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April 24, 2012

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Interesting perspective. I'd have said you're a "professional" if you demand from yourself quality above what your job requires. You insist on being proud of the work you've completed. It has nothing to do with how much you're paid. More is better, of course, but it's the work that matters even more than the pay.

In the near future, it seems that professional will be reserved for those who undertake some work on the condition that they receive only enough payment to keep body and soul together and not a penny more.

So, doctors and 777 pilots and structural engineers and oil tanker captains will no longer be considered professional? Or will all those professions be reduced to minimum wage? I'm not sure what is more strange: the prospect of a penniless heart surgeon, or the notion that, in the near future, heart surgeons won't be professionals.


changes in technology and society are creating changes in the publishing industry.

Perhaps a different way of looking at it would be to say that at the end of the day, people don't really care enough about editing to pay for it. I mean, how many people here who have noticed errors in books that a skilled editor should have caught intend on reducing their purchases of books specifically because of that? I don't.

I think one very specific technical change matters here: the capital costs for publishing a book. Over time, minimum print runs seem to have shrunk a fair bit. If printing a book is a capital intensive affair, you might as well spend extra getting the damn thing edited right. It is a major investment after all, so you're going to want to get it right. But if print runs are tiny, then no individual title is really worth that much. You might as well generate as many different titles as possible and see which ones do well. And if you're going to do that, well, it doesn't really make financial sense to spend a ton of money on editing does it?

So I don't think there's any story here about professionalism per se. Editors like to tell themselves pleasing stories about how valuable they are, but those stories aren't really true. Heart surgeons aren't going to be poor. Ever. Because we don't want to die. Ditto for the structural engineer who ensures that your workplace won't collapse and kill you in a stiff breeze. The professions that have power over life and death will always do OK. Editors...not so much.

Perhaps a different way of looking at it would be to say that at the end of the day, people don't really care enough about editing to pay for it. I mean, how many people here who have noticed errors in books that a skilled editor should have caught intend on reducing their purchases of books specifically because of that? I don't.

I think that's reasonable. On the other hand... a friend of my wife recently self-published a book and publicized it a fair bit. She spent a decent amount on printing costs, but totally skipped the editor - and guess what most of the reviews complained about? It's not that the book was unreadable, it was just painful to run into the errors. I would absolutely not have been surprised to see enough people turned away by the negative reviews that she'd have lost money.

I don't think that the term "professional" is a self-esteem device. It means that you are trained in a profession, you know what it demands, and you can do the work that's required.

The idea that some publishers (not all) have outsourced electronic production of their publications doesn't reflect on professional editors who may work for the same publishers.

This was my beef with Doctor Science's posts. People who work for publishing companies can't (and perhaps shouldn't) quit en masse just because they "notice" that some things are wrong with their industry. For one thing, they need to make a living, and it's difficult to find another job these days. (But, I guess Doctor Science doesn't consider the possibility that editors who "notice" that things aren't perfect in their companies may still need to put food on the table). For another, they are still making a difference in their own capacities.

Professionals are people who take their own jobs seriously. Just because they work for corporations (which in some industries have become monopolies) which don't have high standards doesn't mean that professionals themselves are "unprofessional."

Liberal Japonicus, you're very understanding and "giving" towards Doctor Science and her attitude. She's not talking about changes in technology making changes in publishing so much as she's disparaging people who work at publishing companies for being undeserving of their jobs.

Everyone knows that technology is changing publishing. Publishers were aware of this over a decade ago, and are still trying to figure out how publishing can change without crushing the industry. I think that it will take some time to sort things out, but that publishers serve a major role. They vet manuscripts to give attention to writers who are most deserving. Not just because of literary merit, but because people want to read certain things. (But there is literary merit in some obscure books, and most of the best publishers have a bit of their business devoted to great books, which may not be money makers. It's true; they do.)

I would absolutely not have been surprised to see enough people turned away by the negative reviews that she'd have lost money.

Yes, absolutely.

One of the Dr Science's previous posts mentioned that publishers are now mostly interested in authors that come pre-edited. If you can deliver a minimum level of editing to a publisher, that's enough, even if it is much less editing than the publisher themselves would have done 20 years ago. But if you can't get to that minimum level, I imagine that might turn off readers, which is less of a problem if no one will publish you.

I guess if you're an author and you solicit editing comments from a half dozen beta readers and your spouse, that's probably "enough".

sapient
I don't think that the term "professional" is a self-esteem device. It means that you are trained in a profession, you know what it demands, and you can do the work that's required.

Then why was the word 'professional' a flashpoint here if it has such a mundane meaning? I'm not disputing that professional has the meaning you say, but I'm pretty sure that if I said work you did wasn't very professional, you wouldn't simply say no, I did what was demanded and required, and I got a paycheck and leave it at that.


It seems to me that there are a whole raft of connected meanings to the notion of being a professional that are under assault here and it might be good to think about them. You yourself introduce another connected notion in that professionalism is 'taking your job seriously' and so, when Dr Science says something is unprofessional, you feel (I think) that she is saying that people are not taking their jobs seriously. I've got no secret insight into her mind, and I do try to take the most understanding attitude towards someone until they prove that they aren't worth bothering with, but rather than trying to prove that Dr Science is disparaging editors, I think it is a much more interesting question to see how the ramifications of the word 'professional' seem to be changing. This might involved discussing how the meaning of 'professional editor' has changed (does it now mean receiving pre-edited works that are then final edited?), but I'm a bit more interested in what is changing the word 'professional' rather than the word 'editor'.

In America at least, wherein the leveling and the exalting of the professions seems to alternate like twin stars in close orbit, doesn't the word "elitism" hover over the discussion, particularly these days?

Turb's "doctors, 777 pilots, structural engineers, and oil tanker captains" are all a generation or two away from going back to being "professional" lawncutters, thanks to technology and rationalizing.

Ah, they was just a bunch of sawbones, cowboys, protractor dweebs, and pelican lubejobbers anywho. Who needs em? Hell, I can do that!

And then we have the spectacle of Wall Street "professionals" -- the job creators -- giving millions to the Romney (he was a pro at something, sometime) campaign to fund ads against Obama, accusing him of, what's this, hiring Wall Street "professionals" in his Administration.

If there is anyone John Galt doesn't like telling him what to do, it's John Galt.

Why, you'd think Obama had hired teachers and editors (read the words "teachers" and "editors" in full sneer mode to get the flavor of Americans' contempt for the work all of their fellow citizens accomplish, exempting themselves, natch) off the streets.

By the way, while I agree that Doctor Science seems to disrespect editors in the aggregate (though I'm not sure; let's fire or obsolete her and ask questions later ;)), I think lj's post is a good deal more subtle than merely "understanding" of the Doc's point-of-view.

lj sidles up to subjects for the most part and kind of tweezes them open. I wish I could write in his manner, by which I mean without complete certainty sending me over a high cliff.

Regarding the dreaded unions, something I didn't know (new book: "Ayn Rand Nation" by Gary Weiss) about Ayn Rand:

She did not think workers should be prevented from unionizing. She was against Taft-Hartley and "right-to-work" laws.

Now, as far as I'm concerned, this is all mish in the general mash of her sociopathic worldview, much like a dog-lover identifying with Hitler (unlike lj, over the cliff I dive).

But I reserve more contempt for her followers, thick and ordinary, who, as Hans Kung explained about keepers of the doctrine in the Cathloic Church: "Karl Rahner (?) once said that Jesus would not have understood the first Vatican Council on infallibility. But the Church instead asks the question of Grand Inquisitor: Why do you, Jesus, come to disturb us? We have our dogmas about you. We know much better than you. You were not so outspoken. You were not so clear. We have made it much better than you said it."

That last from "God's Jury -- The Inquisition and the Making of the Modern World" by Cullen Murphy.

About pilots, there is this interesting Wall Street Journal article about the pay of pilots. Some grafs

Congress expressed shock and dismay to learn that regional airline pilots start at very low salaries after the NTSB said the co-pilot on the Colgan Air commuter plane that crashed near Buffalo on Feb. 12 earned only $16,000 a year. (The company later said she earned $23,900.)

That situation has existed for decades, though the financial difficulties of the industry have clearly driven pilot salaries lower. But regional airline pilots are essentially paid in hours of experience, not cash. They build jet flight time that gets them higher-paying positions as captains, and eventually, they hope, jobs at major airlines. They accept low pay in order to get a big payday later in their flying careers. Right or wrong, that’s how the industry has worked.

Of course, major airlines have been furloughing pilots more than hiring them, so it’s been increasingly difficult for regional airline pilots to get on the seniority track at big airlines, which leads to high salaries. But even the high salaries aren’t nearly as high as they used to be. There was a time when wide-body international captains worked a few trips a month and earned $300,000 or more a year. Economic pressures have choked that golden goose.

I recall reading an article, in the New Republic, I think, about how it was that airline pilots used to be playing golf with doctors and lawyers but now are basically bus drivers with some special training.

but now are basically bus drivers with some special training.

Yeah, very special training. That's the insulting part of the attitude people seem to have throughout these comments. It's no wonder the economy stinks - nobody respects anything that anyone else does, even if it has involved extensive training and practice. It's ugly.

Sorry I can't get interested in whether the idea of "professionalism" has changed. I can't get past the basic contempt that people seem to have for other people who, basically, have just tried to take time to learn dignified work, so that they can support themselves and their families, while contributing in some small way to society.

Note that I wrote "777 pilots", not pilots in general. I wrote that for a reason. I think the issues with younger pilots getting paid very little are complex and in large part derive from the very odd payment structure (one giant pot of money that the pilots' union decides how to split). There's a lot one could write about there, but I don't think it tells us much about life outside the airline business.

My point still stands though: surgeons and structural engineers and 777 pilots do all right. They might not be making $300K/year for 12 hours a month of work, but they're very comfortable, and they're nowhere near minimum wage.

LJ, could you be more specific about when you think that heart surgeons will be making minimum wage? I know you said it would happen in the near future, but does that mean 1 year from now? 5 years?

a friend of my wife recently self-published a book and publicized it a fair bit. She spent a decent amount on printing costs, but totally skipped the editor -- Fuzzy Face

I guess if you're an author and you solicit editing comments from a half dozen beta readers and your spouse, that's probably "enough". -- Turbulence

Not only is "totally skipping" editing a bad idea, you really need to be selective in who you have doing the editing. even if you are self-publishing. Maybe your spouse and/or beta readers include someone who has an eye for those sorts of details. If not, you probably need to find someone who does.

The real problem is not the occasional typo that the reader can spot and translate easily. It's the typos (or just badly written sentences) which change the meaning -- especially if that meaning matters to the plot. I was reading proofs of a friend's book last month (after the publisher's editor) and found a couple of things like that. Including a couple where the editor called for changes in the wrong direction.

Whether you are going to professionally publish or self-publish, you need someone to catch things which would leave the readers saying "Now wait a minute...." And everything you write is going to have a few to start with. (Just look at the stuff we write here!) After all, it's your name which is going to be on the work. So if nobody else is going to take care of that task, you have to take responsibility. Even if you have to pay for it yourself.

I see "professonal" as meaning someone who will reliably judge his/her employer's interests and act to protect them, in a domain where the employer can not rely on their own judgement. (Maybe what is provided is expertise, maybe attention.) This describes Turb's examples, also how investment managers and accountants should act.

(I have worked in engineering for 30 years, after being educated as a scientist. This is based on the standards I had to learn on the job because I wasn't trained in this in college.)

On pilot training and/or the lack thereof.

At 2:02 am, the captain leaves the flight deck to take a nap. Within 15 minutes, everyone aboard the plane will be dead.

My point still stands though: surgeons and structural engineers and 777 pilots do all right. They might not be making $300K/year for 12 hours a month of work, but they're very comfortable, and they're nowhere near minimum wage.

LJ, could you be more specific about when you think that heart surgeons will be making minimum wage?

That's only half of what's at issue. The other possibility is that those who make lots more money than is necessary just to get by are no longer considered "professional" (in some sense of the word, at least). Perhaps they come to be popularly classified as "technical elites" (or some such).

Where do the investment bankers and politicians fit in to all of this, I wonder?

I should say: I think professionalism is tightly bound to both state licensure and a community with a sense of particular responsibilities. You can't perform heart surgery on people unless you've been licensed by the state; likewise, you can sign any drawing you want, but the state won't let anyone construct a new building unless a licensed professional engineer has signed the drawings. The state enforces certain standards, but a lot of standards are enforced internally by the members of the professional community. Norms and regulation are two sides of the same coin.

Thus, even though I'm not a licensed engineer, I do have an ethical obligation to do some things that a non-engineer in my position wouldn't have.

The other possibility is that those who make lots more money than is necessary just to get by are no longer considered "professional"

OK, is there any evidence at all that people no longer think of doctors as being professional? Anything, anything at all?

Where do the investment bankers and politicians fit in to all of this, I wonder?

I don't see them as professionals in the sense that there's neither licensure or a broader community that passes on some notion of professional responsibilities involved. Now, some people within finance might be professionals, like CPAs or CFPs, but that's not usually what I think of when I hear investment-bankers.

"OK, is there any evidence at all that people no longer think of doctors as being professional? Anything, anything at all?"

If state licensure and a community with a sense of particular responsibilities are your baselines, I would say having Milton Friedman, who believed in neither, elevated to a position in the Reagan White House is pretty good evidence, and then we can throw in his more recent stepchildren in the know-nothing Tea Party as a malign but powerful amateur hour who denigrate professional scientists and the professionals who work in government, and believe me, they think their doctors are full of sh#t elitists too, unless of course they can get them those free Medicare scooters.

I would say the entire holistic and vitamin supplement movement, which has its roots on the Left, but has migrated via Howard Ruff and company to the gun shows and libertarian/Ron Paul environs thinks traditional medicine administered by professionals is a crock and a grift.

The supplement marketers hate the professionals at the FDA who examine their products, which by and large, are excreted by true believers everywhere with little evidence of benefit.

having Milton Friedman, who believed in neither, elevated to a position in the Reagan White House is pretty good evidence

Milton Friedman was Surgeon General? Or perhaps he was in some position to eliminate state medical boards and medical licensing in every state? I guess I don't see what Milton Friedman has to do with anything.

I just don't see any evidence that people think medical doctors aren't professionals. The fact that some people have absurd beliefs (Vaccines cause cancer! Fluoridated water is a communist plot!) seems neither here nor there.

professionalism is tightly bound to both state licensure and a community with a sense of particular responsibilities.

I think the community with a sense of responsibilities is a requirement. But I don't see that state licensure is. Yes, you need a state license to perform heart surgery. But you also need one to cut hair. Does that make a barber a professional? Not to my mind.

OK, is there any evidence at all that people no longer think of doctors as being professional? Anything, anything at all?

None that I know of, at least not if scientifically unsubstantiated alternative medicine isn't anything at all. And maybe doctors will be spared because everyone depends on them directly and personally for their services in a particularly vital way.

I don't necessarily see the "anything more than minimum wage = not a true professional" thing happening in an absolute, literal fashion. But I wouldn't be shocked if popular notions of professionalism moved over time in that general direction.

Hyperbole aside (lj's, that is), I think lj has a point.

I think that a barber is a professional.

I've gotten really sick of all these threads that devolve into endless, pointless arguing over whether or not barbers are professionals. They're ruining the internet.

Fortunately, the Internet is not professional. So nobody is responsible if it is ruined. ;-)

I think barbers are professionals too.

I daresay, I wouldn't walk into a barbershop/salon and point at the person about to cut my hair and declare out loud that they are amateurs and unprofessional.

All of those scissors and razors lined up to my detriment.

So are chefs.

But so are short-order cooks.

Particularly the ones who are out $15,000 for culinary school and working at Godfather's Pizza.

Which brings us to Hermann Cain, who told Barbara Walters he would like to be Secretary of State in a Republican Administration.

Bring on the licensure requirements, please!

So I'm wondering, where has the belittling of professional politicians gotten (editor: bar towel, please) us, except in the clutches of some nasty, incoherent demagogues and a political system that is dysfunctional to the point of chaos and violence.

Same with broadcast journalism.

I tend to think of "professional" as having a number of different meanings. I tend to think of it as: meticulous, valuing attention to detail and producing results that stand up under scrutiny. Someone who stands behind their work and is accountable for it. Someone whose work can, in other words, be relied upon.

I'm not trying to catch anyone out here, and Slart's definition is a good one. But there are pages on Wikipedia that would fit that definition, but I'm certainly not going to say that it was professionally edited. And I don't think that there are state licensure requirements for editors as well. Yet professionality was, if I'm not mistaken, the crux of the complaint.

Of course, "professional" in the context of medicine has now become "board certified", a term which underwent a run-in with Rand Paul. I guess it is an outgrowth of a belief in Aqua Buddha.

What is interesting to me is when the various meanings of the word start rubbing up against each other, which is usually a sign that something in the world at large is about to change.

Sorry, I missed this by sapient in response to my observation that pilots are now bus drivers with special training.

I can't get past the basic contempt that people seem to have for other people who, basically, have just tried to take time to learn dignified work, so that they can support themselves and their families, while contributing in some small way to society.

I should emphasize that this was an observation, and has nothing to do with how I feel about pilots, in whose hands often hold my life.

As noted in the article about pilot pay, that SkyBlue pilot received either $16,000 or $23,000 a year. Yearly gross income on minimum wage is $14,500. So when I say they are basically bus drivers with special training, I'm not ridiculing them (I certainly can't drive a bus and probably would do a shitty job even with the best training in the world) I'm just saying that is the state of affairs I see. If you want to complain about the contempt some people have towards those folks, I think you are addressing the wrong person.

I've always understood "professional" to mean, "Gets paid for doing that", and nothing more. State licensure? That's mostly about medieval craft guilds regulating entry into the guild, and only secondarily about maintaining standards. Which is why I, a mechanical engineer, am not legally permitted to design a house... Unless I slip some architect with a fraction of my understanding of structural mechanics a few thousand to stamp my drawings.

Sure, do a good job while you're at it. But, really, shouldn't you do that whether you're designing draw dies or sweeping a warehouse? Shouldn't we all be 'professional' in that sense?

What is interesting to me is when the various meanings of the word start rubbing up against each other, which is usually a sign that something in the world at large is about to change.

Agreed. FWIW, I don't see you as overtly pushing for resolution in one direction or another, as much as pointing out the struggle for dominance of meaning.

On a related note, I just attended a conference where "unmanned vehicles" were discussed, and the meaning-duality of "unmanned" struck me as amusing. Those poor, emasculated vehicles! But I refrained from pointing that out in a large-group setting.

lj wrote:

"If you want to complain about the contempt some people have towards those folks, I think you are addressing the wrong person."

While I agree with sapient's sentiments and values wholeheartedly, I think lj is right here.

Frankly, though, I'm surprised the prideful professionals here didn't take umbrage at this, slipped into the post:

"except in matters of the heart, which is why one doesn't hear how someone's lovemaking was quite professional."

;)

Regarding regional, underpaid, under-rested, overworked airline pilots buying the farm and taking crew and passengers with them, I wish the remaining underpaid airline attendant who was shlepping six dollar cocktails on that particular flight had thought to pass out customer satisfaction surveys for filling out by passengers as the plane went into a vertical dive with the luggage bins bursting open and the distinct aroma of electrical fires breaking out.

Questions might be:

Are you still in favor of airline deregulation?

Should the market be the sole determinant in worker pay, shareholder return on equity, and passenger fares?

Is every job that is worth doing, worth doing well, regardless of how one's superiors treat one?

If airline pilots are nothing but glorified bus drivers, why do you want bus drivers pay and benefits cut as well, you screaming, incontinent idiots?

Airline traffic controllers? Unionized blackmailers who should be fired en masse and/or privatized to lower paying jobs with no benefits, ... or human beings like you, doing the best they can?

For those of you who paid the $99 special cut rate fares, do you believe you have received your hard-earned money's worth?

(Answers to this last might be in a range. From: "Well, I never would have been able to afford this flight if not for the low fare, so in balance yes, though I could do without my hair being soaked in jet fuel before impact" .... to, "Wait a second! I paid $624 for my seat, the exact same seat the $99 passenger is in, having made the reservations four days ahead of time, on a Friday morning, plus baggage fees, and this is the kind of treatment I get! And furthermore, I can't get this bag of eight peanuts open, even with my teeth!"

Now, all of us know airline safety is better perhaps than it has ever been, so I imagine shareholders and management must be asking themselves: "Given these facts, why do we pay our employees at all, since they seem to improve safety and on-time performance no matter how they are remunerated. It would seem low pay and few benefits motivate all workers, outside of management, natch. Where are they going to go, to professional sanitation engineer college for that new career hanging off the back of a garbage truck?

And don't get me started on how garbage collectors are over-compensated, the parasites.

I didn't mean to direct my annoyance at you, lj, so I apologize for it having appeared that way. I just find it strange that people are generally willing to question with such zeal the integrity of what other people do - especially in time where most people can barely hold onto their jobs. The recent discussions about editors, for example: not only did it happen to my friends in my company that their jobs disappeared, but people should google "editors laid off". It's still happening, constantly. The problem isn't the professionalism of editors, or that editors don't "notice" that their companies' standards are lacking; it's the lack of editors. The airline industry is similar in that it can save money by paying pilots nothing. As far as cutting hair, I certainly am not going to do it myself, or ask my neighbor to do it.

Basically it's because people don't value what other people do that companies aren't paying people to do it. It comes up in other contexts too - that the blog commentariat believes that they would be capable of doing much better than people who have been doing things for years.

That's not to say that making comments about the state of book publishing or education or hair fashion or whatever is off-limits, but it's important to focus on what the actual problems are. And maybe giving some thought to how expensive it might be to solve them.

By the way, "Houghton Mifflin Harcourt" wasn't mentioned in the book editing "professionalism" posts, yet most of the examples of embarrassing publications came from that company. So is it publishing generally that we're rallying against? Or could we point out that one company in particular has problems? And look at the wikipedia entry for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. It explains a lot.

"Basically it's because people don't value what other people do that companies aren't paying people to do it. It comes up in other contexts too - that the blog commentariat believes that they would be capable of doing much better than people who have been doing things for years."

Bain Capital.

In answer to Turb above, who wondered what Milton Friedman has to do with anything, I understand that he, Uncle Milty, will be disinterred and his remains placed on permanent display in the Oval Office under a Romney Presidency, right next to the urn containing Ayn Rand's ashes.

Touchstones for the concept that EVERYONE is paid too much, except for John Galt, the fictional character who represents the basic building blocks of the Republican future: ME and only ME.

Rand wasn't completely self-centered. After all, a capitalist needs to have someone to sell to.

True.

And no one really minded providing her and her adultery- and dementia-suffering husband with Medicare, despite her fine principles.

Turned out doctors and the medical community earned more and cost more than Objectivist writers and thus were unaffordable.

Speaking of editors, there's gotta be three or four hundred pages in "Atlas Shrugged" and a good number of pages of mind-numbing Objectivist speeches in "The Fountainhead" that could have edited down to something readable and entertaining.

I blame Bennett Cerf, who probably just threw up his hands.

It must be getting close to open-thread Friday, because my mind is wandering.

Asteroid mining.

Now, if an asteroid is fully owned and in the process of being exploited for its upteenatrillion dollars worth of platinum, say, by a private corporation, and said asteroid is later found to be heading for collision with Earth and the inevitable cataclysmic end of the human race, will Rand Paul, Rand Ryan and Ayn Scalia join in preventing destruction of the asteroid by the United Nations or some consortium of government-led action by demanding full remuneration to the asteroid owners under the Takings Clause of the Constitution, or at the very least, demanding lengthy cost-benefit analyses using dynamic scoring?

In fair turnabout, shouldn't some particularly scenic asteroids be declared Supra-National Parks with full provision for recreational multi-use such as hiking, boating, and hovercraft, but closed to resource exploitation. If so, and one of those asteroids is heading for Earth, again with cataetcetras, will the Sierra Club hold up or prevent destruction of the asteroid in favor of higher values?

I'm just thinking about the ramifications of non-negotiable political positions and rhetoric in these latter days of the United States being extended beyond the Earth's atmosphere, ya know, before we f*ck up the entire universe.

An asteroid or two should be set aside for the banished victims of the Catholic Church's Renewed Inquisition, which oddly enough is being carried out with the full cooperation of the Protestant Evangelical community and the Randian Atheist, umm, "community", if that latter could possibly be.

http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/26184891/vp/47186599#47186599

Dju know that Objectivist organizations actually have their own softball teams? Read that in this book about Ayn Rand.

I'm game, but one wonders what they do in the event of a "sacrifice fly" or one of those altruistic going the other way and giving oneself up to advance the runner type of heresies.

And umpires? By whose authority?

I understand Nike is developing a softball jersey and jockstrap designed for concealed carry, because what you really want in a hard slide into an Objectivist is firepower.

It's no wonder the economy stinks - nobody respects anything that anyone else does

publishing was historically a business with a low return - (5% was a figure banded about) which was unacceptable in an era when 20% returns were becoming the norm

The second cite is from Doc Science's second post on this topic.

Aren't these really easy dots to connect?

If the purpose of publishing is to produce books, the contribution of an editor is valuable, because what you want is a good book.

If the purpose of publishing is to return the maximum amount of money to investors, editors are a relatively expensive labor cost. If reducing editorial labor results in a not-so-good book, but one that you can still sell, that is a win.

We've lost, among other things, a way to measure the value of productive work other than by the amount of money it returns to owners. Whoever they happen to be, and however tangential their connection to the effort.

In other words, the value of human effort, or whatever kind, is precisely equal to the monetary return it generates, to whoever owns the capital inputs. No more, no less.

That being the equation, why should anyone respect anything that anybody does? What inherent value does it have? It's a means to an end, and the end has little if anything to do with the substance of the work itself.

And never mind the 'anybody else' part - what is the basis for respecting your own work?

"Now, if an asteroid is fully owned and in the process of being exploited for its upteenatrillion dollars worth of platinum, say, by a private corporation, and said asteroid is later found to be heading for collision with Earth and the inevitable cataclysmic end of the human race,"

Not at all incidentally, Planetary Resources is looking at "Earth crossing" asteroids, which are, every last one of them, heading for collision with Earth, with the date of said collision being the only thing in question.

So, what we've got here is a private firm which is going to spend good money finding threats to humanity, and developing the technology necessary to avert them.

A little less complaining, ok?

"I've always understood "professional" to mean, "Gets paid for doing that", and nothing more. State licensure? That's mostly about medieval craft guilds regulating entry into the guild, and only secondarily about maintaining standards."

Really? It's often difficult for me to know when you are serious and when you are posturing. My medical license is all about a guild, and not about regulating standards of some sort?

What the heathcare professions have going for them are strong unions and providing an essential service. It's certainly true they (us?) exploit that to maintain their (our?) turf to some extent. There are a few extreme right-wingers who want to let the market decide if, for example, you want your chest cracked by a credentialed cardiac surgeon or somebody, a guild-rejector, who learned how by watching a Youtube video.

FWIW, I've published 3 books, the first by a smallish publisher and the second two by bigger ones. For both of the latter my editors were first-rate and made the books much better books. They seemed to me to take pride in their jobs and were thorough and responsive. But I suspect at least one of them was not employed by the press, but was an independent contractor. So the publisher off-loads benefits by contracting with people who used to be in-house employees.

a way to measure the value of productive work other than by the amount of money it returns to owners.

How else would you measure 'productive' work? There frequently are qualitative differences between Employee X and Employee Y. These show up in value added to the enterprise and in the difference between X and Y's pay, bonuses, unofficial time off and other intangible rewards.

That being the equation, why should anyone respect anything that anybody does? What inherent value does it have? I

I am not sure what you mean by 'inherent value'. My clients respect me, my opinions and my work and are willing to pay for it. I'd like to think there are intangible benefits to hiring me over many other lawyers. I respect my employees, and pay them accordingly, for their dedication, creativity, initiative, as people, etc. But, 'inherent value'? How does that factor into whether my work is respected or not?

Maybe Brett would feel better if a he paid a structural engineer to stamp his drawings instead of an architect. (I know I would.)

The main thing I think of when I think of someone being professional is knowing what one is doing well enough that minimal or no supervision is required to facilitate motivation or decision-making with the proper exercise of judgement.

Of course, professionals get paid for what they do, and that is the most basic definition of "professional," but that's really not what we're discussing here.

McKinney,

I bet you could use your imagination and think of people who produce not-very-profitable things that are of much greater value to you than people who produce far more profitable things.

Take musicians - do you base your respect for musicians based soley on gross sales or total income generated? Are stay-at-home parents worthless? Can you think of some magazines that make lots of money by printing celebrity photos and making up stories to go with them? Might they make more money than, say, Smithsonian Magazine? If so, are they therefore better?

How else would you measure 'productive' work?

For example:

A book with fewer errors.
A haircut that still looks good four days later.
Fewer plane crashes.

You know, the tangible thing that the work produces, other than money for the owner. These things are, quite often, not hard to measure.

Same answer for "inherent value", BTW.

Take musicians - do you base your respect for musicians based soley on gross sales or total income generated?

No, I base my taste in musicians on my taste in music and the quality of their work. They create their value by their desirability. A musician of modest talent will not do as well as one of greater talent.


Are stay-at-home parents worthless?

No, but it isn't a job that gives the stay at home parent a claim on anyone else's resources.

Can you think of some magazines that make lots of money by printing celebrity photos and making up stories to go with them? Might they make more money than, say, Smithsonian Magazine? If so, are they therefore better?

The farther out you move on the subjective, discretionary spending/subjective taste limb, the more problematic your examples become. I prefer the Smithsonian to People Magazine in the same way I prefer ice cream to sea water. Does that mean that the Smithsonian should be subsidized by involuntary contributions from others who like People Magazine or Spider Man comic books? What has inherent value for me may have no inherent value for you. Or, you and I might agree, but we could be a minority of two.

A book with fewer errors.
A haircut that still looks good four days later.
Fewer plane crashes.

Ok, how is this different from the qualitative value that some bring to the table and others do not, or at least, not to the same extent?

I don't see this as 'inherent' value, I see it as how good or not so good a product or service is. In my experience, there is a relationship between what you pay and what you get. Usually, but not always. Cell phone service being a good example.

There frequently are qualitative differences between Employee X and Employee Y. These show up in value added

To follow up on this a tiny bit more:

Yes, the 'qualitative differences' between one person's work and another person's work, or even between examples of the same person's work under different circumstances, are precisely what we are talking about.

When one editor is required to do what two editors used to do, the quality of the actual editorial effort suffers.

When the editorial function is outsourced to the lowest-cost vendor, the quality of the editorial effort suffers.

When the editorial function is farmed out to 25 of your buddies, who do it as kind of labor of love in between their own jobs, families, and other responsibilities, the quality of the editorial effort suffers.

If the net loss to the 'enterprise', which is to say to its owners, is smaller in dollars than what they would have to pay to have a better product, then they will quite often opt for the lower quality product.

That's a fundamental choice between two different objectives: making good books, and making as much money as possible.

The farther out you move on the subjective, discretionary spending/subjective taste limb, the more problematic your examples become.

Problematic in what way? In that they demonstrate value as measured in some way other than money?

Does that mean that the Smithsonian should be subsidized by involuntary contributions from others who like People Magazine or Spider Man comic books?

No. It means we as a culture are kind of screwed up and that the "market" sometimes fails to deliver the value many people have promised that it would. I don't know what the answers are, but I do see problems.

Maybe we need to teach better critical thinking or something. Maybe we need to emphasize mutual respect more. I'm not sure. But something's a little screwy.

A musician of modest talent will not do as well as one of greater talent.

Musicians are a really bad example, for either side of this argument, because there are simply too many factors involved that are completely unrelated to talent or the quality of the work product.

It will probably be much easier to stick with editors, pilots, and barbers.

This soft-hearted, and maybe soft-headed, old Leftie finds this discussion of money as the key metric of intrinsic value to be very depressing.

I don't know who said it first, but I think it's true that the publishing industry isn't adapting, it's going away the same way weavers and spinsters (women who spin wool into thread) went away 200+ years ago. Bringing something to the public used to require a large organization of specialists, but now it doesn't. The same is true of many if not most white collar jobs; companies are replacing them with computers as quickly as they can.

If you're in the publishing industry, you should seriously get out before you're pushed out. It's not your fault, but it is your problem.

They create their value by their desirability. A musician of modest talent will not do as well as one of greater talent.


HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Excuse me, sorry. Oh dear.

I promise you that you can go to nearly any open mic night in your town this week and find someone 10x as talented, speaking objectively, as whoever has the number one song on the Billboard Hot 100 right this second.

A book with fewer errors.
A haircut that still looks good four days later.
Fewer plane crashes.

I'd much rather have a book with 10 errors for $10 then the same book with 1 error for $100.

Given that air travel is much safer that car travel already, I'm not interested in paying much for even safer air travel.

There is such a thing as too much quality I think. Which was the point I raised about editors earlier: people don't really want to pay for awesome editing.

Bringing something to the public used to require a large organization of specialists, but now it doesn't.

I can see your point in terms of technology improvements - the cost of physically producing and distributing a document are much lower than previously.

I'm not sure how that affects the editorial process. Spell check?

There are some things that are hard to do well without human craft knowledge. I'm not talking subjective things, I am talking about things that are readily measurable. We're losing, or maybe have lost, a way to account for those things in our estimation of value.

If the net loss to the 'enterprise', which is to say to its owners, is smaller in dollars than what they would have to pay to have a better product, then they will quite often opt for the lower quality product.

This assumes the product's consumers prefer to pay less and get less than pay more and get more. Let's take two products and one necessary service as examples:

1. Dining Out--you can pay less for lots of crummy food, a medium price for medium quality food and more for finer dining. You get to pick based on what you are willing or able to pay. Going a step further, I prefer fine dining at X because the food is uniformly of a high quality, the service is excellent and the wine reasonably priced. Other's might prefer another comparable restaurant for taste or other intangible reasons. There is competition within each subset of the overall restaurant market.

2. Magazines--the Smithsonian is a high end, high quality publication with a modest following compared to People. Up to a point, I am willing to pay more for more. There is a price point at which I would forgo the Smithsonian. I wouldn't buy People Magazine at $.05 a copy unless I also had a bird and needed something to line the cage with.

3. Plumber--I'll pay over market depending on the nature and urgency of the service required. I'll pay over market for a known, reliable plumber who does a consistently good job. Ditto many other services I need.

So, your position assumes that the competition is not willing to deliver a higher quality product or service for the same or a slightly higher price. If it is necessary to hire better people at higher wages to get a competitive edge, and if there is a market for the more competitive product, the smart competitor will take that bet. I do it and so do any number of business owners I know. I doubt we are unique.

That said, the small business that has one large client is often subject to having its prices squeezed down without any corresponding reduction in the quality of product or service expected. Again, it's the market that drives this. It isn't perfect, but it's better.

Further to this point, any business ought to strive for efficiency. Why hire two people if one better paid person can do the job? I have two secretaries and pay them more because it saves the cost of a third secretary.

McKT:

You need a higher class of bird, perhaps of the reading (if they read, they can edit briefs, too) and talking variety that could read Smithsonian out loud to you and preferably edible, so you could forgo restaurants altogether. In fact, purchase two smart birds and when it came time to eat, you would save further by thereby needing to purchase only one stone to kill them.

As to hiring that third secretary, I'd think outside the box. Let's say you and all other employers, including the government, voluntarily hire all the millions of unemployed and the underemployed who want to work at living wages with benefits (we'd fit to revenue size: you hire one; IBM would hire 500, for example). You, the private sector, have largely eliminated unemployment, but also perhaps welfare, plus no more unemployment benefits, no more food stamps, sharply reduced Medicaid expenses, and the new employees pay taxes, the SS and Medicare trust funds are strengthened, parts of government become smaller and somewhat cheaper, and maybe your taxes won't rise or, gulp, might even be reduced.

You might have to lay off one bird to make some editing work for the third secretary, but the upside would be that he or she could take the stone home with them every night, thereby saving on office storage space, or better, get rid of the stone expense altogether and have the new employee strangle the remaining bird in time for lunch.

Meanwhile, I'll try and get my brain around asteroid mining and look on the bright side of life.

McT wrote:
Further to this point, any business ought to strive for efficiency. Why hire two people if one better paid person can do the job? I have two secretaries and pay them more because it saves the cost of a third secretary.

That argument, taken to its extreme, has you say why provide anything over and above what is paid for? Which seems to move towards the death of professionalism, for some values of it. Folks who argue for that market approach try to maintain the notion of professionalism by saying that a business is able to attract more customers by providing that bit that is over and above, but it seems to be smuggled into the theory rather than an intrinsic part of it.

It seems obvious that a business would strive to be efficient, but that kind of thinking fails to capture preparedness (hell, the emergency room has no one in it, why do we need all these nurses and doctors waiting around?) It also gets you to the point where the people who are doing the work are so occupied with what they are doing that they may not notice there is something worthwhile doing outside of what they are doing. That, taken to its extreme, has people counting the number of passes and missing the gorilla.

This is not to claim that you or anyone else here doesn't recognize the values of reliability and continuity. Going back to publishing, people value the name of the author because they enjoyed a previous work. It used to be that the publisher would factor into that decision somewhat and the editor(s) from that company would come under that umbrella. Now, with takeovers and buyouts, it is really difficult to know which company is owned by who. Things work on a local level because you know your secretaries and your plumbers and your clients know you. Extend the distance and that disappears or at least gets very blurry.

To bring in an observation that is possibly from deep in left field, I wonder if our society's fascination with fame is linked to this. If you aren't known for your product, you become replaceable. And while there are any number of people (many who I know) who would prefer to be nothing but anonymous on any larger stage, you've got people who take steps beyond all reason to become famous. Are they jumping or are they being pushed?

Just a (perhaps) irrelevant vignette about one of my own publishing jobs:

I took a tour of my [unnamed to protect my own anonymity] publishing company shortly after I got hired in the early '90's. It was a very specialized company that had been in business for many years, including the years of the Great Depression. When I visited "the plant" (the manufacturing facility where the books were printed, bound and shipped), I was told that they had never fired anyone, not even during those hard years. They cut back salaries so that everyone could work.

Fast forward to 2000, after I'd been there for 8 years. Mergers, acquisitions, layoffs, Wall Street, profit, whatever.

A few observations: 1) Yes, there were some people who were not such excellent workers who were let go. 2) There were quite a few excellent workers who were let go. 3) There were a lot of books that weren't particularly profitable that were put out of print, but books that some people wanted and relied on. 4) Many of the books that were profitable were given much less editorial attention and were very much worse off for it.

As to the customers? We didn't get many complaints. As to the excellent editors who had to find some kind of job elsewhere? Too bad for them that they though their jobs were meaningful and necessary - they really weren't. As to the marginal people who had been kept on by this company that previously hadn't wanted to fire people? Well, they were (before) a part of the community that people "took care of". Now they're [old but] - don't really know what happened to them - hope they had families.

There are good and bad things about what happened there in the early days. I noticed the "good old boy" system - the resistance of management to change, the resistance to hiring women in executive positions, stuff like that. And that was bad - no defense from me about that stuff. But there was also a genteel belief that the company took care of people who worked there. They rewarded good effort and good work. The saying was: "they won't fire you unless you hit somebody." So "professionalism" was rewarded by the company, but it was also up to the people who worked there to take pride in what they did. And the culture gave room for people to find that "professionalism" because people's reputation was important.

The reason this company could do this was that it could make a small profit while paying all of its employees a living wage. In other words, it could pay the excellent people a lot, pay the marginal people plenty, and carry some people (out of loyalty) who weren't necessarily all that productive. And make a few bucks in excess of that.

I realize that this company represented "the good old days" and also "the bad old days." But recapturing the good parts of that culture would be such a wonderful thing.

There is such a thing as too much quality I think.

Could be.

people don't really want to pay for awesome editing.

Also quite likely. And "people" here apparently includes some publishers.

I don't see this as 'inherent' value, I see it as how good or not so good a product or service is.

See, where we appear to part ways is that I would say how good or not so good a product or service is, is precisely it's inherent value.

I can't think of what other meaning "inherent value" could possibly have.

Sapient shared his observation that folks seem to have lost respect for other people's work. In another thread Doc Science cited a guy who noted that, whereas the publishing industry used to find a 5% margin acceptable, now they require 20%.

In My Very Humble Opinion, these things are related. And, the relationship is that you give higher priority to the things you value. Or, to put it another way, the value things have to you is demonstrated by the priority you give to them in the decisions you make.

If your priority as a publisher is to make a 20% margin, rather than to publish the best book you can, then editorial labor will not be highly valued. It will be a relatively expensive cost on the way to making as much money as you can from publishing books or other documents.

Obviously everyone who does anything for a living does so under the constraint of having to make a living. That's a given. I'm referring to the relative importance of one side of the equation versus the other.

The operating assumption in our economic and social order is that labor - people's productive work - is something to be had at the lowest possible cost, in the interest of making the most possible money. A lack of respect for that labor goes along with that, like night follows day.

This should surprise no-one.

Here is a thought experiment:

Has anyone here ever paid somebody more than what they asked for a good or service, simply because they thought that good or service was particularly excellent?

I'm not talking about tips, I'm talking about the guy says he wants $50, you look at it and say, no, that's a $75 item if I ever saw one. So I'm paying you $75.

Ever happen to you? In either direction? Just curious.

But there was also a genteel belief that the company took care of people who worked there.

Yes.

I would even say not so much 'genteel', in the sense of noblesse oblige, but operating out of a different understanding of the purpose of the enterprise.

An excellent and thoughtful post sapient, thanks for that.

Let's say you and all other employers, including the government, voluntarily hire all the millions of unemployed and the underemployed who want to work at living wages with benefits (we'd fit to revenue size: you hire one; IBM would hire 500, for example). You, the private sector, have largely eliminated unemployment ...

Silly Count! "Job creators" are not in business to create jobs!

In fact, Waltons and Kochs and even Buffetts get to be billionaires by NOT hiring people. Naturally, every dollar of their dollar-denominated "worth" is a dollar of increase in the Gross Domestic Product, and must be taxed as lightly as possible in order to encourage a Grosser Domestic Product, which all agree is A Good Thing.

You might think that if these "job creators" spent some of their money hiring job consumers, the GDP would grow just the same, since every dollar of Walton income that disappeared from GDP would be a dollar of Wal*Mart cashier or greeter income that showed up in GDP. But this outside-the-box way of doing arithmetic is nothing but a commie plot.

--TP

I'm not talking about tips, I'm talking about the guy says he wants $50, you look at it and say, no, that's a $75 item if I ever saw one. So I'm paying you $75.

I've done this on at least a couple of occasions I can think of.

Long ago, I had a one-man machine shop making some parts for me. On the first order, he quoted $450 per set of 12 different parts; I ordered 10 sets. I built 10 assemblies, selling each unit for $3000. There were other, non-mechanical parts in these things; I had to buy those; and my own labor in assembling, tuning,and testing (not to mention my risk in warranting for a year) the finished units was not negligible. But I had what I considered an excellent profit margin -- and I thought the machinist was working too cheap. I don't remember whether it was on the second or third batch of 10 sets that I told him: "Bill me $600 per set. Up to you which individual parts you raise the price on, in your invoice." A few rounds later, when I changed the design a bit and tightened up some tolerances, I told him to charge me $900 per set, so that he would feel comfortable taking the extra time to hold the tighter tolerances. I should note that MY customer (a corporation, natch) never offered to pay ME more per unit. To their credit, they did not try to negotiate my price down, either.

The other time was a couple of months ago when my mechanic down the street repaired some minor damage to my rear bumper by heating it up and popping out the dent. (Car bumpers are basically made of rubber nowadays.) I had told him to try that, and if it didn't work I'd bite the bullet and have him replace the whole thing. When I went to get the car, he asked for $20, saying it only took him a few minutes. I said it was worth $40 to me if only because it was about 10% of what replacing the damn thing would have cost -- and plunked a pair of twenties on the counter.

To touch on the main theme of the thread, my machinist and my mechanic are both "professionals" in my book.

--TP

My spouse recently pointed out an obvious thing that hadn't occurred to me: editing costs money and historically, editing time was not uniformly distributed. Lit fic pieces that might get a mention in the NYRB have always gotten more editor time than genre fiction. I mean, do you really think that penny dreadfuls got the same amount of editor review as "important" fiction?

Part of this is just businesses being efficient (look at the margins on a $1.50 paperback romance sold at walmart and tell me how much editor time you can pay for out of that) and part of it is a culture: to the elites who run most publishers, not all genres are created equal. Some are important and deserve lots of care and attention while others are for losers (remember back in the day when hilzoy went sneering at the romance readers and how Farber rushed to their defense?).

That might explain a bit about the defective ebooks too. If "everyone" knows that ebooks are crap and that serious people always buy hardbacks, there's not much reason to spend editor time on ebooks; only losers will read them after all.

From this perspective, talk about editorial professionalism is a red-herring.

That argument, taken to its extreme, has you say why provide anything over and above what is paid for?

Pretty much any argument taken to its extreme has an analogous vice. Businesses compete for employees and smart companies do not like turnover. Better employees are better for the bottom line, ditto a stable, trained workforce.

I think we have two conversations going on here. I don't know anyone who works in the 21st century version of a sweathouse. Sure, I see construction guys out working hard in the sun. I did that once myself. I know from having done a large number of construction cases that these workers are making comparatively much, much more than they would have made in Mexico and are making decent money in Houston given the cost of living.

Where businesses can and will shed employees is if there is a satisfactory alternative either by upgrading machinery or computers or outsourcing. At some point, labor--whether blue collar or degree-ed professional--prices itself too high and finds that it is surplus to needs. That is just a hard fact of life. I'd like a higher hourly rate and I am free to charge it. All of my clients would take a walk, however, and find someone else to do the job for less.

Has anyone here ever paid somebody more than what they asked for a good or service, simply because they thought that good or service was particularly excellent?

Does this count year end bonuses, added and paid days off over and above sick and vacation days to attend to family emergencies, keeping everyone on the payroll during an unusually bad year, paying 'occasional labor' for work not done for my convenience (if we are on vacation and don't need the house cleaned, we pay our maid anyway because she is ready and willing to work and can't fill in on short notice to keep herself going) and the myriad other ways one can recognize and reward competence/loyalty etc?


Where businesses can and will shed employees is if there is a satisfactory alternative either by upgrading machinery or computers or outsourcing. At some point, labor--whether blue collar or degree-ed professional--prices itself too high and finds that it is surplus to needs. That is just a hard fact of life.

I don't think anyone disputes this. What I think is part of the problem, both in terms of disussing this issue and in terms of the issue itself, is how the microeconomic forces and the macroeconomic forces differ, as well as how those different forces can or cannot be managed.

I think russell's point (or his restatement of doc sci's point) about profit margins taking an even higher priority than it once did over doing good work for the sake of doing good work (and maybe even keeping good people working, because it's better for everyone in the long run) has to do with the hyper-financialization of our economy. And broad policy choices have allowed that to happen.

Making money has become more important than creating value, which can only work for a while. In the long run it's a race to the bottom. It's self-defeating.

I get turb's point about paying less for less when more doesn't get you much, but even that can be seen as value - cutting fat rather than meat or bone. The problem I see is that there are more and more cases where we are cutting meat and bone.

I belong to a credit union. (Yes, I chose to end this comment that way.)

I don't know anyone who works in the 21st century version of a sweathouse.

"How could Nixon have won? Nobody I know voted for him?!"

Try here and particularly here for starters.

Making money has become more important than creating value, which can only work for a while.

I agree. It's a crappy long term business model. Whether it's a majority, or significant plurality business model is another question. I wonder how widespread this problem is.

Try here and particularly here for starters.

Ok, thanks for this. One good and one unverifiable, but presumably reasonably accurate, example of overworking employees and being able to get away with it because of local economic conditions. Assuming the economies in these areas rebound at some point, those employers will have to compete for employees and that will mean either hiring more people to spread the work more evenly or hiring those whose skills and competence are such that they can't get work elsewhere. In the meantime, high turnover, high levels of comp claims and general inefficiency will ensue. Good, companies like that deserve everything bad that happens to them.

All of that said, neither example is on topic with the point Russell and others are making. No substandard product is being manufactured, no substandard service is being sold in exchange for higher profits. In both examples, the products come from third parties. The logistics industry is a separate kettle of fish. It is a cost burden on everything you buy, wherever you buy it. It is highly competitive. FWIW, there is some trending away from maximizing logistic efficiency because collateral costs impose an unacceptable added cost burden. This is an emerging trend in over-the-road and local truck services. One catastrophic accident, leaving aside the intangible downside costs, produces a loss measured in millions. Eventually, one gets beyond diminishing returns logistically into negative revenue plus additional negative intangibles (a shipper that can't deliver because of an accident that kills innocents has a reduced customer base).

"I wonder how widespread this problem is."

Well, let me put my thinking cap on ... um ....

http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://vizfact.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/wall-streets-mitt-romney-bain-capital.jpg&imgrefurl=http://vizfact.com/who-is-mitt-romney/&h=451&w=560&sz=78&tbnid=zmjiaPN1gGleHM:&tbnh=114&tbnw=142&zoom=1&docid=QoZRtg172iXFbM&hl=en&sa=X&ei=W7OaT5b9I4P28gTH75HtDg&sqi=2&ved=0CEQQ9QEwAQ&dur=604

Alright, that's a cheap shot. In the spirit of Russell's suggestion of ponying up more than expected or asked, I'll try to cough up more expensive shots in future.

Actually, the funniest picture during that Bain photo shoot was the one in which Romney and associates were festooned with cheap imported dildos (rushed to them by sweaty, minimum wage labor, let's go .. hup, hup, these are busy men), women's garters, and without trousers, but like the original "butcher" cover art for the Beatles' album "Yesterday and Today" cooler heads prevailed and that one never saw the light of day, perchance to dream before November.

MckT, seriously, thank you for your profession and for the jobs you have created and the value you bring to society.

You are a more productive individual, by far, than I.

We may not agree on everything, but after a few weeks in a reeducation camp, I'm sure you'll see the few errors of your slightly misguided ways. ;)

Unfortunately, the conservatives who really need the ribbing have fled OBWI and taken up residence in various internet fortresses where humor goes to die.

Just wanna say I agree with sapient and hairshirthedonist regarding hyper-financialization and its deleterious effect on certain finer values, to the extent they ever existed in America, or maybe only in the Mayberry of our minds.

Should the old Andy Griffith Show ever be revived, I would wish we could have an episode wherein Ayn Rand somehow gets off the beaten track and ends up waylaid with a flat tire in Mayberry, invited for some silly altruistic down time at Andy's home (wait till you taste Aunt Bea's friend chicken) and within 22 minutes she'd be right as rain and would quit barking that Barney should be fired for gross incompetence and denied unemployment benefits.

Course, we'd have to integrate Mayberry, but what's another Civil War or two?

Could some of you out-of-work editors pitch in and do something with " ...Aunt Bea's FRIEND chicken" in my 11:45 am above.

That doesn't sound right.

In fact, I think Rand ended up in Montpelier, the zombie cannibalism capital of North Carolina.

Maybe she'd fit in better there.

Come to think of it, has anyone seen Floyd the Barber lately?

The trouble is that raising profits by lowering standards is:
a) a reasonable and sometimes necessary strategy for industries whose customers just aren't prepared to pay as much as they used to be;
b) an easy, nasty way to squeeze short-term profits out of industries where entry barriers are high and/or switching suppliers is difficult, at the expense of customers and workers alike.

Publishing may belong in a) to some extent, but it certainly belongs in b); if I'm looking for a new assigned textbook or novel by my favourite author, there's generally only one company to go to.

"people don't really want to pay for awesome editing."

My respects to the publishers, and my most profound sympathies to the editors who are now out of work, and I would like to ask, "when was I ever offered the choice between awesome editing and what looks sometimes like none at all?" How do they know I wouldn't pay for it? I'm the reader, and I'm the one who misses it, but the people who don't want to pay for it are employers of editors, not consumers of their product.

We may not agree on everything, but after a few weeks in a reeducation camp, I'm sure you'll see the few errors of your slightly misguided ways. ;)

ObWi is my reeducation camp. Which one of us is Sgt. Schultz? :-)

I see nozzink!

I've joked about wearing a monocle to work so I could express my shock and dismay during stupid meetings by wide-eyedly allowing my monocle to fall out. Of course, my main inspiration for this was Colonel Klink.

Vee haf vays.

I don't know anyone who works in the 21st century version of a sweathouse.

That's because we have outsourced most of our sweatshop labor to far away countries and people whose plight we can safely ignore.

http://edition.cnn.com/2012/04/28/world/asia/asia-workers-occupational-disease/

http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2012/04/24/470158/apple-workers-rights-credibility/

Nothing new here. The dispute about the meaning of the term and value of 'professionalism' is literally thousands of years old. On the one hand there has always been a respect for good craftsmanship, on the other there has since time immemorial been disdain for the person delivering it from those that don't have 'to sink so low' as to actually get their hands dirty. I could quote texts from ancient Egypt, classical Greece, medieval Europe that warn the members of the ruling class (or the upper class of ministerials) never to do what the underlings can do and threaten dire consequences for those caught doing it. The product is valued, the producer isn't. The neofeudalist tendencies of modern business include this way of thinking. Some openly display pride of not knowing stuff* ('Why should I care, I have staff for that'). These days it forms an unholy alliance with fear/loathing of the very concept of knowledge and those that possess it. We are still far from the Stalinist/Maoist campaigns against 'experts/specialists' or the cardinal that demanded to burn anyone caught in doing math as a heretic** but the mindset is on full diplay (at least in the US).
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Concerning pilots as mere 'drivers', it is interesting that in WW1 it took a long time before pilots got any respect, let alone the status of heroes. Originally they were seen as mere chauffeurs serving the observers (who unlike them were officers). Observation reports of mere pilots (i.e. in single seaters without observer) were treted as less reliable and often outright ignored. It's painful to read what some later aces wrote before they themselves took the stick and a top dog like the Red Baron later even apologized in private for his disrespectful behaviour towards his 'drivers'.
Distantly related: In submarines the relationship between skipper and chief engineer is handled quite differently in different countries. In Germany they are officially of equal rank while in most other navies the chief engineer is at best #3. In the US nuclear subs the captain is expected to be his own expert on the 'kettle' (a tradition introduced by Rickover). From what I have read it is seen as a prime indicator of the quality of a submarine captain how he treats the guy responsible for the operation of the complex machinery that keeps all of them alive.

*prominent case: H.Cain, GOP POTUS primary candidate
**that happened during the Galilei trial

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