Received Wisdom

…this isn’t just in the interest of having a fun and friendly workplace (though that is an important bonus). Each one of these social connections pays dividends. At IBM, for example, when MIT researchers spent an entire year following 2,600 employees, observing their social ties, even using mathematical formulas to analyze the size and scope of their address books and buddy lists, they found that the more socially connected the IBM employees were, the better they performed. They could even quantify the difference: On average, every e-mail contact was worth an added $948 in revenue. There in black and white is the power of social investment.

Back in 196mubletymumble, at the age of 17, I had my first “real” job.

Up to that point I had trod the traditional route: baby-sitting gigs after school; cutting the lawn of every freaking house in the neighborhood; busing/dish-washing in local eateries; bag boy at the neighborhood Safeway.

But then a man named Roy paid me $5 an hour, under the table 1, to buck sod. That’s ‘stoop labor’; physical work at it’s finest. The day began in dewy grass fields at dawn and ended at sun down. 2 There was no overtime and you worked regardless of weather; we finished one ‘summer’ job in October, laying sod by truck headlights as the snow came floating down.

Child abuse by today’s standards, not to mention running afoul of several labor laws. 3 From my perspective in 196mubletymumble, well, all I knew was many grown men with families didn’t clear $5 an hour.

Sun up to sun down, that’s over $300 a week 4, over $1200 a month.

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I’m comfortably nestled within the top 3-4% of earners.

Out of that imaginary (roughly) $1K of earnings the MIT wonks are drooling over, what do you imagine my share would be? An extra $100? Or, more likely, $50 as a one-time bonus. Which is less than an hour of my (office) time. I would think carefully about picking up the phone for that kind of money, much less be willing to involve myself with the new Tupperware salesmen.

Back in 196mubletymumble I would have been willing to jump through the several hoops to bring in the extra cash, but chances are I wouldn’t have had either the necessary time or resources. Same undoubtedly holds true today for folks further down the economic ladder.

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All of which goes to prove i) money is truly notional, ii) toyz/social acceptance rule over common sense, and iii)  even MIT researchers are as susceptible to a scam as your average smartphone-buying, iEverything-lusting bozo.

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Show 4 footnotes

  1. For the uninitiated, that means “no taxes”.
  2. If the job was complete; Roy didn’t believe in coming back to finish a job the next day and so would have one of us angle the 5-ton flatbed such that the headlights lit our work area.
  3. Though still today a (nonexistent) good deal in places like China.
  4. No weekends; Roy had a large family and would not forsake time with them.

6 thoughts on “Received Wisdom”

  1. “…….I’m comfortably nestled within the top 3-4% of earners……”

    Impressive, I reckon, but where do you place in the scale of spenders?


    Roy was a criminal then?
    Or does your Income Tax Code allow for large sums of ‘Casual Labour’ expense? In the Canadas a business may claim an expense for tax purposes of up to $500 per annum per un-registered employee. Those pesky Government folks really hate the Underground Economy for some reason.

    1. 1 – I spend, porportionally, very little on ‘extras’, but dote on family;

      2 – There is a long and storied tradition in this country of finding ways to avoid taxes, right or wrong: we both saved money and perhaps 1 less .50 cal bullet was not used in Viet Nam.

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