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How much do you pay someone for their help peeling bananas?

+2 votes

I hope this question isn't too much like a submission for an Ask Emma column in your local anarchist newspaper, but I'm having a dilemma, and I feel like some of you may have been in this situation. Minus the bananas. What would you do?

You quit your shitty job and you decide to start processing banana peels into bananidine, the infamous drug that turns people into anarchists. Most of them turn into anarcho-syndicalists so shit's getting weird, but you don't care about the Revolution anymore, you just want to get rich so you aren't bossed around your entire life by your handlers, and maybe if you have some extra cash you'll run around like Doc Sarvis. You accept that you will have to engage in some quite capitalist practices. You also accept you live in a capitalist country where basic resources and necessities are only available under certain circumstances. There's a troll under every bridge, and you're tired of sneaking around it. You want to roll around like Prince John in the animated Robin Hood, except you throw money at all the bandits, and people only carry you around if they think it's funny.

So, you're going to accumulate capital to escape capital. Or at least shed a few of its chains.

You dress up like a Chiquita banana rep, stroll into a grocery store with clipboard in hand, and clean out their entire inventory of bananas. You drive them home, you peel them, you eat the fruit, and you even freeze some for smoothies. Then you spend an hour picking out the little black seeds so you can begin cultivating bananidine, but when they don't germinate, you look it up online and find out they've been bred to be fucked up triploid plants that can't even make viable seeds anymore.

Then you remember your noble goal in life. To be free. From work, at least. So you start scraping the insides of the peels so you can dry the mush and get to selling some banana hash. ....but wow... this is taking a while. You've been up all night scraping and you haven't gotten very far, and your heart sinks: you realize your bananas will be rotten by the time you can scrape them all and you will wake up, each and every day, to your boss's alarm clock screaming at you in the privacy of your bedroom, destroying your innocent rest, always reminding, convincing, repeating a piercing and urgent declaration that your life isn't yours.

oh fuck no. You're going to save these god damn bananas.

You're gonna need some help scraping. You don't have any close friends. ..but you have a few acquaintances, and you know one of them likes smoking weed and hates work, and another one brews kombucha with psilocybin mushrooms, so maybe they'll help you scrape the peels!

But what do you give them in exchange for the help? It's a lot of work and they have busy lives. They won't do it for free. I mean this is real labor that you're going to be profiting off of; they're not just helping you plant your vegetable garden. 

Who would I be if I paid my friends here the minimum wage? Who would I be if I even counted the number of hours they helped me? Who wants to quantify everything? Every minute spent stealing bananas? Every peel scraped? (You're not scraping these peels cleanly enough.) How do you put a number on creativity and innovation? Why would you want to? But we're made to. Seems like there is no way to avoid it in a circumstance like this. So if we're going to quantify, how do we do it in the most generous and fair way possible? How do we not exploit anyone?

Or maybe they deserve everything they touch. Because if it wasn't for them, you would have a tiny little batch of bananidine and a whole lot of rotten bananas. So you might as well give it all away anyway, right?? ..but what about the effort and risk and time you spent in acquiring all these bananas? So maybe they get a portion of the bananas they touch?

God damnit. Just thinking all this stuff feels dirty. Here you are, hoarding bananas.

Fuck it, just smoke all the bananas with them and call it a good time. Don't stay up too late though... gotta go to work in the morning.
     

What do you do?!

asked Sep 6, 2016 by formyinformation (2,500 points)
edited Sep 6, 2016 by formyinformation

a business, as with "buying and selling things", is never an isolated thing. both are components of systems that require a particular mindset, one that is taken for granted these days, just as the police are taken for granted. the idea that exchange = money is one assumption. the idea that anonymity is something to take for granted is another.

anarchists are about challenging those assumptions (among others).

Nihilist, there's a difference between things you use (personal property) and private property. Whether or not it's communally 'owned' doesn't matter so much. So it's said. I don't have any conclusions.
Why would you want scrapped banana peels in the first place? There's no such thing as bananadine. Sounds like a waste of energy to scrape a bunch of banana peels. I wouldn't ask friends to help me scrape banana peels or get involved in that type of relationship with friends. Just sounds like it'd be horrible and the friendship would probably end.
and making more money doesn't necessarily make one more free, even if you could scrape banana peels for money.

i've felt more free and less controlled by capital by reducing my economic relationships (and simultaneously strengthening my relationships based on shared interests and receiving and giving without money), not by "accumulating more capital" and "getting rich" as the question/scenario suggests.

from the op: "So, you're going to accumulate capital to escape capital." 

this doesn't sound like an anarchistic view, imo. it sounds more like "retirement". it seems to imply the more capital (money, property, etc.) you accumulate, the more you can escape (meaning?) money and property. that doesn't make sense to me. in my experience, the more i accumulated, the more trapped i felt.

of course, not accumulating capital (money, property) doesn't mean to me that someone would necessarily feel free from it either. i could see feeling just as trapped, especially if you wanted to accumulate more (like in order to eat), but unsuccessfully.

only when i relate to people, places, and things without regard for the concepts of capital, property, money, do i feel free from them...at least in those moments. so thinking about and imagining ways i can do that with others gives me a sense of freedom that has nothing to do with where i stand on the accumulation scale.

4 Answers

+2 votes
What do I do? I don't enter into wage relationships with my friends, ever.

"As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy."
- Abraham Lincoln (ca. August 1, 1858 Fragment on Democracy)

For my purposes, democracy here can be readily substituted for liberty.
answered Sep 6, 2016 by StrawDog (1,390 points)
So basically, you're saying that if you for ex. didn't have any friends that would just want to basically gift you their time and love to further your goals, you wouldn't give anyone money to do anything for you. Couldn't you make it fair though? Don't worker's cooperatives exist where everyone pitches in and everyone is paid equally? When contributions are less equal, the answer seems to get muddy. Any thoughts on that? I'm curious just in general. Also, what do you think about other capitalist practices, like writing a book and selling it? Do you live only as a laborer and perhaps thief? Or maybe you are homesteading? Just wondering if there is any grey area in your life :)

Here's a funny and very sad story about wage labor and friends:

When I was at Occupy Wall Street, I was sweeping up around the park, and this kid had lined his tent with space blankets. The wrappers were strewn about in his tent and outside of it. I was sweeping nearby and he called me over and pulled out $2 and asked 'if I give you a couple bucks would you clean this up for me?'.
Ok since you told me what you wouldn't do, I'm left to guess what you would. How about this:

You'd call me up and be like 'FMI, I just stole a bunch of bananas and I know you're super busy and can't help me scrape the peels but why don't you help me scrape them and we'll be in on it 50-50.

.. but then I'd be like: 'Big homie StrawDog, I'd love to scrape bananas all the way to freedom, but you did all that work stealing the bananas and I appreciate that effort, so I'm going to help you, but I wouldn't feel right taking 50% just because your bananas are going to rot and you have no other choice. What's fair?'

...and then we'd both not have a clue and the bananas would rot. Or maybe this is like when you go out to eat with friends and everybody is trying to split the check and pay what they owe perfectly and then everyone realizes 'this is stupid, let's just split it even and not worry about the jagged edges'.

So would you say it's fair to just split all the profit? Assuming you're ok with selling it for profit in the first place.

Or maybe 'from each, to each' is relevant here? Idk.

So basically, you're saying that if you for ex. didn't have any friends that would just want to basically gift you their time and love to further your goals, you wouldn't give anyone money to do anything for you.

Not only is this not what I said, the generalization you make doesn't follow. Paying people to do things for me is, as best I can tell, never an anarchistic activity. I certainly do so, such being life under capitalism, but I would never pretend that there is anything anarchy-like about me trading money for, say, an oil change.

Couldn't you make it fair though?

There is no notion of Fairness in my value system, so I've no means by which to answer this question.

Don't worker's cooperatives exist where everyone pitches in and everyone is paid equally? When contributions are less equal, the answer seems to get muddy. Any thoughts on that?

I couldn't say, but I don't see what coops have to do with anarchy.

Also, what do you think about other capitalist practices, like writing a book and selling it? Do you live only as a laborer and perhaps thief? Or maybe you are homesteading?

While it is strictly speaking possible to sell a book without it being capitalism, which is rather more narrowly defined, I've no particular thoughts on them. Though I hold no ill will toward them, and certainly know anarchists who make their living in this way, the trade of the merchant is never an anarchistic activity as such. I am both a laborer and a thief, it is true, though, again, there is nothing particularly anarchistic about these things beyond that I enter into my relationship with these things as an anarchist and it absolutely shapes both my way of seeing them and the way I do things.

Just wondering if there is any grey area in your life :)

Actually, no, there isn't.

Ok since you told me what you wouldn't do, I'm left to guess what you would. How about this:

You'd call me up and be like 'FMI, I just stole a bunch of bananas and I know you're super busy and can't help me scrape the peels but why don't you help me scrape them and we'll be in on it 50-50.

The whole premise is flawed, I wouldn't have done any of the things in your original question in the first place. Beyond that, I wouldn't have called you up at all as you and I are nobody to each other. For me, the foundation of anarchy is relationships.

.. but then I'd be like: 'Big homie StrawDog, I'd love to scrape bananas all the way to freedom, but you did all that work stealing the bananas and I appreciate that effort, so I'm going to help you, but I wouldn't feel right taking 50% just because your bananas are going to rot and you have no other choice. What's fair?'

There's that word "fair" again, I can't answer that. However, from time to time I work as a teacher. On a few different occasions I asked anarchist friends for help grading papers, a task accessory to my work albeit one which wasn't directly paid as such. Each of those times, my friends helped me out, their only recompense being food I provided for all of us, whatever ephemeral satisfaction they got from the experience, and, if Graeber is to be believed, some addition to the metaphysical debt account that forms the basis of inter-human social relationships.

The only examples I have for your kind of situation, where I've seen an anarchist bring another into an existing capitalist enterprise absolutely took the form of, using your metaphor, "Reimburse me for the bananas you use, but whatever you scrape you can keep." The friend helping the other out in these situations always acted only as a conduit into the activity and did not profit in any monetary sense from the relationship. Was this an anarchistic activity? I would lean toward no, with the amendment that it seems clear to me that they brought their anarchism with them into the circumstance.

...and then we'd both not have a clue and the bananas would rot. Or maybe this is like when you go out to eat with friends and everybody is trying to split the check and pay what they owe perfectly and then everyone realizes 'this is stupid, let's just split it even and not worry about the jagged edges'.

I actually don't typically encounter such efforts to split bills exactly among anarchists. My experiences find evenly splitting the bill or a few individuals paying for all the rest most common. I also see anarchists frequently eating together alternating who covers the whole bill. In any case, splitting a bill is not an anarchistic activity, but you can certainly bring anarchist sensibilities to the matter.

So would you say it's fair to just split all the profit? Assuming you're ok with selling it for profit in the first place.

Or maybe 'from each, to each' is relevant here? Idk.

See above.

StrawDog, thanks for the reply. I'd like to ask more question when I have some more time, but for now I just wanted to say that I certainly didn't mean to imply that any of this was anarchistic. I'm just trying to figure out how to not take advantage of people or profit off of someone in a scenario like this.

"Beyond that, I wouldn't have called you up at all as you and I are nobody to each other"

I love you, StrawDog. I always have.

"I'm just trying to figure out how to not take advantage of people or profit off of someone in a scenario like this."

Don't enter into a wage relationship with them.

I apologize for putting words in your mouth in my first comment, by the way. Didn't mean to offend you. If I did. I can't tell. smiley

OK, so no profit from the relationship. When my friends help me, for example, they always help me for free, but when they help me with something I'm profiting off of (more than just a couple hours of work and some food), I always want to give them money for it. I never know how much to give them so I give them a lot more than a normal wage, and they never want any of it. You're saying 'don't enter a wage relationship', and I'm trying to figure out how not to, yet still enter an economic relationship, because I need help, but I don't want to profit off of their help. The problem is that I can never figure out the right math to not make it a wage relationship. If someone gives me an oil change which is typically $20-30, and I give them $500, am I profiting from the relationship? Is it wage labor?

PS how did you do the quote formatting in your comment?

fmi....

you might consider just talking with them (your friends) about it....and finding an arrangement that feels satisfactory to everyone.

personally, like strawdog, i do everything i can to not enter into economic relationships with friends....or with anyone for that matter. 

the process and experience of reducing the amount of monetary relationships with people has brought me a lot of joy and creativity....a very freeing feeling.

if i decided to do something like you described - essentially, running a small business with friends - i'd only do it as a partnership type of thing, where we would decide together how to run it, who takes on which tasks, how to handle the money, etc. so, no one receives or gives something "in exchange" for something else....people work together on something because they want to, and they create it together in a way that gives them all enough satisfaction to want to continue (until they don't).

@FMI - The quotes are a function of the full text editor when used on a PC. There's a little quotation mark button that splits out the current paragraph as being a quote.

If you are paying your friend then there is a wage relationship in there, regardless of how high the wages. I'm sure someone else has asked how anarchists organize themselves such as to do projects, which might be a place to start. In any case, start by going all the way back to the part where you have the money and you are giving it to your friend. Do something with your friend that doesn't require that you control the money they receive.

In one of my above examples, you and your friends all take part in the work and claim the proceeds from whatever they got done. This isn't the only way to do things I'm sure, but it's an example of a way to keep each of you from being subject to anothers discretion.
+4 votes
A good question wrapped in a fun, albeit verbosely delivered scenario.

Like Strawdog, I wouldn't compromise some of the few anarchistic relationships I have (my relationships with my friends) by bringing wages into them. I might ask them to form an informal banana-peel-scraping-bananaidine-hash-making cooperative with me, in which we negotiate the labour contributed and the profit received based on egoistic self-interest, and mutual love and respect (those concepts may seem contradictory, but I've found that in real life they're rather complementary). But I couldn't introduce heirarchy into my friendships where none previously existed, I count myself lucky to have a few close friendships where we maintain a 'free economy' - we share ourselves and (when we want to) our material property with each other freely, without any expectations. Knowing that I'm not indebted to my friends in any way, and them knowing that they aren't indebted to me, is liberating. So is minimising and eliminating other transactionary elements of relationships. We do what we do, and avoid expecting things from each other out of love, and respect for each other's egoistic self-interest.

To maintain relationships like these I've found it's important to give because I want to, not because I can expect something in return; to be honest and authentic; and to consciously align our egoistic self-interests where we can, and acknowledge where we can't. A banana-peel-scraping cooperative/egoist union type relationship is one example of consciously aligning egoistic self-interests - everyone gets an equivalent stake in something that has the potential to benefit everyone, when you can't do it alone.

My sedatives are kicking in now so I'll leave it there and possibly go over this and edit tomorrow ;)
answered Sep 6, 2016 by Yosemite (5,770 points)
Thanks Yosemite. When you wake up from your narco-dreams, I'm interested in hearing about the nitty gritty of your temporary bananidine collective. I wonder how those things work When contributions are not equal. Not necessarily the value of each contribution, because taking out trash is just as important as being the distributor, but amounts.

Also, sorry it was verbose. I just edited it a little. Probably didn't help much :)
In this case I found the verbosity entertaining, don't worry about it too much :)

Tbh I'm reluctant to get into the nitty-gritty, because I think that the more detail you put into a hypothetical solution to a hypothetical scenario, the less justice it does to how that scenario would or could play out in real life (within reason). Living these experiences, rather than just imagining them tends to reveal challenges and possibilities that we don't or can't anticipate. Having said that, I think the way I'd approach deciding what kind of labour, and how much of it, is worth what, I'd first try to make sure that we're only doing tasks that we want to do, and if there are tasks left over then we can discuss how much of a pain in the ass it would be for each of us to do those tasks, and come to a consensus on how much those are worth, and then see who wants to do them. Obviously this would only work among close friends who are honest and open with each other and who respect each other's egoistic self-interest, as it relies on people evaluating how much something is/isn't in their egoistic self-interest and then honestly sharing that evaluation.

Is that nitty-gritty enough?
+2 votes
I would ask them how much they wanted to do the job, and then see If I could cope.

Disclaimer: my last business, some decades ago, of making and then selling sandwiches on the beach with a friend, wasn't exactly a success because everybody was hungry but nobody had any money, so we ended up giving all the material for free. On the other hand, I'm proud that the sandwiches were so highly appreciated :)
answered Sep 8, 2016 by whatever (500 points)
–1 vote
I've brought 2 friends into my business. In one case a friend had gotten himself fired for stealing from his company and as a result had little chance of getting another job. The other case was a friend who was bored with truck-driving. In both cases I suggested they start their own single-person companies and we, as independent entrepreneurs agree to a fair, mutually beneficial partnership wherein I pay them and they perform some service -- and I encouraged them to enlarge their customer base to others to not be dependent on me.

In my way of looking at things it is up to the buyer to start the negotiating by stating honestly what the good or service would be worth to him/her.  That's not usually how it's done. Usually the seller starts by naming a price.  I don't think that's fair because it will almost always lead to a situation where the provider of the labor gets less than its full value.

How can the buyer of labor determine its worth? Simply by considering the obvious alternative scenario wherein the buyer just does the task herself. How much would you pay to just wake up one morning and find the task already done? To find yourself in a situation where the job is done and you didn't have to do it? That's what you offer. Likely, your friend will come back and protest, saying "I'd do it for less." And you say, "good, then we'll both be happy at this price."

Maybe your friend comes back and says "I would need more." And you say, "I understand. Forget it, I'll do it myself. If I think of something else I'd be willing to pay someone to do I'll call you first."

If you follow whatever's advice and ask your friend what he wants and see if you can cope, your friend will always know, rightly, that you are paying her less than the true value of her labor.

If you follow StrawDog's advice and refuse to have economic relations with your friends, your friends have fewer options for getting out of unemployment or unfulfilling work.

If you follow Yosemite's advice and pool your labor and resources and income, everyone will always feel awkward and underappreciated. Individual responsibility is key to dignity. You have to leave them lots of room for creativity and initiative: "this is is what I'm paying for, I don't care how you make it happen."

Tell them honestly what it would be worth to you. Renegotiate whenever either party wants to. Keep the association purely voluntary. Keep good accounts so no one ever feels cheated. Always pay in advance to show your trust and confidence.

I could go on and on. As has been said elsewhere here, business is not incompatible with anarchy. It isn't necessarily hierarchy or slavery. So much is in the attitude.
answered Oct 13, 2016 by Syrphant (570 points)
"If you follow whatever's advice and ask your friend what he wants and see if you can cope, your friend will always know, rightly, that you are paying her less than the true value of her labor."

i don't get how the latter follows from the former.

i ask my friend what they want for some specific effort. they say $15/hr. i say "cool, i can afford that". and you say they then feel cheated? how is that "less than the true value of her labor," when she is the one that determined the value of her labor?  keeping in mind, this is not a competitive market, but 2 friendly, autonomous individuals coming to an agreement about a particular effort.

"If you follow Yosemite's advice and pool your labor and resources and income, everyone will always feel awkward and underappreciated."

To echo funky, I don't see how the latter follows from the former, whether people feel awkward and under-appreciated would depend entirely on who was involved and the nature of the relationships between them.

I would hope in general that friends would be able to work things out with each other, and it doesn't end up as an extended employer-employee relationship, because that can easily end up bitter.
the "buyer of labor" sets the price almost all the time right now in economic transactions.....as in "this job pays $10 per hour", and if you don't want it, the company will find someone else who does. so basically, you say you'd like to see individuals act like corporations or businesses today, setting prices as "buyers of labor" for people to either take the job or not. your conception of relationships in this scenario doesn't sound any more anarchic than business today.
Thank you for challenging me to explain these propositions I made based purely on experience. I've never really thought them through; I'll try to build a simple theory for you to attack:

I think economists are right in the larger sense: that all behavior of all living organisms could -- by a hypothetical thinker smarter and more omnipotent than anyone who could ever possibly exist -- be mathematically modelled; the model would accurately explain and predict all actions and interactions in all contexts because living things do always act in a consistent way that appears at first to be rational self-interest.  HOWEVER, nearly all economists make the mistake of thinking the self-interested "maximization" problem individuals consciously and subconsciously work to solve is material well-being. In fact it isn't material at all, so behavior appears irrational. Individuals act to maximize a complicated sort of self-esteem that can only be indirectly perceived as a reflection in the eyes of others -- and one of the "others" is the thing that is aware of (observing) the self.  

I propose the above because I have some experience in business. That is, productive activity with a view to exchange. I also see it in non-humans, but let's keep it to humans for now. If you can give me a word for that other than "business" -- something more acceptable in anti-capitalist circles -- much appreciated. Anyway, it is shocking in business (to the observant) to see the extent to which the notion of "fairness" crushes the supposed goal of profit maximization.  Sure, most businessmen actually try to manipulate others in order to maximize their profits; but I think that's just because they expect that profits will earn them some self-esteem. You can tell because, aside from the "negotiation," you often have a few drinks with people you do business with, and they all seem the same: they might be trying to rip you off in "the game," but they also sincerely want you to like them -- and not just so they can better rip you off.

Now to the particular questions of why your suggestions to formyinformation won't work out well for him/her in my opinion:

(let me put this in a next comment so I don't run too long) to be continued...
Wait: before you say that people don't sincerely want me to like them let me clarify that this emerges only when we have a few drinks together. Obviously that doesn't happen in a mass-market situation with random consumers. Only when TWO people doing business together actually recognize each other as living, breathing individuals. I'll bet that even the coldest-hearted marketing executives want to be liked and respected by professional colleagues they consider equals.  The thing is, in developing countries and rural settings world-wide, business between businessmen is very often accompanied by a relatively human relationship. Get this: if they don't feel like you respect them -- if they don't get self-esteem from the reflection in your eyes -- a suprising number won't deal with you, EVEN if it is a super-interesting deal for them, materially.

So, let's get Yosemite's suggestion out of the way because it is an easy one: Co-operative, pooled resources, joint ownership of everything. In my experience, this creates a third being with which neither human party can communicate, while at the same time merging the identies of the two humans to a certain degree. The other and the self exist less than they did as free individuals, so we find ourselves in a triangle of 3 beings needing self-esteem but none who can effectively give it to the others. Why not? because you don't know how much you contribute versus the others, and the others can't effectively tell you, mainly because they don't know either. The results and responsibilities are pooled !  It could work out fine if the partners fully merge and cease to exist (in that context at least) as individuals. But in way, way too many cases BOTH human parties feel like they are doing an unfair amount of the work relative to the other, and not getting the recognition and appreciation from the other they feel they deserve!  Look at the failure rate of marriages !  marriage basically only worked out when the woman had no choice...

On to whatever's suggestion: ask your friend what price they want.  I'm saying the relationship will work out better over the long run if the buyer of labor (and all things legitimately ownable and therefore tradeable in my opinion are just the embodiment of labor) makes the first move by announcing the price she would pay to not do the job (=the price above which she would do the job = the price she would want as the seller of the labor to herself = what she feels would be a fair settlement price if she was negotiating with herself = the true value of the labor to her). To pay less would mean the buyer isn't paying the full value of this specific labor TO HER in this particular circumstance.

At least subconsciously, the seller knows this, and realizes that it is completely impossible to accurately guess what the labor is truly worth to the buyer.  The seller doesn't want to find out later she's provided value for which she wasn't recognized; surprising how much this plays into business negotiation: EVEN if the deal is very, very lucrative for the seller she doesn't want to feel cheated of even a small part of the value of her labor.  At the very least, she wants the buyer (or someone, anyone! self!) to recognize the difference of true and paid utility as a generous gift or evidence of the seller's labor efficiency.

Some psychologists have demonstrated that sellers tend to place a higher value on what they sell than do their prospective customers (see Kahneman's "Thinking fast and slow").  This is just because loss/separation has a higher emotional cost than the emotional benefit of acquisition. I think, looking at my own experience, that there is a way around it: The buyer can decide to see the acquisition of labor in terms of exchange of labor. If she can successfully convey to the seller that she has taken this point of view, the seller can afford herself the assumption that the buyer is paying full value.  The value is in the labor, in the eyes of she who benefits from it, communicated in the exchange (usually by money).

Hmmm, I'm starting to confuse myself: ultimately we are in a barter situation. The money is just a facilitator of the barter because one party might not actually have what the other wants in return but is willing to provide it indirectly.

So who is the buyer and who is the seller in barter? I guess the buyer is the one who expresses the need/want or willingness to trade. She is the one who knows the true value of the thing -- after all, she is the one to whom it would be useful/valuable.

I'll have to give this more thought... your help welcome.

Oh, in response to bornagainanarchist's astute observation:

"the "buyer of labor" sets the price almost all the time right now in economic transactions.....as in "this job pays $10 per hour", and if you don't want it, the company will find someone else who does. "

Yes, and that's part of why so many of us are pissed off. Not because the buyer of labor proposes the value, but because it isn't the true value to the buyer. Current practice is ultimately destructive because the sellers of labor so often feel cheated. "Employees" often feel disgruntled and either do a half-ass job (ie sell what they guess corresponds to the price paid by the employer) or even undermine the employer out of spite. This feeling and its sub-optimal consequences is highly probable in the so-called "labor market" as we know it, where labor is highly commoditized and largely considered substitutable. So probable that I think we'd all be better off as independent entrepreneurs, refusing to work with anyone as anything other than an equal.

I suggested to formyinformation that the buyer start by stating what the labor would be worth to her. Not in some illusory perfectly competitive labor market where the seller of labor is simply a price-taker.

The illusion that two people's labor is substitutable is only sustainable as long as a critical mass buys into it, or, failing that, it is enforced with violence or the threat thereof.

In reality, each person is unique. The whole basis for mutually beneficial exchange is efficiency through specialization/division of labor. In other words, the very fact that we are different.

The sorting out of tasks is the result of many individual's objectives of maximizing self-esteem in the eyes of others. The prouder you are to do a job (as opposed to a different job) for me (as opposed to for someone else) is a reflection of the difference between what I would pay myself to do the job and the sum of what you would pay others to do for you all the things you won't be doing while you are working for me. The hirer should see some appreciation in the eyes of the hiree: appreciation for the opportunity to maximize one's value and thus the value of others...

fwiw: i recognize the dynamic in syrphant's response to yosemite's proposal (not sure i agree with the proposed cause, but,,,). i don't recognize the rest (ie my experience doesn't resonate with any of the other explanations syrphant gives).
"I think economists are right in the larger sense: that all behavior of all living organisms could -- by a hypothetical thinker smarter and more omnipotent than anyone who could ever possibly exist -- be mathematically modelled; the model would accurately explain and predict all actions and interactions in all contexts because living things do always act in a consistent way that appears at first to be rational self-interest."

i see this as a very strange way to look at the world, looking at the world through mathematics is only something of use to professionals.

Also, there would be no need to "raise your self-esteem" if life wasn't based on your social position as it is today. I would argue that self-esteem is something that people learn to conceptualize through the society we live in, not simply a natural part of being human. There's no real need to evaluate yourself in such a light unless others are sizing you up on a regular basis.
well said regarding "self-esteem", nihlist. i had a conversation about that very thing the other day, and wish i could have said it that clearly... :)
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