Timmy elsewhere

A letter to The Guardian:

The Women’s Budget Group tells us that economics needs to recognise “the economic importance of unpaid work in families and communities” (Letters, 20 December). The analysis here was done by the Sarkozy commission, which included such luminaries as Amartya Sen and Joe Stiglitz. To call for what economics should do might be fair enough, but it would help if people were aware of what economics has already done when doing so. The answer, by the way, was that such “household labour” in the jargon should be valued at the undifferentiated labour rate, something that normally means minimum wage.
Tim Worstall
Senior fellow, Adam Smith Institute

Clearly the world is absurd today as I agree with all the other letters – in The Guardian – on that page more than I agree with my own.

Except that last one.

However, do we really have to look as far back as the Reformation for inspiration? Surely we need look no further than 1973, and the publication of the book Small is Beautiful.

For the last chapter of that book (no, really, go check it) is a paean of praise for coal mining and the National Coal Board. That it was written by the chief economist of the NCB at the time is of course entirely a coincidence.

15 comments on “Timmy elsewhere

  1. I would disagree about the letter from the Green Party co-leader. It’s a perfect example of what that Prospect Magazine article was about, all assertion about the world being shit and the sort of thing that is being used to inform public policy.
    At least in his rant about depression, self-harm and loneliness being on the rise ( citations are never needed for these idiots ) he didn’t mention suicide rates which fell to a new low in figures out this week, except in Scotland which is proud to spend on a national Suicide Prevention Strategies and announce in its own Parliament that it is not evaluating its own programme.
    Leftism – it’s never about outcome

  2. If my wife got minimum wage for her “unpaid” labour, she’d be living in a tent eating cat food. In Skegness.

    I’m sure the Wimmins Budget Group has factored such things as performance-related pay and quarterly reviews into their calculations though. There’s no way this is just a bunch of hags, soyboys and tokens pretending that housewives do a hard shift in between Jeremy Kyle and the hairdressers, right?

  3. Funnily enough I was in South Wales just last week and at one point in a conversation an ex-miner commented on how much coal was just wasted and that all the regional office cared about was that the conveyors were running, yield and productivity didn’t matter a jot

  4. BniC

    That’s the principle behind nationalised industries. Profit and productivity really don’t matter. Efficiency doesn’t matter. Innovation is something nice but an end in itself. The Mini was brilliant but they started out losing money for every one they built.

    Everything becomes political. It’s why socialism doesn’t work. Individuals get no reward for excellence and no punishment for being crap.

  5. The letter on ecnmic models is a good one.

    If only those who decry economic models had the same scepticism towards climate change models …….

  6. SS2

    There’s no way this is just a bunch of hags, soyboys and tokens pretending that housewives do a hard shift in between Jeremy Kyle and the hairdressers, right?

    You are forgetting all that emotional labour housewives do – like remembering your brother’s wife’s birthday, or networking with the parents of your children’s friends, or buying the cleaner, window cleaner and gardener Christmas presents….Such managerial burdens are crushing! Only by ruthless efficiency do they have the time to vent on Mumsnet….

  7. Coal mining is well known both for being Small and being Beautiful.

    Or more specifically, it is well known as an industry where being a small, old, under-capitalised mine is so much better – and safer – than being a vast open cut hole in the ground that costs tens of billions.

  8. The answer, by the way, was that such “household labour” in the jargon should be valued at the undifferentiated labour rate, something that normally means minimum wage.

    Well no. I don’t think so. Household labour is best viewed as a life-long holiday granted by the husband to the wife. If she was not pretending to keep a home, she would be out working with all the stress and difficulties that brings. Instead she is at home watching Jeremy Kyle.

    We do not calculate what it would cost to have someone sit on the beach being oiled by a Brazilian beach boy when working out the cost of a holiday. It is a trade off for a nice relaxing time instead of working even longer to earn even more money. Just the same as a woman who prefers not to contribute to the household income but spend her time having coffee with her friends, going to Art galleries and the like.

    The solution is for men to refuse to carry this parasitic behaviour.

  9. Err, SMFS, there’s no law says it’s the woman.

    I had a lovely six years looking after the kids while my wife worked.

  10. That it was written by the chief economist of the NCB at the time

    Lots of pits were shut down under Wilson in the 60s, so the NCB, if not yet there, was getting closer to “small if not quite beautiful” status.

    That’s the principle behind nationalised industries. Profit and productivity really don’t matter. Efficiency doesn’t matter. Innovation is something nice but an end in itself.

    I read about the Soviet system in one of Thomas Sowells’ books, the sheer colossal waste of inventories ordered and never used. Managers had one incentive – to meet their quotas. If they missed them there was a low, if disturbing, chance of being shot, so why take risks of production shutting down because you run out of some crucial raw material or parts? The whole delivery system is a ramshackle disaster anyway, if you did run out there was no chance of getting more at short notice (again, what incentives to supply it?) so managers would over-order and leave it rotting or rusting in their warehouses.

  11. Theo – emotional labour

    Makes me sympathise with Hermann Goering every time I hear that phrase.

    And SMFS – for sure.

    I don’t begrudge the wife spending most of the money I earn. I wouldn’t want her to get up at 4am to travel to drive hundreds of miles to meetings or work till 3am on stressful projects.

    I’m glad she doesn’t have to worry about the endless nonsense and uncertainty of the world of paid employment, and has no risk of dying of a heart attack in her 40’s. I do it so she doesn’t have to.

    It’s the feminine tendency to want to think of themselves as righteous victims that pisses me off. Housework and small children can be tedious, even hard work at times. But it’s not a bloody conspiracy to immiserate the wimmins – quite the opposite.

  12. Everything becomes political. It’s why socialism doesn’t work. Individuals get no reward for excellence and no punishment for being crap.

    You’ve just described a modern corporation, especially one in Europe.

  13. @ SMFS
    Time you took a turn to do your share of the housework!
    @ Chester Draws
    Your wife must have trained them well: it wouldn’t have been lovely with my kids (actually that’s not fair albeit it makes a good quip – I enjoyed time with #1 son, but #2 was a chore or worse)

  14. @ Tim
    It is an error to value housework at the NMW because that is above the rate at which people would work if they were allowed to do so. Secondly the value of work that is done only as an alternative to idleness decreases as one gets more bored with the leisure occupations available – so a guy working an 80-hour week will only do stuff that is subjectively worth more than his overtime rate (e.g. washing up the last coffee mug or taking the dirty washing to a “service” lauderette) but one stuck at home for a month will go from ironing his best shirt to ironing his pyjamas and from vacuuming the whole house to dusting the lampshades.

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