Government

Jury Duty: Antiquated, Wasteful, and Unjust

Previously I’ve pointed out the high cost of justice (The Justice is Too Damn High! – Gawker, the High Cost of Litigation, and The Weapon Shops of Isher) and the consequent failure of the justice system to adequately protect citizens, both the accused and the victims of crime.

What’s free tends to be wasted. And when citizens are commanded to take days off from their work lives for jury duty, their compelled service is taken for granted by a system which pays next to nothing for their time ($15 a day in California, about 10% of the minimum wage in cities like LA and SF.)

As another monopoly government service, justice suffers from the lack of innovation and cost control seen in similarly bureaucratic services like schools. Each juror who has their time wasted could take this up with their city or county reps and agitate for reform, but it’s a small issue compared with the other reasons to vote, and so there’s effectively very little accountability. It’s much easier to claim prejudice or conflict to avoid serving. In many parts of the US, 70% or more of registered voters simply don’t answer their juror summons.

This results in jury pools that aren’t representative of populations. Poorer people, minorities, and young people are underrepresented. Justice for people culturally different from typical juries can suffer because there are fewer jurors likely to understand the cultural milieu of the defendants.

I recently served as an alternate juror for a murder trial — four men charged with gang-related murder with a possible sentence of life without parole. The case took ten days to wrap up, with the jury coming to a unanimous verdict of guilty after a day of deliberations. The cultural milieu was street gangs in a mostly-Latino area of the Coachella Valley (which includes both wealthy retiree communities like Palm Springs and Indian Wells and poor, higher-crime towns like Desert Hot Springs and Indio.)

Over 200 people were called in the first day — which was only to present the tentative trial schedule and ask for any reasons to be excused. Those who didn’t ask to be released could have stayed home and answered an email questionnaire, so around 100 people had one day wasted.

The next day the remaining 100 people arrived at 9 AM and spent the entire day watching a subset of 20 people answer voir dire questions. Hours later six or eight were excused and substitutes were questioned. By the end of the day selection of twelve jurors and four alternates was complete. The 80 or so not selected were excused.

So far we have around 200 workdays wasted, worth about $300 a day in salary and benefits (and costing even more in disruption, with the saving grace that some were retired.) Those 200 wasted jury duty days generated around 200 unnecessary commutes averaging 20 miles round-trip, for a total of 4000 miles, c. 200 gallons of gasoline at $3 a gallon, $600 and lots of greenhouse gas pollution. So that people could sit in a room trapped for hours. Call it upwards of $60,000 of wasted time and materials.

Many jurisdictions have rationalized this process, setting the trial schedule in advance and using email to preselect potential jurors for more extensive void dire. While judges may worry there won’t be enough jurors after voir dire, the opposite extreme of abusing citizen resources by hauling in a hundred additional people is only possible because their time costs the system nothing (jurors get zero compensation for the first day in California.)

Harm to Justice

Seth Stevenson in the 3-5-19 Slate article “Guilty” (a very long read) writes:

In 1998, I helped convict two men of murder. I’ve regretted it ever since. The case was, in some ways, simple. Twenty-two–year-old Maurice Douglas and 17-year-old Dominic Gibson stood atop a hill in Washington, D.C., on a drizzly night in April 1997. Someone shot down the slope of the hill, killing an off-duty police officer who’d been standing at the bottom.

At first, I thought my job as a juror would be to figure out who’d fired a weapon. Was it Maurice? Dominic? Both of them? But then it became clear that the answer to this crucial question—who killed the police officer?—didn’t matter in the eyes of the court. And as the trial wrapped up, I realized I was about to convict two men of murder, only one of whom I thought was guilty.

The case I was on was similar if a little less ambiguous: the four accused left ample evidence of a joint plan to find and attack a member of another gang for revenge and to uphold the honor of the group and their friends. My jury was largely old, white-collar, and white. The defendants felt justified by honor considerations that made sense in their cultural milieu; like Italian-American communities of the last Prohibition era, their neighborhoods were largely working-class and “respectable,” but with enough criminal, fringe, and gang elements that nearly everyone had friends or relatives involved. Honor and respect (and violence to enforce the rules) were understood and within the community, their activities would be decried and whispered about but not openly opposed. Because police cannot protect everyone from reprisals.

Stevenson’s case also involved “aiding and abetting,” or joint enterprise theories of guilt. This is embedded in English common law and recognized as fair generally: if you knowingly help someone commit a crime, you are equally guilty. Stevenson feels all sorts of noblesse oblige white liberal guilt about convicting the accomplice of murder and putting him away for 30 years; he eventually turns it into a long story about his feelings, coming down against such severe sentences for passive participation in murder.

In the case I was on, the real jurors convicted in one day, and I think rightly so because three of the four showed ample evidence of planning to commit mayhem foreseeably ending in death. The fourth was a bit less certain, but there weren’t any other circumstances that would lead him to join the others in a car with loaded weapons ready that made any sense.

As an alternate I was not involved in deliberations. I think I would have wanted longer to crosscheck the evidence — some jurors may have just wanted to get it over with, but I would have wanted to be sure. Neither defendants nor victim were angels, and it’s possible that under different circumstances the victim would have been the one on trial — but he wasn’t. The tendency of the middle and upper-class jury to not see the accused through a dispassionate lens because of cultural differences wasn’t a factor in my case, though it may have been for Stevenson’s. For poorer people like these living in a lower-class neighborhood, less time and money is spent on the prosecution, and even less on defense. OJ would never have escaped a guilty verdict if this had been the standard.

The jury was provided with a package of evidence (including damning videos of the defendants meeting in convenience store parking lots, changing cars at a school nearby, and a glancing view of the attack on the victim’s house including muzzle flares and ricochets off the street.) No transcript was provided (I was surprised to hear the jury would have to request pieces of testimony to be *read back* to them rather than receiving a full transcript.) The partial and disorganized documentation would have made it a daunting task to really confirm everything, and the system just wants you to go along.

In most jurisdictions, courts prefer jurors hear live testimony once and never get to review it, but they pretend the jury can have pieces read back to them on request. Some verdicts have been overturned on the theory that reading (or reviewing video) of selected testimony is prejudicial, some have been overturned because the judge claimed there was no transcript available. A few places are experimenting with full video and giving the jury complete access to the recordings. It’s ridiculous that people are being (possibly) railroaded for the convenience of the system. This case was only easy because there was so much evidence of a conspiracy to kill. In other cases with limited money for investigation and defense, the temptation to go along with the prosecution quickly to escape jury hell must be enormous.

Heinlein suggested semi-pro jurors in The Moon is Harsh Mistress. This would be a corps of people who serve on juries for pay, possibly rated and qualified by other jurors so the “best” jurors get called more frequently. The schizophrenic attitude of our system where the ideal juror theoretically knows nothing and sees nothing but what the judge and attorneys tell them while supposedly acting as logical evidence-weighers really leads to superficial decisions. Jurors seem to be there only to legitimize the outcome, under duress. The *ideal* is moderately educated citizens free of prejudice, but forced service starts you off with a prejudice to go along to escape.

There have been suggestions to run trials by prepackaging depositions, video testimony, and arguments. Jurors now are not allowed to ask questions (in rare circumstances they can ask the judge to bring up a question on their behalf) or participate at all, so this loses almost nothing (the silly claim that live testimony viewing is somehow more authentic and that video can be prejudicial is belied by the number of times jurors are asleep or too uncomfortable to pay attention because they haven’t been allowed a bathroom break for two hours.)

The prepackaging would edit out the questions where the judge has sustained objections, wasted time could be edited out by agreement with defense, etc etc. The jury members in a complex case wouldn’t lose ten or more days of work, but get to review the evidence in a day or two then deliberate with full access to the record, which is released to the public (with bits redacted by the judge if necessary.) This packaging can be done by paralegals overseen by the judge at a cost paid for by savings in traditional court expenses.

The cost of trials is staggering and the results are sub-par, as is true with most traditional monopoly services. There’s little incentive to streamline or improve. Because full trials are so expensive and time-consuming, most convictions are by plea bargain, itself a blot on justice which forces the innocent to plead guilty to avoid far worse punishment and then puts them at risk of becoming permanently part of the criminal underclass and wards of the state, depriving them and the rest of us of their productive lives.

Streamlining trials and broadening the jury pool to be both more experienced and more motivated by making jury duty voluntary and well-paid will save everyone — prosecutors, judges, defendants, and defense attorneys — the deadly boring hours spent listening to testimony, jury instructions, waiting through recesses, and wrangling over schedules. And reducing the costs of trials will allow less use of plea bargaining and likely a better quality of justice.


More reading on other topics:

Update: California High-Speed Rail Nearly Dead
Regulation Strangling Innovation: Planes, Trains, and Hyperloop
Captain America and Progressive Infantilization
The Great Progressive Stagnation vs. Dynamism
FDA Wants More Lung Cancer
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Public Employee Unions
Jane Jacobs’ Monstrous Hybrids: Guardians vs Commerce

“Public Safety” – The Road to Thermidor

Freedom is dangerous. Your unregulated actions may cause harm to yourself and others. Parents are now expected to monitor their children every minute of the day and adults are voting for politicians who promise ever-increasing protections against harm, to regulate guns, food, and even speech.

The US long ago chose freedom over safety; as Ben Franklin said, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” We can see now that he should have been more specific — small liberties have been given up one by one, so that now most citizens could be prosecuted for some violation. The lack of enforcement of laws and regulations on the wealthiest and high-level machine politicians leads to cynicism and acceptance of lawlessness at the highest levels of government, while at the same time everyday life is more and more micromanaged by busybodies who want to control how others live.

Network effects make for near-monopolies in Internet-based communications businesses. Google, Twitter, Youtube, and Facebook dominate their respective sectors of user-generated media. These platforms increasingly censor speech that opposes the political status quo. Much of this censorship is motivated by efforts to make these media safe for advertising by removing discordant voices that passive consumers might find objectionable; no one wants their ad for a consumer product to run beside a disturbing message. Already advertisers are being pressured to drop support for content producers, in an effort to give activist groups veto power over content.

Twitter has its “Trust & Safety Council,” intended to censor Twitter. While the company denies it, it mass suspends or shadowbans users who have attracted “too many” user blocks or complaints. Many users wonder why a simple block of someone who annoys them isn’t enough, but for activists the goal is to prevent *others* from seeing anything they find offensive — because they believe removing speech from public spaces will prevent bad ideas from being seen, heard, and possibly influencing the weak-minded.

Every print publication chooses what content goes in and what is left out. Twitter, Facebook, and other services are free to curate users and police content that is illegal or offensive, but the governing laws then tend to make them responsible — if you are in the business of providing an edited product, you tend to be seen as responsible for that content, unlike common carriers that transfer all messages and have no say in what is carried from user to user. It is relatively safe to censor only content that could legally be actionable under the First Amendment — imminent, direct threats to identifiable people or groups. Uncomfortable political ideas can’t be defined clearly, and allowing activists to veto speech based on nebulous hurt feelings is a recipe for silencing most people who have something to say — as voices are removed, what is allowed to be spoken gets narrower and narrower, and those activists who validate their existence by taking offense in order to gain power to silence ideas they don’t like will simply define more and more ideas as offensive until almost nothing is left.

The French Revolution had its governing Committee of Public Safety. Notice the language — no longer focused on protecting the citizens from hostile external powers, but policing safety — that is, finding enemies both internal and external. These ideologues came to a bad end as the revolutionaries were, one by one, found to be “problematic” and executed in service of the higher goal of perfecting and protecting the new State. The modern and humane guillotine made quick work of disposing of anyone who got in the way of Progress.

The Mob, the sans-culottes who could reliably rounded up on the streets of Paris to put muscle behind the Reign of Terror, were the power base of the factional leaders in the struggle to control the day-zero government which would overthrow all vested interests and rethink all customs. Today’s equivalent is the Twitter mob, ready to condemn and disemploy anyone accused of harming a member of an oppressed class. But it is far easier in social media than it used to be in the physical world to destroy reputations and end careers. And the gusto with which the Twitter mob sentences its targets to punishments is related to the selective empathy employed — instead of recognizing each human being as an individual with goals and emotions that can be understood, targets are dehumanized and abstracted.

The stakes are lower in social media (no one aside from a few suicides is actually being killed for the Cause), but the mechanism is the same — the rush of power shared with your tribe to vanquish your enemies and gain strength in numbers. To pull down idols so that you can put yours up instead. To drive out competitors and get you and your friends appointed to positions of authority.

The killing fields of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge government are arguably the most horrific example of a real-world pogrom in recent history. I’ll wrap this up with the campaign ad for the daughter of Cambodian genocide survivors, recently censored by Facebook.

The Tragedy of the Common Need

You’ve probably heard of the tragedy of the commons — first discussed as early as 1883, but more recently popularized during the ecology craze of the late 60s by Garrett Hardin. A shared resource like community grazing land, fish in the sea, or unpolluted air tends to be overused and destroyed by individuals who can gain from using it because it is not in any one user’s interest to limit their use to avoid damaging the resource. Common grazing areas would be trampled and muddy, fish schools would disappear from the sea, and air would grow more and more polluted when no one paid or accounted for use of the resource. Now in real situations like common grazing areas, it was often the case that formal or informal rules were established and enforced by the community to limit overuse; this sometimes works well and sometimes fails completely when there are no realistic means of enforcement.

One solution is property rights — if the common is turned over to an owner or owners, they have an incentive and are permitted to charge for use and exclude those who will not pay. In the case of grazing rights, the shepherd might be asked to pay a few coins to let his or her sheep forage on the land for a few hours. By taking note of the state of the land and refusing to allow grazing or increasing the charges when the land is threatened by heavy use, the owner can establish a sustainable usage pattern and maximize revenue from the property to be used for maintenance (and to pay the toll collector.)

This is one kind of externality — any one person’s use of the limited resource impinges on others, so allowing free use damages the total output of the system and hurts others who might have benefitted from using them. Absent such externalities, free-market voluntary exchange as thus simplified tends toward generation of Pareto-optimal solutions — everyone’s utility is maximized and any divergence from the solution makes at least one person worse off without making anyone else as much better off. Of course such perfect markets and conditions of knowledge don’t occur in real life, but many simple markets come close.

The tragedy of the commons is what happens when there is a non-excludable but exhaustable good: one can’t exclude some users (or charge them, since exclusion is the enforcement condition for charging for use or consumption.) There are other kinds of externality, though: public goods, which are not only non-excludable but aren’t depleted by overuse. Examples would include most goods which can be duplicated at no cost, like news or (today) free Internet writings. All benefit from their production, but since once created these goods are shared easily and can’t be charged for, economists would argue less of such goods are created than would be optimal. This is one argument for public education: though every person benefits directly when they pay for their own education, society as a whole benefits if education is widespread and available also to those who can’t afford to pay for it themselves. This is the argument of communitarians — they believe it is in everyone’s best interest to tax some to fund goods for all, to be shared with everyone. There are other methods for paying for public goods, like advertising sales and charity, but these alternate funding mechanisms may distort the quality of the good (as advertising has tended to create a lowest-common-denominator level of quality in those goods like network TV and clickbait sites that rely on ads.)

Now what about “common bads” — products or actions that harm individuals, like violence or theft. No one wants to be a victim and sensible people will avoid the bads, but community bads like street crime can’t be completely avoided by one person’s payments or actions. A police force addresses this common bad by suppressing crime at common expense, and so that too is another proper function of an efficient government.

So economists argue endlessly about aspects of these “corner cases” where complete information and free markets can’t create optimal exchange networks because of externalities. The argument for a government, or “public sector,” is that only a common authority can create conditions where these problems are addressed, enforcing contracts, law, and property rights to correct “market failures” and allow everyone to go about their business unharmed by the depradations of others that would infringe on their rights.

But of course there is no perfect government. The individuals who manage and staff public agencies are motivated by their own self-interest as well as any idealism about the General Good they may have, and over time the rationale for their actions may be enlarged beyond simply mediating necessary conflicts between individuals and their rights to free action and property. Once these areas are dominated by a “free” government service, the private competition shrinks or dies completely, and can never return to compete. This is the ratchet effect, where movement goes only one way — toward larger state control — making reform difficult.

This tendency to expand government into what would otherwise be private and mostly efficient decisions is most easily combatted by supporting a constitution that specifically states what areas government should act in, and has a mechanism to prevent encroachments outside those areas. Our judicial branch has failed to strike down overreach, especially after the New Deal quashing of the Supreme Court’s pushback against the administrative state. So Step 1 is to appoint new justices who are more skeptical of well-intended but improper laws and regulations.

There is a more general agency problem– those elected or hired to decide for the people have interests which do not entirely reflect the people’s, and will tend to act to benefit themselves first. This is the primary reason why government-provided services can’t compete with private services in efficiency — in private services we fire the unsatisfactory providers and hire new ones with every purchasing decision, whereas government services are usually monopolies and the connection between customer satisfaction and revenue is broken. Ask veterans how happy they are with VA provision of healthcare and you’ll get some unprintable answers because of the thoughtless bureaucracy they have to deal with to get care.

Over time public provision of shared goods creates a class of substandard, even dangerous corrupt goods that crowds out private and better equivalents. In a laissez-faire world, mass public education and healthcare seem like improvements, but they crowded out the private systems which had grown up before the time they were introduced, and few now remember the thriving voluntary welfare organizations and schools. Lacking much private competition, these public monopolies are now mediocre and doing great harm to, for example, inner city school children who never learn to read, write, and compute, but are graduated anyway. All forms of public news, education, and healthcare are used to mold the views of future voters toward an even larger state, and narrow interests like teacher’s unions capture their institutions and prevent improvements or competition. This is ultimately damaging to democratic decisionmaking, as voters learn so little about their government in public schools that they are easily demagogued into supporting a larger state. The usual argument for public schools was that they provided a common education required for high-quality citizen involvement–but as we have seen, they have been turned into indoctrination centers, with neutral history, civics, and science education squeezed out for political programming.

The public support for government emergency assistance, medical care, old age support, and security led to divorcing of the provision of these from the family or clan networks that once provided them, as police and a justice system took over from blood feuds and vendetta in keeping order between families. But the consequences are a change in incentives: instead of loyalty to family, loyalty to state and party came to be as or more important. And now we contend over politics because so much of life is now determined by government. If you ignore politics, your life, your property, and your children will come under control of others who don’t know you or yours at all.


Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples OrganizationsDeath by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. 

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.


More reading on other topics:

Jane Jacobs’ Monstrous Hybrids: Guardians vs Commerce
The Great Progressive Stagnation vs. Dynamism
Death by HR: How Affirmative Action is Crippling America
Death by HR: The End of Merit in Civil Service
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Public Employee Unions
Death by HR: History and Practice of Affirmative Action and the EEOC
Civil Service: Woodrow Wilson’s Progressive Dream
Bootleggers and Baptists
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Justice Dept. Extortion
Corrupt Feedback Loops, Goldman Sachs: More Justice Dept. Extortion
Death by HR: The Birth and Evolution of the HR Department
Death by HR: The Simple Model of Project Labor
Levellers and Redistributionists: The Feudal Underpinnings of Socialism
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
Trump World: Looking Backward
Minimum Wage: The Parable of the Ladder
Selective Outrage
Culture Wars: Co-Existence Through Limited Government
Social Justice Warriors, Jihadists, and Neo-Nazis: Constructed Identities
Tuitions Inflated, Product Degraded, Student Debts Unsustainable
The Morality of Glamour

On Affirmative Action and Social Policy:

Affirmative Action: Chinese, Indian-Origin Citizens in Malaysia Oppressed
Affirmative Action: Caste Reservation in India
Diversity Hires: Pressure on High Tech<a
Title IX Totalitarianism is Gender-Neutral
Public Schools in Poor Districts: For Control Not Education
Real-Life “Hunger Games”: Soft Oppression Destroys the Poor
The Social Decay of Black Neighborhoods (And Yours!)
Child Welfare Ideas: Every Child Gets a Government Guardian!
“Income Inequality” Propaganda is Just Disguised Materialism

The greatest hits from SubstrateWars.com (Science Fiction topics):

Fear is the Mindkiller
Mirror Neurons and Irene Gallo
YA Dystopias vs Heinlein et al: Social Justice Warriors Strike Again
Selective Outrage
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
“Tomorrowland”: Tragic Misfire
The Death of “Wired”: Hugo Awards Edition
Hugos, Sad Puppies 3, and Direct Knowledge
Selective Outrage and Angry Tribes
Men of Honor vs Victim Culture
SFF, Hugos, Curating the Best
“Why Aren’t There More Women Futurists?”
Science Fiction Fandom and SJW warfare

More reading on the military:

US Military: From No Standing Armies to Permanent Global Power
US Military: The Desegration Experience
The VA Scandals: Death by Bureaucracy

“Death by HR” – “a valuable, and fun, read.”

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

Death by HR

[Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations, available now for Kindle and trade paperback.]

I missed a new review of Death by HR at Amazon a few months back. It blends some quotes from the book with the reviewer’s comments to make some additional points:

5.0 out of 5 stars
HR: Symptom or Disease?
By Alan F. Sewell on February 17, 2017
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase

This book seeks to answer a question posed by job seekers in their 40’s and 50’s: “Why is it impossible for experienced people our age, whose jobs were eliminated by {downsizing, rightsizing, outsourcing, offshoring, re-engineering, work force reductions, involuntary early retirements} to get back to work?”

Companies keep saying that they can’t find candidates qualified with the skills they need, yet tens of millions of highly educated people with years of success under their belts — engineers, business managers, and computer science Ph.D’s — are sitting home twiddling their thumbs because HR Departments will not consider them for open positions that match their skills and experience.

Corporations are very complex organizations. It’s easy to pick out one cog in their wheels — such as “overpaid CEO’s with short attention spans” or “boneheaded bean counters” or “HR drones” to pin all the blame for our poor economy and diminishing job opportunities on. Like every other department, HR is bound to garner a fair share of criticism. How much of it is justified?

HR departments exist because they fulfill a necessary function. HR does after all serve the essential purpose of improving the likelihood that corporations will treat their employees ethically. These days that includes affirmative action diversity goals, conflict resolution, compliance with employment law, and other aspects of personnel management that must be addressed.

On the other hand, every corporate department must constantly strive for improvement that corrects justified complaints.

The biggest beef with HR Departments is that instead of lubricating the gears of employment by matching the most promising job candidates to job openings, HR people throw sand in the gears and block corporations from hiring the very people a corporation needs to inject new blood and vigor into its ossified bureaucracy. HR people are often seen as narrow-minded, ignorant of their companies’ businesses, biased (against “normal” people) in their hiring preferences, well-deserving their low pay and low status, and frankly stupid.

This book certainly aligns with the negative view of HR:
=====
HR functionaries are roughly analogous to the commissars or political officers of Communist regimes, a separate hierarchy of spies to report on and control internal units. The interests of managers and HR can diverge drastically, with HR coming to be viewed as the enemy within, to be avoided and routed around. One high-tech team manager wrote, “How can you tell HR is lying? Their lips are moving.”

HR has come to be viewed as a pink-collar ghetto, a feminized and lower-status department from which few would graduate into the highest levels of management.

This new wrinkle in HR practices seems like the most unsettling and counterproductive yet. It not only removes access to the hiring manager, but also live, human interaction. It sounds like “HR pornography,” where perverted personnel jockeys huddle around a monitor to gawk at videos of “virtual job candidates,” picking apart perceived blunders while they screen you out.

What I learned in my experience with these [soul-crushing people of low intelligence] is that passive-aggressive noncompliance thwarts them…

HR departments may be worse than useless as recruiters— they sometimes actively repel the best applicants.
======

No kudos for HR people here! HR is portrayed as a disease imposed on companies by the necessity to comply with government mandates for equal opportunity and diversity. However, HR is also portrayed as a symptom of a larger disease of corporate mismanagement:

======
Mediocre managements take current rewards for themselves but ignore the future, eventually failing. Foreign companies take over markets, one by one, as US companies dragged down by unions and mediocre key employees lose revenues and eventually abandon markets.

HR often reports to the CFO, and thereby becomes a cost-saving arm. Public companies can fall into the managed-earnings trap, where every hiccup in revenues and earnings is smoothed by carefully-timed layoffs. Many mature Silicon Valley companies now go through layoffs every few quarters, usually justified as responding to poor prospects in one business line or other, but really aimed at keeping investors soothed and the stock price up. Upper-level management bonuses and stock options depend on a high and stable stock price; HR becomes the earnings-management handmaiden of the CFO, allowing short-term gains for top employees and investors at the expense of long-term development of a productive, stable workforce.
======

[Ed. note: the above were quotes from the book, below is apparently the reviewer’s views]

So, what really is the story on HR? I know an HR person in our family. She fits the “HR profile” of being a young female minority. She’s nice, well-mannered, and well-spoken. She does fit this book’s stereotype of HR people who are salespersons for trafficking in job applicants as commodities. They will only consider other “salesy” people like themselves who smile, are witty conversationalists, sharp dressers, young, and speak in fashionable buzzwords.

When HR people like her control the hiring, the “preening empty suit” candidates are at a premium, while the other 90% of candidates who are older, average in appearance and dress, and analytical instead of salesy have zero chance of being hired. Since we’re in a “musical chairs” economy that produces more layoffs than hirings in most years, the people who lose their jobs in late career are the ones who have the chairs jerked out from under them and can’t get back in the work force. Of course these people voted massively for Trump in 2016.

Author Jeb Kinnison also explains, from first hand experience, these shortcomings of HR departments, and also of upper corporation management and the government’s over-bearing regulations and quota-mongering. These are all employment-killers for people with skills in demand and records of proven accomplishments who were laid off in late career.

Kinnison also mentions another factor, which is that the economy has been so bad since the late 1990s that companies don’t expect to grow, so they put off hiring as long as possible. This explains the crazy situations whereby people who are perfectly qualified for a job opening are rejected, while the job opening remains unfilled for years. Then corporation management tells the government, “We can’t find Americans who are qualified to work for us, so give us more (low paid) Indians on H1-B visa’s.”

My take away is that HR Departments are beneficial in many aspects, such as conflict resolution and adherence to legal requirements for avoiding discrimination suits in hiring, firing, and promotion. But HR is not the best department for making hiring decisions. The hiring managers should do the hiring directly as they used to. They are the ones who are experienced in the business and know better than HR how to evaluate new hires. Once people are hired in, then HR becomes useful when problems of personnel conflict or potential discrimination or sexual harassment occur.

I can relate from personal experience what Mr. Kinnison is talking about. I enjoyed his observations and anecdotal story-telling. I also enjoyed his bringing many other factors that have negative impacts on HR, such as short-sighted corporate management and excessive government demands for diversity quotas. These external factors make HR much more annoying and detrimental than it probably would be without them.

So, HR is not just a disease, but also a symptom of other corporation and government diseases.

This book puts all of that into perspective and is a valuable, and fun, read.


Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. 

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.


Ban the Box, Credit Scores, Current Salaries: The Road to Hiring Blind
High Tech Under Diversity Pressure
HireVue, Video Interviews, and AI Job Searches
Diversity Programs Don’t Work