I occasionally read Doctor Mark Thoma's "Economist's View" blog
, which recently contained a nice-guy smart-market advocation
by the Doctor himself. The gist of Thoma's post was
that its a possible win-win if we repair free-range markets --
build in some regs and refs and optimize the inter firm scrap for profits. That way
we get more efficiency and
more equality. Thoma
ends by saying that creating smart competitive markets
"helps to ensure that labor is rewarded according to its productivity."
What's not to like, you say? Well, "Ninja Zombie," one of Mark's commenters, offered this confident piece of under-a-toadstool Ubermensch nonsense:
I'm not sure this is necessarily a good idea... The inequality in productivity between people is huge, often much larger than the inequality in wages.
I spent a month recently building an OCR system, which replaced some data entry people. My productivity is about 216x that of the data entry guys: a system I built in one month does the work that 18 people do in a year, and 18*12=216. My wages are only about 7x the wage of a data entry guy.
This cubicle-farm unappreciated arrogance nicely blocks out
the basic contradiction among our job classers --
a contradiction lovingly cultivated by the tower trolls, ever since
Reagan bobbleheaded his way to the atomic-button end of
At its core, this Aspergerish gimp's vision
is nothing but the Enlightenment notion of merit pay --
i.e. pay according to worth of work, whether by effort or talent achieved.
Obviously, here it's talent that seems to be the implict self-preening focus.
It all fits together so well,
given the vast and persistent attempt in the media to misdirect
any discussion of our fast and furously polarizing
household incomes gap. The official story is that the basis for the gap is changing -- away from property income versus work income, to growing differences in the rewards of different levels of skill, talent, effort, training, etc.
Add to this an alleged iron law of
technical progress -- a
"long-term innovational tilt"
away from creating more skill-less jobs
and toward ever greater demand for more-skill jobs.
That is, innovation itself supposedly requires
ever more skill-intensive employments, and our global path
forward implies magnified differences between various jobblers
in the "market value" of their hours of hired-out toil.
Hmm. You got a problem with that, Paine?
I do. No such iron law exists. In fact, the net is probably the other way.
And even if there were such a tilt, it won't govern job compensation.
Let's use Herr Zombie's anecdote.
His reasoning displays not only a lack of empathetics,
but an even smaller dose of actual economics.
Rule One in a market system exposed to even the most imperfect of competitive winds:
The reward to the inventor of any productivity enhancement
is almost never in line with a full compensation for her innovation's incremental welfare impact on its ultimate beneficiaries, its users.
All master Zombie's innovation could do is lower the relative product price commensurate with the total reduced labor costs -- and even
that's only if the inventor actually owns the rights to his innovation.
In this present corporation-dominated regime, where even brains
like Zombie's here are hired out to the tower trolls,
what the marketplace -- smart or dumb as it may be -- ultimately
rewards is the owning corporation, through said corporation's various rent traps and other market bending methods. That is,
whatever rents the corpration is able to retain in the form of higher margins and isn't forced to piss away in lower prices,
goes to the corporation's owners and top managers,
not -- not -- not! to the jobbled geeks, not to hired pus-heads
like undead office toon Ninja here.
What's Ninja worth -- ultimately?
He's worth what his replacement fresh out of programming
school over at Torpedo Tech in Bangalore
might cost his corporation to hire.