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Posts Tagged ‘Benefits’

Costs Must Be Weighed Against Benefits – LewRockwell

Posted by M. C. on December 9, 2020

By Walter E. Williams

One of the first lessons in an economics class is every action has a cost. That is in stark contrast to lessons in the political arena where politicians virtually ignore cost and talk about benefits and free stuff. If we look only at the benefits of an action, policy or program, then we will do anything because there is a benefit to any action, policy or program.

Think about one simple example. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 36,096 Americans lost their lives in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2019. Virtually all those lives could have been saved if we had a 5 mph speed limit. The huge benefit of a 5 mph speed limit is that those 36,000-plus Americans would have been with us instead of lost in highway carnage. Fortunately, we look at the costs of having a 5 mph speed limit and rightly conclude that saving those 36,000-plus lives are not worth the costs and inconvenience. Most of us find it too callous, when talking about life, to explicitly weigh costs against benefits. We simply say that a 5 mph speed limit would be impractical.

What about the benefits and costs of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic? Much of the medical profession and politicians say that lockdowns, social distancing and mask-wearing are the solutions. CDC data on death rates show if one is under 35, the chances of dying from COVID-19 is much lower than that of being in a bicycle accident. Should we lockdown bicycles? Dr. Martin Kulldorff, professor of medicine at Harvard University, biostatistician and epidemiologist, Dr. Sunetra Gupta, professor at Oxford University and an epidemiologist with expertise in immunology, and Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, professor at Stanford University Medical School, a physician and epidemiologist were the initiators of the Great Barrington Declaration. More than 50,000 scientists and doctors, as well as more than 682,000 ordinary people, have signed the Great Barrington Declaration opposing a second COVID-19 lockdown because they see it doing much more harm than good.

Efforts to keep very young from getting COVID-19, given most will not even realize they have it or will suffer only mild symptoms, may be counterproductive in that it delays the point where a country has herd immunity. According to the CDC, COVID-19 deaths in young people (from babies to college students) are almost nonexistent. The first age group to provide a substantial contribution to the death toll is 45-54 years, who contribute nearly 5% of all coronavirus deaths. More than 80% of deaths occur in people aged 65 and over. That increases to over 92% if the 55-64 age group is included.

Thus, only a tiny number of people under age 25 die of COVID-19. Yet, schools have been closed, and tens of millions of schoolchildren have been denied in-class instruction. Mandating that 5-year-olds wear masks during their school day is beyond nonsense. Virtual learning can serve as a substitute for in-class teaching but it has mixed results. Some parents can provide their children with the necessary tools, perhaps hire tutors, and take an active interest in what their children are doing online. Other parents will not have the interest, ability or the time.

Here is a lockdown question for you. Government authorities permit groceries and pharmacies to remain open during lockdowns. They permitted stores likes Walmart, Costco and Sam’s Club to remain open. However, these stores sell items that are also sold in stores that were locked down such as: Macy’s, J.C. Penney, J. Crew Group, Neiman Marcus and Bed Bath & Beyond. The lack of equal treatment caused many employees to lose their jobs and many formerly financially healthy retailers have filed for bankruptcy.

As political satirist H. L. Mencken said, “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” By the way, the best time to scare people, be wrong and persist in being wrong is when the costs of being wrong are borne by others.

The Best of Walter E. Williams Walter E. Williams is the John M. Olin distinguished professor of economics at George Mason University, and a nationally syndicated columnist. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page.

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Six Months at an Amazon Fulfillment Center

Posted by M. C. on December 9, 2019

Yes, we worked, but we had fun also.  When you discover your cart has a scale model of the U.S.S. Indianapolis beneath a pile of plush shark toys, you know that someone else shares your warped sense of humor.

By Christopher Knight

Having spent half of a year experiencing firsthand the labyrinthine bowels of an Amazon Fulfillment Center, I must ask:

“What are all the complaints about?”

Employment at Amazon was not perfect.  Then again, no job will be.  But for those wanting to establish themselves with a job history or get back into the routine of full-time employment, being at Amazon isn’t the torturous ordeal some have described.  Coming off a year’s sabbatical and being a technical writer before that, work at an Amazon facility was a shining opportunity to regain some lost footing.

In retrospect, I can’t but be thankful for that.  It wasn’t just the financial boon, but also the chance to persevere that elicited and encouraged growth and strength in both physical and mental senses.

Getting hired by Amazon was almost too easily achieved.  Applying online hearkens back to the glorious days of spinach-green Game Boy screens.  Pass a series of ridiculously simple mini-games and you are almost guaranteed an offer of conditional employment.  Show up for a scheduled orientation a few days later and there’s a rundown of various tasks, basic processes, and of course the benefits.

Speaking of benefits, they are more than liberal for an operation of Amazon’s size and scope.  Need time off?  The company is fairly flexible about that.  Employee discounts?  Offered out the wazoo.  Want to follow your dreams toward your one true career?  Stick around for a year and Amazon pays for most of your school tuition and books.  Want health benefits?  You get ‘em, your family gets ‘em, your dog gets ‘em.  The pay itself is better than average.  The one perk that I saw employees constantly begging for but were forever denied was free Amazon Prime.  And that’s no reason to gripe if it’s the worst that the corporate honchos refused to grant.

After that came the training: straightforward and comprehensive.  It could be the most fluid and forgiving training regimen that I’ve seen.  The learning curve was not particularly demanding, and new hires were given leeway as they gained a sense of their assigned tasks.

Every night’s shift began with everyone in the department doing “stand-up”: gathered around the supervisor of the evening,  we were given a brief summary of the night’s work, a rundown of any issues, and encouragement about what to look forward to during the next several hours.  A few stretching exercises and then it was off to the races.  For the next ten hours we were on Jeff Bezos’ time clock.

Is the labor hard?  At times, yes.  Especially during “Peak Season” between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve.  Otherwise it’s much like… gasp!… real work.  My schedule was Wednesday through Saturday nights, 6 p.m. until 4:30 in the morning.  There were two fifteen-minute breaks and one unpaid half-hour for lunch around 11.  The break room had six large-screen TVs and forty microwave ovens.  The vending machines were loaded with enough confectionary to feed a Texas county…

My stowing during those first few weeks?  Abysmal.  In fact, I was the very worst of the lot from our orientation group.  Getting fired would be a decision born within the circuitry of the Amazon master computer somewhere in Seattle, not any human judgment.  My career came a few steps too close to ending during that first month or so.

Instead the managers on site approached me with concerns about my performance, and then worked with me to improve my effectiveness…

Safety was the highest priority issue at our facility.  I believe it is much the same for other fulfillment centers.  During every stand-up we were drilled with how to properly handle heavy merchandise so as to avoid injury.  The “safe” routes of transit across the facility were clearly marked off: stay in the green and you’d be fine, but venture into the lanes delineated with red and you risked being hit by a forklift or other vehicle…

What truly earned my respect was how they accommodated a disability.  For a decade and a half I have dealt with the diagnosis of bipolar disorder.  Mania and depression at times dogged my steps during those long traipses through the aisles as I worked.  The average Amazon warehouse is so vast that at times two people can be a hundred feet apart with no clue that there are others in the building.  And every so often the silence and sense of loneliness would intrude upon my labor.

So I told my managers about it.  And they collaborated with me…

Amazon, we were told by managers themselves, isn’t likely to be a lifetime career for most people.  And it doesn’t have to be.  Six months after orientation I had been quietly told that I was being eyed for a management position.  Instead they bid me all the best as I prepared for a rewarding career helping others with mental-health issues.  I don’t know if that would have happened were it not for the time spent working at Amazon.  And hey, I worked through an entire Amazon Peak Season with no time off.  I can be proud of that accomplishment.

First steps are rarely glamorous.  But more often than not they lead to a much better and brighter future.  And when a person reaches that place, he or she can look back upon the oftentimes broken road that came before.  And then revel in the sense of their own achievement.

That’s something that no “easy” job can grant a person.  Or any handout for that matter.

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Costs are Not Benefits

Posted by M. C. on July 18, 2018


Here’s another letter to my arch-protectionist correspondent Nolan McKinney:

Like you, I read in the Wall Street Journal that Trump’s tariffs on washing machines are prompting Samsung and LG to consider opening factories here in the U.S. Unlike you, I do not regard the jobs that will be created in those factories as a “benefit” of Trump’s tariffs. These jobs, in fact, are among the tariffs’ costs.

The reason begins with the fact that workers diverted by the tariffs into the production of washing machines in the U.S. are diverted away from producing goods and services that they would otherwise have produced. The reason concludes with the reality that without the tariffs we Americans would have been able to acquire the same number of washing machines by expending less labor and fewer resources. Therefore, any and all washing machines produced in America only because of those tariffs will be produced wastefully. The costs of producing them will be artificially and unnecessarily high.

To count as benefits the jobs that are created only in response to tariffs is akin to counting as benefits the extra work and expense that homeowners, seeking to protect their homes from being robbed, put forward in response to an increase in neighborhood burglaries.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030

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