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November 06, 2009

Titular Economy: Buying Jobs and Titles

There's been some buying of jobs and titles.
  • for $30,000 you can buy the title of Co-Pilot with Gulfstream Airlines (see previous post)
  • The New York Yankees have bought another World Series title.
  • New York City's Michael Bloomberg has bought the title of Mayor for a third term, after buying his way out of the term limits law. We await indications of whether Hizzoner prefers to purchase a fourth term.
I am struck by this new business model of buying titles or jobs that were once earned. Why would somebody buy a job? Because the experience or influence is worth much more (to the buyer) than the salary. It's a corrupt situation ripe for exploitation. For instance, for $30K you can be a co-pilot on a Continental Connections flight with Gulfstream.

First I thought: it's terrible, scandalous, unspeakable! Then I realized, maybe I'm just being resistant to change, maybe I should embrace the new perspective. This will inevitably extend into other fields; maybe there's a lot of money to be moved in Jobs for Sale (J4S).

These Jobs-For-Sale can't be jobs where solo performance is crucial. They don't sell the pilot's job, they sell the co-pilots job. The pilot is (theoretically) the grown-up, the babysitter who ensures that the co-pilot doesn't compromise the business. The ideal Jobs-For-Sale position is that of a sidekick or team member - Robin rather than Batman, any of the seven dwarfs rather than the Prince.

I expect that other industries will soon start selling jobs. The trick, of course, is to find a willing buyer with sufficient money. The opportunity must be glamorous. The field will need to have a high cost of entry; in other words, be restricted so that the audience can't easily go out and find the opportunity themselves. It's not going to be "run a lemonade stand" - it's going to be a situation involving scarce equipment, or constrained access.

So there's:
  • an economy that is continually shedding jobs
  • a limited number of jobs that can be successfully sold
  • a great demand for experience and education
  • a wealthy older generation that indulges the younger generation

I think this is the perfect situation for a widescale rollout of Jobs for Sale (J4S) and a bidding war, eventually followed by a classic investment bubble.

To really roll out the Jobs For Sale paradigm on a wide scale, we're going to need newbie-friendly jobs that are attractive in the common culture, jobs which most people can't screw up too badly. They need to be attractive, dumbed-down jobs, what an insensitive person might call upscale "gopher jobs". They're going to be jobs that almost anybody can do, but that very few people can get to.

What jobs could industry probably sell? Remember, they need to be sidekicks, glamorous, attractive to people with money, high barriers to entry, noob-friendly. Some opportunities might include:
  • Attorneys
  • Photographers
  • Journalists
  • Batboys at Major League Baseball games

Kicking it Meta

At a higher level of abstraction, jobs have been bought and sold for a long time but the prices paid were less tangible (and off the books). The producer has the casting couch. The military says: Sell us six years of your life and you'll see the world. The Department Head says: Sell me your loyalty, and you can become Assistant to the Regional Manager. There are opportunities to sell integrity, dreams, and souls. We just need to convert these to cash transactions.

What strikes me about Bloomberg's situation is that he's extended the business concept into the public sector. I think there's a Pittsburgh application here. Pittsburgh has an exodus of younger people who want jobs and who'd prefer to stay here, and we have government that can't afford the payroll and the pension contributions. Ka-Ching! Maybe we can start selling city jobs. Maybe instead of doling them out as patronage, we should recognize the cash value.

I'm just saying. If you're going to sell parking lots to cover salaries and pensions, why not sell the jobs?

If you'd like to suggest a job for the list of "Jobs 4 Sale", please enter it in a comment below.


Joe said...

Tax collector? It has a long history...

Elaine said...

Sorry to be behind the power curve on commenting. Receiving the RSS feed had gotten bollixed at this end. Of course, I'm sure you realize that not only airline jobs are being bought these days. Kids are racking up six-figure debts at schools all over the country in order to hire on as air-traffic-control trainees. Then they are sent through the same program that I attended, only all I had to do was pass an aptitude test. Government paid for my training, and paid me a modest salary to boot.

Not only that, but the program has had to become more forgiving to get these in-debt trainees through. I'm not at all certain that this new model is giving us better air-traffic controllers. It's not doing so more cheaply, that's for certain. The only current tangible benefit is going to the debt-holders.

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