Working Poor

Der seit Jahren abnehmende Anteil von Lohneinkommen am Sozialprodukt entwickelter Wirtschaften wird so langsam in der Öffentlichkeit wahrgenommen. Letzte Woche der Economist, gestern erklärte Stephen Roach von Morgan Stanley am Rande des Weltwirtschaftsforums in Davos, daß “der Film der letzten 15 Jahre jetzt so langsam zurückgespult werden würde”, heute finde ich einen Artikel zum Thema von Dieter Wermuth im Herdentrieb-Blog.

Es ist zwar nicht ganz richtig, daß sich der Economist erst jetzt mit dem Thema beschäftigt – ich erinnere mich an einen Artikel Ende Februar 2005 und in der Weihnachtsausgabe (sic!) 2005 wurde die Frage auch schon mal ausführlicher behandelt – aber die zunehmende Beschäftigung mit der Frage kann sicher nicht schaden. Also: Lesen, und noch mal lesen.

Economics, Political Theory, politics, US Politics

CEOcracy: A CEO’s marginal contribution to welfare.

Most people stopped believing that superstars simply earn their marginal contribution to welfare. Moreover, most people believe the fact that they do usually earn more than their marginal contribution is a consequence of a specific market setup, or, simply put – a kind of “market failure”.

However, John Snow, the US Treasury Secretary, when asked about the excesses of American CEOcracy, used “superstar economics” as a justification for widening gap in labour compensation (referring only to the US).

“What’s been happening in the United States for about 20 years is [a] long-term trend to differentiate compensation,” Mr. Snow said… “Look at the Harvard economics faculty, look at doctors over here at George Washington University…look at baseball players, look at football players. We’ve moved into a star system… Across virtually all professions, there have been growing gaps.”

Mr. Snow said the same phenomenon explains why compensation for corporate chief executive officers has climbed so sharply. “In an aggregate sense, it reflects the marginal productivity of CEOs. Do I trust the market for CEOs to work efficiently? Yes. Until we can find a better way to compensate CEOs, I’m going to trust the marketplace.” (source: WSJ)

Well, it is true that the marginal productivity of a CEO is not easy to measure, certainly not in financial terms (just as the one of the guy sweeping the floor, except in m2 per time unit) – but to argue that the market price is de facto a fair valuation thereof strikes me as a rather problematic position, given everything we know about markets and particularly in light of the next sentence in the WSJ’s article…

Since the 1970s, CEO compensation has gone from 40 times to more than 300 times the average worker’s salary.

That’s quite some executive productivity increase, don’t you think? (via Economist’s View)

intellectual property rights, music industry

I’ve been saying *THAT* since 1999…

I’ve been saying this for years – the most likely explanation for the ongoing copyright war is the socialised concept of (intellectual) property in most politicians’ minds – it will take another generation and, liekely, as Volker Grassmuck argues below, a copyright induced knowledge-lock-up disaster until people will realise what has been done.

The occasional quote in German, you’ll just have to trust me that it confirms my statement above… – via

Volker Grassmuck, Forscher an der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin und Mitgründer der Initiative, beklagte auf der Konferenz einen “Mental Lock-in” bei den Politikern. Diese würden sich allein an dem Mantra festklammern, dass der immer stärkere Schutz geistiger Eigentumsrechte die Innovation fördere. Als Beispiel nannte er etwa die erste Evaluation zur umstrittenen EU-Datenbankrichtlinie. Darin sei klipp und klar nachgewiesen worden, dass das neue Schutzrecht den Informationsmarkt behindere, und nicht beflügele. Trotzdem habe die Kommission Gründe gefunden, um den eingeschrittenen Irrweg nicht zu verlassen. Ähnlich verhalte es sich beim Festklammern an der “chimärische Technologie” des digitalen Rechtekontrollmanagements (DRM). Grassmuck geht davon aus, dass es erst eine “massive Wissens- und Informationskatastrophe braucht, um die geistige Blockade aufzubrechen”.

intellectual property rights, oddly enough

New Pricing model for food!

Via comes another data point proving the extent to which the right concepts in the wrong hands can create disastrous results: copyrights running wild – should there be a copyright on cooking recipes? I’m sure the next step will be the inclusion of some kind of DRM into a BigMac tying the food license to a specific licensee who had to identify himself using biometric identifiers. Enforced by RFID chips, sharing food would no longer be possible without purchasing an additional license. Imagine the possibilities…

almost a diary, oddly enough

Left behind what?

Spam is almost always annoying. Comment spam is the worst, because it requires additional attention, not rarely amounting to more time than it take to write a blog post. But there is also the rare instance where spam is fun or prompts reflection about its underlying social meaning, as in today’s case.

Don’t get left behind” was the headline. “Add three inches today!” the goal – I’m assuming you’re familiar with the kind of addition offered -, and the way to do that was buying pills that my doc would most certainly frown upon, to say the least.

I know we guys tend to be competitive for the better or worse. It’s probably what evolution “had in mind” for a good number of reasons. I am also aware that the sexual evolution has brought about the general features of male primary sexual organ about whose size and functionality so many kind advertisers are so concerned about to offer help via email. But I wasn’t aware that technological advances had already turned a man’s endowment into a race to be fought individually let alone by taking pills.

So assume for the moment I decided to “add three inches” by taking the miracle pills. And then all other guys decided to do so, too. And if only size mattered… would I not be forced to eventually repeat the experiment? And wouldn’t all others? Would men eventually come to their minds and end a mostly certainly disfunctional sexual arms race? Or would we be more like the lemmings… (which I assume is what most girls believe ;))

I’m glad I won’t have to think about it anymore until I get the first spam about helping girls to cope with all those added inches… I’ll keep you posted.


Lazy? And Happy?

The Economist ponders about a self-regulation mechanism adjusting the European work/leisure trade-off in favour of work. Even in lazy Germany.

But it also reviews this year’s LSE Lionel Robbins Memorial Lecture by Richard Layard [pdf] who presented new insights into the hypothesis that more doesn’t always, in fact, usually, make you happier.

So working more might not add to your personal utility if you’re simply doing it for the stuff you can buy with more cash. Having more, he claims, is only important as long as it means – “having more than Jane Doe down the road.”