by Mike Masnick
Thu, Apr 11th 2013 12:47pm
Thu, Feb 21st 2013 7:58pm
from the thank-you-craigslist dept
Usually, Satanic jobs and assignments try to appear normal. But that job market is really tight. Evidently, it’s such a buyer’s market that Satan doesn’t feel like he has to hide his true nature anymore. He’s now openly advertising to hire some new associates on Craigslist….
To some, it might appear surprising that the devil needs help securing water rights in flood-soaked Nashville. But as I see it, Nashville is pretty much a hellhole, and Satan is much more likely to need water than, say, fire. From Craiglist:
My principal place of business has experienced unusually aggressive expansion as of late and this has resulted in a number of significant legal problems. Consequently, my current legal staff is unable to complete all the electronic discovery necessary for an upcoming class action riparian rights lawsuit…
As you may know, my business has been around for centuries and I work very diligently to ensure that as FEW new attorneys as possible are able to get their feet in the doors in this city or any other city for that matter. However, given these unique circumstances, I am willing to make an exception or two.
There's a screen shot of the full ad below.
Alas, the devil is in the details:
Compensation: Your soul and your student loans (also, jellybeans).
They say that the devil’s greatest trick was to convince the world he didn’t exist. But I think it’s more impressive that the devil is able to get so many people to do his bidding even when he tells them the truth. Let’s be honest, there are thousands of unemployed attorneys who would gladly sell their soul for a chance at a good job. There are people waiting in line to sell their souls. Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven? Unemployed lawyers will settle for serving in hell rather than waiting for heaven to grant them a job.
And since I have nothing else to add, let’s all watch Al Pacino physically blow Keanu Reeves off the screen in the scene that totally redeems this movie:
“Lose? I DON’T LOSE, I win. I WIN. I’M A LAWYER, THAT’S MY JOB, THAT’S WHAT I DO.” Trust me, every time I talk to a prospective law student, I hear a very confused Keanu doing a bad southern accent as I slowly explain to him what is obvious to everybody else. I’M A FAN OF MAN.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Dec 14th 2012 12:04pm
from the efficiency-lags-change dept
The short version -- hopefully translated sufficiently via my "econgeek to normal people" translator -- is that there are economic metrics out there suggesting that things should be much better than they are: in particular, companies are making massive profits. But, at the same time, wages are not showing any sort of increase. Krugman uses this graph to demonstrate the point:
A simpler and perhaps more useful way of looking at things is: Where is the money going and how is it spent? And, as it stands now, over the past ten years, the amount of money going to wages, as a percentage of money being made, has been going down. So what's it all mean? Krugman has two theories -- both of which may actually be true to varying degrees.
- Robots: The idea here is that automation has meant fewer jobs, and thus has held down wages and kept the supply of workers high. This is an old argument, of course, but perhaps one worth thinking about. We'll discuss it more below.
- Robber barons: That is, monopolists. The argument here is that when you see an aggregation of wealth to "capital," it suggests that the free market is somehow "stuck," and one possible reason is that the "owners of capital" have effectively created monopolies, allowing them to retain more than a free market might allow, via monopoly rents.
Let's start with the robots. For years, many have suggested that greater productivity from automation leads to lower demand for human employees, thus creating less demand for workers -- leading to lower salaries, high unemployment and all that jazz. Many people (myself included) have often used the term "luddites" for this, after the original followers of Ned Ludd, who believed that the industrial revolution was destroying jobs, leading to the "Luddites" smashing machines. The term is used pejoratively, because the original Luddites, for the most part, weren't just wrong but were ridiculously wrong. Far from destroying jobs, automation eventually created many new jobs.
And, instinctively, I have the same reaction to the argument when put forth here. We've heard this claim for so long, that greater productivity leads to fewer jobs -- but in practice it has never come true. It has, certainly, meant that there has been job displacement, and potentially a shift in job skills requirements -- which can be very difficult for those whose skills are no longer relevant. But, in the longer term, such automation has always created more jobs.
Does that necessarily mean that this shall always be the case? Not necessarily, but I'd argue that the long history of it being true suggests that you would need very, very strong evidence to back up the claim this time around -- and I'm not convinced we've seen that. Of course, playing devil's advocate to myself, I can see one plausible argument that someone could make (even if I don't think it's true): automation in physical work increased demands for jobs in other sectors -- such as services and information processing (desk jobs). But the information age revolution has now started to automate many of those jobs as well, and it's not clear where we move along the spectrum from there. That is, as the argument goes, that new jobs have always been created further along the spectrum from manual labor to services to information processing, but we've more or less hit the end of the line.
I find this difficult to believe for a few reasons. First, the same argument was made in the past every time some new fears about automation came along. And every time it turned out that there were new job opportunities. I can't see that changing now. At all. If it becomes true that labor is really increasingly available or cheap, that will create all sorts of new opportunities to make use of it. The news that Apple is going to start making some computers in the US is just a small indication of that possibility coming true. And, yes, even if they're using a robot-centric process, they're still creating domestic jobs. But, further on that, there's tremendous opportunity coming out of disruptive innovation to create new jobs where none really existed previously. The number of people making a living by selling goods on things like eBay, Etsy or Amazon is astounding. Even newer tools like Kickstarter and Indiegogo are creating additional possibilities, and we write about all sorts of interesting business models all the time -- creating new opportunities. Similarly, we've seen things like distributed call center services, such that people can work from home and be productive. In fact, this could help explain some aspects of wage decline, as some people, who might have formerly not been in the workforce at all, can now work part time from home.
But, of course, job displacement is messy, and figuring out where the new job opportunities are, and how they apply on a wider scale, is not a smooth process at all. It takes time to work out the kinks -- and that could explain the lag in wages. It could simply be the dip in efficiency as we enter that chaotic period of experimentation and attempts at new things before it becomes more clear where the new job opportunities will be.
The "robber baron" argument makes a lot more sense to me -- and it even appears that Krugman may be leaning bit more that way, after hearing from some other economists:
Barry Lynn and Philip Longman have argued that we're seeing a rapid rise in market concentration and market power. The thing about market power is that it could simultaneously raise the average rents to capital and reduce the return on investment as perceived by corporations, which would now take into account the negative effects of capacity growth on their markups. So a rising-monopoly-power story would be one way to resolve the seeming paradox of rapidly rising profits and low real interest rates.Of course, I think that the use of the term "robber barons" is potentially misleading as well. This isn't necessarily a case of the Andrew Carnegies, JD Rockefellers, JP Morgans and Cornelius Vanderbilts of old. Instead, it often seems that what we're dealing with are less super greedy "robber barons" (and yes, I know some people will point to examples that suggest otherwise -- especially on Wall Street) and more of a fight against innovation. This goes back to my recent discussion on corruption laundering, in which companies are able to secure favorable regulations that actually help them against disruptive upstarts by arguing that allowing the upstarts will harm "jobs" or will upset the economic apple cart.
In the end, that leads me to wonder if what we're really seeing is a third thing, which can account for both the "robots" and "robber barons" story lines and tie back to that corruption laundering situation: the rise of what Andy Kessler has referred to as political entrepreneurs vs. market entrepreneurs. In that scenario, you have companies who aren't quite robber barons, but are adept at using the political system to engage in a form of "corruption laundering" to put in place regulations that limit true competition and the kind of innovation that helps to speed up the creation of new jobs.
In some sense, we've discussed this before, in noting that politicians often fear disruptive innovation because it "destroys jobs" even as it's creating new ones. So they pass regulations that hinder disruptive innovation, in an attempt to "protect jobs." But the end result is that the few larger players in the industry tend to suck up control of that industry and, as such, limit job growth (and begin to profit by being able to capture the monopoly rents). They can employ greater automation to suck more profits out of their own business, but also can hold back the disruptive innovation that creates new jobs.
So, in that scenario, you get higher profits and fewer jobs -- with increasing automation. But you're missing out on the important disruptive innovations that help create the new jobs. Part of the problem with the "robots" storyline from Krugman is that it assumes all technological advancement is equal: that big companies automating is the same thing as disruptive innovation that enables new jobs. I don't think that's true. Either way, these are certainly big and important questions worth thinking about and exploring.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Dec 6th 2012 11:02pm
from the so-maybe-don't-try-to-muck-it-up dept
- Since the dot-com bust reached bottom in early 2004, employment growth in the high-tech sector has outpaced growth in the private sector as a whole by a ratio of three-to-one. High-tech sector employment has also been more resilient in the recent recession-and-recovery period and in the last year. The unemployment rate for the high-tech sector workforce has consistently been far below the rate for the nation as a whole, and recent wage growth has been stronger.
- Employment growth in STEM occupations has consistently been robust throughout the last decade, outpacing job gains across all occupations by a ratio of 27 to 1 between 2002 and 2011. When combined with very low unemployment and strong wage growth, this reflects the high demand for workers in these fields.
- Employment projections indicate that demand for high-tech workers will be stronger than for workers outside of high-tech at least through 2020. Employment in high-tech industries is projected to grow 16.2 percent between 2011 and 2020 and employment in STEM occupations is expected to increase by 13.9 percent. Employment growth for the nation as a whole is expected to be 13.3 percent during the same period.
- Workers in high-tech industries and STEM occupations earn a substantial wage premium of between 17 and 27 percent relative to workers in other fields, even after adjusting for factors outside of industry or occupation that affect wages (such as educational attainment, citizenship status, age, ethnicity and geography, among others).
- The growing income generated by the high-tech sector and the strong employment growth that supports it are important contributors to regional economic development. This is illustrated by the local multiplier, which estimates that the creation of one job in the high-tech sector of a region is associated with the creation of 4.3 additional jobs in the local goods and services economy of the same region in the long run. That is more than three times the local multiplier for manufacturing, which at 1.4, is still quite high.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Dec 5th 2012 8:31am
from the we-wants-it-back dept
While the NY Times article explored how this was happening in the US, a new article at Bloomberg highlights how this is happening around the globe, using key examples from the subsidies around The Hobbit and Harry Potter -- both of which involved massive subsidies in response to Hollywood threats to film elsewhere.
How much taxpayer money can Warner Bros. demand from the government of New Zealand to keep production there (rather than, say, in Australia or the Czech Republic)? That answer turns out to be about $120 million, plus the revision of New Zealand's labor laws to forbid collective bargaining among film-production contractors, plus the passage of three-strikes Internet-disconnection laws for online copyright infringement, plus enthusiastic and, it turns out, illegal cooperation in the shutdown of the pirate-friendly digital storage site Megaupload and the arrest of its owner, Kim Dotcom.Again, if this actually created the economic activity that Hollywood claims it does, perhaps it would be worth it. But both articles highlight how this isn't true at all. It just shifts money from local taxpayers to Hollywood execs.
[...] The U.K. government found this out in 2005, when Warner Bros. threatened to move "Harry Potter" productions to the Czech Republic. The government of Gordon Brown caved in to studio demands and passed new subsidies. In 2009, New Zealand also gave in and now faces demands for more.
The worst part is that, for most of the wannabe Hollywoods, it's bad economic policy on every level. The productions bring in mostly low-end, temporary jobs, while the high-end jobs remain in Hollywood or New York. Call it the Curse of Harry Potter.That article, authored by Joe Karaganis, who has been studying this issue for quite some time, suggests that if the public is financing these movies, then perhaps the movies should belong to the public if the studios can't pay back the loans. The suggestion is a really creative one. If the movie actually makes money, then the studios can pay back the loans. If it's a flop, then let the movie go to the public via a Creative Commons license, and let the public do something with it.
One way to break the curse is to route public money through what we might call an Expecto Patronum license -- named after the powerful defensive charm in the Potter series. Under the license, public money takes the form of a conditional loan rather than a grant or tax break. After five years, producers have a choice: Pay back the loan or re-release the film under a Creative Commons attribution license, which would allow it to be shown freely.It's such a reasonable idea that you know that Hollywood would freak out at any legitimate push to use it. In true "entitlement mentality," they believe such taxpayer-funded subsidies are their right, and that localities that won't pay up are missing out. Yet, as the data clearly shows, most locations would be much better off saying "no," as the benefit is minimal. Or, at the very least, they should make the terms similar to what the article suggests. If you want the public to finance the movie, then make it conditional. In the end, you pay back the loan or the public gets the movie.
If a film is among the few that have longer-term commercial value, its producers can choose the first path. If it isn't, they lose nothing by taking the second route. The license thus underwrites creative risk-taking without squandering public money on blockbusters. It also ensures that public investment generates public culture -- not works controlled by the studios for the next 95 years.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Dec 4th 2012 8:55am
from the and-they're-complaining-about-what? dept
What isn't mentioned so much (though, it depends on the audience) is the fact that various tax subsidies that different states pay to movie studios means that $1.5 billion in taxpayer money goes straight to Hollywood studios. Perhaps that would be justifiable if it created jobs. But the evidence there is actually lacking. That link involves the NY Times looking closely at Michigan, which not too long ago put in place massive subsidies for Hollywood to make movies in their state. The cost? Suffering Michigan citizens foot the bill. However, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm thought it was worth it because a local movie director wanted more work at home (and because, when she was younger, she had hoped to be a movie star). Lots of studios are looking to make movies in Michigan now, because the cash back from the state is way too lucrative to pass up.
Within two months, 24 movies had signed up to film in Michigan — up from two the entire year before. The productions estimated that they would spend $195 million filming there, and in return they would be refunded about $70 million in cash.But does it create jobs? Not really. The story is horrifying. It involves Hollywood hotshots continually demanding more and more subsidies from the state and insisting that jobs would be plentiful as soon as they could get things up and running, but balking any time anyone asked them to put the job promises in a contract:
Before long, residents were rushing out on their lunch breaks to catch a glimpse of celebrities like Drew Barrymore, who was filming her movie “Whip It” in Ann Arbor, and Clint Eastwood, who was shooting “Gran Torino” in the Detroit area. Even Michael Moore, who was filming a movie about corporate welfare called “Capitalism: A Love Story,” sought and received incentives.
Ms. Granholm declared the city in a financial crisis in February 2009 and appointed an emergency manager, Fred Leeb. The city’s budget was $54 million a year, but it was overspending by an estimated $7 million to $12 million. Pontiac was also still weighted down by old incentives it had given to businesses like G.M.But wanting to bring the big lights of Hollywood to Michigan, eventually the state agreed to it. Who paid for the subsidies? Former state workers basically were forced to bet their pensions on Hollywood:
The movie studio was an added challenge, since it was seeking financial incentives from the city — not to mention from other branches of the government. It won redevelopment tax credits from the federal government and separate aid from the state that included incentives for technology companies that hire residents.
Job creation became a point of contention with beleaguered Pontiac, which was being asked to waive virtually all property taxes for the studio. The investors claimed that thousands of people would be employed, but Mr. Leeb said that when he asked for job numbers to be written into the contract, the investors refused. “We started seeing some backpedaling,” said Mr. Leeb, who added that the negotiations featured “knock-down, drag-out fights.”
Over the objections of some local officials, the state agreed to use the state workers’ pension funds to guarantee the bonds. If the investors failed to pay, the retirees would be on the hook.And the promised jobs? Keep looking. Sure, some crews from LA flew in, but for locals? Almost none.
The studio had created only 200 positions by the summer of 2011, according to correspondence between the company and local officials. And when temporary construction workers were excluded from the tally, Pontiac’s records show, the studio reported only two employees in 2010 and 12 the next year.Earlier, in the article, they note that this particular project was pushed through with the promise of 3,600 jobs. You don't do that by hiring two people one year and a dozen the next.
How about tax revenue from the local operations? Yeah, big Hollywood studios have ways of avoiding paying that sorta thing, even as they're collecting millions in local subsidies:
The city later had problems collecting some of the taxes because Disney operated through a separate business entity that was difficult to track down, he said.And... soon after that, the studios moved on to other sexier states that suddenly offering up bigger incentives than Michigan. And who did it cost? Oh yeah: remember those state workers' pensions? Yup. Them.
“This is a glamorous industry if you want to talk about Hollywood, but it’s not very glamorous for the municipality that wants to collect something,” Mr. Schimmel said. Pontiac, he said, was outgunned.
Disney declined to comment.
When the bill for the studio’s bond interest came due in February this year, it paid only a portion, $210,000. The state pension fund had to pick up the remaining $420,000....All around, it's a horror story that's being repeated in other states and countries around the globe. Hollywood studios go around pitching "jobs!" and demanding special taxpayer-funded incentives, offering giving them millions to film in a certain location. The filmmakers take the subsidies, bring in crews from LA, hire a couple people here or there... and then move on, leaving a mess in their wake. And this is the industry that is demanding even more protection from the federal government via copyright law? When is enough enough?
In August, the studio defaulted on the entire $630,000 payment on the bond, despite a decision by Mr. Snyder to temporarily allocate some film incentives.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Sep 4th 2012 10:03pm
from the this-is-important dept
The problem, of course, is that it often seems like the high tech industry is ignored in Congress in favor of some other industries that have a much longer history of lobbying. But if the federal government is serious about claiming that job growth is the key to our economy, then it really needs to start paying attention to these facts, and recognize that the tech industry is not just limited to Silicon Valley, and is creating jobs across the country. That shouldn't be surprising of course, since we live in a digital age, and all sorts of jobs are quickly becoming tech jobs. But it does mean that we need policies in place that allow this kind of shift to continue happening, rather than stifling it with legacy policies that just protect old and obsolete businesses who fail to adapt.
If you'd like to play around with some of the data in an interactive format, the folks at Engine have set up a neat interactive map to dig into where the high tech jobs are located in the US today, even letting you look back at how it's changed over the past decade.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, May 31st 2012 10:53am
from the that's-not-true dept
The "research" uses the same bogus and debunked methodology that the US Chamber's "Global IP Center" has been championing for a while. First, you define what industries are considered "IP-intensive." You make this as broad as possible, so you include (for example) the tech industry (they get patents!), even though they're among the ones fighting to stop SOPA/PIPA-like laws, and also fighting to reform patent laws that have restricted innovation. Great. Then you list out all the jobs in those industries. And then you falsely claim that those are jobs that were "created by IP laws."
Except almost none of that is accurate. But it is a neat (though shameless) political scam to count those who are opposed to these kinds of laws and pretend they're in favor of them. Shame on Coons for falling for such blatant propaganda. Perhaps he should talk to his son, who explained to him why the bills he supported earlier this year would cause significant problems for the internet.
Meanwhile, as a part of this program, it appears that they're releasing totally misleading and laughable state-by-state profiles of how many "jobs" were "created" by IP. Here's California's (warning: pdf). It claims that IP supports 55% of the jobs in California's private sector -- and certainly suggests that those jobs wouldn't exist if we didn't have stronger IP laws (what with the big banner right above it declaring "IP Creates Jobs for California."
Yet the data shows no such thing. At no point do they even try to show a causal relationship between more draconian IP laws and more jobs. Because they know they can't. Instead, they use this bogus lumping together of any job that sorta kinda touches on IP laws and the massively ludicrous suggestion that those jobs only exist because of IP. I can understand why the Chamber of Commerce is promoting such a laughable study -- but it's a shame that a politician who claims to know better would fall for it.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, May 21st 2012 10:04pm
from the let-innovation-run-free dept
The President is mistaken—at least when it comes to the patent system as it relates to software patents. These patents—and the patent system—aren’t creating innovation, they are inhibiting it and, by extension, job creation. Why? Because the breakthroughs aren’t in the patents, they are in the way ideas are commercialized and marketed. Because of flaws in the patent system and government leaders’ misunderstandings, there is an arms race of sorts happening in the tech industry that is sapping billions out of the economy and crushing technology startups. This system is enriching patent trolls—companies that buy patents in order to extort money from innovators. These trolls are like a modern day mafia. Given this, I argue software patents need to be eliminated or curtailed.Indeed. But we'll never fix the patent system if the government continues to think that patents themselves are the key to innovation, despite the evidence showing that patents simply don't correlate to actual innovation.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Apr 6th 2012 7:30am
from the jobs-move-around dept
They have been trapped in a terrible mindset that they are in the business of selling newspapers. The leap from paper to digital may be vast, but to newspaper publishers, it seemed like vaulting to a different business entirely, one they were loathe to get into. No matter what kind of lip service newspapers paid to the digital transformation, the most prominent paywall model out there, that of the New York Times, still protects print subscriptions with a tiered digital pricing strategy – one so annoying that it motivated its former digital design director to complain publicly about the entire signup process.This is a really good point on multiple levels. Beyond the innovator's dilemma (and the key point of figuring out what the real product is), Smalera is also debunking one of the popular myths of the internet era: when you're selling a user's attention, companies will naturally abuse their users. What he notes is that companies that do this don't end up lasting through the long haul, because users get annoyed and go elsewhere. Even though it's become a common pejorative statement among neo-luddites to mock the idea that the "users is the product," one thing that is true when that happens is that the companies need to treat their users right, or they have a crappy product that they can't sell.
The lesson online media companies have taken from newspapers’ slow, public death is to move beyond the idea of selling the product. Online sites are selling their audience. It’s a simple twist of the equation, but one that changes everything about how a media company is run. A CEO who has realized that her audience – her customers – is the most important thing the company has will stop at nothing to give those customers what they want. Anything to make them feel as if they’re getting value from the company. And although she’ll monetize their aggregate value with advertisers and marketers, she’ll also protect them from underhanded sales pitches or confusing pricing strategies that infuriate the web-savvy.
Similarly, Mathew Ingram uses this to discuss why it's so difficult for legacy businesses to adapt, noting that it's difficult to change business models on the fly. Not only do you have to make big bets on new things, but you also have to keep the legacy business running while at the same time trying to undercut it with the new thing. It's why so many companies fail the innovator's dilemma test. Unless you have incredibly visionary leadership who can push a company through with a strong and clear vision of why the company must move in that direction, the magnetic appeal of trying to prop up increasingly obsolete businesses is just too strong.
But, the failure comes not because of some new "threat" or because of some kind of disgraceful activity (no matter how much legacy players try to describe it that way), but because corporate leadership chose to let others innovate, rather than supporting a plan of out-innovating themselves. Very, very few companies are willing to cannibalize their own business models -- but the failure to do that just means that someone else cannibalizes it for you.
And it goes way beyond news. The chart above shows some other key areas of disruption as well. That clump of retail, automotive, construction, banking, telecommunications, pharmaceuticals and real estate represents prime feeding ground for the next decade of disruption -- much of which has already started. You don't necessarily see the corresponding growth points on the opposite side of the chart, but as with newspapers and online publishing, give it a few years, and those new jobs and industries will make their way up the chart, as the legacy players continue to shrivel up (and whine all the way down).