Jan 09

Do you know why Polish men are taking your jobs?


(I didn’t take the above photo, it’s kindly released under the Creative Commons licence by secretlondon. Let it be known I couldn’t get close enough to take a picture of a newspaper like the one shown above without doing some terribly bad things to anyone in the vicinity.)

Do you know why Polish men are taking your jobs?

It’s a reputation thing.

You are lewd, crude, you go home early, your work is sometimes shoddy, you have no regard for the environment around you. You are often highly dangerous and don’t conform to basic safety standards, and this sometimes puts the general public at risk.

I feel the stereotype is so strong and so true, it warrants generalisations like this. If it were just a few making a bad name for the many then I would hold back.

To say that you are unprofessional doesn’t come close to describing your work ethic.

For example, anyone who walked outside my house this morning may have been hit in the head by one of about 200 heavy metal clamps, thrown from the top of a three storey building, and most probably killed. Anyone who tried to park in an empty parking space between two parked cars would have been unable to, due to clamps littering the pavement and the road. Anyone who drove along the stretch of the road involved may have unwittingly hit a clamp with their tyre.

I don’t mind that you never show up until minimum two weeks after you were supposed to. The Polish workforce can be equally unreliable. It’s a supply / demand thing. I don’t fully understand it: builders are perpetually late, why not just build some management of expectation into the system and add two weeks onto the proposed time… oh I see, it’s because you don’t want to lose the work. No, I don’t fully understand, but it doesn’t rile me too much. After all I can just build that 2 weeks delay into my project expectations. (I speak like I do building projects, I’ve never hired a builder in my life.) In fact I can understand why Polish builders have to adopt that same attitude of saying “yes” and lying about the start date: they have to be competetive in the marketplace and actually get the work in the first place. The difference that gets me is what happens once they do turn up.

And if there are any contract managers out there who feel this is grossly unfair to the population of British builders who do take their work seriously, may I suggest you use your power and influence in the sector to change the systemic attitude whereby it’s okay for a contract manager to recruit 18 year olds with no qualifications or training, and put their lives at risk, and pay them very little, just as long as the job gets done, and the manager gets paid.

Jan 09

Tomorrow is inauguration day!

I am distinctly jealous of all those in America who can attend any number of inauguration parties and celebrate the most exciting day in my living history with their friends tomorrow.

I am even more jealous of those in Washington DC who can have a real-life slice of the action. I have been highly excited about the lead-up to tomorrow, but there’s nobody to share it with.

Jan 09

To what extent must society shape capitalism?

Another post from a self-proclaimed economy non-expert.

This post is one big question mark, just so you’re aware!

I am sure that most of us, even the most right wing, would agree that capitalism is most effective – from a utilitarian point of view – when tempered to an extent by social forces. These may be ethics, the metaphorical workers’ rights of the marketplace; regulation, the health-and-safety handbook; economic progress, the constitution and philosophical goals of capitalism; trading law, the global rules of operation; process, the top-level efficiency of the capitalist system; communication and diplomacy, the oil in the machinery; the list could go on.

In fact if that list were to go on, it would become less and less directly related to capitalism, and the metaphors would become more and more broad. This is because capitalism itself eventually gives way to the aspects of society that surround it. For example, business ethics are informed by the aspects of global/local society that feed it, namely politics, environment, art, national and regional development, media, and so on. I hope to have explained this point as a construct rather than a view, as it exists whatever one’s views on the autonomy of capitalism within a state are. Whether you believe capitalism should be capitalism and completely uninformed by society, I am attempting to at least define the interdependence that could, does, should, or should not exist.

Which leads me to the point of writing this. As a layman I’m totally ignorant as to the schools of thought that define these boundaries. If anyone reading this knows of some studies on the interdependence between capitalism and society, I’d really appreciate a reading list. Or maybe even just a quick summary, or some keywords or authors I can search. Specifically the questions I have are as follows.

Most ‘moderates’, as I would consider them, believe that a marketplace should have a good degree of independence, but that there should be some healthy acknowledgement of the surrounding world. National politics usually define regulations, international consortia define trade law, but my question is to what extent should free market ethics be defined by society? A business should be able to use its powers to create a market and generate demand where there isn’t any, but the equal and opposite is that a business should also be able to use its power to close down a market, reduce demand, force down wages, etc. The obvious questions of business ethics arise from this example of irregularity. More importantly than “to what extent should free market ethics be defined by society”, is “who theoretically makes that decision” (this is rhetorical because it’s the powerful who end up making it), and “what system of rationale governs who makes the decision”?

I guess there are inevitably no answers to the above questions, but I am interested if there’s any research in these more esoteric areas.