Thursday, April 24, 2008


by the Sandwichman

I've been thinking about an offer I made some three-and-a-half years ago, in October 2004, on MaxSpeak. At the time, a report on economic growth had just been presented to the French Finance Minister, Sarkozy, by Michel Camdessus, former head of the International Monetary Fund, in which it was alleged that advocates of reduced working time believe there is only a fixed amount of work to be done. That was, of course, the proverbial lump-of-labor fallacy claim, which I had disemboweled in an article published several years earlier. I offered $5,000 to anyone who could refute my refutation of the abominable strawman.

Of course there were no takers. But that could easily have been because I would have been the judge of whether any rebuttal was successful. Who could have trusted that my verdict would be impartial? After more thought, I've decided to raise the award to $10,000 and to establish an adjudication process untouched by Sandwichman hands.

So here's the plan:

In the meanwhile, I've had a second article, "Why Economists Dislike a Lump of Labor" published in the Review of Social Economy. That article was motivated by irritation at the Camdessus report and several other dewy-eyed obeisances to the mythical fallacy claim, including one by the managing editor of the Journal of Economic Perspectives, Timothy Taylor (not in the JEP, though).

To qualify for the $10,000 prize, the candidate would need to write an article refuting the main conclusions of my September 2007 article and have it accepted for publication, as a peer-reviewed article, in one of the 30 top-ranked economics journals. Now, admittedly, that's a pretty tall order, so I would also offer a $1,000 consolation prize for a refutation published in one of the economics journals ranked 31-159. The point is that the so-called "best-known fallacy in economics" should be worthy of a publishable peer-reviewed full-length explication or it's bullshit. I say it's crap. I've shown it to be crap. And I'll put my money on it that it's crap.

I plan to formally announce the contest on May 1.


reason said...

Could you please give a link to your original post, I'd be interested to read it.

Martin Langeland said...

Tom Allen of Music and Company on CBC Radio 2 this morning (4/25/08) told of an apiarist he met. Tom asked for his explanation of colony collapse. The apiarist did not experience it in his own bees and speculated that overwork was the cause elsewhere. He said that the US honey industry is so competitive that hives are cut too fine -- with too few worker bees for each queen.
Though anecdotal, I thought you would enjoy the story as a sidelight on your work on leisure and productivity.

Sandwichman said...

The original MaxSpeak post is not available. But I crossposted it on the Work Less Institute of Technology: