A customer walks into Nick's Bar and Grill and sees a sign advertising the special steak dinner $10. He orders the special and a beer. Ten minutes later, the server brings him a grilled Spam burger on a bun.
"I ordered a steak." the customer complains.
"I'm sorry sir," the server replies, "we're all out of steak but, don't worry, there is not a fixed amount of meat."
"I don't want Spam. I want steak." the customer protests.
The server goes back to the kitchen and calls out the cook to explain, "Yesterday, we served 100 meat meals to 100 customers. Today, we had 150 customers and we served 150 meat meals to them. The amount of meat we serve is not fixed!"
"But I don't like Spam. I ordered steak." the customer insists.
The cook goes upstairs to the office and brings the manager down to explain, "We have monitored the serving sizes and the portions of Spam we served today to customers receiving Spam are exactly the same weight as the portions served yesterday. The portions of steak are even a little big bigger. There is not a fixed amount of meat to go round."
The angry customer stands up and leaves.Repeat this story several hundred times and you get the picture of the relentless farce of the lump-of-labor fallacy refrain. Why can't the customer understand that there is not a fixed amount of meat to be served? Why can't the worker understand that there is not a fixed amount of work to be done? Because, quite simply, that explanation has nothing to do with what the customer of working assumed.
The customer assumed that he would get a steak. The worker assumed that she would get a higher paying job with better prospects for promotion. Whether those expectations were realistic or not, the fact that the customer was served a piece of meat or the worker got a part-time, on-call position at Walmart doesn't mean that their wants were gratified.
This is not some complicated mathematical model that goes on for several pages. The is a simple matter of a stubborn refusal by economists to listen. Your lump-of-labor fallacy is bullshit, economists. The empirical evidence you present to "refute the mistaken assumption" is beside the point. YOU, the economists, are making the fallacious assumption, not the workers who are unhappy that there is not an unlimited supply of GOOD, WELL-PAYING jobs to go round.
The stock economists' prescription for that unhappiness is "more education" or, as the oracles of Davos would recommend:
- rapid adjustment!
- new reality!
- concerted effort!
- front and centre!
- new mindset (to optimize resilience)!