Anyone want an easy C$ 5,000?

The nef’s case for moving to a more equitable and leisurely sharing of work is not based on an assumption that the amount of work is fixed. There is, I repeat, NO EVIDENCE for the taunt that it is. If Mr. Stanley, Mr. Lockwood (or any one else) can produce conclusive evidence that the assumption of a fixed amount of work is inherent in the case for work time reduction as a policy tool for job-creation or preservation, I will forthwith personally send them a cheque for $5,000 Canadian. My money is safe because they can’t do it.

Must be someone out there willing to take that on?

8 comments on “Anyone want an easy C$ 5,000?

  1. RE: “anyone want and easy C$5000?”

    Thanks, Tim. Some background on the challenge. I first made it back in October 2004 on the MaxSpeak blog, which had a fairly large readership. There were no takers. In April 2008, I upped the ante to $10,000 on the condition that the defender of the lump taunt get their defense published in a high-ranking, peer-reviewed economics journal. I offered a lesser prize of $1000 for publication in a lower ranking journal. Again not a single taker. Not even an inquiry.

    Now, admittedly, some potential defenders of the lump taunt may have reservations about how the question of “conclusive evidence” is to be adjudicated and whether I can be trusted with regard to payment. No problem. If someone actually thinks they can meet the challenge, I’m sure we could work out a mutually agreed upon arbitrator and stakeholder. I can be contacted at lumpoflabor gmail com (with all the usual symbols in between the words).

    Once they’ve read my published refutation of the fallacy taunt, though, I doubt anyone will see it as an “easy C$5000.”

    One word of caution. The challenge is not (and never has been), “have ANY advocates of work time reduction EVER committed the fallacy.” Of course they have (but less often than you might think). Opponents of work time reduction also commit the fallacy repeatedly and with apparent impunity. On occasion, they unwittingly commit the fallacy in the very process of trying to justify their taunt! The challenge is about whether the fallacy is inherent or “inevitable” in the case for work time reduction.

  2. My comment didn’t appear, I’ll try again:

    RE: “anyone want and easy C$5000?”

    Thanks, Tim. Some background on the challenge. I first made it back in October 2004 on the MaxSpeak blog, which had a fairly large readership. There were no takers. In April 2008, I upped the ante to $10,000 on the condition that the defender of the lump taunt get their defense published in a high-ranking, peer-reviewed economics journal. I offered a lesser prize of $1000 for publication in a lower ranking journal. Again not a single taker. Not even an inquiry.

    Now, admittedly, some potential defenders of the lump taunt may have reservations about how the question of “conclusive evidence” is to be adjudicated and whether I can be trusted with regard to payment. No problem. If someone actually thinks they can meet the challenge, I’m sure we could work out a mutually agreed upon arbitrator and stakeholder. I can be contacted at lumpoflabor gmail com (with all the usual symbols in between the words).

    Once they’ve read my published refutation of the fallacy taunt, though, I doubt anyone will see it as an “easy C$5000.”

    One word of caution. The challenge is not (and never has been), “have ANY advocates of work time reduction EVER committed the fallacy.” Of course they have (but less often than you might think). The challenge is about whether the fallacy is inherent or “inevitable” in the case for work time reduction. Opponents of work time reduction also commit the fallacy repeatedly and with apparent impunity. On occasion, they unwittingly commit the fallacy in the very process of trying to justify their taunt!

  3. It’s obvious that, labor being one of the chief components of almost every imaginable type of human, the demand for labor must be nearly as infinite as are human wants.

    By and large, the business of business is the organization of those desires and their satisfaction
    in a more orderly and manageable fashion.

  4. Tom Walker director of the Work Less Institute of Technology, claims that the NEF are not committing a LOLF. However, I would suggest this statement ‘ more people would have a chance not only to earn a living ‘ implies an assumption of a fixed quantity of work. If there is no implied assumption of a fixed quantity of work why do they need an across the board reduction of hours for MORE people to earn a living?

    Moreover, as I understand it Mr Walker is not denying that the Lump of Labour is a fallacy. He just denies that those advocating less hours commit the fallacy.

    ‘A new, much shorter, ‘standard’ working week would provide an opportunity to spread paid and unpaid time more evenly across the population. That way, more people would have a chance not only to earn a living…’

  5. as I understand it Mr Walker is not denying that the Lump of Labour is a fallacy. He just denies that those advocating less hours commit the fallacy.

    Exactly. But I don’t deny no one ever commits the fallacy. In fact, I state that critics of work time reduction frequently commit some version of the fallacy themselves and never get called on it. I say ‘some version’ of the fallacy because there are several, diverse and sometimes contradictory versions.

    I want to thank Gene Berman above for giving me an inspiration with his ‘infinite demand for work’ vision. He doesn’t win the $5000 but I’ll take him to dinner next time were in the same town. According to the vulgar version of Say’s Law, “supply creates its own demand.” The corollary to that would be supply constrains its own demand. An infinite demand for a limited supply of labour would imply an infinite price somewhere out on the margin — and who’s got that kind of dough? So let’s talk more realistically about effective demand, shall we?

    Does anyone disagree that effective demand for labour is constrained by labour supply?

    Step two. The supply of labour can’t be simply “hours offered on the market”. It has to be something more like hours x effort x skill. I mean, obviously some people do get paid just for showing up and hanging around, f-ing the dog, but if everyone’s doing it, you’ve got the Soviet Union all over again. “They pretend to pay us and we pretend to work.” Sorry, comrades, I couldn’t resist that.

    So, I assume, based on the above, that the supply of labour, that is the willing capacity for labouring is itself constrained by the efficiency or otherwise of its allocation. For any given population, a poorly-allocated distribution of hours of work will result in a diminished supply of labour as compared with an optimally allocated distribution of hours.

    Now it has become customary to assume that market incentives lead employers to optimize the hours of work. But this custom is contrary to the market failure regarding the hours of labour demonstrated by Sydney J. Chapman and confirmed by A.C. Pigou, J.M. Clark, Lionel Robbins, J.R. Hicks, Alfred Marshall… and who has ever disputed that demonstration? No one. J.R. Hicks introduced a ‘simplifying assumption’ that employers, faced with unions strong enough to enforce their hours demands through strike action, would always yield to demands that optimized output. Now, isn’t that a rather institutionalist argument buried and forgotten in a conventional assumption of ‘neoclassical’ analysis.

    There’s a bunch of other stuff about Pigou, externalities and the national dividend and Clark and overhead costs of labour that I’ll skip over for now but to make a long story short, if we assume market failure in hours, as demonstrated by Chapman, then shorter hours of work can be seen as a form of Pigouvian tax that forces firms to internalize their overhead costs for labour and thus leads to more efficient and productive allocation of hours. Voila! A relaxation of a constraint on the supply of labour (that is capacity to produce, not abstract hours). That labour will be both lower cost and higher paid and thus there will be a higher demand for labour coming from two directions: 1. from the greater supply and 2. a demand-side effect from the expanded disposable income of workers.

    As you can see, there is NO assumption of a fixed amount of work in the above model. It may be wrong. If it is, I would be delighted to hear why it is wrong. Just don’t tell me it’s wrong because it assumes something it explicitly and painstakingly doesn’t assume.

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