Interesting ideas although I detected an anti-business bias. Why should the wants of employees have more value than those of employers? Slaves and masters -- a symbiotic relationship. It is a state of mind -- if you like your work, whether employee or employer, it isn't slavery.
And, the discussion about doctors I thought way off base. The sad sack doctor probably had an inferiority complex because he was always treated badly. People who are treated badly tend to treat others badly. The handsome doctor may have had an easier life but that doesn't mean that the sad sack surgeon was better just because he was ugly or unkempt. I would prefer someone in between.
Why separate skin and soul? Ideally, a person would have some of each -- skin and soul -- in whatever game they were doing. Are people better because they want to be teachers or doctors or "help mankind?" If that is what gives them satisfaction, that's fine, but it is not intrinsically or morally better than someone who wants to provide only for his family or even himself. Each gets satisfaction or rewards for doing what he is doing.
While I agree that lots of the concerns about GMO products fall into the Jurassic Park scifi, I think GMOs can be part of a bigger issue: monoculture. In the past local genetic diversity and the lack of global networks was our greatest protection against global crop failures. Genetic diversity has been greatly diminished because if you grow the best breed it can squeeze an extra 1% out of COGS, and you forget that by doing across a global food network that you may have increased the chance of a global crop failure from 1 in a million to 1 in a thousand (obviously making numbers up). GMOs can be part of this, particularly if you worry that the same gene could be put into soy beans, wheat and corn, potentially creating unforeseen pan-species vulnerabilities.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb: So, here, I'm really looking--so I think I'm going to give it for a subtitle something like: The Underlying Matrix of Daily Life. Because, I think--so you go dig in the foundation of daily life, to see traces of skin in the game, or asymmetries and relations and how you can think of complex systems in these terms. So, in fact, it's not so much about skin in the game, per se. The first 40 pages explains skin in the game. It's largely about things that are very counterintuitive and very unexpected that stem from it. It's like--in religious matters, why is it we have sacrifice in religion? Why is it--why the minority rule? Why is it that, for instance, we have more slaves than we did in the past? All these topics, about 17 or 18 of them, come from it. Come from the fact that you cannot have a well-functioning social life without regulation, some kind of organic regulation of these asymmetries.
He consulted his list—he is a compulsive list-maker—and announced that dessert was next, whereupon he opened two packages of phyllo pastry, melted a good third of a pound of butter, brushed some onto a baking tray, and began layering the tray with sheets of buttered phyllo. The name of the dish was mutabbaq. It was Palestinian, and was traditionally filled with “hard-core” goat or ewe cheese, which, Ottolenghi allowed, was an acquired taste. He and Tamimi had decided, instead, on the combination of ricotta and soft white goat cheese that he now mixed together with a fork and spread over half the phyllo sheets, leaving me to cover the mixture with the rest. It took me seven sheets, but the last one looked respectable. He checked it out. “Phyllo masks all mistakes,” he said, reaching around me for a small pot to hold the sugar, lemon juice, and water for a pastry syrup. While the syrup boiled, he tackled the bowl of chicken. Soon the spicy smell of the thighs, browned with the cloves and cardamom pods of the marinade sticking to their skin, was mingling with the sour-sweet smell of barberries and caramelized onions in a pot of simmering basmati rice. We opened another bottle of wine, filled a dish with some olives left over from the cauliflower salad, and crashed.
Russ Roberts: Let's talk about the honorable life. You say the following. You say,
Most people you run into in real life, bakers, cobblers, plumbers, taxi drivers, accountants, tax advisers, garbage collectors, dental cleaning assistants, carwash operators--not counting Spanish grammar specialists--pay a price for their mistakes.So, here I am--I have a great life, by the way; I'm very lucky and blessed. But I don't know how honorable it is, I don't have much skin in the game. I mean, I could do a bad or better job interviewing my guests, but I'm kind of just chitchatting here.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb: Exactly. The reason we have employees--and that, again I credit conversation with you--is, the reason is not because an employee has, you know, is cheaper, delivers things better. It's because an employee has a lot more to lot. He has skin in the game. In other words, he has something to lose more than that specific job. So, if--and they also have signaled to us, employees, by being employees, someone who an employee for 35 years, or for 25 years in a large corporation, they signal to us that they are not free. And it's great. So, you have an employee; it's inefficient; but, it's a good risk-management pool because you know that they are not going to let you down when you need them the most. They are always going to be there when you need them in an emergency. And that, you can get in a market system that is entirely built on subcontractors and [?] contracts. And that is sort of like, to me it's sort of a footnote to Coase. The reason we have corporations is to avoid having legal contracts. But that version, that the person, the employee, is not someone who escapes that notion of contract is to me quite central. And to me, why we have employees? Because you want to own some people. And just like we have, a lot of people have country houses that they don't use, is much more efficient to stay in a nice hotel, because they want to that that place, they can go to it whenever they want to. If they woke up at midnight and decide to drive to a country house, they can do that. They won't it, but they would like to know they can do it. So they don't want to share. And that's quite central this idea of skin in the game. And that was also a risk management tool, that the Romans--the Romans practically have discovered so many things--practically--I would say, almost everything, in one way or another. So the Romans figured it out because they never let a free person be a steward in a big state. They wanted a slave. What's the reason? Because you can punish a slave. If you own a slave--punish a slave. So, the person is caught cheating, the punishment is much harsher for a slave. So the steward[?] most typically a slave.
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