Friday, April 07, 2006

Junk. Period.

There's nothing like a bad analogy to put you in a foul mood for the day. Over at Catallaxy, Rafe Champion asks:

What if there was a minium price law for cars? Say $8,000?

What would happen to all the servicable but not very new or flashy cars that nobody is prepared to pay $8000 to own?

I suppose they would have to be junked, or just left sitting in the street or the back yard.

Rafe then continues with an argument from analogy that manages to be grossly imept and middling offensive - in a patronisingly patrician way. No mean feat that:

That is happening to people who are slow, with minor physical and mental or intellectual handicaps, and people who are untrained and lacking experience, or all of the above. And some of the most caring people around are all in favour of the minimum wage legislation that croduces [sic] that outcome.

So here's another argument against labour market regulation that provides for minimum wage laws - there are perfectly serviceable, workworthy "junk" people out there who have been priced out of the labour market, in the same way that perfectly serviceable barely roadworthy old bangers would be priced out of the used car market if cars had a legislated minimum sale price. Let's leave aside all the "people ain't cars, Rafe - there are some fairly obvious differences" snark and move onto Rafe's suggested solution:

What if some clever people spent an hour or two working out how to adjust the wage laws, taxation and welfare system to permit:

(a) employers to put on a person at a price that they can afford to pay for less productive workers, bearing in mind the oncosts of employment.

(b) the workers to have enough extra cash in hand (after tax and adjustment of benefits) to make it worth their while to work.

What if, indeed. The answer is that it's been tried in the past - I know, because back in the early eighties I started a ten year term in the Department of No Fixed Portfolio, as an "Employment Officer" in the CES. What we used to have before the current government decided, for purely ideological reasons, that the service was going to be contracted out to private providers. A lot of the work was about trying to get various classes of junk people - the long-term unemployed, those handicapped people, and youf - into employment with the help of a government subsidy towards their wages. Oh and this was under a Liberal government, when Neil Brown (QC MP) was the Minister for whatever Department we happened to be at the time.

It worked too - sort of. Every time you rang up an employer looking to get a job for some junker kid who'd spent the past four months rusting in the street or the back yard you'd mention that the Government would kick in for first four months' wages, to cover training costs. And if the kid got the job, and managed to hold onto it for long enough, you got a subsidised placement under SYTEP (Special Youth Training and Employment Program) to count towards your monthly target - your share of the section target which in turn was part of the office target, set by the Office Manager at the start of the financial year when he got his annual targets from the Zone Manager whose targets were set by the State Director who answered, of course, to the National Director who answered to Neil Brown (QC MP). Which was great.

As for the kids, well they'd most likely be back in the office in about four months, looking to sign onto the dole again so they could spend another four months rusting on the street or in the back yard and get put through the mill again. A very common occurrence if the job had been listed as a junkers only job.

Of course, now that the CES no longer exists and the whole thing's been privatised, that sort of bureaucratic maladministration doesn't go on. It's been largely replaced by private sector maladministration which, depending on how much of a hard-line privatisationist you are, either doesn't exist or is nowhere near as bad as the kind you get in the public sector. Personally, I doubt that the unholy alliance of Job Network and Centrelink is capable of delivering one of Rafe's key requirements:

Some of the people who I envisage in this scheme would need to have a mentor to assist in negotiating the pay and conditions and I don’t mean a standover man from a union theatening a strike, but a person who is looking for a win/win outcome .

Actually Rafe, it needs to be win/win/win: win for the employer, win for the mentor and win for the employee. I reckon a union organiser for whom each new worker is also a new member for the union - and therefore a win for her - would make a better mentor than an employment agency hack for whom the newly employed worker is just another government fee to collect.

Postscript: after reading over this piece Zeppo Bakunin reminded me that subsidised employment is still going on through Job Network and Centrelink. And the practice of listing jobs as junkers only still exists, with all the risk of corruption that this entails.

(Cross-posted at Larvatus Prodeo)

13 comments:

Flute said...

I love the twisted analogies from this guy. All that happens when you pay people crap is the government must provide some sort of top up to stop riots, tv nicking etc. In other words the government subsides inefficient businesses that have no right to operate. So much for the free market Rafe.

Flute said...

bugger, subsidises not subsides, this country has firm foundations you know.

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derrida derider said...

It was SYETP, not SYTEP. I spent 8 years in the CES myself.

Gummo Trotsky said...

Oh bum. That's what happens when you spell an acronym foannetickly.

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