jmatonak: (Default)
"The average member of the Writers' Guild makes $200,000 per year."

I've been unemployed for the last twelve months. I did pick up a little change, so let's call my annual income for this last year $1000. According to the last figures I have, the chairman of Viacom makes $62 million dollars a year. If the two of us average our income, we get $31 million dollars apiece. (Notice how meager half of my actual income is. I do not make a significant contribution to the average.)

There are approximately 12,000 writers in the WGA. In order to make the math come out convenient, let's assume that there are exactly 12,000 members. Let us assume that 1,200 of them made a million dollars apiece, and everyone else made nothing. So, in this model, only the top ten percent made any money at all.

Because the other ninety percent cut into the average, the "average" WGA member makes $100,000 per year, in our little toy model. Whereas, recall, there are 10,800 WGA members who made no money at all. Are those 10,800 union members lazy, spoiled and overfed?

I don't fucking think so.

Almost everywhere, management's traditional response to job complaints, such as, "I seem to be getting a horrible disease from working here, and would appreciate a more sanitary workplace," is to fire dissatisfied workers and replace them with someone who will do the job under the working conditions the employer sets. The purpose of union bargaining is to drive up the price of labor in the face of bosses' continual attempts to drive it down. Without some form of artificial labor scarcity, the median income for most jobs can be driven down pretty close to zero. After all, making a thousand bucks a year is better than nothing, right?

I'm amazed that anybody could hate unions. Not just the inarguably corrupt and criminal ones, but all unions. But some do.

A working person has value and should not have to live in misery to make their employer look good to stockholders. I don't see how anyone can deny that. But some do.
jmatonak: (Default)
Suppose you and I are both guests at a hotel. We happen to have two identical... things. Lets assume we have identical pottery that we bought from a street vendor. Our pots get broken, and the hotel manager agrees that the staff is at fault. He agrees to supply each of us with the replacement value of our pots, but (to prevent us from hiking the price) asks us to report the price we paid separately. He knows that the price cannot be less than $2 or higher than $100.

He stipulates that he will pay the lower of the two prices we report. He will give an extra two dollars to the person who reported the lower price, taking that out of the money given to the person who reports the higher price. So, if I say the pots cost $15, and you say the pots cost $10, you get $12 and I get $8. If we both report the same price, we each get that amount of money. (He says he's doing it this way to keep us honest.)

Under the usual assumptions of game theory, where you are a "rational actor" seeking to maximize your guaranteed return, you reason thusly:

This is the bit that was in that Russell Crowe movie. )

Almost without exception, players (even game theorists) say "screw the rational answer" and just pick a high number. And they get better payoffs.


jmatonak: (Default)

January 2012

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