writings on math, logic, philosophy and art

economics shorts

On going back to the office

Some CEO’s demand that workers go back to the office because they are more productive there. A couple of points from me.

  1. You can measure productivity in a precise way only in some mindless repetitive jobs e.g. are Twitter employees more productive now that they are in the office. How do you measure that (if you measure it in profits, app quality etc. I’d say that they are much less productive)

  2. Each person is different. I may be 10% more productive at home than in the office, and my coworker may be 20% less productive. Why do I have to be in the office because of some stupid statistic?

  3. Fine, let’s say people who work at home have lower productivity. But working from home enables you to hire people from all over the world as well as people who cannot go to the office for various other reasons. I’m not a big tech CEO, but somehow it seems to me that the best candidate in the world, working at 90% of their capacity will still perform better than the best candidate who happens to live in your city and is willing to travel.

  4. Working from home is also linked to a better well-being, which means less turnover, better working environment etc.

  5. Most importantly: the fucking planet is dying, because of carbon emissions and you want to just dismiss the obvious and already implemented solution for reducing those by letting people not travel to work, just because of some 10% profit increase.

Wealth and skill

Why are today’s leading spiritual teachers be billionaires? I know people who know more about how to live a happy and fulfilled life than e.g. Naval, and most of them are broke.

Money simply does not play a part in your spiritual enlightenment, there may be some folks who are both enlightened and rich, but statistically most of them would not be rich.

And that’s valid for all skills - if you are only learning from successful (rich) people you are missing out big time.

e.g. one of the best software developers I know is just a guy who works as a regular developer in a regular software firm. He cannot/does not want to manage anyone.

e.g. the best bike mechanic I know runs bike shop, that is only a moderately-popular (unfriendly location, and no marketing, except word-of-mouth)

e.g. just went to work out in the park, and started talking to an old guy who gave me some very good advice - turned out he was a former professional athlete.

On the law of diminishing returns

Reading a book on simple living and thinking the following - what if diminishing returns just occur at a much smaller scale than economic textbooks tell us? What if working in teams of 1-6 people is the most optimal mode of production, (although huge corporations with marketing and PR departments are obviously capable of selling us more products). What would be the implications?

When I say “most optimal” I mean that it brings the most value to people. Unfortunately this cannot be measured and put in concrete terms as “value” is too abstract concept to be used as a metric. Profit, on the other hand is simple to measure, however, it is the wrong metric.

When you measure the value of a given transaction by profit, you only measure the effect it has on the people who actually acquire that profit. You don’t measure the effect on neither the workers (who aren’t shareholders), nor the consumers.

So, for example a corporation that manufactures a very low-quality product with slave-like labor would do very well, if you are only looking at the spreadsheets - low expenses, high worker productivity, massive profit etc. But if we try to measure the (negative) value that this company brings to the people who work for it - their health and financial situation or the negative value that it brings to the consumers, who get something manufactured by someone who doesn’t look after their interests.

If we take these groups into account, then a small business venture that is owned by the people who work in it brings much more value than a big corporation. Bonus points if they produce stuff for themselves. In this case instead of having three groups (shareholders, workers, consumers) and an organization that serves just one of these groups (not to mention it is often the smallest one), you have just one group that looks after it’s own interests, e.g. even if twitter makes more profit than mastodon (although twitter is losing and Mastodon has no profit cause it is not a corporation), I argue that the value that masto brings to its users (consisting of information free of ads and hates peech) as well as the value it brings to the people involved in its development is far greater than the value twitter brings to its users and employees.

Capitalism and innovation

Hard to defend the thesis that capitalism promotes innovation, when the main social discourse surrounding any innovation is how to deal with the people who would lose their jobs because of it.

Realize how ridiculous this looks in the grand schema of things: someone comes up with marvelous new technology that solves all your issues and your first reaction as a society is “but what would the people who used to work on that issue do for a living?”


In society under capitalism nowadays, there is a third class between workers and the masters which is instrumental to keeping the regime working. It is the financially prospering, but emotionally and ideologically bankrupt middle class or servants, as we can also call them — people who have “succeeded” (managed to educate themselves and get a well-paid job) but have completely stripped themselves of their identity in order to do so, and are trapped by their fear to be thrown downwards and their inability to move upwards.

Servants cannot have solidarity for their masters, because they know even more than everyone what the masters are.

And they cannot have solidarity with the workers, out of vanity and out of fear that they will be punished for their opinions and thrown in the working class.

They even cannot have solidarity between themselves, as they realize their role as maintainers of the process that is keeping them in this crooked position.

Some brainwash themselves into thinking that they are actually part of the working class - you know, people who stay at the office all their life and glorify what they do. At the same time they are somehow always broke, although they make more than enough to subsist.

Or some brainwash themselves to think that they are the masters, or they will become masters any minute now. These are the people who glorify how good the system is, and how everyone can succeed (Elon Musk fanboys)

And some realize the pointlessness of their position and they just spend their life getting high, and trying to “cheat the system” to get more for less.

What unites all three groups is that they are morally broke and just frantically seeking for a way to justify what they do and what they are.

Social scientists say that a healthy society should have a “strong middle class”. But how can the middle class be strong? It cannot be strong financially because their earnings would always reach a glass ceiling and huge earnings drive you out of the middle class. It cannot be strong politically, because they have a lot to lose - a political stance would make you lose your spot in the middle class in the worse way). They can be numerous, but not strong.

On luxury goods

You buy a car from the store - the price is 30 000 EUR, let’s say.

You want to sell it immediately afterwards - the price is 25 000 EUR.

A new facelift hits the market (so the same car but with a different headlight design) - the price is 20 000.

Where did that 10 000 go?

My response - almost all goods that exist today are some version of luxury goods — ones which you buy just for the experience of buying something expensive - non-luxury goods don’t lose their value after they are sold e.g. Ikea furniture is the same price second hand, a piece of expensive hand-made furniture also. But almost all other furniture is at the luxury class.

There are even classes of goods, such as cars, for which all models are luxury.

The fairy tale and reality

The fairy tale: capitalism works because motivated by money and by money only and capitalism provides them with opportunities to make more of it.

The truth: capitalism “works” by enabling people in power to exploit the rest of them, but this is justified because they generate massive amounts of wealth, which is all that matters if you believe the fairy tale.

To break free from capitalism, you have to break free from the fairy tale. Is money really so important? Would you spend your days in toxic environment for money? Would you ignore your friends and family for money? Would you sacrifice your health for money? Or the health of the planet?

The fact is that many people do these things and this fact has been used as proof that money is indeed the most important thing for most people.

But that’s nonsense. People don’t do bad things for money because they are evil, or extremely materialistic by nature, they do them because they are hostages to the system, because the belief in the fairy tale made a society where money is equal to life itself.

Those are both poor and rich people that I am talking about. Both people who have no other options and people who do have them but don’t realize it. But they all have something in common - if they stop believing the fairy tale, they would be outcasts, they would have a hard time adapting to society, they (we) will not be sure what to do with their lives.

Statistics that indicate the well-being of people in a nation:

  • Life expectancy
  • Access to health care
  • Literacy
  • Percentage of people that own their own homes

Statistics that are most often displayed in the media:

  • GDP
  • GDP per capita
  • Economic growth

The fairy tale says that boosting the ones from below would inevitably result in boosting the ones from above. But is this really the case?

Ruling countries and corporations

Most people agree that countries are ruled in a democratic fashion with the right to vote etc. but at the same time they think that corporations are better off as dictatorships where most people are depraved of any rights.

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