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Unrealistic Minimums

February 13, 2014 Leave a comment

Big news out of Washington this week.  By executive order (read: fiat), they have raised the minimum wage for workers on all federal contracts.

Well done, guys!  If you raise it, they will come – or something.

Except, of course, that this change will affect almost nobody.  I am aware of no federal contracts that use minimum wage workers.  That, of course, does not mean that there aren’t any – maybe there are some food service contracts in federal prisons or something – but it sure does not sound like any contract I have ever been part of or near.  In fact, federal contracts usually have to observe union minimums in the local area – an old sop to labor.  In all likelihood, this little piece of flaunted executive overreach will not “help” one single person you have ever met.

Still, let the press releases sally forth and let the politicians claim, once more, to be firmly on the side of the little guy.  After all, it is doubtful that this little order will actually cost you a penny – other than paying for the press releases, of course.

Until, of course, it is used down the road as the casus belli for further attempts to raise the minimum wage altogether.  After all, why should federal contractors be paid better than the rest of us.  Rinse, repeat.

 

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Tropico’s Mt Sucio – How I Climbed It

One of my favorite time-wasters is Tropico, a 2001 computer game from Pop Top, where the player takes the role of El Presidente’ on a small Caribbean island.  The citizens of Tropico are autonomous and live their lives the way they want – get married, have babies, change jobs, go to school – without any real direction from the president.  All the player-president gets to do is spend the money, when there is any, and decide what gets built and when.  Oh, he can also make a few edicts and have people arrested, but he needs to avoid coups, rebellions, and being voted out of office.

It is all done with a lot of humor and the game has many scenarios, some more challenging than others.  The hardest one I have come across is Mt Sucio, in which a volcano has spewed mud over large chunks of the island, mostly destroying the economy, and El Presidente’ is given fifty years in which to generate large profits in not one but five sectors.  I would repeatedly lose this scenario, giving up after a time, only to take it up again a year or two later.  This past week, I took it up yet again and started having some success.  Today, I finally made it work.

For anybody looking for a solution to this nightmare, here are the discoveries and strategies I found:

The biggest problem was the distance involved.  The most difficult things to accomplish are the goals in lumber and mining, because they are farthest from the original village.  After taking years to build mines and logging camps, they become unproductive, because most of the workers still live in the village or at the top of the hill.  After a short stint at the job, off home they would go, not to return (in game terms) for years.  The construction workers and the teamsters (required to move the product to the docks for sale) were even worse about this.  Product would just build up at every mine and lumber camp and, despite a large number of teamsters offices built and workers hired, nobody came to get it.

The solution I found for this was, of course, to build tenements and apartments near the new job sites.  Yes, anybody who has played the game more than a few hours would have thought of that and I tried many variations on housing.  Problem was, people just don’t want to move.  Sure, I could track down each worker in the job sites and find out where he lives and decide whether or not to evict him, so he will move closer, but that would have taken hours to have an effect.  What I did instead was to wait until I had a fair amount of lodgings where I needed them, then freeze the game and very quickly evict everybody on the island (except the soldiers, who tend to be temperamental).  Once I unfreeze the game, everybody looks for a new home and many, though not all, choose a home near their job.  Productivity went up dramatically, especially with the teamsters.  Naturally, I did this mass eviction just after an election – people forget if you give them enough time.

This got me most of the way there, but it still wasn’t quite enough.  I got a terrific backlog of product at the docks.  I had built a dock (freighters only) at the bottom of the hill below the forest and the mines, but they just couldn’t get it out fast enough.  Year 2000 came and there were hundreds of items still waiting for export.  On my winning run, I simply built another dock right next to the first.  That was all it took.

Food is very important in this scenario.  There never seems to be enough and workers wander all over the island foraging, instead of doing their jobs.  I built no less than ten fishing docks plus a number of farms in order to try to keep this in check.  Also built a fair number of restaurants near where I wanted people to stay.

Never seemed to make the religious faction happy in any of my attempts and when the military staged a coup, it was usually for this reason.  Even when I gave them a church, a cathedral, a newspaper, and even a religious movie theater, it was still long faces in church-land.  Likewise, there was never enough health care to keep people happy, despite building two clinics and two hospitals.  Part of the problem was the size of the population.  Most scenarios have you going from around fifty or a hundred people to maybe two hundred people by game’s end.  In this one, you can easily have more than five hundred people at the end of the fifty years, so you need much more food, medicine, and other support than normal.

One other hint on this scenario: avoid the gold mines.  They are just too far away.  There are two veins of bauxite that are enough to make your goals.  I only had three mines and four lumber camps and it was enough, if you can get them going early enough.

So, to start I had a couple of coffee farms, which made a lot of money early on.  My industries were a lumber mill, a furniture factory, and a cannery.  Then I went on a building spree, building mines, lumber camps, fishing docks, and lodgings, after first building about six construction offices.  Oh, and an immigration office – you need people.  Once you get that all built, wait till after an election and then stage the mass eviction.  Build your docks.  Build one dock near your hotel (the free one you built – the big one left over from the disaster will never make a profit) with two workers only and make it yachts only.  All other docks need to be freighter only.  Now build about twice as many teamster offices as you think you will need.  Make sure you build enough lodging for everybody – the population is rising quickly.

Now work on support stuff, police, guard station, restaurants, cathedral.  Once you are done with most of the construction, fire all of your male construction workers (hey, the game is sexist, not me) and don’t leave them any slots to fill elsewhere, so that they will take the teamster and logger jobs you are having trouble filling.  The further a job site is from the old village, the higher the wage you want to set, to attract worker where they don’t want to go.  Oh, and once your industrial goals are nearly met, bulldoze the lumber mill and the furniture factory, so that all the lumber heads straight to the docks.

That should be enough to get you there.  If you have been as obsessed with this as I have been, I hope this helps.  To everyone else, my apologies.

 

Categories: Economics, Oddities