Sunday, July 22, 2007

Power outage

Friday night, half our power went out. The same thing happened about a month ago. One of the two 120V service lines to our house was down. And judging by the location of the PEPCO crew that showed up on Saturday, the problem was located between two manholes slightly closer to our house.

The crew was laughing and laughing, waiting and smoking cigarettes, and generally speaking not working very hard. By this time, they had shut off all power -- and air conditioning, and bathroom lights, and power tool outlets, and all manner of useful (cum useless) items. Laughing and laughing. Ha ha.

Then it dawned on me: these guys were making time-and-a-half.

And sure enough: power was magically restored at around 5pm, when the guys thought it would be nice to eat dinner.

I don't think labor should be trusted with labor any more than I think capital should be trusted to capitalists. This is probably one reason why I am an economist, a wonk instead of a hack.

A contrasting example came from the construction pit near our house. A giant excavator was digging away. A giant piece of capital, constantly depreciating, with a rental rate of maybe $1000 per day. I happen to know that the operator of said lump of capital is unionized. The guy is also a consummate professional: his bucket was in nearly constant contact with the earth, pushing it this way and that: smoothly, efficiently, safely, and under control.

At one point, his excavator was on a tricky grade with an awkwardly placed pile to move. He planted his bucket on the ground, spun his treads in opposite directions, and effected what can only be described as a 10-ton diesel-powered pirouette.

Labor and capital, working together complementarily, moving mountains.

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