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A rant that delivers the goods

Stefan Stern wrote the standard Guardian article about the awfulness of Uber, only this time it wasn’t Uber it was a bunch new to me called “Deliveroo”: “Deliveroo and its ilk are serving up low wages, insecurity and social division”. He wrote,

But we have clearly not even begun to think deeply enough about the implications for workers in all this.

A commenter called “narnaglan” replied,

There is nothing in this for you to think about. Deliveroo has nothing to do with you, since you are not a shareholder. The people who work for it choose to do so and are not forced. It is entirely legitimate, and ethical.

Your only response to Deliveroo, if you have a feeling that they are not doing it “right” is to start your own business, where the delivery people are under contracts and conditions that you feel are acceptable. If you are correct in your assumptions, Deliveroo will be driven out of business, and your new, ethical delivery service will immediately dominate.

But you will not do this.

Why? Because you are comfortable sitting on the sidelines telling other people how to live and run their affairs. You are not willing to take risk yourself, and have no original ideas of your own. All you are able to do is react to what other people invent, and criticize it through your distorting and inverting Guardianista Socialist lens.

Deliveroo and all other businesses that allow people to start work are useful and beneficial. The more companies in the market like it, the more jobs there are, and the better off people are. Someone with an idea will disrupt Deliveroo, which is the latest in a line of home delivery services that have existed for at least 18 years, one of the first being the Room Service delivery service that did not even have a website.

You people simply do not understand the market, innovation and how things really work. All you know how to do is destroy, call for people to be made unemployed and business to be made inoperable because you think you have the right to tell other people how to live, how to organize and what private contracts they make between themselvs are ethical.

You are wrong. About everything.

32 comments to A rant that delivers the goods

  • Bruce Hoult


    And has the considerable benefit of being shorter than Galt’s speech.

  • Is there anything longer than Galt’s speech? 😉

  • Frank S

    Excellent riposte. Too good to last very long there I suppose.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    What I liked most about narnaglan’s comment was that he or she started by tearing a hole in Stefan Stern’s condescending assumption that Deliveroo’s riders ought to wait for Stern and his class – the Guardian “we” – to finish thinking about the implications before they were allowed to get on with their lives.

  • bloke in spain

    “Stefan Stern is a management writer and visiting professor at Cass Business School”

    Quelle surprise!

  • pete

    I know a young man who works for a well known pizza chain.

    Employees are on a zero hours contact, If the ever have time off sick they are not given any hours for weeks ( sometimes never) after they tell the boss they are fit for work.

    Holidays are very hard to get and discouraged, with the 20 yr old ‘manager’ on £7.70 per hour saying that they’ll be paid when you leave.

    The management style consists of shouting and screaming at anything other than total obedience.

    Any reluctance to work whenever asked, even if that means 50, 60 or 70 hours a week in busy times is rewarded with reduced hours for weeks afterwards.

    Shifts change weekly and can vary from a few measly hours to kudicrously high hours so staff cannot plan their financial, family or social lives to any acceptable degree.

    Any expression of dissatisfaction whatsoever risks a loss of hours, so staff never complain about minor pay ‘mistakes’ or lack of a constant lack of toilet roll and paper towels in the staff;s facilities.

    These conditions are not too bad for a youngster or a student doing the job for a bit to earn some extra cash, but increasingly people take such jobs to pay the bills and survive.

    More and more jobs are going the same way.

  • lucklucky

    The Guardianistas want famine.

    pete, that conditions are very bad. The question you should make is why no one make a competing product? Maybe has to do with the aristocratic leftist hate tin schools against every freedom. Against choosing a different path.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Excellent posting, Natalie. Thanks. :>)

  • TimR

    Petewhat you are describing are ideal conditions for a competitor to open the market up.

  • RRS

    @ Pete

    What taxes are imposed on the employer of the Pizza operation for each employee?

    What taxes are taken from the wages of each employee? That is, what is the net take home pay?

  • veryretired

    If there is anything clear, and painfully so, in human history, and the lamentable 20th century in particular, it is that the rule of elitist autocrats invariably leads to carnage, repression, carnage, warfare, economic collapse, and still more carnage.

    What is the basic, and best, argument for the limited state?

    Properly done, it minimizes the potential damage from the incompetent and corrupt flock of narcissistic power seekers who inevitably gather around any possible source of power over others.

    There may be thousands of pages written about the philosophical and moral value of liberty, but relief from the idiotic believers in centralized power is truly all that is necessary as a justification.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    pete, sounds like your mate has a lousy employer. He should get another job.

    Like this bloke did:

    I work for deliveroo on a push bike in south London. I’m a recent graduate who works freelance so the flexibility is great, pared with my love of cycling it’s pretty perfect. Although some shifts are very slow I’m averaging £9.50ph – much better then I was getting in a well know cafe with very strict shift patterns. I see how this sounds bad in terms of job security but for some it’s great.

    Isn’t it nice that Deliveroo and similar services are opening up new opportunities for people who were once stuck in horrible restaurant jobs?

    It’s also creating more restaurant jobs, which means that bad employers in that sector are going to have to up their game or lose their staff. Here is another comment from the same story:

    I live next door to an independently-owned pub, for whom deliveroo has come as a bit of a Godsend. They get a regular trickle of orders all week now, rather than just a load on Thursdays-Sundays, which has helped them keep going and bring in another person in the kitchen.

    Surely, it would have been worth at least acknowledging that this service is helping create good quality, permanent jobs in food businesses, instead of just attacking?

  • Greytop

    Wonderful response as it is true, though I doubt if the learned professor will lose much sleep over it as he will be too busy examining the implications of something else that is beyond his ken but will be paid to make noise about.

    As for Pete’s mate, yes, there are people who work in shit jobs and always have been. Some of them would be down a coal mine and the roof would fall in, so crap jobs have my sympathy. But anyone who has ever worked will understand that a boss who supposedly screams at the staff all the time and uses punitive work shifts will, ultimately, have a high turn over of workers and be spending more time interviewing inexperienced people and arranging training than doing his or her job. For me, that is the thing about lefties; they imagine a lovely world that has never existed and don’t understand that any boss has to balance a whole bunch of things and one of them will be keeping efficient staff happy. If Pete’s mate is inefficient he or she may get howled at a lot. I don’t know of course, but if Pete was there at his mate’s side he might agree with the boss a little more over what he sees happening.

  • Myno

    Methinks Pete’s friend is a victim, not so much of a lousy employer (though that is true), as of a system that seeks economic stagnation, where competition is stifled and so the least able to defend themselves are channelled into sh*t conditions, from which they are taught by Guardianistas to bemoan the inequities of “capitalism”, thus perpetuating the restrictions that perpetuate system stagnation.

  • pete

    He’s not my mate. I am paid to see him for reasons I won’t go into.

    High staff turnover is no problem to some employers. Some see it as an advantage, and even tell their staff that.

    Employment conditions are worsening for many people. Those at the bottom of the pile are treated the worst.

    While it might not matter if a pizza chain is a bad employer we are seeing similar poor treatment of staff in vital industries like care for elderly and disabled people.

    The laws of the labour market will always mean we can treat some workers in a shabby, uncaring way.

    If you are happy with that then there’s no problem.

  • Alisa

    Pete, if you read the comments here, you probably noticed that no one is happy with that. And, being happy or unhappy about something is not the point. As you acknowledged yourself, there will always be things in life that we may be unhappy about – the question is what do we do about it? What is your suggestion in the case you described?

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Superb “rant”; actually, it is a measured, deadly analysis of so much of the nonsense one sees from people who want to use the violence-backed power of the State to shut down consenting activity.

  • Fraser Orr

    > Employment conditions are worsening for many people.

    By what measure? Last I checked we didn’t send kids up the chimney any more.

    One thing that no-one else has said is the positive benefits of being at the bottom of the pile and working a crappy job. Namely that if you job is crappy it gives you a strong reason to improve yourself and get a better job, you know, by staying in school and choosing “Engineering” over “Transgender Studies.” The problem with this whole $15 an hour thing is that college kids might actually think that McDonalds is a career. Pete’s friend needs to find a way to improve himself, find a way to contribute more value to society than delivering pizza, and so better both himself, his family and society as a whole.

    So yeah, crappy jobs should be crappy. Certainly not dangerous, like kids working in the mill, but if you want respect from your boss then do something that deserves respect.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Very eloquent rant indeed, and Natalie at 9:26 (yesterday) gives a perceptive analysis of why it is eloquent. I also agree that Pete’s non-friend should look into getting a job with Deliveroo.

    As for this:

    High staff turnover is no problem to some employers. Some see it as an advantage, and even tell their staff that.

    Apparently it did not occur to Pete that
    (a) If employers see high staff turnover as an advantage, then possibly, even probably, that has something to do with labor regulations.
    (b) High turnover is no big deal for the workers and a headache for employers, when there are plenty of job vacancies; and why aren’t there more vacancies?

  • Gene

    I’m trying to imagine what lines of business find that “high staff turnover is an advantage”? Anyone care to suggest any?

    In almost any field I’m familiar with high turnover is considered not just a “problem” but a very serious one, due to the great cost of hiring and training new people and the time it takes for new employees to get up to speed and learn to do their jobs efficiently. This is true even in the case of entry-level, relatively low-skilled workers.

    What am I missing?

  • lucklucky

    I think it is good but failed in one important question: how the leftist opinion implies always state interventionism and how that is totalitarian.

  • Rob Fisher (Surrey)

    The same commenter is pretty awesome on the subject of private exams, too:

    The problem with both you Christine and s1syphus is that you object fundamentally to having a central part of your process and authority removed from you. It is better for the students, better for the system and better for employers that you do not set exams for the courses you teach. This is demonstrated directly by the market in the form of them setting their own exams, because your exams are failing to produce accurate measures of candidates abilities.

    Rather than react to the problem, you blame the messenger. Change is coming to education across the board; in this case across the board from lower to higher and across the education boards, who are filled with stubborn, entitled men and women who are extremely resistant to change, habituated to failure and failing students.

    Check the profile. And how do we hire this person to write for Samizdata?

  • Rob Fisher (Surrey)

    Seriously whoever this is is doing a fantastic service. We should all go and upvote these comments (only I can’t figure out how, the upvote buttons don’t work for me). On healthcare:

    There are side effects of stealing money to provide healthcare also. Did you know that the only medical proceedure where quality is going up and price is going down is elective Lasic eye surgery? Thats the proceedure where your cornea is made thinner to adjust the focus of your eyesight. It is not available out of stolen money, so the people who provide this service, and there are many of them, all compete with each other to give the best service at the lowest price. They compete to offer you the latest, safests techniques, using the most sophisiticated equipment.

    Think about it. There are three Lasic clinics, two offering the same service at the same price and the third offering it at a lower price. Only one of the three has the latest equipment. You pick him out of the three, because he will give you the best outcome. The other two must adjust their offer to attract the clients. People with a little less money might pick the third, cheaper clinic, and the middle one might be chosen because it is closest.

    What this shows is that in a dynamic market, everyone is served, and all clinics and service offerers are incentivised to do their best at the lowest price. This is completely different to the NHS, where it does not matter how dirty the hospital is, or what the outcome is; since there is no choice, no one needs to care about the price of anything or the quality of service being offered.

  • Rob Fisher (Surrey)

    Goldmine. Brilliant rhetoric.

    You have lost. There is nothing you can do. Fossil Fuels will continue to power the world until something better is developed by the market. If you want to eliminate fossil fuels, you should do a degree in electronics and chemistry and get to work, rather than advocate violence against others.

  • Snorri Godhi

    how do we hire this person to write for Samizdata?

    That is the question.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Pete, Snorri Godhi & Gene,

    To answer Pete’s observation, Gene’s question and confirm Snorri’s point (a): yes, pretty much the only reason for a business to want high staff turnover with all its associated inefficiencies is to avoid having employees stay long enough to gain various employee “protections” in law.

    This is an old story. When my sister worked in A Well Known Bookshop Near Charing Cross nearly thirty years ago most of the lower ranking staff were pushed out after a few months for this reason. Hence the notorious cluelessness of their staff. The same thing happened to me in a job doing commercial artwork about twenty years ago, except it was worse because it wasn’t done openly. Supposedly every new employee was taken on for a probationary period which would result in a permanent job if performance was satisfactory. In my first week another employee, whom I had been told was just about to leave the company, took me aside and said, “However well you do they will fire you after three months.” (I may not have remembered the time period correctly. It was just short of whatever length of time one had to work to gain the status of a permanent employee.) Sure enough, after that length of time I was told I wasn’t up to standard. Were it not for the warning this would have been a blow to my confidence. I thought I was good at my job, but how can you prove it in a field where judgements are subjective? It wasn’t worth fighting over when the only prize would be staying on at a place who would treat their employees like that. I duly warned the next girl.

    They were lying scumbags, but maybe they had reasons for being that way. Things get scary for employers when they cannot let employees go in a downturn without lengthy notice periods, high redundancy payments, or long negotiations with the unions. The biggest cost for many businesses is wages. If profits dive for some reason but they are stuck with a high wage bill they cannot reduce, they can find themselves accelerating towards bankruptcy with broken brakes.

    This means the actual effect on employees of regulations intended to make their jobs more secure is that they cannot get anything other than a temporary job.

  • Paul Marks

    Sometimes I am accused of torturing myself – but reading Guardian articles is too much even for me.

    It would be like going to a series of lectures – Francis Bacon and Thomas Hobbes on law, David Hume on philosophy (basically Thomas Hobbes but in falsely gentle language – and with doubts about the material universe thrown in on top), Jeremy Bentham and the Mills (James and John Stuart) on ethics and how to safeguard liberty in public policy, Bertrand Russell and E.H. Carr on resistance to the Nazis and the Communists, and Martin Luther on theology.

    I think, on balance, I would rather bite my penis off.

    However, Natalie and “Narnaglan” are quite correct.

    The Guardian writer is indeed wrong about everything – as one would expect from the cesspit of evil that is the “Guardian”.

    I am glad that they read it – so that I do not have to.

  • Paul Marks

    “But Paul – some of the people you have just bared your teeth at are great-liberal-thinkers…..”

    Do not get me started…….

  • Greg

    More from Narnaglan (and yes, please do get him/her to write for Samizdata or at least link to him on your page):

    This is part of the routine in these to and fro conversations about this subject. Believers in Anthropogenic Climate Change will link to studies that they claim prove their point, and then the “other side” points to their own data. Its pointless.

    This is a matter of ethics. No State has the right to mandate that anyone use a particular form of fuel. What they could do, is enforce people’s property rights, so that polluting other people’s air is illegal. That is the way to use the market to control who can pollute.

    No matter what you say, what links you post, what fallacies you employ, you cannot make the case for unethical government action. That is the core of this debate, exposed.

  • Laird

    I’m sorry, Greg, but that is not “the core of this debate”, for several reasons but primarily because it conveniently ignores the problem of defining what “pollution” is. CAGW proponents (and the US Environmental Protection Agency) define carbon dioxide as a pollutant; those of us on the other side of the debate define it as a natural (and essential) plant nutrient, with higher atmospheric concentrations being beneficial to the planet’s biosphere. There is no “ethical” resolution of this matter to be had in any court of law. If Narnaglan (whoever he is) thinks that he can resolve this Gordian knot by simply cleaving it, he either (a) doesn’t really understand the issue at all, or (b) is redefining it in a way that forces the result he desires, which I consider dishonest.