Our forthcoming labor market problem, in a nutshell

It seems the Israeli Electric Corp. will offer “kosher electricity” by 2014.  That means (in addition to other factors) automation of the major power stations on Saturdays, with some non-Jewish workers to oversee the automation.  The practice eventually may spread to weekdays too.

Do note:

And of course this will all be subject to the religious supervision of the Scientific-Technological Halacha Institute.

For the pointer I thank Mark Thorson.


I find it amusing that economists think capital equipment comes from Wall Street where it is created by bidding up stock prices.

All the automation equipment needs labor to come into existence. And for a power grid, it requires infrastructure that costs far more than the marginal value of the labor input. Imagine a power grid that does not need any labor to remain reliable in a Sabbath storm - either it is buried or duplicated, and the cost of that labor will be orders of magnitude greater than the cost of power loss during one storm.

Kosher power would be power provided if god wills, and if god interrupt the power you embrace the inconvenience. Only by great sacrifice can you avoid the inconvenience by laboring much harder for the 6 days to create the capital asset reserves.

Capital cost can be replaced by either labor or unmet demand. Rather than investing, simply have labor available to be deployed at any time to patch the system - either is cheaper for the utility than reliability as long as individual customers can't or won't make the capital investment (labor) into being independent of the grid. Or government dictates the utility invest the labor in reliability.

A utility that cuts its investments in capital to cut labor expense is often rewarded with higher stock prices because profits are higher, yet the value of their product is worse, but propped up by the monopoly they are allowed, for as long as they are allowed the monopoly power.

Reminds me of a Feynman anecdote where a rabbinical school employs a non-Jew to press elevator buttons on Saturdays.

What amazed me even more was when I read an elevator-design Handbook recently: It talked of a "Sabbath-mode" where the elevator would, by default, stop on all floors to obviate the need to press any buttons. Wonder if anyone has ridden such an elevator. Does sound silly.

Not uncommon in Brooklyn, albeit mostly for 5-6 story buildings.

This subject actually has its own entry in Wikipedia.


Religious authorities have different views on the subject. Some do not consider Shabbat elevators to be permitted at all, and some consider them permitted when ascending but not descending.

The Elandsgracht police station in Amsterdam, Netherlands, still has one or used to have one of these shabbat elevators.

One non-Jewish man and one non-Jewish dog...

Kosher electrons. What an idea!

This is what happens when a nation and an economy are in thrall to the superstitions of bronze age desert nomads.

Having read the article and actually knowing a thing or two about Israel, what seems to be happening is that the company is spending a pittance, probably on software, and letting more Jewish employees have weekends off. Not a big megillah.

And anyone who dislikes shabbat elevators dislikes fun.

Once your supervisor finds that a machine or control system can do your job, you don't have a job anymore. That's the problem.

Well, the obvious fix is to outlaw technological advancement. The Amish have very high employment numbers.

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