Saturday, July 15, 2006

People are people

Today one of the Peruvians I work with, Rosario, came to me with a problem: everyone is mad at her because she is working too hard.

A little background: there are 10 promotores working as both door-to-door and in-bank salespeople. Rosario is a very outspoken young woman, has a good rapport with the clients, and is one of the only promotores that consistently meets the goals laid out by their supervisor. She also happens to be one of the oldest promotores and the only one with a young child at home.

So what else is new, you might say. Don’t the lazy kids always resent the straight-A student? Yes that is true. What really struck me was this comment that Rosario made: “Daniel, mejor que me voy a los Estados Unidos. A lo menos allá ellos respetan a personas que trabajan duros.”

I nearly laughed out loud when she said that. But since that would have been fairly inappropriate (and a George Bush joke might have been misunderstood), I stifled a giggle and imparted what little wisdom I could lend to the conversation: “Gente son gente.”

New York, Lima, Shanghai, or Nairobi. It doesn’t matter where you are, there will always be slackers and overachievers. As someone who has at times been in the former but, more recently, in the latter group I can relate to both sides. Many slackers actually do have a strong desire to succeed. But they often face structural problems and typically put up mental blocks that prevent them from ever starting down a fruitful road. In reality, this is just a fear of failure that acts like a mild form of depression and can lead to a downward spiral. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” as the saying goes. But to a depressed mind, “Nothing ventured, nothing lost,” weighs much heavier in the balance.

If you get enough slackers in a group together, they’ll often recognize that it is easier to bring the overachiever down a notch (through ridicule) than to actually buckle down and improve their own prospects. Call it whatever you want. Jealousy. Self-loathing. Mean-spirited. It is a constant feature of group social interactions, perhaps best demonstrated by the American high school cafeteria scene.
So Rosario, I hope you keep working hard. I’m sure your husband appreciates it and you’re setting a great example for your daughter. In my book, you’d be a welcome addition to the United States, but please don’t expect people to act rationally when you work harder than they do. I hate those people ;)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Chris Rock paradox

The good folks at the Private Sector Development Blog have an interesting link to Michael Porter's new book on healthcare competion.
The money quote:

Healthcare is not like buying a car. If you want leather seats in a car, this costs more because leather costs more than plastic. If you want a TV set with a bigger screen and more features, that is more expensive; it takes more circuits, more material, and so on. Healthcare is very different, especially today when we already treat virtually every medical condition in some way. Most of the time, the best quality healthcare is also the lowest cost care. The reason is that the lowest costs arise when the patient stays healthy, or gets healthy faster.

Of course, this assumption does lead to what we might call the Chris Rock paradox. Mr. Rock accutely observed that the money wasn't in the cure. The money (at least for big pharma) is in the disease:
So what they will do with AlDS is the same thing they do with everything else. They will figure out a way for you to live with it.

They don't cure shit, they just patch it up. Get you to the next stop, so they can get more of your money.

They ain't gonna cure it.

Hopefully, in our lifetime, you're gonna see somebody go:
'Yo, man, you weren't at work yesterday. What's up?'

'My AlDS is acting up. You know, when the weather get like this, my AlDS just pop up.'

So is Porter actually a big supporter of "socialized" medicine? That lead sentance, combined with what he knows to be true about the profit maximizing private sector would point towards "yes". Guess I'll have to read the book to find out.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Best comment I read this week

Via Greg Mankiw's blog, we turn the mike over to
Lancelot, fourth comment down:

"Sorry, immigration foes, you'll have to stop hiding behind the 'externalities' canard. The real reason people oppose immigration is 'no poverty in my backyard.' We want to blindfold ourselves to the existence of human suffering, even if it means exacerbating it. It is a deeply immoral point of view."

I bet Greg(the Utilitarian), Greg(the Libertarian) and Greg(the Moralist) could all agree on that point!