Monday, June 30, 2008

$10,000 PRIZE! - THE RULES - $10,000 PRIZE!

by the Sandwichman

Sandwichman is grateful to cogito for reminding us that it is far, far easier to dismiss a paradoxical truth* by rote recitation of hallowed platitudes than to investigate the arguments. The reason I offered a $10,000 prize for refuting my rebuttal of the lump-of-labor fallacy claim was to create an incentive for people to actually do the investigative work -- and, of course, so that I would have a club with which to beat those who don't. But -- Alas! -- I buried my prize offer too deep in my May 1st posting. So today, I'm repeating the challenge in a more prominent place:

I am offering a $10,000 prize, in Canadian funds, to be awarded to the author who directly and conclusively refutes the argument in "Why Economists Dislike a Lump of Labor," (Review of Social Economics, September 2007). My argument is that the authenticity of the lump-of-labor fallacy claim, with regard to unemployment and the hours of work, is questionable; that various explanations of it are inconsistent and contradictory and that Sydney J. Chapman’s neglected theory of the hours of labor presents a more coherent analysis of the reduction of working time than the often-cited fallacy claim.

The article must be accepted for publication in one of the 30 top-ranked economics journals. Only anonymously peer-reviewed articles are eligible, not book reviews, commentary or other journal front or back matter. Journal rankings will be taken to be those specified in Kalaitzidakis, Mamuneas and Stengos "Rankings of Academic Journals and Institutions in Economics." Journal of the European Economic Association 1 (December 2003).

(And, no, it won't count if the article simply re-asserts the fallacy claim and follows that by grinding out yet another "empirical analysis". The article must directly confront the argument of my article. The question of whether the article successfully refutes my argument I will leave to be resolved by publishability.)

Enter by notifying me, Tom Walker, by mail or email that your article has been accepted for publication in one of the qualified journals. Mail address is 1204 Lakewood Drive, Vancouver, BC, V5L 4M4. Email: lumpoflabor [at] gmail [dot] com.

Deadline for entry is 11:59 p.m. on January 31, 2010. In the event an article is under review by a qualified journal on the deadline date, an extension may be granted provided the article was submitted to the journal on or before December 31, 2009. All requests for extension of the contest entry deadline must attach a copy of the submitted draft.

If no contest entry meets all of the above criteria, a consolation prize of $1000 Canadian may be awarded to an anonymously peer-reviewed article meeting the core argument criteria, published in a journal ranked 31-159 by Kalaitzidakis et al. Articles published in a non-ranked journal and articles submitted to but rejected by an economics journal may be given consideration for the consolation prize at the sole discretion of the contest organizer.

Prize money will be awarded only to the author or authors of the article specified in the winning entry. In the event of group authorship, prize money will be divided equally between the authors unless specified otherwise and agreed in advance by all authors.

*(The paradoxical truth, by the way, is not that shorter hours always increases wages. The paradox is that shorter hours may increase wages under given circumstances -- hours of work that are too long, wages that are too low and unemployment that is too widespread and persistent. Those are the very conditions that advocates of shorter working time believe to generally prevail under capitalism. Doctrinaire economists, on the other hand, contend that unemployment is voluntary and that hours and wages are set at their optima by workers' preferences and the magic mechanism of the free market -- perfect competition, universal omniscience, perpetual motion and all.)


Anonymous said...

Something I intend to do some day is defend not the assertion that the fallacy was asserted, but to assert that it ought to have been. Not that "lump of labor" as portrayed was true, but that actually for many purposes it would be useful approximation and simplification, with the imprecision in the model less than the inaccuracy in available data. A lot of premises are know to be untrue are used in economics because they simply calculations and, given data quality, yield the same result as the true premises they are approximations of. Always of course this is dependent on what question you are analyzing. I would argue that for many standard economic questions, "lump of labor" is exactly this kind of simplification. In their eagerness to invent a straw men, those conventional economist who came up with "lump of labor" actually invented a useful simplification that should be incorporated into standard models.

Sandwichman said...

Yeah, it's kind of funny that economists -- who make unrealistic assumptons all the time -- should single out a fairly innocuous one for such bitter opprobrium. It is a classic collective example of Sartre's mauvais foi! That's why I find it so fascinating.

Anonymous said...

its easy to refute. where is my money?

i use a definition of work (labor) due to an aquaintance (which while not particularily standard, nor one i am devoted to---i am an agnostic on definitions--- will prove conveniant for my purposes here). The idea is that labor involves productivity, or producing something. Since humans produce themselves during three work shifts daily (12am-8am, 8-4, and 4pm-12) they are continuously working and producing---no matter what they are doing. The entire subjective issue of whether what they are producing has any, or what, value, is beyond the scope of this inquiry, being mired in all these obscure and commonly useless notions of value, GDP, hierarchical notions of humanity, etc. From this, we see that it is obvious if one person takes over another's productivity, or job, or life, there is no way to increase total productivity. There is no way to reduce hours of work to create more jobs, since these are tautologically equivalent (see also Symmetry in Economics by Sato (?) for the exact conservation law). The total amount of work for a given population is a constant. The idea you can increase employment by shortening work hours can only be done by eliminating some people. QED.

a way out, may possibly be by stopping time. Indeed many have suggested the requirement that everyone live the same scehdule has led to traffic congestion, so if people only lived 16 hour days and staggered them, congestion would be reduced. To do this, one would either have to locally reduce temperature to zero (deep freeze) or possibly warp spacetime locALlly to a high degree (these two ideas likely being equivalent, if you read your stochastic electrodynamics). The resulting labor distribution could be modeled using the theory of neutrino oscillations between massive and massless phases, and hence times (see also 'endophysics'). As a mean field approximation, a 2-time theory might be useful, don't you think? Such violations of the second law of thermodynamics locally actually turn out to be quite common (spin echo experiments, intelligent design of evolution and global warming hysteria, the legend of rip van winkle or whoever that dude was).

Sandwichman said...

"where is my money?"

Funny. So, which top-ranked economics journal is your spoof... er, ah, "proof"... forthcoming in, media?

Anonymous said...

my own. (again, standard ratings are bs; eg see 'heterodox economics'.) pay up?

also, it appears the entire debate is almost stupid (though 'work less' of course has been discussed among progressives and economists for months, if not more---see juliet schor, or veblen). if everyone on the planet could fly around the world to conferences on global warming, there would be enough work for all; for example one could knock mountains down to get the coal, and then build them back up. we could have wars, etc.

maybe that very old paper you cite (chapman?) has some vague interest (sortuh like, say Georges-roegescu, or henry george), or weird speculations by clifford on curved space time in the 1800's; but i guess i'd even challenge you to explain in one paragraph (an abstract) whether he says anything which isn't currently common sense.

eg if people only need say, 1 car for 10 people, then one can create jobs if one divides up the work making it, as opposed to letting one economist do it. however, as those who promote the 'fallacy' view suggest, maybe with only one economist making the car, maybe the other 9 will find things to do like make handguns and war, and hospitals.

i also wonder whether you are familiar with the 'parecon' idea and the groups; this appears to be isomorphic maybe with the workless idea. but i guess everyone must sell their unique brand of potato chips, and more is better (creating jobs making distinct logos).

Sandwichman said...

wow, media, it's too bad you're so cynical. you sound like you might even be intelligent and articulate underneath that clowns'-mask of nihilism.

Anonymous said...

"intelligent" and "articulate": aren't these terms like work? didn't the great charles murray figure out the first one? and derrida the second?

i did notice you did have a short summary of the LoL (!) fallacy's rebuttal by Chapman(if i recall the name), and it requires no fixed amount of work. (though even if there is one, the argument still can hold).

his view actually, to me, is a variant of P. Dasgupta's argument about underproductivity among the working poor in India---they make so little, they can't afford to eat well, and as a result don't produce much, unless they are just lazy and incompetent. So, by raising wages you might get more productivity, and even wages, for all. same might go for stress, or lack of health care. depends on the elasticities.

Your idea seems to be the reverse of that----if you beat your workers up too much, they under perform, so its good to have good worker/employer relations and working conditions; the elasticity of the club is the question here. However, the 'happiness' litterture suggests then some might lose psychic income derived from status. I guess that's cynical to suggest. What about dog fighting? Are going to prevent that too?

the general idea, however, might be that rather than issuing a prize for a competetive aquisition of capital, one would define a group project to do what you say. Besides, i've won so many of these (nobles, fields medals, boxing championships, lotteries, and most recently the disproof of global warming prize by that guy at the Great Wharton School) i'm ready for something new. Top journals actually seem to publish 'jokes' all the time (eg AER in the back), though as noted i think the idea would be to both prove (as i have shown) and disprove it, to avoid taking sides. 1 =/ 2 = 1.
(one could start from euler (see wikipedia):
1+2+3+4+5+...(infinity)= -1/12.
why 12?)

(one problem with proving it is that both believers and nonbelievers seem to have a fairly constricted notion of work and productivity, even within the economics littertrue. but this provides jobs, since one can publish something one place and then its contradiction a few journals down.) one might get higher productivity if people weren't so busy robbing peter to paypal. following some academic traditions, i could for example, contribute the 'author' part of the paper, while others might do the easy things like submitting it and writing the text. it would seem one goal might be to make it impossible for people to get paid repeating this fallacy, though then they may just move on to the next one. maybe one could try work sharing for repeating fallacies, to democratize knowledge (R. Hofstader) and maybe generate a noncomputable number of them to add to GDP.

Sandwichman said...

robbing peter to paypal

Ha! That gem was worth wading through all the gobbledegook.