Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Incentives and proper incentive alignment: a never-ending series

This is Joseph.

Mark has promised a post on this topic, so I thought that I'd start the show by revisiting the issue with Amazon and warehouse workers.  From Megan McArdle:
Should you get paid for standing in line? Workers at an Amazon warehouse thought they should. I kind of agreed. But the Supreme Court disagreed, holding 9-0 that the Amazon contractors could be forced to stand in line to clear security at the end of their workday but did not have to be paid for their time.
The issue here is that the wait could be lengthy.  That added unpredictability to the end of the shift and, if time in line was unpaid, the employer has no incentive to improve matters.  Screening costs and the more efficient it is then the more costly it would be.  Increasing waits to exit protected Amazon profits by reducing shrinkage (which is good) but cost workers (standing in line).

It is legal outcomes like this that check my libertarian streak,  If the law isn't constructed to handle these sorts of external costs on workers (and everyone else) then it makes the preconditions for basing the social contract on contract law to be questionable -- even if this ruling should happen to be correct on the merits.

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