Notes on a Theory…

Thoughts on politics, law, & social science

“The community is not bound to provide…a subsidy for unconscionable employers”

with 2 comments

I’ve noticed that even when people are sympathetic to the concerns of workers, many people still use the unspoken idea that employers’ right to exploit workers is natural whereas government action to prevent such exploitation is an interference that needs some special justification.  Part of this is a failure to notice what the baseline is, and that any choice of baseline is a political act, not one that can be justified by talk of what is ‘natural.’ That is, it is the same mistake that leads people to imagine that ‘redistribution’ is a coherent concept.  Thankfully, those who came before us equipped us to avoid such mistakes, if we would only listen.

Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes:

There is an additional and compelling consideration which recent economic experience has brought into a strong light. The exploitation of a class of workers who are in an unequal position with respect to bargaining power and are thus relatively defenseless against the denial of a living wage is not only detrimental to their health and well being, but casts a direct burden for their support upon the community. What these workers lose in wages the taxpayers are called upon to pay. The bare cost of living must be met. We may take judicial notice of the unparalleled demands for relief which arose during the recent period of depression and still continue to an alarming extent despite the degree of economic recovery which has been achieved. It is unnecessary to cite official statistics to establish what is of common knowledge through the length and breadth of the land. While in the instant case no factual brief has been presented, there is no reason to doubt that the state of Washington has encountered the same social problem that is present elsewhere. The community is not bound to provide what is in effect a subsidy for unconscionable employers. The community may direct its law-making power to correct the abuse which springs from their selfish disregard of the public interest. [my emphasis]

The cost of doing business should, as a matter of course, include the cost of paying a living wage.  Companies have no right to impose costs on the rest of us to facilitate their ability to make money.

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Written by David Kaib

October 14, 2012 at 6:23 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Employers are not taxed on their cost of doing business and are taxed on their profit. An employees cost of doing business is the cost of living as determined by the cost of conforming to the laws governing his leagal existance as a citkizen and therefore should not be taxed on the cost of living. Futher the employee has the same right to earn a profit on his labor that his employer does. The right to earn the cost of living is a human right. The right to earn a profit is a civil right.

    We do not expect a busnissed to be able to operate at a loss.
    We shouldn’t expect employees to operate at a loss.

    Learn more — “Of Labor For Labor By Labor a Plan for Economic Security” by A. Kirk Best

    Alva Kirk Best

    December 19, 2016 at 1:56 am

    • I think everyone had a right to a living, and that there is no right to some sort of tax donut hole around an asserted right to profit. The right to a living requires more than just some immunity from taxation. Employees and businesses are not even close to being in the same position, and pretending otherwise will only cause problems.

      “We do not expect a businesses to be able to operate at a loss.” Read more carefully and you’ll see there is no claim that they should, The claim is if their operation requires not paying a living wage than they should not operate.

      David Kaib

      December 19, 2016 at 11:43 am


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