Links to Consider, 1/14
The Zvi on media sins; The Zvi on make-work jobs; Ian Leslie says to abstain from debating the Current Thing; Ian Leslie talks with Russ Roberts about the Current Thing;
Don't Worry About the Vase (Zvi Mowshowitz) writes,
Alas, the media often misleads. It implies and insinuates that which is not. It abuses the language. It selectively omits. It is highly motivated by partisanship and ideology and its own interests. It does not do or understand the research. It is terrible at interpreting science. It confuses cause and effect. It purports to use technically accurate data to show, even prove, conclusions known to be false, in ways that are designed to mislead and obviously in bad faith.
The rhythm of the paragraph reminds me of the Viddui. Ashamnu, Bagadnu. . .(Zvi Mowshowitz) writes,
The point of a bullshit job is to be a bullshit job.
There is a theory that states that if you automate away a bullshit job, it will be instantly replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.
There is another theory that states this has already happened.
A make-work job is one that is unnecessary and leaves output unchanged, or even lower. The accounting and corporate tax departments might leave output unchanged or lower, but they are necessary, so they do not count as make-work jobs. What about jobs that are needed to comply with stupid regulations? Then they are necessary for the organization but make-work for society as a whole.
The theory that “this has already happened” might explain what many economists regard as disappointing aggregate productivity growth over the last fifty years. Perhaps the productivity of real workers has been going up nicely, but we have ended up stuffing a lot of Midwits into the compliance realm. Compliance issues could be imposed either internally withing the organization (a memo is circulated saying, “From now on, all ____ must go through ____”) or externally, by government. Some of the Midwits create compliance issues, and other Midwits address them.
Another place for society to stuff its Midwits is the non-profit sector. Its share of employment has been trending upward.
The Ruffian (Ian Leslie) writes,
The bitter truth is that there are no incentives to abstain from the game. You don’t get any likes or retweets for the posts you don’t make. You receive no external validation for silence. I fantasise about a system in which people, under certain circumstances, are somehow rewarded with status points for not engaging. In lieu of that, we should try and remember that quite often, the best contribution we can make to a debate is to not say anything, even if nobody will notice us (not) doing so.
And, er, get back and read or re-read his essay on the Peter Jackson series about the Beatles. He links to that and other posts in the essay linked to above.
Separately,talks with Russ Roberts about ChatGPT.
Substacks cited above:
This stuff about make-work jobs is just an upside-down way of presenting the libertarian view of business regulations.
Business regulations do not exist to make the public any safer; their purpose is to make entry into the affected line of business more difficult and expensive, thus protecting the existing firms in it from competition, especially by smaller firms. The regulations accomplish this partly by burdening workers in the affected line of business with makework such as licensing and CPE, and partly by requiring them to hire "compliance specialists" whose entire jobs are makework.
AK writes: A make-work job is one that is unnecessary and leaves output unchanged, or even lower ... The theory that “this has already happened” might explain what many economists regard as disappointing aggregate productivity growth over the last fifty years.
Sample-Size of One: It's much more insidious than just compliance midwits. I recently retired from a public corporation. In broader corporate America, most paths to success (AMB high-income) runs through management. Managers in turn are paid based on headcount and budget.
Managers respond by hiring many people to deliver a fraction of their potential - poor business practices! And, most of those employees know they are de facto slackers - but they'll take the money. In this way, many BS-jobs have become institutionalized with minimally loaded employees.
BTW, if/when those slackers are promoted, they will rinse & repeat. Many professional colleagues across different industries industries report this same dynamic. Meanwhile, lots of middle managers can say no, but few can say yes. This causes incredible friction.