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Weekend reflections

February 5th, 2010

It’s time again for weekend reflections, which makes space for longer than usual comments on any topic. Civilised discussion and no coarse language please.

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  1. February 8th, 2010 at 09:10 | #1

    @Freelander
    Who said anything about cutting wages? And I don’t think you understood my comment, allow me to rephrase: do you concede that there could be a situation where a worker’s options would be diminished by the non-existence of a certain class of employment, ie <3-hour shifts?

  2. February 8th, 2010 at 09:38 | #2

    @Ernestine Gross
    “I restrict myself to economics without wishing to suggest that economics encompasses the ‘social sciences’ or even that it belongs to it or that there should be an invisible communication barrier.”

    It is ultimately impossible to carve off a distinct territory for economics, bordering on, but separated from other social disciplines. Economics interpenetrates them all, and is reciprocally penetrated by them. There is only one social science. What gives economics its imperialist invasive power is that our analytical categories–scarcity, cost, preferences, opportunities, etc.–are truly universal in application. Even more important is our structured organization of these concepts into the distinct yet intertwined processes of optimization on the individual decision level and equilibrium on the social level. Thus economics really does constitute the universal grammar of social science. But there is a flip side to this. While scientific work in anthropology and sociology and political science and the like will become increasingly indistinguishable from economics, economists will reciprocally have to become aware of how constraining has been their tunnel vision about the nature of man and social interactions. Ultimately, good economics will also have to be good anthropology and sociology and political science and psychology.
    - Hirshleifer, 1985 (read in Argyrous & Stilwell 2003)

  3. Alex
    February 8th, 2010 at 09:47 | #3

    Should I have included a sarcasm tag?

    @Alex

  4. gerard
    February 8th, 2010 at 09:53 | #4

    I can’t offer an opinion on this question because the statement “labour market regulation increases unemployment” is meaningless until the type of regulation is specified. Perhaps this reply satisfies the Monckton criterion.

    obviously we’re talking about regulations on the minimum length of a shift. I’m sure there should be enough RWDBs in the economics profession who will say this is a self-evidently bad idea and then draw a leftward shifting labor market supply curve or something of the sort as if this settles the matter. as for the lack of empirical data… that’s never stopped them in the past. regarding the rest of your post, you obviously gave it some thought, and it should be only fair that I do the same, but I don’t have enough spare time at the moment so it will have to wait.

    but while I’ve got you, since you’re a General Equilibrium expert, could you please refer me to what you think is the current BEST that GE Theory has to offer? I’ve heard critics say it’s useless, but I’m open to the suggestion that they’re criticizing a strawperson.

  5. Ernestine Gross
    February 8th, 2010 at 11:54 | #5

    @gerard

    I am also a bit short of time. Can we postpone this topic until next week-end? The week-end open thread is for longer posts. Hence it seems suitable.

  6. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    February 8th, 2010 at 12:09 | #6

    Jarah – it isn’t clear in your example if your proposed four hour shifts represented an increase in the length of shifts or a decrease. Or perhaps I just misses it. Either way can you please clarify.

  7. wilful
    February 8th, 2010 at 12:21 | #7

    Oops, I think I said the F word, trapping me in moderation. Lets try again…

    Rationalist, you’re quite right that the private sector (Clive Palmer) ought to be applauded for getting this investment off the ground. A lot of jobs, and presumably a lot of royalties to support the eternally under-investing, underperforming Queensland government.

    However, and there are lots of howevers, this is remarkable in that it’s not a subsidised, ‘facilitated’ and otherwise molly-coddled resources investment, it is the exception that proves the rule! And I wonder what tax exemptions have been provided… here’s hoping the Henry review arguments about resource rents are taken up.

    Also, it’s a complete f[***]ing disaster for global carbon emissions and hence the planet. We could argue that the coal is closer and/or cleaner than other sources [of coal], and China would burn the crap anyway from somewhere, but at some stage we all have to accept that it’s got to stay in the ground if we want a habitable planet.

    (Unless of course you’re a delusionist, in which case your moniker is ironic, and you deserve worse than harsh mocking).

  8. nanks
    February 8th, 2010 at 12:49 | #8

    Is it possible to delete my account – or whatever it is called. If so please do so
    thanks, nanks

  9. wilful
    February 8th, 2010 at 13:12 | #9

    nanks, you get a refund if you see the site owner…

  10. February 8th, 2010 at 14:42 | #10

    @TerjeP (say tay-a)
    A decrease, mostly from 7.2-hour shifts.

    In the end we got the needed productivity increase through rearranging almost everything (consolidating sites, shifting technology, expanding services, increasing client base) which, when all was said and done, basically meant an increase in the workload for everyone. I have to admit it was the better solution for the company overall, but my concern (and authority) at the time was on a smaller scale.

  11. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    February 8th, 2010 at 19:30 | #11

    How did you envisage saving money with shorter shifts?

  12. February 9th, 2010 at 07:27 | #12

    The workload during the day (and night) followed certain cycles of intensity. It meant a fair amount of ‘down time’ over the shift – people getting paid to sit and wait for the work to come in.

    It also meant a frantic race to get it done once it did come in, since we couldn’t afford a comfortable number of people if they were all on 7.2 hours.

    So, for example, instead of having four people with overlapping long shifts (28.8 hours total) with the workload being the typical bell curve, we could have six people on 4-hour shifts covering the day – one in the beginning, one at the end, and four in the middle (24 hours total). That’s the simplest model, it got a lot more complicated than that. There was also a quality control issue – fewer people working at once meant more mistakes that could open us to contractual penalties.

    I thought it was a win-win, but most* preferred to work harder for a portion of a longer shift than have shorter, more frequent shifts with easier work. Fair enough, I say**. Of course, that wasn’t sustainable, hence the restructuring.

    * – The uni students thought 4 hours would be great – fitting in a shift before/after class would have been much easier.

    ** – The majority were part-time, often 2 or 3 days a week. Going to 4-hour shifts would have meant more days coming into work, with subsequent increase in commuting costs, both explicit and opportunity.

  13. Ernestine Gross
    February 9th, 2010 at 09:00 | #13

    @nanks

    It would be a great pity if you were to discontinue commenting on this blog site. Some of the pure ideologists have a habit of wanting their cake and eat it. There may be a technical term for this behaviour in your area of expertise.

  14. February 9th, 2010 at 14:46 | #14

    Alice :
    Sorry JQ – I may post a lot in a short pace of time but really I do find the constant presence of hard right ideologues rather irritating to say the least and they are worth objecting to. I need a break too. I have made substantive contributions only to have them twisted and denied but thats par for the course. I am sure I am not the only one who finds the neoliberal / political views objectionable and I would suggest I am in in the majority rather than the minority.

    If I may say so, the problem I have experienced quite often at Alice’s hands was precisely “I have made substantive contributions only to have them twisted and denied” – including being accused of having “neoliberal / political views” and then being criticised for that – which makes her statement there a case of psychological projection. (I am not alone in this.) So, Alice does not simply find “neoliberal / political views objectionable” and confine her objections to those, she also objects to other things for whatever reasons and then misrepresents that as being the case even when it is not.

    I had originally intended to give some history and links to back that up, but it occurs to me that it might annoy Alice. However, readers should know that I can substantiate my description above if need be. I do hope this comment can be accepted as constructive criticism, giving Alice something to think about that she may not realise, and not taken as a personal attack.

  15. Alice
    February 11th, 2010 at 18:22 | #15

    @Ernestine Gross
    I am only allowed one comment per thread per day…but I have to say I agree with you Ernestine. Your posts are always polite and in my mind give a positive contribution and you have respect for others and so does Nanks and I dont want Nanks to stop posting.

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