Piloten bei Ryanair

Im Studium stellte mir ein imaginärer Professor Picot in einem seiner Bücher über die Neue Institutionenökonomik die Frage “warum gibt es überhaupt grosse Unternehmen: warum ist nicht jedes Individuum ein Unternehmer in eigener Sache?” Institutionenökonomen haben darauf eine ausgeklügelte Antwort. Im Kern geht es aber um Transaktionskosten, und da diese durch neue Technologien und soziale Interaktionsformen ständig sinken, sagen die Modelle für die Zukunft gravierende Verschiebungen der “Grenzen der Unternehmung” voraus.

Ryanair macht schon mal vor, wie es laufen kann.

Um für die irische Billigfluglinie zu fliegen, muss der willige Pilot eine eigene «Limited» Gesellschaft (Ltd.) mit Sitz in Dublin gründen. Diese «Ein-Piloten-Ltd.» bietet ihre Arbeitsleistung der Firma Brookfield Aviation Ltd. an, die ihren Sitz ebenfalls in Dublin hat. Brookfield ihrerseits verleiht dann diese Piloten weiter an die Firma Ryanair. Der Pilot sitzt also in einem Flugzeug der Firma Ryanair, mit der er aber in keinem direkten Vertragsverhältnis steht.

Für den irischen Billigflieger ergeben sich daraus viele Vorteile: Da das fliegende Personal nach Blockstunden bezahlt wird, fallen keine Grundkosten an. Zudem können von einem Monat auf den anderen Kapazitäten auf- oder abgebaut oder von einer Basis auf eine andere transferiert werden. Der Pilot als Unternehmer muss sich selbst um seine Pensionskasse, Sozialabgaben und Steuern kümmern. Sollte einmal die Blockstundenanzahl und somit auch das Einkommen gekürzt werden, trägt ebenfalls der Pilot dieses unternehmerische Risiko.

Nicht vorenthalten möchte ich Euch ein paar andere Höhepunkte aus dem Brookfield Vertrag. Da der Pilot bei keiner Fluggesellschaft angestellt ist, trotzdem aber irgendwo in den Simulator muss, zahlt er als Pauschale viereinhalb Euro pro Flugstunde an Ryanair für die Nutzung ihrer Trainingseinrichtungen. Steht einmal ein Flug mit einem Instruktor oder einem Examiner an, so hat der Trainee für einen Teil der Kosten aufzukommen. Ein First Officer verdient übrigens 60 Euro brutto pro Flugstunde.

Aus: Pilots of Swiss

 

McDonald’s 2013 employee benefits program

Anyone who’s enjoyed medical treatment in the U.S. will see McDonald’s healthcare program for what it is: largely symbolic.

Take a look at this, their benefits brochure.

If you consider that their employees earn around $7.50 per hour, a $30% co-pay for emergency treatment is almost prohibitive. Emergency rooms can cost $1000 just for walking (or, Asclepius forbid, rolling) through the door… and after that, the costs really start mounting.

Just the “green fee” for an emergency room will cost our burger-flipper a little over a week’s pay (before taxes).

A feeling for data volume

Conference room at Stasi headquarters in Berlin
Conference room at Stasi headquarters in Berlin

Today’s “Süddeutsche Zeitungpublished an interactive infographic produced by OpenDataCity. It was created in response to a statement by the German president, Joachim Gauck, who rejected comparisons between the Stasi and the NSA, asserting that the NSA is certainly not compiling thick binders in which it files away our conversations, like the Stasi did.

Comparing the digitized Stasi archives with the estimated capacity of the NSA (e.g. in its new yottabyte-capacity, 65-MW-burning data center in Bluffdale, Utah), OpenDataCity came up with the following comparison: if you stored the NSA’s data in the same density as the Stasi had available (in paper files), it would not fit into Berlin. Or Europe, for that matter.

Image #1: area of the Stasi archives. It’s the square on the left, superimposed over a map of central Berlin (though they didn’t put it over the actual “Stasi Zentrale”)

The size of the Stasi archives, based on paper files
Left square: the size of the Stasi archives, based on storage of paper files

Image #2: the Stasi archives, expanded to house the NSA’s estimated data volume in paper form – superimposed over Europe and parts of Northern Africa

Area required to store the NSA's data volume, if stored in paper files like the Stasi
Right square: the area required to store the NSA’s data, if stored as paper files like the Stasi

The vast amount of data that can be processed and stored nowadays is not clear to most people, especially those who haven’t grown up with computers. MB, GB, TB are abstract concepts, so I think it helps to visualize the data volume in this way.

A more modern role

Switzerland has had very strict laws governing banking privacy since about the time of the first world war. Its principles of banking privacy have come under ferocious attack by other governments in recent years, especially from the U.S. and Germany, as part of a drive to increase revenue for beleaguered Treasuries and probably also as a bit of a warning to putative tax dodgers.
I think it is likely the banking laws will change, hopefully in some way which allows the Swiss to save face: it is hard for foreigners to grasp the cultural significance this seems to have for ordinary citizens, even those totally unconnected to the banking sector.
Negotiations about restrictions to privacy have been on and off for the last few years. The negotiations with the US seem to take place in the back rooms of American courts, whereas negotiations with Germany seem to take place via the newspapers. The US process sees ever-increasing damages claims and payments, while the German process is characterized by an escalation of a rather spiteful back-and-forth exchange of tabloid headlines, fueled by the feisty quotes and antics of politicians playing to their electorates.
A while ago, data files copied from Swiss banks were purchased by state revenue departments on the black market in order to find and prosecute tax dodgers. This has driven home the importance of data protection as a requirement for privacy in other areas of life. Banking privacy laws are ineffective unless the underlying data can be protected.
In a way, I think this avenue of thought may lead to an interesting new role for a fiercely independent country like Switzerland. A chance to remodel the cultural icon of banking privacy into a new and much more exciting story.
Plenty has been written about this, here’s a good example.

Systemic Paranoia

I think the concepts and vocabulary of “Homeland Security” are emotionally loaded, and it’s likely this is by design of the stakeholders. The core concept has led to the creation of staffed and funded organizations which can’t possibly be in a good position to justify their levels of staffing and funding. I’ll bet this situation leads to the routine over-deployment of resources (usually: armed and armoured civil servants) at the slightest hint of a marginally justifiable cause.

I recently had an odd experience in a commercial plane, which soon after landing was boarded by a CDC official, inexplicably accompanied by a swarm of armed goons, to investigate a cranky child.

Here’s a similar case, where the sighting of a glider near a nuclear power plant led to the deployment of apparently over-excited local law enforcement officials acting on behalf of FBI and DHS. I’d ask “what are these people thinking”, but they probably just aren’t. They just follow orders, or their manual, and are more than likely delighted about the expanded authority which has been bestowed upon them out of the blue.

Go ahead and follow the link. The AOPA’s using the case to sell their legal assistance, but nonetheless it’s an interesting case. It’s disturbing to see the police, and worse: the DHS trying to exert power where they have no jurisdiction (here: aviation regulations). Threatening to shoot down an unpowered aircraft which is too light to be a threat to a nuclear power plant (evident just by looking at it)? It’s disgusting.

That Fearful Demon Alcohol

This morning I went to buy some stuff downstairs. I came across some manchego, and decided it would be complemented very nicely by a cabernet from Washington State – a region I’ve heard much about but so far haven’t tasted.

Alas, the cashier pointed out that it wasn’t yet 11:00 (it was 10:30 or so) and he was therefore not permitted to sell me a bottle of wine on a Sunday morning. I asked if this regulation applied to the entire land of the free, or only in Chicago. It seems to be one of those quirky local rules I’ve learned it’s better not to ask too much about.

There’s a similar local law which makes sure that even after 11:00 on Sunday mornings “underage” adult cashiers are not permitted to touch a bottle of wine on the conveyor belt: they call for an older colleague to pick up the bottle, pass it over the scanner, and place it in the bag. That last step isn’t optional, either. I don’t need to carry my stuff very far and have on occasion successfully insisted on carrying a bottle without a paper bag, but it’s been a struggle so now I generally just let them have their way.

Drug regulation is hard to get right. It’s a confusing web of dilemmas and trade-offs. The Chicago pseudo-embargo on alcohol is obviously pointless (or is it? It’s hard to guess just what the inciters are trying to achieve), but at least it’s mildly amusing and doesn’t cause any harm aside from a bit of shopping inconvenience.