Wednesday, October 21, 2020

When I Hear the Word "Efficiency" I Reach For My Revolver

"Economists have highly ideological ways of measuring costs. I'm sure you've had this experience, but suppose you want to order an airline ticket, fix a mistake on your bank statement, suspend your newspaper delivery, or whatever it may be. It used to be you could make one call, talk to somebody, and take care of the problem in two minutes. Now what happens is you call a number, and you get a recorded message that says, 'Thank you for calling. We appreciate your business. All of our agents are busy.' First of all, you get a menu that you can't understand, and it doesn't have what you want on it anyway. So then it says wait for somebody. Then you wait and they play a little song, and every once in a while this recorded voice comes on asking you to keep waiting - and you can sit there for an hour waiting. Finally somebody comes on, who is probably in India, doesn't know exactly what you're talking about, and then maybe you will get what you want, but maybe not.

"The way economists measure this, it's highly efficient. It increases productivity, and productivity is what's really important, because that's what makes life better for everyone. Why is it efficient? Because businesses are saving money. The costs are being transferred to consumers, of course, but that's not measured. Nobody measures the amount of time that it takes you to get some simple task done or to correct errors, and so on. That's just not counted. If we were to count such real costs, the economy would be extremely inefficient. But the ideological principle is that you count only the costs that matter to rich people and corporations."

-----Noam Chomsky, Imperial Ambitions - Conversations On The Post-9/11 World, pps. 193-4

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