Greedy Goblin

Monday, October 31, 2011

Atlas shrugged. For real

In 1957, the visionary Ayn Rand published her book describes a strike of top professionals refusing to be exploited by the society. The title refers to the people who hold the society like Atlas holds the World in the Greek mythology. The strike of the experts remained a myth, a wish held by many. I wrote several times that it is the only way to end the oppression of the inactives.

Somehow even I did not notice that this miracle just happened: Czech doctors started submitting resignation notices to their trade union. With almost half of the doctors practicing in hospitals signed these, the trade union could force the government (the oppressing arm of the inactives) to give them a stellar 60% rise.

They did not protest, burn dustbins like the occupy Wall Street idiots. They weren't even rude. Their campaign slogan could be translated into "Thanks for all, we are leaving now". Simply they wrote legal notices that they don't want to work here anymore. They were considered evil and selfish by the media and the common people. They had no political, financial or media support, nothing. Yet they won simply because the society can't operate without them and there is no legal way to force them to keep working. The loophole of the democratic oppression system is that everyone has the right to join the oppressors: the inactives, by simply quitting his job. That's what they did. And won.

Now Slovak and Hungarian doctors are doing the same. But not only doctors are capable of this. Most highly qualified experts are irreplacable. The strike of the dustmen can be broken by recruiting random unemployed guys. Good luck using this against IT programmers. There are about 2-3 guys in the country who could do my job if I'd quit and even they would need months to pick up the ongoing projects. I think I'll do what no pro-capitalist did before: join the trade union of my field and try to convince them to prepare mass resignations as the doctors. Our sectors provide almost 10% of the GDP of the country, employing less than 0.5% of the population. We do 20x more than the average guy but we definitely don't get 20x more money. Not even close. It's time to shrug.

You know what would be the real Atlas shrugged? If business owners would start writing termination notices: lower the tax to its half by the end of the year or we simply terminate our companies. End them with bankrupcy. That would shake the World, end this disgusting system where every useless idiot has the same power as the people who provide food, heat, homes, health care to everyone.


Nils said...

Surely there can never be too many resources going to the actives and away from the inactives. +6000% would have been just as good.

Jon said...

While I don't agree with calling the OSW crowd idiots - the American banking system is corrupt and everyone knows it - I think you definitely make some good points in today's article. Keep 'em coming.

JackLeManiac said...

What is IT programming exactly?

From what I read, it is your job, but what does it roughly consist of (I don't want to pry, but it's necessary so I can understand correctly).

I'm asking because it seems there are alot of programmers out there; they go out by the dozen from D.E.P schools and CEGEPS in Quebec and Canada.

What makes your job so special, so hard, that they couldn't pick up someone else to do it?

Sure they'd need to pickup the projects... but skillwise, I don't really see how these guys wouldn't match you. Only 3 people in the country matching your skill? Doubt it. Unlike the medical field, computer technology has alot of people getting diplomas.

Like any domains, alot of slackers fail... but then again.

Sure, doctors are few and far betweens... but programming is a domain where alot of computer "geeks" go.

I may be wrong, please enlighten me, so I can understand.

Foo said...

The Czech doctors didn't threaten to join the inactives; they threatened to be active elsewhere.

When your skillset is both genuinely transportable and in demand; quiting works.

Business owners are less of a problem; They can decide to work elsewhere but someone else will pick up the slack; there may be disruption or the quality may decline; but (failing monopolies) there are enough competing forces for someone else to step in.

Jumina said...

Well, the only problem was this was organized by the unions full of former communists. And those people call for the same salary for all doctors and for state owned hospitals. So in the case of my country I wouldn't be so sure this was exactly what you would like.

But still it was interesting to see how some politicians started to lose consciousness and were even proposing how to force them to work. Which was really disgusting.

And the funny part at the end. Now the health insurance companies are not sure where they get the money the government promissed to the doctors.

Anonymous said...

My experience in the USA is quite different re "IT programmers." Here IT programmers are not in a position of power. Their numbers are dropping. Partly because of automation. Partly because a lot of IT programmers are being replaced by outsourcing: either to Indian/Chinese firms or to consultancies like IBM who then off-shore it.

Domestic IT programmers are a shrinking part of the labor force.

Steel said...

Here’s another Atlas you’ve “missed”. Tanks (and heals) in LFD. I disagree with your last post, and agree with the comments. Raids and guilds are fine with tanks. Actually, the main tanks in the lasts 2 guilds I’ve been (HC 25s) have a lot of alts (2-3 and more), that are also tanks. And they’ve been tanking since AQ40. Natural tanks like/love tanking. They just hate tanking for the gogogog socialist-entitled, M&S. Even I like tanking - I wanted a tank role since before starting WoW, and leveled a tank 1-85 in LFD exclusively. When you get a good group, with people who now what they are doing, know how to work with you and support you, it’s an unique flow (and insta queues are nice too). But my tank toon sits in the bank most of the time, because 90% of LFDs I get some form of M&S that totally turns it 180 for me. So where I could join as tank in my spare time (I have plenty), I just queue as dps, pick herbs, or log off. Satchels and insta queues aren’t enough… also want “Taunt Retard” and “CC Moron” buttons, and then we’ll talk.

Still haven’t told me how your tanking alt toon adventures ended up…

maxim said...

Just one comment.
Doctor's entire capital is in his brain. When he leaves, he takes everything with him.
It is much harder to take away the company. It will take a worldwide coordinated effort of some Jogh Golt to achieve that kind of exodus.

That's leaving aside the question of if doing it is actually any good.

dobablo said...

That isn't the elite getting what they deserve because they are worth it. That is doctors getting a raise because they could get more in other EU countries. If they didn't have that alternative employment opportunity any strike/quit talk would be an empty threat.
It doesn't only apply to doctors. The wages of every manpower-limited industry in south europe has sky-rocketted in the last 10 years because those workers could threaten to move to Germany where they would be paid more, and that isn't limited to essential workers only.

Azuriel said...

Or you take over the government and use the military to simply kill the inactives.

I mean, that is your ultimate goal, right?

Without easy credit-fueled demand, there simply is not enough useful labor to put everyone to work, nevermind those disabled and unable to provide useful labor. The US has been at 9% unemployment for two years, and our GDP is higher than it was two years ago - that means we are just as productive today with ~8 million less workers than we were two years ago. And those aren't even technically inactives, but "actives" still looking for work that doesn't exist.

I cannot imagine an endgame in which what you advocate is not simply putting a bullet in the head of at least a quarter of the population. If you read Atlas Shrugged to the end, that is exactly what happened: the total collapse of world civilization.

Not sure of your profession, but if it isn't hunting/farming, you are going to find yourself in the inactive pile of bodies pretty quickly should your plan succeed.

Anonymous said...

QANTAS australias main airline has just done something similar. after months of industrial action by its workers, which both inconvenienced customers and hurt company profits, the CEO grounded all flights several days ago.

he said they would stay grounded unless unions and the airline reached agreement. the government stepped in and has put a ban on industrial action for the next month while talks take place and if agreement isnt reached the government will take further action.

this is from a union backed government.

Shalcker said...

Just remember - same kind of trade unions bankrupted GM.

It's cyclic - demands evolve, benefits grow during "good years" and never shrink in "bad years", then system collapses and/or public opinion turns against trade unions.

Andru said...

Ayn Rand was not a visionary, but rather an anarchist and mostly a proponent of cutting one's nose to spite the face.

Also, you're twisting the news to fit your argument. The doctors didn't quit because they didn't like being exploited. The doctors quit because somewhere else was better. The question appears: If there was nowhere else to go, would they have still quit?

In your plan you're all dependent on 'unions', a socialist construct. Because not every IT professional, not every doctor, hey, not even every business owner will agree to the plan. Why?

Simple. If I were a business owner, and my *competitors* were going to file for bancruptcy on the basis of "We wants less tax", I'd refuse to join. While "less tax" is good, "competitors bankrupt" is a zillion times better.

To put it into perspective: let's assume that tax is 20% of my income. If I were to be one of 3 competitors in a market with equal market share, and one of my competitors filed for bankruptcy, my business would increase with 50% without me having to lift a finger. While I would be sad to lose more money to the tax(20%*150% vs 20%*100%) the benefit would be obvious.

If my second competitor also filed for bancruptcy, it would be unbelievably moronic for me to follow suit. My business increased to 300%, and left me with a monopoly. I would be the moronest of all M&S if I would declare bankruptcy to spite the inactives.

For one, I would be playing chicken with the government. Secondly, any businessman not caring about tax would just step in to fill the void that we left. This would leave me with no business at best, and no business, no tax cut, and new competitors at worst.

This is why 'unions' are needed. Unions are just stupid constructs trying to obtain the "greater good". Screw that. As a firm believer in Nash equilibriums, I believe that I should be doing what's best for "me" not for the "greater good".

That is because while the greater good benefits me, I benefit myself a lot more.

Atlas better shrug if there's a smaller planet to carry and which pays better.

Because if he shrugs with the best possible planet on his back, he'd just be out of a job, when another titan takes it up.

Ulv said...

While we know that large businesses would never do this small and medium enterprises (SMEs) could, certainly here in the UK.

They make up just over 50% of the UK 'income' and employ 60% of the workforce.

The hit on the government tax-take would be more effective in causing change than putting a gun to their heads.

You can bet that it would be less than a week before legislation was brought in to criminalise closing a business that employed people and was making a profit.

Dugley said...

How is this any different from clever marketing? A clever salesman can sell a customer almost any product by creating the desire/want for it; which can be done by allowing the consumer to benefit from the product then taking it away.

As an example, a car salesmen may let the customer drive the car, then when the customer finishes their 'trial period' the customer no longer wants to use their personal car. Netflix offers their first month of service free.

What you are proposing is, in essence, the same thing. Allowing your employer/consumer to benefit from your service at a low fee; then terminating the 'free trial period'. The result is a consumer who feels like they cannot live without your service.

From my observations, people tend to buy what they want over what they need (ie: beer/cigars over food/shelter).


Reading over this I think I may have missed the point of the article. Publishing anyways!

Anonymous said...

This may be a tool to correct some injustices, but for society as a whole I dont think it is a good way for humanity to respect only productive people.

So what do you do with all the helpless inactives, what has been done in history with people viewed as useless? Read in a history book about the fate of the Kulaks under Stalin.

You are an intellectual, be aware that there have been many monstrous atrocities in the name of ideas done by people who thought that they knew the truth and a way to a better future. Mostly that way was paved with bodies.

This warning isnt my work, but of the philosopher Karl Popper.

Anonymous said...

That's a good idea! Shake the box, see what happens!

Anonymous said...

They could simply take it as a sign to start outsourcing.

Anonymous said...

These doctors are government employees. They are just further burdening the taxpayer, as the inactives don't pay for their salary. One could just as easily say that the corrupt Teacher's Union in America that keeps getting more benefits and prevents teachers from being fired even if they clearly can't do their job is also 'atlas', despite the fact that they are outperformed by the private sector at every turn.

Ashdrake said...

I have no problems with socialist countries in which socialism works, aka Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Co.

There, since the state actually provides things for your taxes, such as infrastructure, roads and health-care (and I mean proper infrastructure, proper roads and proper health-care, not the one that you go in the hospital with 1 disease and come out with 3 and you are forced to buy your own medication/tissues/operation tools because the hospital has no money to buy them for you even tho you paid health-care tax)

However to many countries think that just because they offer some free shit healthcare, shitty roads and some shitty education, they have a right to tax everyone until their faces melt. This is appearant in the Former Communist Bloc Countries.

However I never agree that base pay for some specialized jobs such as doctors, lawyers, nurses, law enforcement should be the same as the "every-day-common public worker" because you can have the most state-of-the-art hospital in the world, if the doctor is thinking about his Energy bill while he is operating you, thats gonna end shitty for you. If the cop rather turns a blind eye to crime to get some more cash to live a slightly better life, its you who is gonna get stabbed or raped.

I understand that in a country where the average wage is 300-350Euros you cannot pay the doctors 3k Euros, but you can certainly pay the entry doctors after 6 years of school, 500 Euros and after 6 years of school + 3 years of masters + 3 years of practice 800-1000 Euros, its not much, but it shows that you respect them as much as the country can possibly pay. How many doctors are there per country? Lets say 10K (which is a gross overestimate), 10K doctors at an average of 1200 Euros/month is 12000 Euros / Month for all the doctors/nurses/etc. Thats not something out of the ordinary when you have people that do jackshit earn 200 Euros.

Also those taxes are a steal, in my country we have no roads, no hospitals, corruption is rampant but we still have about 50% tax from gross salary, and not to mention if you have a company you have to pay tax as a company for your employees also (health care + unemployment + something else) even tho they pay it themselves from their own gross salary.

For ex: if you are employed here you pay 16% Tax on Salary + 5.5% health care + 10% Social Services + 1% Unemployment. so about 32% out of your gross salary here goes on taxes at minimum.

the company also pays 16% tax on profit and for every employee they pay between 20% to 30% on social services, 5% on Health care, 1% on various other comulative small taxes and another 1% on employment, of their gross salary. So we're basically taxed twice for the same thing.

No wonder people do whatever they can to dodge tax, especially small companies (1-5people employed they are set with the minimum wage and have extremely small profits on paper so they pay few taxes so they can actually make a living).

Oh well, welcome to Romania - Land of Choice

Squishalot said...

The Anonymous above missed the main point about the Qantas strike in Australia. The key message sent by the airline:

"That's fine, if you want to leave, good riddance. Good luck paying your mortgage."

The key problem with attempting to garner support for a mass strike by professionals is that you're relying on the premise that said professions are able to survive without an income for a significant period of time. There is a strong correlation between income and debt - I doubt you could find even 10% of professionals earning >US$100k who don't have significant mortgages.

Others, of course, will simply attempt to profit from your striking action.

A company, society, can live without a high proportion of its key professionals for a period of time. Elective surgery can be cancelled. Non-essential IT upgrades can be postponed. Website revamping can be done next year, rather than now. With our global economy, cheap labour can be quickly imported. A company can survive without a CFO for 12 months, rather than give in to a person who demands a 200% payrise.

There are very few professionals who are both unique (cannot be replaced) and indispensable (need to be replaced). In the 99.99% of other cases, you will be replaced or people will make do without you.

chewy said...

You're a bit late Gevlon. Doctors in Australia went on strike over the change in employee rights way back in 1984, (details from the British Medical Journal).

Their shrug was met with divided sympathies. The article doesn't mention it but during this period the attempted suicide rate dropped to almost zero, no one is indespensible.

Anonymous said...

"There are about 2-3 guys in the country who could do my job if I'd quit and even they would need months to pick up the ongoing projects."

For real, do it! And report the outcome here:

Go to your boss, tell him you want a bonus of 3 month' worth of your salery right now or else you will quit. If it would indeed take your boss to replace you several month' (as you claim) he would have to give in.

Looking forward to your report how it turned out.

Yaggle said...

Well, I am a firm believer in unions; If they would have to pay somebody else a lot more to do the same work that you are doing, you should go on strike if you don't get a raise. That applies to anybody no matter how skilled. Of course if you calculate wrong, you get replaced. The right to be in a union and go on strike to me is a basic freedom that every worker deserves.

Yaggle said...

@Shalker "Just remember - same kind of trade unions bankrupted GM."
- That is your opinion. Many people like myself believe that poor management and year after year of inferior line of products bankrupted GM.

Stede said...

Why would a successful company terminate itself?

They have much better things to do than throw it all away just to prove a point.

OWS has lots of employed people protesting, so I don't see what you're on about. The fact that wages are taxed at a higher rate than investment income is an irrefutable fact that prevents the middle class from swelling.

Though OWS may seem to be drifting without a rudder, it's founded on protecting the MIDDLE class. Not the POOR. Not the Rich. The ones in the middle.

Ciaphascain said...

Well, I would indeed love if all medical staff in the country I live in would go on a permanent strike, it would mean importing equally or more qualified workers from South American states that do not have the same monopolies in their countries that they have here, where they are the ones that set how many openings there are each year on Universities with the excuse they dont want to flood the market and in the meantime they are paid around 5 to 6 times the average worker wages and we still have to import out of country doctors to work in rural areas because the ones from here dont want to leave the urban centers.

The comment about your job and all, I just dont buy it, no one is irreplaceable, everyone can be replaced, with more or less problems or adaptation time, but you can and will be replaced if deemed necessary.

About the "new" book of Ayn Rand, do some research next time before running out at the mouth, unless you do propose that everyone that is unable to work be either executed or allowed to starve, wich is exactly what Her philosophy proposes when taken to the very end.

If you do want to see a good example of what a utopian society should be I would advise you to read the "Dayworld" trilogy by Philip José Farmer and think real hard on the setting of that story.

Anonymous said...

Fist off, don't be so sure of that dustmen thing: its not just about being easily replacable (google "naples dustmen strike" and, for example "writers guild of america strike" - I wonder which one had a bigger impact on, say, a business owner living in Naples)

Secondly i just cant see the difference between this "human resource price fixing" and, for example, a belt buckle price fixing.

How is "Hey, we're doctors/highly qualified managers, lets agree that we wont work for less than 50k czk/month" different from "Hey m8, we're highly skilled blacksmiths on this n00b srvr, lets just agree we wont sell buckles below 400g".

Because on a global scale everyone is replacable. I whish I could see the face of the czech doctors when the healh insurance company's manager explains to them, that 50k czk/month will be perfectly fine for these ukranian/romanian/hungarian doctors. Or, please, walk this way and meet these african/asian gentlemen with a medical degree, who would do twice your work for 20k a month.

The same goes for those hard working business owners. I bet there are many young chinese and russian gentlemen out there, who just don't care about Ayn Rand, and only see themselves as they are - smart, agile businessmen - not enacting some "providers of society" role, written in by some self important visionary in '57. They would surely love an "Atlas Shrugged" movement, sweeping across western civilization, leaving the business owners here in a "shrugging", sobbing, "IDK" state...

Anonymous said...

I think a similar sort of thing is that the CEO of Starbucks has started a campaign to encourage corporations and business leaders to stop making campaign contributions until the elected officials stop using serious economic issues as weapons to pursue narrow political agendas (e.g. the brinksmanship earlier in the summer over the debt ceiling increase).

Anonymous said...

Well-run companies have plans for avoiding and dealing with the loss of key personnel. Part of avoiding that loss is providing compensation that is roughly competitive -- this is where the CZ health system failed.

Your boss ought to also be thinking about how to carry on should you be hit by a bus tomorrow or sniped by the competition. At the same time, he should give you the impression that you are valuable and a key part of the business success.

Whole industries won't go on strike simply because it's against the individual interest of the last one standing. "Let's all declare bankruptcy. You go first."

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous: "For real, do it! And report the outcome here:"

The problem is "why?" If he actually is so highly qualified and difficult to replace he most likely already has an appropriate (read: pretty high) salary, so there is no reason for him to jeopardize his long-term relationship with his employer for some short-term gain unless the gain is huge. Even if he is actually difficult to replace right now the employer would start planning the replacement in the long term if you give him a reason.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Gevlon, you are a machine fixer.

We live in a world where increasingly machines take the jobs of people so learning to be a machine fixer is one of the few secure jobs left.

The reality is that we no longer need the majority of people in our society. The postal service hires a fraction of the people it used to, supermarket checkouts use automated machines, trains run by themselves, a crew of ten is all a huge container ship needs and farms need a fraction of the labourers they once did.

So what are their options? They can't all fix machines like you Gevlon, there is no need for that many machine fixers. They can't all be lawyers to protect the rights of the machine owners, or creatives employed by the machine owners to lie about why people need their products.

The reality is that we don't need a crew of 7 billion to manage planet earth. Unemployment rates will only continue to get worse. You have made a very smart personal decision Machine Fixer Gevlon but the system you support no longer works.

Wilson said...

From the article, it looks like the Slovak government's response is "Don't let the door hit you on the way out." Sometimes when Atlas shrugs, nobody gives a good goddamn - just ask the US air traffic controllers.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous "The reality is that we don't need a crew of 7 billion to manage planet earth. Unemployment rates will only continue to get worse. You have made a very smart personal decision Machine Fixer Gevlon but the system you support no longer works."

The system no longer works if you assume everyone has to produce something to earn his own sustainment. This is not true in most countries since unemployed people receive welfare sustainment in most cases.

Currently the cost of this welfare sustainment is significant, but in the future automation could make this cost less and less relevant. Some science fiction authors like Asimov did envision such scenarios long ago.

The Gnome of Zurich said...

Also, that would be essentially suicide, unless you are really getting screwed. Terminate my business? Why? So I can make *no* money, instead of plenty? Because I am asked to pay some taxes?

If my taxes were going to build infrastructure and help poor kids, or provide universal health insurance, instead of being wasted in afghanistan and until recently in iraq, I would have no problem whatsoever with what I'm paying.

There is absolutely no way that my business could be anywhere near as successful as it is, without the presence of a functioning state. Taxes are the price you pay.

If I were specifically in an industry that the government was messing with, so that I could charge enough to make a good profit, etc. then you plan would make more sense, but that would be true whether or not it was the government's doing. It would also be true if some company came out and beat us at our game to the point where we couldn't make money.

Agreed that if #OWS wants to make some real headway, a general strike is a good strategy. But of course, that's illegal in the US.

Anonymous said...

Getting that many large business owners to cooperate en masse like that would be similar to getting a large group of cats to leave their food untouched in the hopes of getting higher quality food. Sure, it would work theoretically, but all it takes is a few to realize this action leaves a lot more food left to be eaten while their competitors starved themselves. Besides, most major corporations are run by a board of directors that answer to their stock holders, and good luck convincing them to give up profits now on a risky long term venture when they're making comfortable livings now.

Aureon said...

@only 3 people in the country could do what i do: Bullshit.
Unless what you're running is epically self-centered, and likely useless.
You failed to factor a thing: Why should work, a resource that is _not_ endlessly needed, give rights over resources?
Work should give rights over other's work, not over natural resources.
And in case you failed to notice, the world has moved from "work needed" to "oil/metals/energy needed".
And no amount of work will create those.
I fully support any way to make more work, but keep in mind that there's ONE field in which you can sink more work endlessly: Research.
And that means, education. Un-educated people have the same rights as you over the planet's resources, just not the same rights over other's work.
Keep in mind that this world runs on capital, and not on work.

Deepfriedegg said...

Czech doctors' salary has not been increased by 60%.

Their base salary (making up between 10 and 15% of their total average salary has been increased by 60%.
Do you feel the difference? :P

And frankly, what showed up, the hospitals could do without many of those doctors that resigned.

Wilson said...

Yup, I went back and re-read the article. Sure enough, it says the doctors' salaries are going up 5-8000 crowns, and their current total pay is 45-50,000 crowns. Still a nice raise, but hardly revolutionary. /shrug

PT Barnum said...

Atlas better shrug if there's a smaller planet to carry and which pays better.

Because if he shrugs with the best possible planet on his back, he'd just be out of a job, when another titan takes it up.

Well, the retards are out in force today.

I wonder, could Atlas shrug and get a MUCH smaller planet for a little less pay?

Oh no, you say, ever so quickly, no Atlas must never, ever go to a slightly less paying job for tremendously left work! NO NO NO.

Why so upset? Have I struck an obvious nerve?

As you all have so eloquently pointed out, the very best workers are paid only slightly more than morons. This is because that is the lowest the price can be driven down to. Why shouldn't Atlas lift a pebble for a living instead of a planet if the pay is only slightly less?

Please begin the panicked lunatic whining.

Oh, and no, we haven't reached Utopia. Jesus.

nomo said...

This train of thought leads to the end of government.
Without govt, fueled by taxes, there will be no streets, no schools, no police, etc.
Sure, if you make enough money, you can build streets only where you need them, pay private teachers for your kids, get your own security guys.
While the poor will not be able to do so.

but you wont pay your security to protect everyone, will you? or to bring justice instead of doing what you want?
nor will the guy who's two numbers bigger than you.
his 100 guys will kill/enslave your 10 guys.

right of the strong, survival of the fittest.
be strong = be king, until you get slayed.
or be fit = be slave, for a long life.

one strong will be killed by 3 even not so strong guys.
3 by 20, 20 by 300, 300 by 5000.
and those 5000 soldiers wont be organized in a democratic way.
Anarchy leads to military dictature. and there, top tells you what to do. Just like now, but without human rights in any form.
Refuse and try to get more money - you'll die.

you want this?
i dont.