one wave behind

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Clark

Clark is an anarchocapitalist, a reader, and a man of mystery. He's not a neoreactionary, but he is Nrx-curious 'til graduation. All he wants for Christmas is for everyone involved in the police state to get a fair trial and a free hanging. Follow him at @clarkhat

109 Responses

  1. Mike says:

    "The Democrats want to bring big cities and big industry, because when those things were ascendant all was right in the world."

    Or, you know, education. We may not be able to make more people like Elon Musk as a percentage of the population given the normal distribution of intelligence, but we can shift that curve upward slightly with higher-ed. And by doing so we can lower barriers to entry for people who do have third age ideas, but no idea where to begin implementing them.

  2. Clark says:

    @Mike:

    > we can shift that curve upward slightly with higher-ed.

    That's an article of faith on the Left, but I don't share your religion. "Education", especially "higher education" is the process of winnowing out those who already have the "right stuff" and giving them a piece of paper to certify it. The fact that the Supreme Soviet gets to buy off the intelligentsia – cough – excuse me. The fact that the Federal Government creates a vibrant and thriving tenured academic community which is, of course, strongly in favor of the Federal Government and its spending programs is just gravy.

  3. Joe R says:

    This piece really helps frame the catch-22 regarding today's society. The entrepreneurs have recognized that they need a more educated populace to employ but at the same time would prefer they continue to struggle to meet their food and property (machinery?) needs, preventing them from pursuing such education.

  4. Grandy says:

    I think the problem is simply that we aren't spending enough on education. Perhaps we just need to build fewer warplanes.

  5. Clark says:

    @Joe R

    > The entrepreneurs have recognized that they need a more educated populace to employ

    Speaking as a three time entrepreneur, this is wrong. A few big employers who are deeply entwined with the political structure are trotted out to say such things at press conferences, but most entrepreneurs need people who are smart and can get stuff done, not people who have credentials.

    > at the same time would prefer they continue to struggle to meet their food and property (machinery?) needs, preventing them from pursuing such education.

    What? The best employee I had had no college degree, and came to me at 21 years old. He asked for $80k/yr and got it, because he'd educated himself via O'Reilly books and the Internet…for free.

    I don't want employees who struggle. I want employees who think. …and so do other employers. That's why we bid up the prices of those with brains to the point that they get fat off of brie and caviar if they choose to.

    See 3:24 here

  6. Clark says:

    @Grandy:

    > I think the problem is simply that we aren't spending enough on education.

    What mechanism do you think turns cash into geniuses?

  7. Lizard says:

    This implies that once we manage to build a machine with the three qualities you mention — and given the advances in neural simulation, actually building models of the brain that work like the brain, not attempting to write a program that thinks, this might not be as far off as it seems — we will remove the third wave limiting factor, and the fourth wave limiting factor is likely to be energy, as something's got to power all those swarms of nanobots.

  8. Clark says:

    @Lizard:

    1) You might very well be right

    2) You're now in Less Wrong territory

    3) thank you for reading my post, appreciating the ideas, and actually responding to them. It's the pleasure of interacting with people who think that gets me over the pain of…everything else.

  9. Mike says:

    Clark:
    Doesn't necessarily have to be Federal spending; in fact, most is state.

    The argument about winnowing vs. real value-added is nature v. nurture. While I allow that nature is much of the equation, there is a reason that nations with superior education systems also attract superior amounts of venture capital. If, on the other hand, you're saying that Higher ed, in its winnowing effect acts to greatly reduce the information cost of discovering the good ideas–well, there's lots of evidence for that too. But none of those ideas invalidate the fact that study enhances human capital-whether it be at school, or, like your employee, at home with some books.

    I'm not, as you seem to think, saying money is a necessary ingredient. But, as a positive externality, education is a classic example of an area where society improves more than the investment that is made into it-and the market doesn't always make that investment optimally.

  10. Joe R says:

    "Speaking as a three time entrepreneur, this is wrong. A few big employers who are deeply entwined with the political structure are trotted out to say such things at press conferences, but most entrepreneurs need people who are smart and can get stuff done, not people who have credentials."

    True to a certain degree. For some jobs, a certain amount of formal education is required if only to establish credibility (mostly in regards to the hard sciences), but our current education system (at least in the US) tries to push everyone through college even when it's unnecessary for many job types, which isn't helping.

    "What? The best employee I had had no college degree, and came to me at 21 years old. He asked for $80k/yr and got it, because he'd educated himself via O'Reilly books and the Internet…for free."

    That certainly works for some jobs, but not for all. It is certainly indicative of how the cost of education should be dropping when there's so much quality material available for free.

    "I don't want employees who struggle. I want employees who think. …and so do other employers. That's why we bid up the prices of those with brains to the point that they get fat off of brie and caviar if they choose to."

    What I had said was actually more in regards to the current state of minimum wage type employees. Thinking may not really be required for many of their jobs, but to pay them so little as to require that they work two full-time minimum wage jobs just to make ends meet leaves very little time outside of work to have an opportunity to improve their place.

    Basically, my thought is that considering the increasing income gap in which the bridge may simply be "education" (formal or otherwise), the market demand for the skilled employees will continue to go up if their supply continues to dwindle, increasing their value (and pay), while those on the other end will see their pay decrease as their supply/demand works in the other direction. Their response necessarily has to be to work more for less money, further reducing the likelihood they will pursue an "education".

    To counteract such a trend, it seems to me like minimum wage or living wage laws would be a reasonable response, but I'm certainly open to other ways of trying to make fixes (or if they're even necessary).

  11. Lizard says:

    Less Wrong is interesting. Yet another time-sink. Although, I'm not certain if your link there was "Hey, here's something you might enjoy" or if "Hey, here's a link to a site discussing cognitive biases that lead people to flawed conclusions" might be the most subtle insult in the history of the Internet.

    One other point: One of my boilerplate rants, usually aimed at utopian leftists, is that there's no such thing as a post-scarcity society; we just change what's scarce. To a person from a thousand years ago, we currently live in the age of Star Trek replicators, in terms of the actual effort needed to produce virtually any good we desire, relative to the effort they needed. There's always going to be things where demand exceeds supply, and no matter what a particular culture deems valuable, some people will be better at it than others. (I can trivially list hundreds of things that having even a perfect "nanofactory" system, one which can take in any raw materials and output any desired object, including food, drugs, etc., will not provide. For a start — anything not made by a nanofactory. Hand-crafted items will be valued, even if they can duplicated endlessly once made, because the value is not in the item itself, but in its uniqueness. Some would argue that this is irrational, that the value of a thing is in what it does, not how many of them there are, and this is true — it is irrational. But humans are irrational, and any economic or social system predicated on the idea human's aren't irrational… is irrational. A rational system need to consider human irrationality. Or, as I noted many years ago, Why does Communism fail? Because no central economic planner would ever come up with pet rocks.)

  12. Clark says:

    @Joe R:

    A good response, thanks! Althought I agree with much of it, I disagree with this bit:

    > To counteract such a trend, it seems to me like minimum wage or living wage laws would be a reasonable response

    Right now the unskilled masses are in competition with robots.

    You are proposing to hold the price of robot labor constant, and to raise the price of unskilled human labor.

    A one question homework assignment: when robots cost the same but human labor costs more, in what direction do employers rebalance their consumption of labor?

  13. Grandy says:

    @Clark about the author. . .

    Likes: sarcasm, deadpan, the sometimes difficulty in recognizing deadpan in this medium

    Noteworthy traits: indifference to whether a particular observer/interactee has the necessary history/context to recognize the seriousness, or lack thereof, of a given comment

  14. Grandy says:

    Lizard, I believe a significant slice of the 3d printer revolution is going to be that ChandlerSmythe likes to pattern widgets just so, using materials from this place here. Whereas HenryMcNeil uses a different sort of materials, a different pattern, and some sort of non traditional [traditional technique] that give his widgets [what have you]. I definitely agree with the "hand crafted then reproduced" angle being an important one. There will always be people willing to pay a premium for that over the generic widget, and people willing to pay a premium for ChanderSmythe widgets versus Apple iWidgets, and people who insist that ChandlerSmythe make their widget by hand.

  15. Kirk Taylor says:

    I think the major mistake in this article is implying that the two major party's leaders even care about any of this as compared to the acquisition of money and power.

    Though I suspect Clark is well aware of this.

  16. JR says:

    I'm not sure that these are new stages of limitation, but that we are experiencing the same stages all over again in new ways.
    Initial Stage (Hunter/Gatherer) = Google
    First Wave (Agriculture) = Wikipedia
    Second Wave (Specialization) = Popehat
    Third Wave (Access) = The Cloud

    I may be overstepping from geek into otaku territory, so I won't go into too much detail on this.

    How many people that read this blog have also watched the Ghost In The Shell TV anime series? For a show that aired years ago, and having been based on a movie decades old, it has some very interesting things to say about the effects neural cybernetics have on society in general and governments in particular.

    Also, Clark might like the Individual Eleven revolutionary movement. It has a lot in common with his stated political beliefs.

  17. Clark says:

    @JR:
    > How many people that read this blog have also watched the Ghost In The Shell TV anime series?

    Wait – people are allowed to read this blog WITHOUT having watched Ghost in the Shell and Serial Experiment Lane ?

  18. David says:

    Noteworthy traits: indifference to whether a particular observer/interactee has the necessary history/context to recognize the seriousness, or lack thereof, of a given comment

    … or to recognize his own co-bloggers. ;)

  19. Joe R says:

    "Right now the unskilled masses are in competition with robots.

    You are proposing to hold the price of robot labor constant, and to raise the price of unskilled human labor.

    A one question homework assignment: when robots cost the same but human labor costs more, in what direction do employers rebalance their consumption of labor?"

    I wouldn't try arguing that we need to artificially prop up the existence of jobs for their own sake; I think everyone would agree that the world is better off without telemarketers calling during dinners.

    So long as the jobs that continue to exist are worked by humans and can't be replaced by robots (yet), I'd say that there should be some minimum threshold in which they should be paid so that they (and any offspring they may have) can at least have their basic needs met with enough time left over to also pursue an education if they so desire. (If they'd rather use that time to watch Jersey Shore though, that's their choice.) Any type of luxury items they want should perhaps be out of their reach until they get one of the more skilled jobs. (Of course, what constitutes those luxury items is highly subjective and beyond the scope of any point I'm trying to make here.)

    Another possibility that could come up in the future with advances in technology and the cheapening costs of robot labor might be, what happens if all unskilled jobs can be filled more cheaply by robots? Or in a more distant future, if all jobs can be replaced by computers/robots? (As it might be framed in the context of this article, if the scarcity becomes things humans are capable of that computers/robots aren't capable of yet.)

  20. goober says:

    The two wealthiest men that I know personally dropped out of high school. They both started businesses and both are millionaires. The two wealthiest men in America dropped out of college.

    No grandy, I doubt very much that education spending is the problem, and in fact the education that we are currently purchasing at very dear cost may be a good part of the problem.

    Clark- I find your piece very compelling. I've thought for years that the minds running the show were all stuck in old paradigms. You've put a voice to that in ways that I simply cannot.

    I suspect that the next bottlenecks will come in the forms of bandwidth and energy. Not that those will be insurmountable but our quest for data is at least currently outstripping our ability to transmit it, and our desire for energy is currently outpacing our resolve to pay for the tradeoffs required to produce it.
    Ply

  21. Dan Weber says:

    The two wealthiest men that I know personally dropped out of high school. They both started businesses and both are millionaires. The two wealthiest men in America dropped out of college.

    This isn't unusual, if you read "The Millionaire Next Door." One thing to note is that these people, with almost zero exceptions, push their own kids very hard to go get those same educations they missed.

    I sorta agree with Clark that the leftist version of education is misguided. You simply aren't going to have millions of Einsteins graduate from high school each year no matter how many resources you throw at it. Lots of people simply don't want to do that, and I'm not sure it's right to try to make them want to. (And lots of people just can't cut it, but this even more controversial to say.) Even if you did somehow turn out millions of Einsteins, you would then find that you'd need a PhD to be an office manager.

    There's something to be said about finding the "diamonds in the rough," though. Is there someone who could be the Musk but he's stuck in a crappy school in a crappy neighborhood?

  22. Megadan says:

    I love it when Clark walks by the beehives with a Louisville Slugger. Do I always agree with him? No. Do I thank him for inviting me to think differently? Yes.

    And I hope the "mobile era" does give way to the "robot era" as Bill Gates predicts, but after being in robotics for 10 years now I'd say that unless robots can help check Facebook or play reruns of Buckwild, they won't gain traction with most of America.

  23. eponym says:

    "What mechanism do you think turns cash into geniuses?"
    Uh, clearly he thinks that mechanism is education.

  24. JR says:

    The education system in its current state is arguably one of the most flawed institutions we have.

    Teachers and administrators that cheated or lied about their qualifications, use the classroom to push their personal world view onto the students, circumvent the system to artificially improve the school's perceived quality and quantity of graduates, and then let the students believe that the piece of paper they get is equal to any amount of real world experience in the field.

    I never graduated high school, so I am at least a little biased. In my defense, I was having to deal with the loss of my mother and brother in a car accident (Ironically, we hit a bus on the way to school). I am currently the manager where I work and have had to create from scratch our business plan, inventory, pricing, and regularly maintain our online access. My youngest brother also dropped out of high school, and he is a senior partner in his company and the guy all the certified techs go to for help.

    The early cessation of our education has not hindered our ability to achieve our goals. We got to where we are because of our determination and the amount of effort we put forth. Something I find increasingly hard to come by these days. If anyone has ideas for revamping our educational system, I am all ears, figuratively.

  25. Grandy says:

    … or to recognize his own co-bloggers.

    I should also point out that usually, the end goal is not to cook anything that I catch, but merely to have enjoyed the experience. I throw everything back after, in these cases.

    This is such a case.

  26. Clark says:

    @eponym

    > > "What mechanism do you think turns cash into geniuses?"

    > Uh, clearly he thinks that mechanism is education.

    No, he thinks the input is education.

    I still don't understand what mechanism he proposed whereby the education industry makes people smarter or better able to hold down jobs.

  27. scav says:

    Education isn't a mechanism to turn cash into geniuses. But it does (or should) turn cash and naturally enthusiastic children into literate and numerate teenagers who are inspired to learn more and pursue their interests constructively.

    Whereas lack of or poor education turns naturally enthusiastic children into barely literate and numerate teenagers with a resentment of learning and a prison mentality.

    It's generally accepted that starting to convert that cash into education early is a good investment. Otherwise that cash will be worth less later on, when resentful teenage morons start getting pregnant and drunk and contributing negative value to the economy.

  28. Clark says:

    @scav:

    > It's generally accepted that starting to convert that cash into education early is a good investment.

    Lots of things are generally accepted.

    My role here is to crap on those dogmas.

    > Otherwise … resentful teenage morons start getting pregnant and drunk and contributing negative value to the economy.

    I'm glad that universal public education is working so well that we don't have any of that going on now!

  29. naught_for_naught says:

    The livers can lean back and watch Jersey Shore reruns courtesy of Larry Page and Sergei Brin's paychecks.

    There are two kinds of people in this world: those who think there are only two kinds of people and those who don't.

  30. Grandy says:

    @clark

    No, he thinks the input is education.

    Just so we're clear isofar as someone could think the opposite of "I think the problem is simply that we aren't spending enough on education.", I would think it. It's probably fairer to say that I think a couple of decades of "we need to put more money into education" as a sort of abstract, higher-level policy course has failed, utterly.

  31. princessartemis says:

    If education, including elementary, were as useful as it could be in the endevor of finding and nurturing the young and smart, it would spend less time wasting the time of those it found and make an effort at challenging them. Many a smart kid (not a genius kid, just above average) has learned from school that the way to get ahead is to skate by, because that is all the effort that getting ahead in elementary school demands of them. Obviously, this does not work later in life. There is no reason a smart kid should have to spend any time recovering from their education. Clearly, something is missing when the education provided to the young and smart fails them in that manner.

    I wish I knew of a solution for that. I'm sure the ubiquity of free information is making it easier for the young and smart to learn on their own and challenge themselves, but their time is still being wasted.

  32. Matt says:

    Remember the Beijing Olympics? The chinese had this policy of forcing the best athletes to breed, and in only a generation produced many exceptional athletes. People hate to think of humans like dogs, that we can be bred for certain qualities, but the fact is we can. This is a shortage that can be solved, and the chinese won't have a problem doing it, but Americans will.

  33. Tarrou says:

    "I think the problem is simply that we aren't spending enough on education. Perhaps we just need to build fewer warplanes."

    We already spend more per pupil than pretty much anyone else in the world, how much more will it require? Maybe, like warplanes, we need to spend as much as the next ten nations combined? But will we then have the increased capability that our warplanes give us, or will we have an educational system with more administrators than educators, and a unionized teaching class with anything but children's interests in mind? You know, like we have now.

  34. Grandy says:

    It's interesting that you would bring up China and the olympics, Matt. Tyler Cowen and Kevin Grier argue that it takes more than just population to win at the olympics, noting that it takes material wealth as well.

    Of particular interest from that article:

    1. Chinese population demographics are skewing the wrong way (with the number of old people increasing and the number of young people decreasing), and it has been predicted that China will fall off as a medal power. "It will be an old nation before it is truly wealthy".

    2. Nations that are set to host frequently see a spike in performance on the Olympics before the one they host, due to the nature of ramping up for hosting (which typically sees a significant investment in athletic programs/infrastructure).

    3. It's possible to improve medal count by focusing on sports where a given nation has some other advantage. E.g. lots of coastline = greater chance to excel at "beach"/water sports.

    It's worth noting that in 2004, the US narrowly edged out China in gold medals but ran away with the total medal count. In 2008, China had a huge gold medal lead (15-18, iirc), but the US was +10 in total medals. Last year, the total medal lead increase (18, I think it was) but the US beat China by 8 gold medals.

    I'm not sure it can be said that China necessarily solved anything, except that they created a spike in performance. It will be interesting to see how they do in the next two Olympics, and whether the population demographics will continue to trend.

  35. Grandy says:

    Now is a good time to point out that all of us, at one time or another, have jumped into a thread based on an early reply without realizing that, as a great warrior-poet once said, "new shit has come to light". Jumping in like so is not a crime, and and as long as Popehat draws breath we will continue to see that it is not.

  36. Dustin says:

    Someone could probably quibble with the details of your analysis, but in broad strokes I think it's spot on.

    As for minimum wage, trying to prop up low value workers by setting a minimum price they are allowed to sell their time at seems silly and guaranteed to fail. If we think that they don't have enough money and that we'd all be better of if they had more, we should just give them money. Just write them a check, it's much less distorting.

    This may become more important in the future. I have often wondered how long it will be before robots basically make the least of us economically irrelevant. No matter how good our education system gets, at some the point least of us wont be able to produce anything as well or as cheaply as can be done with robots. I would put that day sometime in the next hundred years. So what do we do when 50% of the population isn't economically viable?

  37. Grandy says:

    @Dustin it's worth pointing out that it's not my analysis; I am paraphrasing from the Cowen/Grier article. The article is written for a broad audience. It's got enough interesting references that it's juicy and tastey, but it's really an appetizer and not a full meal, if you take my meaning.

  38. Hypozeuxis says:

    Learning is necessary to succeed.

    An "education" is what those in power (whether the school board, or a parent doing homeschooling, or anything else) agree should be taught to the student(s). Currently, not only is there no clear consensus as to exactly what should be taught, there is also a lot of disagreement about how it should be taught. As is clear from the fact that many people don't learn whatever it is.

    Remember, of course, what people learn is not necessarily what others are (attempting) to teach them.

  39. JR says:

    @Dustin

    So what do we do when 50% of the population isn't economically viable?

    Even on their worst day there will always be at least one job oppurtunity available to anyone that will perform the necessary tasks. And that job belongs to the oldest profession in the world.

    There will always be something one would rather have another person do instead of a machine. Unless that's your thing. Personally, I hang up every time a machine answers the phone, unless it is required for my job.

    I agree that the minimum wage is very harmful to our job market. Many companies have been found to have no problem hiring undocumented workers at a mutually satisfactory wage much lower than the minimum. If we let each employer and employee come to an on their own, those without jobs would soon find how little they really need to do whatever unpopular chore someone with the money to pay needed doing.

  40. Clark says:

    @Grandy:

    > as long as Popehat draws breath

    Popes die, but the institution of Popehat is eternal.

  41. Bren says:

    Larry Page and Sergei Brin went to grad school at stanford.

    Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerburg went to college at Harvard.

    Steve Jobs and Wozniak went to Berkley.

    Elite higher Ed takes the best, gives them exposure to lots of info, and shakes them around for a few years. That seems to be a pretty good mechanism for producing innovation. I submit that this mechanism works for non-elites too, geniuses are people after all. What works for them may work for us ordinary folks.

  42. Clark says:

    @Bren

    > Larry Page and Sergei Brin went to grad school at stanford.
    >
    > Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerburg went to college at Harvard.
    >
    > Steve Jobs and Wozniak went to Berkley.
    >
    > Elite higher Ed takes the best, gives them exposure to lots of info,
    and shakes them around for a few years. That seems to be a pretty good mechanism for producing innovation.

    Studies have shown that outcomes from those accepted to elite schools who do not attend are identical to outcomes of those accepted to elite schools who do attend.

    Elite schools are pretty good at selecting winners.

    There is no evidence to believe that they train or create winners.

    Most people who ride in Bentleys are rich. I propose a program to give inner city youth rides in Bentleys to create more rich people.

  43. zaq.hack says:

    "Wait – people are allowed to read this blog WITHOUT having watched Ghost in the Shell and Serial Experiment Lane ?"

    Fact: This is the best blog.

    This is a thought provoking essay. Thank you. I wanted to comment before I read the comments of others, and those only fuelled greater desire to do so.

    (1) There are some spelling/grammar errors that make this article it a bit annoying to read as an "intellectual" piece. You should have someone proof it. Yes, grammar is becoming archaic, but there is something detracting about those errors in an otherwise sterling commentary.

    (2) "Elite schools are pretty good at selecting winners." False. Almost everything there is selected by IQ which has little to do with someone's creativity, focus, work ethic, and other success factors. Nobel Prizes (in science) do not only go elite school research: Many go to state schools. I recommend the book "Outliers" for a conversation on what it takes to be successful.

    (3) "There is no evidence to believe that they train or create winners." True. I have no college degree and am very successful by every objective measure: I have a daughter going to medical school, I work for HP and am well paid, own a large house, etc., etc. That isn't to say there were not times in my life I wished I had a degree, but I'm not sure those times would have been "worth" thousands and thousands of dollars. Low ROI has kept me from going "back to school" to get my degree. What I need to know for work and life I am well able to teach myself in the modern era.

    (4) If you want to see the harmful effects of minimum wage, ask yourself why the USA has a black market in labor (illegal immigrants) that work almost exclusively below prevailing wages. Answer: We are paying too much for those jobs which are "above board," whether they are state-mandated minimums (lettuce picking) or union dominated prices (construction).

    (5) I'm not convinced the Internet represents a different wave. It's just a newer machine and the impact is distorting our view because we are historically close to it. Above, someone mentioned artificial intelligence, and I think that is really the third wave. The ability to execute a new idea has ALWAYS been the limiting factor, whether that was the ability to get your tribe to move over the next hill without getting eaten by bears, running a cotton plantation effectively, or managing a British rock band in the 1960's, execution has always been between a person and their goals. A.I. may remove this as a limiting factor by unemotionally/rationally weighing the best methods of executing and actually performing them mechanically. I work in automation software, and I see how the infancy of this is changing lives and industries.

  44. Chris says:

    @Joe R – when raising the minimum wage simply causes fewer people to have jobs, what then?

    @Mike – why is it assumed that education is purely a positive externality? Schools also help educate individuals that go on to do bad things. Fraudsters, corrupt leaders and petty tyrants of all types have attended elite institutions and community colleges alike to learn enough to rip the rest of us off.
    You can make a case that education on the basics is probably a really good idea. Paying people to waste time and effort on "Blank Studies" seems to be the next best thing to a perpetual motion machine.

    @Clark – interesting take, it has some parallels to Arnold Kling's 3 axes model.

  45. Adela says:

    1860? Being a bit generous there when most republicans sound 1660 these days.

  46. Mike_C says:

    Well, not by IQ (whatever that measure's actually worth) either. Elite schools select by a mixture of performance on standardized test scores (which set the bar pretty low, frankly), local academic grades weighted by the perceived quality of the applicant's high school or college, who your parents are (and what they have donated), and increasingly, vague "social participation" and "activities" measures to limit the proportion of entrants of east-Asian and subcontinent ancestry, and of course "diversity" measures to increase the proportion of "under-represented minorities."

    There seems to be decent evidence that early education initiatives pay off, particularly among children from low-SES/low-education groups. Hell, if you can get a 5-year old with semi- or sub-literate parents interested in reading, that's probably a good thing that will benefit both the particular 5-year old* and society at large over the long term, and something I personally can get behind and am happy to support financially even though the money is hauled out of my pocket at gunpoint by the government.
    [*Assuming said 5-year old doesn't get his/her ass fatally kicked by loser thugs come high school for the hubris of actually trying to better him/herself through basic education and hard work.]

    That said, I have zero interest in subsidizing someone getting a graduate degree in Culturally-Appropriate Sensitivity Studies or similar nonsense.

    What attending an elite university really provides is networking opportunities, entry into professional "clubs" and cliques, and in most cases, at least a presumption of competence (until proven otherwise – and often even after incompetence has been multiply demonstrated). These allow the elite-university graduate to start his or her professional career well ahead of the curve, in most cases regardless of their native intelligence, work ethic, creativity, etc.

  47. zaq.hack says:

    > Elite schools select by a mixture of performance on standardized test scores

    de facto IQ tests which are heavily weighted in the selection process

    > local academic grades weighted by the perceived quality of the applicant's high school or college

    most of which are essentially IQ derivatives with little care toward other aspects like creativity – does Harvard care how well you act, paint or sing, or just how well you did the homework?

    > who your parents are (and what they have donated)

    that's a good one … "who your parents are" and "why are they racially oppressed" is more the norm … but I suppose this still happens in some circles as I have no disproof

    > and increasingly, vague "social participation" and "activities" measures to limit the proportion of entrants of east-Asian and subcontinent ancestry, and of course "diversity" measures to increase the proportion of "under-represented minorities."

    if you say so … and I think the operational word here is "increasingly."

    The best college admission process I know of is at UMKC's 6-year MD program. There are only 100ish slots available. The goal: If, at 18, you know you want to be a doctor, you can be one 2 years earlier because they short-circuit the bachelor's degree process and put you patient-facing in your first week. Their admission process includes verifying how many hours you have worked/volunteered at hospitals, lengthy personal interviews, and many other factors. After moving to this process instead of test scores/GPA weighted, they have had a significantly higher retention rate.

    In other words, becoming a doctor is a vocation. Doctors see terrible things on a regular basis, and it takes a particular type of person to come to work the day after. A standardized test score doesn't necessarily tell you if they will or won't be able to function after failing to save a child's life. UMKC puts students with practicing doctors immediately, teaches them more biology and fewer "electives," and gets them into their chosen field well-trained and ready (residency matching is nearly 100% every year).

  48. Clark says:

    @zaq.hack:

    > This is a thought provoking essay. Thank you.

    Thank YOU!

    > (1) There are some spelling/grammar errors that make this article it a bit annoying to read as an "intellectual" piece. You should have someone proof it.

    On the one hand, I entirely concur that spelling and grammar errors distract from a piece. I HATE self-published crap that has errors in it.

    On the other hand, there are only 24 hrs in the day, and I've got a business to run, a household to manage, and a novel to write. Sadly "find someone to proofread a blog post and then either pay them cash or favors" doesn't make the cut. One quick pass through the spell checker is all the readers here get, and it's more than they pay for. Note that as I am pseudonymous here, I'm not even harvesting reputation capital from my time…at least, no reputation capital that spends well in other realms.

    > (2) "Elite schools are pretty good at selecting winners." False. Almost everything there is selected by IQ which has little to do with someone's creativity, focus, work ethic, and other success factors. Nobel Prizes (in science) do not only go elite school research

    You're reading an "only" in where none was written. I didn't say that all winners go to elite schools. I also didn't say that everyone who attends an elite school is a winner. I merely said that elite schools are pretty good at selecting winners. I stand by that.

    > (5) I'm not convinced the Internet represents a different wave. It's just a newer machine and the impact is distorting our view because we are historically close to it.

    Neither Toffler nor I cited "The internet" – we cited information technology.

    Agriculture allowed us to harvest more calories per hour of labor.

    Industry allowed us to harvest more material wealth per hour of labor.

    Information technology allows us to harvest more informed decisions per hour of labor.

  49. Clark says:

    @Adela :

    > 1860? Being a bit generous there when most republicans sound 1660 these days.

    Thank you for your well thought out and interesting comment.

  50. naught_for_naught says:

    There is no evidence to believe that they train or create winners.

    What is a winner, in your mind — captain of industry as characterized by AR?

  51. zaq.hack says:

    Re: (1) Har

    Re: (2) I think they are "average" pickers of winners, not "pretty good." Isn't the bias of government to say that we can have an expert who better allocates resources than a free market based on the assumption that any person can do better than average? With few exceptions, the algorithms used to choose students for "elite universities" are no better than average at predicting a "winner."

    @naught_for_naught: A winner is someone who's contribution outweighs their consumption. "Self-sufficiency" is an overused term since only the mountain hermit from before the first wave can truly make that claim. A "winner" leaves behind similarly proficient offspring.

    Re: (5) Neither Toffler nor I cited "The internet" – we cited information technology.

    Really? You're going to stand by that? Without the communication technology that accompanied it and the resulting internetworking (The Internet), the claim that IT alone would represent a third wave distinct from the rise of other machines is absurd.

    > Information technology allows us to harvest more informed decisions per hour of labor.

    I'm not even sure where to start on this one, but I couldn't disagree more. Computers can create, manipulate, and display data – but "information" is considerably different. IT can certainly give us the illusion of this, but I suppose I'd have to go back to source material to figure out how this metric works. We are only in the last couple of years able to find "meaning" in mountains of data in automated ways. Until then, IT only provided us a better library: It was still up to humans to read the right books.

    Computers are just the most recent machines. As someone who works daily with IT automation, I can trace back to the player piano, the cotton gin, and the printing press from what I do. Abstracted many layers from the "real work" that a company may do, valuable information is still difficult to get from machines.

    All that said, machines ARE getting "smarter" and able to grab meaning from mountains of data – but this is a fairly new trend. By itself, it may not usher a third wave, but I will stand by my premise that aspects of A.I. will be disruptive to our social order … and that day is getting closer.

  52. Joe R says:

    A lot of people through here have questioned my proposition about minimum wage laws, and I'm not going to try and find all of them as they all had roughly the same thrust.

    Ultimately, I can't argue in favor of minimum wage laws based on sound economical principals because I haven't really studied all of the related issues to get a grasp of how the system as a whole works and has historically worked, nor is economics an area of my expertise. I'm just trying to point out that, for those who are living in impoverished conditions, and who may even be working full time jobs but are still struggling to merely survive, suggesting they have a way out of such conditions via "education" or something similar is virtually an impossibility for most of them.

    Minimum wages have seemed to help in the past, though currently the legal minimum is so pitifully low that it might as well not even exist, and worse yet, many businesses have found their ways to completely subvert the laws without significant repercussions. Should we scrap the laws altogether and let the market magically sort everything out, or should we actually enforce the laws and bring the minimum wage back up to a "living wage"? What we're doing now, though, is clearly not working for those people, and some kind of change seems necessary. I just don't have the full insight to know what that change should be.

  53. zaq.hack says:

    @Joe R – I admire that you are open-minded enough to realize you don't have all the information. Yes, in the past, minimum wage has provided short-term benefits and real change for people "at the bottom." However, that is a completely artificial mechanism, and like all artificial tinkering in the market, only provides temporary satisfaction. The problem is that our political class looks at the short-term benefits and say, "Hey, lets do that again!" So we get regular increases in minimum wage, even though we are continuously stretching our unintended consequences. In 2013, those consequences are so enormous that we have a black market in labor, a stagnant economy, 8%+ unemployment, and huge spending on automation.

    You know, there are two policy things that would cause our economy to explode if enacted that will NEVER be enacted. Elimination of minimum wage and making all copyrights and patents temporary.

  54. Colin says:

    @Joe R – "Ultimately, I can't argue in favor of minimum wage laws based on sound economical principals"

    You should end that sentence… right… there.

    While minimum wages have the (as zap.hack said) short term effect of some minor benefits, their medium- and long- term effects are decidedly negative for the vary people they are (currently) aimed at helping.

    Indeed, minimum wage laws were originally used specifically to prevent people from hiring lower-paid entry workers, so as to ensure the next economic rung up was better off… essentially an income transfer from the poorest to the slightly less poor.

    But, if minimum wage laws are so great for adults, ask yourself why there is absolutely no serious support for a graduated minimum wage whereby teenagers or can make, say 1/2 the "adult" minimum and slide up to the minimum as they learn skills and grow older? When you increase the minimum wage, you increase the population of zero-marginal-product workers, and that is much more damaging to society than anything else. ZMP workers are economically unemployable.

  55. Rich Rostrom says:

    Education can teach useful skills and increase human capital.

    However, education is not an infinitely extensible process. Increasing the money input will not increase the output of people with valuable skills beyond the supply of people capable of learning those skills.

    Nor is education even reliably reproducible, nor easily measurable. Beyond the simplest aspects, such as adequate class spaces, it doesn't seem possible to connect increased money inputs to better outcomes.

    Our society already devotes very large money inputs to education. Anyone who thinks that larger money inputs will make a great difference is deluded.

  56. Guns says:

    @Dustin:

    > "I have often wondered how long it will be before robots basically make the least of us economically irrelevant. No matter how good our education system gets, at some the point least of us wont be able to produce anything as well or as cheaply as can be done with robots. I would put that day sometime in the next hundred years. So what do we do when 50% of the population isn't economically viable?"

    This has worried me for a while as well. It's also slightly funny when otherwise very smart people talk about the "third wave" or "third industrial revolution", as if it's now pretty much over and done. Hey, like, all information is pretty much connected now, so we're done right? Wrong. Comparing with the second wave: we've connected the entire world with a railroad network. The steam engine's full disruptive effects on manufacturing and labour are yet to come.

    And it would also be a mistake that this disruption will only come to the factory floor in the form of actual robots that perform the repetitive labour now still performed by people. That will happen of course, but what is also coming – this is a matter of decades, not centuries – is a gradual replacement of highly educated people. The more the nescessary education is focused on knowledge and pattern recognition (as opposed to the as of yet hard to define factor of "creativity"), the sooner this will happen. Language and medical professions come to mind first, but also, as scary as it might sound, pretty much the entire justice system. And, ironically, big parts of IT as well.

    This may all sound very sci-fi and scary, but as I said, some of it is possibly a matter of decades away, rather than centuries. I did my master's dissertation in the field of machine learning, and while that field may these days be primarily used for voice recognition, scanning books, and flash-crashing the stock market, it is advancing at a breakneck pace.

  57. Jeff says:

    @Clark – "There is a shortage of such people (and, again, but "shortage", I mean not "people are dying in the streets because we don't have more", but "we are only rate limited by this").

    Given that this is the only real shortage that the world faces…"

    I'm not sure that it *is* a given. If the discussion is confined to the USA, I could agree to a generalization that the USA "has enough food", but it certainly is a limiter for some members of American society. Tangentially, as an influence on physical and mental development, poor nutrition in what food some do have access to is likely a limiter on their personal zenith.

    If we do, as you say above, look at the whole world, those earlier gating conditions remain:
    – Food is not a certainty; starvation remains.
    – Land that one can freely work, and/or is usable for the desired purpose (agriculture, industry) is not a certainty

    As our world's countries and populations change over time, we don't face just the most-recent wave's limiter, we continue to face all of the waves' limiters in combination.

  58. Dave B says:

    In an "optimized" society everything will be automated and cheaply done by robots who demand no wage, so every service and price can be offered at an optimized price.

    But alas as the mass of workers has been optimized away and they have to educate themselves and be the most driven person to rise above robot level. And as every manual-labor related position and most low to mid level position is robotized for convenience, chances of survival for non high end humans seem slim if left to their own devices.

    But future dystopia aside, imho if you economize education i.e. teach only for a certain position as the market demands or your chinese overlords, can lead to a slippery slope of brain rot as you only train/teach for very small range of abilities and everything outside of your frame of reference is left to wither.
    China trains its children …er.. athletes from childhood up for a certain sport with a massive overhead. Hundreds of children are locked in in let's call them "schools" and train for years for a handfull of positions in the further olympic programme for their sport, including the harsh conditions you can expect(beatings, caning, et al) with the rest left broken at age 10 as their whole training is now useless and good luck next time with your 10 years of pommel horse only training.

  59. Guns says:

    > In an "optimized" society everything will be automated and cheaply done by robots who demand no wage, so every service and price can be offered at an optimized price.

    Mind that that "optimized" price would then have to be zero, since the only ones to make any money at all would be the people selling the stuff that the robots make, but since no-one is working, who are they going to sell it to.

    A price of zero is of course not possible, due to resource scarcity. But it makes for an interesting thought exercise: if the robots do all the work, what do we do. Possibly, by and large people would either be scientists/inventors or artists. Or politicians. Can't have a world without politicians, now can we. And all the poor sods with talent for none of the above had better hope we're in a socialist utopia by then. Which protects them from devastating storms and scorching droughts.

    Yes, I'm a huge pessimist and probably wrong.

  60. C. S. P. Schofield says:

    A thought on the education angle;

    I think that we are nearing the end of a cycle, or the apex of a curve, or something regarding education. The models for both public education and higher education that we use now have been running for a while and (I believe) have silted up, We are currently seeing these break down, and also (I hope) seeing the ramping up of what will eventually replace them. The difficulty is that just what that might be isn't necessarily going to be clear until some time after the replacement has become a fait accompli.

    Straws that I think show that the wind is blowing in this quarter;

    1) The somewhat hysterical attacks on 'for profit' colleges, which I believe are an attempt to distract from the failings of mainstream colleges …. most of which are guilty of pretty much the same thing that the attacks on 'for profit' colleges are so angry about.

    2) It is increasing clear (to me, anyway) that the public no longer considers the graduates of colleges of Education anything but pompous drones. That lack of an overthrow of the whole system doesn't indicate faith in the system, but lack of agreement about what to do about it.

    I bring this up because I don't think we can say what effect Education will have on the current crisis, of the future, until it becomes clearer what form that Education will take. The current structure is (please God?) grinding loudly to a halt. The next structure is probably out there, but so (probably) are several 'also ran' structures.

    Thoughts?

  61. Clark says:

    @C. S. P. Schofield

    > I think that we are nearing the end of a cycle, or the apex of a curve, or something regarding education.

    100% agreed.

    > The models for both public education and higher education that we use now have been running for a while and (I believe) have silted up

    I love your metaphor of "silting up". "Covered in barnacles" is another sailing term that also works.

    …and I don't think it's just education: a lot of the Cathedral has silted up.

    It needs to be burned down, and something new, smaller, and cleaner built in its place.

  62. C. S. P. Schofield says:

    Clark;

    Yes! But I am not totally persuaded that the silt is a consequence of anything intrinsically wrong with the initial model, although I have a strong dislike for much of what passes for thinking in Education circles. I think that majority of the silt is simply because any system made and run by humans will, over time, silt up or calcify. Even the best of all possible systems (not that I think that's what we started with).

    We have been living in a concatenation of systems based on the model of "Society government by a National government which is run by professional politicians and expert bureaucrats' for a while now; really since the Administration of Woodrow "I was a lousy President of Princeton, so elect me President of the United States!" Wilson. I have philosophical objections to the entire model, but it wasn't the absolute worst (which seems to be China's "Nominal Imperium actually run by sexually mutilated court functionaries"). It has silted up to the point that the whole thing is threatening to break under the strain. We need a new model. Not necessarily a perfect model, or even just a better model. Simply having a NEW model will clear out so much gunk that, at least initially, things will get better.

  63. Clark says:

    @C. S. P. Schofield

    > Simply having a NEW model will clear out so much gunk that, at least initially, things will get better.

    Even a new instance of the same model (which gets rid of the silt) would be a huge win, even though I – like you – have philosophical objections to the whole thing.

  64. zaq.hack says:

    @CSP & Clark: I love the "silted up" commentary, also. Particularly, if I was to pick "winners" of the next revolution in education or cathedral, I would say it would be smaller, personal, and without so much overhead – just like everything else. Everything is going minimal: If you don't have an IT staff in your business, that's okay, there's the Amazon cloud. Don't want a property manager? No problem, there's Regus. Business is transforming so that resources are focused on core product, not all this other "business infrastructure." Education, cathedral, and government must undergo this transformation, as well. Must. The resources do not exist for governments to continue as they have been. Germany streamlined their entitlement programs several years ago by plucking out redundancy, recognizing areas for computerization and automation, and simplifying the rules and oversight of various systems of state. As a "minarchist," I don't like that approach because it makes a socialist state look sustainable – but honestly, who else in the EU has state benefits of a remotely comparable level and is as financially stable? I think that is the model of the next century government, just like the corporations are doing: Streamline, focus on product delivery, outsource the overhead bits to folks who do it better.

    In Academy, I think this looks like technical schooling. I already had a plug for UMKC's 6-year MD program for doctors. There are lots of vo-tech schools where you can learn to fix cars, become an electrician, plumber, etc. without all the fuss of learning classical western civilization and Shakespeare. Let's face it: I don't care if the guy changing my oil can quote Hamlet. I just want to make sure he doesn't cross-thread the dang filter.

    In Cathedral, I think this looks more like the Baptists or Pentecostals than Islam or Catholicism. A local house of worship with a local pastor that does not have onerous obligation to a hierarchy across the world. Face it, churchgoers, you go to see Aunt Beverly and shake hands with friends and, if you're lucky, hear how to better yourself as a person. That last bit could be done over TV or Internet, or you could read the Koran at home, or you could worship God on a picnic table in the woods: God doesn't need the social function, humans do.

    Someone mentioned that highly paid professions will be automated in decades. I mentioned above that I do this RIGHT NOW for HP. I sell software that automates the jobs of network engineers, database administrators, and even hard-core Linux system administrators. Because machines can be taught to rule other machines pretty easily, as it turns out, and Amazon has shown the world that even IT can be turned into an outsourced service. The current generation is not quite a "robot IT administrator," but its closer than most people realize. I don't think "medicine" will be quickly or easily automated, but law should be (it's just a set of rules, anyway), and many other facets of our lives. Machines analytics are starting to pick out "meaning" from data, and that is the key function that turns IT from "better machines" into "thinking machines" (or at least have the illusion of thinking).

    I think the future looks more like this: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/24/magazine/24labor-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 Humans will build houses, run electric lines, and repair things because mobility and autonomy are years away for the machines. Add specific training in things like plumbing or electrical work and those are the real outliers. Most "office work" will become automated; the last humans to have jobs will be the ones who can repair things because they will be more cost effective than robots for, I would say, at least a century or so.

  65. Guns says:

    @zaq.hack: "Someone mentioned that highly paid professions will be automated in decades. I mentioned above that I do this RIGHT NOW for HP. I sell software that automates the jobs of network engineers, database administrators, and even hard-core Linux system administrators. "

    Very true, I was primarily referring to non-IT highly paid professions. People who work in IT generally know all too well that in a way they are programming themeselves into obsolescence (or they would, if they stopped to think about it for a second). However, mention to a doctor that, say, that whole "diagnosing" thingy may very well be fully automated in a couple of decades, and many looks of angry incredulence will be shot your way.

  66. zaq.hack says:

    "However, mention to a doctor that, say, that whole "diagnosing" thingy may very well be fully automated in a couple of decades, and many looks of angry incredulence will be shot your way."

    I still think medicine is farther off. "Diagnosing" is actually something machines are pretty bad at because it requires creative thinking. You have to be able to come up with possibilities and combinations that may not have been "pre-programmed." With experience, our brains are pretty good and weighing probabilities of those scenarios on a subconscious level. If you check the NYT link above (I know, but it's still a great article), you know that experience is the best teacher of these types of things and I think it will be a very long time before it will translate into automation.

    Now, surgery, by comparison, I believe will be highly automated in our lifetimes. The risk associated with human error when you go mucking around in someone's guts is enormous, and we all have the same general parts (whereas in diagnosis, we have thousands of subtle differences in chemistry). Here, I believe automation will serve as a "force multiplier." The same surgeon may be able to oversee 5-10 times the number automated surgeries in a day compared to how many he can perform personally.

  67. C. S. P. Schofield says:

    On the medical front; automation is a long way off, not because it isn't possible (and what do I know?) but because the entrenched interests like the system as it stands. I will believe that this is beginning to change when we begin to see an increase in the number of accredited Medical Schools …. or a serious fight over accreditation.

    Even in countries with National Health schemes, where the general practitioner is often reduced to the function of auto mechanic (not even engineer), the Status level of the Medical Doctor is higher than might otherwise be expected.

  68. Colin says:

    @zaq.hack: "Now, surgery, by comparison, I believe will be highly automated in our lifetimes."

    You are so right on this point. Two factors, at least, are strong forces pushing on this development.

    First: cost-containment that any healthcare regime (Obamacare, private medical care, NHS, etc.) will necessarily need to implement. After the cost of capital is recovered, these medical robots will dramatically reduce the cost of surgery.

    Second: As a medical-device, the FDA approvals are much less onerous (at this time) than drug interventions. The comparatively lower barriers should swing innovation toward that arena now that some technological hurdles have been bridged.

  69. zaq.hack says:

    "the general practitioner is often reduced to the function of auto mechanic (not even engineer), the Status level of the Medical Doctor is higher than might otherwise be expected."

    A good doctor, like a good mechanic, is a treasured find. It requires the same sort of diagnostic thinking that is not precisely measured by IQ and is not prone to the types of programming machines can run, today. I have much higher regard for a good mechanic than a bad doctor.

  70. Dave B says:

    The option to go smaller all the time can in some circumstances seem unreasonable.
    If your tribe is a 100 people 1 guy to rule and 1 to execute may be enough but as populations get bigger you need some to coordinate/adminstrate/do stuff no one else feels responsible for.
    And if you are realistic stuff get more complicate/complex all the time. Not just laws but interactions between people, environment, science, technology and the universe.

    Some seem to want to live on their own little island with all possible amenities and no outside interference.

    Again if you go for academy where everyone only knows their specific area with nothing outside i.e. voc school where you only learn your trade and nothing else, you are essentially striving for robots (i.e. robota in its czech original meaning as serfs) / tools who only perform their duty and not so usefull for anything else. You could almost lobotimize them so they don't suffer in their fate.

    But we don't need only tools we need people with some aspects of a polymath/Renaissance Man. People who can not only do stuff but learn other stuff, know stuff, think about stuff and have ideas.

    You need a social safety need for the society or else you start euthanising people if they lose their worth to the current economy.

    Soo, I better get off my soapbox now.

  71. zaq.hack says:

    "If your tribe is a 100 people 1 guy to rule and 1 to execute may be enough but as populations get bigger you need some to coordinate/adminstrate/do stuff no one else feels responsible for."

    Really? In a post where we are talking about AI and robots, isn't that EXACTLY the kind of passionless crap you'd want a computer taking care of? I don't like IRS agents, but a human IRS agents with all their prejudices are far worse.

    "And if you are realistic stuff get more complicate/complex all the time. Not just laws but interactions between people, environment, science, technology and the universe."

    You mean there's less about the world you personally understand because the knowledge of the collective is growing ridiculously fast. Does that make human interaction more complex? Ummmm … only if we want it to. When you say "complexity is growing" therefore there needs to be more "governance of complexity," I disagree. Those who do not understand always try to regulate the things they find disruptive. (see original article) I don't want someone pre-managing the complexity of life for me. I want to be free to choose my way in an ever-more-diverse reality.

  72. Mike_C says:

    > without all the fuss of learning classical western civilization and Shakespeare. Let's face it: I don't care if the guy changing my oil can quote Hamlet.

    At the risk of taking an offhand humorous remark out of context, I do care if the guy (or gal) has learned about western civilization in general. Hamlet specifically not so much. I would much rather be surrounded by people who occasionally cross-thread filters, but share Western values than by people with perfect technical skills in an extremely limited domain who believe that homosexuals should be stoned to death, or that it's fine to remove a girl's clitoris without anesthesia (using a dirty straight razor at that), or the like.

    That's one place where early education can play a very important role. As a society we need to share certain values in common. I would further posit that the vast majority of the wonderful technological advances we have all benefited from would not have been possible (certainly less likely) without free exchange and debate of ideas, classical (small-L) liberalism and relative freedom from religious or other tyranny. Yet it seems that the progressive elements of our society are so keen on avoiding "cultural bullying" or "intellectual imperialism" or whatever is the nonsense term of the week, that they are failing to defend toleration and liberty by actually protecting intolerance, ironically in the name of toleration and inclusiveness.

    Regarding the medical stuff: Speaking as a physician, it's actually not so much about creativity or intelligence, it's about listening to the patient. We are all taught to formulate a "differential diagnosis" when presented with a list of symptoms. The DDx is simply a list of conditions consistent with the described complaints, ideally ordered in decreasing likelihood. The right software can do that really really well. What software can't so far do is to win the trust of the patient, who after 15 minutes of consultation on the achy knee which is the ostensible reason for the visit, tells you as he's getting dressed that he's really concerned about impotence (associated with arteriosclerosis, heart disease etc, so it's a warning of Bad Stuff* and not just loss of recreational opportunities), but was too embarassed to tell the scheduler about it. "But you seem like an okay guy, Doc." Being able to earn that sort of trust is one of the hallmarks of a good physician.
    *For those who niggle: yeah the impotence could be psychogenic as well, but common things being common, it's probably the 30-lbs overweight, hypertension, total cholesterol of 250 (with HDL of 30 yet) and borderline diabetes that's responsible and needs work.

  73. princessartemis says:

    @Dave B, I think it would be hard to stop a polymath from being a polymath just because they went to a vocational school. Being taught makes some things easier, but I am certain there will always be people out there that learn much in many fields not because they need to, but because they want to and because they are able to.

    Given that today we have access to so much collected knowledge and wisdom, I find it difficult to believe in a future age of AI and robots that humans would have less access. It *should* be easier for the budding polymaths to fulfill their potential in the future, not harder.

  74. LadyTL says:

    I would like to put out a side to the minimum wage issue being discussed that I'm not seeing here. The position of someone currently working minimum wage. I understand that it is just from what I have seen and since I don't have all week to spend on researching the economic variables involved, I'm not going to talk about those either.

    From my own experiences working for years at minimum wage or very slightly above, minimum wage is there to keep companies from paying .50 to $2 an hour for these jobs. Because if there wasn't minimum wage laws they would pay as little as possible to add to their profits.
    Companies do not pay minimum wage out of the goodness of their heart or because that's what they feel the position is worth. I've had managers tell me I am an amazing worker but we won't be paying you what you are worth.

    I make $7.35 (whoo state caused ten cent raise this year). I would love to work full time. I try to find work that will have full time hours. I have excellent references on my work ethic so employers know I am not slacking when I come in to work. I do not work full time because the company I work for does not want to pay benefits. This is extremely common in retail and food service. In fact at most retail and food service places, the only full time employees you will see there is the managers and maybe a few employees that have been there 5 or ten years.

    Already though that ten cent increase has made my life better. I can save $25 dollars a paycheck instead of just $20s and hopefully that will let me get the dental surgery at the end of the year that I have needed for a few years now. I don't have dental insurance that will pay for it and I can't afford it either. I can't afford to go to a regular dentist. I go to a couple clinics and hope nothing major happens. Same for health care. My health care is hoping I don't end up in the emergency room because I can't afford to. I don't have my own apartment. I work another job unpaid so I get a break on rent. Many of my coworkers have been in the exact same position I am over the years.

    Education though? I would love to go back to school. Can't afford to. My rent and food and bills do not pay themselves. Yes there is financial aid for the tuition but tuition aid does not keep me fed, housed or employed. Employment is bad enough that employers can discriminate based on availability and so unless I can take class at odd hours of the week and different hours each week, I will get less hours at work for being in school and less money because of that.

    There is also a good chance that even picking a good major, I will end up right back in the same retail/food service jobs but this time with thousands of dollars in debt that I can't repay because employment is still bad.

    So as a minimum wage worker, that's why I do not see increases in minimum wage as bad and why I agree that education is not a magic answer to poverty and lack of people being able to implement good ideas.

  75. zaq.hack says:

    What if you don't want to be a polymath?

    While I agree that teaching history basics is essential (econ 101 wouldn't hurt my feelings, either), at what point do we allow the individual to pursue their own interests? My daughter has know she was going to be a doctor since she was 12. That's the weird case. My other kids still don't know what they want to do. Now we have people graduating with MBA's that think, "I did my time. I was in school for 12 years, then college, then this master's program. The world owes me a management job." Really? Dude … you maybe wasted 10 years, there. Your stepbrother the mechanic is making good money because what he learned in a hybrid high school vo-tech program had him working at age 18. Now he's worked those 10 years, has saved up for his own garage, and is his own boss. What have you got besides a sense of entitlement and a piece of paper? You going to tell him about SWOT analysis? And the mechanic probably has a well-developed social circle of neighbors, fellow baseball fans, and church-goers. He may have a start on a family. He may have advanced hobbies that work his mind in polymath ways (or he may zombie at the TV to watch baseball). Chances are, those 10 years of experience are worth more than the MBA.

    Just sayin'. The notion that education is an "accelerator" is false. It is part of the "normalcy bias" of our status quo. Success is up to the individual. Some people will succeed whether they get into a great school or whether they never sit in another classroom. Some people will be losers despite the fact they spent time on Harvard's campus.

  76. zaq.hack says:

    "So as a minimum wage worker, that's why I do not see increases in minimum wage as bad"

    And yet, elsewhere in your post,

    "I do not work full time because the company I work for does not want to pay benefits"

    Okay, so when the minimum wage goes up and up and up, and companies are forced to pay more than a job is worth, these are the sort of unintended consequences that keep happening. Obama's health care pogrom is already costing Americans their jobs. This is artificial mucking around that has only short-term benefit.

    The assumption that McDonald's would immediately lower pay to $0.50/hour is also false. No one would work for that wage. Back before the minimum wage was so high, I worked at McDonald's. They actually gave raises, back then. Once someone was trained and seen as an asset to the restaurant, they got paid more. I knew people making $6.50 an hour when minimum wage was less than half of that. (Note: That was the biscuit maker – a job that has been eliminated since McDonald's moved to shipping frozen biscuits – can you guess why?) But I don't know anyone who works at McDonalds now that makes $16/hour. Even managers.

    A final argument against minimum wage is this: If $7.50 an hour isn't enough, is $1,000/hour enough? Why not make it $1,000,000/hour for everyone so we can all live like Bill Gates? At that rate, I'd work 2 hours and retire!

  77. JR says:

    I think neural interfacing will have a mitigating effect on AI by combining the static knowledge that can be programmed onto a chip with the creative adaptability and inquisitive nature of our minds.

    And for LadyTL, If ten cents can make a significant change in your life, why not ask for ten dollars? Just realize that every time a company is forced to pay their employees more, they charge more for their product or service and that requires their customers to earn more in order to keep purchasing said product or service. It is a never-ending feedback loop of short-term appeasement.

    When I negotiated for a job at my current workplace, I settled for $100.00 a week and a room to myself in exchange for working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. In less than a year the cash had been doubled. If I were not receiving the room it would have been a terrible deal (about $2.34/hour), but since the only thing I had to spend money on was food and transportation, I could throw $300-500 in my savings account each month. Saving money was not something I had been able to do at any of my minimum-wage jobs.

    Sorry if this post seems kind of rushed, a hot water pipe just bust in one of the rooms.

  78. LadyTL says:

    @zaq.hack First off, business were doing the part time no benefits thing decades before Obama's health plan so don't try to blame it all on that. Having part time worker's to avoid state mandated benefits is one of the oldest things a business can do to keep costs down. Also McDonalds switched to frozen biscuits because it was cheaper. Not out of some Machiavellian scheme to make jobs go away. As I mentioned, it's just about money to them and yes if you take away minimum wage, minimum wage jobs would pay less because there is always desperate people who will work multiple jobs to make ends meet. Or they are like Wal-mart and expect their workers to be on social aid programs so they don't have to pay much. How much less, I don't know but there always is a bottom standard set by the tipping wage and that's less than three dollars. Also jumping from $7.25 (the actual federal minimum wage) to $1000 is ridiculous hyperbole since no one is asking for that, no one is talking about that and it is nothing but a cheap argument to try and make the debate go away.

    @JR First, I didn't ask for the ten cents and your hyperbole about ten dollars was absurd. The increase was mandated by the state. Secondly, prices go up Anyway when minimum wage does not go up so a few cents or a dollar more does not actually change that much to a small business owner. I can see the base cost of the products I sell and the profit percentage. If the business owner is doing things right, a minor minimum wage increase every few years or a few cents every year should not force them out of business. This claim that minimum wage makes prices hike doesn't seem to have much basis in real time practices. Minimum wage stayed the same in Missouri for almost 4 years and prices went up every year of that time. I can't name one year in my life where prices didn't go up by some amount regardless of what was going on with minimum wage. Now profits might be every so slightly less from an increase but since often employers get a portion of that back from their employees spending their money where they work, it's not usually considered that big a deal. And it certainly is NOT "a never-ending feedback loop of short-term appeasement". Particularly since most of the patrons of places staffed by minimum wage employees tend to be minimum wage employees as well.

    Also most stores would get in trouble for having their employees live in the store anywhere in there. Same for restaurants. So unfortunately for the rest of us living with minimum wage jobs we do have to worry about rent, food, utilities and other bills while making about $150 a week after taxes. Which is why I can only afford to save $25 dollars a paycheck and skipping out on a bit of food each week to do so.

  79. zaq.hack says:

    "Also jumping from $7.25 (the actual federal minimum wage) to $1000 is ridiculous hyperbole since no one is asking for that, no one is talking about that and it is nothing but a cheap argument to try and make the debate go away."

    $1000 is an arbitrary number. So is $7.25. Please explain to me why one is ridiculous and the other is not.

    Your basic failure in logic is to assume that a business is intelligent. It is not. It is an input/output function. A business, to stay a business, must cover costs. Let's say a business' costs are labor, taxes, rent, utilities, and raw materials. The products are hamburgers, fries, and soda. Assuming taxes, rent, utilities, and material costs stay the same, what does an increase in minimum wage do to this business? Let's say it's open 24/7 and averages 3,000 labor-hours/month. Is the owner obligated to lose $300 next month? What if it is employee owned? Maybe it is an S-corp with the owner working as a manager – she's not going to reduce her own salary. So its easy: The price of burgers, fries, and soda goes up to cover the $225. The same is true if the rent goes up, if the utilities go up, if the price of raw materials goes up. Guess what? If "corporate taxes" go up, the price goes up on the menu because … employees won't take less money in their paychecks, and neither do the owners. Companies are not tax PAYERS, they are tax COLLECTORS. It's not a matter of how we feel, it's a matter of how a company works. Mandating that WalMart owners (shareholders) should get less money because of paying benefits is like saying someone else's paycheck deserves to be smaller while mine deserves to be bigger. The money has to come from somewhere. Just because you don't know the shareholders doesn't mean that they are any more likely to put up with getting less money than the high-school kid standing over the fry vat.

    Which brings me to Obama's medical benefit mandate. I've had a dozen people in my family working part-time jobs … have their hours drastically cut. Used to be, a business could work you 36 hours without paying for benefits. The government said, "Hey, now you have to if they work more than 20 hours a week!" Guess what? A lot of businesses cut hours for people to 20 hours a week! Those people now have half the pay and STILL have no benefits. Is the company "evil" for doing this? No: A company is not intelligent. It doesn't have a brain or a soul or a conscience. It is a bunch of pieces of paper. It needs to take in more money than it spends to survive. If it has a sudden expense that it did not expect (like health coverage to everyone over 20 hours), then there are only a couple of things it can do. And we're talking WAY more than $0.10/hour, here. Cutting hours, looking to automation, buying frozen biscuits, whatever it can do on the "cost" side of the page has to get done. Unfortunately, people are typically the largest cost a business has – and therefore, it has the biggest short-term gain to cut jobs, hours, or other labor costs.

  80. JR says:

    My point was that I made a deal with the job allowing for significantly less than minimum wage in exchange for certain privileges that benefited me significantly more than even a dollar or two more than minimum wage.

    As zaq.hack stated, no company would be able to stay in business if they were not willing to pay what their potential employees thought would make it worth their while. I say let the people decide how much their time, effort and ability are worth and negotiate for themselves.

    The minimum wage has been around much longer than Obama, his policies are just going to aggravate the issue. And you may not be actively asking for increases in the minimum, but you are certainly willing to passively accept them.

  81. zaq.hack says:

    Let me ask another question: If the minimum wage were lowered to $5.00/hour and such an employee could be hired without health coverage and so on, would would be the effect on the economy?

    My theory is that it would be a huge positive. It would, overall, put much more money into the economy, than an increase in minimum wage by increasing the number of people employed.

  82. LadyTL says:

    Fine, here is a restaurant who thought they could just pay their employees $4 an hour. Look how well that is working out for them. http://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/SF-restaurant-pays-back-wages-fines-4273029.php

    i don't see them getting extra benefits for working for less. I don't see how the business benefited in the long run by doing so.

    I also never said a business had a mind. I said they did things based on the costs of doing so. Given that the health care law affects people working over 30 hours, I'd say your employer is getting one over on you though for pretending it's 20.

    $1000 dollars is more absurd than $7.25 simply because no one is expecting to asking to make that as minimum wage. The highest I've even seen flirted with is $15. To talk about hundreds of dollars more is ludicrous because it's obviously just picked because no small business can support such a number. I always wonder why go to such extremes when people are talking about small numbers for reality.

    Also, not everyone is a good negotiator or is in a position to negotiate. Minimum wage ensures that people can get a wage of some sort without discrimination or predjudice. Taking it away will just create more situations like the one I linked to. It's what we had before minimum wage after all.

  83. Josh C says:

    There are actual economics studies on the effects of a minimum wage increase. Go read them, instead of blindly speculating.

    Roughly, my understanding is that employment rate and costs stay the same, but overtime hours go down. (That's also exactly what you'd expect in a more realistic model.) So the actual effects are that everyone is unhappier, and the people who actually are busting butt to make ends meet make /less/ money.

  84. zaq.hack says:

    http://www.examiner.com/article/job-loss-an-early-consequence-of-election

    Are all the companies listed here evil, greedy, racist, Republican, etc.,etc.? Maybe a few of them. If that's the lesson you want to draw from such an article, I can't stop you from thinking that way.

    But maybe, just maybe, there's another explanation. The economy stinks. And adding costs to businesses has a DIRECT TRANSLATION to how those companies can treat their customers and employees. And, undoubtedly, the "Affordable Care Act" is not as affordable as most business owners had hoped.

  85. A Barista says:

    Hazlitt demolishes the minimum wage in "The Conquest of Poverty", available at Mises.org.

    My personal argument against it: I have 14 years of food service experience and 7 years of high end specialty coffee experience. My resume is outstanding. I'm damn good at what I do. I get paid the same minimum wage as the college dropout with no experience…since time is the only means of measuring the value of a worker's contribution…or so those indoctrinated by the state believe.

  86. A Barista says:

    "In the third wave society, the shortage is not good ideas – it's minds capable of executing good ideas. "

    @Clark – wrong, the principle shortage is that of freedom to allow such minds the ability to execute good ideas. Good minds are a rare thing – true and meaningful freedom is non-existent.

  87. JR says:

    LadyTL, it is a terrible thing when people get taken advantage of. But what happened in your link was fraud and theft by deception at the least. There are laws against that already and the company chose to break them.

    Also, if you are incapable of negotiating what you think is an equitable compensation for your labors, then you may be placing too high a value on the employers need to fill the position. Someone with a Masters in Engineering can expect a decent paying job in the field of his specialty, but everyone starts at the bottom when working for Citgo.

    We are under no obligation to hire you, even in the event that you are the best qualified for the job, if you demand more than we are think the job is worth. You are under no obligation to work at a job that does not offer what you believe to be fair compensation. To think otherwise is to rob one party or the other of their ability to determine their worth.

  88. Guns says:

    @JR: "LadyTL, it is a terrible thing when people get taken advantage of. But what happened in your link was fraud and theft by deception at the least. There are laws against that already and the company chose to break them."

    See, this kinda sorta illustrates what I don't really get in this debate. There are a vast number of laws in place that protect employees and customers by essentially putting limits on the lengths companies can go to to maximize their profits. I'm going to get flak for this, but the most optimal form of labour from a company's point of view is slavery, at least in certain economic conditions for jobs where "motiviation" isn't very crucial. Yet no-one in their right mind would argue these days that the fact that employees have a right to give their employer the finger and go work someplace else is an "unhealthy disruption of the market".

    In a less godwin's-law-esque example, companies that are in the same business aren't allowed to agree with each other to only pay certain kinds of employees a certain kind of wage, thus indirectly removing the option for the employees to seek better pay or conditions. And yet this would keep costs down, so it would be good for the companies, and presumably also for the customers and thus, "the market".

    So what exactly is it about a law that requires a company to pay their employees the bare minimum to get by in life, that makes it so much worse and so much more "market disrupting" than a law that requires them to pay their employees anything at all and to give them a way out?

    (And yes, by the way, I know that slavery becomes less economically viable as the workforce increases, but if you intend to argue that up until that point slavery is a perfectly tollerable economic system, then we're done here.)

  89. nodandsmile says:

    Hmmmm. I've yet to see anyone who is suggesting the abolition of the minimum wage tell us how those people currently working more than one job ON minimum wage will live when the salary offered is dropped by, let us say, one half. Minimum wage drops, people cannot afford food AND medicine AND rent… people starve to death (no minimum wage I would suspect goes along with no social security mechanisms); less people, minimum wage goes back up… oh, now I get it. Pity about those that have died in the interim.

  90. JR says:

    That depends on your definition of what the bare minimum is, much less what it will be tomorrow. Necessary is another word subject to abuse like the one in Kens recent post. Americans today have an incredible amount of disposable income as opposed to those of forty years ago.

    And the statements I made never mentioned anything like slavery. Rescinding, or even just reducing minimum wage laws would not allow companies to act as if all the other laws differentiating us from China were gone too. Employees absolutely have the option to leave if any part of their job is unsatisfactory, I have no problem with laws preventing companies and their employees from being dishonest or abusive to each other.

    As to disruption of the market, I am a proponent of a self-regulating market. The result would be the same as if they had decided to sell the product at a price higher than the average consumer were willing to pay. Either the problem would correct itself or the company would fail. Free will is a powerful thing.

  91. Guns says:

    @JR: "Americans today have an incredible amount of disposable income as opposed to those of forty years ago."

    You're missing an "on average" somewhere in there, which is relevant in this discussion.

    "And the statements I made never mentioned anything like slavery. Rescinding, or even just reducing minimum wage laws would not allow companies to act as if all the other laws differentiating us from China were gone too. "

    I know, and to be clear, I was not accusing you of doing so. I am merely asking: "why not?" To put the question differently and more generally: how exactly do you distinguish between a law that "disrupts the market" (e.g. minimum wage) or one that "protects employees" from abusive/dishonest practices by their employers. They're all disruptions of the amoral economic function of a company.

  92. Clark says:

    @A Barista:

    > Hazlitt demolishes the minimum wage

    Indeed!

    > My personal argument against it: I have 14 years of food service experience and 7 years of high end specialty coffee experience. My resume is outstanding. I'm damn good at what I do. I get paid the same minimum wage as the college dropout with no experience…since time is the only means of measuring the value of a worker's contribution…or so those indoctrinated by the state believe.

    Much as I like to blame the State for everything, as a business owner, an alternative explanation:

    1) capturing the very best barrista / technical writer / whatever from my competitors by crisply analyzing his or her worth and paying her accordingly may be worth the extra per-hour cost, but is not worth the search cost.

    2) the morale problems stemming from opaque pay grades cost more than the benefit delivered by having one or two excellent barristas on staff.

  93. zaq.hack says:

    "Hmmmm. I've yet to see anyone who is suggesting the abolition of the minimum wage tell us how those people currently working more than one job ON minimum wage will live when the salary offered is dropped by, let us say, one half. Minimum wage drops, people cannot afford food AND medicine AND rent…"

    So far, I've not met anyone on minimum wage who claims to already be affording those things – so I'm not sure how it would fall to someone opposing minimum wage to make the case. Rather the opposite: Please explain how minimum wage puts those things in reach because, clearly, it does not. Nor will it ever.

    As a side note, food would drop in price very quickly after a drop in minimum wage. Rent would not be far behind. Medicine pricing might not drop – the medical industry isn't that affected by minimum wage as it runs on a combination of volunteer wages, set minimums, and professional pay scales.

    I love how everyone assumes that their employer would just quit paying them or give them a nickel an hour. Somehow, that is NOT hyperbole, but asking them to explain $1,000/hour minimum wage IS hyperbole …

  94. Colin says:

    I'm an employer in a field dominated by minimum wage jobs (hotel hospitality). I believe the average wage for housekeepers is right at the legal minimum… and the median wage isn't much higher.

    However, I pay more than 2x the minimum wage to my staff. Why? Because I hate training, and I like to hold on to the very best employees. We also don't have any benefits, so their compensation is entirely their own. Everyone here likes this plan.

    So: 1) even employers who have minimum wage jobs won't necessarily pay the minimum wage; and 2) cutting/hiking the minimum wage won't necessarily affect those employer's wage decisions much.

    I still am against raising the minimum wage, even though it won't have a direct affect on my payroll – because it will make my employees worse off!

    As zaq argues, a minimum wage doesn't make things more affordable. Indeed, it makes things /less/ affordable as there is more money chasing the same goods… while the people who are ZMP or NMP (zero marginal product or negative marginal product) workers will be even worse off than before the minimum was raised… and more people who were on the bubble will go under.

    I do, however, think it is useless to argue against the minimum wage from a business perspective – since those arguments will fall on deaf ears. It is more effective, I think, to show how the minimum wage harms the very people it is supposed to help. Of course, some individuals will be slightly better off, but many will be worse off.

    That all said, Obamacare is a much worse thing for my business than any minimum wage changes… as I now do have to seriously consider cutting my employees' hours back. We've had a staff meeting about this and they understand – I either have to fire two people or cut hours.

  95. JR says:

    I should have mentioned that I am not drawing from any external sources of information to make my statements here, but my own experience and observations of the world around me. A Barista cited an excellent book on the subject if you wish to read a professional critique on the subject.

    I believe zaq.hack and Colin have stated very clearly how the supposed benefits of a minimum wage are illusory and detrimental to the recipients.

    My dislike of minimum wage is because it eliminates our ability to determine our own self worth. It says that we are all equally valuable, regardless of our experience or natural talent for the tasks required.

    7% of the farmers in communist Russia were able to produce more than the other 93% because they were the select few allowed to own and operate their own small piece of land without the iron control of the government making every decision for them.

  96. A Barista says:

    "I've yet to see anyone who is suggesting the abolition of the minimum wage tell us how those people currently working more than one job ON minimum wage will live "

    Many of them won't. Boohoo.

  97. Concerned Reader says:

    I see much food for thought here. That's why I've had Popehat bookmarked for nearly a year. However, I sense a distinct shortage of tinfoil. After only about a decade of internet research into "what's going on here", I have concluded that there has been a deliberate and generational plan (which seems to be working all too well) to keep ordinary people ignorant, stressed, and poor.

    If I'm full of poop on this assessment, please explain to me why very few top drawer white collar criminals are still free from prison. Bernie Madoff seems to be the exception rather than the much-needed rule.

    We fight wars and kill people by the hundreds of thousands in countries that have never been a real threat to our country, only to the monied interests that run the oil, drugs, guns, etc. The only thing that we learned from 'Nam was how to kill even more people a little more efficiently.

    I have only a lowly B.A. in Art, but it has served me well in my job. Oftimes, in the past, it has opened a door or two merely because it is a university degree. Big whoop. I truly believe that I learned far more about the real world from a 4 year stint in the navy around 40 years ago.

    I'm smart enough to generally keep myself (and a few others) amused, but I've never had the innate cutthroat personality type to claw my way to the top of any heap, no matter the size of the heap. One thing I can say for myself is that I've never stopped learning.

    Until major changes are (re)made to our current government structure, I do not expect things to get any better for ordinary people, of whom I consider myself one. We cannot continue as a nation if we persist in putting everything, both personal and governmental, on a credit card. That's MY story, and I'm sticking with it.

  98. Concerned Reader says:

    Correction: Para 2 in my post should read, "why so many" vice "why very few". Seems I think faster than I type, or vice on the verse. Dreadfully sorry, chaps and chapettes.

  99. MathMage says:

    "The assumption that McDonald's would immediately lower pay to $0.50/hour is also false. No one would work for that wage. Back before the minimum wage was so high, I worked at McDonald's. They actually gave raises, back then. Once someone was trained and seen as an asset to the restaurant, they got paid more. I knew people making $6.50 an hour when minimum wage was less than half of that. (Note: That was the biscuit maker – a job that has been eliminated since McDonald's moved to shipping frozen biscuits – can you guess why?) But I don't know anyone who works at McDonalds now that makes $16/hour. Even managers."

    All right, now apply some elementary maths. When was min wage last below $3.25? 1980. A dollar in 1980 is worth about three dollars today. So minimum wage was worth about $9.50 in 2013 dollars.

    Yet that minimum wage wasn't problematic, while the current minimum of $7.25 is?

    Please make an argument that accounts for the fact that the real minimum wage has declined over the last 50 years. Otherwise, you're not taking the facts on the ground into consideration.

  100. MathMage says:

    (I wish there was an "Edit Post" button)

    For example, making an argument that companies have to pay odious amounts of money for minimum wage workers in the form of social security/health benefits/regulation compliance that they didn't have to pay 50 years ago would be an argument that explains why minimum-wage workers are more pricey now than they were then. Then we can discuss whether those benefits are worth the negative consequences. But blaming the minimum wage itself is missing the point.

  101. Colin says:

    @MathMage: "Yet that minimum wage wasn't problematic, while the current minimum of $7.25 is?"

    Nope. You present a false dichotomy. That minimum wage was problematic. This minimum wage is also problematic. Zaq.hack's point wasn't that the old minimum wage was "good", just that people are routinely paid more than the minimum wage when it is worth it to do so. Now, due to advances in automation, the biscuit maker job has likely been made obsolete, so that particular position is no longer as valuable as it was before.

    A minimum wage INCREASES the speed that companies seek automation to replace human labor, since the price-floor on labor artificially increases the returns to automation. Then, as these people are displaced from those jobs, they (as low-skill workers), along with the price-floor effects, create a surplus of labor at the minimum-wage point. This surplus allows employers (in the aggregate) to DECREASE the speed that they offer wage increases, since low-skill employees can, to some extent, be replaced.

    So, over time, a minimum wage acts just like a price-floor (since it is a price-floor) with all the attendant negative consequences. Yes, some people (those who are lucky enough to get a job) will be better off in the short run, but, over time, everyone will be worse off. This situation will persist until the minimum-wage falls in real terms to a level where its negative effects decrease, but at that point you'll have increasing agitation to bump it back up (Sounds rather like today, actually). This then causes the cycle to continue.

  102. MathMage says:

    @Colin: First, it's pretty clear Zaq.hack is making an argument that things were better "Back before the minimum wage was so high." You might want to construct a different argument from his situation–as would I–but that doesn't mean he was making your argument.

    How do other welfare measures like the Earned Income Tax Credit compare to the minimum wage in you analysis?

  103. Colin says:

    @MathMage: True, Zaq.hack's argument is flawed in the way you describe. I'll leave it at that.

    RE: EITC, I wouldn't know. As the EITC is a fairly opaque transfer (unlike the minimum wage), the direct effects are likely significantly less severe. However, in some sense the EITC is more like what I am advocating for than the current minimum wage. Just of the cuff: as a non-emancipated youth would not be eligible for the EITC (on their own), a lesser subsidy would go to those with lower skill. This would be like a minimum wage that exempts youths (~14-18) from the wage floor. Also, an emancipated youth who was filing as a head-of-household (single patent) would receive the EITC, just as some would want such a youth to be bumped up to the minimum wage (if the aforementioned exclusion existed).

    In some ways, the EITC is a better method to handle this than a statutory floor on wages, since the direct effects (employers just not hiring ZMP employees) are reduced.

    There would be many other things that are likely problematic with the EITC, but, as I said, this is off the cuff.

  104. Paul says:

    You seem to base your analysis on the idea that a genius is born a genius, and that no education or lack thereof can change that. You assume that education is a money hole, as if there is no difference between a 40-kid classroom in an inner-city school and a posh private school.

    Unless I'm wrong, and you aren't arguing that increasing education spending will cause no change in the amount of bright people.

  105. Texan99 says:

    Thank you, Clark, I loved this piece.

  106. DocMerlin says:

    'There is a shortage of such people (and, again, but "shortage", I mean not "people are dying in the streets because we don't have more", but "we are only rate limited by this"). '

    So, in essence you are arguing that legalized abortion and contraception has limited the rate of technological and economic growth?

  107. babaganusz says:

    thank you for mentioning Less Wrong!

  1. February 14, 2013

    [...] 2. Waves of Human Change and Ideology [...]

  2. March 29, 2013

    [...] "The Republicans fondly remember 1860, when the common man stood behind a plow, and the Democrats fondly remember 1960, when the common man stood behind a stamping machine. … the Republicans shovel money at farmers, endorse prayer in school, and tell us to worship our heroes fighting for manifest destiny, and the Democrats shovel money at unionized teachers, endorse government run mass transit, and tell us to worship dense urban living." ~ 'Clark', from a great piece about the waves of change in society. [...]