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Quick Question

Just by happenstance, I see in the Washington Post that ESPN will lay-off 300 workers.

Whenever such news of job losses is announced, the tone is always somber.  It’s as if a tragic fate (if not an outright injustice) is visited upon the workers who are losing their jobs.  People feel bad for the workers and, often, also feel anger toward the employers who are doing the firing.

But….  How to square this near-universally felt anger at employers, and sorrow for the dismissed workers – workers who are dismissed because investors are demanding better performance from firms (or, even, because of a shifting of consumer demands away from the products supplied by the industries that are laying-off workers) – with the widely held presumption that workers are exploited unfairly by their employers?

That such ‘squaring’ can be forced by clever theorizing I do not doubt.  However, ponder the presumed reality, which is this: Many workers are paid by their employers wages below the value of these workers’ marginal productivitites, and, yet – despite employers’ apparent widespread success at paying workers less than the workers produce for them in value – employers nevertheless greedily fire these exploited workers (effectively firing flocks of golden-egg-laying geese).

Strange squared cubed.  Are profit-mad employers stupid?  Insane?  And why, exactly, should we feel bad for fired workers who (if this fairy tale were told in full) are no longer being robbed blind by their (now former) employers?