Thursday, December 30, 2004
The Militant Socialist Snowboarder Monthly
Well, you know what I spent most of today thinking about? Minimum wage. Not just how much it sucks to be on $8 an hour in an expensive town (and how glad I am not to be in Banff, where the minimum wage is $5.90 and things are more expensive). That's just whinging, and something I am culturally allowed to do since I hold both a New Zealand and an English passport - in fact, it's expected of me.
No, I spent large portions of the day thinking about minimum wage, and how I used to be able to argue that lowering the minimum wage (or even abolishing it entirely) would be good for the economy). Well, I guess I was right, as long as you define "the economy" as the rich, white-collar types who own and run companies.
Pretty much everything after this point can be ignored unless you want to hear what I think about politics:
See, back then, I was fairly sure I'd end up as one of those "successful" people who could become richer by paying people less (but GDP would go up). So I was just looking out for my own interests. Right there, that's the central point of the three or four years I spent studying economics. People look out for thier own interests.
Anyway, now that I have become part of the working class (albeit a very physically mobile, well-educated, and financially comfortable part), I'm starting to bring morals into my arguments.
But that's the problem right there. As soon as someone tries to justify something with "fair" or "right", anyone with half a brain or an economics degree (or both since the two often go together) can start shooting big holes in the argument. I should know, I've done it in the past.
So, what workaround did my innovative mind come up with while it wasn't thinking about my minimum wage job? Well, the quick and dirty solution is to use words like "socially responsible" or "ethical" or "triple bottom line". But really, these are all terms for "fair", and as any seven year old knows (especially one who grew up in my family "life isn't fair").
While we're on the topic of family, I think that my youthful belief in the free market, and especially the evils of regulation, stems from an incident in my childhood. I, the budding entrepeneur of the family, had bought a quantity of marbles wholesale (or at least in bulk from the charity shop down the road). Like any good merchant, I then sold part of my stock (to my brother) for more than the whole cost me. Unfortunately, the regulatory authorities (in this case Mum and Dad) tried to crush my attempts at free enterprise. Now, an experienced child psychologist like my mother should have known that forbidding something to a child like me is one of the surest ways of encouraging it.
So really, it's all mum's fault. Hehe.
Anyway, I have a new justification for wealth tax, minimum wage, and a more steeply progressive tax system (in non economic terms these can be explained as "eat the rich" policies). It's based on a combination of history and economics.
Announcing the Revolutionary Threshold of Inequality. Human societies will tolerate, in fact, they will even desire, a certain level of inequality (to reward innovation, effort, and all that good stuff). However, when that inequality becomes too entrenched (the example I thought of was France before their Revolution) or too pronounced (did president Mobutu really deserve to have more money than the bottom 95%, or whatever number it was, of the population he ruled over?) resentment reaches a critical mass, and society implodes in an attempt to destroy the privileged.
This is obviously a bad thing.
So basically, the rich (especially the super rich and those with well established wealth) should accept a little pain now to avoid being first up against the wall when the revolution comes.
I'm not going to make any bold / ridiculous predictions about how parts of the Western world (*cough*America*cough*) and the world as a whole are rapidly approaching the tipping point again. But it's worth a thought.
Obviously, inequality is not the only reason for the recent explosion of anti-American / anti-West sentiment amongst havenot societies. But, it's a major one. Religion, in my informed, non-expert opinion is little more than a convenient metaphor (or what's that thing where a part represents the whole?).
The "War on Terror" (try "war OF Terror") - is a war against the middle class and poor of the western world, trying to keep us on the side of the rich). Whoops, now I'm straying into 1984 arguments. The comparison has been made before, by others better informed and more eloquent than I, but it's worth making again, just because 1984 is one of my favourite books.
I'll try and be brief:
War is Peace - Duh. Hasn't the Western world been "at war" with something or someone called Terror for the last three years? It only took five years to beat Hitler, and the result was pretty obvious after 3 years.
Freedom is Slavery - or rather, Slavery is Freedom. People are submitted to more and more restrictions on their liberty and rights (explict rights in the US case, impicit traditional rights in the Commonwealth case) in return for freedom from danger.
Ignorance is Strength - I'll resist a cheap joke about people who think Osama bin Laden was the Vice-President of Iraq. But seriously, I think the population today is less informed about serious matters (since we just HAVE to find out what's happening in some grotty reality TV show) than at any time in the last 100 years (especially given how much more effective the media is nowadays).
You can pay attention again now
OK, I apologise for that lengthy, and poorly structured political rant. See what happens when I don't have something to think about during the day?
I promise some more snowboarding and Richard related content at some point.