Mechanical Turk Market, Ethics and Milton Friedman
Disclaimer: unlike what it may seem like, I am not a conservative. I am just another liberal researcher from Berkeley who values and celebrates weed and women
As an experimental economist I found the mechanical turk marketplace a very interesting example of macro economy. Yes, I know it is a zoo. But at the same time people get interesting results out of this market. Apparently Zappos is using it to correct the grammar and wording of the reviews on their website and Professor Franklin’s team has been building a database engine that can use the crowd to fill the missing values in their database. In some sense you can really get Shakespeare’s work out of this crowd of people who just tap on their keyboards. No complain on my part though, many turkers are honest workers and use it to get a legitimate salary but many (including myself) are just there for fun and they won’t blink if they can screw over your work.
Those researcher who piss me off the most are the ones who claim that they have found a groundbreaking theory on mechanical turk, I keep seeing people who claim they have observed a “new behavior” in the crowd while what they are really seeing is just another validation for old economics theories.
One of the issues that keeps coming up is “Is it ethical that there is no minimum wage for mechanical turk?” This is the question that was answered 60 years ago not on this stupid mechanical turk market but on large labour markets by our old friend, professor Milton Friedman (he has some other crazy ideas including geting rid of IRS and FDA but those are a little crazier than what I can really explain here 🙂 )
In essence, Friedman claims that when you set a minimum wage for people’s work, you are just causing part of your society to be out of work. It affects minorities, women and teenagers dramatically, increases unemployment and in these years it highly encourages businesses to hire people offshore. Watch Friedman’s video here. Or Google his books on Google books.
So an answer to those of my friends who question the ethics of having these labor markets like Mechanical Turk, here is my answer:
Not only it is ethical not to have a minimum wage in mechanical turk but it is also unethical to have a minimum wage in the US. In some scene mechanical turk was formed due to some nonsense minimum wage regulations in the US labor market. If business owners could hire people in the US to clean up their messy databases for $3.00 they wouldn’t need to go on mechanical turk to hire the same person for $1.50 an hour.
I am interested in knowing what you think especially counter arguments are highly appreciated.