Timmy elsewhere

So, I did a little blog post for Forbes.

Which got picked up by Yahoo Finance (for which sadly I get not a single penny). And there are, as of right now, 288 comments on the piece.

I think it would be fair to say that very few indeed of the comments are complimentary.

And I\’ve not yet seen one that manages to get the point either.

28 comments on “Timmy elsewhere

  1. But Tim, what about the children, won’t you think of the children?

    When talking in the context of India, I loved this one….

    …….One is the diversity of th supply chain for things like meat ake the supermarket chains more succeptable to supply distribution and food borne illness…….

    You are apparently more likely to get a disease from food bought at Tesco than if you shop at the local store that lack rapid turnover, chilled supply chains and hygiene training.

  2. The difficulty here is that if you are one of the people worried about your job or job prospects it sounds like an attack on you and it is more difficult to lift your view from the personal to the logical.

    The only issue in the logic of your argument is the contention that labour is a scarce resource as opposed to the finite resource which it is at any given time. At times it may be scarce but is it at present?

  3. That, I hope, will be my one and only visit to Yahoo ‘Finance’ if that’s representative of it’s members… Their ignorance, hypocracy and idiocy is legion as they completely miss the concept of revealed preference.

    Charming bunch as well –

    “May you die broke, sick and starving, Tim.”

    No doubt they’d subscribe wholeheartedly to our best mate in Wandsworth though….

  4. The comment on Yahoo that I loved the most is this one:

    Write to Forbes magazine about this article. Remember this soulless man’s name when you are struggling to put toys under the tree for your kids, or a good Christmas meal on the table.

    Well done Tim, you’ve passed your audition for “The Grinch”.

  5. I supose labour must be a scarce resource by definition, because you have to pay to get it. However, the pure economic argument here is insufficient. In wider terms, the basic thrust of the Forbes commentators is correct: labour may be a scarce resource, but it is unethical and politically unwise to treat it exclusively as such. The unspoken assumption is that all the people displaced from their little stalls will be employed more productively. But will they? And after how long a period of unemployment? And how long will their resentment simmer? The economist can advise that resources should be employed in their most productive uses, but the politician knows that labour market friction, the general state of the economy and human bloody-mindedness will place a limit on the rate of redeployment. None of which is to say that people generally are not woefully ignorant of basic economic ideas.

  6. Something (288+ of them actually) tells me that no politician is going to stand on a platform of efficiency savings any time soon.

  7. I hope you don’t mind but I read the article, looked at the comments and my flabber was well and truley ghasted. I attempted to post a comment on the Forbes site but it won’t let me so I figured I would stick it up at your gaff.

    Wow, just wow. so many comments, about 90% of which miss the point of this article totally. The invention of the ‘Spinning Jenny’ resulted in thousands and thousands of job losses, it also was a major factor in the industrial revolution, that wonderful thing that bought affordable goods to everyone. The whole point of running a business is to make money and the best way to make money is to reduce overheads. These superstores still need people to run them and work in them. If a small store closes it’s employees can always go and work for the big stores. Let’s say Tesco open a store in Little Whinging, it may well put two or three local stores out of business (most likely a butchers, a bakers and a candlestick makers). This would result in job losses of perhaps 15 people. There is no Tesco store in the world that could operate with just 15 people so even though 15 jobs were lost, more were created (managers, cleaners, shelf stackers, till staff, bakers, butchers, etc). The only real losers are the candlestick makers and the store owners who can no longer grow rich by supplying a limited amount of stock, at far higher prices, to a customer base that has a limited choice in where to shop. Let’s be honest here, only the ‘very rich’ or ‘very stupid’ would choose to pay £1.35 for a loaf of bread from a small store rather than pick up 2 for £2 from the local supermarket. Also, a point to note is that most small shop owners stock their stores with produce purchased at local super markets. They pick up certain items when they are on offer then rack the prices up. I know this for a fact as I quite often bump into the owner of my local convenience store at Asda, He normally has one trolley full of bread (35p profit per item) and another full of cooking sauces, sugar etc. Well everyone loves a bargain, don’t they?.

    Mummy x

  8. Lets also remember the abscence of a free market.

    Without thieving business rates, taxes and endless extra expenses imposed by the state, who can say if Tesco etc would put as many shops out of business as they do now. If small shops are only just hanging on then a Tesco, what have you, may finish them off but if they were thrieving to begin with it may be another story.

  9. I was not aware America had such a popular Luddite movement. Better take a hammer to those job destroying tractors and weaving frames.

  10. What you do not emphasise (which someone like Yglesias would) is that by allowing more productive food provision we will benefit far more people who will end up with better quality or/and cheaper food as a result.

  11. I think you needed to more clearly state the benefits of producing the same output with less labour: People can buy more – they are richer. As it stands your article seems to suggest (judging by the comments) that destroying jobs is the only objective.

  12. Yes I can see why you would get mostly complaints. Few like the the whole unvarnished truth when it does not fit into their prejudices.

  13. I added this on forbes site in response to comment 12 where the commentor suggested that economies do not exists solely to make money.

    “Economies not only don’t exist to solely make money, they don’t exist to make money at all. They exist to create wealth.

    Human progress has been all about job destruction. Once it took 100% of the workforce to even feed everyone. Now, over 99% of the jobs involved in feeding us have been destroyed, leaving those people free to build cars, cure cancer, cut hair, teach children etc. Creating more wealth with less resources is how we all get richer.

    In the medium to long term job destruction IS a good thing because at the moment we have not sated every human desire. As Paul Krugman says ” Productivity isn’t everything, but in the long run it is almost everything. “”

  14. There’s another element to this story that you didn’t raise. According to this week’s Economist (paywall) it is estimated that as much of India’s food rots by the side of the road or in warehouses. The new legislation is aimed, in part, at sorting out this problem.

    In a country where a significant part of the country is genuinely poor allowing the status quo is immoral.

  15. “Let’s be honest here, only the ‘very rich’ or ‘very stupid’ would choose to pay £1.35 for a loaf of bread from a small store …”

    Hence the rise in ‘artisan bread’ in Islington and other areas! 😉

  16. Your parents must have taught you “Not in front of the children or the servants”. So why are you surprised?

  17. The comments get even better: “smug rich boy”, “send the link to this story to your congressional representatives. It should be the subject of national shame. This ‘author’ just told you point-blank that he intends to drive us into poverty to line his pockets. Your kids go hungry so he can upgrade his BMW”, “Tim worstall sounds like he is the worst of all”, “The Robber Barons have returned”, “I’m going to be sick to my stomach”, “This is the worst author and a ruthless human being at that”, “I hate this guy (the writer of the article) and what he says. If he said it in front of me right now, I’m afraid I’d probably punch him out”.

    Not single commentator there had even an inkling of the point of Tim’ article. Thick. As. Pig****.

  18. One thing that’s being missed here…it isn’t the small shop owners in India who will lose out the most, as they live a miserable existence anyway and are as much ordinary consumers as anyone else. Those who stand to lose are the powerful wholesalers and middle-men who have carved out handy little cartels for themselves in India and are in relative terms as much of an economic behemoth as the supermarkets threaten to be. But the left have always had a problem admitting that brown people can be greedy bastards as much as westerners can.

  19. The article doesn’t seem to say why destroying those jobs is good, at least on a cursory reading, which is more than most of the commentators managed.

  20. In the UK, supermarkets have put some small retailers out of business; but other small retailers have decided to compete with the supermarkets not on price but on service, range and quality. JuliaM mentions artisan bread, and there are hundreds of similar examples. I live in a small town (popn 35,000) with four large supermarkets; and yet several independent, specialist food retailers continue to thrive.

    Would India be that different? Perhaps. And would the loss of jobs be so great as you suggest, Tim?

  21. SimonF:

    A couple generations, rats ate almost half of it even before it’d had a chance to spoil or rot.

  22. This isn’t clearcut. At least in the UK there are externalities in the social and financial cost of increased unemployment which may mean that we are worse off with the supermarket than with the less efficient small shops it replaces. One might also weigh in the balance the effects on farmers of supermarket monopsonies, and increased congestion caused by supermarket supply lorries.

  23. “….and increased congestion caused by supermarket supply lorries.”

    Uh? One truck movement to one supermarket once versus two dozen movements to various stores repeatedly equals greater congestion?

    Tesco trucks are mixed load. Smaller stores are supplied by individual manufacturers & distributors or in the case of very small ones by the proprietor’s transport from the C&C.* Whichever, there’s till exactly the same amount of material being shifted.

    *C&C has, by far, to be the least efficient. By definition, half of the movement is non-load carrying, usually part load because the vehicle choice is determined by the maximum load requirement, not economic & is unused for most of the time, but still occupying parking space.

  24. I think a grand total of two of us “got it” (or at least I hope I did) on the Forbes site and one person at least had the honesty to admit they didn’t get it and asked for an explanation.
    I’ll avoid Yahoo…

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