Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Oompa Loompa economics

Amuse yourselves in a little Willy Wonka trivia I discovered randomly while I was poking around.

Prince Pondicherry's chocolate palace, in Wikipedia:

Prince Pondicherry is a character in Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. In the third chapter, Willy Wonka makes him a chocolate palace that melts, because of a hot sun (because they were in India, and everybody knows India has hot sun).

Oompa Loompa political economy, by Shaun Richman:
The Oompa Loompas, [Wonka] explains, come from a far off place called “Lumpaland”, where, because of their diminutive size, they were in constant danger of being gobbled up by assorted “fierce creatures.” And so, in what he would have us believe was an altruistic gesture, he “freed” them from their native land and had them brought to his factory in the “greatest of secrecy,” where they could live in “peace and safety”...and become his new source of labor. ...

With the Oompa Loompas employed as labor, Wonka had to pay enough money to produce and reproduce each Oompa Loompa and his family. Assuming a typical Oompa Loompa family of husband, wife and 2.3 children, and assuming that an Oompa Loompa, being half the size of a human worker needs only half the food, shelter and clothing, Wonka would be paying each Oompa Loompa 21 and a half Wonka dollars per day, or, its equivalent in food, shelter and clothing. This is also assuming that Wonka employed an equivalent number of Oompa Loompas as humans. For this increase of $11.50W per worker per day, Wonka gets serious increases in productivity.

For the human worker, Wonka got ten hours work for $10W pay. This is assuming that Wonka is a fairly liberal employer in a rather Dickensian atmosphere. Given that the Oompa Loompa worker lives where he works, and also given that the Oompa Loompa sees a personal stake in the success of the company, he obviously works harder and longer than the human worker. At this point, any speculation as to the amount of the increase in productivity would go way beyond merely bordering on absurdity, but sufficed to say, it would be substantial. And it would give Wonka a permanent edge over competitor Slugworth, whose human workers could never keep up.

The other edge it would give Wonka is the aforementioned rent. With workers that can not only be counted on to create new candies but to keep the formulas for said candies top secret, Wonka can retain his huge market share and status as a popular icon of confectionery capitalism, and leave Slugworth permanently in a distant second. The benefits to Wonka are obvious.

For the Oompa Loompas, they get the leave a country where they would have died. For the Oompa Loompas in charge, it means freedom, respect and the necessities of life for them and their families. The unskilled Oompa Loompas are duped into believing that this labor is gratitude and payment for their very lives and the lives of their families. With that artificial outlook, it’s easy to see why they would be so happy. Maybe Oompa Loompa ignorance is bliss.


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