Notes on a Theory…

Thoughts on politics, law, & social science

Posts Tagged ‘minimum wage

Dirty Hippies, Inequality, and the Minnesota Model

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The great Mark Price has a piece in the Guardian today, Wealth inequality will keep growing unless workers demand better, that gets to the heart of the problem with our broken economy’s failure to provide the security, opportunity, and basic needs we all deserve.  Two points are worth mentioning. First, it’s taken as a matter of faith that conservative prescriptions for the economy are easy to understand and more left-leaning approaches are more complex. I think that’s rubbish. Read Mark here. It’s not difficult at all. If people don’t have jobs, they can’t spend, and we all suffer. If there are way more applicants then there are jobs, there’s no way out of this mess.  Inequality is the problem, equality the solution. It’s not that hard.  (I made the same point about Robert Reich before).  He also discards the silly notion that government has been trying to fix this problem, or that the solutions are unclear. Read the rest of this entry »

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

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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.

Written by David Kaib

October 14, 2012 at 6:23 pm

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