Ghost economy

My earlier post proposed isolating the vulnerable but as-yet healthy and uninfected people from the rest of the population.   This permits the more resilient people to continue their lives unimpeded by quarantines and they will go through any sickness mostly without need for medical care and with little risk of death.   On the other hand, this means isolating people (removing them from general population) where these people are vulnerable to complications if they were to get infected.   These isolated people will generally be older and even if they have preexisting conditions they will generally have senior roles in their employment and/or their communities and families.

As I mentioned then, this is not possible to implement in a democratic system.  In a democracy with an aspiration of freedom, quarantines for infectious (even if they are and will remain healthy) is easier to justify than isolating healthy people because of statistical risk of having severe complications.

One of the main objections of removing senior people from their jobs is that their jobs will be filled by younger people and as a result will not have a job to return to when the crisis is over.   To be more acceptable to these people, there would have to be some way to reserve their positions even though they are currently unable to occupy them.

I found the following YouTube presentation that provides an very good metaphor to what I am describing.   In his discussion he is talking about the airline’s desires to reserve their assigned arrival/departure slots at lucrative airports, thus preventing other airlines from taking them even though those airlines could productively use those slots in the near term.

The solution being worked out is to return the slots to the old owners of those slots when they are ready to return.   Implicitly, it seems unfair to the newer airlines who could continue to benefit for the slots they are borrowing.

This is a great analogy to what needs to happen in the workforce.   To protect the nation from large numbers of hospitalizations and deaths, we could remove the people from their positions when they are over 50 or have one of the identified preexisting conditions.   Eventually (hopefully), the crisis will abate where we can allow these people to return to their original roles.

In the interim, we will need to fill their roles with younger people without those preexisting positions.   In this interim, we would expect these new workers to perform at least an adequate level of performance.   Meanwhile, these replacements will begin to accumulate experience and knowledge of recent developments.  If the period of isolation is longer than a few months, it is likely the new workers will be at least as valuable as the returning ones.

I think this raises the same analogous situation as airlines.   The existing slots will be filled with entities that are capable of productively using those slots.  Meanwhile, there is a promise to let the earlier slot owners to reclaim their slots.

When changing the airlines with people in senior positions, the unfairness becomes obvious.   The temporary replacements will eventually become of comparable competence.  In addition, they will be younger with many more years of future work ahead of them.   From the perspective of organizational optimization, it does not make sense to return the positions to the previous occupants.

To implement an optimal response to this epidemic, we will have to accept that there will be a preemptive and large turn-over of senior level positions in organizations.  To return to their old positions, the prior occupants will have to compete with the new incumbents or wait for attrition.   When judged on the merits, most will not be able to compete against their replacements.

This solution is equivalent to imposing a mandatory retirement for those over some age (perhaps as young as 50) or those with preexisting conditions.

This solution is not going to happen in a democratic government.


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