Balanced Job Complexes

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Balanced Job Complexes

Post by Red Aegis on Sun May 13, 2012 10:55 pm

How would implementing balanced job complexes work practically? I suppose that there would be a sort of rotation but that seems counter-intuitive to me from an efficiency standpoint. Every person would have to be cross-trained in different fields and in some cases this is just not practical. Take medical doctors for instance, would anyone think it practical for a doctor to spend some of his time in medical billing when he could be using the skills that he or she spent many years training for? I know that a nurse practitioner could actually do almost all of the same things as a doctor with the same results, but the same cannot be expected for most other workers and both positions would be considered "empowering work". I suppose that someone from medical billing could work in the administrative wing but for those trades that require extensive, time consuming training I don't see how they could share their jobs.

I suppose that the question boils down to this: do highly skilled trades need to be shared in a participatory economics setting at the cost of very high inefficiency and failure?

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Re: Balanced Job Complexes

Post by Celtiberian on Sun May 13, 2012 11:47 pm

Red Aegis wrote:I suppose that the question boils down to this: do highly skilled trades need to be shared in a participatory economics setting at the cost of very high inefficiency and failure?

It isn't at all obvious that balanced job complexes would necessarily result in "very high inefficiency and failure." I'll simply quote Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel's answer to this common question, as my own views correspond with theirs on this issue:

"We have argued that balancing work complexes for empowerment is a necessary condition for guaranteeing all actors equal opportunity to participate in economic decision making. But many believe that this would destroy efficiency. In our own view, the relation between participation and efficiency will more likely be positive than negative, but in any case it is more complicated than contemporary 'common wisdom' asserts.

One prevalent view has it that some people make decisions better than others, so that the only efficient arrangement is for them to make all important decisions. In other words, participatory decision making is inherently inefficient since it gives everyone decision making input proportional to the degree she or he is affected even though some people make decisions better than others. Of course, this was the same argument used to support the rule of kings against demands for popular representation, the rule of 'wise' and 'benevolent' dictators against demands for democracy, the rule of men against demands for women's suffrage, and the rule of a 'vanguard' party against demands for political pluralism. Do those who accept the wisdom of universal suffrage, democracy, and political pluralism do so at the expense of efficiency? Does some distinction between political and economic decisions warrant popular participation in the former but not the latter?

Human beings have the potential to make conscious choices in light of our understanding of the consequences of alternatives. Particular social environments can subvert or suppress this potential in the majority as when political dictatorship, patriarchy, dogmatic religions, slavery, and authoritarian education stifle people's decision making potentials. But one important goal of desirable social institutions is that they develop rather than thwart our most creative potentials. If we assume that noneconomic institutions develop these potentials, and if we choose economic institutions that do likewise, it is reasonable to assume participants would be capable of making economic choices in light of predicted consequences.

This is not to assert that everyone is equally knowledgeable about every decision, or to deny a role for 'expertise' in economic decision making. We often need 'experts' to interpret the consequences of choices and to explain the likely implications of possible decisions. If experience shows a greater role for expertise in economic decisions than in political or other decisions, so be it. But once consequences are known because ordinary people have had the opportunity to hear diverse expert opinions, what remains is for the affected people to register their choices. While those with expertise in a particular matter may well predict consequences more accurately, those affected know best whether they prefer one outcome or another. In other words, making economic choices entails both determining consequences and evaluating them. While efficiency requires an important role for experts in determining complicated consequences, efficiency also requires that those who will be affected decide which consequences they prefer. Therefore, it is just as inefficient to keep those affected by decisions from making them after experts have analyzed and debated consequences, as it is to prevent experts from explaining and debating consequences of complicated choices before those affected register their desires. In sum, for informed self-management, there is no conflict between participation and efficiency.

Still, there is a sense in which guaranteeing the conditions necessary for establishing a fully participatory economy might be at the expense of efficiency. If a specific skill is scarce, either because an essential innate talent is only present in a fraction of the work force, or because training required to develop the skill is time consuming for trainees or trainer and less pleasurable than alternative human activities-then balancing work complexes for empowerment by assigning someone with this talent or training to work at an activity that requires a less scarce skill would be inefficient. Even so, assignments of this type might be less inefficient than any humanly feasible alternative. For example,

1. If always working at the same task proved so monotonous and boring that people's concentration, effort, and performance deteriorated, balancing might be more efficient than not balancing.

2. If failure to balance was deemed unfair, and resentment led to deteriorating performance on others' part, it is possible for balancing to be more efficient than nonbalancing.

3. If working at a complex including a number of tasks provides an overview of how different tasks depend on one another thereby enhancing the intelligence of people's efforts in their primary responsibilities, then even for the most skilled balancing might be more efficient than not.

4. If performance is positively correlated with participation, and participation is positively correlated with balancing, balanced complexes might prove more efficient than unbalanced complexes.

Besides a remarkable propensity not to consider these possibilities, the traditional view of the relation between job-mixing and efficiency rests on questionable assumptions regarding talent and training. In the traditional view, many productive talents are assumed present in only tiny fractions of the population, while most training is assumed terribly burdensome. Since doctors changing bed pans is an example those opposed to job balancing like to cite, it is not inappropriate to point out:

1. Ample experience demonstrates that it is possible to train only moderately good students to become physicians, so the 'talent' necessary to become a doctor is apparently distributed among a rather large fraction of the population, and the inefficiency of having doctors change bed pans could be greatly reduced by training more doctors.

2. Protests of medical students aside, a substantial portion of medical training could be highly illuminating and have a positive 'consumption' component so that the time occupied in the training process need not be as burdensome as the A.M.A. would have us believe.

3. There is an implicit assumption that while it is inefficient for doctors to change bed pans, it is not inefficient for others to change them. However, while it is true that in societies where a large number of perfectly talented members of the work force receive no training, the opportunity costs of having them change bed pans are obviously less than the opportunity costs of doctors doing so, this would not hold if everyone received ample training in some area for which they had relevant talent. If all have their particular talents trained, there would be significant opportunity costs no matter who changed bed pans. As to whether it is more efficient for an economy to train all in accord with their talents, or more efficient to train the productive talents of only a few, the answer is obvious.

In sum, the 'scarce talent' argument against balancing job complexes hinges on the assumption that a great deal of the work force has no trainable talents, while the 'training cost' argument against balancing for empowerment ignores the fact that training can be quite enjoyable. Moreover, the claim that balancing is necessarily inefficient also ignores a number of ways in which balancing may improve performance that should be weighed against any opportunity costs that may exist.

In any case, we do not claim there are never opportunity costs to having people work outside their area of comparative advantage. We only claim that the case against balancing on efficiency grounds has been greatly exaggerated. In a society that provides all with appropriate training delivered in the most enjoyable rather than most distasteful ways, the opportunity costs of arranging job complexes with balanced empowerment are not likely to be anything like what opponents claim. Any losses in efficiency should be weighed against the importance of participation and reductions in coercive management needed to extract effort from recalcitrant 'underlings.
'"
Albert, Michael and Hahnel, Robin. The Political Economy of Participatory Economics, pp. 31-34.

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Re: Balanced Job Complexes

Post by Red Aegis on Mon May 14, 2012 12:44 am

I am still concerned with what he called the 'training cost' argument. For this to be properly remedied society would seem to require significant changes beforehand to make the training more inclusive to those interested. As it stands now I do not think it an option, but I welcome it's change. I actually was thinking of how sharing jobs between a highly skilled and a comparatively unskilled worker could be done without causing problems, the rest did not seem an issue. So the question is how to change the educational system to produce more highly skilled workers at lower costs to remedy this issue.

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