[p2p-research] Is the "lump of labor fallacy" itself a fallacy?

Ryan Lanham rlanham1963 at gmail.com
Sat Nov 28 22:11:16 CET 2009

On Sat, Nov 28, 2009 at 2:38 PM, Paul D. Fernhout <
pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com> wrote:

> If only a few high skilled workers get a lot, unions won't so easily form
> for those jobs. There is not "programmers union" for example, though there
> are unions that may include some jobs descriptions that entail some
> programming).

There are no unions for investment bankers, either. That's because
programmer and "investment banker" aren't real categories.  They aren't
consistent and standard skill sets.  Being able to write does not make one a
writer.  Kurt Vonneguts are born, develop, morph...and so do great
programmers.  The gift isn't knowing how to write tight code, standard code,
but in making standard things do very new and unusual outcomes.  So too with
investment bankers.  The MBA is the culture, but the skills come in
battle...like the samurai, you mention.

How do you have a commons without inequality?  The tension is always that
some who carry more weight are given the same ration as those who are
weaker.  Darwin frowns on such days.

The real frustration society found with socialism is that some people are
superstars.  Some investment bankers are worth 5000 or 5,000,000 MBAs from
Stanford or Harvard, and they might not even have a degree.  Some of the
best investment bankers I have known are artists or English teachers by
training.  Tim Geithner in the US Treasury is an International Affairs
student.  So it is with programmers...will the great robotics breakthrough
come out of a lab at MIT or Cambridge or will it come from a garage in Chang
Mai or Mexico City?  Probably the latter.  Proximity matters, but invention
seems to be increasingly universal.  India's incredible human capital is
about to come online for the world in a way that will be transformative.
But proximate to Berlin or San Francisco or Tokyo, so far, has been
necesary...hard to say how long that power of proximity, that Krugman
studied, will remain essential.

> The movie "The Seven Samurai" shows an example of this problem -- the
> peasants want to hire Samurai to defend their village, but they have no idea
> what makes for a good Samurai. Swashbuckling sword play? A minimum of
> effort? There is a scene where the peasants watch two Samurai duel, for
> example, arguing over some point of technique -- although in that case the
> winner was obvious, since only one lived. Fortunately, programming is not
> (usually) so deadly a profession -- although vitamin D deficiency and
> sedentary work in a chair can probably make it so for many programmers, as
> can the results of programming cause deaths for others through military
> robotics, malfunctioning aircraft and medical devices, and even bureaucratic
> processes that keep people from health care, and so on. Sadly, the most
> money I've ever been paid for developing software as a consultant was
> fifteen years ago for a project to help deny people health care (via
> supporting more accurate telephone interviews for insurance applications).
> Is that really productive compared to better medical records to support
> better health care advice? So, one needs to factor in rewarding people for
> creating artificial scarcity too when one analyzes what a productive
> programmer really is. I'm sure the same would apply for other professions as
> well.
> --Paul Fernhout
> http://www.pdfernhout.net/
> _______________________________________________
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> p2presearch at listcultures.org
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Ryan Lanham
rlanham1963 at gmail.com
Facebook: Ryan_Lanham
P.O. Box 633
Grand Cayman, KY1-1303
Cayman Islands
(345) 916-1712
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