Friday, August 25, 2023

Crankenomics 101

Image by 1820796 from Pixabay

This is a weekly column consisting of letters to my perspicacious progeny. I write letters to my grandkids — the Stickies — eventual selves to advise them and haunt them after they've become grups and/or I'm deleted.  

Trigger Warning: This column rated SSC — Sexy Seasoned Citizens — Perusal by kids, callowyutes, or grups may result in debilitating psychological trauma.  



Featuring Dana: Persistent auditory hallucination and charming literary device

"The complexity of economics can be calculated mathematically. Write out the algebraic equation that is the human heart and multiply each unknown by the population of the world." -P.J. O'Rourke 


Dear Stickies and Gentlereaders,

Dana, did I ever tell you about when I was a boss at a hooge, globe-spanning corporation?

{I gather that your nephew's magic mushroom harvest went well this year?}

Seriously, I was one of five assistant warehouse managers at a facility that served the Cleveland market for Toys Я Us back in the 80s, for about three years.

{One of five? Now that I believe.}

In fact, I participated in setting up the Cleveland market, from scratch, after returning from about nine months of training in the New York market. 

{As in New York City?!?}

Yup. I lived out on Long Island (pronounced lon-guy-lund) for a bit as a store management trainee and then on the New Jersey side of the city as a warehouse management trainee for the majority of my stay — at company expense. 

It was the closest I ever came to the experience of having prosperous parents shipping me off to college and picking up most of the tab. It was also the only part of my time with TЯU that I enjoyed.

{Cause New York was cool, and fun, right?}

Meh. There's nothing in NYC that you can't find in any other reasonably large city; there's a lot more of it, but it costs a lot more.  

I've been a boss a bunch of times but that was the only time in my long and storied career that I was a genuine corporate salary slave.

{You had a career?}

Several, and this was before all those predictions that the members of the generations following the Boomers would change careers multiple times. I've always been a man ahead of my time. 

{Wait... salary slave? Do you mean wage slave?}

I define salary slaves as (usually) overworked and underpaid low-level bosses who collect the same salary no matter how many hours they put in, as opposed to their (usually) overworked and underpaid employees (wage slaves) who get paid by the hour. 


There are notable exceptions. For example, everyone who works for UPS works their bums off, but everyone is well paid. Unfortunately, this is not a common phenomenon. Millions and millions of relatively low-skilled worker bees and their relatively low-level supervisors limp from paycheck to paycheck with absolutely no sense of financial security.

{Who you callin' low-skilled? My UPS man person...}

Has to be very good, and very fast, at his/her/their job. UPS drivers have to drive a hooge step-van in all kinds of weather and navigate up and down all sorts of roads they must share with all kinds of people — any number of whom may be texting with one hand while groping around for the joint they dropped on the floor with the other and steering with their knees. 

And have you ever noticed they're regularly accompanied by another man person in brown with a stopwatch and a clipboard?

Personally, I think an individual that can do all the jobs in say, a fast-food joint, do them well, and not only is nice to the customers but says thank you with (at least apparent) sincerity is a skilled employee. 

Of course, nowadays they're more likely to be called associates because as everyone knows, being an associate is much better than being a mere employee. 

But as far as most economists are concerned since, technically/theoretically, almost anyone could do the job (although not necessarily very well) without obtaining the right credential from an overpriced college, the sort economists graduate from, they're considered low or even unskilled. 

I get it. I wouldn't want to encounter the employees associates from my favorite Chick-fil-A when I was wheeled into an operating room for brain surgery. This is why brain surgeons are, and should be, paid a little better than employees associates who work in fast-food restaurants. 

{Right... Listen, I know that at least you think your "garrulous geezer" shtick is cool but is this going anywhere?}

Why certainly! This is only an introduction. Gentlereaders will have to read the next column or two to discover where I'm going. Not the best marketing strategy in an age of ever-diminishing attention spans I'll grant you, but it's the best I can do.   

I "self-identify" as a (sorta/kinda) wild-eyed free marketeer and libertarian. "I want the playground to have minimum rules and maximum fun. I want just enough rules to give everyone an equal shot at some swing time and neutralize the bullies." -me

I'm a free marketeer and libertarian. A libertarian is "an advocate or supporter of a political philosophy that advocates only minimal state intervention in the free market and the private lives of citizens." For the record, the definition is from Google; Google currently gets definitions from Oxford Languages

The sorta/kinda is due to the fact I think that a nation as well off as America is morally required to install a rationally designed effective safety net to catch everyone that fate shoves off the trampoline — many libertarians disagree — but not necessarily for those who deliberately jumped off because they thought it would be fun.  

The devil, as always, resides comfortably in the details.

I would also point out that it's also easy to argue that an effective safety net is a necessary cost of doing business no matter one's moral or ethical beliefs, or the lack thereof. I'd rather pay taxes than be attacked by _______ when I'm out and about, and not everyone can live in a well-guarded, fortified lair in the mountains of Ohio like me and mine do. 

To be continued... 

Poppa loves you,
Have an OK day

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