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Oppression by complication

by Greg Krehbiel on 26 January 2015

Andrew Cuomo is quoted about his complaints with teacher’s unions in this article. I found this particularly interesting.

“If (the public) understood what was happening with education to their children, there would be an outrage in this city,” Cuomo said. “I’m telling you, they would take City Hall down brick by brick.

“It’s only because it’s complicated that people don’t get it.”

How many other things are that way? How many things do we just let slide because it would be too burdensome to figure it all out?

Monetary policy, Social Security, government surveillance, health care policy, police tactics, environmental regulations, ….

ISTM the government has an interest in making things complicated. They can hire teams of lawyers to “interpret” the rules, and they can make it all such a confusing, Byzantine mess that ordinary folk simply toss up their hands in despair.

-- 3 comments  ::  What do you think?  ::  2015-01-26  ::  Greg Krehbiel

Should women be evaluated by their appearance?

by Greg Krehbiel on 26 January 2015

From time to time I hear people complain that women are often described by their appearance — in news reports, and so on — but men are not. For example, a story about a female politician will describe her hair, her dress and her shoes, but a story about a male politician won’t.

Well, maybe. Indian prime minister greets Barack Obama in ‘Modi pinstripe’ jacket: India’s prime minister accused of narcissism after wearing ‘Modi pinstripe’ suit to meet President Obama

Of course this is funny because it’s odd. I’m certainly not saying this example overthrows the general claim. It’s certainly true that women are evaluated by their appearance more than men are.

Is that so bad?

There are certainly cases where it would be wrong to evaluate a woman on her appearance. For example, it would be wrong to include appearance in a performance evaluation — unless, of course, a certain appearance is a requirement for the job.

However, there’s a very prevalent attitude that whatever we say about men, or however we evaluate them, or however we treat them, we should do the same with women. And vice versa.

So … should women be evaluated by their appearance?

Yes, of course they should — in some situations and not in others, and those situations will not be the same for men and for women.

It’s a simple fact of life that women are evaluated on their looks more than men are. People can cry and complain and whine about it, but that’s the way it is, it’s unlikely to change, and even if we could change it I’m not sure it would make the world a better place.

So Hillary Clinton is going to be evaluated on her clothes and her wrinkles a lot more than a male candidate will. Is that “fair”? I don’t know. Is it “fair” that the taller candidate usually wins?

-- 9 comments  ::  What do you think?  ::  2015-01-26  ::  Greg Krehbiel

If you’re interested in publishing …

by Greg Krehbiel on 26 January 2015

I have another blog where I discuss such things. The Krehbiel Report on Publishing.

--  ::  What do you think?  ::  2015-01-26  ::  Greg Krehbiel

Slippery slopes end

by Greg Krehbiel on 23 January 2015

My thoughts here began as material for the Monday edition of my Krehbiel Report on Publishing, but the themes are similar to things we discuss around here.

When I was a kid I watched the Popeye cartoon from time to time. The plot usually went like this: Mild-mannered and long-suffering Popeye continues to put up with abuse from somebody (often Brutus), but there comes a point where he’s had enough.

At that point he’d say, “That’s allz I can standz and I can’t standz no more.” Then he’d eat his can of spinach, his biceps would bulge, and he’d set his sights on restoring proper order in the world — which usually meant pummeling whoever was annoying him.

The lesson is that you can only annoy people so much, and you can only push them so far.

I think this applies to a lot of things. People will put up with a certain amount of risk, raunch, stink, foolishness, meddling, fear, and so on, but there comes a point where they break. It’s the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. There’s a breaking point for individuals (according to their temperament), and there’s a breaking point for the community as a whole.

As an example, if you had watched the trajectory of TV shows and movies from, say, 1960 to 1980, you would have thought that by 2015 we’d have full-out porn all over the place. But people will only take so much, then they push back. The push back has (so far) been less than I expected it to be, but it has prevented things from getting as bad as they could have been.

In a similar vein, there’s been some push-back against “reality TV.” A few years ago you would not have expected that anybody would produce something like Downton Abbey.

Things come and go in cycles, and you can’t draw straight line graphs and predict the future. E.g., the number of people who approve of X has increased 3 percent every year, so by XXXX everybody will be okay with it. That’s not the way it works. The idea that you “can’t turn back the clock” is a myth spread by reformers who just got their way. Things have a way of coming back — again and again.

On my publishing blog I’ll discuss this in the context of content creation, but when it comes to politics and social issues, we see this sort of movement all the time. The country turns left, then right, and not consistently. It might go left on one issue while it’s going right on another.

Once you get used to that idea, you realize that victories and defeats aren’t permanent, and you don’t worry too terribly much about where the world is right at the present time. Give it a few years and it will change.

-- 4 comments  ::  What do you think?  ::  2015-01-23  ::  Greg Krehbiel

Bakers in the spotlight again

by Greg Krehbiel on 22 January 2015

Left-wing intolerance seems to have been dealt an appropriate jab by somebody who asked a baker to write some anti-homosexual words on a Bible-shaped cake. The baker declined and is now being investigated for discrimination.

I think it’s obvious that a baker should be able to decline to write (and therefore participate in) speech he finds offensive, which applies in this case and also in the case of the baker who didn’t want to make a cake for a gay wedding.

The right to free speech is not a right to force other people to help you do it. If I want to print a shirt that says some offensive thing, the company that prints the shirts has every right to decline my business.

With this case the shoe is now on the other foot, and the reaction will show whether people are actually interested in fairness and principle, or whether the whole “bake my gay cake” mess had nothing to do with fairness and everything to do with promoting an agenda — to force people to comply with an ideology.

-- 8 comments  ::  What do you think?  ::  2015-01-22  ::  Greg Krehbiel

Why “equal pay” is nonsense

by Greg Krehbiel on 21 January 2015

A friend asked why “equal pay for equal work” is still an issue. Here are some thoughts on why.

The phrase sounds so reasonable. Workers should get equal pay for equal work. Who could be against that?

Well … I am, for three main reasons: it’s incoherent, it can’t be enforced, and it creates false incentives.

It’s incoherent because “equal work” doesn’t mean anything. No two employees are exactly the same, and their work product is never the same.

It’s a rare job where two people are doing the same thing, but even if they are — even if you have ten checkout clerks with the same duties, for example — there may be good reason to pay one of them more than the others. For example, what if one of them has ten years of experience and the other has two months? What if one is a personnel or management problem and the other is a natural leader who encourages everyone else to do their best? What if people come to your store because one of the clerks is such a nice person, but customers avoid your store when the other clerks are on duty?

You could say, “then that’s not equal work,” but that simply highlights my second complaint, which is the impossibility of enforcement. Who’s going to unpack all of that?

How is the claim of unequal pay going to arise in the first place? One worker will complain that he’s not getting paid as well as another worker who does the same work. Who’s going to decide that the two workers are doing “the same work,” or if the pay disparity is reasonable or not? Meddling bureaucrats will decide.

Aside from the fact that the bureaucrats will certainly fail — no matter how smart or well meaning they are — that’s simply not the way prices are set in a free economy.

A thing’s value is determined by how much someone is willing to pay for it — and labor is a “thing” subject to that same rule. You can’t have bureaucrats deciding on the proper price of labor any more than you can have them decide on the proper price of an apple. That’s not how markets work.

The whole “equal pay” concept makes no sense, so it will be impossible to enforce it.

Milton Friedman argued that “equal pay” creates false incentives and actually hurts the people it is designed to protect.

For example, let’s say that I want to get a job laying bricks, but I have no experience. The experienced brick layer gets $25 an hour. The foreman doesn’t want to hire me because I’m not worth $25 an hour.

My only way to break into that job is to offer my services for less. I tell the foreman that’s okay, I’m not worth $25 an hour yet, but will you hire me for $15 an hour?

By insisting on “equal pay for equal work,” the government takes away the only bargaining chip I have — which is to offer my services for less.

“Equal pay for equal work” sounds like a wonderful, fair thing, but when you think about how it would actually work in the real world, it’s a catastrophe.

Someone might think that a well-crafted “equal pay” regime would deal with all these difficulties — like differences in experience, whether the person is helpful or trouble, whether the work is actually “equal,” etc.

Really? Some government bureaucrat is going to come up with a set of rules that can be applied to any workplace — to retail, to mining, to offshore fishing, to police, to management, to blue collar and white collar, to privately held and publicly traded businesses, etc.? There is not a chance that they’d come up with anything even remotely workable.

But what would happen if a set of rules were created? It would establish a whole new layer of HR administration, CYA policies, and so forth. It would be a huge mess, and it would have no chance of solving the problem it intends to solve because the whole concept is incoherent from the start.

-- 3 comments  ::  What do you think?  ::  2015-01-21  ::  Greg Krehbiel

Is this empowering or exploiting women? Sometimes I get confused

by Greg Krehbiel on 21 January 2015

It’s apparently becoming more popular for college girls to get their tuition paid by older men.

So, is this a case of women taking their life into their own hands, making their own choices and getting ahead, or is it an another example of the evil patriarchy oppressing women — by, for example, preferring young women to older women, by valuing their bodies over their minds, blah blah blah.

The thing is, without a general cultural agreement that prostitution is wrong, I don’t see how you can argue against this sort of arrangement.

--  ::  What do you think?  ::  2015-01-21  ::  Greg Krehbiel

Game-girl geek traits

by Greg Krehbiel on 20 January 2015

I was browsing at the local gaming store the other day and noticed a game called “Pathfinder” that appeared to be a competitor to Dungeons and Dragons (which I played in high school but haven’t played since — except maybe once in college).

The clerk gave me a lecture on how version 4 of D&D wasn’t well received and how Pathfinder — relying on some open gaming license something-or-other — tried to restore pristine D&D … or something like that. She gave me way more detail than I wanted to know.

All I really wanted to know was that Pathfinder was a D&D spin-off, but as the clerk launched into her explanation I became more interested in how predictable her behavior and mannerisms were, even down to word choice, gestures and facial expressions. I have an eye for such things and can pick them up pretty easily, but I often have a hard time explaining them.

Every group has its in-group signals. Some of them are comical — like homeschool moms and their denim jumpers — while others are just subtle forms of mild socialization.

With the game girl, it was an odd combination of being a little tedious, a little pedantic, a little OCD, and a little too wrapped up in her own world. One of the weird things that seem to be a characteristic of this sort is when they make universal-sounding statements based on a sample of a small, insular community. It’s like people who think that their Facebook friends are a proper representation of worldwide human opinion.

I don’t have any big point here. It just amused me.

-- 6 comments  ::  What do you think?  ::  2015-01-20  ::  Greg Krehbiel

Five things that are killing our country

by Greg Krehbiel on 20 January 2015

These aren’t the only things, they’re just five that seem to loom large right at the moment.

  1. Politicians are measured by what kind of give-a-ways they can promise, but the cost of new benefits is not seriously considered.
  2. Nobody is (or really can be) held accountable for the long-term effects of policies.
  3. The political parties have a lock on new candidates.
  4. The political parties are more and more partisan and unwilling to compromise.
  5. Because they can’t work with each other, politicians don’t even try to govern. Their goal is to attain complete party domination and then push their partisan agenda. But the country prefers divided government.

-- 3 comments  ::  What do you think?  ::  2015-01-20  ::  Greg Krehbiel

What “working with Congress” means

by Greg Krehbiel on 20 January 2015

Based on what the Obama administration has been saying recently, and on the previews I’ve heard of the State of the Union, “working with Congress” now means proposing things that have absolutely no chance of passing.

“I want to work with Congress to get things done, so I’m going to propose new taxes and benefits and whatnot that won’t ever become a bill, much less a law.”

Of course the same thing can be said of Congress.

“We want to work with the president, so we’re going to pass bills we’re 100% sure he’ll veto.”

-- 20 comments  ::  What do you think?  ::  2015-01-20  ::  Greg Krehbiel

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