great slackening

The Net Neutrality Scam

You have probably seen some net neutrality scare tactics recently. The issues are complex and proposals to “guarantee” net neutrality usually promise to protect Internet users from a variety of evil ISP behaviors by authorizing the FCC to treat the Internet as a common carrier / utility, with powers to regulate and tariff (that is, price control) services. As is usually the case when powerful business and political interests are involved, the spin obscures more than clarifies.

First, let’s look at a reasonably neutral outline of the issues, from Open Secrets:

Net neutrality is the principle that all data on the Internet should be treated equally, not discriminated against based on platform, content, user or any other characteristic; ISPs may not create pay-to-play “fast lanes” that only some content providers could afford. Sounds simple enough, but the application of this axiom is technically and legally complex given the immense, intertwined — and sometimes competing — interests of ISPs, governments, and consumers in Internet industries and infrastructures

Debate over net neutrality in the U.S. has picked up in recent years, but it’s been an issue of worldwide contention since the early 2000’s. The US government has attempted to implement various strategies for regulation over this timeframe with little success. Net neutrality supporters believe that the government hasn’t gone far enough to protect individual freedom and security on the Internet; opponents fear that government intervention will hamper innovation and investment while increasing the costs of getting online.

Much of the recent debate has centered on the concept of paid prioritization. ISPs, such as Comcast, want content providers to pay them to deliver data faster. The ISPs claim that allowing these fast lanes is the only way they’ll be able to manage data efficiently and generate revenue to expand and improve Internet infrastructure. Opponents of paid prioritization, including content providers like Netflix and Amazon, assert that this kind of data discrimination will stifle the growth of fledgling companies that cannot pay to compete with developed corporations in the fast lanes. Advocates on both sides of the issue believe that additional costs will be absorbed by customers if their adversaries prevail. Paid prioritization is only a part of the Net Neutrality issue, but it has become the most prominent aspect of the public discussion.

By voting in February to regulate broadband communications like a utility under Title II of the Communications Act, the FCC effectively prohibited paid prioritization. The Title II statute prohibits “common carriers,” which ISPs are now considered, from creating “any unjust or unreasonable discrimination in charges, practices, classifications, regulations, facilities, or services.” Similar common carrier laws have been used to regulate monopolistic markets like the telephone and railroad industries. Additionally, Title II imbues the FCC with the authority to investigate any consumer complaints in the Internet market and requires privacy and fair use assurances from ISPs. Net neutrality supporters rejoiced at this decision, but opponents are not settling for defeat: Congressional attempts to reign in the FCC’s authority over broadband have commenced as the first wave of telecom litigation arrives

Furthermore, some proponents of net neutrality like Google worry that the broad Title II classification may promote unintended consequences that raise costs. This is because Title II, an expansive set of regulations, permits the FCC to impose tariffs and other forms of rate regulation that are looked upon unfavorably by the private sector. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has vowed to selectively enforce Title II authority in an attempt to minimize costs and negative externalities, but such assurances have not assuaged the concerns of those embroiled in the debate.

Proponents of net neutrality regulation emphasize fear that ISPs will abuse their customers by using their power over what is delivered to discriminate against content — in its simplest form, the fear that the sites *you* want to see and paid to access will be slowed in favor of others. ISPs are widely resented in much of the US where local municipalities — authorized by Federal law to allow only one cable TV company to operate in their territory — restrict entry of wired Internet competitors, leaving the average US citizen dependent on 1.5 broadband Internet providers, usually the incumbent cable TV operator along with a few less competitive alternatives like DSL from remaining telephone carriers. You are stuck with one company, and as a result the company is unresponsive, the standard model for a regulated monopoly utility, and gets a better return on money spent lobbying its regulators and buying political influence than it does from spending to satisfy customers.

No one is suffering from differential slowdowns at the moment — though many suffer from lower speeds and higher monthly bills due to lack of consumer choice. Because most have no alternative, cable companies can milk their customers and make high profits while failing to invest in new equipment and network capacity. Until recently these companies were generating so much cash on cable TV that they were able to reinvest in content providers by buying up TV networks, cable channels, publishing houses, and newspapers. So today we have Time Warner, soon to be swallowed by Verizon (which originated as a rollup of old Bell System companies), Comcast (which now owns NBC-Universal and its cable channels (including MSNBC, CNBC, USA Network, NBCSN, E!, and The Weather Channel), Charter-Spectrum-Brighthouse, Cox, and so on.

The giant and most hated of these is Comcast, with its reputation for unresponsive, DMV-like service, constantly rising prices, and occasional abuses of power to favor their own content over competitors’. Comcast is maneuvering to get net neutrality regulation tailored to its interests — this would prevent other ISPs from charging for access to its content, while allowing it to provide better service and access for its own services within its dominant network.

On the other side are major content providers who want a net neutrality that bars ISPs for charging them extra to guarantee quality of service (QoS) for their customers. Netflix, for example, is paid by customers by the month, and those customers suck huge amounts of streaming data through the system to their homes; if that data bogs down the network, ISPs either have to spend money on new capacity and charge non-Netflix users for it, or control use by capping data use or speed. While metering data and charging both originators and receivers for it at a very low rate might be the closest to economic fairness, asking big data sellers like Netflix, Amazon, and Google to pay something for their use is at least approximately fair. Of course these companies don’t want to pay unless all of their competitors (especially the in-house content generators of the ISPs) are required to.

So the big campaign to scare you into supporting the latest generation of net neutrality regulation is really a fight between big media and ISP companies to keep their own margins high and competitors weak. Notice the real underlying problem for consumers — limited choice of ISPs and local monopolies — isn’t addressed at all. Nearly every legislator at federal, state, and local levels gets some campaign funding from the media and ISP giants (as well as flattering news coverage that is a major advantage for incumbents), and by finding problems only where the big donors want them to look, they keep voters from understanding where the real problem is. This is much like the current battle to “repeal and replace” the ACA, which carefully neglects to address the biggest underlying problem, the cost and limited availability of medical services and treatments due to overregulation and cartelization of supply.

In the long run, beyond 5 years, technology will eliminate the local cable monopolies — wireless 5G and beyond will provide broadband data service in most locations at a reasonable cost. Google fiber rollouts have stopped and most companies with fiber optic ambitions have decided to scrap new installations as the high costs would have to be written off in a short time, which is why Verizon FIOS, a winning product where it was allowed to compete with coax-based cable TV, was never fully installed where authorized and has been sold off to other companies.

The giants are competing for advantage in a future marketplace by promoting regulation that benefits them or reduces competition. But in their focus on their interests, they are opening the door for broader FCC regulation of the Internet, which in the long run could be applied to wireless and as well and result in constant political warfare and control of what you see and hear. The excuse for FCC regulation in the New Deal era was to prevent a kind of Tragedy of the Commons in radio and television — since there was limited spectrum for signals and laissez-faire broadcasting would ruin it for everyone, Congress declared the spectrum a public resource, then promptly turned it into a property right by handing it out for free to TV and radio stations connected to the powerful (see, for example, how Lady Bird Johnson made LBJ a multimillionaire by using his political pull to get TV licenses.) FCC control came with regulations of content and suppression of minority political viewpoints, something many party politicians would like to see return. Already the incumbent social media giants like Facebook and Twitter are suppressing “dangerous” views, and countries like China are suppressing Internet speech to continue their control of public discourse. Even a small step in that direction like the current net neutrality proposals is dangerous.

Free people don’t need protection; they need freedom to change providers. Start by opening up competition in ISP services so any abuse can be dealt with by going with someone else. Don’t give unelected government regulators control of your feed.


Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations, 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:

A Clinton Christmas Carol
“High Tech Under Diversity Pressure
Ban the Box, Credit Scores, Current Salaries: The Road to Hiring Blind
HireVue, Video Interviews, and AI Job Searches
“Death by HR” – Diversity Programs Don’t Work

Interstate Commerce: Trade Barriers Between States

Doctor sees patients via Internet

Doctor sees patients via Internet

Ilya Somin has a post at Volokh/WaPo about “foot voting” (people choosing to move to jurisdictions that have local governments that reflect their values or offer economic opportunities lacking in their current home areas.)

One phenomenon often discussed is migrants bringing their voting habits with them and voting into place local governments that duplicate the conditions in, say. California (they are said to “Californicate” the new area.) People who move because of economic opportunities may have no understanding that the existence of the better job opportunities and lower costs of living in the new place owes much to more enlightened, less business-suppressing tax and regulation in the new location. Since they never realized those business-unfriendly California laws were suppressing local opportunities that might have kept them there, they don’t modify the type of politicians they support and so begin the process of bringing Progressive political machines and micromanagement to their new homes.

Outside observers look a country like India and wonder why reform of internal trade barriers, which are relics of the pre-colonial states, are widely understood to be prosperity-enhancing, but progresses very slowly if at all. Products made in one Indian state can’t be sold to a customer in another without paying additional taxes or being blocked by local content regulations.

In the US, regulation of interstate commerce was intentionally made a Federal matter, making the US a free trade area. This aided in creating the world’s largest internal free market and allowed local industries to grow up specializing in one manufacturing segment to serve a national market — regions specialized in furniture, shoes, textiles, steel, and so on, aided by economies of scale and able to take advantage of local resources that gave them a national advantage. If each state had been able to put tariffs on incoming products or block shipments from other states by regulation, the nation’s growth would have been stunted.

But services and professions are still licensed by states and even smaller units. To braid hair or do massage in a town can require licenses from both state and local authorities, with professional guilds using such licensing to block competition. This prevents poor entrepreneurs from finding work providing services and increases costs of those services for poor consumers, all in the name of consumer protection.

At the higher end, doctors are cartelized and regulated by states as well as the Federal government, which runs the subsidies and residency schemes that keep production of new physicians expensive and restricted. Healthcare services that could easily be handled by less expensive technologists are often required to be provided only under a licensed doctor’s supervision, pumping up the incomes for even the worst doctors (who may use their credential to take jobs in prison or institutional settings where their record of incompetence is ignored because their license is valid.)

New technology that might allow low-cost Internet doctoring by out-of-state or even out-of-country physicians is blocked in most states. Concern for consumer health is always cited as the reason, even when poor consumers can’t afford to seek any face-to-face care for their health issues. It is apparently better to go untreated than to allow the poor to buy “good enough” services on the Internet. The inability of above-board, higher-quality companies to run such remote doctoring systems leaves the field open to bootleg quacks.

So even the US is not truly a free trade zone, since many services (cable TV, real estate, medicine, restaurants, schools) are heavily regulated by state and local governments, and outsiders trying to break in face high barriers to entry. Big companies can overcome the need to manage 50 or more different regulatory regimes, but smaller chains just starting out have to choose wisely and only expand in areas where the regulatory environment is more supportive.

Not surprisingly, the result is vigorous competition and lower prices in less regulated areas, and sluggish investment and higher prices in more-regulated areas.

It’s clear that Federalism (state and local control) applied to service regulations is costing the economy growth and raising prices in an era where barriers to travel and communication have come down. Medical, teaching, and real estate professionals should not have to undergo licensing in every jurisdiction where they might practice. Cities and towns should not be able to extract concessions from a monopoly cable TV-Internet provider which result in high prices and no local competition.

Perhaps we should thank those Progressives who battered the Supreme Court into submission and started making the case that every local economic decision could be regulated by the Feds, since even the tiniest decision locally has some effect on the national market, no matter how minuscule.

The Progressives opened the way, so now it would be constitutional to overrule all local and state licensing of professionals, insurance companies, and other services, which could now be much more competitive in a true free national market. So if they wanted to, Congress could rule all medical and communications services licensed in one jurisdiction to be sellable in others. nationwide insurance policies would provide travel flexibility and economies of scale, and these companies could provide services via Skype examination that would undercut local doctor and hospital cartels. Sick people in the Bronx projects could be “seen” and prescribed treatment and medication from doctors in low-cost South Dakota, say. “Oh, no!” cry the Progressives, “They could be quacks!” And the products sold in New York from manufacturers in South Dakota, Michigan, or even China could be fakes or defective. Yet we tolerate the free trade of goods because it is in the long run best for everyone, and the wholesalers and retailers of goods have an interest in keeping bad products out of their systems. And now that low-skilled manufacturing jobs are mostly outside the US, isn’t it interesting that professions and industries that benefit from barriers to trade in services — lawyers, doctors, communications giants, drug companies, public schools — resist any effort to open themselves up to competition.

In “Death by HR” I discussed one remedy — a “Freedom of Contract” Amendment to the Constitution to clarify the Common Law right of adults to contract with each other and service providers in any way they choose. If I choose to buy a product from a Chinese company, I deal with the risk and consequences. I should be allowed to buy services from anywhere I want — to have my skin lesions imaged to a doctor in Florida, to have the treatment done by medications from a pharmacy in Oregon, to have a local contractor handle any hands-on services, and so on. The key problem with many necessary services today is regulation and a resulting lack of low-cost options. This is especially true in medicine, which Obamacare only made worse by restricting practical treatment options to small geographic regions. The solution is radical deregulation.


Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations, 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:

A Clinton Christmas Carol
“High Tech Under Diversity Pressure
Ban the Box, Credit Scores, Current Salaries: The Road to Hiring Blind
HireVue, Video Interviews, and AI Job Searches
“Death by HR” – Diversity Programs Don’t Work

The Tom Woods Show, Episode 817: “Death by HR”

[Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations]

The Tom Woods podcast on Death by HR is here, and on Youtube here. We ran overtime a bit, but aside from editing out some lapses and timechecks, they ran almost all of our discussion.

I invented a new term, “reverse regulatory capture,” to describe how HR culture has generally come to accept the attitudes of the progressive regulators and labor lawyers toward much of their work. One of my editors told me when I used “Stockholm Syndrome” to describe the phenomenon that many readers would not understand what that term meant — here’s an explanation. Often used when talking about Patty Hearst, the heiress kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army in 1974 who adopted the revolutionary name Tania and participated in bank robberies with them. Responding to someone who holds power over you by first pretending to adopt their values to avoid punishments, and eventually coming to truly believe them. HR has complied with government enforcement so long that its thinkers and educational programs have adopted the progressive values of the regulators.

I took his introductory comments as a blurb for the book:

“Interesting, cutting, incisive book about what’s really going on in HR departments in companies across the country.” — Tom Woods, senior fellow of the Mises Institute and host of The Tom Woods Show


The book is currently available in: trade paperback from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other bookselling web sites; Kindle ebook format from Amazon exclusively; and as an audiobook from Audible and Amazon.

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations, 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:

A Clinton Christmas Carol
“High Tech Under Diversity Pressure
Ban the Box, Credit Scores, Current Salaries: The Road to Hiring Blind
HireVue, Video Interviews, and AI Job Searches
“Death by HR” – Diversity Programs Don’t Work

Death by HR: Audio Introduction

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,]

The Tom Woods podcast will be doing a segment on Death by HR tomorrow, and when they send me the link I’ll put it up here so my readers can listen. I wasn’t familiar with his extensive writings or his career, but it’s impressive as seen in his Wikipedia entry. His current web site is here, and his podcast show is popular — old episodes are here. He’s closely associated with Peter Schiff and has him on frequently as a guest, and he recently started the Contra Krugman podcast — which uses the New York Times columnist Paul Krugman’s partisan writings on economics and current affairs as a foil to discuss more realistic economic ideas.

I enjoyed our discussion and was gratified that he supports the book. I did a practice segment a few days ago that turned out well enough that I’m posting it as a good short introduction to me as the author and the ideas in the book. Tom’s interview segment will be 15 minutes or so, and directed to a few areas of interest, so the focus is different — there’s not too much overlap.

So enjoy and pass on the audio of Jeb Kinnison introducing “Death by HR.”


The book is currently available in: trade paperback from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other bookselling web sites; Kindle ebook format from Amazon exclusively; and as an audiobook from Audible and Amazon.

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations, 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:

A Clinton Christmas Carol
“High Tech Under Diversity Pressure
Ban the Box, Credit Scores, Current Salaries: The Road to Hiring Blind
HireVue, Video Interviews, and AI Job Searches
“Death by HR” – Diversity Programs Don’t Work

Death by HR: Progressive Dirigisme Takes Over the US

Unhappy college grad working at Starbucks

Unhappy college grad working at Starbucks

Labor lawyers and labor economists have historically been supported by labor unions and their cooperating Democratic legislators, who fund labor-leaning academic institutions. As a result, HR degree programs and faculty begin with a bias toward the labor laws and union-style thinking of academics in the field.

Social scientists generally lean left. Industrial Relations (IR), the field of labor-management studies, also leans sharply left.[1] Social science professors are overwhelmingly Democrats.[2] And the faculty in most HR degree programs are similarly biased, which means the typical new graduate from these programs has been indoctrinated to accept the necessity and essential fairness of the labor laws and regulations they will be expected to help enforce in their postings in private industry or government agencies. While we have seen that these new graduates tend to be tempered by exposure to real workplace life and management influence, they retain their political affiliations and continue to lean toward progressive causes and regulations.

Verdant Labs’ survey of political affiliation by occupation based on FEC campaign contribution reports doesn’t separate out HR staffers, but does cover HR execs and similar functions:

HR Executives 66% D, 34% R
Compliance Officers 72% D, 28% R
Administrative Manager 70% D, 30% R[3]

It’s easy to see why people whose careers involve administering government rules would tend to support the party that maintains that even more regulations are useful and necessary, because no one would want to work at something useless or even counterproductive. People who want to work long hours and enjoy the freedom to run risky but successful enterprises aren’t likely to be found in HR degree programs. This political tendency is valuable in cooperating with government overseers, but can cause HR staff to overlook the need for the organization they work for to improve productivity and compete with overseas firms not so hampered.

What is the leftist tendency? It is the view that people’s economic decisions are to be supervised and regulated by the state for the common good. Communists and Socialists took the simplistic extreme form, taking direct ownership of the means of production—factories, farms, and businesses — to be managed by the workers collectively or the larger state. Every country that tried this failed eventually because it turns out self-interested management by owners is vastly more productive, and no collective can decide as well as an owner with direct access to local and market information.

The leftist fallback position — after millions of deaths and multiple failures of true Communist and Socialist states — has been to leave property and the means of production in private hands, but thoroughly regulate and control what the owners may do with it. This leaves at least some incentive for owners to produce and invest in production facilities, but puts many important investment and employment decisions in the hands of a political body — a legislature, or agencies given power to oversee employers. And while some socially-harmful decisions (like pollution of the common air and water, discrimination against black people in employment and accommodation, and tolerance of dangerous working conditions in mines and factories) are thereby prevented, many other decisions are made poorly by collective bodies with little or no knowledge of local conditions. The freedom of both worker and employer to balance their interests and negotiate the most favorable contract is often limited by rigid labor regulations, as when workers who would like to work more hours to make extra money are not allowed to do so.

Union labor views were an offshoot of the socialist ideal, where the management of a business — the employer — is viewed as the enemy of the workers, constantly trying to cheat and enslave them. Enlightened managers, of course, have a much broader interest in the health and welfare of employees, and know that respect for their needs and independence makes for a happier, more productive, and loyal workforce ideal for long-term competitive advantage. But the cartoonish 1930s views of oppressive, wealthy capitalists still live on in many minds.

The labor laws dating from the progressive New Deal era embody the dirigisme (French for top-down direction of the economy) of that era, and are still with us, though many reforms have taken place. The US is now a patchwork of different labor regimes in different industries, as some unionized manufacturing has become less so, while public employee unions have grown in strength and power. Meanwhile, “right to work” laws in some states limited private sector union power and encouraged more foreign investment like the auto plants now dotting the South.

To see the negative results of heavy regulation of labor, one only has to look at parts of Europe that went all-out to protect and micromanage employment by heavily regulating hiring and firing. As an example, look at France — a highly-developed mature economy with heavy regulation of labor and so much legal job protection that employers are reluctant to hire any long-term employees for fear they can never be let go. Youth unemployment hovers around 25%, and the economy has been stagnant for decades. The BBC reports:

France has a lot going for it. It has “an enviable standard of living”, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). “Inequality is not excessive and the country has come through the [financial] crisis without suffering too heavily,” it says….

But all is not well. Unemployment is high and the government’s finances are weak. “France’s fundamental economic problem,” the OECD says, “is a lack of growth.” The latest figures for economic activity (gross domestic product or GDP) for the first quarter of the year show growth of 0.5%. That’s better than was expected though it’s probably best described as reasonable rather than strong. The longer term picture is more downbeat.

So what is the French economic problem? The most obvious social and economic evidence that something is amiss is unemployment. About three million people are unemployed—10.2% of the workforce. That compares with a figure of 4.3% across the border in Germany. The rate in France is almost the same as the average for the eurozone. That really is nothing to be proud of when you consider that the average reflects some jobless nightmare stories such as Spain and Greece. The French figure is also the second highest among the G7 leading developed economies. Youth unemployment is a particular problem, as it is in a number of other European countries. Almost one in four of those under 25 who want a job don’t have one.

The government’s finances are also in indifferent shape. France is also in the throes of an EU procedure that tries to impose discipline on governments’ finances. The annual budget deficit and the accumulated government debt are both higher than they are supposed to be under the rules…. Behind the problems lies persistently weak economic growth. Gross domestic product per person—a rough and ready indicator of average living standards—grew more slowly between 1995 and 2007 than in any other OECD country (mainly the rich nations) except Italy [which also overregulates labor.]

By the end of last year, economic activity was only 2.8% up from its peak level at the onset of the financial crisis. Why then is France struggling? Many younger people get work on a short-term basis only…. The view of many, including the OECD and the European Commission, is that the labour market is at the heart of the problem, though it’s not the only factor. That reflects a persistent complaint from business: that it’s too expensive to hire workers and to fire them or lay them off if they need to. France is a prime example of what is known as a “dual labour market”: insiders have higher pay, job security and often promotion prospects, [while] others, especially younger people, get only short-term work or none.

The OECD says in its assessment of the French economy: “To reduce the duality of the labour market, the procedures for laying off employees, particularly those on permanent contracts, need to be simplified and shortened…. France ranks among the countries with the strictest legislation of dismissal for open-ended and temporary contracts.” The cost of labour to employers in France also includes social security contributions that are higher than in most other countries. There is a catalogue of other issues, including welfare, that is alleged to discourage people taking low-paid work, and extensive regulation of business. The result, it is argued, is a persistent unemployment problem….

President Hollande has accepted the case for labour reform, and his Labour Minister, Myriam El Khomri, has introduced legislation intended to address some of the things that business voices say make it too expensive to take on new workers. The reforms would: lower existing high barriers to laying off staff; allow some employees to work more—far more—than the current working week, which is capped at 35 hours; give firms greater powers to cut working hours and reduce pay. That has met protest and the provisions have been amended in response. One supporter of reform said it was turning into a “veritable catastrophe”.[4]

Compared to France, the US has a free and dynamic labor economy,[5] but the signs of the Eurodisease are starting to show — an inflexible labor market with few professional openings for young people. The common joke about children returning to live in their parent’s basements is becoming a way of life for many. Increasingly, new college graduates are forced to take low-paying, unskilled jobs in service industries when they find work at all:

Recent college graduates are ending up in more low-wage and part-time positions as it’s become harder to find education-level appropriate jobs, according to a January study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Jeanina Jenkins, a 20-year-old high-school graduate from St. Louis, is stuck in a $7.82-an-hour part-time job at McDonald’s Corp. that she calls a “last resort” because nobody would offer her anything better.

Stephen O’Malley, 26, a West Virginia University graduate, wants to put his history degree to use teaching high school. What he’s found instead is a bartender’s job in his home town of Manasquan, New Jersey.

Jenkins and O’Malley are at opposite ends of a dynamic that is pushing those with college degrees down into competition with high-school graduates for low-wage jobs that don’t require college. As this competition has intensified during and after the recession, it’s meant relatively higher unemployment, declining labor market participation and lower wages for those with less education….

“The underemployment of college graduates affects lesser educated parts of the labor force,” said economist Richard Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, a not-for-profit research organization in Washington.“Those with high-school diplomas that normally would have no problem getting jobs as bartenders or taxi drivers are sometimes kept from getting the jobs by people with college diplomas,” said Vedder…

The share of Americans ages 22 to 27 with at least a bachelor’s degree in jobs that don’t require that level of education was 44 percent in 2012, up from 34 percent in 2001, the study found. The recent rise in underemployment for college graduates represents a return to the levels of the early 1990s, according to the New York Fed study. The rate rose to 46 percent during the 1990-1991 recession, then declined during the economic expansion that followed as employers hired new graduates to keep pace with technological advances….

“College graduates might not be in a job that requires a college degree, but they’re more likely to have a job,” she said. Less-educated young adults are then more likely to drop out of the labor market. The labor participation rate for those ages 25 to 34 with just a high-school diploma fell four percentage points to 77.7 percent in 2013 from 2007. For those with a college degree and above, the rate dropped less than 1 percentage point, to 87.7 percent.

“At the complete bottom, we see people picking up the worst types of jobs or completely dropping out,” Beaudry said. The share of young adults 20 to 24 years old neither in school nor working climbed to 19.4 percent in 2010 from 17.2 percent in 2006. For those ages 25 to 29, it rose to 21.3 percent from 20 percent in that period, according to a Federal Reserve Bank of Boston report in December.

Those with the least education have trouble securing even the lowest-paid jobs. Isabelle Samain looked for work in Washington from April until September of last year. As prospective employers continually passed over her applications, the 40-year-old mother of two from Cameroon realized she was missing out because she lacked a U.S. high-school diploma. “I don’t even remember how many places I applied,” Samain said of the “frustrating and discouraging” search. Samain passed the General Educational Development test in December and recently started working at Au Bon Pain in Washington for $8.50 an hour for 36 hours a week.

A year-long survey ending in July 2012 of 500,000 Americans ages 19 to 29 showed that 63 percent of those fully employed had a bachelor’s degree, and their most common jobs were merchandise displayers, clothing-store and cellular phone sales representatives, according to Seattle-based PayScale Inc., which provides compensation information….

The share of recent college graduates in “good non-college jobs,” those with higher wage-growth potential, such as dental hygienists, has declined since 2000, according to the New York Fed study. Meanwhile, the portion has grown for those in low-wage jobs paying an average wage of below $25,000, including food servers and bartenders.[6]

The Party of Government perpetually campaigns on “doing something” about the problems of the little people. Meanwhile, the agencies of the administrative state, like all bureaucracies, keep busy and justify their growth by proposing additional and extended regulations. When regulations address a real problem—some externality requiring private parties to be restrained from damaging a common good or harming each other through force or fraud—there is an optimal point where the additional costs of more regulation are greater than the likely benefit. In labor regulation, the pols and regulators rarely consider the collateral damage they are doing by narrowing the freedom of contract—labor laws are always behind the curve of technology and custom, impeding creative solutions that both employer and employee would benefit from.

This “it’s always good to do more” mindset results in laws that are simply propaganda exercises, like the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which extended the statute of limitations for equal pay suits to make it a bit easier to file suit against ongoing patterns of pay discrimination against women.[7] Unequal pay for women was actually outlawed in 1963 by the Equal Pay Act, but Democratic politicians in pursuit of women’s votes continue to promote the “pay gap” myth and then offer to “do something” about this imaginary unfairness. Each time they pass a new law or regulation, one might expect improvement in the unfair situation they claim to be addressing, yet the problem remains for the next election, when they will promise to fix it again.

The latest example of harming many by ratcheting up the regulations is the Obama administration’s enlargement of the number of employees covered by the Dept. of Labor’s overtime regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), increasing the salary limit for exemption from $23,660 to $47,476 per year, which vastly increases the number of workers covered. At first glance, this sounds good for those employees — time-and-a-half for overtime, baby! But that ignores the likely response of managements to the new rules:

If an employer could pay Jim, a frontline manager at a retail store, for a 50-hour workweek—40 hours at his regular hourly rate and 10 hours at time-and-a-half—or, instead, pay Jim and Jane 25 hours each at straight rates, what would the employer do?

Unless the business is a philanthropy, or unless Jim exhibits pure brilliance in directing rank-and-file employees to stock shelves, the employer is going to choose lower labor costs over higher ones.

This is precisely the question raised by, and the likely effect caused by, new overtime rules under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). Given the basic economics of the workplace, the new rule—which raises the salary threshold under which an employee is entitled to overtime—is just as likely to create less work for individual employees as it is to increase the amount of overtime American employees collectively earn.[8]

The required estimate of costs of the new regulation was lowballed, pulled out of thin air by the DoL under orders from the union-friendly administration to further cripple nonunion businesses by increasing their costs. Independent calculations of the cost were more realistic:

How reliable are projections from the Department of Labor about the cost of the President’s ambitious new extension of overtime entitlements to salaried workers ….? The “administration refuses to allow others to check its math. The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, the state agency that I lead, in August requested the specific data and methodology the Labor Department used to calculate its estimates. Our request was denied.” So the department went ahead with its own analysis. “The rule will supposedly cost $2 billion the first year. Our math shows $1.7 billion for Florida alone.”[9]

Even House Democrats found the new rules damaging:

It’s not clear whether the Obama administration’s forthcoming edict on overtime will apply to legislative staffers, but House Democratic leadership decided it would be prudent for their members to at least gesture toward the spirit of the controversial rule by preparing for compliance. Now “the rule is creating administrative headaches” and more:

“We don’t have a set-hour kind of situation here; some kids work 12, 14, 16 hours a day, weekends, and I feel terrible that I cannot afford to give raises to the staff,” Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) told Bloomberg BNA Feb. 11.

With $320,000 slashed from members’ representational allowances (MRAs) over the past four years, “I don’t see how we could pay overtime” for the “17 or 18 people that each of us is allowed to have—that’s problematic for me,” added Hastings, a senior member of the House Rules Committee.

Some members fear that an overtime mandate will result in having to send staffers home at 5 p.m., leaving phones unanswered and impairing constituent service. “Most members are of the sentiment that it’s impractical to be paying overtime,” said former Virginia Democratic Rep. Jim Moran, now a lobbyist, who suggests that members choose to close one of their district offices or reduce constituent correspondence to adjust to a smaller staff number.

If only there were some way for the U.S. Congress to influence federal labor law![10]


[1] “The data suggests that the ratio of Democratic-to-Republican voter registration among participants in IR is roughly 10 to one. I find a similar ratio when looking at those who have made contributions to Democratic and Republican candidates for office. I also show that Democratic lopsidedness at the three mainstream IR journals becomes more extreme at the higher stations (officers and editors, as opposed to ordinary members and authors). Also, I analyze the content of the 539 articles for union support and regulation support; the mainstream IR journals are overwhelmingly pro-union and pro-regulation.” From article “The Left Orientation of Industrial Relations,” by Mitchell Langbert, Econ Journal Watch, Vol 13, No. 1, Jan. 2016. https://econjwatch.org/articles/the-left-orientation-of-industrial-relations
[2] “Daniel Klein, one of the authors [of the study] and a professor of economics at George Mason University, said that it demonstrated ‘solidly’ that most social science professors are ‘leftist and statist, and that they have a narrow tent.’” From “Social Scientists Lean to the Left, Study Says,” by Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed, Dec. 21, 2005. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2005/12/21/politics. Also see: “Economists’ policy views and voting,” Daniel B. Klein and Charlotta Stern, Public Choice 126:331-342, 6 Dec 2004. http://econfaculty.gmu.edu/klein/PdfPapers/KS_PublCh06.pdf
[3] “Democratic vs. Republican occupations,” Verdant Labs chart, 2016. Data source: FEC campaign contribution data. http://verdantlabs.com/politics_of_professions/
[4] “What is the French economic problem?” by Andrew Walker, BBC World Service, 29 April 2016. http://www.bbc.com/news/business-36152571
[5] French leftists sniff at the US and its Anglospheric cousins because the US economic model (the “Anglo-Saxon model”) is more liberal—less protectionist and dirigiste. The cultural backdrop is the French intellectual distaste for crude money-making and égoïste neglect of collective opinion. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-Saxon_model
[6] “Low-Wage Jobs Displace Less Educated,” by Katherine Peralta, Bloomberg, March 12, 2014. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-03-06/college-grads-taking-low-wage-jobs-displace-less-educated
[7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lilly_Ledbetter_Fair_Pay_Act_of_2009
[8] “Deep Impact: New Overtime Rules Will Change Work, Not Overtime Pay,” by Mark A. Konkel and Barbara Hoey, Inside Counsel, August 31, 2016. http://www.insidecounsel.com/2016/08/31/deep-impact-new-overtime-rules-will-change-work-no
[9] “Lowballing the cost of junior-manager overtime,” by Walter Olson, Overlawyered, November 19, 2015. http://www.overlawyered.com/2015/11/lowballing-the-cost-of-junior-manager-overtime/
[10] “Overtime Brings House Democrats Woe,” by Walter Olson, Cato at Liberty, April 13, 2016. http://www.cato.org/blog/overtime-brings-house-democrats-woe


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 Introduction: HR Pushes Damaging Regulations Into the Enterprise

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

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

Introduction

This book is about the new Age of Incompetence, with brain-dead, unaccountable employees holding sinecures at the heart of our government agencies and regulated institutions like banks and hospitals, protected by affirmative action and union policies. The rot is spreading as pressure from state and federal regulation of companies has increased, empowering an internal compliance bureaucracy — Human Resources (HR) — that has devalued the best job candidates and employees and promoted affirmative action and diversity over team productivity.

The result has been ever-more-costly failures and a steep decline in organizational performance. From the mortgage meltdown that brought down the world’s economy in 2008, to the disastrous launch of the healthcare.gov website for Obamacare, major segments of business and government in the US have grown more expensive and less competent over the past few decades. Billions of dollars of waste in government contracts for IT projects, boondoggle weapons systems, and deadly service failures at the VA are in the news every day. Public schools are widely seen as mediocre, and in the poorest urban districts they are failing to provide a decent education for the students who need good schools the most to make up for bad family backgrounds. Costs for regulated services like schools, colleges, medical insurance, drugs, courts, prisons, and infrastructure like roads and bridges rise far faster than inflation, while time to complete major projects stretches out to decades, and many fail completely and are cancelled after billions have been spent. And the rot is spreading as government pushes businesses to adopt similar employment policies, with HR enforcing government mandates that compromise competitiveness and give overseas companies the advantage.

This book will trace the factors that have hobbled growth and damaged organizational competence. Government regulation has led to HR departments that actively sabotage the hiring of the best candidates for jobs, with by-the-book mediocrities placed in positions of responsibility.

Silicon Valley and the tech industries are the next targets. If you’re a manager at a tech company, I’ll suggest some ways to protect your people from HR and its emphasis on credentials and affirmative action (AA) over the best fit for a position. Corporate leaders need to be sure their HR departments are managed to prevent infiltration by staff more interested in correct politics than winning products. And I’ll show why appeasement of diversity activists is a dangerous strategy that may make your organization a target for further extortionate demands….

Affirmative action policies have placed mediocrities at major decision points in most large companies, government agencies, and highly-regulated institutions like schools and hospitals. A small percentage of deadwood can be routed around, but over time feedback effects from the generalized lack of accountability and lowered standards for performance cripple the institution. This is the cause of the failure and extreme cost overruns of almost all large government projects and a tolerance for incompetence so long as policy manuals are followed to the letter. This effect is largest in government and public education, but also visible in larger companies where HR departments are coming to be staffed by progressives who believe in removing non-progressive thoughts and people from the workplace. In high tech, women and minorities dominate HR in part because companies wanted to balance their male-and-Asian-heavy engineering staff to make their numbers look better, but now are just realizing they’ve created an internal enemy to product quality and excellence in staffing engineering teams. (A corporate manager comments: “How do you know HR is lying? Their lips are moving…”)

This book will focus on the situation in the US, which was until recently more resistant to the bureaucratic disease and thus had a healthier economy and a more dynamic labor market than Europe. The onset of top-down sclerosis by Federal regulation and micromanagement has reduced US growth to the same stagnant levels seen in Europe, for much the same reason: educated by public schools to believe they need permission to do anything, young people stop trying to do anything, and wait for someone to help them. The increasing numbers of untouchable diversity hires in positions of responsibility has inhibited accountability, and the inability to fire employees after even the most egregious malfeasance has spread from civil service and union shops into major corporations —s ince some cannot be held accountable for incompetence, no one is; and the continuing presence of employees who coworkers know are shirkers, incompetents, or even criminals reduces the morale of those who are good at their jobs and work hard. The dysfunction varies by industry and company, with the worst-hit in heavily-regulated sectors like banking, education, and healthcare, where government either controls every element of the business or pays for most of the product. Sectors which until recently were relatively free of deadwood, like high tech, are now under attack by the diversity activists, who want more hiring of less qualified people to make high tech workforces more representative — which would mean discriminating against better candidates who are white, Asian, Indian, male, etc.

This book will also look at a few other countries that have tried various forms of affirmative action policies to demonstrate that while these places are culturally very different, the divisive and socially damaging long-term effects of AA preferences are visible in every country where it has been in place for longer than one generation.

Affirmative action — which substitutes the lower standard of “good enough” for “best” in hiring new employees, setting the bar low enough so that affirmative action hires can meet it instead of seeking out the most qualified candidate — is not the only labor regulation crippling organizational productivity. State and federal regulation and micromanagement of economic activity continues to increase, complicating and delaying every public and many private projects. Whole sectors of the economy are weighed down by regulation; new medical devices and drugs cost $billions to get through corrupt and scientifically-antiquated FDA studies and approvals processes, which results in high prices for new medical technology. Routine services like dental cleanings and hair braiding are illegal in many states unless done under supervision of a cartel of state-certified practitioners; four states even outlaw residential decorating services unless licensed. Hazards of toppling armoires aside, the state is easily captured by motivated business groups to outlaw new competition for their business, and under the pretense of protecting consumers, allowing professional cartels to charge much more for services.

Labor laws are similarly gamed by politically-influential unions and power-seeking bureaucrats. Minimum wage laws outlaw lower wages for unproven or new workers, and restrictions on firing as in Europe make it less likely companies will take a chance on hiring a full-time worker rather than a temp or contractor. The long-term result of Euro-style labor protection is Euro-style high unemployment, especially in young, inexperienced workers, who are thereby kept from ever gaining the experience that would make them valuable enough to hire despite the additional rules and costs imposed by the laws. People accept that education costs money and that students may be paid less for internships or even pay outright for classes, but forget that most occupational skills are acquired in the workplace, in the first years of employment. By outlawing lower wages and at-will employment, labor laws are keeping young people from important learning experiences and ruining their chance to start on a career ladder.

Until the Roosevelt administration and the New Deal, the Supreme Court had held back many attempts to regulate private business, ruling them unconstitutional overreaches. But after Roosevelt threatened to pack the court with new justices who would approve his regulatory agenda, the Supreme Court bowed to his wishes. In a series of cases, the newly Progressive-leaning Court expanded the Commerce Clause to allow federal regulation of almost all economic activity. In Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111 (1942), the court ruled that a farmer could be fined for growing wheat on his own land for his own animals’ consumption because he would otherwise have had to purchase wheat in the market, which a 1938 agricultural control law regulated. After this, the court rarely found any Federal regulation of contracts or commerce to be unconstitutional, despite the clear intent of the framers that such Federal power over commerce was intended to prevent states from creating trade barriers and discriminating against the products of other US states.

As a result, laws and regulations on commerce of all kinds — and labor specifically — have expanded, and the staffing levels of Human Resources departments and administrations at colleges and hospitals have ballooned to meet bureaucratic requirements. Federal fingers are now in every pie, wasting resources and deadening initiative, since a lawsuit or negative attention from the NLRB, EEOC, Dept. of Education, HHS, EPA, and other enforcement agencies can destroy or damage a company or institution. HR and administrative staff approve of the progressive control agenda—which gives them power and status—and when free to drift leftward serve as an internal fifth column dedicated to enforcing progressive standards on their own organization and its workforce.

Companies serving an international market find themselves battling foreign companies who don’t have as many burdens, especially in Asia. The US advantage of a productive workforce and innovative technology is gradually worn down by the time and money spent fighting bureaucrats. 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.

Governments have expanded the areas they control while the Civil Service, union, and affirmative action rules imposed on their workforces have reduced their effectiveness in their most critical functions. From deaths caused by bureaucratic malfeasance at the VA to killer cops rarely punished and kept on the payroll by the efforts of police unions, this lack of accountability makes it difficult to remove incompetent or criminal public employees and makes it impossible for even motivated elected officials to reform public services. The rising debt and costs for every public project mean failing services, rampant injustice, and decaying infrastructure are not being addressed. As a result, US competitiveness is declining vs. countries with better-managed public services. And public anger and cynicism as the years pass and each new group of elected officials fails to fix any of the problems they promised to fix is leading to a dangerous disregard for the law and a desire for a dictator who will sweep aside the checks and balances of a Republic.

Because there are so many examples of malfeasance and incompetence in government’s control of commerce and labor regulations, I was forced to leave most of that material for the next book, which will focus on government. Entire books have been written about the costly failures of the Drug War, public schools, affirmative action, and police militarization. This book will focus on the creeping spread of this atmosphere of consequence-free failure. The hubris of central planners and their capture by special interests, acting in concert with well-meaning but naive do-gooders who think they can vote their way to a better world, has brought us the diseases of socialism by taking away authority and accountability that let businesses succeed or fail. The pleasant-sounding ideal of equality of outcome — which killed hundreds of millions of people as the activating principle of Marxism-Communism — is actually the enemy of individual freedom, accountability, and achievement. The decline of excellence as a primary goal leading to profit and growth has not come because people like failure and mediocrity, but because they were sold a fairy tale about how government could make everything fairer and make everyone happy through the workings of laws and regulations. The result has been a lot more unhappiness and civil strife as the unintended consequences have swamped whatever good was intended. And the level of hypocrisy has risen as politicians promote the message that everyone is a victim and that someone else — “the 1%,” corporations, Republicans, foreigners, Muslims, blacks, the Koch Brothers, the Jews, whoever works as a scapegoat—is responsible for keeping them down.

High tech, one sector where the US led the world and generated immense new wealth, has now been targeted as the next area to be regulated. Activists and demagogues are attracted by money, and with more than half of the US private economy now controlled by government regulators, it was inevitable the parasites would look toward the remaining healthy sectors for their next fix. Calls for diversity quotas in tech company workforces, video game characters, and open-source software projects are early warning signs. HR departments in most tech companies serve as the political commissars of regulation, and HR departments in tech are staffed by lower-paid employees who have little understanding of the technology but a lot of interest in screening out even the best prospective employees who don’t fit the narrow diversity mold. Managers who want the best teams and the fastest, coolest products are resisting these HR apparatchiks, and I’ll show what you can do about it if you work in tech.

The next battlefield after high tech is discretion in hiring — which the activists believe must be limited to force employers to hire any candidate “qualified” for a job as soon as they apply. Only a few radicals are proposing this kind of blind hiring now, but continuing successes in getting firms to bow to their diversity demands will result in a list of new demands. Seattle has already passed an ordinance requiring landlords to rent apartments to the first applicant who qualifies — next what counts as qualified will come under their control, and government-sponsored Section 8 and protected class tenants will be deemed qualified no matter what their credit reports and criminal records show. And similar movements in hiring — supposedly to prevent discrimination by eliminating management choice of who to employ — are coming soon.

There are many people working hard in HR to promote the interests of their organization, but their efforts are often blunted by the prevailing HR culture that substitutes buzzwords and feel-good social goals for promotion of productivity and excellence:

…Most HR organizations have ghettoized themselves literally to the brink of obsolescence. They are competent at the administrivia of pay, benefits, and retirement, but companies increasingly are farming those functions out to contractors who can handle such routine tasks at lower expense. What’s left is the more important strategic role of raising the reputational and intellectual capital of the company — but HR is, it turns out, uniquely unsuited for that. Here’s why:

HR people aren’t the sharpest tacks in the box. We’ll be blunt: If you are an ambitious young thing newly graduated from a top college or B-school with your eye on a rewarding career in business, your first instinct is not to join the human-resources dance. (At the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, which arguably boasts the nation’s top faculty for organizational issues, just 1.2% of 2004 grads did so.) Says a management professor at one leading school: “The best and the brightest don’t go into HR.”

Who does? Intelligent people, sometimes—but not businesspeople. “HR doesn’t tend to hire a lot of independent thinkers or people who stand up as moral compasses,” says Garold L. Markle, a longtime human-resources executive at Exxon and Shell Offshore who now runs his own consultancy. Some are exiles from the corporate mainstream: They’ve fared poorly in meatier roles—but not poorly enough to be fired. For them, and for their employers, HR represents a relatively low-risk parking spot.

Others enter the field by choice and with the best of intentions, but for the wrong reasons. They like working with people, and they want to be helpful—noble motives that thoroughly tick off some HR thinkers. “When people have come to me and said, ‘I want to work with people,’ I say, ‘Good, go be a social worker,'” says Arnold Kanarick, who has headed human resources at the Limited and, until recently, at Bear Stearns. “HR isn’t about being a do-gooder. It’s about how do you get the best and brightest people and raise the value of the firm.”[1]


[1] “Why We Hate HR: In a knowledge economy, companies with the best talent win. And finding, nurturing, and developing that talent should be one of the most important tasks in a corporation. So why does human resources do such a bad job—and how can we fix it?” Fast Company, August 1, 2005. http://www.fastcompany.com/53319/why-we-hate-hr


Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations, 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:

A Clinton Christmas Carol
“High Tech Under Diversity Pressure
Ban the Box, Credit Scores, Current Salaries: The Road to Hiring Blind
HireVue, Video Interviews, and AI Job Searches
“Death by HR” – Diversity Programs Don’t Work

“Death by HR” – Reactions

The first few days after publication inspired a few postings on well-known sites. Dr. Helen Smith read the copy I sent her husband, Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit, and had these observations:

Kinnison says that if the culture of your business “…is founded on creating excellent products or services that will win in the marketplace, hiring people who have other goals — righting past wrongs, molding fellow employees’ thought processes to conform to their own, shielding everyone from harsh realities to make them (temporarily) feel good and important — will dilute your company’s culture, and networks of employees who support each other’s willingness to call in outside legal or political forces to win internal battles will form.”

The book is excellent and gives good advice on how to help your tech company avoid SJWs whose focus is on activism, rather than on getting the best employees who can grow your company.

One commenter (“screamingmimi”) added:

I work for a tech company where just this is starting to happen – it’s the old SJW toe in the door, dontcha know. Recently, a couple of ‘women of color’ have taken it upon themselves to reprimand our management on how lacking in women and other ethnicities our company is. Nevermind that we already pride ourselves on hiring THE BEST PEOPLE FOR THE JOB, regardless of race, creed, color, etc. Of course that’s never enough. So because of that, what’s happened?

Well, we now have mandatory ‘diversity courses’ and a ‘diversity team’ because we simply weren’t diverse enough, and of course, we have to kowtow to everyone’s feelings. And as ever, being ‘diverse’ once again trumps (and kills) skill, knowledge, and experience. Sure, we’ll have a diverse employee group, but this will undoubtedly lead to us losing current clients, and not gaining new ones because we’re hiring based on diversity, and not on capability (and top skillsets — something we require — are already extremely hard to come by in our particular technology field).

I thought our company was different. I thought our company was better than that. I thought our company was above all this petty SJW crap. I was wrong. And it’s made me look at our company — and its management — in a whole new (and quickly dimming) light. While it hasn’t affected our bottom line (yet?), if it starts to accelerate, it could spell trouble for our currently great company. Sad.

An increasingly common story, I’m afraid. Management goes along until it is too late. This is one of the reasons I wrote the book — to give people the historical background to understand why seemingly well-meaning activists can ultimately wreck your enterprise. Resisting them is not racist or misogynist, it’s pro-excellence.

Turning to the Ace of Spades Sunday Morning Bookthread:

Jeb Kinnison, moron author of the “Substrate Wars” series (Vol. 1, Vol. 2, Vol. 3) has written a new book, not a novel, but one that is probably pretty scary. The book is Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations and Jeb tells me, “The book’s thesis is that labor regulations (notably affirmative action, but also all the rest of it) has hurt effectiveness at many workplaces, especially those in government or heavily regulated organizations (education, hospitals, banks…) The Eurodisease is coming here, and the HR departments of large companies are the commissars of the regulators, extending political directives into the workplace and losing sight of the goal of excellence and profitable products. Technology is just the latest pressure point.”

Can anything be done to fight the fungal rot of progressivism in a corporate setting? Kinnison says yes:

“If you’re a manager at a tech company, we’ll suggest some ways to protect your people from HR and its emphasis on credentials and affirmative action (AA) over the best fit for a position. Corporate leaders need to be sure their HR departments are managed to prevent infiltration by staff more interested in correct politics than winning products. And we’ll show why appeasement of diversity activists is a dangerous strategy that may make your organization a target for further extortionate demands.”

Maybe we should send a bunch of copies of this book to the NFL front office.

Vox Day picked up on Dr. Helen’s post and added:

Of course, no one who has read SJWs Always Lie will be even remotely surprised by any of this. The good news is that all of this corporate convergence is creating a whole range of new opportunities as the converged corporations begin to pursue social justice objectives rather than serving their customers. It’s not a question of whether SJWs can ruin a company they converge.

Once they’ve entered, it’s only a question of when.

I have some fundamental differences with Vox Day, but on this subject he is entirely correct. One of the commenters pointed out how the system used to work to identify and train young people who already had good attitudes and aptitude:

32. Thucydides October 17, 2016 1:14 PM

I remember reading Jerry Pournell’s Chaos Manor describing how people could be hired on by companies like Boeing and be guided and trained throughout their careers, rising from the shop floor to become aeronautical engineers.

This was ended by a lawsuit back in the 70’s (going by memory here) where the company in question had an internal promotions and training policy where employees simply had to be high school grads or have a GED and pass a working knowledge test (or something like that) to be considered for promotion. A “diverse” employee who failed the test and was passed over sued, and despite the fact that the company policy was completely objective (the job knowledge was particular for that company, and many white employees also failed the test and were passed over as well), the court ruled in favour of the “diverse” employee because racism.

Since then, companies have devolved the training to the school and university system, and HR has grown explosively to deal with the mountain of paperwork demanded by various bureaucracies, and in better companies, to try and identify the wheat from the chaff (since they are no longer allowed to do so in any normal fashion). Of course, if your enemies are doing the “sorting” in the school system and the HR department, then you’re hooped (as they used to say).

This is a big problem in capital intensive industries, since it is hard to move, but IT should be effectively able to evade, a few coders working in the back of the garage have no overhead to hold them back, and a small enough group dynamic to not need much in the way of HR or Admin. Many companies are actually devolving to that point as an “unexpected” side effect of Obamacare (hire more than 50 people and you are entrapped by the bureaucracy), and we can hope that various techniques like 3D manufacturing will allow small companies to remain nimble and productive among the dinosaurs.

The 1970s did indeed end testing for cognitive skills as job screening. Courts ruled that every test that minority candidates disproportionately failed was discriminatory under the doctrine of “adverse impact.” Testing was replaced by credentials and certifications, removing career ladders for bright young people who did poorly in academic settings — most commonly, young men.

 


Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

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