5:51 pm

I see what you mean, but they built the pyramids because they needed money to survive, the beer and festivals is an added bonus. Whether you call it slave labor or working for a decent wage, the premise is the same – your survival depends on doing the work so you do it.

The distinction I think relates to what waldenpond says above. People want to feel a sense of ownership, meaning and community around what they are doing, and then they do it of their own volition, so it is not seen as work. This is something quite rare in todays labor market, but it doesn't have to be that way.

Waldenpond , January 5, 2017 at 5:56 pm

Looks like people chose to work not just for pay but for pay and the addition of leisure activities (cooking, eating, partying) and a sense of community.

ekstase , January 5, 2017 at 6:06 pm

I agree with this. I think of the people I knew who had to work at two or more jobs, full time or more, to be "allowed" to be a painter, musician, writer, or performer, etc. It is sapping us culturally, not to let the creative people have time to do what they were born to do. And I think at least a little of this lives in all of us. There are things that we are born to do. How much does our society let us be who we are?

anon y'mouse , January 5, 2017 at 2:24 pm

similar arguments made regarding all of the lands in North and South America.

"they aren't using it for anything productive. best we take it from them."

who are you to say what is productive in another person's life? if we had a meaningful culture and education in this debased society, each of us would be able to make the decision about what exactly we find most productive and worthy of our efforts, and what isn't. since we have no public lands to hunt and gather and fish and farm and live upon, we are forced into this economic system. i find it odd as heck that two people who are effectively "unemployed" find it better for everyone else to be chained to a money-for-work scheme. will you both be signing up for some labor-conscription hours? will it be compulsory for all, without ability to opt-out except for complete physical/emotional disability with no gaming by the rich? (my apologies if you all do not agree, and i have misrepresented your positions)

more rationales to make people love their chains, please. because we know how this would work out: rather as it does now when you sign up for unemployment/food assistance-you MUST take the first job for the first abuser that comes along and makes an offer for you.

JTFaraday , January 5, 2017 at 2:35 pm

I think we should separate the wage/salary component of work from social welfare provisioning. Namely, universal health care and universal old age pensions. The more you think about it in the context of today's various pressures, the more sense it makes.

Waldenpond , January 5, 2017 at 5:58 pm

Social welfare provisioning isn't just the means of exchange, it's the ability to acquire the necessities of survival of shelter, food, heat etc. If the focus is just within the capitalist system of private ownership and rent seeking is not ended, the welfare is merely passed through and ends with the oligarchs.

cojo , January 5, 2017 at 2:39 pm

I have several questions, concerns with UBI. One is if everyone is given a base salary who is to decide what that amount should be. Will it be indexed to inflation, what will it do to inflation, specifically, inflation for housing, food, healthcare.

Will a UBI be an excuse to gut all social contracts/guarantees. Who will make those decisions. What will happen to social services (public schools, hospitals), and social needs (clean water, air, sanitation/trash, police/fire protection).

Primitive human cultures traditionally "worked" to fulfill their needs only 3-4 hours a day. The rest was leisure, taking care of children/elderly, and rest. I agree, that a large percentage of time at work is wasted time due to hour artificial 9:5 business schedule. If we all perform work from home, what will the hours be like? Will we have more time to meet our neighbors and become more involved in the community or will we be shut in our houses all day not seeing anyone. Will the family unit be stronger, since people will not have to travel across the country for job opportunities and stay near each other.

Who will be provided with basic education, will that be free or for a fee, or will the idle relatives and neighbors collaborate to provide it.

Will some neighborhoods/regions be more organized and successful than others? Will all the "lazy people" filter into future slums riddled with crime and disease? Who will provide for them if there is no longer any social services.

inhibi , January 5, 2017 at 3:01 pm

I'm sure someone has already posted this, but my idea was to have a huge Federally funded Environmental Cleanup Dept. that essentially hires mass amounts of people to literally clean streets, parks, waterways, sort through trash, etc. It's needed, its relatively low skill labor, but at least it could provide an alternative to Welfare, which is a huge huge scam that's imprisons people in the lowest class (cant own a car or land).

Obviously this doesn't solve the entire issue, but it's become pretty clear that just having a huge Welfare state will not work longterm, as Yves mentions, the detriments are huge and real: unskilled lower class, unmoivitated lower class (more free time = more criminal activity), etc.

Waldenpond , January 5, 2017 at 4:04 pm

Again with the Americans are lazy myth. I would argue criminal activity is more related to being blocked by state violence from accessing a thoroughly monetized society (poverty) and a purposely bled social structure than from boredom.

If a person has access to a share of the resources of a society (shelter/food and enrichment) they will not likely commit crime. For those that want a rush, we can add some climbing walls etc. ha!

For those that are critical of the'welfare state'.. it isn't natural nor accidental, it's purposeful. Stop putting in so many resources (legal, political, financial) to create one.

David , January 5, 2017 at 3:26 pm

What do you actually want to work for ?
In early societies, you worked so that you and your family and community didn't die, and could produce the goods needed to make society function. But that's changed, and today we work to earn the money to pay other people to carry out these same functions. We even work to earn the money to pay the costs of working to earn the money to pay others. We buy a house (which in the past would have been constructed by the society) and have to pay to travel to work to earn the money to pay for the house, and then the insurance on the house, and the business clothes, and then buy a car and insurance on the car because the time we spend working and traveling means we have to shop at the supermarket instead of local shops, and then we pay a garage to maintain the car, and we pay someone to look after our garden because between trips to the supermarket we don't have time ourselves, and then we pay someone to look after our children because we work so hard earning money to pay for childcare that we have no time actually left for caring for our children. And the idea is that everybody should be guaranteed the right to do this?

JTFaraday , January 5, 2017 at 5:08 pm

You think too much. ;)

J Gamer , January 5, 2017 at 3:29 pm

In the drive towards totalitarianism, universal basic income is the carrot that enables the abolition of cash. India is the trial run. Although after seeing what's transpired in India, it's probably safe to say the ruling elite have wisely concluded that it might be better to offer the carrot before rolling out the stick.

Gil , January 5, 2017 at 3:45 pm

Read Edmund Phelps' Rewarding Work for good ideas about how to generate full time jobs with adequate wages.

Sandwichman , January 5, 2017 at 4:07 pm

As I wrote at EconoSpeak back in December, "everyone is wrong."

There seems to be this false dilemma between the impending "end" of work and the unlimited potential of creative job creation. BOTH of these utopias are apocalyptically blind to history.

In 2017 what counts as "work" - a job, wage labor - is inseparably bound up with the consumption of fossil fuel. A "job" consumes "x" barrels of oil per annum. Lumps of labor are directly quantifiable in lumps of coal.

The ecological implications of this are clearly that the dilemma does not resolve itself into a choice between different schemes for redistributing some proverbial surplus. That "surplus" represents costs that have been shifted for decades and even centuries onto the capacity of the ambient environment to absorb wastes and to have resources extracted from it.

Can such an extractive economy continue indefinitely? Not according to the laws of thermodynamics.

Sandwichman , January 5, 2017 at 5:22 pm

From April 2015, UBI Caritas :

A UBI might reduce the dire incentive to "work or starve" at the same time as it increases opportunities and incentives to pursue the bright elusive butterfly of "meaningful work." That would be good if it was the only consideration. But it is not. There is also an inconvenient truth about the relationship between productivity and fossil fuel consumption. In the industrial economy, larger amounts of better work mean more greenhouse gas emissions. Productivity is a double-edged sword.

We have long since passed the point where capital "diminishes labour time in the necessary form so as to increase it in the superfluous form; hence posits the superfluous in growing measure as a condition – question of life or death – for the necessary."

Currently, world-wide carbon emissions per year are roughly double what can be re-absorbed by oceans and plants. This is not to say that the re-absorption by oceans is harmless –it leads to acidification. But clearly more than half of the emissions are superfluous to sustainability. Lo and behold, carbon emission increase in virtual lockstep with hours of work. In the U.S., the correlation between the two has been about 95% over the last quarter century.

Don't even think of using the "correlation doesn't prove causation" gambit. We are talking about a "water is wet" relationship. Fossil fuel is burned to do work. Period. Not just correlation - identity.

So the bottom line is we either need to cut hours of work at least in half or the remaining hours need to be less productive not more.

Reducing the hours of work also implies the potential for redistributing hours of work to create more jobs from less total work time. This of course flies in the face of " laws of political economy " that were discredited more than a century ago but nonetheless get repeated as gospel ad nauseum by so-called "economists."

UBI Caritas et amor

bulfinch , January 5, 2017 at 4:16 pm

I like where this guy is trying to go, but I think I'd put forth more of a F-k Stupid Jobs with Bad Pay ethos, rather than F-k Work . Too oversimple too broad. Work, on some level, is really all there is. The idea of a collective life devoted to perpetual and unbridled hedonism just sounds like death by holiday to me; just as awful as working yourself into the grave.

As to Yves' notion - probably this is true. Pressure is a fine agent for production and problem solving; but I suspect that stagnant period might just be a byproduct of the initial hangover. Guilt is an engine that hums in many of us - I think most people feel guilty if they spend an entire day doing nothing, let alone a lifetime tossed away.

rd , January 5, 2017 at 4:24 pm

It is going to be interesting to see what happens as the financial sector "high value" employees continue to be replaced by passive investing and computer programs. I suspect this process will result in a rethinking of many of these people about the value of work and job security.

Waldenpond , January 5, 2017 at 6:15 pm

I have been stating this also. So many tasks are open to automation in law, healthcare (remote offices), writing (algorithms), teaching (one math teacher per language!), policing. I can even imagine automated fire trucks that can pinpoint hot spots, hook up to hydrants, open a structure and target.

Dick Burkhart , January 5, 2017 at 5:58 pm

What we need is not a guaranteed minimum income, but universal ownership of key productive assets, like Alaska does with its Permanent Fund. These assets could include partial citizenship ownership of our largest corporations. All paid work would be on top of this.

As Peter Barnes says, "With Dividends and Liberty for All". Thus everyone would have a base income, enough to prevent extreme poverty, but still with plenty of incentives for jobs. Note: You'd also need to make it illegal for these "dividends" to become security for loan sharks.

Craa+zyChris , January 5, 2017 at 6:01 pm

I spent a lot of time over the holidays thinking about the future of human work and came to this conclusion: As we move forward, robots and other automation will take over a lot of human work, but in 3 areas I think humans will always have an edge. I'll summarize these 3 essentially human endeavors as: "sex, drugs and rock-and-roll", but each of those is a proxy for a wider range of human interactions.

"Sex work" (compare to "Fuck Work" from this essay) means what it says, but is also a proxy for human interactions such as massage, phys-therapy, etc. Robots will encroach on this turf somewhat (serving as tools), but for psychological reasons, humans will always prefer to be worked over by other humans.

Drugs is a proxy for human appreciation of chemical substances. Machines will of course be used to detect such substances, but no one will appreciate them like us. The machines will need us to tell them whether the beer is as good as the last batch, and we must make sure to get paid for that.

Finally, rock-and-roll is a proxy for human artistic expression as well as artistic appreciation. Robots will never experience sick beats the way we do, and while they may produce some, again for psychological reasons, I think humans will tend to value art created by other humans above that produced by machines.

The good news is that the supply and demand balance for these activities will scale in a stable way as the population grows (or shrinks). So I think the key is to make sure these types of activities are considered "work", and renumerated accordingly in our bright J.G. future.

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[Jan 23, 2017] re F@ck Work naked capitalism

Notable quotes:
"... Demanding a no-strings-attached welfare system, the left seeks to cut government out of social provisioning while at the same time relying on government for regular financial support. ..."
"... How will we provide adequate human and material resources for our growing elderly populations? How can we meaningfully restructure social production to address climate change? ..."
"... no amount of volunteerism, goodwill, or generous welfare payments can adequately meet these demands. Indeed, only government can afford to mobilize the persons and materials needed to answer such demands. ..."
"... I really need to be kicked out of the house, to go someplace and do something I don't really want to do for 8 hours a day. ..."
"... Interesting read society has become so corrupt at every level from personal up through municipal, regional and federal governments that it cant even identify the problem, let alone a solution ..."
Jan 23, 2017 |
By Scott Ferguson, Assistant Professor, University of South Florida. He is also a Research Scholar at the Binzagr Institute for Sustainable Prosperity. His current research and pedagogy focus on Modern Monetary Theory and critiques of neoliberalism, aesthetic theory; the history of digital animation and visual effects; and essayistic writing across media platforms. Originally published at Arcade

James Livingston has responded to my critique of his Aeon essay, " Fuck Work ." His response was published in the Spanish magazine Contexto y Accion . One can find an English translation here . What follows is my reply:

Livingston and I share many political aims. We each wish to reverse wealth polarization, to alleviate systemic poverty, and to enable diverse forms of human flourishing. The professor and I disagree, however, on the nature of contemporary economic reality. As a consequence, we propose very different political programs for realizing the sort of just and prosperous society we both desire.

In his rejoinder to my critique, Livingston proudly affirms his commitment to Liberalism and makes a Liberal understanding of political economy the basis of his proposed alternative to the neoliberal catastrophe. Deeming government an intrinsically authoritarian institution, he situates civil society as a realm of self-actualization and self-sufficiency. The problem, as he formulates it, is that while capitalist innovation has made it possible to increasingly automate production, the capitalist class has robbed us of our purchasing power and preserved a punishing wage relation. This prevents us from enjoying the fruits of automated labor. Livingston's solution is to reject an outmoded Protestant work ethic; tax the unproductive corporate profits that fuel financial markets; and redistribute this money in the form of a Universal Basic Income (UBI). The result: each member of civil society will be liberated to associate, labor, or play as they please.

Like Livingston, the left has long flirted with Liberal dreams that autonomous and self-regulating associations might one day replace the difficulties of political governance. After the Great Recession, these dreams have returned . They imagine algorithms and robots to be politically neutral. They seek a life of shared luxury through automatically dispensed welfare payments. This sounds nice at first blush. However, such reveries are at best naive and, at worst, politically defeatist and self-destructive. Abandoned and abused by neoliberal governance, today's pro-UBI left doubles down on neoliberalism's do-it-yourself caretaking. It envisions delimited forms of monetary redistribution as the only means to repair the social order. Above all, it allows anti-authoritarianism to overshadow the charge of social provisioning.

Livingston's articulation of this dream is especially fierce. As such, it crystallizes UBI's central contradiction: Demanding a no-strings-attached welfare system, the left seeks to cut government out of social provisioning while at the same time relying on government for regular financial support. This position, which fails to rethink the structure of social participation as a whole, leaves disquieting political questions unanswered: How will we provide adequate human and material resources for our growing elderly populations? How can we meaningfully restructure social production to address climate change? How do we preserve a place for the arts outside of competitive MFA programs and speculative art markets?

Such questions are unforgivingly realistic, not pie-in-the-sky musings. And no amount of volunteerism, goodwill, or generous welfare payments can adequately meet these demands. Indeed, only government can afford to mobilize the persons and materials needed to answer such demands. And while algorithms and robots are powerful social instruments, we cannot rely on automation to overcome extant logics of discrimination and exclusion . To do so is to forget that social injustice is politically conditioned and that government alone holds the monetary capacity to transform economic life in its entirety.

... ... ...

Carlos , January 23, 2017 at 2:31 am

I really need to be kicked out of the house, to go someplace and do something I don't really want to do for 8 hours a day.

I've already got too much time to fritter away. I'm fairly certain, giving me more time and money to make my own choices would not make the world a better place.

Dogstar , January 23, 2017 at 7:44 am

Hmm. No "sarc" tag Really?? More free time and money wouldn't be a benefit to you and your surroundings? That's hard to believe. To each their own I guess.

MtnLife , January 23, 2017 at 8:39 am

I can see it both ways. Most people see that as sarcasm but I have more than a few friends whose jobs are probably the only thing keeping them out of jail. Idle hands being the devil's plaything and all.

For instance, the last thing you want to give a recovering addict is a lot of free time and money.

Jonathan Holland Becnel , January 23, 2017 at 11:51 am

As a recovering addict, I must vehemently disagree with ur statement. I would love to have as much money and free time on my hands to work on the fun hobbies that keep me sober like Political Activism, Blogging, Film, etc.

Marco , January 23, 2017 at 1:22 pm

Many MANY folks take drugs and alcohol specially BECAUSE of their jobs

JohnnyGL , January 23, 2017 at 10:46 am

At no point in the "Job Guarantee" discussion did anyone advocate forcing you to go to work. However, if you decide to get ambitious and want a paid activity to do that helps make society a better place to live, wouldn't it be nice to know that there'd be work available for you to do?

Right now, that's not so easy to do without lots of effort searching for available jobs and going through a cumbersome and dispiriting application process that's designed to make you prove how much you REALLY, REALLY want the job.

For me, the real silver bullet is the moral/political argument of a Job Guarantee vs. Basic Income. Job Guarantee gives people a sense of pride and accomplishment and those employed and their loved ones will vigorously defend it against those who would attack them as 'moochers'. Also, defenders can point to the completed projects as added ammunition.

Basic income recipients have no such moral/political defense.

jrs , January 23, 2017 at 1:04 pm

The guaranteed jobs could be for a 20 or 30 hour week. I fear they won't be as most job guarantee advocates seem to be Calvinists who believe only work gets you into heaven though.

skippy , January 23, 2017 at 1:50 pm

Totally flippant and backhanded comment jrs, might help to substantiate your perspective with more than emotive slurs.

disheveled . Gezz Calvinists – ????? – how about thousands of years of Anthro or Psychology vs insinuations about AET or Neoclassical

jrs , January 23, 2017 at 1:01 pm

Don't forget commute another 2 hours because you can't afford anything close by!

tony , January 23, 2017 at 6:06 am

It's a common 'argument' by people defending status quo. They claim something is ridiculous and easily disproven and then leave it at that. They avoid making argument that are specific enought to be countered, because thay know they don't actually have a leg to stand on.

fresno dan , January 23, 2017 at 8:37 am

January 23, 2017 at 4:19 am

UserFriendly , January 23, 2017 at 6:57 am

Limitless may not have been the best word. Of course the government can print money till the cows come home; but MMT recommends stopping when you approach the real resource constraint.

skippy , January 23, 2017 at 7:39 am

Taxes to mop up . but that's theft in some ideological camps .

disheveled must have printing presses down in the basement .

Ruben , January 23, 2017 at 7:58 am

Sloppy language does not help so thank you. So the next question is how do constraints (natural or other) affect spending power under MMT, is it asymptotic, is there an optimum, discontinuities?

The other major issue is that although spending power is controlled by legislatures it must be recognized that wealth creation starts with the work of people and physical capital, not by the good graces of gov't. MMT makes it sound as if money exists just because gov't wills it to exist, which is true in the sense of printing pieces of paper but not in the sense of actual economic production and wealth creation. Taxes are not the manner in which gov't removes money but it really is the cost of gov't sitting on top of the economic production by people together with physical capital.

Jamie , January 23, 2017 at 9:55 am

Help me understand your last sentence. So, if I'm a farmer, the time I spend digging the field is economic production, but the time I spend sitting at my desk planing what to plant and deciding which stump to remove next and how best to do it, and the time I spend making deals with the bank etc, these are all unproductive hours that make no contribution to my economic production?

susan the other , January 23, 2017 at 1:48 pm

Yes, Jamie. And as you point out, Ferguson is giving us a better definition of "productive". He is not saying productivity produces profits – he is saying productive work fixes things and makes them better. But some people never get past that road bump called "productivity."

vlade , January 23, 2017 at 5:28 am

The author is making some assumptions, and then goes and takes them apart. It's possilble (I didn't read the article he refers to), that the assumptions he responds to directly are made by the article, but that doesn't make them universal assumptions about UBI.

UBI is not a single exact prescription – and in the same way, JG is not a single exact prescription. The devil, in both cases, is in details. In fact, there is not reason why JG and UBI should be mutually exclusive as a number of people are trying to tell us.

and if we talk about governance – well, the super-strong governance that JG requires to function properly is my reason why I'd prefer a strong UBI to most JG.

Now and then we get a failed UBI example study – I'm not going to look at that. But the socialist regimes of late 20th century are a prime example of failed JG. Unlike most visitor or writers here, I had the "privilege" to experience them first hand, and thanks but no thanks. Under the socialist regimes you had to have a job (IIRC, the consitutions stated you had "duty" to work). But that become an instrument of control. What job you could have was pretty tightly controlled. Or, even worse, you could be refused any job, which pretty much automatically sent you to prison as "not working parasite".

I don't expect that most people who support JG have anything even remotely similar in mind, but the governance problems still stay. That is, who decides what jobs should be created? Who decides who should get what job, especially if not all jobs are equal (and I don't mean just equal pay)? Can you be firedt from your JG job if you go there just to collect your salary? (The joke in the socialist block was "the government pretends to pay us, we pretend to work"). Etc. etc.

All of the above would have to be decided by people, and if we should know something, then we should know that any system run by people will be, sooner or later, corrupted. The more complex it is, the easier it is to corrupt it.

Which is why I support (meaningfull, meaning you can actually live on it, not just barely survive) Basic Income over JG. The question for me is more whether we can actually afford a meaningful one, because getting a "bare survival one" does more damage than good.

PKMKII , January 23, 2017 at 9:27 am

That's why any JG would have to be filtered through local governments or, more ideally, non-profit community organizations, and not a centralized government. New York City's Summer Youth Employment Program offers a good model for this. Block grants of money are delivered to a wide range of community organizations, thus ensuring no one group has a monopoly, and then individual businesses, other community groups, schools, non-profits, etc., apply to the community organizations for an "employee" who works for them, but the payment actually comes from the block grant. The government serves as the deliverer of funds, and provides regulatory oversight to make sure no abuses are taking place, but does not pick and choose the jobs/employers themselves.

Praedor , January 23, 2017 at 5:42 am

I don't see it as either/or. Provide a UBI and a job guarantee. The job would pay over and above the UBI bit, if for some reason, you don't want to work or cannot, you still have your Universal BASIC Income as the floor through which you cannot fall.

Private employers will have to offer better conditions and pay to convince people getting UBI to work for them. They wouldn't be able to mistreat workers because they could simply bolt because they will not fall into poverty if they quit. The dirtbags needing workers won't be able to overpay themselves at the expense of workers because they feel completely free to leave if you are a self worshipping douche.

Dblwmy , January 23, 2017 at 11:03 am

It seems that over time the "floor through which you cannot fall" becomes just that, the floor, as the effect of a UBI becomes the universal value, well floor.

jerry , January 23, 2017 at 11:12 am

Was going to be my response as well, why such absolute yes or no thinking? The benefit of the UBI is that is recognizes that we have been increasing productivity for oh the last couple millenia for a REASON! To have more leisure time! Giving everyone the opportunity to work more and slave away isn't much of a consolation. We basically have a jobs guarantee/floor right now, its called McDonalds, and no one wants it.

Labor needs a TON of leverage, to get us back to a reasonable Scandinavian/Aussie standard of living. Much more time off, much better benefits, higher wages in general. UBI provides this, it says screw you employers unless you are willing to offer reasonable conditions we are going to stay home.

Anti-Schmoo , January 23, 2017 at 6:02 am

Why the Job Guarantee versus Universal Basic Income is not about work, BUT ABOUT GOVERNANCE!

Yep, agree 100%. We live in a capitalist society which is dependent on a (wage) slave population.

UBI? Are you mad?

I for one am mad, give me UBI! Time to end the insanity of U.S. capitalism

Mrs Smith , January 23, 2017 at 6:08 am

I'm curious to know if either of these systems work if there is no guarantee of "free" access to healthcare through single-payer or a national insurance? I'm only marginally informed about UBI or MMT, and haven't found adequate information regarding either as to how healthcare is addressed. It seems clear that neither could work in the US, specifically for the reason that any UBI would have to be high enough to pay insane insurance premiums, and cover catastrophic illnesses without pushing someone into bankruptcy.

Can anyone clarify, or point me in the direction of useful information on this?

UserFriendly , January 23, 2017 at 7:02 am

There are different flavors of UBI, most don't mention healthcare at all. Milton Friedman's UBI flavor prefers that it replace all government spending on social welfare to reduce the government's overall burden. MMT says there is no sense in not having single payer.

Stephanie , January 23, 2017 at 7:06 am

My thought on the last thread of this nature is that if UBI were ever enacted in the U.S., healthcare access would become restricted to those with jobs (and the self-employeed with enough spare income to pay for it). You don't have to be healthy to collect a subsistence payment from to the government.

HotFlash , January 23, 2017 at 11:18 am

Here in Canada we have universal healthcare, as well as a basic income guarantee for low income families with children and seniors. There is a movement to extend that as well, details of one plan here .

In theory, I think it could be possible for the JG to build and staff hospitals and clinics on a non-profit basis or at least price-controlled basis, if so directed (*huge* question, of course - by what agency? govt? local councils?). Ditto housing, schools, infrastructure, all kinds of socially useful and pleasant stuff. However, the way the US tends to do things, I would expect instead that a BIG or a JG would, as others have pointed out, simply enable employers to pay less, and furthermore, subsidize the consumption of overpriced goods and services. IOW, a repeat of the ACA, just a pump to get more $$ to the top.

The problem is not the money, but that the Americans govern themselves so poorly. No idea what the cure could be for that.

Praedor , January 23, 2017 at 12:28 pm

Fixing worker pay is actually VERY easy. It's purely a political issue. You tie corporate taxes to worker compensation. More specifically, you set the maximum compensation for CEOs at NO MORE than (say) 50x average worker pay in their corporation (INCLUDING temps AND off-shored workers IN US DOLLARS no passing the buck to Temp Agencies or claiming that $10/day in hellhole country x is equivalent to $50k in the US. NO, it is $10/day or $3650/yr, period). At 50x, corporate taxation is at the minimum (say something like 17%). The corporation is free to pay their top exec more than 50x but doing so will increase the corporate tax to 25%. You could make it step-wise: 51-60x average worker pay = 25% corporate tax, 61-80x = 33% corporate tax, etc.

It is time to recognize that CEO pay is NOT natural or earned at stratospheric levels. THE best economic times in the US were between the 50s to early 70s when top tax rates were much higher AND the average CEO took home maybe 30x their average worker pay. We CAN go back to something like that with policy. Also, REQUIRE that labor have reps on the Board of Directors, change the rules of incorporation so it is NOT mainly focused on "maximizing profit or shareholder value". It must include returning a social good to the local communities within which corporations reside. Profits and maximizing shareholder value must be last (after also minimizing social/environmental harm). Violate the rules and you lose your corporate charter.

There is no right to be a corporation. Incorporation is a privilege that is extended by government. The Founders barred any corporate interference in politics, and if a corporation broke the law, it lost its charter and the corporate officers were directly held responsible for THEIR actions. Corporations don't do anything, people in charge of corporations make the decisions and carry out the actions so NO MORE LLCs. If you kill people due to lax environmental protections or worker safety, etc, then the corporate officers are DIRECTLY and personally responsible for it. THEY made it happen, not some ethereal "corporation".

BeliTsari , January 23, 2017 at 6:32 am

Durned hippys imagine an IRON boot stamping on a once human face – forever. OK, now everybody back to the BIG house. Massa wanna reed yew sum Bible verses. We're going to be slaves to the machines, ya big silly!

PlutoniumKun , January 23, 2017 at 7:09 am

I'm sceptical whether a guaranteed job policy would actually work in reality. There are plenty of historical precedents – for example, during the Irish potato famine because of an ideological resistence to providing direct aid, there were many 'make work' schemes. You can still see the results all along the west coast of Ireland – little harbours that nobody has ever used, massive drainage schemes for tiny amounts of land, roads to nowhere. It certainly helped many families survive, but it also meant that those incapacitated by starvation died as they couldn't work. It was no panacea.

There are numerous practical issues with make work schemes. Do you create a sort of 2-layer public service – with one level permanent jobs, the other a variety of 'temporary' jobs according to need? And if so, how do you deal with issues like:

1. The person on a make work scheme who doesn't bother turning up till 11 am and goes home at 2.

2. Regional imbalances where propering region 1 is desperately short of workers while neighbouring region 2 has thousands of surplus people sweeping streets and planting trees.

3. What effect will this have on business and artistic innovation? Countries with strong welfare systems such as Sweden also tend to have a very high number of start ups because people can quit their jobs and devote themselves to a couple of years to develop that business idea they always had, or to start a band, or try to make a name as a painter.

4. How do you manage the transition from 'make-work' to permanent jobs when the economy is on the up, but people decide they prefer working in their local area sweeping the street?

I can see just as many practical problems with a job guarantee as with universal income. Neither solution is perfect – in reality, some sort of mix would be the only way I think it could be done effectively.

Torsten , January 23, 2017 at 7:33 am

Yes. Not either/or but both/and.

To provide some context for passers-by, this seemingly too-heated debate is occurring in the context of the upcoming Podemos policy meeting in Spain, Feb 10-12.. Podemos seems to have been unaware of MMT, and has subscribed to sovereign-economy-as-household policies. Ferguson, along with elements of the modern left, has been trying to win Podemos over to MMT-based policies like a Jobs Guarantee rather than the Basic Income scheme they have heretofore adopted rather uncritically.

(Of course Spain is far from "sovereign", but that's another matter :-(

aj , January 23, 2017 at 7:48 am

1) Fire them
2) Prospering region 1 isn't "short on workers" they just all have private jobs.
3) What a good argument to also have single payer healthcare and some sort of BIG as well as the JG
4) private companies must offer a better compensation package. One of the benefits of the JG is that it essentially sets the minimum wage.

Murph , January 23, 2017 at 9:08 am

Yeah, those are pretty good answers right off the bat. (Obviously I guess for #1 they can reapply in six months or something.)

Plutonium- I feel like true progress is trading shitty problems for less shitty ones. I can't see any of the major proponents like Kelton, Wray or Mitchell ever suggesting that the JG won't come with it's own new sets of challenges. On the overly optimistic side though: you could look at that as just necessitating more meaningful JG jobs addressing those issues.

aj , January 23, 2017 at 11:17 am

I was writing that on my phone this morning. Didn't have time to go into great detail. Still, I wanted to point out that just because there will be additional complexities with a JG, doesn't mean there aren't reasonable answers.

PlutoniumKun , January 23, 2017 at 10:42 am

1. If you fire them its not a jobs guarantee. Many people have psychological/social issues which make them unsuitable for regular hours jobs. If you don't have a universal basic income, and you don't have an absolute jobs guarantee, then you condemn them and their families to poverty.

2. The area is 'short on workers' if it is relying on a surplus public employee base for doing things like keeping the streets clean and helping out in old folks homes. It is implicit in the use of government as a source of jobs of last resort that if there is no spare labour, then you will have nobody to do all the non-basic works and you will have no justification for additional infrastructure spend.

3. You miss the point. A basic income allows people time and freedom to be creative if they choose. When the Conservatives in the early 1990's in the UK restricted social welfare to under 25's, Noel Gallagher of Oasis predicted that it would destroy working class rock n roll, and leave the future only to music made by rich kids. He was proven right, which is why we have to listen to Coldplay every time we switch on the radio.

4. This ignores the reality that jobs are never spread evenly across regions. One of the biggest problems in the US labour market is that the unemployed often just can't afford to move to where the jobs are available. A guaranteed job scheme organised on local govenment basis doesn't address this, if anything it can exacerbate the problem. And the simplest and easiest way to have a minimum wage is to have a minimum wage.

aj , January 23, 2017 at 11:39 am

1) Kelton always talks about a JG being for people "willing and able to work." If you are not willing I don't really have much sympathy for you. If you are not able due to psychological factors or disability, then we can talk about how you get on welfare or the BIG/UBI. The JG can't work in a vacuum. It can't be the only social program.

2) Seems unrealistic. You are just searching to find something wrong. If there is zero public employment, that means private employment is meeting all labor demands.

3) I have no idea what you are going on about. I'm in a band. I also have a full-time job. I go see local music acts all the time. There are a few that play music and don't work because they have rich parents, but that's the minority. Most artists I know manage to make art despite working full time. I give zero shits what corporate rock is these days. If you don't like what's on the radio turn it off. There are thousands of bands you've never heard of. Go find them.

4) Again, you are just searching for What-If reasons to crap on the JG. You try to keep the jobs local. Or you figure out free transportation. There are these large vehicles called busses which can transport many people at once.

Yes these are all valid logistical problems to solve, but you present them like there are no possible solutions. I can come up with several in less than 5 minutes.

oho , January 23, 2017 at 8:04 am

For a more practical first step--how about getting rid of/slashing regressive and non-federal income tax deductible sales taxes? shifting that tax burden to where income growth has been.

Democratic Party-run states/cities are the biggest offenders when it comes to high sales taxes.

universal basic income in the West + de facto open borders won't work. just making a reasonable hypothesis.

Dita , January 23, 2017 at 8:06 am

Make-work will set you free?

voteforno6 , January 23, 2017 at 8:32 am

There might be a psychological benefit to a jobs guarantee vs. UBI. There are a lot of people that would much rather "earn" their income rather than directly receiving it.

BeliTsari , January 23, 2017 at 8:46 am

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( ) ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, fast car

Norb , January 23, 2017 at 9:15 am

A JG would begin to rebuild the trust and cooperation needed to have a society based on justice instead of might makes right. Human life is based on obligations- we are all responsible to one another for the social system to work. The problem is always about how to deal with cheaters and shirkers. This problem is best solved by peer pressure and shaming- along with a properly functioning legal system.

I get a kick out of the "make work" argument against a JG. With planned obsolescence as the foundation of our economic system, it's just a more sophisticated way of digging holes and filling them in again. Bring on robotic automation, and the capitalist utopia is reached. Soul crushing, pointless labor can be sidelined and replaced with an unthinking and unfeeling machine in order to generate profits. The one problem is people have no money to buy the cheep products. To solve that dilemma, use the sovereign governments power to provide spending credits in the form of a UBI. Capitalism is saved from is own contradictions- the can is kicked farther down the road.

The obligations we have to one another must be defined before any system organization can take place. Right now, the elite are trying to have their cake and eat it too.

jerry , January 23, 2017 at 11:23 am

Well said!

Jamie , January 23, 2017 at 9:25 am

I agree with those who see a need for both programs. I think the critique of UBI here is a good one, that raises many valid points. But I have trouble with a portion of it. For instance:

by eliminating forced unemployment, it would eradicate systemic poverty

treats 'poverty' as an absolute when it is a relative. No matter what programs are in place, there will always be a bottom tier in our hierarchical society and those who constitute it will always be 'impoverished' compared to those in higher tiers. This is the nature of the beast. Which is why I prefer to talk about subsistence level income and degrees above subsistence. The cost of living may not be absolutely fixed over time, but it seems to me to be more meaningful and stable than the term 'poverty'. On the other hand, in a rent seeking economy, giving people an income will not lift them out of poverty because rents will simply be adjusted to meet the rise in resources. So UBI without rent control is meaningless.

Another point is that swapping forced unemployment for forced employment seems to me to avoid some core issues surrounding how society provides for all its members. Proponents of the JG are always careful to stress that no one is forced to work under the JG. They say things like, "jobs for everyone who wants one". But this fails to address the element of coercion that underlies the system. If one has no means to provide for oneself (i.e. we are no longer a frontier with boundless land that anyone can have for cheap upon which they may strike out and choose the amount of labor they contribute to procure the quality of life they prefer-if ever was such the case), then jobs for "everyone who wants one" is simply disingenuous. There is a critical "needs" versus "wants" discussion that doesn't generally come up when discussing JG. It's in there, of course, but it is postponed until the idea is accepted to the point where setting an actual wage becomes an issue. But even then, the wage set will bear on the needs versus wants of the employed, but leaves out those foolish enough to not "want" a job. Whereas, in discussing UBI, that discussion is front and center (since even before accepting the proposal people will ask, how much?, and proper reasons must be given to support a particular amount-which again brings us to discussing subsistence and degrees above it-the discussion of subsistence or better is "baked in" to the discussion about UBI in a way that it is not when discussing the JG).

PKMKII , January 23, 2017 at 9:44 am

While UBI interests me as a possible route to a non-"means of production"-based economy, the problem I see with it is that it could easily reduce the populace to living to consume. Given enough funds to provide for the basics of living, but not enough to make any gains within society, or affect change. It's growth for growth's sake, not as to serve society. Something is needed to make sure people aren't just provided for, but have the ability to shape the direction of their society and communities.

Teacup , January 23, 2017 at 9:48 am

Where I work @3/4 of the staff already receives social security and yet it is not enough seems to me human satisfaction is boundless and providing a relative minimum paper floor for everyone is just. Yet the way our market is set up, this paper floor would be gobbled back up by the rentier class anyway. So unless there is a miraculous change in our economic rent capture policies, we are screwed

So yes, just describe to people precisely what it is – a 'paper' floor not something that has firm footing yet acknowledges inequities inherent in our current currency distribution methods. And of course couple this with a jobs guarantee. I have met way too many people in my life that 'fall through the cracks' .

Portia , January 23, 2017 at 10:24 am

why is no one bemoaning the rabid over-consumption of the complainers who suck up much more than they will ever need, hoarding and complaining about people who do not have enough? the real problem is rampant out of control parasites

Teacup , January 23, 2017 at 12:04 pm

Must be a capital gains 'earner' . and a professional projectionist

Portia , January 23, 2017 at 12:19 pm

both ends see the other as a parasite

Ignacio , January 23, 2017 at 11:21 am

But Ferguson should also adknowledge that Livingston has some points.

Why on earth we politically put limits to, for instance, public earning-spending while do not put any limit to the net amount that one person can earn, spend and own?

Upward redistribution is what occurs in the neoliberal framework. UBI is distribution. Bear in mind that even in the best employment conditions, not everybody can earn a salary. 100% employment is unrealistic.

LT , January 23, 2017 at 11:58 am

The people marketing UBI and MMT have hundreds of years of attempted social engineereing to overcome. I referring to the " why people want what they want and why do they believe what they believe." Why?

The only suggestion I have is that, since everybody has a different relationship to the concept of work, the populations involved need to be smaller. Not necessarily fewer people, but more regions or nation states that are actually allowed to try their ideas without being attacked by any existing "empire" or "wanna be empire" via sanctions or militarily.

It is going to take many different regions, operating a variety of economic systems (not the globalized private banking extraction method pushed down every one's throat whether they like it or not) that people can gravitate in and out of freely.

People would have the choice to settle in the region that has rules and regulations that work most for their lives and belief systems (which can change over time).

Looking at it from the perspective that there can be only one system that 300 million plus people (like the USA) or the world must be under is the MAIN problem of social engineering. There needs to be space carved out for these many experiments.

schultzzz , January 23, 2017 at 12:05 pm

First, congratulations to everyone who managed to read this all the way through. IMO both this (and the guy he's responding to), seem like someone making fun of academic writing. Perhaps with the aid of a program that spits out random long words.

FWIW, when I lived in Japan, they had a HUGE, construction-based make-work program there, and it was the worst of both worlds: hard physical labor which even the laborers knew served no purpose, PLUS constant street obstruction/noise for the people in the neighborhoods of these make-work projects. Not to mention entire beautiful mountains literally concreted over in the name of 'jawbs'.

Different thought: I'm not sold on UBI either, but wouldn't it mess up the prostitution/sex trafficking game, almost as a side effect? Has anyone heard UBI fans promote it on that basis?

Ben , January 23, 2017 at 12:31 pm

The sound and fury of disagreement is drowning out what both authors agree on: guaranteed material standards of living and reduced working time. If that's the true goal, we should say so explicitly and hammer out the details of the best way to attain it.

MIB , January 23, 2017 at 1:12 pm

Interesting read society has become so corrupt at every level from personal up through municipal, regional and federal governments that it cant even identify the problem, let alone a solution

all forms of government and their corresponding programs will fail until that government is free from the monetary influences of individuals / corporations and military establishments, whether it be from donations to a political establishment or kick backs to politicians and legislators or government spending directed to buddies and cohorts

I don't pretend to understand the arguments at the level to which they are written, but at the basic level of true governance it must but open and honest, this would allow the economy to function and be evaluated, and then at that point we could offer up some ideas on how to enhance areas as needed or scale back areas that were out of control or not adding value to society as a whole

We stand at a place that has hundreds of years of built in corruption into the model, capable so far of funneling money to the top regardless of the program implemented by the left or the right sides of society

first step is to remove all corruption and influence from governance at every level until then all the toils toward improvement are pointless as no person has witnessed a "free market " in a couple hundred years, all economic policy has been slanted by influence and corruption

we can not fix it until we actually observe it working, and it will never work until it is free of bias / influence

no idea how we get there . our justice system is the first step in repairing any society

[Nov 24, 2016] Warning social media could harm your career (but not in the way you think) by Cal Newport

Notable quotes:
"... My second objection concerns the idea that social media is harmless. Consider that the ability to concentrate without distraction on hard tasks is becoming increasingly valuable in an increasingly complicated economy. ..."
"... Once this Pavlovian connection is solidified, it becomes hard to give difficult tasks the unbroken concentration they require, and your brain simply won't tolerate such a long period without a fix. Indeed, part of my own rejection of social media comes from this fear that these services will diminish my ability to concentrate - the skill on which I make my living. ..."
"... The idea of purposefully introducing into my life a service designed to fragment my attention is as scary to me as the idea of smoking would be to an endurance athlete, and it should be to you if you're serious about creating things that matter. ..."
"... A dedication to cultivating your social media brand is a fundamentally passive approach to professional advancement. It diverts your time and attention away from producing work that matters and towards convincing the world that you matter. The latter activity is seductive, especially for many members of my generation who were raised on this message, but it can be disastrously counterproductive. ..."
Nov 24, 2016 |

I'm a millennial computer scientist who also writes books and runs a blog. Demographically speaking I should be a heavy social media user, but that is not the case. I've never had a social media account.

At the moment, this makes me an outlier, but I think many more people should follow my lead and quit these services. There are many issues with social media, from its corrosion of civic life to its cultural shallowness, but the argument I want to make here is more pragmatic: you should quit social media because it can hurt your career.

This claim, of course, runs counter to our current understanding of social media's role in the professional sphere. We've been told that it's important to tend to your so-called social media brand, as this provides you access to opportunities you might otherwise miss and supports the diverse contact network you need to get ahead. Many people in my generation fear that without a social media presence, they would be invisible to the job market.

In a recent New York magazine essay , Andrew Sullivan recalled when he started to feel obligated to update his blog every half-hour or so. It seemed as if everyone with a Facebook account and a smartphone now felt pressured to run their own high-stress, one-person media operation, and "the once-unimaginable pace of the professional blogger was now the default for everyone", he wrote.

I think this behaviour is misguided. In a capitalist economy, the market rewards things that are rare and valuable. Social media use is decidedly not rare or valuable. Any 16-year-old with a smartphone can invent a hashtag or repost a viral article. The idea that if you engage in enough of this low-value activity, it will somehow add up to something of high value in your career is the same dubious alchemy that forms the core of most snake oil and flimflam in business. Professional success is hard, but it's not complicated. The foundation to achievement and fulfillment, almost without exception, requires that you hone a useful craft and then apply it to things that people care about. This is a philosophy perhaps best summarised by the advice Steve Martin used to give aspiring entertainers: "Be so good they can't ignore you." If you do that, the rest will work itself out, regardless of the size of your Instagram following. Concentrate without distraction

A common response to my social media scepticism is the idea that using these services "can't hurt". In addition to honing skills and producing things that are valuable, my critics note, why not also expose yourself to the opportunities and connections that social media can generate? I have two objections to this line of thinking.

First, interesting opportunities and useful connections are not as scarce as social media proponents claim. In my own professional life, for example, as I improved my standing as an academic and a writer, I began receiving more interesting opportunities than I could handle. I now have filters on my website aimed at reducing, not increasing, the number of offers and introductions I receive.

My research on successful professionals underscores that this experience is common: As you become more valuable to the marketplace, good things will find you. To be clear, I'm not arguing that new opportunities and connections are unimportant. I'm instead arguing that you don't need social media's help to attract them.

My second objection concerns the idea that social media is harmless. Consider that the ability to concentrate without distraction on hard tasks is becoming increasingly valuable in an increasingly complicated economy.

Social media weakens this skill because it's engineered to be addictive. The more you use social media in the way it's designed to be used - persistently throughout your waking hours - the more your brain learns to crave a quick hit of stimulus at the slightest hint of boredom.

Once this Pavlovian connection is solidified, it becomes hard to give difficult tasks the unbroken concentration they require, and your brain simply won't tolerate such a long period without a fix. Indeed, part of my own rejection of social media comes from this fear that these services will diminish my ability to concentrate - the skill on which I make my living.

The idea of purposefully introducing into my life a service designed to fragment my attention is as scary to me as the idea of smoking would be to an endurance athlete, and it should be to you if you're serious about creating things that matter.

Perhaps more important, however, than my specific objections to the idea that social media is a harmless lift to your career, is my general unease with the mind-set this belief fosters.

A dedication to cultivating your social media brand is a fundamentally passive approach to professional advancement. It diverts your time and attention away from producing work that matters and towards convincing the world that you matter. The latter activity is seductive, especially for many members of my generation who were raised on this message, but it can be disastrously counterproductive.

Most social media is best described as a collection of somewhat trivial entertainment services that are now having a good run. These networks are fun, but you're deluding yourself if you think that Twitter messages, posts and likes are a productive use of your time.

If you're serious about making an impact in the world, power down your smartphone, close your browser tabs, roll up your sleeves and get to work.

Cal Newport is an associate professor of computer science at Georgetown University and the author of Deep Work : Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World (Grand Central).

The New York Times

[Nov 23, 2016] Quit Social Media. Your Career May Depend on It

Nov 23, 2016 |
( 184 Posted by msmash on Monday November 21, 2016 @12:20PM from the dilemma dept.

The New York Times ran a strong opinion piece that talks about one critical reason why everyone should quit social media: your career is dependent on it. The other argues that by spending time on social media and sharing our thoughts, we are demeaning the value of our work, our ideas . (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternate source .)

Select excerpts from the story follows:

In a capitalist economy, the market rewards things that are rare and valuable. Social media use is decidedly not rare or valuable. Any 16-year-old with a smartphone can invent a hashtag or repost a viral article. The idea that if you engage in enough of this low-value activity, it will somehow add up to something of high value in your career is the same dubious alchemy that forms the core of most snake oil and flimflam in business.

Professional success is hard, but it's not complicated. The foundation to achievement and fulfillment, almost without exception, requires that you hone a useful craft and then apply it to things that people care about. [...] Interesting opportunities and useful connections are not as scarce as social media proponents claim. In my own professional life, for example, as I improved my standing as an academic and a writer, I began receiving more interesting opportunities than I could handle. As you become more valuable to the marketplace, good things will find you.

To be clear, I'm not arguing that new opportunities and connections are unimportant. I'm instead arguing that you don't need social media's help to attract them. My second objection concerns the idea that social media is harmless. Consider that the ability to concentrate without distraction on hard tasks is becoming increasingly valuable in an increasingly complicated economy. Social media weakens this skill because it's engineered to be addictive. The more you use social media in the way it's designed to be used -- persistently throughout your waking hours -- the more your brain learns to crave a quick hit of stimulus at the slightest hint of boredom.

Once this Pavlovian connection is solidified, it becomes hard to give difficult tasks the unbroken concentration they require, and your brain simply won't tolerate such a long period without a fix. Indeed, part of my own rejection of social media comes from this fear that these services will diminish my ability to concentrate -- the skill on which I make my living.

A dedication to cultivating your social media brand is a fundamentally passive approach to professional advancement. It diverts your time and attention away from producing work that matters and toward convincing the world that you matter. The latter activity is seductive, especially for many members of my generation who were raised on this message, but it can be disastrously counterproductive.

[Nov 08, 2015] Inventing on Principle by Bret Victor

Nick Geoghegan

Every aspect of your life is a choice. There are default choices: you can choose to sleepwalk through your life and accept the path that's laid out for you. You can choose to accept the world as it is… but you don't have to. If there is something in the world you feel is wrong, and you have a vision of what a better world would be, you can find your guiding principle, and you can fight for a cause. […] Think about what matters to you, what you believe in, and what you might fight for.


[Aug 22, 2013] The Rise of Bullshit Jobs

naked capitalism

Goin' South:

Again, Graeber has managed to peel the onion to find a very sensitive layer of fundamental beliefs and attitudes, thereby provoking what promises to be a great discussion. I hope he drops by to engage.

My overall impression of your piece, Yves, is that you misperceive Graeber's point to some extent. As you recount some of your own job history, I don't think Graeber would ever call delivering newspapers a "bullshit job" (though it might depend on the newspaper). Consulting, on the other hand… And how could he disagree that even bullshit jobs can lead to insights that lead to very meaningful work, like writing important books and running great blogs?

He's talking about the real social utility of jobs, not their social status or intellectual content.

Likening Graeber to some dandy was off-base, though. He comes from a working class background and doesn't even carry an Ivy pedigree. Field work as an anthropologist is hardly like playing croquet or polo. Writing a book like Debt may not be mining coal, but as you well know, it's not lounging on the deck of your crewed yacht either.

I take his piece as part evangel for those who feel their professional/management jobs are bullshit and part prod to the rest of us to think about the relationship between work and being human. The prod part is clearly working.

Robert Dudek:

I do not feel you have represented Graeber's view in full. His test for a bullshit job is what would happen if that job disappeared in a puff of smoke. Doctors would be missed; telemarketers not at all.

Your paper delivery job is one that DG would regard as non-bullshit because it does add value to others. No service job that provides a needed service is regarded by DG as a BS job. And it is far from accurate to say that the BS jobs are low paying jobs. Near the top of DG's list is hedge fund managers.

Yves Smith:

Not true.

The telemarketing job I had was essential to the sales of the business I was working for at the time. I did a second telemarketing job (different company) that took the better part of six weeks obtaining information to develop a cost adjustment for Federal payments to Legal Aid offices.

As much as I despise it as intrusive, telemarketing is a sales channel. It's an alternative to direct mail. It's way way overdone these days to the point of making it a useless channel, but no sales and marketing, no business for many businesses. The junk mail in my inbox is similar. As much as I hate that too, I actually do get occasional useful offers, and in the last year, I bought one product (not cheap either) that I learned about solely by virtue of a junk mail message.

So your and Graeber's hostility to telemarketers is based on being imposed on by them, not on their value to businesses. I gotta tell you they are still important to businesses, and if they were made to go poof, they'd need to find other ways to reach consumers (door to door? I used to sell newspaper subscriptions door to door. Would you rather have THAT? Or network marketing, like the way they sell Tupperware and back in the day, insurance, aluminum siding, encyclopedias? Having your un or underemployed friends hit you up personally to buy stuff? I tell you, you might come to yearn for the days of telemarketers if that was foisted on you)

Similarly, pension fund investors would disagree with you and Graeber all day. They deem many hedge fund strategies to be essential both from a diversification and an asset class perspective. You may disagree, but you are not the customer. If customers deem it to be essential, who are you to second guess? The enterpreneur's definition of what it takes to have a business is customers.

Now I personally don't think hedgies are that valuable. I think you could get rid of 2/3 of them and we'd have an increase in societal value. Ditto telemarketers. But the fact that there are too many of something and most of it is done badly or for self serving motives does not render something to be bullshit. There are too many actors too. In fact, the creative activities that Graeber celebrates already have too many people who want to engage in them. That's why they have power law payoffs. The few at the top really rake it in, but when you get below that, there are so many willing to do it for so little (some for true love of the discipline, others out of the fantasy that they'll be the next Tom Cruise/Julia Roberts, and the fallback is making a hundred thousand a year on TV commercials) that people on the bottom rungs will work for nothing or close to nothing.

And I have to tell you, the way medicine is practiced in the US, much of it is bullshit. Mammograms. PSA tests. The use of MRIs as diagnostic tools for orthopedic surgery (you will inevitably find all sort of abnormal-looking stuff in an MRI, an MRI can be used to justify all kinds of dubious orthopedic surgeries). Why do you think the US medical system is so overpriced? Go read Maggie Mahar's Money Driven Medicine. The short answer is that US doctors way overtest and overtreat because they are on a piecework system. Our lousy and high cost health care admin isn't the biggest culprit, it's our treatment regime.

Goin' South:

I think you're still missing the point, Yves.

"The telemarketing job I had was essential to the sales of the business I was working for at the time."

The point is not whether the job is useful to the business. The people who sit in a medical insurance company cubicle all day denying claims are useful to the business. They produce negative social utility.

Yes, Graeber is poking a bit at anything related to advertising, but in general, he's right. We'd be better off without it, just as we'd be better off without hedge fund managers and Goldman CEOs and white shoe law firm lawyers.


Contra Yves (though she makes good points) I think it is the "content" of the jobs that's bullshit. Many people are employed to enforce and maintain the pyramid hierarchy. The top 20%, say, are all about (in a big brush sense) enforcing the status quo, and spreading bullshit over everything.

Media. Finance. Academia. Agriculture. Science (corrupted by money and service to power.) Pharma. MIC and Security. Medicine. Insurance. So all that white collar stuff. Then all their "cube farm" peons (so the rest of the top 50%.) Then, the people on the very bottom, blue collar and services, do useful work for all of society.

Susan the other:

The MBS "trustees" seem to have been in on the securitization scam from the beginning. Most of them are banks. The banks put together the securities, failed to securitize them, and sold them to investors with a trustee in place who wouldn't blow their cover because that trustee was another big bank doing the exact same thing. I mean, how can that many "trustees", possible all (100% of them?), have screwed up all of the securitizations? There doesn't seem to be a single "trustee" out there who wanted to put the notes in the trusts. The question why? needs to be investigated. But it will never happen. Because the entire securitization industry is bullshit. Or probably laundering money.

sgt_doom :

Overall I agree with Ms. Smith's posting and comments, but fundamentally disagree with her about hedge funds.

Hedge funds are inherently about speculation, and one of the few things Adam Smith and I are in agreement about is our antipathy to speculators.

Hedge funds, private equity leveraged buyout firms, and jobs offshoring are the three principal ways they have dismantled the American economy while enriching themselves!


It's the zero-sum nature of a job when looked at as a part of the system as a whole that makes it BS – advertising, telemarketing, consulting, lawyering, human resources, finance all fit that mold potentially. (Not to say that the socially useful levels for these activities are zero, just much much lower than they are today.)

political economist:

Thank you for making this point. IF this is not Graeber's point it certainly was a major theme of Baran and Sweezy's Monopoly Capital. Capital is corrupting large [number of people] by forcing people to be wage slaves.

This was true from the beginning as Michael P highlights in his book but also today. BUT the point is not just that the workplace and work are unsatisfying, but that the work is irrationally driven by profit not by human needs and fundamental desires.

Wars, destruction of the environment, imprisonment and other forms of social control are all related to the concept of "bullshit jobs" – or whatever you want to call the work a majority of people do.

Psychologists may be able to put people into different categories but creativity is not genetic. People come alive when given opportunites!


I think it was Yves who mused a little while back "just what people will be expected to do to pleasure our new overlords" (that's not an exact quote, but gives the gist).

I'm of an age and of a position to not need to worry too much. Like Ina's experience in the above, I am lucky enough to quit the system and get by if I have to. But what of the next generation, mired in debt and subject to the extraction by the multitude of licensed protection racket players in healthcare, finance, education or housing ? How can they ever get ahead ?

There's a story making the news here in the UK about how an intern basically worked himself to death doing his stint in one of the big banks (apologies, don't have the link to hand). Poor chap; he is unfortunately only the first of many.


…isn't it the switch from manufacturing based economy (no panacea for workforce) to paper debt (Hudson-Black-Kevin Phillips) that is involved in all this angst? 2001, "financial services" amounted to 19% of U.S. economic activity=profit$…by 2007, 41%.

Blame for this fact (Phillips-"American Dynasty"-"American Theocracy") involves those who benefitted from transition…Bush I was uncomfortable with said transition…Phillips shows what has happened historically-Spain, Netherlands, Britain, all suffered economic fallout.

Capitalism today is rushing towards ever worse-marginalizing workers as CONTRACT WORKERS-to even avoid employee status-avoiding healthcare mandates, overtime, HR necessities, vacation or travel expenses for employer, etc, etc…pay to be nothing but % of profit$ generated…

..think it's bad now..?

Phillips does discuss ("American Dynasty") contrast between Bush I economic history and "W"-first ever "MBA" president=financialized mentality…neither Bush I nor his cohort-lawyer James Baker were pleased with "W"-Cheney economics…attempted on several occasions to put Middle-East (after Iraq invasion) back to "bidness"…

Let's remember Kevin Phillips was Nixon's Krauthammer…


My reading of Graeber's work, especially "Revolutions in Reverse" (free on line), one of his central themes is that for hundreds of years we have things backwards. Our priority has been making stuff for humans rather than having as our primary task, the nurturing of humans and the planet. This is also a theme of John Perkins in his books. He tells the South American story of the Eagle People and the Condor People. The Eagle People build machines that conquer the earth while the Condor people care for the earth and all living things. For the last 400 years it is the Eagle People who have dominated.

We have a chance, it is told in legend, to unite the two and have them more in balance. The central theme of what kind of system should we have is what Graeber writes about.

He asks us to think of an alternative to TINA; he asks us to change the story. It is basically a feminist perspective, he says. Most people yearn for meaning in their day to day lives.

Children of the wealthy and the bourgeoisie get to have jobs in the arts and non-profits, he notes. While working class children lately have turned to the military to find work with purpose. The I.W.W. (the Wobblies) lobbied for shorter work days rather than more pay. In leisure a person can create whether it is shish kabob, a song, or talk of revolution. The powers that be do not want us to have leisure. They prefer to negotiate wages and thus keep control of our time. (Trying to remember where I read this theory. But one place, oddly enough, was "Faces Along the Bar" a history of the saloon from the 1880s to 1920s. ).

Without going into too much detail, I work in the movie/television industry. My job could be eliminated if movie studios and producers shared the profits with the actors and the crew. But that doesn't happen, so ergo the middleman. I personally would be happy to go back into the actual creative side from whence I came.

But I worried about growing old and needed to pay the rent. If we knew we would be taken care of in old age what interesting lives we all might be able to lead.


Dear scott; Around here, the Deep South, drive by shootings, rarer here out in the country than urban environments, (a function of population density?) do happen. Usually the result of inter group status competitions or "recreational pharmaceutical" sales competition. I'd suggest that a bit more 'focused' idleness, as in non-violent conflict resolution training, would be a very socially positive outcome. How to accomplish that? Well, the traditional methods were woven into the social fabric: churches, family, extended kinship groups, and good old fashioned group play among kiddies. The best way, to my thinking, to learn to navigate a social group, is to be involved in one. The present atomization of our culture is producing the precisely opposite result. All politics is local. So, drive by shooting could be framed as a manifestation of "local politics" by other means. BTW, what happened to the "Confirm You Are Not A Spammer" box?


I don't think you are getting the point of what a bullshit job is Yves. A bullshit job is not janitor or whatever other job some might consider "lowly". A bullshit job is one that adds nothing to the satisfaction of human needs and desire. Telemarketing is a bullshit job because if telemarketers disappeared tomorrow the world would not miss them. That's why Graeber uses as his primary example the corporate lawyer. The reason we don't have more leisure time, and rest assured most of us DO want more leisure time, is because so many of us are caught up in bullshit work that doesn't do anything to provide for the needs, or even the desires, of humanity. If someone loves PR than by all means, go for it. But most people who work in what I'll call the meaningless professions don't really like them. And of those that do, I'd say at least some of them are suffering from a work ethic form of Stockholm Syndrome - getting pleasure out of work simply because it validates that they are not layabout losers.

You may think that it is classist to desire leisure time. I think that for most people who don't really like the work they do, they would like more leisure time to be creative, relax, hang out with their families or friends, get into a hobby, learn something new… whatever. As long as its not that damn job. And I didn't take Graeber's point to be that people should work only 15 hours per week whether they wanted to work more or not. Its about having the option. We are not all career-oriented types.

And I might object to my child cleaning her school but not because the work is lowly. Its because children have more important things to do at school than clean, and do we really want to emulate the work and community model of the Japanese after all? Children learn to clean as their parents think its important. I had many chores as a child I had to do, and so will my kids. But I don't want their schooling to be mixed up with cleaning. I have no disrespect for janitors either. I think that us middle class types can get way too defensive of the working class sometimes and see insults where they do not exist. I don't think janitors want their children spending hours of their time at school cleaning either.

You are clearly someone who loves their work. That is great. But not all of us are satisfied working 40-60 hours per week on the same set of tasks, no matter how scintillating they are. A world where we had the option of working half or less the hours is a better world. The reason we don't live in that world is because the upper classes don't want to give up their control of our lives and because there are so many outright pointless jobs.

ScottS says:

No, Graeber is making an argument on a difference in kind. Yves is making an argument on a difference in degree. Yves is correct that marketing is necessary for business, and that the unpleasantness is either necessary or, absent the rule of law, fraud. Ditto finance. I feel that Graeber is (or should be) making the argument that a vast majority of business that marketing is working for is questionable.

My gut feeling is that most jobs are in the entertainment industry whether you realize it or not (Facebook?), since technology has obviated the need for the majority of people to toil for basic needs. That's not necessarily bad. But it is quite obvious to me that we have a distribution problem - no one should starve when we have excess food.

We are in the post-scarcity phase of development, and we need to update our economic models to reflect that. Since we simply don't need the vast majority of people to toil simply to survive, why force them? It's a relic of a time when resources where scarce. Frankly, economics is the study of distributing scarce resources and has nothing to say when resources are no longer scarce. Economists are only good at manufacturing scarcity to keep their sinecures.

When I can live my whole life comfortably without a day's work, then I will have the power to dictate the terms of my employment and finally be free of the cube farm.

And for some intellectual sugar, here is a cute story about a fisherman debating a businessman on the value of a full-day's work:

nonclassical :

Yankee-"marketing" in all facets involves propaganda: (Adam Curtis-"The Century of Self"

"Century of Self" and "The Trap", by Adam Curtis.."Showed corporate ameriKa how to manipulate consumers"..

..difficult to separate "worker" from "consumer"…connection is integral…

John in Boulder says:

There's so much to comment on here it is daunting! To be brief, when I was working in DC it was a culture who bragged about not seeing their kids for three weeks and wouldn't leave work before 7 PM Friday for fear their money would be expropriated. Moving to Colorado, the workplaces were empty by 3 PM Friday and the folks back in DC, still at work, were wondering why no one was answering the phone at the Denver office.

When my nephew visited me in Boulder I took him to lunch and as we lingered into the afternoon he noted that most of the patrons were lingering with us and commented "I don't think anyone works here!"

My point I guess is that DC and probably NY are the worst of the culture of workaholics and the farther away you get from those places the better off you'll be. And in places like Colorado where there are other things to do, people do them. Finally, places like Boulder where you mix a high number of intellectuals and bohemians the pace of the place can be downright European.

I will definitely use Krugman's line about the French consuming vacations…


I used to work as a line cook at truck stop on I-25, now I do corporate law. There is no question in my mind which is the bullshit job, but at least I can take a long lunch every now and then.

The point is that bullshit isn't necessarily bad, it just is what our society values. Don't over think it, take the job if you want it. Just don't lose sight of who is really doing useful work.

Ed S.:


Spent 10 yrs in DC and now into my 8th in Silicon Valley. It's a complicated issue but I think that in industries where it's difficult to value output, there is a tendency to value input. So in DC, where it's INCREDIBLY difficult to value output, input is valued (and so people "work" absurd amounts of time - "can't really demonstrate what I do is of any value, but I put in 80 hours a week doing it")

And the expectation of constant contact: it's the new normal. It's the modeled behavior - marketed to us as the way to succeed. If you've watched Mad Men, think about people lining up for the elevator at 8:50am and 5:20pm. That schedule has gone the way of the Selectric.

How does this play out in real life? Anecdote: a former employee of mine moved to a new job and in her evaluation she was criticized for not checking her email enough WHILE ON VACATION.

Technology allows employers to "own" people in a way that hasn't been seen the heyday of the HMS Bounty.

Yes, but:

Thanks as usual for your thoughtful comments here, Yves.

I agree that an important distinction between meaningful work and bullshit work has to do with wages and conditions, not only the content, or what one is involved with producing etc.

But I think you dismiss Graeber's views too easily. To my sensibility, his perspectives are more general and philosophical, though they have lots of practical applications and possibilities. I hear his sentiments as a sort of philosophical compliment to Gar Alperovitz's work, maybe.

The point about free time isn't so much that everyone is just bursting at the seams w/ creativity, and if only they had the time to pursue their interests, like a few extra hrs per week, the world would be radically different in just a few yrs. No doubt some would start coops and write novels while others would drink more or lay around and masturbate. People are really diverse. We're capable of vast cruelty as well as amazing generosity and self sacrifice.

The interesting question is about system and institutional design: what kinds of situations encourage creativity, sharing, generosity, kindness, etc; and what encourages the opposite, or other qualities? Clearly, our system doesn't do enough to encourage the best, and often (or typically) rewards the worst. Bust the issue is about how to best tap into and encourage human potential. And it's true that, as corrupt, inefficient etc as our system is, if the rewards were distributed equally, every household of 4 could earn 100 grand per yr w/ one individual working 20 hrs per week. That's just based on GDP, which has it's problems. But the point is that the problems, even w/ this limited view, have to do with distribution, with politics, more than w/ economics per se.

In other words, it's not just about being paid more or less to telemarket or flip burgers or whatever. Wages and conditions are totally important and worth fighting for, of course. But the issue is really more fundamental, as I see it. How can we start institutions, build new corporations or community run coops or whatever that really serve society and the planet, and are truly democratic, etc. How can we build institutions that encourage solidarity, creativity, curiosity, what benefits community/ the general public etc instead of selfishness, isolation, profit etc?

When we start to consider what is a bullshit job, and what would meaningful work look like, I think we have to consider these–and other–questions.

middle seaman:

The percentage of the population producing goods has declined substantially in the developed world. Goods include not only cars and machine tools, but also TV programs. Graeber bullshit job sexist on many levels and in many sectors of the economy. Many companies have a middle manager for every 5-7 works. Managing of this sort is bullshit. A lot of consulting jobs amount to pure bullshit.

We also have endless numbers of overworked and badly paid workers. Our, US, minimum wage combined with high unemployment creates modern slave labor. It really doesn't matter whether the work is bullshit or not.

In summary, Yves' and David's perspectives don't really contradict each other. They are orthogonal and valid.

I'm not sure Graeber meant 'bullshit jobs' as you described it, that's for he put the words in quotes. He didn't mean they are 'bullshit' because of being of a low social value, but because they are made to keep people subordinate, in increasing authoritarian structures: they are essentially a means of control. That's somewhat how Foucault describes the necessity for the upper class to retain the impoverished peasants in working houses. That's also the inherent moralistic pathos which motivated the birth of the modern psychiatry: control over the worker's body.


I'm not sure Graeber meant 'bullshit jobs' as you described it, that's for he put the words in quotes. He didn't mean they are 'bullshit' because of being of a low social value, but because they are made to keep people subordinate, in increasing authoritarian structures: they are essentially a means of control.

That's somewhat how Foucault describes the necessity for the upper class to retain the impoverished peasants in working houses. That's also the inherent moralistic pathos which motivated the birth of the modern psychiatry: control over the worker's body.


This is how I read him too. I find Yves anecdote about Australia puzzling.

I'm an expat American that has lived in NZ for a few years and one of the things I love about it is how little BS there is…particularly because of egalitarianism. Except for a few crusty Brits (that seem to stick around) and whingeing Yanks (who don't), nearly everyone is keen to do a practical job to either cover their basic needs or simply pass the time. There are lots of people with professional (even upper executive jobs) that get home and tend to sheep. I knew the owner of a vineyard who had one low level employee who was a nuclear scientist (from the UK) and one who was a physician.

Doing nothing, particularly going outside for a hike [tramp] is seen as sublime. It's hard to get into a conversation with a kiwi and have it not turn to tramping.

Inequality is on the rise and with that, there is apparently an increasing amount of BS, which people are concerned about. NZ (and especially OZ) have a Faustian bargain because they are intent on increasing competitiveness on the global level in order to maintain necessary imports, but globalization is so inherently BS that it conflicts with the core essence of the country.

I'm really glad that Yves pointed out how what is meaningful is personality type sensitive, which a lot of people overlook, but the common theme is that non-BS jobs are largely self directed and connect with physical or creative reality instead of paper pushing or ego stroking.


August 22, 2013 at 9:37 am

If I could survive comfortably on a 20 hr work week, or even less, I'd be happy as a clam. I'd have more than enough to do with my free time too, which in no way would constitute twiddling my thumbs all day, although I'd do some fo that, thank you. I'd spend much more time WORKING on gardening, socializing, running, reading, golfing, volunteering, loving my family. Also have time to reread Bob Black's "Abolition of Work", which I'm going to do right after I post this.

Goin' South

"The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time."

James Taylor


:I usually just quietly read (as a proper INTP, since the MBTI was brought into it), but this post happens to brush against my area of professional expertise, so I'll poke my head out of my hole briefly.

I write psychological assessments of candidates for hiring, promotion, and developmental work. I've done tens of thousands of these over the past twenty-odd years, which I think has given me, while not a comprehensive view, a pretty broad one across US (and, to a lesser extent, UK/European) business, and a lot of (anecdotal) data points about whether or not people perceive their jobs as being bullshit.

The upshot is, increasingly, yes, they do (especially over the past five years, whoof), and it appears to me they do so for a range of reasons that spans both Smith-esque and Graeber-esque points (within the context of this post). People - even those pretty high up the food chain - often feel moderately to completely powerless in their roles to do anything other than keep the sausage machine grinding. People are often confused or disheartened by what they are paid or incentivized to do (for example, a traffic signal engineer specialist who is now flooded with work to install surveillance cameras, for which purpose cities and towns evidently have plenty of money). And, people are sometimes (albeit considerably less routinely) concerned about the bigger, society-wide picture of what it is precisely they are wreaking upon the world.

Anyway, it adds up to a lot of anxious, demotivated people who have a hard time seeing what the point of their endeavors is beyond the immediate concerns of the task itself (even if they can articulate a plausible line of reasoning for why it is "important" - I've worked long enough in psych to know that it means pretty much precisely jack shit in and of itself when someone can articulate an intellectual line of reasoning…well, it means they're probably not hopelessly cognitively impaired).

The issue of "perceived value" that Yves brought up is important, although it is also a real hairball; one of the difficult things about people is the hall of mirrors of our highly social nature. But anyway, take the telemarketer who is perceived as a plague by whom she calls and as an asset of some sort by the company that hires her. Both views are going to leach into her - she can't help it, as a human being. If her employer starts treating her worse, perhaps even with visible contempt (more the rule than the exception these days), it's likely to tip the scales at some point. This effect is independent of whether or not telemarketing is actually valuable to the company, and whether in turn the company itself is valuable to society. If the telemarketer happens to be interested in those issues, that'll go into the mix of her overall opinion of the bullshittiness or not of her job. In practical terms, though, the personal feedback she gets from how she is treated by the people she actually interacts with is going to have a much stronger effect upon how she feels, and it's how she feels that is really what it all comes down to. Intellectual analyses or principles can and sometimes do override this emotional reality, but ye gods they have to burn bright and true to do that for long.

Also, Yves's point about empty free time that people creatively decide how to fill perhaps not being the pinnacle of human ambition is a critical one. Great swaths of empty free time is a soul-eating disaster for quite a lot of people. One can imagine a society and environment where there would be enough structure and context for people to plug into a productive endeavor of their own choosing, but that's a bit lacking at the moment (worth building, though). Oh well, lots of interesting points in this post, but I'll stop there.


What percentage of people work at jobs they find persoanlly fulfilling? In other words what percentage of people would choose a different profession, or even way of life, from where they are now? I'm 52 and have worked as a union carpenter, union laborer, construction superintendent, self employed contractor, high school teacher, basketball coach and a day trader. In virtually every environment of walked I'd say the majority of people were unhappy with their jobs.

You could probably number the rampant amount of social pathologies in our society as equal or greater than the number of dissatisfied workers they affect (and there is cause and effect at work here). These dissatisfied workers might not consider thier jobs bullshit jobs, but I can assure you they think they put up with way too much bullshit in having to survive by doing them.

To my mind wage slavery is bullshit, not necessarily the work itself. I had as much or more satisfaction working as a summertime carpenter as I did teaching AP History. My problem wasn't necessarily the nature of the work, but rather the hierarchical nature in which I was subordiante to a power far greater than myself–my boss– who had the ability to fuck with me and my livelihood in ways that influenced my mental and physical health in a not so positive way. I'm not alone there either. Far from it.

If we are largely what we do daily then the levels of crime, divorce, depression, suicide, anger, alcoholism, drug abuse (legal and illegal), ill health, etc., etc., can be tied to a dysfunctional economic model that materially strengthens the few on the backs and minds of the many

. Work doesn't need to go away, even so called "bullshit" work. But the nature of how we do it and who it is that lords power over us in doing it needs a radical makeover.

anon y'mouse:

"My problem wasn't necessarily the nature of the work, but rather the hierarchical nature in which I was subordiante to a power far greater than myself–my boss– who had the ability to fuck with me and my livelihood in ways that influenced my mental and physical health in a not so positive way."

yes, experienced that as well. unfortunately, some of us grew up in environments with abusive parents/step-parents who literally held the power of life and death over us on a daily basis and would show that power if they decided that they didn't like the look on your face that day.

I immediately recognize an toxic work environment for what it is-an abusive relationship.

most employment situations that I've seen have been that way. and those of us who had abuse in our pasts, as the military is currently discovering, are more prone to stress disorders, psychosomatic illnesses and PTSD. so for us, this type of power imbalance and being forced to endure is similar to torture (not to devalue the word) and antithetical to life.

Chris Sturr:

Yves cites Michael Perelman, who wrote a piece for Dollars & Sense a few years back that bears on this discussion: "The Rise of Guard Labor: How capitalists' need to controll access to goods and services–and to control workers–deforms the productive process and stifles creativity." (Available here: .)

I am not sure exactly how Perelman's analysis (which draws on material from his book *The Invisible Handcuffs of Capitalism*) bears on this discussion, but at a minimum there's some overlap between what he's calling "guard labor" and what Graeber calls "bullshit jobs" (and in both cases, the categories cover high-pay/-status jobs and low-pay/-status jobs). But whereas Graeber says that there is a moral rather than an economic explanation of the rise of bullshit jobs, Perelman gives an economic explanation of the rise of guard labor. And Perelman's account (especially the section "How Rigid Control Paralyzes Creativity") gives an economic explanation of how guard labor functions to make other jobs horrible.

Are You Being Served?:

Working for a retail chain means constant stocking & restocking, putting up displays, taking down displays – all of which serves two purposes. First, but not necessarily foremost: to keep employees busy. Afterall, they're being paid by the hour. Second: to "drive sales." Yes, the "consumer" "responds" to novelty - the newest, the latest. Promotions, gimmicks, & constantly changing displays bring in & "hook" the shopper. And the shopper is often another wage slave on his or her day off. They might be upper middle class Mexican nationals here on shopping "vacations."

For many of us wage slaves, a day off or a vacation means time to either shop or sleep.

Malls close or get turned into cheap bazaars for immigrants. Mazerati dealers pop up along the freeways. Office towers & high rise condos sprout only to remain mostly unoccupied. Build it & they will come? More & more men & women appear on street corners with Help Me signs. Kids shoot each other. Prisons profit. Duck Dynasty is a huge hit.

Recycle? What's the use? Lost your health insurance because your employer cut you back to part time? Blame Obama. Capitalism may not be perfect, but it's the best we've got - right? Freedom ain't free. Support our troops. It's the Golden Age of alcohol. Hundreds of artisan beers on tap. Get out there & vote. Buy a lottery ticket. Listen to audio books on the Law of Attraction. Go on a diet. Take a yoga class. Go to the shooting range. Go vegan. Play computer games. Hey, who moved my cheese?


@Are You Being Served?

Have you read "Kingdom Come" by the late great J.G. Ballard yet? I think you'll find it satisfying. Please do give it a go.


I would define a bullshit job as one which had no social value, that is it did not improve the quality of our society and could even detract from it. What is the quality of our society? It is the society that we wish to build and maintain for ourselves and each other, a fair and just society based on sharing our resources so that each of us is provided with what we need for a good and meaningful life, and that we do this not just for ourselves but in a sustainable fashion so that future generations may do so as well.

We live in a kleptocracy so really all jobs are bullshit because all our work is going, not to building the society we want, but one we do not want, one which loots us and degrades us into wage and debt slavery. Sectors like financial services are incredibly destructive of our society. All jobs in this sector are bullshit because they either promote or sustain looting.

Now you could argue that while all labor in a kleptocracy is twisted into working against itself, some labor still serves some minimal social function. The farmer grows the food we need to survive. The builder builds shelter for us. The manufacturer creates the goods we need to live. But consider the farmer is most likely an employee of or contracted to some big agri-business corporation growing GMO crops or raising drug riddled livestock in factory conditions. The builder is building shoddy housing that will fall apart before the mortgage is paid off in some exurb using low wage undocumented workers wherever he/she can. The manufacturer is trying to do everything he/she can to cut the wages and benefits of their workers here and ship their jobs over to China or Bangladesh.

The truth is that bullshit jobs are a condition of consumerism. Very little is made to last. Built in obsolesence permeates all consumer goods. If it falls apart, whether clothes and shoes after a season or an iPhone every three years, then there will be built-in recurrent demand and perennial high profits.

I would go further and say that any job that doesn't pay a living wage is bullshit and wages war against a fair and just society whether it serves some social purpose or no. And looking further still, let us recognize the artificial divide between work and jobs. Jobs are usually considered paid work, but what about all the unpaid caregivers, parents, and homemakers in this country who often labor long and hard doing work of great social value. That we do not share our society's resources to take care of and compensate them for their work. Well, that is bullshit too.

[Aug 22, 2013] Barbara Garson How to Become a Part-Time Worker Without Really Trying

naked capitalism


Found the link now:


I don't recall where I read another story about this, but it said the cause of death was unknown. It also showed a portion of his webpage with the Serenity Prayer quoted and I wondered (granted, was speculative) if he had a history of addiction. Then I read the Guardian link posted and saw it reported that toxicology results were pending (yeah, it's routine testing for a death of unknown cause, but not typically highlighted in press reports IME). So, I question how accurate "working himself to death" might be. A gut feeling says his death was drug-related, not that it becomes any less tragic or senseless for being so.

That being said, if he did struggle with addiction or had become sober relatively recently, working those type of hours would have put his sobriety at risk. He either would have or should have been warned to limit himself to ~40 hours/week, even if it meant skipping the internship (as whatever is deemed more important than staying clean will be lost…… or so is the common wisdom).

I wonder if Merrill Lynch was unaware of his being at risk, or if they knew and ignored it. I could be wrong but it seems an internship and the mentoring role would (or perhaps the mother in me thinks it should) imply some sort of custodial responsibility on the part of Merrill, or whatever the correct term would be.


You're right of course Lucy - innocent until proven guilty applies to everyone or not at all.

I would add that suicidality, depression / stress, chemical or behavioural dependency are often co-morbid. If an individual is predisposed to these conditions, it will be exacerbated by a presence of overwork.

Overwork can also be a trigger. I'm not sure we ever want to normalise a culture where 15 hour days are routinely tolerated and thus degenerate into employment Darwinism where only the strongest survive.

Yves Smith


I don't know if you've every worked the sort of hours young people on the investment banking (NOT trading) side work at big firms. I had one of these jobs back in the early 1980s. It is simply inconceivable unless you've been in it. It's worse than what medical residents are put through. You are not permitted to say no, you have (in my case) 100 people who can give you work (30+ clients, typically 2 or more people at the firm who could ask that something be done, plus the client would often call the junior staffers directly if they wanted something small done quickly) with none of them caring what the other 99 had you doing. Priorities changing all the time intra day as markets moved and deals got accelerated or delayed and pitches to clients had to be changed based on changing market info (you could not finalize any client marketing piece until you had closing prices at 4, which meant inevitably you were working into the evening, and that was the more ordered part of the work).

How do these firms get away with it? They are the most prestigious, sought after employers. They can hire whoever they want. They seek people who are smart, intensely competitive, and insecure. They then wind up in an environment that has much in common with a cult. People wind up largely abandoning all their former friends and spending much less time with their families due to the hours and the pay gap (people who make that much money are quickly acculturated to eat out and spend what little recreational time they have at a lavish level). The environments are also extremely conformist. Social psychologists write about the power of social assent, that if enough people in your environment do something, you'll see it as normal, even required. And the extreme hours are most certainly required. Young people in these jobs are expected to have no boundaries. When asked to do something, they are not permitted to say "No, I already have too much on my plate, I can't take that on". The only acceptable answer is "When do you need it?"

I known one someone at Salomon who started vomiting under the stress. Every half hour. Went back and kept working after each incident. Electrolytes got so messed up he collapsed and had to be hospitalized. I know another person at Lazard, working on a big deal. Was seen in the office lying on the floor on one side reading documents over the weekend. People asked if she was OK. She waved them away, insisted she was fine. The pain eventually got so bad she went home and called her boyfriend. He ran up and took her immediately to the hospital. The operated straight away, thinking it was appendicitis. It was diverticulitis, which is usually a disease of old people but can be brought on by stress and bad diet. They had to remove half her colon. Had they gotten to her a half hour later, her colon would have ruptured and she would have died.

Same woman later lost 90% of her vision in one eye due to glaucoma, didn't have time to get regular eye exams. This was the price of becoming the first woman partner in M&A at any major firm.

I can give you other stories like that. Breakdown is hardly unheard of.

I did 2 all nighters in a row and was starting to have trouble with motor function (coordination for inputting data was starting to go). Three, which is what this young man did, amounts to torture. And you can do that on mere caffeine.

Your blaming his death on drugs when I am highly confident you've never done more than one all nighter and have no idea what that does to you is uninformed and is supporting the banks and abusive work environments generally.


I read the link you posted and one other article. If it was mentioned that he had stayed up three nights in a row, somehow I overlooked it. And yes, I've done several (successive) all-nighters in the past, having to be on call for a week at a time, and work 12 hour days even if up all night (fairly often). I didn't fare well, and didn't stay at the job long.

I wasn't meaning to be judgmental towards the intern. I consider his death just as tragic and senseless if it was fatigue-induced, and my point about responsibility lying with the mentoring firm still stands.

In fact, I don't understand why the practice is allowed to continue. Medical residents and related professions have since had limits imposed on the number of hours that can be asked to work without time off.

Yves Smith:


Thanks for the reply, but even then, your experience with all nighters is not directly comparable. I meant all nighters while you were working, as in 48+ hours of continuous work except for dealing with essential bodily functions and some hygiene. And this is also in an environment that is intolerant of errors, where typos or computation errors are career enders or severely detrimental.

So even working 12 hours and not sleeping well/at all by being on call is not the same as having to keep working except for eating and showering/clothes change time/pottie breaks. The stress level is considerably worse.

As to the three all-nighters, it has been reported but not confirmed. And BofA will clearly try to make what happened look less awful than it was:


yep…I used to wonder how battered women stayed with their abusers…I didn't realize until after I LEFT BofA that I was essentially a battered woman…surrounded by her enabling in laws.

You don't realize how crazy it is until you leave. It really is like a cult.

If you raise your hand to question the regime, retribution is swift and sure, even among "friends" with decades long relationships, and even against spouses. I truly believe some of my former co-workers would even commit murder if their overlords insisted on it.


I'm glad to be immune to that particular sort of coercion thanks to abnormal psychology. I wish more people were like me.

Worth noting: the particular psychological oddities which make people resistant to that type of coercion seem to be the same ones which make people good at computer programming. I have no idea what the social consequences of that combination will be.


I'm really not trying to be argumentative, but actually I WAS talking about working all night, as I took after-hours call from home, at least until I had to go get somebody admitted or petitioned or go out and do an emergency assessment or something. It was clear what you meant when I said I had done it also. I would also argue that mistakes kinda aren't tolerated in the health field either, though perhaps for different reasons.

Nobody should be expected to work for 72 hours straight, nor is there a need, it's sheer exploitation to maximize profits. It's more than the human body and mind can endure. Workers need to stand up and say no. I think that's something people tend to learn as they get older, gain confidence, and their priorities become more clear. 21 is still very young. And saying no, if it means possibly the loss of the job, is not so easy when employment is scarce and an income is needed, or it's a standard requirement for one's chosen career, as apparently it must be in finance (Higher Power sending initial clue that one has chosen lousy career??). Workers no longer have unions to help them negotiate collectively….. though nursing never joined unions in most parts of the country, It was deemed to be beneath the professional status of a registered nurse to be a union member, rather conveniently. Thee places I ended working, almost exclusively in the south, it was risky to be overheard mentioning "unions" within earshot of management. IIRC, the provision of nursing staff is easily a hospital's single largest expenditure. With unionized nursing, how can a hospital pay their CEO their $15M living wage?


I wonder if Merrill Lynch was unaware of his being at risk, or if they knew and ignored it.

Easy to find out*: If the HR-bods either knew or suspected anything they would have taken out a life insurance on the poor guy, with Merill Lynch as beneficiaries.

Gotta play them odds!

*) Or maybe not so easy – It is depressingly common for employers to buy a little bet on the early demise of the "Human Ressources".


"But what of the next generation, mired in debt and subject to the extraction by the multitude of licensed protection racket players in healthcare, finance, education or housing ? How can they ever get ahead ?"

Off-the-books economy. Find one part-time job which gives you enough tenuous connection to the on-the-books economy that the police state doesn't get suspicious, then do *ALL* your other work off the books.

Lambert Strether:

"Off-the-books economy." And commit perjury on your ObamaCare application?


If it's off the books, you're already committing tax fraud (or tax evasion, or something like that) on your IRS return.

Nathanael, The off-the-book work would also have to be something that could be done on a flexible schedule since the part time job hours will change every week. But any work where you can be your own boss and set your own hours is preferable to dependence upon the 'good will' of an employer, IMO. I'm working on that one myself. (I knew I should have taken basketweaving.)


This link by Charlie Stross was on Jesse's page and was an intriguing read on the implications of the current labor culture. Stross theorizes that Snowden and Alynikov type defectors will become the norm now that Gen Y, first born in the early 80′s, are starting to flood the labor market (most employers don't have the vast resources for retribution of the US gov and Goldman-Sachs). Gen Y is the first generation having no prior work experience in a culture that favors mutual employee/employer commitment, nor having grown up witnessing parents in more secure "jobs-for-life" and termination-for-cause employment. They've only had experience with jobs that are outsourced, offshored, laid-off, contract, zero-hours, temporary, part-time, etc.

Gen Y believes in the workplace golden rule ("do unto others as they do unto you"… okay, I've taken some liberties paraphrasing Stross). Thus today's employees will have no less reticence about 'screwing' their (former) employers to advance their own self-interests, than employers have about 'screwing' their workers to maximize profits. It's a good read.

With any luck, it won't be merely wishful thinking to say: Karma's a bitch!

Doug Terpstra:

Yes, it's "funny" how the Wal-Mart right-to-work churn, permanent student debt, gross inequality, and social insecurity caused by a triumphant class war has fractured American cultural cohesion, especially within Gen Y. At this juncture economic dynamism can no longer be sustained, and along with it, autonomic patriotism. Following up on fajensen above, in a climate of callous top-down disloyalty, the roster of conscientious whistleblowers such as Snowden, Manning, Assange, Kiriakou, Darby (Abu Ghraib), Drake (NSA) and many more, is certain to grow. Dissent rises gradually, then rapidly, as things fall apart and the center cannot hold.

I think we have a great disharmonic convergence coming, likely this year. Ben Shalom is leaving and is almost sure to take away the punch bowl before Summers is seated.


Karma is a bitch.

That is what is going to bring the current system to a halt. The young ones are not daft, I am finding.

The current economic/social system runs on computers and if servers stop/slow or the networks begin not working right, the trust level is eventually broke and all hell breaks loose…..geometric finger pointing and cascading fail overs between and among vendors.

Being an old techie I engage every other techie I run into and the young contract techies keeping the NSA sub contractors running are a hairsbreath from mayhem the management can't contain.

Go long on popcorn and don't be surprised if techie shit gets less reliable for a while. Prepare for a bouncy ride.



The trend toward less qualification in IT is probably present as younger people did not experience the emerging of all those technologies as oltimers did. So they have less "in-depth" knowledge that old-timers acquired due to this process. But there are old-timers and old-timers. A lot of old-times are just accidental people which moved to the field during boom years of IT (say, 1990-1998). Many of them are barely competent in what they are doing even now.

I would not get too exited about new generation of IT workers (mostly part-time and lower paid) greatly affecting network or server reliability. May be something will happen on the margins. But it looks completely remote to me. May be due to commodization of the technology the IT support on the level of the firm now matter less. Complex issues are solved by vendor support, or professional consultants. Enterprise software is also more or less standardized.

Where huge blunders are now made is at senior level, where people became generally detached from technology (and sometimes from reality). Also too many technically illiterate bean counters were promoted to senior positions. And they often rely on fashion (and vendor hype and/or bribing) in adopting new technologies for the firm. But at the end of the day this is just modest cost overruns. Nothing to be exited about. So something that cost $100K is bought for a million and cost another couple of million in maintenance fees and internal costs before being abandoned. That's about it. Remember IT is generally around 1% of the total cost of a large company operations.


Employers destroyed the golden rule in the work place. As an employee, you simply cannot continue to treat them the way you wish to be treated over a sustainable period of time when they offer only these kinds of abuses in return.

Reciprocity is the new rule for employees. If they take care of you, take care of them and treat them well. Pamper them. If they screw you over, return the favor a multitude worse. Make it painful.

Doug Terpstra:

Thank you, Yves, for another great bottom-line assessment of the change Obama has inflicted on us - the exact inverse of his electoral campaign. Although Ms. Garson says nothing of Obamacare directly, the ACA (the Insurance Racket Bailout Act) is now a huge reason for the great bait-and-switch acceleration to part-time and freelance jobs. As Lambert has reported it is hugely damaging socio-economic engineering.

This is Obama's legacy, shaping up to be not abysmal but disastrous. Even worse, I suspect it's intentional, the deliberate creative destruction of disaster capitalism in a grab for absolute power. That's the most disheartening apprehension.

Here are a few more inconvenient truths about our change president from "33 Shocking Facts Which Show How Badly The Economy Has Tanked Since Obama Became President". It's an objective and damning assessment of real change under Obama. People won't be able to ignore these much longer, and eventually even veal pen journalists (MSDNC) will have to acknowledge certain stubborn facts:

#1 When Barack Obama entered the White House, 60.6 percent of working age Americans had a job. Today, only 58.7 percent of working age Americans have a job.

#2 Since Obama has been president, seven out of every eight jobs that have been "created" in the U.S. economy have been part-time jobs. [87% of job creation…part-time; this differs from the post(?)] … #5 40 percent of all workers in the United States actually make less than what a full-time 11 since the 2006-2007 school year. … #8 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the middle class is taking home a smaller share of the overall income pie than has ever been recorded before.

#20 Health insurance costs have risen by 29 percent since Barack Obama became president, and Obamacare is going to make things far worse. … #23 In 2008, that total amount of student loan debt in this country was 440 billion dollars. At this point, it has shot up to about a trillion dollars.

#24 According to one recent survey, 76 percent of all Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.

You get the idea. And those are only some of the economic changes, without even broaching disastrous militarism, and police-state espionage.

Robert Dudek:

I've got a good title for a book on this phenomenon. Unfotrtunately, it's already been taken: Road to Serfdom.


And you seriously think this is all Obama's fault and that the GOP had nothing to do with it?

Michael Fiorillo:

Needless to say, the GOP has much to do with it, but it's two hands washing each other.

The infernal brilliance of the Overclass' support for Obama is his ability to misdirect and divert whatever energies for resistance remain within what passes for the Left.

What insidious genius to have a Black man (well, sort of) be the one to undermine Social Security, public education (his policies are at least as bad as Bush's, probably worse) and institutionalize the National Security State.

Sure, the GOP is at fault, but Obama was hired to make sure that potential opposition remains paralyzed.

Doug Terpstra:

All O's fault? No, but it's his legacy, like it or not. Clearly it doesn't bother him.

Blame the last four and a half years on Republicans if you like. So then, let's just say O's been implausibly impotent and hopelessly inept.

Not only are none of the foregoing economic failures his fault,

  • he couldn't close Gitmo;
  • couldn't bring himself to prosecute a single one of his Wall Street investors (Corzine);
  • couldn't renegotiate NAFTA;
  • couldn't stop Republicans from ramrodding thru three new SHAFTA agreements and initiating TPP (oh, wait…);
  • ... ... ...

I could go on and on but it would bore informed NC readers to tears. You may think Obama is hapless and incompetent to the point of making Herbert Hoover look like an activist progressive. I happen to believe he's brilliant, an epic false messiah, a diabolically-hypnotic charlatan who's a total eclipse of his idol Reagan.


"You may think Obama is hapless and incompetent to the point of making Herbert Hoover look like an activist progressive. I happen to believe he's brilliant, an epic false messiah, a diabolically-hypnotic charlatan who's a total eclipse of his idol Reagan."

And I don't really care which he is. I judge entirely by results. Whatever is in his "deepest heart", in practice Obama has been very close to G.W.Bush's third and fourth terms. (Oh, there are weird little exceptions, like railway funding, but I think Obama wasn't paying ANY attention to that.)


Laying blame on one side or the other is like sitting in a stadium and cheering for your team, red or blue. The owners of both teams are up in the owner's box, drinking champagne together and counting the ticket & concession sales cash.

Just entering that stadium means you've bought in to their propaganda. The only safe path is to opt out and create an alternative to the game inside for yourself.


None of this is a surprise. . . a few years ago at my company, it was decided to withdraw all benefits for freelance employees, many who were putting in full time hours as any staff employee. The freelancers staged a walk out and the company relented in the short term by grandfathering those freelancers employed at that time with their current benefits.

Since then, the benefits for those freelancers have been reduced to the barest of medical plans with high deductibles. Any new freelancers who come in don't get health insurance unless they work a consecutive number of days in a row, which is near to impossible since the company forces them to take 6 weeks off throughout the year, thus cementing the fact that they'll never receive health insurance.

At that time, the company cited being competitive in the global market, and pointed to our competitors which made similar changes years earlier. Considering we've been earning healthy profits after the first year of the Great Recession, and the CEO and other high level execs lining their pockets with record sums, it's pretty clear they're more interested in short term gains as pushed by Wall Street.

That greed is really what's ruining this country and those playing the game won't be satisfied till they've squeezed us for all the money we have, laughing all the way to the bank in Singapore


Give me one good reason "to work" at all?


Only work for yourself by opting out of the game being played in the stadium.

You will be considered a whacko and stupid, but those insults will be coming from people with underwater houses, CC debt up to their eyeballs, a job they hate, a 101k retirement plan coming in September, and a heart condition due to stress.

Think alternatively, and be much happier.

Wat Tyler:

Saying from the old Soviet Union:

"They pretend to pay us and we pretend to work."

No society can survive if work is not valued at the economic and psychological levels.

Can You Say "Bubble"? by James Kwak

April 30, 2013 | The Baseline Scenario

Yesterday's Wall Street Journal had an article titled "Foosball over Finance" about how people in finance have been switching to technology startups, for all the predictable reasons: The long hours in finance. "Technology is collaborative. In finance, it's the opposite." "The prospect of 'building something new.'" Jeans. Foosball tables. Or, in the most un-self-conscious, over-engineered, revealing turn of phrase: "The opportunity of my generation did not seem to be in finance."

We have seen this before. Remember That film documented the travails of a banker who left Goldman to start an online company that would revolutionize the delivery of local government services. It failed, but not before burning through tens of millions of dollars of funding. There was a time, right around 1999, when every second-year associate wanted to bail out of Wall Street and work for an Internet company.

The things that differentiate technology from banking are always the same: the hours (they're not quite as bad), the work environment, "building something new," the dress code, and so on. They haven't changed in the last few years. The only thing that changes are the relative prospects of working in the two industries-or, more importantly, perceptions of those relative prospects.

Wall Street has always attracted a particular kind of person: ambitious but unfocused, interested in success more than any achievements in particular, convinced (not entirely without reason) that they can do anything, and motivated by money largely as a signifier of personal distinction. If those people want to work for technology startups, that means two things. First, they think they can amass more of the tokens of success in technology than in finance.

Second-since these are the some of the most conservative, trend-following people that exist-it means they're buying at the top.

  1. Anonymous

    What? No one in VC backs non-technical founders. That's ludicrous. Let them go, most of them are just destroying value in finance anyway…

  2. George Peacock

    Whether tech or other business, it's great to see the "bright but unfocused" of this generation eschewing law school and finance. The law and finance dangled riches in return for souls. Riches though siphoning, rather than creating. If these people head to tech, I hope it's because the lure of financial reward (risk-adjusted, course) of Wall Street (and law firms) is now low enough such that they can be productive members of our economy instead of drains. Maybe it's a bubble and many will fail, but maybe their souls and our pocketbooks will be saved in the process

  3. The Raven

    It is hard for me to believe that hours are better in tech startups than in finance. To succeed in a technology firm you have to know something substantive about the physical or social worlds. That doesn't sound like most of the too-smart finance graduates I know of.

    Also, as you say, they're buying at the top. I believe there are still fortunes to be made in tech, but it's going to be harder-the low-hanging fruit has been picked, and picked over.

  4. Anonymous

    I see this type all the time in the valley… We call them 'seagull managers' because they fly in, squawk a lot, poop all over everything, then fly out again before the extent of their technical incompetence can be discerned with certainty.

  5. Edward Ericson Jr.

    BWAAA! Spot on.

    But you need to distinguish between the "tech startups" you're talking about–that is, vaporware concept farms whose fresh-faced foosball aficionados spend all their time schmoozing Angels and VC wankers–and the "tech startups" that actually start with some actual tech.

  6. Bruce E. Woych
    By Robert Scheer
    Google's Spymasters Are Now Worried About Your Secrets
    Posted on Apr 29, 2013
    "A recent article in The Wall Street Journal by Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, "The Dark Side of the Digital Revolution," makes for very scary reading. It is not so much because of what he and co-author Jared Cohen, the director of Google Ideas, have to say about how dictators can use new information technology to suppress dissent; we know those guys are evil. What is truly frightening is that the techniques of the totalitarian state are the same ones pioneered by so-called democracies where commercial companies, like Google, have made a hash of the individual's constitutionally guaranteed right to be secure in his or her private space.

    The dictators, mired in more technologically primitive societies, didn't develop the fearsome new implements of control of the National Security State. Google and other leaders in this field of massively mined and shared information did. As the authors concede and expand on in their new book: (read more…)
    By Robert Scheer

  7. KL Tah

    It's important to note that the bubble that James is referring to here is a very peculiar sort of bubble, not that of dotcom as a whole.

    The people who venture in to finance in the first place are never very bright to begin with (not in the sense that really matters). They are already a walking bubble so yes, nothing has changed.

    They who are more likely to slay the goose than wait patiently for it to continue laying its golden eggs would carry taint wherever they go. I just hope that the innovators are alert enough to kick them straight back out before they do any damage.


[Oct 19, 2012] Google's Engineers Are Well Paid, Not Just Well Fed

October 18, 2012 | Slashdot

"According to a study by the career site Glassdoor, Google tops the list of tech companies in the salaries it pays to software engineers. Google paid its engineers an average base salary of $128,336, with Microsoft coming in second at $123,626. Apple, eBay, and Zynga rounded off the top 5."Anonymous Coward


writes: on Thursday , @12:38PM (#41694241) I make more than $40k as a software developer, but it wasn't too long ago that I was making right around that amount.

I have an AAS (not a fancy degree, if you didn't already know), my GPA was 2.8, and I assure you that neither of those things has EVER come up in a job interview. I'm also old enough that my transcripts are gone. (Schools only keep them for about 10 years. After that, nobody's looking anyway.)

The factors that kept me from making more are:

  • Timing. The dot-com "crash" of 2000 happened during my last full semester of college. I didn't land a job in the industry until 5 years later.
  • Lack of experience. Since the dot-bomb dropped during my college days, nobody wanted interns either. No experience = no job.
  • Lack of money. I grew up in a just-above-the-poverty-line household. I had to scrape by to even get a community college education, and that didn't get me a job once there were so many out-of-work developers on the job market after the crash.
  • Location. The midwest is a "small market" even in the larger cities. You don't pay as much for housing, but you also don't make as much.

So when I did finally land a programming job, it was as a code monkey in a PHP sweatshop. The headhunter wanted a decent payout, so I started at $40k. No raises. Got laid off after a year and a half due to it being a sweatshop and I had outstayed my welcome. (Basically, I wanted more money and they didn't want to give me any more money.)

Next job was a startup. Still $40k. Over 2.5 years, I got a couple of small raises. I topped out at $45k-ish before I got laid off during the early days of the recession.

Next job was through a headhunter again. I asked for $50k, but the employer could only go $40k. After 3 years and a few raises, I'm finally at $50k.

I could probably go to the larger employers in this city and make $70k, but that's really the limit in this area. Nobody in this line of work makes more than about $80k here.


Not accurate, smaller companies pay more

This survey must be only talking about companies above certain size. Our Sillicon Valley startup has about 50 employees and the average engineering salaries are north of $150,000.

Large companies like Google actually don't have to pay that much, because the hours are more reasonable. I know there are other companies too that pay more than Google in the area.

Re:Not accurate, smaller companies pay more (Score:4, Interesting)
by MisterSquid (231834) writes: on Thursday October 18, @11:16AM (#41693121)
Our Sillicon Valley startup has about 50 employees and the average engineering salaries are north of $150,000.

I suppose there are some start-ups that do pay developers the value of the labor, but my own experience is a bit different in that it was more stereotypical of Silicon-Valley startup compensation packages.

That is, my salary was shamefully low (I was new to the profession), just about unlivable for the Bay Area, and was offset with a very accelerated stock options plan.



According to an online Cost of Living Comparison Tool Tool [], if I wanted to accept a job at Google they'd need to more than double my salary.

I think comparison tools are very inaccurate about what things actually cost and obscure the value of things that are usually summed up with the phrase "quality of life".

I live and work in SF after having come from Athens, OH, and your comparison tool is telling me that if I moved this year I would need need 117% more money [] than I did in Athens. I actually make about fifty percent more than I did when I lived in Ohio and I have much more money than I did when I lived in Ohio.

More importantly, there are some things no amount of personal compensation could provide: ethnic diversity, world class cuisine, sublime landscape, beautiful weather year round, municipal infrastructure (no boil orders for septically contaminated water), and a dozen other things even 50 years of economic development could not deliver to places like the one I lived in in Ohio.

"Cost" of living is not just about money and direct comparisons based on money equivalence don't capture the whole picture.


Are they really well paid?

I'm not so sure that these engineers are very well paid. Last year, Apple CEO Tim Cook was awarded $378 million in compensation. According to the above survey, the average software engineer at Apple makes $114,413 a year. In order to make the same amount as the CEO, the engineer would have to work 3300 years. So let's ask the question: When would the engineer have had to start working in order to have the same amount of money as the CEO? The engineer's first day of work would be 1300 years before Jesus of Nazareth would be born. And keep in mind this is an engineer. Consider junior level employees. According to an article by the New York Times, a salesman working at an Apple store makes about $11.25 an hour.

He would make the same amount as the CEO in about 16 thousand years -- that would put his first day of work well into the stone age -- if you're a creationist, his work time would be longer than the age of the universe.


That sounds about normal

$128,336 in San Francisco equates to about $65k when cost of living is adjusted to the US average (specifically Raleigh, was the most average I could think of and is pretty close). I'm sure there is some flexibility in those numbers, but I don't know of anywhere in the bay area that isn't well above the national average.


PhD's Google Employs

Considering the number of Phd's and M.S. graduates that Google employs versus Microsoft, it stands to reason that the average salary would be higher. As others have mentioned, when you factor cost of living, hours worked, and the degree employees hold, 128K doesn't go very far. Also in Washington State (where Microsoft is located), there is no state tax

When the median home price in Mountain View is over a million and the cost for a decent 2 bed/bath apartment is 3k/month, your dollar doesn't go to far.


still not bad same as the 1990's

Oh please, even for California that is a lot of money. With taxes taken out you get about $5700 a month, about $66.80 an hour gross $35.62 an hour net. Your telling me you can't find an apartment for $1400 - $2000 anywhere in California. The highest I ever got was $18(working 9-5, actually 7-6, 7-9, 7-12, 6-9, time and half only) an hour gross comes to about $11.63 an hour net, $1860 a month. NY taxes are freaking high. You can get a shitty roach infested single apartment here in ny queens, brooklyn, bronx for $1100-1300 no utilities included, 2 bedroom $1800-$2000 in queens.

Basement apartments are now $900 a month and still rising. Yes, expenses are up, wages and salaries are down.

In the 1990's an engineer with a E.E. got started with $120k a year. These days hard work and experience means shit, but if you have a degree with no experience and not a very hard worker you get paid like a king.


Salary Inflation

I think a very important caveat here is that Glassdoor is a job search site. And like every job search site I've ever seen who posts average or median salaries they tend to inflate them. They'll claim the average income for a designer in NYC, for example, is $100k a year. Then you look at the job listings for the same position and you're lucky if they break $70k.

Their entire business model is based on getting people to look for work, so of course they're going to do whatever they can to make you believe everyone is earning more than you are.

[Sep 01, 2012] Work-Related Stress


Recently, the commander of Canada's military, Lt.-Gen. Romeo Dallaire, left his work to be treated for post-traumatic stress disorder. He says he didn't lose his ability to cope until two years after the mission to Rwanda, when he became suicidal.

"Sometimes I wish I'd lost a leg," he says on a video produced for counselling of soldiers. "You lose a leg, it's obvious and you've got therapy and all kinds of stuff. You lose your marbles ... very, very difficult to explain, very difficult to gain the support that you need."

This military commander's testimony lends credibility to the crushing effects of post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD, which arises from experiencing one or more extraordinarily horrific and life-threatening events.

By contrast, teachers' stress typically arises gradually over many years, resulting in accumulative stress disorder or ASD-commonly called burn-out or exhaustion. Recently a teacher of 22 years described it this way: "I'm not sleeping through, waking in the night with panic attacks, loss of memory, on edge at home and school, mind racing. Calmed myself with a few drinks in the evening; that made me more edgy, so I quit that. I'm getting more and more distant from my wife and kids, and I'm burnt out of my career. I don't even know who I am anymore."

What major factors contribute to teachers' accumulative stress? Take an idealistic, mission-oriented teacher who tries to meet everybody's needs; place this teacher in a hurried, time-bound, ever-evolving school system that can ask for the best on the one hand, and can erode character and destroy trust on the other; set the school system in communities and among families who question authority; and add the aging process and the family life events that will inevitably occur with that teacher. The result: numbers of teachers experience the extreme effects of accumulative stress on themselves, their work and, eventually, on their families.

As a counsellor with NSTU, I am privileged to meet some of the most dedicated teachers in Nova Scotia. Unfortunately, by the time I meet them in counselling, they are often extremely exhausted, suffering from ASD. This is understandable, for as General Dallaire says, "You lose a leg, it's obvious." ASD creeps up. Teachers lose their energy, their sleep, their desire and capability to care, their identity as a good teacher. They wait and wait, hoping the next weekend, holiday or vacation will fully restore them. Their families and friends share the burden. Sometimes it is only when these teachers notice the effects on their families and friends that they take corrective action.

Without breaching confidentiality, this article gives voice to exhausted, disheartened teachers and the effects of accumulative stress on their families. These teachers offer a message of courage for us all.

As teachers gradually accumulate stress, families can lose teachers to teaching. A husband stands at the back door on August 20 with the family pet beside him. His wife, a teacher, is going to school to set up her classroom. He mutters to the dog, "Say good-bye to her, Skippy. That's the last we'll see of her until next July 1."

Just as family stress goes to school with teachers, so too does work-related stress, and no scalpel exists that could divide the stress created in the two main centres of our lives.

Teachers express stress many ways in families. Consider the following:

"And you can forget about sex till March break," declared one teacher to her chagrined husband. "Too many students, reports and meetings to focus on anything else."

"So Dad, why are you so grouchy when you come home from school?" a 12-year-old daughter asks her father, a teacher of 28 years. "Mom tells me to go to my room and stay out of your way."

Does teaching in today's school affect teachers' home life more than in past years? Many teachers would say, "Yes, definitely." One male high school teacher aptly explains, "I'm overwhelmed with kids' problems. They're dealing with probation, pregnancy, drugs, you name it. The system is designed to burn you out if you're too conscientious in care of the kids. It's stacked against you. You can't do the job the way you know is best for the kids. I know I was a good teacher. I don't know any more if I can even be a decent husband or father."

Teachers commonly describe the burden of guilt and neglect of their own families. "I put more time and effort into my students than into my own children. And when I do spend time with my kids, I'm often correcting their behaviour and trying to control them to live up to my perfectionist standards. Is it possible to just enjoy my own kids?" asks one beleaguered teacher.

The stress on the family can become extreme when sick leave has been used up. One anxious teacher put it this way, "I just don't know how we're going to manage while waiting for the salary continuation decision. And if it doesn't come through, I'm just going to have to go back to the classroom, even if it ruins my health for life. My family depends on my income; I have no choice."

Of course, some of the effect of teachers' work stress on their families is inevitable. As caring persons, teachers take students' needs to heart and may be unaware of the costs of caring. Teachers may minimize the costs of work-related stress on families and glibly accept the cost as "part of the price of doing a good job." For the idealistic teacher, "caring too much" is an oxymoron.

For the exhausted teacher, "caring too much" smacks of reality. And the threat of breakdown of health, or of couple and family relationships, is often the bell that tolls the heavy cost of teachers' accumulative stress. As one teacher observed, "I didn't know my partner meant so much to me till we temporarily separated. It's funny too-the first time in years that I told my kids how much they meant to me was when I was down and out. I'm reunited with my partner now, so I guess this work exhaustion had a silver lining for me with my family."

Teachers daily walk the shoreline of social change, where past ways of thinking and relating meet future ways of doing and being. This presents both danger and opportunity: the danger of losing values of the past, and the opportunity of participating in co-creating the future. Travelling this shoreline throughout a teaching career requires a delicate balance.

Teaching entails a great deal of planning for tomorrow and evaluating yesterday. Hence, for teachers it's a struggle to live "today." While evaluating students' work, teachers are implicitly evaluating themselves, and often coming out feeling they are less than superb. This can induce considerable self-pressure. By comparison, most of the working public undergo only annual performance evaluations.

Since most teachers want to create both healthy families and healthy school environments, how can teachers reduce work-related stress in their homes and foster healthy work-styles in their schools?

First, recognize accumulative stress as a reality. Don't wait for the possible breakdown of health or couple-family relationships to toll your alarm bell. Refuse to live at work. Limit your work time by your energy level and the clock, not by the time demands of the task.

Contribute to healthy work styles among staff. Support time for self-care, setting limits and saying "no" as warranted. Share resources, ideas and mutual appreciation.

Here are four suggestions from teachers recovering from exhaustion.

  • If you think you're burned-out, talk to someone. Don't let shame prevent you from seeking support. You need the support of other people.
  • Be patient. Both medication and talking therapy take time. Don't rush the recovery time. There's nothing to be gained by going back too soon.
  • Re-orient your lifestyle. Do activities less out of obligation and more because they're good to do and you choose to do them.
  • Spend casual, relaxed time with close friends, your partner and children-time that doesn't involve achieving a task. Pursue a recreational interest that uses a different part of your mind/body than teaching. Take time to play, whatever that means to you.

Teachers often describe the peak of accumulative stress as a breakdown. Later in the healing process, they may describe it as a breakthrough. It's a breakthrough to choose a liveable balance of work and play, family life and school life. It's a breakthrough to the courage to be.

Peter Mullally is a Therapist of Counselling Services at the Nova Scotia Teachers Union.

[OPE] Guard Labor by Michael Perelman

Jan 23, 2010 |

My article on Guard Labor is in the new issue of Dollars and Sense. It is extracted from my forthcoming book, The Invisible Handcuffs.

The article begins:

Guards are everywhere in a capitalist economy. A few are dressed up in uniforms, so they are easy to spot. But most do not look like guards at all. Some sit in comfortable offices; others work on assembly lines in factories. James O'Connor, a prolific sociologist from UC Santa Cruz, describes one familiar set of guards whom we do not usually think of as guards:

Consider the labor of the ticket seller at a movie house. The seller's task is merely to transfer the right to sit in the theater to the movie-goer in exchange for the price of a ticket. But it may not be immediately obvious that it is not the lack of a ticket that keeps you out of the theater ... The ticket is actually torn up and discarded by a husky young man who stands between the box office and the seat that I want.

These guards are a central feature of capitalism. Capitalists depend upon guard labor to protect their commodities, including the goods and premises they own, but especially the labor-power in their employ. Capitalism's reliance on guard labor deforms the entire productive process, not only wasting labor, but also snuffing out badly needed creativity.

-- Michael Perelman

Economics Department

California State University Chico, CA 95929

530 898 5321

fax 530 898 5901

[Jan 23, 2012] Identifying Different Psychopaths

[Jul 09, 2011] Organizational Charts Bonkers World

[Jan 17, 2011] The Psychopathic Influence

The Hidden Evil

Psychopaths, also called sociopaths, are categorized as those who exhibit superficial charm and intelligence, and are absent of delusions or nervousness. Their traits include:

  • Unreliability
  • Frequent lying
  • Deceitful and manipulative behavior (either goal-oriented or for the delight of the act itself)
  • Lack of remorse or shame
  • Antisocial behavior
  • Poor judgment and failure to learn by experience
  • Incapacity for love
  • Poverty of general emotions
  • Loss of insight
  • Unresponsiveness in personal relations
  • A frequent need for excitement
  • An inflated self-worth
  • An ability to rationalize their behavior
  • A need for complete power
  • A need to dominate others

Psychopathy is basically an emotional disorder. The book, The Psychopath, by James Blair, Karina Blair, and Derek Mitchell, states, "The crucial aspect of psychopathy is ... the emotional impairment." According to Dr. J. Reid Meloy's book, The Psychopathic Mind, although psychopaths don't feel emotion in a normal sense, they do experience boredom, envy, exhilaration, contempt, sadistic pleasure, anger, and hints of depression.

Generally, those who believe it's caused by environmental factors use the term sociopath, and believers of the biological theory use the term psychopath. Psychopathy closely resembles Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD or APD) or Conduct Disorder (CD) as outlined in the DSM-IV. These disorders are detected using the Psychopathy Checklist-Revisited (PCL-R), the DSM-IV, and other diagnostics.

These character types, comprise about 4% of the population and span every level of society. Psychopaths can be found in every race, culture, profession and class. Because the term psychopath has been used to describe APD types and sociopaths, in this chapter I'll use it as a universal label for these three character types.

Later when I'm explaining how psychopaths always mask themselves when seeking positions of power, it will help to remember the following: If a rational person tries to apply their logic while trying to understand the reason for an objective or act of a psychopath, they will fail. This will be explained in more detail later. Likewise, when a rational person hears of the possibility that a massive lie has been told to a population by a trusted leader, and they attempt to use their logic to determine weather or not such a lie is possible, they will usually not believe the truth (that they have fallen for a huge lie).

The reason for this is that although most of us can identify with small lies, we find it difficult to conclude that such a massive lie is possible. When I use the term massive lie, I don't just mean a complete falsehood regarding a major event, but also the scope of its influence (global) and the amount of people that have fallen for it.

In his book, The Mask of Sanity, Dr. Hervey Cleckley, says that even during the most "solemn perjuries" they show "no difficulty at all in looking anyone tranquilly in the eyes." He adds that that they will "lie about any matter, under any circumstances." He explains that it is difficult to express how completely straightforward they appear when telling a blatant lie.

"The great masses of people will more easily fall victims to a big lie than to a small one."
-Adolph Hitler

"Lying, deceiving, and manipulation are natural talents for psychopaths," agreed Dr. Robert Hare, in his book, Without Conscience. "When caught in a lie or challenged with the truth, they are seldom perplexed or embarrassed--they simply change their stories or attempt to rework the facts so that they appear to be consistent with the lie."

Psychopaths are always able to justify their actions, no matter how brutal. They have, "an ability to rationalize their behavior so that it appears warranted, reasonable, and justified," says Dr. Cleckley. Dr. Hare added, "Psychopaths show a stunning lack of concern for the devastating effects their actions have on others. Often they are completely forthright about the matter, calmly stating that they have no sense of guilt, [and] are not sorry for the pain and destruction they have caused," which, says Dr. Hare, "is associated with a remarkable ability to rationalize their behavior."

Psychopathy is usually untreatable. Most therapists won't work with them because they often end up damaged in the process. Dr. Hare explained, "Such counseling would be wasted on psychopaths." Some of them will even reflect the wishes of the therapist and pretend to be getting better.

In his book, People of The Lie, psychiatrist Dr. Scott Peck had this to say: "Among themselves therapists will not infrequently refer to a patient's psychopathology as being 'overwhelming.' We mean this literally. We literally feel overwhelmed by the labyrinthine mass of lies and twisted motives ... into which we will be drawn if we attempt to work with such people..."

Wikipedia describes that, "traditional therapeutic approaches actually make them, if not worse, then far more adept at manipulating others and concealing their behavior. They are generally considered to be not only incurable but also untreatable." Basically psychopaths are the way they are for life. In most legal jurisdictions they are considered sane. So technically, they're not mentally ill, just different.

Dr. Scott Peck concludes, "I have learned nothing in twenty years that would suggest that evil people can be rapidly influenced by any means other than raw power. They do not respond," he says, "to either gentle kindness or any form of spiritual persuasion with which I am familiar with."

Where Are They?

When people hear the word psychopath, most think of the famous serial killers locked away in prison. However, most don't end up in prison or mental hospitals. Dr. Cleckley wrote, "The true difference between them and the psychopaths who continually go to jails or to psychiatric hospitals is that they keep up a far better and more consistent outward appearance of being normal."

"This outward appearance," says Dr. Cleckley, is essentially a mask, which, "may include business or professional careers that continue in a sense successful, and which are truly successful when measured by financial reward or by the casual observer's opinion of real accomplishment."

"Many psychopaths never go to prison or any other facility," agreed Dr. Hare. "They appear to function reasonably well--as lawyers, doctors, psychiatrists, academics, mercenaries, police officers, cult leaders, military personnel, business people, writers, artists, entertainers, and so fourth--without breaking the law." He continued, "Their intelligence, family background, social skills, and circumstances permit them to construct a facade of normalcy."

"Corrupt and callous politicians, social or career fast climbers, authoritarian leaders, abusing and aggressive persons, etc., are among them" wrote Dr. Renato Sabbatini in his article, The Psychopath's Brain. "A common characteristic," says Dr. Sabbatini, "is that they engage systematically in deception and manipulation of others for personal gain. In fact, many successful and adapted non-violent sociopaths can be found in our society."

Most of these people are not just right in your churches, schools, charitable organizations, and workplaces, but by their very nature, they are likely running them. It is a core trait of the psychopath to place themselves in positions of influence, not for public service, but for power. "The experience of pleasure is not reciprocal for the psychopath," stated Dr. Meloy, "it is available only through sadistic channels of power and control." Achieving power for the sake of having power is the nature of the psychopath. "They love to have power and control over others," agreed Dr. Hare.

The need for absolute power over others and the wish to inflict pain for the enjoyment of watching others suffer, are almost never apparent to the casual observer. The reason for this is that another core trait of the psychopath is disguise. So unfortunately, these individuals usually mask themselves as good-natured people. If they have tremendous wealth, you can bet that they'll create charitable organizations as part of their mask.

They are well aware that their mental makeup is drastically different from the majority. They have a sixth sense for detecting and exploiting any weakness you may have. At a very early age they learn that they can inflict mental and emotional harm on others with ease. They also learn how to detect others like themselves out of a crowd of normal people. Beginning in their childhood, most of them learn to mimic normal emotional reactions in order to blend in with society.

An article on Dr. Hare's website called, Psychopaths Among Us, by Robert Hercz, describes how Dr. Hare was contacted by Nicole Kidman, who wanted his advice on how to play the part of a psychopath for her film, Malice. Dr. Hare uses the anecdote of a psychopath who had just witnessed an accident where a mother watched her child get killed by a car. There's blood all over the place, and the psychopath experiences no emotion, but instead, is trying to avoid getting blood on her shoes. The psychopath notices the mother's emotional reaction to the accident and is fascinated. She goes home, looks in the mirror, and begins to mimic the facial expressions of the mother. "That's the psychopath," revealed Dr. Hare.

Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, states that, "any emotions which the primary psychopath exhibits are the fruits of watching and mimicking other people's emotions." They are adept at, "using their charm and chameleonlike abilities to cut a wide swath through society and leaving a wake of ruined lives behind them," Dr. Hare warns.

"More often than not," says Dr. Cleckley, "the typical psychopath will seem particularly agreeable and make a distinctly positive impression when he is first encountered. Alert and friendly in his attitude, he is easy to talk with and seems to have a good many genuine interests. There is nothing at all odd or queer about him, and in every respect he tends to embody the concept of a well-adjusted, happy person."

"Psychopaths are often witty and articulate," concurred Dr. Hare. "They can be amusing and entertaining conversationalists, ready with quick and clever comeback, and can tell unlikely but convincing stories that cast themselves in a good light. They can be very effective in presenting themselves well and are often very likable and charming."

Remember, most of them don't psychically hurt people, so this is about mental and emotional domination. To accomplish these objectives, they will use their mask of sanity to place themselves in positions within your community. These positions may include school boards, charitable organizations, churches, politics, law enforcement, or any position which they believe will offer them power over others. These are the places where most psychopaths end up, not jail.

[Dec 1, 2010] The Sociopath In The Next Office -

Davia Temin, 11.19.10,

One out of every 25 has no conscience or sense of right or wrong. What to do when you work with one.

Evil in the office. If you think about it, you'll probably realize you've seen it play out at least once in your career.

All of a sudden a well-running, friendly, effective group or company begins to disintegrate for no apparent reason. People start to become demoralized and dysfunctional, efficiency plummets, client service and sales suffer and convoluted mistakes are made, up to and including illegal behavior such as fraud and larceny. Employees begin to develop psychosomatic illnesses, sick time rises and the best talent starts to leave.

What used to be a great work situation turns into a nightmare.

More often than not this dysfunction can be traced to the entry of one new employee, perhaps the boss, his or his assistant, the head of HR or a new shop steward. And when you start to explore, you find that, though the person may look and act apparently normal -- even charming -- all those around him or her are suffering.

Four percent of the global population is made up of sociopaths, Dr. Martha Stout, psychologist and clinical instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, tells us in her book The Sociopath Next Door. That means one out of every 25 human beings has no conscience, no sense of right or wrong, no empathy, no ability to understand emotion--no soul. Worse, while they can mimic emotion, they see other humans as mere pawns or saps, to be used for their benefit or amusement, or both.

Add that to the fact that science now is questioning whether there is any difference at all between sociopaths and psychopaths, and that those with narcissistic personality disorder also have some of the same characteristics (an inability to care about anyone but themselves), it means that "evil" is all around us, even at work.

[Jan 17, 2007] Are Open Source Programmers Programming Their Way Out of a Job?

Dec 2004 |

Imagine a world were everything is free. Many open source programmers believe in such a world, they work nights and weekends and then give their work away. Wouldn't it be cool if not only programmers, but lawyers, carpenters and everyone else worked for free too? That would be cool, but that isn't how the world works.

This article was written using a program called Open Office. Along with the more famous Linux, Open Office is one of many programs that are free and downloadable off the Internet. Open source and free software may be good for users and businesses, but is open source good for programmers? When open source means "free software" it may actually be a raw deal for programmers.

While a lot of open source programmers are paid and work for companies like Red Hat or IBM, a lot of the programmers volunteer their time and are not paid. I can't really address the issue of why they work for free, since I don't fully understand their motivations. I did send an email to a famous Linus asking for an opinion about open source programmers compensation and motivation, but received no response. Wouldn't volunteering for organizations like UNICEF be more rewarding then writing free software for the middle classes?

Consider our fictional friend, Freida. For months, Freida spent much of her free time working on Plumware 5.0 – an open source, freely downloadable and free to use software application for plumbers. Late one Sunday night the pipe on Freida's kitchen sink broke, resulting in dish water all over the kitchen floor.

After consulting the online yellow pages Freida called up Jake the Plumber to fix her drain pipes. After the work was done Freida and Jake exchanged the expected small talk as Freida got out her check book. During the chitchat Freida mentioned she worked on Plumware 5.0 and asked Jake if he used it, and what a coincidence, it turns out he did use it. Jake was almost going to give Freida a discount, but he had just bought a boat. So Jake charged Freida the full amount for his services, $175.00, and left with his check in hand.

Am I anti-open source? No, I like Open Office, Thunderbird and Firefox and pretty much anything free. Any emotional accusation that I am anti-open source deserves a preemptive response: don't get emotional about it. Good decision making often requires not letting emotions cloud your judgment.

[Nov 30, 2006] Tales of the Rampant Coyote My Favorite Job Interviews

( One of the most intimidating aspects of a programmer's career is the job interview. Unless you go the purely entrepreneurial route and never work for someone else (even as a contractor) , you are going to be in the situation where you are going to feel like you are being sized up like a slab of beef by a panel of judges, all the while trying to sell yourself without coming across as a conceited jerk.

The worst cases are the ones where you think the interview went very well, but you don't get the job. You second-guess yourself, trying to figure out what went wrong. You are never told that one of the other three finalists is actually an old college friend of the team lead - instead you sweat over what you must have done to blow the interview.

I've been on both sides of the interview process more often than I can remember - both within the videogame industry, and outside of it doing "applications" for businesses. Many of the job interviews were not very pleasant. Sitting at a table being grilled on nuances of the Java language isn't exactly a great way to spend a lunch hour. Some have been pretty fun. Two jobs (one for a videogame programming position, one for an Artificial Intelligence-related job) had me do some puzzle-solving so they could analyze my problem-solving strategy. Those are stressful but entertaining. Interviewing a person with ZERO social skills is also entertaining, but not in a good way.

Here are four of my favorite job interview experiences. All were with me in the interviewee position, and ended with me accepting the position, which is probably part of why they are my favorites. I thought these might be at least entertaining. I provide some helpful tips at the end, though I'm not a job interview expert or anything. There are many sites online with more valuable tips. But I thought these might be helpful, and demonstrate that not all job interviews are created equal.

[Oct 02, 2006] Slashdot Globalization Decimating US I.T. Jobs

"According to Ronald Reagan's former deputy secretary of the treasury in this article in Counterpunch, globalization is destroying US I.T. jobs. From the article: 'During the past five years (January 01 – January 06), the information sector of the US economy lost 644,000 jobs, or 17.4 per cent of its work force. Computer systems design and related work lost 105,000 jobs, or 8.5 per cent of its work force. Clearly, jobs offshoring is not creating jobs in computers and information technology.'" Paul Craig Roberts quotes a number of formerly pro-globalization economists who are now seeing the light of the harrowing of the US middle class. It's not limited to I.T. Roberts quotes one recanting economist, Alan Blinder, as saying that 42–56 million American service-sector jobs are susceptible to offshoring

[Sep 25, 2006] Holders of visas often picked over U.S. workers

Lisa Perry wanted to leave Washington D.C. and come home to Maine after living there during the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon, anthrax scares and the Beltway sniper shootings.

She quit her job designing databases for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and moved back to the Portland area to live with her parents, returning to Maine after 13 years away. She worked on personal projects and took care of her parents' home for about a year, then started looking for an information technology job in the fall of 2004.

She put out a number of resumes, and one ad in the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram caught her eye. It was for a $72,000 IT position, with applications to be sent to the Maine Department of Labor. She applied for what she thought was a job with the state.

But the labor department was actually forwarding those resumes to a temporary staffing company that had applied for a green card for a foreign worker. Advertising the job was part of the process to ensure that no qualified Americans were available to fill the position.

The staffing company contacted Perry, and she recognized the name: BCC USA Inc. She had seen other ads for jobs with BCC and hadn't bothered applying. Job seekers had to apply by snail-mail, and that was a warning sign for Perry.

[Aug14, 2006] LABOUR ECONOMICS I Is the threat of 'outsourcing' overrated

A recent article in the New York Times, "Why 'Outsourcing' May Lose Its Power as a Scare Word" (August 13, 2006), reports some studies done on the effects of outsourcing on the US labor market. Many studies found that only a handful percentage of jobs have been taken away from American workers by low-wage foreign workers overall, and that many more jobs are created for domestic workers than those lost even in sectors where outsourcing has happened in significant numbers:

In December 2005, the McKinsey Global Institute predicted that 1.4 million jobs would be outsourced overseas from 2004 to 2008, or about 280,000 a year. That's a drop in the bucket. In July, there were 135.35 million payroll jobs in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Thanks to the forces of creative destruction, more jobs are created and lost in a few months than will be outsourced in a year. Diana Farrell, director of the McKinsey Global Institute, notes that in May 2005 alone, 4.7 million Americans started new jobs with new employers.


There is evidence that within sectors, lower-paying jobs are being outsourced while the more skilled ones are being kept here. In a 2005 study, Catherine L. Mann, senior fellow at the Institute for International Economics, found that from 1999 to 2003, when outsourcing was picking up pace, the United States lost 125,000 programming jobs but added 425,000 jobs for higher-skilled software engineers and analysts.

So it does not seem that outsourcing is going to devastate workers' and their families' lives in developed countries, at least in the US, as some claimed.

[Feb 28, 2006] Cafe Hayek Ignore P.C. Roberts' Name-Calling

Posted by: liberty | Feb 28, 2006 4:29:02 PM

"But the whores among economists and the evil men and women in the Bush administration still sing globalization's praises."

It's funny, I found a sentence arguing that globalization has killed 90 million in an article defending Mao's Great Leap Forward the other day. The author went on to say that the scientific evidence for this was great.

He's wrong, of course. The scientific evidence shows the exact opposite trend. Lower death rates, infant mortality rates, and other general positive health trends are associated with open trade:

If we consider this data in the public debate, as well we should, the anti-globalization argument actually becomes, "It is better for people in developing countries to die, or at least suffer horrible standards of health, than for out-of-college Americans to work a lower-paying job than s/he would otherwise have to in a country with an enormously high standard of living and broad, reliable social safety nets."

The only defense of this stance is nationalism of the most vicious kind. Don't you talk to me about evil whores, Roberts.

Posted by: Swimmy | Feb 28, 2006 7:05:27 PM

Roberts claims the end is near for America primarily because of the trade deficit and globalization. However, every time period he mentions in an futile attempt to make his case is since 2000 or 2001. He also specifically mentions the evil support of the Bush administration for globalization and how the Bush administration wants people to lose their jobs.

What he doesn't mention is that the trade deficit has increased in virtually every non-recession year since at least 1980 and the globalization policies of Bush are little different from his predecessors. If free trade was going to destroy us, which it is not, Bush is hardly the primary culprit.

As with many, Roberts has let an irrational Bush hatred inhibit him from an intelligent analysis. All he needs now is a New York Times column. JOB DESTRUCTION NEWSLETTER No. 1577 -- 10/35/2006

Paul Craig Roberts wrote an awesome article. He does an excellent job of dispelling the myths of free-trade and globalism. Among other alarming trends, he explains how there are more H-1Bs being imported than jobs created in engineering and programming. This except explains:

Among the fastest growing occupations (in terms of rate of growth), seven
of the ten are in health care and social assistance. The three remaining
fields are: network systems and data analysis with 126,000 jobs projected,
or 12,600 per year; computer software engineering applications with 222,000
jobs projected, or 22,200 per year; and computer software engineering
systems software with 146,000 jobs projected, or 14,600 per year.

Assuming these projections are realized, how many of the computer
engineering and network systems jobs will go to Americans? Not many,
considering the 65,000 H-1B visas each year (bills have been introduced in
Congress to raise the number) and the loss during the past five years of
761,000 jobs in the information sector and computer systems design and
related sectors.


Weekend Edition
September 30 / October 1, 2006

CounterPunch Special Report

As Jobs Leave America's Shores...
The New Face of Class War


Te attacks on middle-class jobs are lending new meaning to the phrase
"class war". The ladders of upward mobility are being dismantled. America,
the land of opportunity, is giving way to ever deepening polarization
between rich and poor.

The assault on jobs predates the Bush regime. However, the loss of
middle-class jobs has become particularly intense in the 21st century, and,
like other pressing problems, has been ignored by President Bush, who is
focused on waging war in the Middle East and building a police state at
home. The lives and careers that are being lost to the carnage of a
gratuitous war in Iraq are paralleled by the economic destruction of
careers, families, and communities in the U.S.A. Since the days of
President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s, the U.S. government has
sought to protect employment of its citizens. Bush has turned his back on
this responsibility. He has given his support to the offshoring of American
jobs that is eroding the living standards of Americans. It is another
example of his betrayal of the public trust.

"Free trade" and "globalization" are the guises behind which class war is
being conducted against the middle class by both political parties. Patrick
J. Buchanan, a three-time contender for the presidential nomination, put it
well when he wrote1 that NAFTA and the various so-called trade agreements
were never trade deals. The agreements were enabling acts that enabled U.S.
corporations to dump their American workers, avoid Social Security taxes,
health care and pensions, and move their factories offshore to locations
where labor is cheap.

The offshore outsourcing of American jobs has nothing to do with free trade
based on comparative advantage. Offshoring is labor arbitrage. First world
capital and technology are not seeking comparative advantage at home in
order to compete abroad. They are seeking absolute advantage abroad in
cheap labor.

Two recent developments made possible the supremacy of absolute over
comparative advantage: the high speed Internet and the collapse of world
socialism, which opened China's and India's vast under-utilized labor
resources to first world capital.

In times past, first world workers had nothing to fear from cheap labor
abroad. Americans worked with superior capital, technology and business
organization. This made Americans far more productive than Indians and
Chinese, and, as it was not possible for U.S. firms to substitute cheaper
foreign labor for U.S. labor, American jobs and living standards were not
threatened by low wages abroad or by the products that these low wages

The advent of offshoring has made it possible for U.S. firms using first
world capital and technology to produce goods and services for the U.S.
market with foreign labor. The result is to separate Americans' incomes
from the production of the goods and services that they consume. This new
development, often called "globalization," allows cheap foreign labor to
work with the same capital, technology and business know-how as U.S.
workers. The foreign workers are now as productive as Americans, with the
difference being that the large excess supply of labor that overhangs labor
markets in China and India keeps wages in these countries low. Labor that
is equally productive but paid a fraction of the wage is a magnet for
Western capital and technology.

Although a new development, offshoring is destroying entire industries,
occupations and communities in the United States. The devastation of U.S.
manufacturing employment was waved away with promises that a "new economy"
based on high-tech knowledge jobs would take its place. Education and
retraining were touted as the answer.

In testimony before the U.S.-China Commission,2 I explained that offshoring
is the replacement of U.S. labor with foreign labor in U.S. production
functions over a wide range of tradable goods and services. (Tradable goods
and services are those that can be exported or that are competitive with
imports. Nontradable goods and services are those that only have domestic
markets and no import competition. For example, barbers and dentists offer
nontradable services. Examples of nontradable goods are perishable, locally
produced fruits and vegetables and specially fabricated parts of local
machine shops.) As the production of most tradable goods and services can
be moved offshore, there are no replacement occupations for which to train
except in domestic "hands on" services such as barbers, manicurists, and
hospital orderlies. No country benefits from trading its professional jobs,
such as engineering, for domestic service jobs.

At a Brookings Institution conference in Washington, D.C., in January 2004,
I predicted that if the pace of jobs outsourcing and occupational
destruction continued, the U.S. would be a third world country in 20 years.
Despite my regular updates on the poor performance of U.S. job growth in
the 21st century, economists have insisted that offshoring is a
manifestation of free trade and can only have positive benefits overall for

Reality has contradicted the glib economists. The new high-tech knowledge
jobs are being outsourced abroad even faster than the old manufacturing
jobs. Establishment economists are beginning to see the light. Writing in
Foreign Affairs (March/April 2006), Princeton economist and former Federal
Reserve vice chairman Alan Blinder concludes that economists who insist
that offshore outsourcing is merely a routine extension of international
trade are overlooking a major transformation with significant consequences.
Blinder estimates that 42-56 million American service sector jobs are
susceptible to offshore outsourcing.3 Whether all these jobs leave, U.S.
salaries will be forced down by the willingness of foreigners to do the
work for less.

Software engineers and information technology workers have been especially
hard hit. Jobs offshoring, which began with call centers and back-office
operations, is rapidly moving up the value chain. Business Week's Michael
Mandel4 compared starting salaries in 2005 with those in 2001. He found a
12.7 per cent decline in computer science pay, a 12 per cent decline in
computer engineering pay, and a 10.2 per cent decline in electrical
engineering pay. Marketing salaries experienced a 6.5 per cent decline, and
business administration salaries fell 5.7 per cent. Despite a make-work law
for accountants known by the names of its congressional sponsors,
Sarbanes-Oxley, even accounting majors, were offered 2.3 per cent less.

Using the same sources as the Business Week article (salary data from the
National Association of Colleges and Employers and Bureau of Labor
Statistics data for inflation adjustment), professor Norm Matloff at the
University of California, Davis, made the same comparison for master's
degree graduates. He found that between 2001 and 2005 starting pay for
master's degrees in computer science, computer engineering, and electrical
engineering fell 6.6 per cent, 13.7 per cent, and 9.4 per cent

On February 22, 2006, staff writer Shaheen Pasha5 reported
that America's large financial institutions are moving "large portions of
their investment banking operations abroad." Offshoring is now killing
American jobs in research and analytic operations, foreign exchange trades,
and highly complicated credit derivatives contracts. Deal-making
responsibility itself may eventually move abroad. Deloitte Touche says that
the financial services industry will move 20 per cent of its total costs
base offshore by the end of 2010. As the costs are lower in India, the move
will represent more than 20 per cent of the business. A job on Wall Street
is a declining option for bright young persons with high stress tolerance
as America's last remaining advantage is outsourced.

According to Norm Augustine, former CEO of Lockheed Martin, even McDonald
jobs are on the way offshore. Augustine reports that McDonald is
experimenting with replacing error-prone order takers with a system that
transmits orders via satellite to a central location and from there to the
person preparing the order. The technology lets the orders be taken in
India or China at costs below the U.S. minimum wage and without the
liabilities of U.S. employees.

American economists, some from incompetence and some from being bought and
paid for, described globalization as a "win-win" development. It was
supposed to work like this: The U.S. would lose market share in tradable
manufactured goods and make up the job and economic loss with highly
educated knowledge workers. The win for America would be lower-priced
manufactured goods and a white-collar work force. The win for China would
be manufacturing jobs that would bring economic development to that

It did not work out this way, as Morgan Stanley's Stephen Roach, formerly a
cheerleader for globalization, recently admitted. It has become apparent
that job creation and real wages in the developed economies are seriously
lagging behind their historical norms as offshore outsourcing displaces the
"new economy" jobs in "software programming, engineering, design, and the
medical profession, as well as a broad array of professionals in the legal,
accounting, actuarial, consulting, and financial services industries".6 The
real state of the U.S. job market is revealed by a Chicago Sun-Times report
on January 26, 2006, that 25,000 people applied for 325 jobs at a new
Chicago Wal-Mart.

According to the BLS payroll jobs data,7 over the past half-decade (January
2001 - January 2006, the data series available at time of writing) the U.S.
economy created 1,050,000 net new private sector jobs and 1,009,000 net new
government jobs for a total five-year figure of 2,059,000. That is seven
million jobs short of keeping up with population growth, definitely a
serious job shortfall.

The BLS payroll jobs data contradict the hype from business organizations,
such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, that offshore outsourcing is good for
America. Large corporations, which have individually dismissed thousands of
their U.S. employees and replaced them with foreigners, claim that jobs
outsourcing allows them to save money that can be used to hire more
Americans. The corporations and the business organizations are very
successful in placing this disinformation in the media. The lie is repeated
everywhere and has become a mantra among no-think economists and
politicians. However, no sign of these jobs can be found in the payroll
jobs data. But there is abundant evidence of the lost American jobs.

During the past five years (January 01 - January 06), the information
sector of the U.S. economy lost 644,000 jobs, or 17.4 per cent of its work
force. Computer systems design and related work lost 105,000 jobs, or 8.5
per cent of its work force. Clearly, jobs offshoring is not creating jobs
in computers and information technology. Indeed, jobs offshoring is not
even creating jobs in related fields.

U.S. manufacturing lost 2.9 million jobs, almost 17 per cent of the
manufacturing work force. The wipeout is across the board. Not a single
manufacturing payroll classification created a single new job.

The declines in some manufacturing sectors have more in common with a
country undergoing saturation bombing during war than with a "supereconomy"
that is "the envy of the world." In five years, communications equipment
lost 42 per cent of its work force. Semiconductors and electronic
components lost 37 per cent of its work force . The work force in computers
and electronic products declined 30 per cent. Electrical equipment and
appliances lost 25 per cent of its employees. The work force in motor
vehicles and parts declined 12 per cent. Furniture and related products
lost 17 per cent of its jobs. Apparel manufacturers lost almost half of the
work force. Employment in textile mills declined 43 per cent. Paper and
paper products lost one-fifth of its jobs. The work force in plastics and
rubber products declined by 15 per cent.

For the five-year period, U.S. job growth was limited to four areas:
education and health services, state and local government, leisure and
hospitality, and financial services. There was no U.S. job growth outside
these four areas of domestic nontradable services.

Oracle, for example, which has been handing out thousands of pink slips,
has recently announced two thousand more jobs being moved to India.8 How is
Oracle's move of U.S. jobs to India creating American jobs in nontradable
services such as waitresses and bartenders, hospital orderlies, state and
local government, and credit agencies?

Engineering jobs in general are in decline, because the manufacturing
sectors that employ engineers are in decline. During the last five years,
the U.S. work force lost 1.2 million jobs in the manufacture of machinery,
computers, electronics, semiconductors, communication equipment, electrical
equipment, motor vehicles, and transportation equipment. The BLS payroll
jobs numbers show a total of 69,000 jobs created in all fields of
architecture and engineering, including clerical personnel, over the past
five years. That comes to a mere 14,000 jobs per year (including clerical
workers). What is the annual graduating class in engineering and
architecture? How is there a shortage of engineers when more graduate than
can be employed?

Of course, many new graduates take jobs opened by retirements. We would
have to know the retirement rates to get a solid handle on the fate of new
graduates. But this fate cannot be very pleasant , with declining
employment in the manufacturing sectors that employ engineers and a minimum
of 65,000 H-1B work visas annually for foreigners plus an indeterminate
number of L-1 work visas.

It is not only the Bush regime that bases its policies on lies. Not content
with moving Americans' jobs abroad, corporations want to fill the jobs
remaining in America with foreigners on work visas. Business organizations
allege shortages of engineers, scientists and even nurses. Business
organizations have successfully used pubic relations firms and
bought-and-paid-for "economic studies" to convince policymakers that
American business cannot function without H-1B visas that permit the
importation of indentured employees from abroad who are paid less than the
going U.S. salaries. The so-called shortage is, in fact, a replacement of
American employees with foreign employees, with the soon-to-be-discharged
American employee first required to train his replacement.

It is amazing to see free-market economists rush to the defense of H-1B
visas. The visas are nothing but a subsidy to U.S. companies at the expense
of U.S. citizens. Keep in mind this H-1B subsidy to U.S. corporations for
employing foreign workers in place of Americans as we examine the Labor
Department's job projections over the 2004-2014 decade.

All of the occupations with the largest projected employment growth (in
terms of the number of jobs) over the next decade are in nontradable
domestic services. The top ten sources of the most jobs in "superpower"
America are: retail salespersons, registered nurses, postsecondary
teachers, customer service representatives, janitors and cleaners, waiters
and waitresses, food preparation (includes fast food), home health aides,
nursing aides, orderlies and attendants, general and operations managers.9
Note than none of this projected employment growth will contribute one
nickel toward producing goods and services that could be exported to help
close the huge U.S. trade deficit. Note, also, that few of these job
classifications require a college education.

Among the fastest growing occupations (in terms of rate of growth), seven
of the ten are in health care and social assistance. The three remaining
fields are: network systems and data analysis with 126,000 jobs projected,
or 12,600 per year; computer software engineering applications with 222,000
jobs projected, or 22,200 per year; and computer software engineering
systems software with 146,000 jobs projected, or 14,600 per year.10

Assuming these projections are realized, how many of the computer
engineering and network systems jobs will go to Americans? Not many,
considering the 65,000 H-1B visas each year (bills have been introduced in
Congress to raise the number) and the loss during the past five years of
761,000 jobs in the information sector and computer systems design and
related sectors.

Judging from its ten-year jobs projections, the U.S. Department of Labor
does not expect to see any significant high-tech job growth in the U.S.The
knowledge jobs are being outsourced even more rapidly than the
manufacturing jobs. The so-called "new economy" was just another hoax
perpetrated on the American people.

If outsourcing jobs offshore is good for U.S. employment, why won't the
U.S. Department of Commerce release the 200-page, $335,000 study of the
impact of the offshoring of U.S. high-tech jobs? Republican political
appointees reduced the 200-page report to 12 pages of public relations hype
and refuse to allow the Technology Administration experts who wrote the
report to testify before Congress. Democrats on the House Science Committee
are unable to pry the study out of the hands of Commerce Secretary Carlos
Gutierrez. On March 29, 2006, Republicans on the House Science Committee
voted down a resolution (H.Res. designed to force the Commerce Department
to release the study to Congress. Obviously, the facts don't fit the Bush
regime's globalization hype.

The BLS payroll data that we have been examining tracks employment by
industry classification. This is not the same thing as occupational
classification. For example, companies in almost every industry and area of
business employ people in computer-related occupations. A recent study from
the Association for Computing Machinery claims, "Despite all the publicity
in the United States about jobs being lost to India and China, the size of
the IT employment market in the United States today is higher than it was
at the height of the boom. Information technology appears as though
it will be a growth area at least for the coming decade."

We can check this claim by turning to the BLS Occupational Employment
Statistics.11 We will look at "computer and mathematical employment"12 and
"architecture and engineering employment".13

Computer and mathematical employment includes such fields as "software
engineers applications," "software engineers systems software," "computer
programmers," "network systems and data communications," and
"mathematicians." Has this occupation been a source of job growth? In
November of 2000 this occupation employed 2,932,810 people.14 In November
of 2004 (the latest data available), this occupation employed 2,932,790, or
20 people fewer. Employment in this field has been stagnant for four years.

During these four years, there have been employment shifts within the
various fields of this occupation. For example, employment of computer
programmers declined by 134,630, while employment of software engineers
applications rose by 65,080, and employment of software engineers systems
software rose by 59,600. (These shifts probably merely reflect change in
job title from programmer to software engineer.)

These figures do not tell us whether any gain in software engineering jobs
went to Americans. According to professor Norm Matloff, in 2002 there were
463,000 computer-related H-1B visa holders in the U.S. Similarly, the
134,630 lost computer programming jobs (if not merely a job title change)
may have been outsourced offshore to foreign affiliates.

Architecture and engineering employment includes all the architecture and
engineering fields except software engineering. The total employment of
architects and engineers in the U.S. declined by 120,700 between November
1999 and November 2004. Employment declined by 189,940 between November
2000 and November 2004, and by 103,390 between November 2001 and November

There are variations among fields. Between November 2000 and November 2004,
for example, U.S. employment of electrical engineers fell by 15,280.
Employment of computer hardware engineers rose by 15,990 (possibly these
are job title reclassifications). Overall, however, over 100,000
engineering jobs were lost. We do not know how many of the lost jobs were
outsourced offshore to foreign affiliates or how many American engineers
were dismissed and replaced by foreign holders of H-1B or L-1 visas.

Clearly, engineering and computer-related employment in the U.S.A. has not
been growing, whether measured by industry or by occupation. Moreover, with
a half million or more foreigners in the U.S. on work visas, the overall
employment numbers do not represent employment of Americans.

American employees have been abandoned by American corporations and by
their representatives in Congress. America remains a land of opportunity
­ but for foreigners ­ not for the native born. A country whose work
force is concentrated in domestic nontradable services has no need for
scientists and engineers and no need for universities. Even the projected
jobs in nursing and school teaching can be filled by foreigners on H-1B

The myth has been firmly established here that the jobs the U.S. is
outsourcing offshore are being replaced with better jobs. There is no sign
of these jobs in the payroll jobs data or in the occupational employment
statistics. When a country loses entry-level jobs, it has no one to promote
to senior level jobs. When manufacturing leaves, so does engineering,
design, research and development, and innovation itself.

On February 16, 2006, the New York Times reported on a new study presented
to the National Academies that concludes that outsourcing is climbing the
skills ladder.15 A survey of 200 multinational corporations representing 15
industries in the U.S.and Europe found that 38 per cent planned to change
substantially the worldwide distribution of their research and development
work, sending it to India and China. According to the New York Times, "More
companies in the survey said they planned to decrease research and
development employment in the United States and Europe than planned to
increase employment."

The study and the discussion it provoked came to untenable remedies. Many
believe that a primary reason for the shift of R&D to India and China is
the erosion of scientific prowess in the U.S. due to lack of math and
science proficiency of American students and their reluctance to pursue
careers in science and engineering. This belief begs the question why
students would chase after careers that are being outsourced abroad.

The main author of the study, Georgia Tech professor Marie Thursby,
believes that American science and engineering depend on having "an
environment that fosters the development of a high-quality work force and
productive collaboration between corporations and universities." The dean
of Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, thinks the answer
is to recruit the top people in China and India and bring them to Berkeley.
No one seems to understand that research, development, design, and
innovation take place in countries where things are made. The loss of
manufacturing means ultimately the loss of engineering and science. The
newest plants embody the latest technology. If these plants are abroad,
that is where the cutting edge resides.

The denial of jobs reality has become an art form for economists,
libertarians, the Bush regime, and journalists. Except for CNN's Lou Dobbs,
no accurate reporting is available in the "mainstream media."

Economists have failed to examine the incompatibility of offshoring with
free trade. Economists are so accustomed to shouting down protectionists
that they dismiss any complaint about globalization's impact on domestic
jobs as the ignorant voice of a protectionist seeking to preserve the buggy
whip industry. Matthew J. Slaughter, a Dartmouth economics professor
rewarded for his service to offshoring with appointment to President Bush's
Council of Economic Advisers, suffered no harm to his reputation when he
wrote, "For every one job that U.S. multinationals created abroad in their
foreign affiliates, they created nearly two U.S. jobs in their parent
operations." In other words, Slaughter claims that offshoring is creating
more American jobs than foreign ones.

How did Slaughter arrive at this conclusion? Not by consulting the BLS
payroll jobs data or the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics. Instead,
Slaughter measured the growth of U.S. multinational employment and failed
to take into account the two reasons for the increase in multinational
employment: (1) Multinationals acquired many existing smaller firms, thus
raising multinational employment but not overall employment, and (2) many
U.S. firms established foreign operations for the first time and thereby
became multinationals, thus adding their existing employment to Slaughter's
number for multinational employment.

ABC News' John Stossel, a libertarian hero, recently made a similar error.
In debunking Lou Dobbs' concern with U.S. jobs lost to offshore
outsourcing, Stossel invoked the California-based company, Collabnet. He
quotes the CEO's claim that outsourcing saves his company money and lets
him hire more Americans. Turning to Collabnet's webpage, it is very
instructive to see the employment opportunities that the company posts for
the United States and for India.

In India, Collabnet has openings (at time of writing) for eight engineers,
a sales engineer, a technical writer, and a telemarketing representative.
In the U.S. Collabnet has openings for one engineer, a receptionist/office
assistant, and positions in marketing, sales, services and operations.
Collabnet is a perfect example of what Lou Dobbs and I report: the
engineering and design jobs move abroad, and Americans are employed to sell
and market the foreign-made products.

Other forms of deception are widely practiced. For example, Matthew
Spiegleman, a Conference Board economist, claims that manufacturing jobs
are only slightly higher paid than domestic service jobs, so there is no
meaningful loss in income to Americans from offshoring. He reaches this
conclusion by comparing only hourly pay and leaving out the longer
manufacturing workweek and the associated benefits, such as health care and

Occasionally, however, real information escapes the spin machine. In
February 2006 the National Association of Manufacturers, one of
offshoring's greatest boosters, released a report, "U.S. Manufacturing
Innovation at Risk," by economists Joel Popkin and Kathryn Kobe.16 The
economists find that U.S. industry's investment in research and development
is not languishing after all. It just appears to be languishing, because it
is rapidly being shifted overseas: "Funds provided for foreign-performed
R&D have grown by almost 73 per cent between 1999 and 2003, with a 36 per
cent increase in the number of firms funding foreign R&D."

U.S. industry is still investing in R&D after all; it is just not hiring
Americans to do the research and development. U.S. manufacturers still make
things, only less and less in America with American labor. U.S.
manufacturers still hire engineers, only they are foreign ones, not
American ones.

In other words, everything is fine for U.S. manufacturers. It is just their
former American work force that is in the doldrums. As these Americans
happen to be customers for U.S. manufacturers, U.S. brand names will
gradually lose their U.S. market. U.S. household median income has fallen
for the past five years. Consumer demand has been kept alive by consumers'
spending their savings and home equity and going deeper into debt. It is
not possible for debt to forever rise faster than income.

The United States is the first country in history to destroy the prospects
and living standards of its labor force. It is amazing to watch
freedom-loving libertarians and free-market economists serve as apologists
for the dismantling of the ladders of upward mobility that made the America
of old an opportunity society.

America is seeing a widening polarization into rich and poor. The resulting
political instability and social strife will be terrible.

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[Jun 20, 2005] Slashdot Programming Jobs Losing Luster in U.S.

"Yahoo! News writes "The U.S. software industry lost 16 percent of its jobs from March 2001 to March 2004, the Washington-based Economic Policy Institute found. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that information technology industries laid off more than 7,000 American workers in the first quarter of 2005. Gartner researchers say most people affiliated with corporate information technology departments will assume "business-facing" roles, focused not so much on gadgets and algorithms but corporate strategy, personnel and financial analysis. "If you're only interested in deep coding and you want to remain in your cubicle all day, there are a shrinking number of jobs for you," said Diane Morello, Gartner vice president of research.""

[May 15, 2005] Spell it correctly! It's SweatSHIP, not SweatSHOP.

( Spell it correctly! It's SweatSHIP, not SweatSHOP.
SeaCode, Inc., a San Diego-based startup, plans to acquire a "cruise ship" and staff it with 600 Indian and Russian software engineers (2). They will anchor it 3.01 miles offshore of Los Angeles, just out of the reach of U.S. labor, tax, and immigration law. This is offshoring that is only 3 miles away.

- No "annoying" U.S. labor, tax, and immigration laws. Side-steps H-1B visas.

- No "annoying" overpriced U.S. software engineers.

- Software engineers (ahem, seamen) will get shore leave but cannot live or work in the U.S. (2)

- Quick helicopter flight or water taxi for managers of U.S. outsourcing clients to check up on projects. No more long flights to Bangalore (2).

- 24-hour operation on multiple shifts (2).

- Monthly take home pay will be $1800 vs. $500 in India (2)

- Monthly take home pay for displaced U.S. software engineers: $0.

This could solve the health care cost problem in the U.S. Just imagine! Talented Indian doctors and nurses and a full-service hospital anchored just offshore out of the reach of U.S. laws and malpractice courts. Ultra low insurance rates and strong U.S. corporate participation. Perhaps it will be the only company-sponsored healthcare benefit offered in some corporations.

Brilliant? Outrageous? Should there be an armada of such ships? Is there anyone you would like to see moved offshore? Do you think would help? ...joke! :-)



SeaCode, Inc. website

C++ Faring Lads (Forbes)

Shipping Out U.S. Jobs -- to a Ship (Los Angeles Times),1,5684805,print.column?coll=la-news-columns&ctrack=2&cset=true

Talk about Offshore Jobs -- These Are Three Miles Out (Wall Street Journal)

A plan to offshore . . . just 3 miles out (Boston Globe)

Just Offshore Outsourcing (CIO Magazine)

From Offshore to Ship-to-Shore (

Taking tech jobs offshore could create a sweatship (Sydney Morning Herald)

Outsourcing off Los Angeles? (

Posted: 05/12/2005 @ 06:03 (edited 05/12/2005 @ 07:23)

[Oct 7, 2004] FRB Speech, Ferguson--Free Trade What Do Economists Really Kno

More recently, the outsourcing of service jobs to developing countries has come under the spotlight. The increasing use of computer programming talent in India and other low-wage countries has, understandably, struck a chord of anxiety among American workers. For years, the response of pro-trade advocates to the loss of low-wage jobs in manufacturing has been that they are being made up by the creation of higher-paid, higher-skilled jobs in the service sector. The loss of highly paid programming jobs to lower-paid workers abroad now appears to suggest that there is no place where American workers can hold their own.

Yet, as in the case of import competition more generally, we must not exaggerate the importance of outsourcing to the nation's overall employment picture. There are no conclusive data, but a prominent study puts the number of jobs displaced through services outsourcing over the next decade or so at fewer than 300,000 annually, or less than 2 percent of the 15 million in total gross job losses I noted earlier.18 Moreover, only a fraction of those jobs represent high-skilled, high-wage jobs; these numbers are quite difficult to pin down, but one study puts the number of software jobs lost to India since 2000 at fewer than 50,000 annually.19 Finally, we should remember that the United States gains jobs through what is often referred to as "insourcing," that is, performing service jobs for other countries. In fact, the United States has consistently run a surplus in those categories of the balance-of-payments associated with trade in business services.

[Sep 28, 2004] Dollar Diplomacy, Outsourcing, And The Iraq War by Paul Craig Roberts

( US might be a superpower, but it is not a country that controls its own fate. Delusion does.

Much of the US public is deluded about the invasion and occupation of Iraq and its consequences and about the state of the US economy.

Just as Americans are deceived into believing that Iraq was involved in the September 11 terrorist attack on the US and threatened America with weapons of mass destruction, Americans are deceived into believing that they benefit economically from outsourcing, offshore production, and an unprecedented trade deficit.

The deceivers emphasize the lower prices, not the lost incomes and destroyed careers, that result when American workers are replaced by cheaper foreign labor. The deceivers allege that the trade deficit means that we get to consume more of the world's goods than we produce, with the added benefit that foreigners pay for our excess consumption by investing in America.

The truth of the matter is that "foreign investment" in the US today consists of Asian central banks, mainly Japan and China, using surplus earnings from massive trade surpluses to prop up the US dollar by purchasing US government bonds.

By propping up the dollar, Asians keep their goods and services cheap, thus worsening the US trade deficit. Washington goes along because Asian countries use their export surpluses to finance the US budget deficit.

Propping up the dollar undermines investment in factories or businesses that produce jobs for Americans. Stephen Roach, chief economist for Morgan Stanley, reports that in 2003 net investment in the US business sector was 60% below the level in 2000.

The US has become the world's largest debtor, in hock to foreigners for one-fourth of our Gross Domestic Product. The ratio of US external debt (what we owe to foreigners) and US exports is approaching the crisis ratios of banana republics.

ld be both painful and irreversible. With consumers demanding lower prices and investors demanding higher profits, business is under relentless pressure to cut costs.

American workers may be among the most productive in the world, but they also make on average $16 an hour, and benefits add another six bucks on top of that, reports Mason. A foreign worker with comparable skills comes at a fraction of the cost.

"Protecting jobs leads to job destruction, because if we try to prevent outsourcing, it'll just make American business less competitive in the world market. And that will lead to overall job destruction. So for me there's no choice here. We have to outsource," said Marc Andreesen, head of the California-based software company "Opsware," which helps businesses cut costs by automating.

Andreesen says he plans to hire workers in India or Brazil.

"By doing that, what I want to be able to do is get more bang for the buck out of those jobs, so that I can grow faster and so I can hire more people in the U.S.," he said.

Ironically, in this global shift, some Indian companies are now even off-shoring their jobs to China, which means the tech job Lisa Pineau lost is going so far away, it's probably never coming back.

"It's just left a sour feeling in my stomach," she said.

After more than a year of looking, Pineau is thinking about buying a sandwich shop.

[Sep 14, 2004] Slashdot U.S. IT jobs Down 400K Since 2001

"A research study shows that American information technology industry 'lost 403,300 jobs between March 2001, when the recession began, and April 2004.' Over half of those jobs - 206,300 - were lost after the recession was declared over in November 2001. In all, the job market for high-tech workers shrank by 18.8 percent, to 1,743,500, between March 2001 and April 2004. And the bloodletting continues -- as reported here on Slashdot earlier this year, the number of employed Software Engineers fell by 15% from April to July of 2004 (from 856,000 to 725,000)."

[Mar 09, 2004] Outsourcing A New Occupational Hazard By Paul Craig Roberts

Who does Bill Gates think he is fooling? Microsoft's Chairman spent the last week of February on the college stump trying to talk up computer engineering. But nothing he can say can overcome the fact that students have been reading announcements from every American high tech company, including Microsoft itself, about thousands of engineering and research jobs being moved to Asia.

On February 16 the Associated Press reported that Siemens announced that the firm will move most of the 15,000 software programming jobs from its offices in the US and Western Europe to India, China, and Eastern Europe.

"Siemens has recognized that a huge amount of software development activity needs to be moved from high-cost countries to low-cost countries," explained a Siemens managing director. [Siemens Plans Huge Jobs Outsourcing]

According to official US statistics, at the end of February 2004 the US economy had 229,000 fewer jobs in computer systems design and related disciplines than in January 2001, a decline of 17.2 percent in three years. Architectural and engineering employment lost 33,000 jobs during the period, a decline of 2.6 percent (the data are from the BLS payroll surveys). With the economy shedding more knowledge jobs than it is creating, new graduates face poor prospects.

[Mar 08, 2004] John Robb's Weblog

IBM is basically a big blue job destruction machine.

The WSJ rips IBM's claim that it is adding jobs to its US workforce. Basically, the slight of hand works like this: a company outsources thousands of IT jobs to IBM. IBM quickly moves to offshore them and radically cuts the pay/benefits of those that remain. The net result is a net gain in jobs (from the few that remain after the offshoring). IBM is basically a big blue job destruction machine. For example:

Bonny Berger, a computer programmer in Elizabeth, N.J., had worked for AT&T for 21 years when she likewise was moved to IBM in 1999. Within four months, the project she was working on was moved to Canada and she was put to work updating software used to collect unpaid bills. After five months, she says, she was told that work would be moved to India and that she would train a replacement. Ms. Berger moved on to yet another IBM task. But in March 2002 she was told to retrain a replacement from Canada, after which she got a layoff notice.

NOTE: remember that each good IT job outsourced destroys up to 4.5 other jobs in the general economy.

NOTE2: The speed of this realignment in the economy is something that should concern everyone. Prayer at the alter of the invisible hand is misguided. The invisible hand is a vengeful god that rains economic destruction down on the non-competitive. It has no special place in its heart for Americans.

[Jan. 19, 2004] U.S. jobs jumping ship

(CNN/Money) - As painful as the labor market has been lately, what's even more painful is that many of the 2.5 million jobs lost in the past few years are never coming back.

That's because U.S. employers in a wide range of industries are moving more and more jobs overseas.

That may be old news for manufacturers, who have been cutting jobs and moving them offshore for decades, but it's starting to gather steam in services, especially information technology, formerly one of America's best-paying industries.

"By 2004, more than 80 percent of U.S. executive boardrooms will have discussed offshore sourcing, and more than 40 percent of U.S. enterprises will have completed some type of pilot or will be sourcing IT (information technology) services," Gartner Inc. (IT: Research, Estimates), a technology consulting firm, said in a study late last year.

In fact, some of the biggest firms in the United States have been seriously discussing outsourcing recently. On Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported that officials at IBM (IBM: Research, Estimates), the world's biggest computer maker, discussed saving about $168 million beginning in 2006 by moving thousands of programming jobs overseas, according to internal documents the paper obtained.

An IBM spokesman wouldn't comment on the documents, according to the journal, but acknowledged IBM plans to move about 3,000 U.S. jobs overseas this year.

In July, a labor group called the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers published on its Web site a link to a Power Point presentation given by Microsoft (MSFT: Research, Estimates) Senior Vice President Brian Valentine on July 2, entitled "Thinking About India."

In the presentation, Valentine cites all the advantages to moving operations to India, including the chance to "leverage the Indian economy's lower cost structure," where a company can get "two heads for the price of one."

Valentine's presentation said several firms -- including Cisco (CSCO: Research, Estimates), General Electric (GE: Research, Estimates) and Dell Computer (DELL: Research, Estimates) -- already "have this religion" and that it was "time for Microsoft to join the party."

Microsoft spokeswoman Stacy Drake told CNN/Money Valentine's presentation was simply an effort to encourage employees "to think globally and explore ways to improve our customer reach."

"We will continue to have the majority of our core development work in the United States," Drake said.

IBM told the Times it was simply trying to invest "around the world, including the United States, to build capability and deliver value as defined by our customers."

A developing taste for offshore labor

U.S. businesses, battered by the recent three-year bear market in stocks and an economy struggling to find its footing, have already developed a taste for super-cheap labor in developing countries, where workers are increasingly better-trained -- especially if they've spent significant time working in the United States on temporary visas.

Microsoft, in fact, was one of the industry leaders in this regard, having opened facilities in Shanghai before other competitors.

A February survey of 145 U.S. companies by consultant Forrester Research found that 88 percent of the firms that look overseas for services claimed to get better value for their money offshore while 71 percent said offshore workers did better quality work.

That's news that can't stay quiet for long, and companies like Hewlett-Packard (HPQ: Research, Estimates), Intel (INTC: Research, Estimates) and CNN/Money parent company AOL Time Warner (AOL: Research, Estimates) already are responding.

"Over the next 15 years, 3.3 million U.S. service industry jobs and $136 billion in wages will move offshore to countries like India, Russia, China and the Philippines," Forrester analyst John McCarthy predicted in a 2002 report. "The IT industry will lead the initial overseas exodus."

How will it affect the economy?

Though Gartner has said the impact of overseas outsourcing could be "significant," many economists doubt the trend is big enough yet to disrupt the broader U.S. economy. Imports of business services account for less than 1/20 of 1 percent of gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the nation's economy.

But economists are starting to take note. "If it's not a big story yet, it could become one," said Josh Bivens, a labor economist at the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington think tank that focuses on labor issues.

At the least, it's not doing much to end the longest U.S. labor-market slump since World War II. More than 9.3 million people are unemployed, giving employed workers less leverage when seeking a raise. As a result, wage and salary growth has begun to slow, threatening consumer spending, which fuels more than two-thirds of the economy.

IT workers feel the pain

In few areas has the competition for jobs had a bigger impact on wage growth than in the IT industry. In the 1990s, it seemed all one had to do to buy a ticket to Easy Street was learn a programming language or how to manage corporate computer networks.

Those days are gone, with unemployment rising, IT spending in a slump and software services moving offshore.

What's more, some IT professionals and immigrant groups complain that U.S. employers manipulate H-1B and L1 visas, which let college-educated people from overseas work in the United States temporarily. They're supposed to be paid a "prevailing wage," but many employers pay them as little as possible. With such cheap labor available right here in the United States, there's even less reason for IT wages to rise.

"I talked about salary with a company last week (in March), and they were paying between $30 and $35 an hour," said Donna Bradley, an IT specialist in Mesa, Ariz., who's been out of work since August 2002. "In August I was making $45 an hour."

It didn't matter; Bradley, 49, didn't get the job and is selling her house and moving to Maryland to live with her daughter while she continues to look for work.

"The irony is that I was a single mother, and I raised five kids by myself and put myself through school," Bradley said. "I bought my first house in 1999 -- that was a very big deal for me -- and now I have to sell it, only because they won't hire Americans. It's devastating."

[Sep. 1, 2003] Outsourcing - The Destruction of the U.S. Economy - Reader Comment - CIO

(CIO Magazine) Working with the IT environment over the past 20 years as a technical specifications writer, I will UNCATEGORICALLY state that offshore development is NOT cost effective when considering the enormous business-culture barriers. This results in enormous inefficiencies and substantial increases in time and in number of participants. The REAL reason for the success of offshore development is the ridiculous and completely unfair tax advantages GIVEN to work done offshore by OUR government (if work is done in India, they pay a maximum 15% income tax rate!!!)

[Apr. 2000 ] Wired 8.04 Why the future doesn't need us By Bill Joy

Our most powerful 21st-century technologies - robotics, genetic engineering, and nanotech - are threatening to make humans an endangered species.

By Bill Joy

From the moment I became involved in the creation of new technologies, their ethical dimensions have concerned me, but it was only in the autumn of 1998 that I became anxiously aware of how great are the dangers facing us in the 21st century. I can date the onset of my unease to the day I met Ray Kurzweil, the deservedly famous inventor of the first reading machine for the blind and many other amazing things.

Ray and I were both speakers at George Gilder's Telecosm conference, and I encountered him by chance in the bar of the hotel after both our sessions were over. I was sitting with John Searle, a Berkeley philosopher who studies consciousness. While we were talking, Ray approached and a conversation began, the subject of which haunts me to this day.

I had missed Ray's talk and the subsequent panel that Ray and John had been on, and they now picked right up where they'd left off, with Ray saying that the rate of improvement of technology was going to accelerate and that we were going to become robots or fuse with robots or something like that, and John countering that this couldn't happen, because the robots couldn't be conscious.

While I had heard such talk before, I had always felt sentient robots were in the realm of science fiction. But now, from someone I respected, I was hearing a strong argument that they were a near-term possibility. I was taken aback, especially given Ray's proven ability to imagine and create the future. I already knew that new technologies like genetic engineering and nanotechnology were giving us the power to remake the world, but a realistic and imminent scenario for intelligent robots surprised me.

It's easy to get jaded about such breakthroughs. We hear in the news almost every day of some kind of technological or scientific advance. Yet this was no ordinary prediction. In the hotel bar, Ray gave me a partial preprint of his then-forthcoming bookThe Age of Spiritual Machines, which outlined a utopia he foresaw - one in which humans gained near immortality by becoming one with robotic technology. On reading it, my sense of unease only intensified; I felt sure he had to be understating the dangers, understating the probability of a bad outcome along this path.

[Apr 24, 2002] Is Programming a Dead End Job

April 24, 2002 | Slashdot

Not always true (Score:4, Insightful)
by kaladorn on Thursday April 25, @03:41PM (#3411001)
(User #514293 Info |

My boss (our VP and I think CTO) is the developer of utmost Deep Magic. But of course, we're a relatively small company.

But to take the other side of the coin up, I know of developers who made more than their managers (as one of my classmates ascended to management, I know several of the lead developers were making significantly more than he was).

There are two or three GOOD reasons why managers make the big bucks. In theory, they are the RESPONSIBLE ones. The buck stops there. Programmers can often excuse problems as being the result of other people's work, their deadlines, etc. But a manager has no such refuge. That responsibility should be commensurately rewarded.[1]

Also note that some highly paid programmers who make more than their management treat their management like inferiors. I've seen this. At the end of the day, some of the geek community only respect salary or other raw displays of power and authority. Sad but true.

Lastly, good managers are worth their weight in gold and do significantly benefit a project. They coordinate people, resources, and customers. They manage customer expectations, attend to the wellbeing of their managed, and ensure that all required resources are forseen and in place when required.[1].

So even though the comment about programmers not getting paid more than managers has exceptions, there are some good reasons for things to be as they are.

[1] - I know very damn well that the theory often doesn't match practice. For some reason, many companies keep inept management in place, I suspect because the next management level up is equally inept. I've had precisely three fair to okay managers, 1 really great manager, and several of the nightmarishly inept variety. But why companies keep incompetent managers in positions of power despite all the damage this causes is an utterly separate issue from the reasons why managers are paid more than programmers. Valid, but different.

Cliff said it all (Score:3, Insightful) by Havokmon ( on Thursday April 25, @02:36PM (#3410478)
(User #89874 Info | | Last Journal: Thursday September 27, @05:18PM) <
People who are in this career for the money or the prestige may not like it after a while, but the people who are in this for something else will tolerate quite a bit before deciding to opt out.

And is exactly why Loki lasted as long as it did..

Re:Cliff said it all by hendridm (Score:1) Thursday April 25, @02:40PM
No way (Score:4, Insightful)
by dciman ( on Thursday April 25, @02:37PM (#3410485)
(User #106457 Info |

I think that programming is by NO means a dead end. Sure there is a bit of a tough time right now with the economy in its current state. But, we are just now seeing an emergence of whole new computational fields. These mainly being in the life sciences arena. Genomic sequencng projects are quickly overloading scientists with raw data that someone needs to turn into usefull information. The area of developing these tools is vast.

Possibly more important will be people who come up with better algorythms for predicting protein structre and interactions based on sequences. This is an amazing field that has the promise of keeping computre scientists, biologists, and bioinformatics people busy for decades to come. I think the field is ready to make leaps and bounds.... and most definitly not a dead end.

[Aug 25, 2001] Stress hits Swedes in IT jobs - Tech News -

Swedes working in information technology, which has gone from boom to bust in the past two years, are off sick more often than people employed in all other sectors except health care, new data showed Friday.

A study made by insurance group Alecta found a skyrocketing frequency of sick leave, especially among highly paid women.

"The IT sector may soon be suffering from as many sick-leave absences as health care," Alecta said in a statement.

Its data covered 620,000 people, or roughly one-seventh of Sweden's labor force.

"We can also see that sick leave has increased most among women. The rise is remarkably high, particularly for well-paid women," Birgitta Rolander, head of Alecta's health and welfare department, said in the statement.

Stress and depression were the most common reasons for Swedes' sick leave in the first half of 2001, while absenteeism due to burn-out had declined compared with January-June 2000, the data showed.

Is This A Dead-end Career

Become a dentist, CPA, or lawyer and odds are you'll be practicing that profession on a more or less daily basis till the day you retire. That seems less likely for engineers and firmware developers. How many EEs or software folks do you know in their 60s who still work as techies? How many in their 40s?

Though I haven't the statistics to support it, my observations suggest that embedded systems development is a field dominated by young folks -- say, those under 35 or so. Middle age seems to wean folks from their technical inclinations; droves of developers move towards management or even the dark side, marketing and sales.

Is salary compression the culprit? My students, all of 21 and armed with a newly minted BSEE, get entry-level jobs at $50-60k. That's an astonishing sum for someone with no experience. But the entire course of this career will see in general less than a doubling of this number. Pure techies doing no management may top out at only 50 percent above the entry-level figure.

Consider that $70k or $80k is a staggering amount compared to the nation's average mid-$30k average family income -- but even so, it's quickly swallowed by the exigencies of middle-class life. That $50k goes a long way when one is single and living in a little apartment. Life happens fast, though. Orthodontics, college, a house, diapers, and much more consume funds faster than raises compensate. That's not to suggest it's not enough to live on, but surely the new pressures that come with a family make us question the financial wisdom of pursuing this wealth-limited career. Many developers start to wonder if an MBA or JD would forge a better path.

What about respect? My friends think "engineer" means I drive a train. Or that being in the computer business makes me the community's PC tech support center. "Doctor" or "VP Marketing" is something the average Joe understands and respects.

Is tedium a factor? Pushing ones and zeroes around doesn't sound like a lot of work, but getting each and every one of a hundred million perfect is tremendously difficult. I for one reached a point years ago where writing code and drawing schematics paled; much more fun was designing systems, inventing ways to build things, and then leaving implementation details to others. I know many engineers who bailed because of boredom.

External forces intervene, too. Though age discrimination is illegal it's also a constant factor. Many 50-ish engineers will never learn Java, C++, and other new technologies. They become obsolete. Employers see this and react in not-unexpected ways. Other employers look askance at the high older engineer salaries and will consider replacing one old fart with two newbies.

Champion of Angry Programmers

The main issue, according to Matloff, is the hiring practices of many technology companies that both discriminate against older programmers and turn foreign-born programmers, working in the United States on H-1B visas, into indentured servants.

The problem stems from the unwillingness of most HR departments to train their employees, combined with an overemphasis on the latest skills. The result, in Matloff's view, is a situation that's completely unacceptable to everyone concerned. Older programmers are viewed as "obsolete" once they reach 30 years of age, he said. And foreign-born programmers, who are being brought in to replace them, are forced to accept jobs for less than market rate while often working under hostile conditions just to get their green cards.

Matloff sees the companies losing out, because they are overlooking experienced, easily retrainable candidates and often hiring less-qualified ones to save money, hoping to reap the benefits of a compliant workforce in an industry notorious for job-hopping.

Matloff speaks to the NetSlaves on the authority of his extensive research and numerous articles on the IT employment situation. He defends himself against charges of xenophobia by citing a group of Indian programmers who have organized to pursue legal action against alleged abuses.

Like what you hear? Read the book: NetSlaves: True Tales of Working the Web, a beyond-the-hype look at what it's really like to work in the Internet business.

[Aug 03, 2001] IT staff cracking up under pressure By James Middleton

IT managers may well be on the brink of burn-out, according to research which found that many technical staff are being pushed beyond the limits in terms of working hours.

The results found that a quarter of IT managers work a 60-hour week, which represents almost four hours overtime per day. Also, 90 per cent of IT managers typically exceed the 48-hour working week set out by the European Working Time Directive.

Government sector workers are hardest hit, with 100 per cent of respondents working above and beyond the call of duty. Retail was second worst with 93 per cent working overtime, followed closely by the education, finance, manufacturing and hi-tech sectors.

The main reason behind the extra hours was a lack of resources, according to 28 per cent of the respondents. Another 22 per cent said that the pressure of development work accounted for extra time, with 10 per cent highlighting unrealistic deadlines as a major problem. A further 14 per cent said that they were expected to be available for out of hours support calls.

David Godwin, vice president of strategy at Attenda, the internet outsourcing company responsible for the research, said that "UK companies needed to adopt a 24-hour culture if they were to succeed in the internet economy".

But he added that the UK was going about it the wrong way by putting the "responsibility for maintaining a 24-hour presence onto in-house IT departments on top of already heavy workloads".

Almost all IT managers in the south of England, excluding those in London, said they were affected by extra working hours, with the next worst spot being the Midlands. Around 86 per cent of London managers said they were affected, with 75 per cent in Scotland and 71 per cent in the north of England.

Godwin likened the IT manager working day to that of a junior doctor. "While burn-out among IT managers is not a matter of life or death, the potential to cause damage to their companies' online presence is great," he said.

Breakaway Careers Is That Overwork Or Just Enthusiasm

May 28, 2001 | InformationWeek

What a recent study considers overwork in the U.S. workforce at large may be little more than business-as-usual for the IT professional. Working "12 to 14 hour days and over the weekend is just the status quo for IT," says Russell Clark, director of E-commerce and portals for OAO Technology Solutions Inc., an IT consulting firm with a staff of 2,200, in Greenbelt, Md.

But Clark agrees with the Families and Work Institute survey of 1,003 workers that it's not just the amount of work that determines whether someone feels overworked. Hard work paired with personal control over the work--for example, working to advance in a career, or saving toward college--can give a feeling of satisfaction. Overwork is more likely when people work longer hours for external reasons, such as needing to meet management expectations or because the workload requires that much time.

Or maybe it's boring. IT professionals generally work on a project basis, and for Clark there's a thrill akin to winning a race in reaching project milestones and hitting the big deadlines. "You love it," he says. "but if it's a project you're not interested in, once you get past eight hours, you get upset."

Some say no matter what the job, consistent long hours still add up to overwork. John Drake, author of Downshifting (Berrett-Koehler, 2001), and founder of an HR consulting firm known now as Drake Beam Morin, says IT is probably the worst area for overwork abuse. "IT is a key piece in most companies; long hours and dedication are expected--especially in small startups where it's 'we give you stock, you grow the company, work 12 to 16 hours a day,'" he says.

To avoid employee burnout, Clark rotates the work among his 20 staffers, and encourages a team environment where it's easy to have fun. In a previous job at Disney/ABC Sports, his group created sports games for PCs and PlayStations. Project deadlines coincided with the start of each major league season: baseball was due by April, football by August. "Even if you're not into sports, you'd get into it," he says. "Staying late and on weekends was just fun to us. If I were by myself doing the same work, it would've been no fun."

Longer work hours are becoming the norm, though not by choice. The average American employee works 42 hours a week and would prefer to work just under 35. A recently released InformationWeek Research 2001 Salary Survey finds that on average, IT staffers work 45 hours a week plus 24 hours of on-call time. Managers are working 50 hours a week, and on-call time is up 60% from last year's 15 hours a week to 24 hours.

Beth Devin, senior VP of retail technology, Charles Schwab & Co., says IT systems are partially to blame for the longer on-call hours. More systems are 24-by-7, she says, "more are customer-facing, so they can't go down. Before, you could do lots of background work during hours when the business is closed."

Drake says there's a cost to overwork: It can lead to costly mistakes, resentment, anger, and even workplace violence. His bottom line: Companies will only do something about the problem if they see a payoff. Drake expects the big payoff to be greater retention of good employees and lower recruiting costs.

[May 21, 2000] Taking the Crunch Out of Crunch Time

March 2000

Whether you call it crunch mode, ship mode or "death-march" project management, mandatory overtime is a standard industry practice. When a software development project begins to slip schedule or is faced with near-impossible delivery demands, the formulaic response is to get people to work longer hours. Before long, the project is in constant crisis, keeping people hunched over their keyboards until all hours of the night and during the weekends.

There are many ways to justify mandatory overtime. Sometimes you estimate projects incorrectly and rely on overtime to compensate for bad budgeting or bad planning. Aiming to meet unrealistic delivery dates, you push your people to their limits.

But there are alternatives to mandatory overtime, including choosing to work differently and changing the work to be completed. Understanding what precipitates the downward spiral into constant overtime will help clarify your options.

I'm Sooo Tired …

Looking at his project schedule, a manager we'll call Peter sighed and thought, "We're not going to make it. We're supposed to freeze the code in two weeks, test for another four weeks and then ship. We can't be late on this project or we'll all lose our bonuses. Wait, I know-I'll get everyone to work overtime! We'll bring in dinners, and maybe even breakfasts. We'll do anything, as long as we can ship this product within two months."

Peter's staff hunkered down and heroically completed the project, putting in many hours of overtime, including nights and weekends. When they finished the project, senior management requested another project with a just-maybe-possible release date. This time the project team worked three months of overtime to make the release date. At the end of that project, a couple of people quit, but Peter and the rest of the team stayed on.

During the next year, Peter and his project team staggered from project to project, never quite doing things the way they wanted to, always in crisis mode. By the time they had released two more versions of the product, the entire original project team, including Peter, had quit. Now the company was in trouble. No one on the newly hired staff understood the product, and shortcuts taken by the original project team left the code and internal documentation indecipherable.

Most experienced managers have seen such a project death spiral. Some project managers believe they can achieve impossible deadlines just by getting people to work harder and longer hours. In fact, some management teams never learn how to prevent lurching from project to project. Their unending refrain is: "We're in a crunch. We need to stay focused and keep the pressure on."

Slow Slogging

In reality, mandatory overtime rarely helps an organization complete its projects faster. More frequently, mandatory overtime contributes to staff burnout, turnover and to higher costs in future development.

You may honestly believe that mandated overtime is helping your staff get the work done. More likely, however, you are actually encountering slow progress, as your programmers are creating more defects and much of the work that was done late at night fails to stand up to the critical light of day. If you are considering imposing mandatory overtime, first observe your project, then consider whether there are better solutions for the problem of insufficient time.

Does progress sometimes seem achingly slow, despite the long hours of work? It may be that your developers are exhausted. Over time, with too much overtime, people can get too tired to think well or to do a good job.

Fatigue builds up in many ways. Some begin to lose their social skills, becoming more irritable and difficult to handle. Some lose their problem-solving skills and start creating more problems in their code than they solve. Some people become disgusted and cynically put in their "face-time" without doing much useful work. When such telltale signs of team exhaustion appear, the overtime people are working can be making your project even later. It may be best to give everyone some time off and to return to normal workweeks.

[Mar. 4, 2000] SJ Mercury- Greed undermines benefits of digital technology

"... greed has overcome the public interest when it comes to intellectual property."

"The entertainment and information industries are leading the charge. They make no secret of their ultimate goal -- a system where consumers pay each time we read, view or listen to anything. Today, sadly, the forces of greed have the law on their side."

"The patent system is a total mess, as I've said in this space before. This time, however, let's look more closely at where we're heading with copyrights. The direction is dismal..."

"The worst impact is looking more and more probable, and you can trace it back to another 1998 law known as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)."

"The movie industry has come down like a ton of bricks on programmers who reverse-engineered a program that unscrambles the information on entertainment DVDs. The programmers who did it say they were trying to make it possible for DVDs to be played on computers running the Linux operating system. The entertainment industry, wielding DMCA, has convinced at least two judges that this activity is illegal because it can also be used to make copying of DVDs easier. The music industry, meanwhile, is trying its best to stamp out MP3..."

[July 27, 1999] The High Tech Sweatshop

Comments are much more interesting than the story. The latter is kind of suspect ;-)


Its 4:30 am on a Friday and I just finished the last Mountain Dew. We ran out of coffee hours ago, the remains of it now black sludge at the bottom of the pot. The buildings air conditioning went off sometime the previous night and its up to almost 90 degrees in the server room. The two volunteer hackers on the staff went home after 12 hours, leaving me and the sysadmin…

This is a normal day for me.

I'm a systems engineer in the client services division of a network security software company. Basically what that means is that when networks break, I fix them.

I am 22 years old, I make a large multiple of the national average salary, and if I cashed in my stock options I could buy a very nice house. I'm also sixty pounds overweight, I sleep an average of four hours a night, and I have several ulcers. I usually spend about 60 hours a week at the office, but I'm on call 24 hours a day seven days a week. If I was honest with myself Id probably say I worked about one hundred hours last week. This is a normal life for someone working in this industry.

We live in a world today that runs on information. And people want all of it now. When was the last time you actually wrote out a personal letter to someone, on paper, in pen? Why bother when E-mail is so much faster and easier? But what goes on behind the scenes when you hit the "send" button? There are thousands of people out there just like me who have titles like "Network engineer" and "Systems administrator". We keep that information flowing, and we get paid what seems like a lot of money to do it. If you've been in the market for a good network admin lately you know what I mean. The market is pushing the salary into the 100k+ plus range for someone with the necessary experience to handle even a relatively small network, never mind what the really large companies like State Farm insurance or Wells Fargo bank have.

I started work on this problem with the sysadmin on Thursday before the close of business, getting things set up, preparing for the changes etc… The company was switching internet service providers that night because the previous one hadn't provided the level of service they needed. This entailed changing the IP addresses, and DNS configurations of every machine in the building, running three different operating systems, probably two hundred machines all told, then setting up the servers, routers, and switches necessary to get it all running. It's a big job, but with six people working on it we figured we could get it done before start of business the next day. Normally you would do this kind of thing over a weekend, but the ISP could either do the changeover tonight, or wait till next week, and we needed to be online before Monday.

Getting back to what happens when you press the send button. You expect the computer to send the message, and that the person it was sent to will receive it. What happens to the message then is an incredibly complex series of storage, sending, routing, switching, redirecting, forwarding and retrieving, that is all over in a fraction of a second, or at most a few minutes. But you don't care how or why it gets there, only that it does, and this is all you should care about. After all you don't have to know how your cars engine works in order to drive it right. But someone has to know in case it breaks. And when your email breaks you expect someone to fix it. It doesn't matter what time it is, or where the message is being sent, you want it to get there now.

Its now 8 am and the network is still down. We've managed to isolate a routing problem and are in the process of fixing it. The ISP gave us the wrong IP addresses and now we have to go back and redo all two hundred machines in the building. The router was crashing and we couldn't figure out why. Two hours on the phone with the vendors support, and three levels of support engineer later we fix it. People are starting to come in to work and ask why they can't get their email. The changeover process takes us about three hours and finally everyone has the right IP, but things still aren't working right. A bunch of people use DHCP for their laptops and the DHCP people cant get out to the net. The CEO of the company is one of those people…

So what do we do? Well we hire people to take care of the network. And we give them benefits and pay like any normal employee. We also give them pagers, cell phones, a direct phone lines to their houses so that any time, any where, we can get them, because the network could go down, and we DEPEND on that network, and those people. This is where things go skew from the normal business model.

All compensation is basically in exchange for time. The only thing humans have to give is their time. When I pay you a salary it is in exchange for me being able to use your abilities for a certain period of time every year. The assumption is that the more experienced or knowledgeable you are the more your time is worth. This works fine when you are being paid a wage, but salaried employees aren't. They exist under the polite fiction that all their work can be done in a forty hour period every week, no matter how much work there is. We all know this isn't the case of course. And when it comes to Systems administrators and network engineers that polite fiction isn't so polite. In exchange for high salaries and large stock options the company owns you all day and all night, every day and every night. You are "Mission critical". High salaries become an illusion because when it gets down to it your hourly rate isn't much better than the assistant manager of the local Pep Boys.

I finally went home at 1 that afternoon. I couldn't stay awake any more and if I didn't leave right then I wouldn't have been able to drive home. The funny thing is I felt guilty for leaving. Things still weren't working quite right, and I felt like I should have stayed until they were. Even funnier is that I volunteered for this. The only part of the job that I actually had to do was to change a few IP addresses and configure the firewall, but I thought I'd lend a hand, and I couldn't do the firewall till everything else was working anyway. My wife hadn't seen me in two and a half days, and I could barely give her a kiss when I walked through the door and collapsed on my bed. The SysAdmin was fired a few hours after I left. Back to work Monday morning.

like furnace stokers (Score:2, Funny) (

July 26, @06:57AM EDT (#2) (User Info) i sometimes liken system and network admin to being a coal stoker in the basement of a big building, just shoveling coal into the furnace 24/7 to keep the business above running.

punchline of your story is that they fired the (only?) full time system administrator.

personal and professional info on homepage:

Anonymous Coward

Amen Brother (Score:1, Insightful) by on Monday July 26, @06:58AM EDT (#3)

Been there. All I can suggest is that you make a serious effort to spend more time playing and less time working. When I left my last job, I had 8 weeks vacation accrued, and a real bad attitude. I took two months off working, and now I limit my work week to 50 hrs on regular weeks, and anytime I work more than that, I take off a day or half day in the following week. This has really helped me be a lot nicer person overall (and my wife REALLY likes that). I have always met folks in high positions who DO appreciate my effort, and have thus always had stellar reviews and reccomedations for future employment. Good luck, and stay sane.

[July 15, 1999] Home Sweet Sweatshop

Information overload can be coupled with real overload, that is characteristic of startups

As one Slashdot reader put it ():

They think that because they work 18 hours a day, neglect their home life, end up divorced, have kids that don't know them, and few real friends, they are "Heros". They gave their all, 110%. Guess what, for that 110%, you will get a watch and maybe a small pention when you retire. You will dye alone, and no one that ever worked with you will care. There is so much more to life than the grind. People who overwork themselves aren't heros, they are idiots...

Another reader stated about WEB-related jobs

I work in "the Industry" and telecommute from home (very small apartment on the 5th floor). I have 10+ people over me and a few below me, and I've never met any of them face to face -- I only know them by e-mail, though I work with them every day for 18+ hours, sleeping on a futon in between. Pay is good, but it's very isolated -- no human contact at all, and I get very tired of staring at the same Netscape, Emacs, and shell windows all day, every day. I go through 150+ ounces of dew and coke every day, and there's nothing directly outside but traffic and other buildings. Time pressure is also fairly high. Everything must always be done "within 24 hours" because that's the way the Web works, I guess. I'm getting fairly tired of working this way.

Another interesting quote:

You know, media companies aren't the only ones. ANY sort of internet startup, and I've worked for MORE than one, has so many unreasonable demands that it's absurd. And in my experience, most of it's the people in charge. I'm working for a startup now. Hating every minute of it. I'm expected to work 80 hour weeks, be on call, do customer tech support (I'm the system administrator), and do seven other people's jobs while I'm at it. Which *NECESSITATES* a 70 hour work week. Every.. freaking.. week! And to add insult to injury, I'm not even paid 1/4th of what I'm worth according to every salary survey out there. And of course, I'm going to be the first one asked to take a pay cut or vacation when the VC runs out. Which I expect to be very soon. The company is a management disaster. Ignorance and blatant lack of record keeping and blatant lack of research has already wasted over $4 *MILLION*. And of course, in typical "let's get ready for that day far FAR away when we make an IPO" fashion, we have a CEO, CFO, CTO, and COO already. Who's combined salaries could buy me *two* RS/6000 SP2 Advanced Switches (which, last check, are over $100k/ea) *AND* a Lexus!

Yet another:

Why DON'T you take your own advice? I've left two companies so far, when the management got absolutely intolerable--when the 'con' list got longer than the 'pro' list.

Two truths I've learned in my first two internet jobs (since '94, when I graduated university):

  • Once you lose absolutely all respect for management because of their incompetence, there is no way they can earn it back. It's time to leave.
  • When nobody in your chain of command knows what you do and how... when it's "assholes all the way up," it's time to leave.

Burn Rate : How I Survived the Gold Rush Years on the Internet ~ Usually ships in 24 hours

Michael Wolff / Paperback / Published 1999 Our Price: $11.20 ~ You Save: $2.80 (20%) Average Customer Review: 4 out of 5 stars

[Nov. 5, 1999] NetSlaves ~ Usually ships in 2-3 days

Bill Lessard, Steve Baldwin / Hardcover / Published 1999 Our Price: $13.97 ~ You Save: $5.98 (30%) Average Customer Review:

Prudloe Vensigian from Deep Run Mobile Home Park, Maryland , November 1, 1999 5 out of 5 stars These guys are nuts, and that's great! Oh yeah! From reading Netslaves it's easy to tell that these guys have been on the front lines of the new media wars for a long, long time. Not in the Generals' tents, but out where the layoff bullets fly and talented employees are more often rewarded by watching their kiss-ass co-workers get promoted over their heads than by anything else. If you are in, or want to get into, the fast-paced Internet go-go economy, you must read this book. No, you're not the only one who has found (or will find) that the pot of gold at the end of the Internet rainbow has already been emptied by investment bankers and other leeches, and that your share is just big enough to rent a studio apartmen, pay your ISP bills, and buy takeout pan pizzas every few days. I create Web site content for a living, so I live what these guys write, and dammit, I still love my work as much as ever despite the fact that doing the scut work behind the Internet is just as horrid as Steve and Bill say it is. As the late songwriter and newspaper humorist Sylvia Miller put it, "If misery loves company, then you're the one for me. You like to cry into your beer, wine always makes me shed a tear."

Book Reviews NetSlaves

Pretty naive review, but good discussion

If you read newspapers, books, or follow Net-business coverage on TV, you might well think work on the Net is mostly about the billionaires who found Hotmail or Yahoo or Netscape, or the clean, benefit-laced, campus-like work environments they provide. You'd have no way of knowing the much more pervasive and unnerving reality: for every one of those there's a zillion companies that come into the world still-born, fail miserably, make and sell crummy stuff, and hire countless miserable, exploited, harassed and burned-out programmers, techies, geeks and nerds.

Baldwin and Lessard are combat veterans of the Net, both in terms of writing and personal experience. They are also long-standing Truth Tellers.

In addition to writing about computing for a number of magazines and websites, they also run the guerilla website NetSlaves, a running testimonial to real life for many in the hi-tech workplace.

"NetSlaves" is a terrific extension of the site, one of the few books to come off of a website that really works as a book. Lessard and Baldwin have a powerful story to tell, and they do it with a lot of punch. "NetSlaves" ought to be handed out to every graduate of every tech school, and given to every new employee of every Net company.

Baldwin and Lessard say their grand "pre-alpha" statement about the Nature of Net-Slavery is this:

"Technology has changed, but human nature hasn't. Whether it's the Gold Rush of 1849 or the Web Rush of l999, people are people. More often than not, they're miserable, nasty, selfish creatures, driven by vanity and greed, doing whatever they can to get ahead, even if it means stepping on the person next to them, crushing the weak, and destroying themselves in the process."

The authors don't have a particularly high regard for many forms of Net work, which they lambaste as the New Media Caste System, but they care about Net workers, and the book is curiously affectionate, even loving about them, as well as a hoot to read.

Both concede that one of their purposes in writing "NetSlaves" is to have the book serve as a quasi-historical, quasi-anthropological reflection of a particular moment in the culture.

Although the tone of "NetSlaves" is informal and funny, the point is pretty serious. "NetSlaves" has done what legions of reporters and authors have so far failed to do: paint a truthful picture of about the new nature of work in the techno-centered world.

For all of the media blabber about Net commerce and hi-tech startups, life in this fast lane can be brutal - insane hours, almost no employee-employer loyalty, greed and moral cowardice, help-desk geeks driven mad by enraged customers, back-stabbing, savage pressure, competiveness and the many resultant neuroses from all of the above.

Baldwin and Lessard make no pretense of objectivity. They write with almost ferocious authority and persuasiveness. They describe themselves as "two angry, cranky bastards out for blood" on behalf of their exhausted selves and the countless burnouts, geniuses, thieves, opportunists, workaholics and losers they've encountered along the way.

"NetSlaves" gives us a whole new language for the villains and back-stabbers who make up the hi-tech workplace. Particular venom is reserved for the "Fry Cooks," the "get it done at all costs" project people of the New Media Caste System. (There's also the "Garbagemen," the workers who have to get servers up and running when they crash).

My favorite chapter is about the "Cab Drivers," the haunted and hunted itinerant Web freelancers who design sites, followed closely by "Gold Diggers and Gigolos," a scathing portrait of the ambitious, night-crawling, hard-partying, butt-kissing movers and shakers and wannabees of hi-tech work world.

"Most Web sites are designed by itinerant, restless young people who have given up the constraints of working for one company in particular, in exchange for the self-determination of pursuing their own path. The rationale is that they can earn a higher hourly rate and pick and choose their projects.

"The reality, however," write Lessard and Baldwin, "is that these Cab Drivers have to constantly hustle for work and their passengers, or clients, who are also cash-crunched, are notorious for skipping out on their fares. Added to this is the lack of health benefits that Cab Drivers face - a plight which has forced many to simply neglect themselves." This is a world in which workers are terrified or despondent when forced to take a few weeks off, convinced they'll fall behind forever.

"NetSlaves" succeeds wonderfully in its goal to tell the truth about a particular culture at a critical juncture in time. It is, in fact one of the few telling looks inside the new kinds of workplaces springing up in the hi-tech, global economy. Workers beware.

Global Anomie, Dysnomie, and Economic Crime Hidden Consequences of Neoliberalism and Globalization in Russia and Around the World

A negative effect of the Internet is that it alters the relationship between our place of residence and our cultural preferences, experiences, and identities. A spreading global virtual reality disconnects locality from culture, weakens the bonds to particular communities, and estranges people from each other (Minda, 2000).

Chris Hedges: The Wall Street Cult of the Self and Ochberg: Coping With a Narcissist

As Ochberg implies, psychopaths don't have ethical considerations, and narcissists and asocial personalities don't care.

In layman's terms I think most of these fellows have a great hole in their being. They know that something is not right with them, but their egos will not allow them to acknowledge it.

Those who gravitate toward the corporate power structures can be quite successful in some organizations. But despite outward success they are always restless, unfulfilled, and tend to project their dissatisfaction outward and ascribe it to others. If they succeed it is all them, but if they fail, someone else is at fault.

They are incapable of trust, because everything they do is a facade, a lie. Therefore they rarely have a real relationship with their families, and at best view them as a desirable addition to their collection. They have utter contempt for other people, although they will use flattery and other means to create a dependency while they are using them. And after that is done, they will be discarded without another thought.

They are like sharks, endlessly seeking to fill their terrible emptiness with possessions, be they things or other people. They are literally insatiable in their needs, and highly focused in their pursuit of them.

They are very clever in finding the weaknesses in people and organizations, and will exploit them ruthlessly. Ethics and conscience provide no brake or boundaries on their willingness to say and do anything that is required to achieve their ends. If you attempt to thwart, be prepared for something a little different, and completely off the hook in response.

It is really something to see them at work. The destruction they can wreak, sometimes with remarkably superficial charm and high verbal acuity, is hard to describe until you see it in action.

They are always a challenge to the HR and compliance departments, and frequently end up badly, one way or the other. It becomes a personal challenge to see how far one can go without being stopped, far beyond any personal needs or requirements. Flouting the rules becomes a game in itself.

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[June 30, 1999] Slashdot: Cringely's take on Pirates of Silicon Valley (See also additional links Steve Wozniak Comments on the Pirates of the Silicon Valley and Robert X. Cringely.

Please note that all paragraphs cited below are taken from different contibutors to the Shashdot and represent view of different people):

...What I have heard from most people who I would not think of as in-depth computer enthusiasts, geeks, nerds, or the like, is that Bill Gates came off looking like a sociopathic theif, and Steve Jobs a big jerk.

...One thing that Woz and agree on: the portrayal of Steve Jobs was good. In fact, Woz said that Jobs' tyrades and abuse of his employees was much worse than in the movie. The movie makes him out to be a real asshole with a messiah complex. Maybe it was all of the acid he dropped, I dunno....

... I can't take anything this man[Cringely] says seriously. Here is a liar and a fraud. Triumph of the Nerds misrepresents stuff just as badly as "Pirates of Silicon Valley" did. For example, did you know that Xerox had a huge investment in apple. That is why apple was brought to Xerox. Steve jobs didn't even want to go. Also, the lisa interface was taken from the mac project before steve jobs even started working on the mac. Somewhere on Cringely's site there is a letter from the origional mac creator (not steve jobs) where he writes something to the effect of: oh well, fake man, fake history.

...I think for this movie, the atmosphere was much more important than the facts. The producers seemed to be trying to capture the mentality and competitiveness that surrounded these two icons of the computer industry, and I think they did a good job of it. So what if a few of the events were slightly askew or out of order. My mother actually commented to me after watching that movie that she would love to destroy her computer after realizing how much of an asshole both Gates and Jobs are. Although that is obviously overkill, I think it is a important attitude. A lot of people in American society idolize Gates and Jobs (and many others), and to be honest, these guys really are not very good ideals. This movie helps show that.

...I gave up submitting new Cringely columns a while back 'cause it either never got posted or it was posted several days late from somebody else, but he's had quite a few worth reading in the past few months. I thought the interesting thing about this one (which will probably be superseded within 24 hours, they usually come out late on Thursdays)was the part at the end about AOL getting in bed with Hughes instead of some other satellite company. Cringely comes across like a Steve Thomas standard generic preppy PBS host clone on TV but his columns are often interesting and insightful observations and theories about where the computer biz and culture is heading and why.

What I found interesting was the part where he unplugged that guy's computer in the middle of the night. From what i understand it's essentially true, except i think the circumstances were a bit different. I think he pulled the plug on someone's computer who was working on the Liza (or is it lisa?) after he came up with the idea for the mac, killing hours of work, all because he had just come up with the next insanely great thing. IMHO the man is a complete and total nut, who gets a lot of credit for being a revolutionary which he really doesn't deserve. I think the only reason people like jobs and hate gates is because gates won and jobs lost. If things had turned out the other way i'm sure we'd have steve jobus of borg, and the revolutionary bill gates who got cheated out of his work by that big bad apple company. As far as I can tell, woz is one of the few people who actually did anything of importance regarding the technical details, and he gets virtually no credit for his accomplishments.

As for cringely, i think he's just mad that triumph gets no recognition beyond geeks, where pirates was aparently popular among those "normal people." He's just jealous, that's all. And with regards to the historical inacuracies, it's a movie, not a documentary, you know "base on a true story," those types of things are never perfectly accurate. Real life seldom makes a good story, or atleast a good story that can be compressed into a 2 hour (probally more like 1 when you factor out the commercials) period.

...Two books to read:
(1) "Steve Jobs and the NeXT Big Thing" by Randall E. Stross
(2) "Apple (The Inside Story of Intrigue, Egomania, and Business Blunders)" by Jim Carlton

(3)Triumph of the Nerds Video Get it at the PBS website..

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CS-EP 142 Computers and Society Articles Collection

Slide 1 -- Shawn Ostermann's Outrageous Opinion Session Talk

Social Impact Characteristics of Computer Technology

Social Cues Kiesler (1986) describes how the social effects of computers may be greater and more important than you imagine. Main point: [p. 46] Computers have social effects, cut down hierarchies, cut across norms and organization boundaries.

Educational Journals - Social Science

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Report from Ground Zero: Silicon Valley by Po Bronson (May 1998).

New Technologies and the Ontology of Places by Michael Curry (March 1999).

Technology and Social Change: The Effects on Family and Community by Jan English-Lueck (July 1998).

Distance Learning: Promise or Threat? by Andrew Feenberg (February 1999).

Risk Management is Where the Money Is by Dan Geer (November 1998).

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Advanced Information Technology and Social Change: The Worksite Connection by David Hakken (June 1998).

Students' Frustrations with a Web-based Distance Education Course by Noriko Hara and Rob Kling (July 1999).

N30 (essay on the WTO protests in Seattle) by Paul Hawken (January 2000).

The Poachers and the Stormtroopers: Cultural Convergence in the Digital Age by Henry Jenkins (July 1998).

Virtual Landscapes by Chandra Mukerji (June 1999).

Digital Diploma Mills:

Tragic Loss or Good Riddance? The Impending Demise of Traditional Scholarly Journals by Andrew Odlyzko (July 1994).

Copyright and Censorship: Past as Prologue? by Pamela Samuelson (April 1999).

Killer Applications by Dan Schiller (June 1997).

Cultures of Voting by Michael Schudson (March 1997).

Television and the Internet by Ellen Seiter (July 1997).

Community Level Socio-Economic Impacts of Electronic Commerce by Charles Steinfield (October 1999).

Cyberspace as the New Frontier? Mapping the Shifting Boundaries of the Network Society by Fred Turner (June 1999).

Participatory Design in Economic Terms: A Theoretical Discussion by Vivian Vimarlund and Toomas Timpka (September 1999).

book excerpts:
Edison's Front Page News by Charles Bazerman (October 1999).

From Gutenberg to the Global Information Infrastructure: Access to Information in the Networked World by Christine L. Borgman (March 2000).

Sorting Things Out: Classification and Its Consequences by Geoffrey C. Bowker and Susan Leigh Star (November 1999).

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Society on the Line: Information Politics in the Digital Age by William H. Dutton (January 1999).

Database Nation by Simson Garfinkel (January 2000).

Telecommunications and the City: Parallel Transformations by Stephen Graham and Simon Marvin (October 1996).

Net Loss: Government, Technology and the Political Economy of Community in the Age of the Internet by Nathan Newman (July 1999).

Ben Franklin's Web Site: Privacy and Curiosity from Plymouth Rock to the Internet by Robert Ellis Smith (March 2000).

Hubs and Spokes: A Telegeography Internet Reader (April 2000).



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