Retrovertical Transportation versus The Evil ATM

A couple of years ago, I posted about a “creative” approach to job creation. President Obama’s attempt to blame our unemployment problems on ATM machines and other technological advances suggests that it’s time to post this idea again. So here it is, unchanged except for the date and the use of a less-respectful term in reference to our national legislators.

Politicians, from Barack Obama on down, are spending a lot of time talking about “job creation.” Businesses, labor groups, and “experts” of various kinds are getting into the fun, each emphasizing that their proposed project W will create X jobs within Y time frame at a cost to the government of only Z.

I know a way to create at least a million jobs, almost immediately, at no government expense whatsoever.

Ban the automatic operation of elevators.

The Elevator Safety and Economic Opportunity Act of 2011 will preempt state regulation of elevators and will require that after August 1, 2011, no elevator shall carry passengers without being under the exclusive control of a qualified and certified elevator operator. How many jobs will this create? Well, in the early 1950s, prior to the widespread use of automatic-elevator technology, there were something like 500,000 people employed as elevator operators. There are a lot more buildings and a lot more elevators now than there were then–surely, we can count on a million jobs for the operators.

But, you argue, these will mostly be minimum-wage jobs, or nearly so. How about the creation of really good jobs?

My plan addresses this issue also. First, remember that the ESEOA requires not just human operators, but certified operators. Many good jobs will be created for those providing the required training and those administering the certification process. Second, there is a technology component to the plan. While the first phase provides that the operators will use the existing pushbutton controls on the elevators, this is only a temporary expedient due to the exigencies of the economic crisis. The plan further requires that by December 31, 2011, all elevators must be fitted with purely manual controls. These will allow the operator to directly control the acceleration and deacceleration of the elevator, hence providing job enrichment for the operator and removing any temptation for building owners to revert to the old (and now illegal) automatic method of operation. These retroadvanced control systems will of course have to be designed and manufactured, providing many excellent jobs for mechanical and electrical engineers as well as skilled factory workers. And they will have to be installed, offering employment to thousands of electricians and elevator maintenance personnel all over the country.

The Elevator Safety and Economic Opportunity Act of 2011. Retrovertical transportation, to get our economy moving up again.

I’m pretty sure that some CongressCreatures could be found who would think the above proposal is a really excellent idea.

17 thoughts on “Retrovertical Transportation versus The Evil ATM”

  1. To boost (low end) employment, some states have banned the pumping of your own gas. Specifically, Oregon and New Jersey. Same idea?

  2. While he was teaching at the law school, it is too bad that he didn’t walk across the Midway to take a few classes in economics.

  3. Excellent idea but not new. When I was a surgery resident in the 1960s, the County Hospital assigned human operators to the automatic elevators in the hospital. These gentlemen were an assortment of interesting characters that I sometimes think would make a small book. One was a black preacher who had this as a night job. He brought to his job a chair, a tape machine (presumably to work on sermons) and an apparatus that allowed him to push buttons without rising from his chair.

    The only white operator, a mole-like little man named Abe, sold ball point pens to the night staff from his shirt pocket. In 1969, a major earthquake hit Los Angeles. I was at home when it hit about 6 AM but friends told me how, at the height of the shaking, the elevator door crashed open at the 9th (surgery) floor and Abe rolled out like an agitated pill bug. He then jumped up and ran to the staircase. He wasn’t seen again for a week.

    Banning earth moving machines could add another million jobs. It used to work in China.

  4. He saw the future and it ain’t pretty:

    Once you’re in the lift, and assuming you have been in Lagos long enough to have gotten used to the appalling stench of unwashed bodies and grease marks on the glass walls, you have to tell some cretin, who lives on a stool placed in the lift, which floor you want to go to. Half the time he is not listening because, the attention span in this city averaging at around two seconds, he is busy talking to somebody else or playing with his phone, and so you have to ask him a few times. If you lose patience and press the button yourself he will grumble as if you’ve tried to fly an Apache helicopter without the necessary training, presumably thinking if word got out people could press lift buttons all on their own he’d be out of a job. Actually, he is needed, because the lift buttons all reset themselves randomly and they need to be re-pressed or the lift just stops. Sometimes the lift just stops anyway and the whole system has to be reset. I heard a story about one bloke being whisked to the very top whereupon it whacked into the buffers then dropped like a stone for a floor or two before the emergency brake came on and it descended, at a snail’s pace, to the basement. The whole cycle repeated itself twice more before he could escape.

  5. Banning earth moving machines could add another million jobs.

    My thought exactly. I’ve even seen that in action. In Bangladesh we drove by a horde of sweaty men, stripped to their waists, digging a trench.

    Now, what would be an hour job by a guy in a country that could afford power shovels was a week-long job by hundreds of men.

    But they were employed and I suppose that is all that matters.

  6. I think that about 90% of the faculty of your average liberal-arts department could be more gainfully employed as elevator operators.

    Actually, I think they should be employed working the short hoes in the “organic” farms they go on about.

  7. In Bangladesh, it make perfect sense to have those men digging the trench. They are employed at a wage that probably fills their basic need. We fought World War II with a conscript army that could probably not defeat the present US army which in 1/20 the size. SLA Marshall is the one who learned that only about 25% of soldiers in Europe fired their rifles. The others did not run away and they would help bring up ammunition but they would not shoot. The Air Corps learned that something like 85% of the kills were by 20% of the pilots. The submarine service had similar findings about sub skippers.

    The Corporation system that Peter Drucker described in 1943 was designed to use a half educated work force with lots of management. We got to the point that we really didn’t need the lower half of the IQ chart and the lower half of the behavior chart to run the economy. That is why Nixon was in favor of a minimum annual income. Unions were invented to assist the lower half to get a fair shake at a living in the era of the assembly line. When they got into the government employee business, like teachers, they brought it all down to the assembly line model. They didn’t know how to go about it any other way. Mickey Kaus keeps writing about the Wagner Act model and that’s what it is.

    We have still not gotten through the transition to a “knowledge economy” and may never do so.

  8. All you need to do is have the Justice Department anti-trust people demand that the vertical transport sector be unbundled from the real-estate business. Vertical transport providers in office buildings are monopolized by the real-estate industry which engages in illegal dumping of vertical transport service (flagrantly dumping them for free) which discourages entry of competitive vertical transport providers. We must make sure this irrational and uncompetitive practice is ended, requiring vertical transport to be provided by stand-alone companies charging market price at the fare box.

    Once the stand-alone providers go bankrupt, since it will turn out that farebox recovery doesn’t work, the government can step in to cure this market failure, creating Amvator to provide vertical transport services on a subsidized basis, with Congressional oversight to insure that the most important buildings in every state are adequately served. Of course Amvator will be unionized and the hazard of robot elevators can be wiped out. But what is this talk of only one operator per car? Single-staffing is dangerous; what if the operator had a heart attack? An assistant operator must be standing by. And surely one or two trainees per car can be preparing the next generation’s workforce.

    Then economists can write articles about how the elevator is a technologically obsolete form of transportation.

  9. MK…IQs, etc….in describing his famous sand-shoveling experiment, Frederick Taylor ranted about how the laborers one would employ for such work were so dumb that thinking and doing had to be rigorously separated. It’s interesting that his archetypal worker, Schmidt, actually builT his own house, so probably wasn’t as dumb as Taylor thought.

    To a large extent, deskilling ofteN is a result of the internal logic of the process itself, rather than of worker limitations. Although a deskilled process can wind up attracting mostly low-skilled and unmotivated workers, hence driving a need for further deskilling…

  10. Also…Ford established his famous 5 dollar a day wage after finding that people just wouldn’t put up with assembly line work otherwise…turnover was just too high. Yet today’s customer service jobs are probably in Many cases considerably worse than line jobs…yet there haven’t been equivalent wage pressures.

  11. Then economists can write articles about how the elevator is a technologically obsolete form of transportation.

    Or demand they be phased out (started with those accessible by the hoi polloi) in an effort to ‘go green.’

  12. In Albany, NY, during the seventies, elevator operators were employed in public buildings. This was a way of providing “jobs” for loyal Democrats, even though the elevators actually ran themselves.

  13. Unfortunately, that CongressCritter is in the White House.

    It’s our own fault. The only business any congressman has in the oval office is to be there so the President can tell him to “Fuck off” in person.

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