· October 18, 2018

Radical Markets (well worth a read if you haven’t had a chance) offers some unusual ways market dynamics can be introduced to some traditionally very un-marketlike domains. One example is taxes and work: self assessed rates of the value of one’s labor, taxation against that assessment, balanced with a requirement to perform the work for the stated price. There are many practical concerns with this, but it poses an interesting thought experiment!

One area that occurred to me recently though was the idea of burnout - which I think is pretty commonly acknowledged as the acceptable workplace term for depression. In the thought experiment, if you declared a very high price on your labor, but were very in demand, how do you account for general non-performance or significantly reduced quality? Over time the market would correct, but in the example used in the book (a surgeon!) there would be poor short-term outcomes. 

Technological innovation has driven most of our improvements in productivity (in the economic sense), and through to improvements in living standards, but technology itself doesn’t create that value - it needs to be actuated by humans. Scientific management, human factors, psychological safety and so on have all attempted to corral and define the process for making humans more effective, more productive, more able to create output. I believe that having meaningful work is a huge part of people thriving, but the fact that people (myself included) can be in a good environment, doing good work, and get burned-out is troubling. It’s incompatible with the always-progressing career model which has held over from the 50s, and is inherently resistant to point solutions.