Someone else’s take on the post-employment economy

I’m not the only one who thinks you and your kids need to be prepared for a future that will be harsh and brutally-competitive. Here’s a documentary worth watching: Obsolete, on Amazon Video http://amzn.to/2kFn0qL If you have Amazon Prime, which is how I stumbled onto it, you can probably watch it for free. As of…

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Ready or not, here comes Sociofascism

Michael Snyder states the obvious for the benefit of people still in denial:

40 Percent Of Americans Now “Prefer Socialism To Capitalism”

This was inevitable for many reasons. For one thing, the United States already has its productive infrastructure built-up. The powers-that-shouldn’t-be set their livestock loose on the continent and left them relatively alone (except when drafted for seizing land or resources in wars) to build up the infrastructure. Now that it’s built, they want to switch to a combination of Socialism and Fascism (also known as “corporate Socialism”) because that gives them more direct control over people and other resources.

So, the public and private school systems (including college and university) have been set up to indoctrinate for socialism for decades now. Propaganda disguised as commercial entertainment helps too.

Instead of the government directly managing the means of production itself, the government sets up partnerships with cronies in private corporations, which is Fascism, except that unlike classic Fascism, Sociofascism is hostile to small business and private property for the serfs, and it openly embraces big government. The cronies in private corporations affect a superficial “progressive identity”.

Oddly, the powers-that-shouldn’t-be regularly knock over socialist regimes overseas, like in Venezuela. I don’t have any insider insights, but my guess is that there is a rule that Socialism is for developed economies only; in countries with less infrastructure, they want more productivity first. Another issue might simply be that socialist economies are more vulnerable to trade embargoes; Iran, Syria, and Russia have withstood trade sanctions but Venezuela was an easy target. One factor is undoubtedly fear of seizure and nationalization of assets owned by US government cronies. If and when countries like Venezuela are absorbed into a super-state comparable to the EU, things might change, and if they do, the Venezuelans won’t have any choice!

I have no idea how to stop the tide; at this point my options appear to be to swim or drown. I don’t like the idea of throwing in the towel and joining the forces of evil, though the very wealthy, and in particular a lot of software company executives, have done exactly that. Aside from being the path of least resistance, which is how ruthless people end up on top, socialism helps to protect them from up-and-coming competitors.

Even if I were tempted, I don’t profile correctly to get past the gatekeepers. And the parasites have reached the point of saturation anyway.

In the mean time, you and I have a living to make. That will get harder and harder as the economy contracts, and more and more of the remaining jobs are with companies and government agencies that have hiring preferences for someone else.

Here’s what my plan is counting on: Socialism is Socialism, even when it comes packaged as progressive Fascism. It’s inefficient, and fails to adapt to change. Even to the extent that Socialism is imposed on the rest of us in the form of higher taxes and more regulation, the socialists have to tolerate at least a small sector of private businesses to take care of details they can’t. Even the Soviet Union winked at some black market activities. I don’t think it will be necessary to go black market except for a few services like medical—imagine going to see some guy who isn’t a doctor but knows how to set a broken arm, because you don’t rank high enough in the socialized medicine system to get to see a doctor within any kind of reasonable time-frame. Mostly it will be grey-market and tolerated as long as you don’t give someone in the system reason to come after you. Watch your back! Tolerances will be low and gatekeepers on the internet are already watching your every move.

Watch for my mailing list subscription, which is about ready for roll-out, then sign up for my newsletter so you can follow the discussion.

A conversation with Naval Ravikant and Ryan Shea

Ryan Shea and Naval Ravikant talk about how blockchain and related algorithms and data structures can take human transactions to the next level by removing the involvement of coercive or dishonest 3rd parties. Naval keeps referring to it as “democratization”, but this is actually better than that.

An analogy would be to language: most of the time, nobody dictates to anyone else what words to use, or what words should mean what, or how they should be pronounced (a dictionary might give a guideline, but it can’t enforce them; variants break out all the time). The language evolves by usage, and everybody uses the language however they see fit. You don’t vote on it, so there is no rule of mob.

Similarly, when your transactions are disintermediated, you allocate the resources you have earned where you think they should go, and everyone else does too. The enforcement of transactions is automated, distributed, irrevocable, and low-cost. You don’t need a man with a gun involved in order to organize groups of people.

Fired for being a man

Late in 2016, I heard about a lawsuit against Marissa Mayer and two other executives of Yahoo Corp. over policies that lead to a purge of male employees.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer led illegal purge of male employees, lawsuit charges

Recently I looked to see if I could find a resolution, but I couldn’t.

What happened was that Mayer hired two executives with stated objectives of employing more women, and an apparent willingness to fire male employees to make room for them.

She also instituted a performance-review process that forced managers to allocate specific percentages of their staff to various performance grades, without regard to their actual performance. In other words, if a highly-competent manager assembled a team of 5 high-performing staff, she would still be forced to rate some of them as under-performers in order to fill her quota of staff to get rid of.

This is a trick some major corporations use to evade labor laws requiring major employers to publicly announce layoffs. This improves their image to the investment community; instead of framing it as “company in financial trouble has to lay off staff”, it turns into just a low-key matter of getting rid of dead weight.

Planning layoffs as a cost-cutting measure, and covering it up by staging an elaborate deception about firing employees for underperformance, is quite a nasty trick: it makes it hard for the fired employees to ever find another job, because it’s impossible to hide lack of good references.

The way these types of performance-review systems are set up, managers have an incentive to spare or sacrifice staff according to the strategic value of their role, instead of on their actual performance. For example, if an employee serves as a shared resource among several different work-groups in different departments, his supervisor has an incentive to give him a low mark on his review, because some of her budget is being spent on service to other departments. She would rather lose staff she’s forced to share with other departments, than staff who work 100% for her.

One of the plaintiffs in this lawsuit unwittingly made himself expendable by taking an approved sabbatical. He was working on a story for the company while on sabbatical, but since he wasn’t working for the company full-time, there was an incentive to get rid of him.

That said, it wasn’t his supervisor who got rid of him. His supervisor’s rating of him was over-ridden by an executive named Megan Liberman. That was another way that the system was designed for abuse: higher-ranking managers could over-ride the ratings assigned by direct supervisors, even if they had no direct awareness of the staff’s actual performance. The point was to allow executives to prune staff according to their own objectives. Liberman and another executive named Savitt had an objective of replacing men with women.

The reason I’m writing about this scenario is because it might happen to you. Your employer doesn’t love you. In all fairness, some employers are conscientious about treating their employees fairly, but competitive pressure, and pressure from investment banks, favor the ones that are ruthless. Your employer pays you money only to the extent that they need your services; if they can, they will get rid of you for any reason that’s compelling to them, often for reasons that aren’t even strictly business-related.

Off the top of my head, I’m aware of four other cases where men were fired for being men; two of them were large-scale systemic purges. I’m also aware that there were organized groups of women at Microsoft lobbying to replace male programmers with women; I would guess that it’s a popular cause in many big corporations.

To understand the risk, it might help to think about why companies would fire men to make room for more women:

  • PR points if they can frame it as “empowering women”. Since women make something like 80% of all consumer purchases, companies selling consumer products have an incentive to frame themselves as “pro-woman”.
  • Avoiding trouble from the equal opportunity commission, which tends to over-look favoritism for “protected” groups. Basically, if the feds want you to employ more X, then you can avoid trouble by employing nothing but X.
  • The recent phenomenon of putting ideology ahead of business profits. We now have activist corporate executives.
  • Misandric executives acting on their personal impulses. Political pressure to hire “feminists” into executive ranks has seeded corporate systems with literal man-haters.
  • Wishful thinking about “pay gaps”: some corporate decision-makers hope that women really are willing to work harder than a man for less pay. Aside from not being true, because as any Libertarian will tell you, everybody gets what they are worth, these strategies backfire spectacularly when women sue their employers for thinking this way.
  • The assumption that women are less ambitious than men and therefor less of a threat as rivals. I’m not so sure about this one. You can find mousy women, but there are plenty of women with fangs and claws, and for that matter, you can find mousy men too. The real problem is that performance is usually tied to aggression: you don’t usually find super-performers willing to meekly submit. More likely, someone needs to tame his or her own ego so (s)he can work with high-performers.
  • Sweetheart deals that are nothing more than legal prostitution. Aside from being the most expensive way ever conceived to get sex, these schemes create liability when the prostitute decides its time for the lawsuit windfall.

All of these motives to replace men with women have costs to the bottom line, but because the cost is transferred from the decision-maker to the stock-holder, there’s an incentive to do it anyway. Corporations tend to have a lot of problems like this one because of the way that decision-makers don’t bear the costs of their decisions.

By the way, I see no reason that companies wouldn’t also start firing employees for other personal attributes. I would guess race is next, if your race does not constitute a protected class.

One way to avoid the problem is to have a preference for working for smaller companies, which can’t afford not to make decisions for reasons that are at odds with profits, and for privately-held companies, which tend to be much more profit-oriented than publicly-held companies. Better yet, be self-employed.

For that matter, it’s a good idea to bail out from any company that starts putting social politics ahead of profits; like Yahoo!, they always end up in financial trouble.

You can also reduce your risk of getting fired by being indispensable. The mistake one of the men made who was fired from Yahoo was taking the sabbatical. Even though he had permission to do so, and was working on a report for the company, that still meant that he wasn’t contributing as much as someone else who was actively working at the company when the company decided to do a round of layoffs.

He probably didn’t realize that layoffs had been planned; the company presumably kept it a secret from employees just like they did from the state. If he would have had a little more sophistication about life, and broader horizons than just his own plans, he would have anticipated it anyway.

Another way to reduce the risk of getting fired is to be popular. First of all, bosses, like most people, tend to make decisions for emotional rather than practical reasons. You’re less likely to get fired iif your boss likes you more than another option for firing. Second, in corporate executions like the ones at Yahoo!, a typical strategy for preparing to fire someone is to socially-isolate him. It’s classic bullying. That’s easier to do if you’re the type who just does his job and keeps to himself aside from some drinks after work on rare occasion, which is true of probably most men. That’s not the way you build working relationships. What matters is the way you relate to others while you are actively working with them.

What about lawsuits? That’s not something I can advise you about, because I’m not a lawyer. It’s also not a matter in which you personally have any control: it’s up to a judge. In this particular case, I haven’t seen any news of a resolution. That means the plaintiffs are still in a bad situation. Part of the problem is that men are not generally sympathy figures; at the moment we’re more likely to be targets of hostility. I wouldn’t count on the courts to protect men from being fired for being men. Lawsuits are at best an act of desperation. It’s better to avoid the situations that lead up to one.

One thing that might help is having counsels to go to when you need advice about a work situation. That’s why I set up a forum to talk about that very topic. You can login as soon as I have the membership system set up. That in turn is waiting for either my ISP or the certificate issuer to process the job.

No jobs? Low pay? Here is one reason why…

May 2nd, 2017
Sierra Vista woman finds note from ‘Chinese prisoner’ in Walmart purse

For various reasons including their own well-being, prisoners probably should be kept busy, but only under the conditions that they are guilty of a real crime, and that there is no punishment if they don’t work. According to the note, the prisoners get beatings. All transactions have to be by mutual consent, otherwise, there is a perverse incentive to abuse the captive party, potentially to the point of using entrapment or even bogus charges to round up more slaves, as the Soviet Union was doing, and has actually happened in my US state.

The most common form of slavery is where offers of employment come with a requirement for the prospective slave to repay transportation, housing, and food costs, then trapping them in a situation where they can’t possibly “repay” because their nominal “wages” are too low compared to the costs unilaterally imposed on them. But even older forms exist, without bothering with any pretext of fair exchange, where someone is a slave because their parents were slaves, or because a third-party sold them.

In a globalized economy, everybody in the world competes with everybody else in the world. Specifically, that means that if slavery exists anywhere in the world, then everyone else doing or willing to do the same jobs is competing with slave labor.

Slavery is fairly common worldwide. It is so common that it might be easier to document where it doesn’t occur than where it does. It even occurs in most of the “western” countries as the result of immigrants bringing their chattel with them!

Price competition effectively means that if one major market participant is selling slave-produced goods, then every market participant is faced with the prospect of either selling slave-produced goods, or going out of business. There is also the problem that with complex international supply chains, it would be hard to know if upstream goods were slave produced, assuming the merchant even wanted to know, which more likely than not, they don’t.

The globalists have done nothing to resolve the problem that they exacerbated when they offshored production, which is hardly surprising given that many if not most of them have ancestors who were human traffickers, merchants in slave-produced goods, or investors in slave plantations. These are the same people who harass other people about their “white privilege” over the descendants of their ancestors’ slaves, and who also stir up resentment against rivals who made their money fair-and-square, as “greedy capitalists”.

Contrary to popular opinion, Socialism is part of the problem, not the solution. You can’t simply legislate that a supposedly benevolent government is going to take care of everybody; that has never happened and never will. Instead, structural inefficiencies in the Socialist western countries result in ever more imported slave-produced goods, and ever more temptation to pretend not to notice.

“Better not be using slaves to make these cheap goods we’re buying from you.”
“Oh, no, we’d never do that.”
“OK, then, we’re good!”

The problem seems to be getting worse, not better.

I don’t have a solution. Just don’t contribute to the problem. Live simply. Avoid buying goods from merchants known to buy from slavers, or items that are commonly made by slaves, like hand-woven “oriental rugs”. The counter-argument that someone who has no qualms at all about buying slave-produced merchandise once told me is that if you don’t buy slave-produced goods, the slaves get no food and shelter at all. There’s probably a sliver of truth to that, although I would guess that in the balance, feeding the monster is worse than starving it. The person who gave me that excuse is a shady and rather mercenary character.

I also suggest aggressively defending your own freedom before you lose it. The world is full of people motivated to take it away from you. And contrary to American political propaganda, you don’t “fight” for freedom (war slavery), you avoid getting trapped in it through poverty and cancerous government.

Lobbying to destroy jobs

Prices are related to supply and demand. When supplies are low relative to demand, prices go up. When supplies are high relative to demand, prices go down. When demand goes down relative to supplies, prices go up. When demand goes up relative to supplies, prices go down. When prices are set, then supply or demand will change to reach a new equilibrium.

I’m not aware of any valid evidence of exceptions. The relationship applies even in centrally-planned Communist countries, where  supply and demand are impacted by central planning bureaus set both price levels and production goals. If the price is set lower than the price that would be negotiated between buyers and sellers, then shortages occur. If the price is set higher than the price that would be negotiated between buyers and sellers, then products sit unsold in warehouses, or more likely, get stolen and sold on the black market.

The same relationship exists in the market for hourly labor. If the price of labor is set higher than the price that would be negotiated between employer and employee, then a shortage of jobs occurs.

In Seattle, the city council unanimously passed a law phasing in $15/hr minimum wage, which at the time was the highest in the country. Proponents of the law immediately deemed it a success, without waiting for much less looking for any evidence of higher unemployment.

If you claim that “all swans are white”, you can’t prove that statement by showing me a white swan. You can’t prove it at all; you can only show me that your good-faith effort to find a non-white swan hasn’t produced anyyet. Your claim is good until and unless you go to someplace like Australia, where black swans occur. Absence of evidence does not constitute evidence of absence.

Similarly, if you claim that raising minimum wage doesn’t increase unemployment, then to support that claim, you need to make a good-faith effort to look for people who lost their jobs after the wage increase.

The first restaurant to announce layoffs was zPizza on Capitol Hill near Seattle Central Community College. The owner didn’t just lay off all her staff—she had to shut down. She said she didn’t want to lay off her staff, but she didn’t know how to make payroll.

Instead of looking for evidence of job losses themselves, proponents of the minimum wage increase were quick to discount the evidence found by others:

You might remember that a few months ago, the Seattle zPizza location announced its looming closure and said the city’s $15 minimum wage law was to blame.

The story became national news, offered as a cautionary tale about the impact of higher wages. Never mind local unemployment is below 4%. Never mind that more than a dozen pizza joints were hiring that very week. Never mind that there are more restaurants licensed for business in Seattle than before the $15 law passed.

Now a new pizza place is set to move into the very same location that zPizza is leaving.

Remember that pizza place that said it was closing because of $15? Everything they said was wrong.

Remember that pizza place that said it was closing When did pizza places ever say anything? It was the owner who said it was closing. This misattribution is part of a pattern of inaccuracies, generalities, and distortions in the author’s thought processes.

Everything they said was wrong. Assuming “they” is the owner, the article doesn’t provide a single specific example of anything she said that is wrong. It doesn’t provide a single example of anything that anyone else said that is wrong. The whole editorial is full of non-sequiturs—that is, reasons that don’t logically justify their claims.

Never mind that more than a dozen pizza joints were hiring that very week.” How is that relevant? Assuming that the claim is true, what matters is whether the trend is rising above its moving average, or falling.

Now a new pizza place is set to move into the very same location that zPizza is leaving. How is it that the new management is able to make positive cash flow when the previous management couldn’t? Oh, here’s how:

The space of more than 1,700 square feet cost her more than $7,000 in rent each month. Shah-Burnham said 33 percent of her budget went toward labor costs, and raising the wages that fast would have been unsustainable.

She closed the shop after July 4.

Now the space will become Ian’s Pizza, which currently has four stores in Wisconsin and one in Colorado.

Because they have fewer than 500 employees at these stores, Ian’s Pizza will be on a different schedule.

For small employers, they must pay $15 an hour by 2021. For small employers who pay health benefits, they must pay $15 an hour by 2019, which includes a minimum of $12 in cash and a minimum of $3 in benefits.

A tale of two pizza joints: Seattle’s minimum wage for franchise owners

The new pizza operator isn’t required to pay the higher minimum wage yet! The previous one was on a different schedule because of the size of her parent company—which in no way changed her costs or profit margins. In other words, the new pizza restaurant Working Washington offers as “proof” that the higher minimum wage rate wouldn’t result in higher unemployment isn’t actually paying the higher rates!

The lobbyists for the minimum wage increase didn’t disclose this information. They’re only looking for evidence to support their bias, not evidence that contradicts their bias. They’re trying to prove that all swans  are white by looking for white swans, not black swans.

It’s worth addressing another argument for higher minimum wages: that wages in general are not keeping up with the cost of living.

That’s true, but irrelevant. The assumption is that corporate profits are keeping up with, or maybe even surpassing, the cost of living, and that workers aren’t getting their fair share.

Which corporations are we talking about? Halliburton? Apple Computer, with its offshore sweatshops? How about all the companies that have hiring preferences for holders of H1B visas? These are not major sources of employment within the USA. At least in the USA, most wage-earners work for a small business, the ones with thin profit margins.

Stagnating wages are a symptom of “peak economy”; nobody can simply regulate them higher, without triggering higher prices elsewhere. It’s a game of trying to minimize your own losses.

There are a number of possible ways that employers can respond to rising minimum wages. They might have to shut down their business completely, especially if they were never particularly well-capitalized in the first place, which is generally true of small businesses. That’s what happened to zPizza. They can automate more of their operations, which is what bigger and better-capitalized businesses tend to do. That’s what several fast-food restaurant chains are planning to do, replacing cashiers and order-takers with automated kiosks. Some can use subsidized labor, and a few can get away with using black-market labor. The overall trend will be net loss of job.

  • Plan to enter the workforce as something comfortably above “entry level” labor. Being able to do so requires job-ready skills and experience.
  • Don’t start a business that is dependent on entry-level labor; it will be expensive relative to its productivity.
  • Beware of starting a business that is vulnerable to the job losses of low wage earners. An example would be low-income housing; your tenants would stop paying the rent after losing their jobs.

No mystery why men missing from workplace

Here’s an article about male unemployment I read a few days ago.

Thousands of Maine men are missing from the workforce, and no one really knows why

I don’t find the article very informative, but it’s worth a few comments of my own.

…at 26, Twitch has never held an official job. He’s worked as a roofer, a blueberry raker and a construction worker — “backbreaking shit,” he said — but always under the table.

In other words, Twitch DOES work, contrary to the hypothesis of the newspaper article. One of the questions the author should have been asking is why it’s easier to get a job on the black market than elsewhere. The answer would probably have to do with excessive government regulation, including excessively high minimum wages and the burden of mandate Obamacare. But she never goes there.

Male labor participation rates (the inverse of unemployment) have been in long-term decline in the USA, since about 1950. That was shortly after World War II, when most of Europe’s industries were in ruins while those of the USA were still intact. That left the USA as the world’s premier industrial powerhouse of the era.

Since then, the globalized economy effectively means that every worker on the planet competes with every other worker. Germany quickly rebuilt its Ruhr industrial center after the war, and Japan became a major industrial power-house, followed by South Korea and China. The locus of production shifts a bit from time to time, but the overall, long-term trend has been to shift away from the USA and western Europe.

From the 1970s on, women started competing with men for jobs on a large scale. That created more competition for jobs for men domestically.

Pressure to keep labor costs down spawned a meme (that is, a “mind virus”) popular among the ruling class that women are willing to do the same job for less money than men. Actually, they’re not, which has spawned huge numbers of discrimination lawsuits, but the meme persists. I have heard employers explicitly state a hiring preference for women.

I’ve also heard another meme that sales and service staff should always be women and people of color on the theory that “sales staff should look like the customer” and that they are “less intimidating than white males”.

Hiring preferences for other-than-white-males reduces the number of jobs available for men and especially white men. The author of the article doesn’t bring up this fact.

I would guess there is another cause of rising American unemployment that is becoming an ever-increasing factor in the situation: the infrastructure is already built. In fact, with the switch to a post-industrial economy, much of our infrastructure was abandoned. But the point is you don’t need big shipyards once the ports are already full of ships that will last a while longer yet. Foundries don’t need to make more steel rails for trains when the amount of railroad track is declining, not growing. We already have more airports and freeways than we need.

The total size of the economy has probably peaked. Infrastructure accumulates, but resources to feed into the industrial infrastructure do not. This is a big problem.

Standards of living are falling, and eventually our population will fall as well. We won’t need as much inventory of single-family housing as we have now. Probably pretty soon, most people won’t be able to afford cars, so we’ll need fewer of those. The long-term economic decline will keep feeding on itself.

Women are impacted less than men because they are favored for service occupations, which are not related to manufacturing anything. But recently even women’s employment has peaked and is starting to fall.

Wages for less educated men have been falling steadily in recent decades.

Irrelevant. Wages for highly-educated men are also falling! I strongly suggest ignoring the author’s insinuation that going to college will get you a job: unemployment rates for new graduates are high, and most of the jobs they are finding require no college degree!

What’s lacking is not college; what’s lacking is skills. A degree in Liberal Arts will not get you a job any better than Twitch’s black-market itinerant labor, but it will get you into debt. At least Twitch probably doesn’t have any student debt—he’s ahead of the game!

A surge in incarceration rates has also made it harder for men to find work, since the vast majority of prison inmates are men, a 2016 report by former President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors theorized.

The vast majority of men are not criminals. This is not a real reason for rising male unemployment. Presumably the only reasons for claiming otherwise has to do with kiss-off attitudes towards men, and caring more about jailbirds than the rest of us.

The last of the big theories about why men are leaving the labor force comes mainly from conservative scholars who say the broadening of eligibility criteria for social welfare benefits — in particular, disability — have lured men away from the labor force.

More likely, the eligibility criteria were broadened because of rising thresholds for employability, in other words, confusing cause and effect.

Men are LESS likely to receive so-called “entitlements” as women.

Minority women in particular are far more likely than their male counterparts to have used food stamps. About four-in-ten black women (39%) have gotten help compared with 21% of black men. The gender-race participation gap is also wide among Hispanics: 31% of Hispanic women but 14% of Hispanic men received assistance.

Among whites, the gender-race gap is smaller. Still, white women are about twice as likely as white men to receive food stamp assistance (19% vs. 11%).

Pew Research, The Politics and Demographics of Food Stamp Recipients

They are also less likely to receive, and receive a smaller share of, other entitlements than women do. This makes men LESS desirable for low-wage employment, because they are not being subsidized. Employers assume that employees will want more money if they’re not getting welfare benefits, so some of them won’t even consider hiring anyone who is not in the system. Some jobs placements are arranged directly through the social welfare agencies; companies like Wal*Mart and Marriot Corp send their openings directly to welfare agencies for placement. You can’t get those jobs if you’re not collecting welfare benefits.

There’s no real mystery regarding why so many American men are unemployed or under-employed. The real question is what to do about it. The president’s council of economic advisors is not going to help you, you probably won’t qualify for a subsidy from the government, and the media is misleading you.

Keep reading my blog for better ideas.