A Well Balanced Recipe For The Nation

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310 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird says:

    If breaking eggs were easy, everybody could have an omelet. Heck, everybody *WOULD* have one.Report

  2. Avatar wardsmith says:

    Right up until the last sentence I thought this was another Elias Isquith post.Report

  3. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    This is pretty awesome except for this part:

    “…By calling them the greedy, I am not implying they are cartoonish Snidely Whiplash types who like tying damsels to railroad tracks. “

    That hurt, for obvious reasons.Report

    • Avatar M.A. says:

      They’re more like this guy.

      Or this guy.

      In seriousness, though, I wish Roger had spent more time reading what he wrote. There’s roundabout nothing in the piece I disagree with, but he phrased it as if it were intended to be parody. He’s not arguing the points honestly, he seems to just be parroting things he thinks he hears and writing them in ways intended to be deliberately unpersuasive.

      An example:

      The way to fix the world is to use enlightened democracy to change the world by creating a better, more compassionate and more equal state of affairs. This comes about by neutralizing the greedy and intolerant practices of the oppressors. We can then use some of their undeserved spoils to subsidize the previously oppressed and to create systemic opportunities for the needy to flourish. There is enough for everyone, and we can ensure all get their fair share without oppressing anyone or sacrificing future generations.

      First sentence – resolved, that the world IS unequal, that equality of rights and opportunity are not at the moment a reality. How do we go about fixing it? The first step is, yes, laws and legal structures designed to prevent exploitative and socially damaging effects of coercion by those who have benefited from a previously unjust system. The second step is, yes, a taxation structure that requires from those who have, rather than those who merely subsist. “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:48)Report

    • Avatar Roger says:

      I think seeing your image placed a subliminal desire to bring up Snidely. But then I realized I couldn’t use his picture for the photo that goes with the post. This led to Julia Childs. I love the final photo. Looks like a socialist propaganda piece encouraging the oppressed chefs of the world to unite.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      Nobody made you choose that avatar. You could have used the safe default. Maybe you need to read Jaybirds post again?Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        Mad Rocket Scientist,

        I think Roger understood my sarcasm and you missed it. He referenced Snidely for the exact same reason I use that as my avatar. I’ve always felt that liberals picture conservatives sitting in smoke-filled rooms, twirling our mustaches and planning to ruin society.I just embraced that stereotype and decided to represent myself that way. So his reference is not only one I endorse but also one I would never seriously complain about.Report

  4. Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

    It’s nice, given how half of our commenters seem to think we are a leftist enclave, that Opposite Day is basically a parade of posts mocking liberals.Report

    • Avatar Snarky McSnarkSnark says:

      Roger –

      I’m not so sure that you fully embraced the spirit of opposite day. If so, than perhaps you don’t understand liberal thinking; it seems to me that you are straw-manning the arguments you are making, although perhaps that is not intentional.

      Liberals believe that the market is an efficient mechanism for allocating goods and services, if not always an equitable one. They believe that market rewards do not parallel social rewards, and that a regulatory and tax regime can help bridge that gap. And they believe that the “marketplace” is an abstract construct that doesn’t approach reality unless a number of prerequisites have been met (e.g. transparency, accountability, competition, accounting for externalities, a lack of serious imbalances of power, resources or information between buyer and seller), and that the “government” can help structure the marketplace through incentives and regulation to ensure that an fully functional marketplace can work.

      Instead, I see a lot of unconditional absolutes that seem to represent a parody of liberal thinking:

      In reviewing history and modern society, it is clear that the most useful distinction is between the oppressors and the oppressed. The greedy and the needy.

      If [the rich] had played fairly and maintained a balanced lifestyle and values, they wouldn’t be so rich and powerful.

      In general we recommend a well orchestrated and reasoned plan run by carefully monitored professional administrators. This is almost always superior to messy local initiatives and decentralized grass roots or private efforts.

      …competition and decentralization just get in the way

      …we need a rational, centralized, progressive guidance to achieve the world we deserve

      Perhaps due to the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the recent conservative use of “socialist” to label any deviation from laizzez-faire capitalism, but conflation of liberalism and state socialism seems to be the norm. They are distinctly different.

      Liberalism acknowledges the strengths of market capitalism, but also recognizes its limitations and constraints. It has no particular agenda of enlarging the state (although it has no built-in aversion to doing so if it contributes to a desirable outcome).Report

      • Avatar Major Zed says:

        It has no particular agenda of enlarging the state

        I might accept that …per se, but the enlargement doesn’t just fall out as an unexpected, unintended consequence. It is instrumental to the goals.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        This seems somewhat appropo.

        However, there is a group that benefits from responding to laws with more laws, and that group consists of politicians and government officials. Note that the long-standing positions of the major political parties are represented both in the federal legislation mentioned above and the current battle over right-to-work laws. With the NLRA, Democrats positioned themselves as advocates for labor, while Republicans responded to business concerns with Taft-Hartley. Republicans now champion right-to-work on behalf of beleaguered businesses, while Democrats tout their opposition to such laws to their union-member constituents. By intruding the state into labor-business relations, politicians elevated their own importance and power in a way that simply staying out of the matter, or repealing laws, never could.

        Report

      • Avatar Roger says:

        Snarky,

        Thanks for the constructive feedback. I wanted to write something that a progressive could basically agree with, even as I went slightly over the top. At the same time, I wanted to write a piece where I disagreed with every substantive point made. The end result says more about my view of the left than anything else of course.

        After a year and a half in this forum, the most striking things about progressive thought that never fails to amaze is the tendency to separate the world into two. There are the powerless and the powerful. The narrative then advances that the powerless are innovent victims and the powerful are guilty of various transgressions. The enlightened and compassioned progressive then steps in and offers to actively manage the situation in such a way as to fix the imbalance. The net result, whether intended or not is always pretty much the same… An activist coalition of master planners assuming control.

        Because their power depends upon having a huge class of victims, it is essential, whether intended or not, that whatever actions they take, that the victim class is not eliminated. Nothing could be more threatening to the position and power of the activists. Thus the system gravitates toward initiatives that seem plausible but in reality tend to create or extend the very problems they pretend to solve. Again, this does not even have to be conscious. The system dynamic is set up in such a way that this is almost sure to emerge. Anyone familiar with institutional dynamics would expect it to occur. And I see it in almost every progressive meme.

        My reading on the progressive recipe is thus:
        1) separate the world into oppressors and victims
        2) ignore the effects of incentives
        3) ignore how prosperity is created and instead focus completely on how it is distributed
        4) convince the victims to put you in charge
        5) develop “solutions” which never eliminate problems, because the problem is the source of power
        6) then master plan the world

        The recent debate on living wages is a case in point. Progressives separate the world into evil CEO’S, management, capitalists and corporations; and victim class minimum wage employees. Despite the fact that they are engaged in a voluntary win/win cooperative act, somehow the progressives spin this interaction into one of exploitation. The “solution” the progressives offer up is to mandate benefits and higher wages, or mandate union membership. They “pay” for this by convincing everyone that we will just move undeserved profit to much deserved wages. It’s like magic that also makes us feel good.

        The inevitable results of these actions are to increase unemployment and create a permanent underclass of economic victims ( for reasons I explained in detail in the threads). Thus we have another progressive trifecta. “Give me power so I can pretend to fix the world even as I make it worse.”Report

        • Avatar M.A. says:

          Despite the fact that they are engaged in a voluntary win/win cooperative act, somehow the progressives spin this interaction into one of exploitation.

          That you are too blindingly, moronically stupid to understand reality is apparent.

          It’s not a win/win proposition. The upper class has been winning and the middle and lower classes losing.

          Take the plot of growth in income levels and plot it against the inflation line for the pst 40 years; real wages for all but the upper 2% have stagnated or declined while the rich laughed their way through tax cuts.

          The “solution” the progressives offer up is to mandate benefits and higher wages, or mandate union membership. They “pay” for this by convincing everyone that we will just move undeserved profit to much deserved wages.

          There are good businesses and bad businesses, good CEOs and bad CEOs. The solution, you dishonest man, is to make it MORE viable for good CEOs and good businesses and LESS viable for the greedy.

          If Sam’s Club were run like CostCo, the Walton family would have a few less gold-plated toilets and there would be a hell of a lot of happier workers with MORE economic buying power which leads to MORE economic growth, not less.

          That’s what you conservatives are too stupid to grasp. You want to cut the buying classes out of the economic pie. You want to dump sugar in the gas tank of the economy while insisting it’ll somehow spur greater economic growth. Reality shows otherwise. Tax cuts, your little golden hammer solution for everything, create bubbles. They don’t create true economic growth, they instead reward riskier behavior and the consequences of bubbles bursting inevitably fall not on the wealthy but on the working classes.

          Seriously, get a fishing clue.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            M.A.

            Two items:

            1) Watch the snark. Make your points without the insults. It gets a lot more traction.

            2) This: “It’s not a win/win proposition. The upper class has been winning and the middle and lower classes losing.”

            Isn’t that exactly what Roger is talking about? The victim mentality? You seem to be ignoring the sheer reality of a global market and the impact of technology. The middle class was built on unskilled and low-skilled manufacturing. That can now be done for pennies in China. The upper class only ‘wins’ because they have jobs that can be outsourced or doen away with by machines and a good Six Sigma team.Report

            • Avatar M.A. says:

              Does this look like a win-win proposition to you?

              Productivity goes up, wages don’t.

              Income for the high end skyrockets, income for the middle and lower end can’t even keep up with inflation.

              The lie you conservatives advance is that there is a “win/win” proposition at work when there isn’t.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                If you used to have five guys make widgets and now one guy can push a button on a machine that makes the widgets, I don’t know if that should translate to more wages.The value is in the capital equipment, not in the button pusher.

                Upper class incomes go up because they are better positioned to take advantage of the new economy. Are you suggesting we go with protectionism instead?Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                You mean sleeping all day and destroying companies when they get bored? Yes, I do suppose sociopaths are better positioned to take advantage of the “new” economy (it’s on FIRE!!!! Oh, wait, that was last economy. Ashes, ashes, we all fall down? I suppose that’s more apt for today.). Perhaps we will subsequently be employed by their sadistic streaks.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Ought it to translate into NO WAGE INCREASES for the buttonpusher?
                Cause that’s what the lower class has been getting these past four years…
                You got raises, probably, most of those years…Report

              • Avatar Reformed Republican says:

                It depends. Does pushing the button require less skill than assembling the widget? If so, then pay would be expected to decrease. The more skilled laborer can look for a job that pays what he considers his skill level to be worth, or he can accept lower pay to do a job that does not fully utilize his skill.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                I’m talking after that. I’m seeing the lowest wage earners not getting any raises for the past four years — everywhere. They aren’t all being outsourced.Report

              • Avatar Scott says:

                RR:

                You forgot the most common alternative, which is demand more more money even though you lack the skills.Report

              • Avatar Ramblin' Rod says:

                The value is in the capital equipment, not in the button pusher.

                So, Mike… My job is basically to operate a fairly expensive (~$150k) piece of capital equipment. Labor and capital combine to get a job done.

                The question becomes, ‘What is an equitable share of revenue between the laborer and the owner of the capital?’ If your answer is to reward each in accordance with the respective contribution, the math would work out something like this:

                My rig has an empty weight of ~34,000 lbs and a legal gross weight of 80,000 lbs for a legal net freight capacity of 46,000*. At a highway speed of say, 60 mph, that works out to 1380 ton-miles/hr. A man, unaided, can plausibly carry 50 lbs on his back at a brisk walking speed of 5 mph. That’s 0.125 ton-miles/hr. So the capital multiplies my capabilities by a factor of ~11,000.

                Let’s say freight rates are something like $2.00/mile, and ignoring for the moment expenses like fuel and maintenance, the driver should be justly reimbursed at a rate of $2.00/11,000 or $.0002/mile.

                1. Good luck finding anyone to work for those wages. Low end of the scale is $.25/mile. I make close to twice that and that puts me at about median wages in the U.S.

                2. A man working unaided by capital is actually capable of producing value. In this instance moving something from one location to another. The truck, sans driver, is just a big, obtrusive, lawn ornament, wholly incapable of moving one ounce of freight even one inch (unless its unfortunately situated and the brakes fail).

                3. Given (1) and (2), we can say that wages and capital yield are functions of supply and demand. In fact, physical capital is just a cost factor to be minimized. A fancier truck that costs twice as much doesn’t mean I’m going to make more money overall. It might mean I’m more comfortable as a driver or look better going down the road, but as long as it’s capable of moving the freight as required more “investment” doesn’t buy you anything.

                4. In fact, the whole concept of ‘capital yield’ is really just an artifact of money interest which is a result of scarcity of funds for investment. It reflects the opportunity cost of using the money to do “this” versus doing “that.”

                * These numbers are for illustration only based on Federal OTR regs running on interstate highways. Intra-state regs and permits can allow greater weight capacities.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                Rod – I would hardly consider what you do to be ‘button pushing’. That’s a highly skilled job IMO. What I am talking about is the guy that watches the machine that makes the widgets in a manufacturing setting.Report

              • Avatar Ramblin' Rod says:

                That wasn’t my main point. Of course, what I do is skilled labor. But that “button-pusher” at the factory is also the first line of defense in the quality control process. She’s also taking samples of the machine’s output, taking measurements using sophisticated tools like digital micrometers and carefully scrutinizing the product for defects. She also has a big red button–and the authority in a well-managed manufacturing plant–to shut down the whole damn line if there’s a quality issue.

                The point I’m pushing back against is the idea that a worker’s wage is in any meaningful way a function of his productivity. Rather, it’s a simple supply and demand relationship and if a skilled worker makes more than an unskilled worker it’s only because there are fewer of them to fill the positions.

                In my case, the limiting factor that sets the wages for truckers isn’t the skill level particularly. It takes a certain amount of training and experience to do it well, but it’s well within the capabilities of an average h.s. graduate. The real factor that limits the supply of workers here is the willingness to endure the working conditions. I was out on the road for four weeks so I could have four days off at home for Thanksgiving and I’m doing the same for Christmas. Don’t you think I might have wanted to give my 8-year old a hug last night?? Not an option.

                And what I’m saying should be obvious to anyone that’s taken Econ 101. But we still have people–and here it’s particularly on the right end–that insist on espousing a kind of labor theory of value when the topic is minimum wage laws. “The unskilled worker isn’t worth that much,” they say. Labor, like anything else that’s bought and sold in our economy is “worth” precisely what the market price as set by supply and demand says it is. And there’s a floor beyond which you can’t attract enough workers and a ceiling beyond which you can’t sustain a profit. There’s a band of possible wage rates but the dynamics of the situation dictate that the actual wage will hover just above the floor.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Rod,

                While I don’t for a moment intend to imply that your job is button pushing, and knowing how I personally hate driving, I think you damn well earn your money fair and square, recent and prospective advancements in driverless vehicles make me wonder if the future of your occupation is perhaps going to be drastically different? Even if we assume that we’ll still have an “attendant” for driverless cargo haulers in the future, that would be a far less skilled job, meaning, presumably, less pay.Report

              • Avatar Ramblin' Rod says:

                I’ve been mulling that in my head, being both a sci-fi geek and an engineer by training. Given the advances of the Google-mobile or whatever they call it, I would guess it would be technically feasible in about 10 to 20 years.

                On the other hand, freight trains run on tracks and the railroads have a sophisticated monitoring system to know where every train is at any moment. And they still have crews. Why? Is it just a union thing?Report

              • Avatar Ramblin' Rod says:

                Oh, and see my reply to Mike, above. I don’t know that I’d be willing to sit and play video games or read or whatever for much less money if it still meant I had to be away from home for weeks at a time.

                The situation for a car is different for a truck. In the former, since the whole point is to move people from point A to point B, there’s always going to be someone physically situated to take control anyway. But if the point is to move freight, then the driver would only be there for emergencies and to do various tasks at the start and stop points. And those could be handled by tenders at those points, eh? I could see totally autonomous trucks rolling down the road with a big flashing yellow light on top and no driver inside.

                And I could see it all being a lot safer, too. At least until Skynet wakes up…Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                That all makes sense, and the point about the railroad engineer makes sense (even though there are some totally autonomous passenger rail systems now).

                It’s going to be fascinating to see how it plays out.

                Will pizza delivery jobs disappear, or will customers insist on having a human walk the pizza up to their door instead of being willing to walk out to the curb to get it from the autonomous delivery truck?Report

              • Avatar Coke-Encrusted Hollywood Exec says:

                Skynet wakes up

                Cameron, call Spielberg – has Rod got a movie pitch for you!

                We’ll do lunch!Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                James – re: autonomous food delivery, customers need to watch the skies:

                http://www.burritobomb.com/#

                http://boingboing.net/2012/12/10/burrito-bomber-open-source-ha.html

                See, drones aren’t all bad!Report

              • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

                Mike Dwyer:

                If you used to have five guys make widgets and now one guy can push a button on a machine that makes the widgets, I don’t know if that should translate to more wages.The value is in the capital equipment, not in the button pusher.

                Doesn’t this basically amount to the claim that unskilled labor should be living a pre-industrial quality of life, not being entitled enjoy any of the gains of the industrial capital boom?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Not necessarily. If the widgets are sufficiently cheaper because of automation in manufacturing, unskilled labor may actually be able to afford even more of them (or better quality ones, if having just one is sufficient).

                One of the more startling things I’ve seen was cargo porters in Dubai with some version of a smart phone. These guys are at the bottom end of the wage scale–human oxen hauling goods on big handcarts, and are active primarily in the morning before/as shops are opening and then again in late afternoon when shops are closing. In the middle of the day they mostly hang out talking or sleeping on their cart. And talking/texting/surfing the web on their phones. In a lot of ways they do live a pre-industrial lifestyle, but even they have access to some of the most modern conveniences. A particularly valuable one in their case since they are guest laborers, and the phones provide contact with their families back home.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                The other effect that plays out is comparative advantage. As productivity rises, the skilled benefit by outsourcing more things that they did previously. This creates higher demand for more unskilled or low skilled services. Thus the unskilled benefit also.

                That said, if technology progresses too fast at replacing unskilled labor, we are in for some major cultural shocks. Patrick explored this last year in a post or two.Report

              • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

                I think we have a real / nominal problem here. You’re describing a real wage increase. If that’s the case, fine, but I don’t see how it squares with Mike Dwyer’s point above. The “value” is in both the button pusher and the capital equipment. In this case, his marginal product goes up and gets a piece of the results in higher real wages.

                The notion of “should” always seems to go back to what the person has done to “deserve” the extra wage. That’s not really part of the calculation.Report

            • Avatar Kim says:

              Math Doesn’t support your case.
              Soaring corporate profits, zero interest rates — negligible INVESTMENT.
              The current problem is not outsourcing.Report

          • Avatar Major Zed says:

            M.A.,
            Tax cuts, your little golden hammer solution for everything, create bubbles.

            If you are referring to Blodget’s The Truth About Taxes, I already called you on that here by going to the source data. Please provide evidence or else kindly stop repeating this meme.Report

        • Avatar Snarky McSnarksnark says:

          I think it’s a measure of how incomprehensible liberalism is to you that you produce an analysis of it that attributes its core motivations as seeking power, and self-perpetuation, instituted by means that can only be sustained through intentional ignorance of its perverse results.

          You’re engaging with hand puppets, here. These “progressives,” as you describe them don’t exist, and certainly not on this site. You’ve engaged many thoughtful, non-reflexive liberals here.

          As a liberal, I believe that the “marketplace” is not the final arbiter of value in a society. And that thoughtful analysis and implementation of policy can produce superior outcomes that produce wider prosperity, richer lives, and greater concordance with essential human nature.Report

          • Avatar M.A. says:

            I was just amazed. KFM is one of my favorite movies and Roger’s spiel was basically John’s speech almost word for word.

            Conservatives really haven’t changed much, still spouting the same tired rhetoric and lies.Report

            • Avatar Roger says:

              MA,

              I have learned to ignore you. However, I will repeat that it is totally unacceptable for you to respond on this site with video “fuck you’s”. You cleaned up your action just enough that you no longer write the words. Now you use the initials or link us to videos that say it for you.

              Please raise your level of discourse up to the standards of the League. Or please leave.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Please raise your level of discourse up to the standards of the League. Or please leave.

                The point I was making is: that video is from 1977. The dishonest group you belong to haven’t changed their tune from before that time until now, you’re still just repeating the same garbage as if it were factual and expecting people to believe you.

                I offered you a much more detailed response as well. Why didn’t you respond to it?

                I suspect I know, and I suspect you’re just trolling in any case.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Sit down, sir, and have a spot of tea. It’s british, so I’ll add two teaspoons of sugar. You can add more if you like.

                Roger’s the guy who was openly advocating for people to not vote for Romney. I don’t believe he actually voted for Obama, but in attempting to persuade folks not to vote for Romney, he’s shown himself capable of evaluating things in more dimensions than simply “tax cuts are FUN!”

                You may not want Roger on your team — but I do. Oh, yes, sir, I’m no liberal, you may name me libertarian if you like. But I like Roger support social safety nets.

                You can sit around and demonize folks, or you can try and persuade them.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            how incomprehensible liberalism is to you

            I think that this phrasing indicates a great deal.

            There are a lot of unstated premises in any given political philosophy. I think that, intuitively, these unstated premises are shared by the majority of the folks who don’t live/breathe this stuff like we do here.

            It’s always interesting to see the emanations that come from the penumbras of these unstated premises.Report

          • Avatar Roger says:

            Snarky,

            I don’t know if I would say power seeking is the core motivation, as much as it is a systemic factor. There is a coalition that has formed around the progressive meme, and it doesn’t really matter if it’s dysfunctionality is intentional or an unintended consequence. The coalition is self sustaining. The more power it gets, the more it interferes with personal freedom and true value creation, the more victims it manufactures… The system self amplifies and preserves itself.

            You suggest progressives are incomprehensible to me, but I challenge you to refute my position. The comments in the posts on Walmart and McDonalds pretty much reflected everything I suggested in my comment above.

            It is pretty obvious that mandatorially doubling wages and adding expensive benefits (going from under $8 an hour to$15 an hour with health insurance) will change who gets jobs. An employer won’t provide skilled level wages to non skill level employees. It would be stupid to do so. If we force skilled level wages on an employer, their response will absolutely be to offer those positions to skilled workers. Thus the net effect will be to make the unskilled less employable. The market will adjust in many ways, some positive and some more negative, but the net effect will be harmful, especially to the intended beneficiaries.

            Thus the progressive “living wage with health care” argument will lead to more unemployment and more dependency and more victims. How much of this is evil calculation by those that know better? How much is good intentions combined with a lack of understanding complex systems? Does it really matter? Not to me.

            “As a liberal, I believe that the “marketplace” is not the final arbiter of value in a society. And that thoughtful analysis and implementation of policy can produce superior outcomes that produce wider prosperity, richer lives, and greater concordance with essential human nature.”

            This comment is pretty much replaceable with my final paragraph, absent my over the top attempt at humor.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              Your caricature of progressives is only getting more amusing as you go along. If Progressives look at society and say things might be improved, are you seriously saying we shouldn’t grasp the levers of power by which such improvements could and should be made?

              The world is separated into those with power and those without power. The powerful aren’t stupid: they will use every means possible to retain their power. Are you willing to go as far as admitting some of those means are fair and others foul? Didn’t think so, either. In short, there are oppressors and there are victims. It’s just a question of means.

              Incentives, well, there are any number of incentives, both positive and negative. In a publicly-traded corporations, incentives are driven on the basis of market capitalisation. That is the real measure of prosperity: it certainly is the measure of performance.

              Convincing the Victims to put Progressives in charge is an interesting allegation. The Progressives already know who’s in charge. If there’s competition for leadership, it seems entirely right and natural that someone might make such challenges. It’s strictly “Darwinian”, we’re told. The fittest must survive. But they must be fit, you see, fit to lead. All leadership is by example: if the Progressives convince many others, they gain the Mandate of Heaven. If the current in-charges’ rhetoric about the justice of dividing the shortages among the peasants is a bit stale and unconvincing, that is hardly a problem worth complaining about.

              The poor you shall always have with you, we were told by Our Lord Jesus, lo those many years ago. Some problems don’t go away: there will always be question beggars among us, as was the case with Our Lord in the Gospel of John, Chapter 9:

              As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

              It seems to me, Roger, you are in the business of blaming the very victims you claim do not exist. You can carry on with your little joke: it is Opposite Day after all. And I’ll go on laughing.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Blaise,
                “Your caricature of progressives is only getting more amusing as you go along.  If Progressives look at society and say things might be improved, are you seriously saying we shouldn’t grasp the levers of power by which such improvements could and should be made? ”

                No, I am saying that if you operate on the paradigm that the world is divided between victims and oppressors and that active engineering is the key to solve this and I can get money for nothing and chicks for free by grasping the levers of power, that you have the perfect recipe for the left.

                “The world is separated into those with power and those without power.”

                Yes, this is exactly the insight that finally dawns on libertarians. The left uses this paradigm on every problem. Identify the victims, demonize the non victims and step in as the savior. This allows you to become the powerful by pretending to be protector. It’s just the modern version of feudalism.

                “The powerful aren’t stupid: they will use every means possible to retain their power.”

                Exactly. Including selling mercantilism way past it’s expiration date. Libertarians are well aware that there are bad actors that will exploit others. In a democracy, the safest harbor is at the lever of power pretending to help those your actions repress.

                “Convincing the Victims to put Progressives in charge is an interesting allegation.  The Progressives already know who’s in charge….if the Progressives convince many others, they gain the Mandate of Heaven.  ”

                I obviously agree. The progressives and their mandarins want the mandate of heaven. Even better they know the recipe for baking it up.

                “It seems to me, Roger, you are in the business of blaming the very victims you claim do not exist.”

                Well said. Just to clarify, there are victims here. We are victims of top down disruptive busy bodies that constantly screw up the engine of prosperity by saying they are fixing it. Fellow victims, it is time to wake up and assume control of our own lives.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Better and better. How you’ve managed to improve the joke! That’s truly impressive. My congratulations.

                Progressives want people to assume control of their own lives. The difference between you and me comes down to how such control might be snatched away from those who have the power. You want control without any changes to the rules which govern the means by which the powerful maintain their power. See, that’s the best part of this joke. You don’t want to call anything oppression except attempts to change the rules.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                No, they want to actively assist the victims while not empowering them. Actually empowering them would eliminate the need for future progressives.

                You’ve basically conceded every point I made, you just can’t come to grips with the ramifications.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                So. So. So. I advocate for minimum wage. So too do most democrats.
                We have acknowledged upthread that such will increase training, and hence earning prospects in the future (as we are changing unskilled workers to skilled workers).

                *Yawn* LIBERALS are NOT the fucking KOMEN foundation. Got it?Report

              • Avatar Reformed Republican says:

                We have acknowledged upthread that such will increase training,
                An increased minimum wage will result in skilled laborers being hired first.The amount of lower skilled employees hired at increased wage rate would be expected to decrease. The fortunate few who are hired might benefit from training, but the remaining workers are left unemployed.

                A minimum wage does not empower workers. Suppose I am an ex-felon with a bad reputation, but I am trying to reform. Most employers do not want to hire me, so I am will to accept extremely low wages for the opportunity to get back in the work force and build my name and skills up. A minimum wage prevents this. The same is true for any more questionable employee. Why take a chance on someone when someone with a better reputation is available for the same wage?

                On top of that, it is the Wal-Marts that can afford to pay minimum wage, unlike the typical small business. Big businesses have the flexibility to navigate a tortuous regulatory system that a small business does not have, so the regulatory system favors the “oppressors” over the “good guys.”Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                That’s a precious moment, Roger. That really can’t be topped.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                RR,
                most legal employers do not want to hire a convicted felon for anywhere near what he can make selling drugso n the street. is recidivism any surprise?

                I argue that the people with more skills have better job prospects than the walmarts. If nothing else higher job satisfaction. You don’t magically make mroe skilled workers.Report

              • Avatar Reformed Republican says:

                You are right, Kim. You do not magically make skilled workers. If they do not come from some sort of schooling, they get an entry level position and learn on the job. Of course, if you are paying a wage the attracts skilled workers, you will want to hire them over the unskilled worker. In other words, if the unskilled workers have a chance to become skilled, they need to be able to bid to work for a lower rate than the skilled worker.

                Also, if the wage gets high enough, automation and outsourcing get more attractive. Again, taking opportunity away from the unskilled workers.

                So who is it that benefits from this?Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                RR,
                I contend that if you make more jobs than currently (particularly out of jobs that are currently held by unskilled labor), you don’t magically get skilled laborers to take ’em. You just don’t.

                So you get unskilled laborers.
                The as yet to be supported premise is that once someone moves from unskilled to skilled, they can transfer to other jobs and let someone else move into that one.

                I think we need more small businesses, myself. If we can raise 10 people out of 20 into a higher paying job, and 2 of those start new small businesses (Which are our PRIMARY source of new jobs)… well, they might just hire 8 more people… and then you’ve only got 2 unemployed people. And a lot more money floating around…Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                “I can get money for nothing and chicks for free by grasping the levers of power”

                Judging from people who’ve worked for all the relevant parties, this most aptly describes the Libertarian Party.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                The Libertarians are only mad because the levers of power are not in their grasp. Nor are the chicks or the money. Terribly vexing, I’m sure.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                What? M.A. keeps telling us libertarians only want to hang onto their money, and now you’re telling us libertarians don’t have the money? Damn, you liberals need to have a convo and figure out your playbook.

                Oh, and I’m pretty sure libertarians get the best chicks; the ones who aren’t saving themselves for Jesus or busy sitting in trees. FYIGM takes on a whole new meaning in this context, eh?Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                That is why I have become such a fan of the new “hot libertarian chick of the month” feature over at the Mises institute. Good looks and brains.

                http://mises.org/daily/Album/Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                James, first I’d need to see a Libertarian with any money to hang onto. Most of the ones I’ve run across are just Walter Mitty sublimating. See, that’s why Liberals should never accuse Libertarians of FYIGM Syndrome. It’s so unfair. First you’d have to Get Yours.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Blaise–Well I like your argument a lot more than M.A.’s. Lord know I’m not flush. (But then I never thought libertarianism was actually about money anyway.)

                Roger–I can’t look. Fish them, I got mine.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Thing is, it’s all fine and good to talk about how capitalism works, its good sides, its bad sides. But everyone secretly wants to be on top of the heap. There are two ways to handle this perverse wish: you can either damn the powerful or you can make excuses for them.

                The wealthy aren’t necessarily any happier or well-adjusted. They do have more options, money does buy them options. Money buys everything but one: it won’t buy time. But it buys everything else.

                The Libertarians don’t want to associate with the Damners. The Damners are just a bunch of whiny pussies. It’s so much more manly-looking to support the wealthy and make their arguments for them. Some people are actually paid to do so. But as a string tie and a Resistol cowboy hat do not a cowboy make, neither does a Libertarian argument for untrammeled power make anyone powerful.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                You should have stopped with the funny.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                I see no reason to stop at the funny. I’ve said it a hundred times, you Libertarians are really no better than the Marxists, another bunch of penniless economists.

                Know what it takes to turn a Marxist/Leninist into a Capitalist Roader? One hectare of land.

                The Libertarians loudly sing the praises of the Capitalist Roaders. Know what it takes to turn them into Marxists? One serious hospitalisation.Report

            • Avatar Kim says:

              Roger,
              Okay, so you’ve increased the market for skilled workers. Now, there aren’t enough skilled workers for all the positions (if there were, they’d already be hired. and to most extents, skilled workers are working nowadays.)
              So now corporations have an incentive to hire unskilled workers and train them.

              Yes, the consumer is paying for training… but aren’t corporations better suited to train people in the narrow range of “what they need” rather than letting the educrats do it?

              Incentives, my dear friend, incentives.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                A lot of companies do that now. My company trains from within. I spent five years doing finance and I had zero background in the field.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Not just that, but another “conservative” goal actually gets achieved.

                Pay people a living wage. Enough wage to support a spouse and possibly kids, on a single income.

                Result? More stay-at-home parents, more parenting.

                I find it a delicious irony that it’s conservative policies that have done the vast majority of harm to the nuclear family. They’ve made it more and more difficult to raise a family on one parent’s income, resulting in more and more latchkey kids. That increases stress levels and contributes to divorce rates, contributes to juvenile delinquency; it even reduces volunteerism in the community since the stay-at-home parents who would normally have spent some of the day preparing to be scout leaders, or volunteered in the community a few hours a week (I knew several mothers in my community who volunteered as teacher’s aides in the local grade school, imagine that!) are not available any more.

                Conservatism is destructive to the community, and the irony is that conservatives can’t see the damage they themselves are doing.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                M.A. – You are aware that the workforce doubled somewhere between WWII and now, correct?Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Reality.

                Two-income households are rising; single-income families with a stay at home parent have fallen dramatically.

                I’m pointing out; conservatives constantly decry this. They have, in truth, some points about parenting and the trouble of latchkey kids. They usually use these points to attack single parents (especially single mothers) but many of their criticisms are just as valid for two-income families that leave the kids latchkey while both parents work long hours; many of these families do so working lower-level jobs trying to put together a lower-middle-class level income from two working parents.

                A living wage is important. Require it and then parents working for Wal-Mart won’t be trying to cobble together the hours of both parents and still needing food stamps. As it stands, 80 percent of Wal-Mart employees ARE on food stamps, which is a hidden tax upon the taxpayers subsidizing Wal-Mart’s exploitative and abusive business model.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                M.A. I’m pretty okay with tax incentives for stay-at-home parents. We have four couple that we know that have one parent at home. What I don’t like is a living wage movement that says employers need to pay all adult workers enough money to raise a family on AND support a spouse. That actually de-incentivizes marriage.

                I’m curious though, what is the minimum living wage? What should, for example, a full-time cashier at Wal Mart make? Do you scale it by locale? What is the minimum standard of living? An apartment and a food in the fridge? A house and a car? Where is the line?Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Mike,
                Without food in the fridge, you get a LOT more stomach cancer. So let’s go with that.

                You’ve got to scale it by locale, or you CANT afford to have walmarts in SF and NYC (or else your $40,000 salary looks loonycrazy in Elkins, WV)Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                I suspect the economic gains of the late 1970’s and early ’80’s was do to that doubling.

                But since the late 70’s, household income has remained relatively flat, when adjusted for inflation, while hours worked per household has significantly increased. Doesn’t this suggest a decrease in actual wages?

                Another interesting tid bit is that it often takes the two incomes to qualify for a mortgage, so the loss of a single job within the family may increase the economic risk of foreclosure.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                Zic,

                I think productivity rose temporarily when the workforce grew and there was no foreign competition for manufacturing wages. Once globalization took hold though it started the decline. That’s the key factor IMO.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Zic,

                Adjusted for size, benefits, transfers and taxes, family wages are up 37%.

                http://www.aei-ideas.org/2012/12/has-the-decline-of-unions-caused-an-explostion-in-income-inequality-not-so-much/

                I agree the rate of growth has gone down, but economists are pretty confident that this is due to increased global competition and technology and thus is in effect leading to the historic reductions in global poverty over the same time. In other words, the truly needy are getting more of their fair share of human prosperity.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Roger,
                http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2010/1003.lynn-longman.html

                Are you so sure? Granted, nobody’s saying it’s the decline of unions here… But not exactly globalization now is it?Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Kim,

                I don’t find the argument convincing, though it brings up several interesting points. Thanks for sharing.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Kim,

                I agree that this will translate into greater training. It is one of the positive market adjustments that I mentioned.

                If we mandate substantially higher wages (full time living wages with benefits are two to four times higher than part time minimum wage without). The net effect is to make huge classes of jobs economically obsolete. The market will respond though by raising prices, increasing job training, eliminating jobs, replacing unskilled or less desirable workers with more desirable and more skilled workers and so forth.

                If anyone wants to argue that this will lead to better outcomes for the unskilled or leads to more widespread prosperity, they should probably prove their case first. Let’s set minimum wage at $16 an hour with mandatory full benefits in a state and see how it fares. I predict more systemic unemployment, fewer jobs, lower average prosperity over time, slower elasticity in the market after economic shocks, an increase in people dependent upon the government and an increase in support for the Democratic party*.

                What do you predict will happen?

                *in the various discussions with Shaz, I already made the case that Europe is exactly this. They are substantially poorer, have much higher unemployment, respond slower to economic shocks, have more dependence on government aid, and are more inclined to lean left in political views.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Raising the minimum wage, in all the literature I’ve read, has had rather muddled effects. It is far from clear what happens. That said, no one’s been that crazy. Maybe you want to pull china’s numbers? they did after all just institute a minimum wage?Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                In a complex market, small changes are going to be tough to observe, especially with something that is so important to progressive propaganda. It is the equivalent of proving evolution is a myth to religious conservatives. Any time the topic is complex and there are huge incentives for “experts” to become famous by proving the contradictory hypothesis, then the market will bid up this intellectual prostitution until some intellectual whore takes the bait.

                Yes, minor tweaks to the minimum wage are going to be obscured or lost in the noise. Paying living wages instead of $7.85, is not going to be a subtle effect.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Kim,

                My favorite comment from your first link….

                “Labor and community coalitions (principally ACORN) have successfully worked together to pass living wage laws. The living wage movement continues to build steam, breathing life into local politics and spreading hope among low-income workers.”

                These two sentences basically consolidate my entire argument. Let’s peddle false hope in exchange for powerReport

          • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

            As a liberal, I believe that the “marketplace” is not the final arbiter of value in a society.

            To borrow a phrase from you, it’s a measure of how incomprehensible libertarianism is to you that you think we do.Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          Will you shoot all the camels, roger? If so, who will hire all the gazelles? And with what money?Report

        • Avatar wardsmith says:

          +1 to Roger on this comment. It neatly summarizes, in a perfect nutshell exactly the agenda of the progressive movement, even if many of their foot soldiers are too ignorant to see it. The ubermensch needs an untermensch.Report

          • Avatar Kim says:

            Veterans benefits are the new welfare.
            Check Please!Report

          • Avatar Roger says:

            Thanks, but note that the progressives won’t actually try to refute it. They just move on and bring up the same argument again tomorrow.

            Us: “Mandatory living wages hurt those you intend to help. Here is why….”

            Them: Glassy stare. “Yeah, but we need living wages to help the poor.”

            Us: “This will backfire .” More details provided.

            Them: Glassy stare. “Yeah, but we need a living wage.”Report

            • Avatar Chris says:

              There’s a weird phenomenon on this blog where the libertarians get really pissed when someone on the left tells them what libertarians are/are not, and then the libertarians turn around and tell the left what they are/are not. It’s amusing.

              Also, Roger, given the conversations we (you, me, and several others) about wages at Walmart, I find this particular comment of yours to be beyond disingenuous, and somewhere in the neighborhood of outright lying.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                And the liberals get pissed off. We’re all hypocrites.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Surely. Like I said, it’s amusing. The League’s own brand of circle jerk.Report

              • Avatar Reformed Republican says:

                I know what I do not want in my vodka smoothie.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                “It’s raining mccain again…”Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                In one conversation people will agree that the effect of minimum wages and marginal tax rates on unemployment and investment are empirical questions where the evidence doesn’t all point one one direction, and in the next it’s back to Econ 1A generalizations. It’s a lot like talking to fundies who when pressed will admit that there can be good in every religion, but deep down know those other people are going to hell.Report

              • Avatar Reformed Republican says:

                The amusing thing is, the ones who agitate for a minimum wage usually claim it is needed because greedy companies will do anything to save a buck. However, they do not seem to think that employers will use the same sort of cost-mimizing measures in response to the minimum wage increase.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                No, Mike.

                I am unaware of the data or even a good Econ 101 argument that states that doubling ( or more) the cost of employment in relative open markets will lead to something other than less demand for low skilled workers.

                The sleight of hand here is to reference small changes to the minimum wage that were obscured by noise or were distorted because we were dealing with local monopolies (government contracts) and then to project these onto a totally different situation.

                Please give me your best argument on why moving from $7.85 without benefits to $15 with full benefits will not lead to adverse effects for low skilled workers. I REALLY want to hear this argument.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Roger,
                Okay, you get a few things:
                1) In an open and fair marketplace, the costhike goes to the consumer. All well and good. You do that in a college town, where the school cafeteria is routinely shut down for health food violations (*cough* highlander*cough*)? People (college students and liberals living off their parents money) still pay the extra dollar for a burger. Now burgers cost $2 instead of $1. Big Fucking Deal. Sidebenefit: quality of food increases suddenly seem less.

                2) Most college students don’t have cars, so, you essentially do have a captive audience. (possibly willingly so). Your doctor’s office assistant, your dental hygenist, your garbageman, get paid more. But nobody (or at least few people) leave town. Because the demand for the town’s amenities outpaces the added costs.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                The sleight of hand here is to reference small changes to the minimum wage that were obscured by noise

                That is, that didn’t have the predicted effect. “Obscured by noise” is hand-waving to avoid admitting that the prediction was incorrect.

                I agree that tripling (or more; I don’t know what “full benefits” means) the minimum wage is a bad idea.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Close enough for me to say I agree. I love these happy moments.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                How about if I phrase it this way:

                Resolved, that minimum wage ought to be structured in such a way that no employed person should still be in need of food stamps or other social safety net programs.

                That includes employees of Wal-Mart, and of other minimum-wage abusive employers who play the game of getting their abusive business models subsidized by taxpayers via the social safety net.

                It also includes the US Military. It’s an item of disgust to me that military pay is so freaking low that military families wind up on food stamps.

                Disagreement? Can you think of a principled argument why the minimum wage shouldn’t be structured in this way?Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Please give me your best argument on why moving from $7.85 without benefits to $15 with full benefits will not lead to adverse effects for low skilled workers. I REALLY want to hear this argument.

                I’ll give it a shot.

                The limiter on labor isn’t continuous that way. If I have a work process… be it industrial, service, or other… that requires N bodies in order for the process to complete, I need N bodies.

                If I have to pay those N bodies wage X, then my profit P is N times X subtracted from… whatever I can get somebody to pay me for that process to complete.

                Now, if I instead pay those N bodies Y, and I can still have the same profit (albeit not the same profit *margin*) by charging whoever wants this service done N times Y plus my profit P.

                Granted, sometimes I can’t get my customer to pay N times Y plus P. Then my choice is to either cut into P, or cut into N, because Y is fixed.

                However, I can only cut into N if I can get the job done by changing the process. If I can’t get N – M workers to do the job, it don’t matter to hell or gone whether or not I want to cut into P, I’m cutting into P or I’m going out of business.

                If I *can* get N – M workers to do the job, by a process improvement or whatever, then… well, the question there is… would I eventually have done the process improvement or not? Because if I would… I haven’t actually lost the M available jobs… I was going to lose them anyway. I might lose ’em a little bit sooner than later, but they were already on death watch.

                In any given set of circumstances, we might have an impact on low-skill jobs. Some of those impacts might be inevitable, some might be avoidable. In many cases, it might be the case that we are, in fact, creating an artificial floor on wages that might result in certain jobs going undone.

                But I don’t think there’s much in the way of empirical evidence to suggest that this is a given (here’s where an economist could smack me in the head). Is there a demonstrated affect of previous minimum wage increases on the number of jobs available to the unskilled that backs up the contention that this is particularly likely?Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                You’re also forgetting, there are multiplier effects at work.

                The workers that are paid a living wage have spending power that the workers on current minimum don’t. That increases economic activity.

                The workers that are paid a living wage are no longer on food stamps or other social support programs (yay, conservative talking point, lowering cost to government!!!!) and that in turn frees up tax resources to be used elsewhere. Since most of the minimum wage workers were already on food stamps and other assistance, we reduce the number who are on the rolls if any jobs are lost and maybe short-term have to pay out small unemployment benefits (very, VERY small since they will only qualify for the lowest level, being previously on minimum wage) but will still benefit by the reductions in those on the rolls whose jobs are upgraded.

                So: less cost to government, more efficient use of taxes, and multiplier effects that increase economic activity thus goosing demand and creating more jobs.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                No, I’m not forgetting the multiplier effect; it’s irrelevant to the case of a by-employer view of the economy. At least, in the short term. Maybe over a ten year period as the economic waves of instituting a higher minimum wage work their way through the economy, but that won’t be a simple cutover.

                The increase in economic activity you describe is largely going to fall on staple goods and base necessities, which already have a fairly solid demand, raising prices for people who are on the other side of the abject poor line, but not by much. They’re going to pay a good chunk of the economic cost of a higher minimum wage, not guys like me.

                This is a more interesting point, though:

                Since most of the minimum wage workers were already on food stamps and other assistance, we reduce the number who are on the rolls if any jobs are lost and maybe short-term have to pay out small unemployment benefits (very, VERY small since they will only qualify for the lowest level, being previously on minimum wage) but will still benefit by the reductions in those on the rolls whose jobs are upgraded.

                Macroeconomically speaking, putting a floor in for a minimum wage puts a exit barrier on the welfare state. Whether or not it is a significant (or even relevant) exit barrier depends on the overall state of the lower status part of the economy.

                If raising the minimum wage is job-creation neutral, then yes you’ll see what you’re talking about here: the poor that work will have more money and less reliance on assistance programs. However, the job-creation effect can be negative, and now there are fewer jobs to go around, but they pay more. Maybe now we save $N on Bob having a living wage, but we lose $M on Alice being on welfare longer, ’cause there are fewer jobs. How that all bangs out in practice is probably going to be affected severely by a whole slew of other factors.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Macroeconomically speaking, putting a floor in for a minimum wage puts a exit barrier on the welfare state.

                Having no floor creates an even worse situation, tho, doesn’t it?

                Part of the problem I see with a “free market” wage regime is that implementing such a policy would both a) drive down wage rates to below their already below-subsistence level and b) cause an increase in welfare related transfers from taxpayers to people who can’t pay their own way. (I made this argument earlier, so I won’t elaborate here.)

                Another part of the problem is that cost of living isn’t elastic in the way that the correlation between wage rates and price (theoretically) is. It seems to me that if we eliminate any and all mechanisms to raise wage rates, income will decline far faster than the cost of living does. Someone sympathetic to “freer” labor markets would look at this as a wise if painful yet completely justified correction. But that seems a strange conclusion to draw if the real consequences of doing so hurt people. (This line of reasoning reminds me of Rawls’ Difference Principle, of course.)

                Yet another part of the problem is more conceptual, and follows from the first one I mentioned: If not letting people starve to deathis a value we – as a society – hold, then allowing a freed market to determine wage rates in a climate of high unemployment will actually require increased transfers from tax-payers to those who can’t pay their own way. But transfers are by definition inconsistent with negative rights as well as being a form of undesirable government coercion. (Or so I’m led to believe by our libertarian commenters.)

                I’ll say it again, but I don’t see how a libertarian gets out of this problem (James post on tax payer directed charity notwithstanding.)

                What’s my solution? Raise the minimum wage. Allow – encourage! – people to organize for the purposes of collectively bargaining. Engage in boycotts, public pressure, protests, the whole nine yards.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Thanks Patrick,

                I would add a few things to your scenario. With a shift from minimum wage to living wage with benefits, you force the employer into a different class of workers. They are now paying skilled worker wages. This will lead to them hiring skilled workers and reorganizing job responsibilities to reflect this.

                But here is the interesting thing… Skilled workers tend to already have living wages. Thus the effect of the living wage mandate will be to create more jobs and more demand for those that already have jobs or that were already most likely to rise into those jobs.

                The net effect is to eliminate unskilled jobs. You basically legislate them out of existence. Unskilled jobs are the step to skilled jobs. The effect of substantial increases of this type will lead to higher unemployment and less flexible labor markets which are less capable of introducing new and less productive individuals into the mix.

                Fewer jobs. More unemployment of a more permanent underclass nature. Higher prices. Less effective economic engine.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Stillwater,

                What do you mean by “eliminate any and all mechanisms to raise wage rates”? Wages and prices adjust up and down based upon supply and demand, right?

                On your libertarian dilemma, I agree that once we create a massive state funded welfare state to support the poor that we are then forced into a dilemma — continue with the state run program, or offset it with living wage mandate. You do recognize though that the welfare state as it currently works is not how we would have designed it, right? From my perspective, we screwed up how we built assistance programs, and now we want to further screw up markets. Where does it end?

                Perhaps the question we should ask is

                “How could we design living wages as a tool to supplement our existing welfare state in such a way as to maximize benefit and minimize adverse effects?”

                Now that would be an interesting post.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                @Stillwater,
                Having no floor creates an even worse situation, tho, doesn’t it?

                Maybe. It really depends on the strength of the economy. Back in the ’90s, when the economy of some states like South Dakota were booming, nobody could hire labor for minimum wage. The de facto minimum wage was much higher than the de jure minimum wage.

                The difficulty is having that happen at a national level. At the national level that strong an economy often coincides with a little more inflation than we’re comfortable with, so as a matter of policy the Fed actually tries to keep the unemployment rate above the point where labor demand leads to market-driven wage increases. (They do this indirectly–the direct target is interest rates, which determines the inflation rate, which helps determine the unemployment rate.)

                I had a Marxism prof who complained that the Fed purposely put people out of work to keep inflation low. Well, yes, they do. But inflation tends to really suck for the poor, too. A wage increase sounds good, but if prices increase faster, your real wage has decreased. That outcome doesn’t necessarily happen much when the boom is local (although there are plenty of examples of when it does work out like that even for a local boom–for example research prices in the California gold camps, or in Texas oil-boom towns), but it’s really hard to avoid when the boom is national.

                So which is the worse situation? A booming economy with no wage floor, or purposely limited economic growth with a wage floor? Perhaps the purposely limited economic growth with no wage floor is the worst. And since eliminating minimum wages wouldn’t necessarily have any effect on Fed policy, perhaps in our current system it would create the worst outcome. (Because contra what goldbugs like Jack Kemp, or fiscal stimulators like Paul Krugman, say about the economic effects of their policies, the Fed will ultimately determine how hot an economy we’ll have–a point, I should emphasize, that I learned from reading Krugman.)Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                James,
                yes, the supply of money does actually have a good deal to do with how “hot” our economy is.
                But see, right now we’ve got a problem: soaring corporate profits, zilcho investment, zilcho new jobs.
                What does that tell you about what’s going on?
                Link I cited to Roger says “that says consolidation, monopolization…”Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Having no floor creates an even worse situation, tho, doesn’t it?

                I was going to respond to this, but James did it already.

                It certainly *can*, indeed, it may very well be more likely than unlikely, given a particular snapshot of, say, a decade of economic activity. That doesn’t mean that it will, in all situations. In fact, it can be just the converse.

                I have no idea if the current decade would produce conditions that would be worse. I expect not.

                Right now, U.S. labor is vastly overpriced – relative to the world economic labor pool. Raising our minimum wage is just increasing that. I’m massively unconvinced that *eliminating* the minimum wage is necessary, mind you, but I don’t think that raising it solves the problem at the correct layer of abstraction.

                Raising it just continues to provide economic incentives for base, unskilled labor to stay (or continue to migrate) offshore.

                I’d rather see someone working, here, full time, at an unskilled labor position, under non-insane working conditions (textile work or rough manufacturing work but with a 40 hour work week, safety regulations, etc.) and have supplemental income (or subsidized purchasing power) from the welfare state to raise them to a living wage, than to have the private market have the requirement to pay them the living wage. If we agree that the working abject poor is a societal problem and that government is a part of the solution, have government fix the problem at the site of the problem, rather than raise arbitrary thresholds for market actors.

                We like jobs being here. I prefer people working here to not working. Rather than have them not work here because we’ve made it all-too profitable to move those low-skill jobs overseas, keep the jobs here. If our cost of living is so much higher than China’s, well, subsidize the cost of living so that people can do those jobs here. This gives regular employment to goods producers here that will never get past the unskilled labor stage, and entry into the job market for people who will move up the ladder.

                Getting it past the WTO is something of a problem.

                Of course, I’d rather see a public option for base healthcare and the abolition of employer-provided healthcare, as the primary instrument for providing basic health care services, too.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Patrick,

                Your comments have been especially productive throughout. Kudos.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Very nice addendum to what I wrote, Pat. Wish I’d thought to say all that. 😉Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                James, Patrick, Roger – thanks for the replies. I think you guys are clearly seeing my argument here while I still have a bit of work to do to understand your argument.

                {{I had a flash today at work – Aha! I think I see what Roger’s argument is!! – but damned if I can remember now what the insight was.}}Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                {I had a flash today at work – Aha! I think I see what Roger’s argument is!! – but damned if I can remember now what the insight was

                I hate it when that happens.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Chris,

                What pisses us off is not when you tell us what we believe or where it will lead, it is when you tell us what we think and we then clarify that this is wrong and explain in detail (in many cases hundreds of comments). Then the next day you repeat the argument as if we never had the prior discussion.

                The other thing that pisses us off is when you direct a particular argument held by some libertarian somewhere and direct it to one of us as if we believe it. Blaise and MA have pretty much perfected this technique. They are incapable, of losing arguments, because if threatened they just shift to arguing with an imaginary dream libertarian (or conservative in MA’s case), whom they quickly trounce.

                Every time I have offered a position on what those on the left believe and why it is incorrect, I have gotten the same response. The majority of those on the left argue that yes we believe this but it is actually right, not wrong. And a minority on the left object to the accusation. Read the comments on this post and see for yourself. My post on the zero sum fallacy was comical in this regard.

                As for my disengenuity on Walmart, could you please do me a favor and summarize what your argument was again? Please let me know specifically how it is that you believe doubling wages and adding benefits won’t hurt unskilled workers. Lay out the logic please….Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                That’s funny. I’m not the one making a horse’s ass out of himself writing up Progressive Recipes. Will you at long last exhibit a morsel of self-reflection, Roger? Leave Hanley and Jason to argue this case: they know what they’re talking about and can present a cogent argument. You only open your mouth to exchange feet.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Roger, I don’t mean you were disingenuous on Walmart, I mean you are disingenuous here, because we had an entire discussion about raising wages, unions, etc., but here you say the only response you get is handwaving. I’m certain you haven’t forgotten that we had that conversation.

                Also, I ignore M.A. You probably should too.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                The dishonest are always too cowardly to respond to real points, so I’m unsurprised to be able to label you a coward, Chris.

                As for Roger:
                The other thing that pisses us off is when you direct a particular argument held by some libertarian somewhere and direct it to one of us as if we believe it.

                And you know what pisses me off? Cowards like you, like Chris, and yes like Hanley who want to play the “have your cake and eat it too” game. I can point to things written by and said by libertarians, but they’re never by “real libertarians”, or they’re never “accurate portrayals of libertarian thought”, though none of you will ever bother to give an accurate portrayal or point to what you think libertarian theory really is.

                It’s arguing with a bunch of TvD’s, your only tactic is constantly moving the goalposts.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                M.A., this is why I ignore you. My cowardice has blinded you to the fact that I am not a libertarian.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                AS PETER DENIED CHRISTReport

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Also, I blame myself a bit for TVD becoming a sort of League Godwin.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Chris,

                How are you to blame for TVD?Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Not for him, but for the use of his name as an insult to put others down, since I (along with James and a couple others) was one of his earliest and harshest critics here. The early, epic meta-threads about Tom featured me (too) prominently.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Yeah, when I’m tempted to say something about Kim or M.A. derailing threads, I think to myself “Don’t be such a fishing Chris.”

                (I hope it’s clear I’m kidding. Chris is one of my favorite commenters.)Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Thanks Mike, coming from you I take that as quite a compliment. Even if you are a Giants fan.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Mike,
                If i’m ever derailing a thread, I’d like to know about it. Either the discussion is good enough that it ought to go into its own post, or… maybe I could shut up? ;-PReport

            • Avatar Kim says:

              Roger,
              Yes, yes, we do have an argument here. Simply because you think your side is more morally correct doesn’t mean it is.
              1) Pay people enough! People ought not to be slaves and living off government dole, while spending XYZ time a week subsidizing Walmart!

              2) But then people will be out of work. And costing us more on the Government Dole!

              1) Yes. This is exactly what we want.

              [n.b. not grabbing a side. just noting there are two]Report

            • Avatar Creon Critic says:

              Roger,

              You act as though the totality of progressive activism revolves around living wages. What’s more, the living wage campaigns I’m most familiar with (it was a live issue when I was in undergrad) seem pretty reasonable to me. Students on various university campuses arguing their pretty wealthy universities pay employees $10.00 an hour instead of $7.00 an hour. Can you really say the heavens will fall were such a change made, often at universities with multi-billion endowments and pretty healthy budgets? The other context I learn from Wikipedia, I’m far less familiar with off-hand, but apparently campaigners in various municipalities want their city/local governments to provide for living wages in contracting. Again, especially from your prior feting of localities deciding, devolving decision making, and people voting with their feet, how is attaching such provisions to city contracts such a big deal?

              Another point, made elsewhere in the thread about Europe (at 1:03pm), well, it seems like you’ve been ingesting more than the recommended daily allowance of Fox News. You may in fact be straying into “socialist hellhole blogging” territory (NYT). Europe is a diverse continent, different national experiences, etc., etc., but really “substantially poorer, have much higher unemployment, respond slower to economic shocks, have more dependence on government aid”? The human development index, especially the inequality adjusted human development index, suggests that on various measures European countries are doing very well. Unemployment stats depend on which European country you’re looking at, some underperform the US and some outperform the US. I’d add that disaggregating US stats by individual states would reveal some pretty awful performance in child poverty, amongst other social welfare measures.

              Lastly, I think the reason you get some ill-tempered pushback from some quarters is that you act as though liberals are knaves, or corrupt, or corrupt knaves (to steal George Will’s admonishing Paul Krugman on This Week). One of the lessons I’ve learned from hanging out around these parts is to have a little bit more respect for perspectives that start with different premises. You’ll likely get further saying, you care about outcome A, here’s why policies X and Y don’t get you where you want to go and policy Z does (which isn’t to say you haven’t argued in that charitable to alternatives fashion before, I recall entirely constructive conversations with you earlier on sweatshops and on positive rights). You’ll get a lot less farther saying, megalomaniacal liberal master planners out for their own aggrandizement pushing welfare dependency like heroin. The heroin-pushing liberals mode makes for fireworks (and perhaps for some, fun reading), but don’t be surprised if some will write you off as a FYIGM libertarian/conservative.Report

              • Avatar wardsmith says:

                Creon, Roger has spoken eloquently and at some length to those such as MA who do not deserve the respect he has shown them. Yes he is perfectly capable of having polite discourse, but I for one cannot blame him for showing his less than perfect form given what he has to put up with. Blaise and MA both argue out both sides of their keyboards, ignore points at will and squirm around far worse than TVD ever did on his worst day, all the while accusing the other side (projecting as it were) of doing what they themselves have done.

                I put up an OP almost a year ago saying (but not as well) precisely this. I used the examples of other despots out there who started out with the best of intentions (help the poor), while feathering their own nest. As stated most clearly in 1984 Obrien’s speech, the idea of using the poor as the stepping stone to power is not at all new, the genius of the “party” was to ignore the poor and hold on to power for power’s sake and nothing else.

                The rules of economics are just that, rules. No matter how elastic or inelastic you try to make the curves, they respond to economic stimulus (or lack thereof) like all functions do. You cannot push on a string and you cannot make unskilled employees suddenly valuable. Skills create value. There are millions of jobs wanting in this country because there are millions of insufficiently skilled workers unable to take those positions.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Roger has done what precisely? Rewritten a “quote” of one of my comments (on the now apparently deleted “don’t eat the marshmallow” post) to make it sound like he was quoting an anti-semite, then refused to apologize and continues to refuse to apologize to this day. And that’s “showing respect”?

                He’s incapable of honest discourse, polite discourse, or anything other than trolling.

                The rules of economics are just that, rules.

                Something conservatives would do well to remember, and maybe start getting an education about, since you conservatives obviously don’t understand the first thing about economics.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Arguing out of both sides of my keyboard. There’s a first. My advice for you is to leave Roger to fend for himself and leave my handle out of this. You aren’t going to save his arguments.Report

              • Avatar Creon Critic says:

                Wardsmith (and anyone else who would care to reply),

                I have waved a magic wand and appointed you President of Harvard University, circa 1998. Harvard’s endowment in 1998, $11 billion.* A group of students comes to you and says: Dining room staff, janitors, and security guards are not being paid a living wage, we want to discuss increasing their wage from minimum wage (or something a little above it) up towards maybe $10 or $11 an hour.** They argue “people are more important than things” (John Paul II), and this is the morally right thing to do.

                How do you respond? To what extent should this be a priority? If the arguments presented don’’t convince you, what arguments – if any – would you find more compelling?

                * Yes I’ve heard Ivy League university presidents go on about how endowments represent many funds, some donor directed, aggregated so the headline figure doesn’t necessarily represent the amount of money the central administration has to play with. Also heard Ivy presidents comment that what really matters is endowment per student, so in reality Princeton, not Harvard, is the university to beat. Let’s just say for the sake of argument that Harvard has substantial sums at its discretion.

                ** What actually happened, according to the timeline from the campaigners is slightly more complicated, a local ordinance, a series of letters, then protests, etc. But again, simplifying for the sake of discussion.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Creon,
                As the President of Harvard, I would definitely consider raising the minimum wage up to a living wage (I will say $15 per hour with full benefits). This is an entirely reasonable thing to do, especially considering how colleges are funded via various grants and contributions.

                I would explain though to the students that the following will occur:
                1) a higher caliber of candidates will now apply for every job. Substantially higher wages will attract substantially better quality.
                2) with higher quality, higher wage employees, jobs will be redesigned. Jobs that no longer make sense from a cost benefit scenario will now be eliminated or consolidated into new ones.
                3) over time, the type of person filling those jobs today– recent immigrants, people with learning or behavioral issues, less educated, problems with authority, new to job market, etc, will be replaced with an entirely different class of employee. In other words, those most needing jobs tomorrow will not be getting them tomorrow. The net effect of this action will be to eliminate the need for the most disadvantaged on his campus.

                Small changes to wages will have smaller effects. Larger changes will have larger effects.

                I would recommend against the action as it will indirectly hurt those it pretends to help.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                I would explain though to the students that the following will occur:
                1) a higher caliber of candidates will now apply for every job. Substantially higher wages will attract substantially better quality….3) over time, the type of person filling those jobs today– recent immigrants, people with learning or behavioral issues, less educated, problems with authority, new to job market, etc, will be replaced with an entirely different class of employee.

                This can’t be stressed too much. It’s not simply that when offering a higher wage an employer can be expected to demand more productivity, but that the higher wage will automatically attract higher quality/more productive job candidates. Initially it is the current set of workers who will benefit, but over time it will be a very different class of people, and the low-skilled folks will no longer be employed there.

                It will also create more push for automation, where possible (goodby lunch ladies, hello food dispensing machines).

                Its sometimes said that the primary lesson of economics is to look beyond the first order effect, look beyond what is readily seen as the outcome of an action to the subsequent effects that are not so immediately evident.Report

              • Avatar wardsmith says:

                Creon, as Roger has already pointed out, the net outcome of your scenario is to hire a bunch of Good Will Hunting’s. If I were the president of Harvard, I’d sooner dip into that trust fund and give out more academic scholarships.

                I would rather this point were made below where there’s bound to be more room, but the whole business of minimum wage jobs ignores the fact that these jobs are all intended to be ENTRY LEVEL WORK!!! Here’s the problem in the US> People take an entry level job and NEVER LEAVE! This creates two problems, first they have no social mobility of their own, and second they are keeping valid entry level workers from taking those same positions. I know immigrants who think they’ve died and gone to heaven when they get a job here in the US that is at minimum wage. Compared to what they were able to make in the old country, they are rich (and inf fact on a worldwide scale they are most certainly rich, regardless of what MA imagines in his politics of envy).

                The problem with Americans is they are spoiled after only a couple of generations into a sense of entitlement that they did nothing to deserve. Immigrants generally had it worse and therefore contribute better, which is why I’m so pro-immigration. The problem ala Gangs of New York is that too many immigrants go to the same places (East LA, Bronx) and literally get in each other’s way. They’d be far better served to go to other places like North Dakota where they are wanted and needed.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                The problem with Americans is they are spoiled after only a couple of generations into a sense of entitlement that they did nothing to deserve. Immigrants generally had it worse and therefore contribute better, which is why I’m so pro-immigration.

                Hallelujah, brother. Amen. The entitlement culture among white American males in particular is killing us. And I don’t mean government entitlement programs. I mean college students who think just showing to a majority of classes should earn them at least a B. Kids who’ve been given so damn much by their parents and never been asked to work that they don’t understand that it’s only hard work that ultimately makes getting that stuff possible. If America remains a great country, it won’t be because of them, but because of the immigrants, wherever in the world they come from.Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                James, I most particularly agree with this. I grew up farming; from the time I was able, I worked, and worked hard (plus went to school, etc.), and had a definite sense that I contributed to my family’s well being.

                That being of value anchors and shapes you. And most kids, including my own, do not have it any longer. It’s not that I want to repeal child labor laws; but it seems crucial for young people growing to shoulder responsibility; a sense that if they don’t, things will go badly, today.

                Perhaps it’s really about creating a constructive senese of belonging. Because belong we will, or at least most of us will, for we’re tribal.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                The Good Will Hunting effect. Nice, Wardsmith.

                This is the perfect phrase to summarize our concern with living wages. It seems like it is a shortcut to help the unskilled. The second order effects though are to eliminate unskilled jobs and replace those that can’t be eliminated with skilled jobs.

                The real question we should ask is why our labor markets are out of sorts. Why are heads of households taking entry level jobs?

                I know the left doesn’t agree, but I believe we have distorted the labor market with too much interference, and poorly designed income transfers. Solving this via more interference or more poorly designed transfers just drives the nails into the coffin.Report

              • Avatar Creon Critic says:

                Roger, James, and Wardsmith,
                I will concede you three make entirely fair points about the increase in wages attracting more high quality applicants, second order consequences some years down the line, and so on. And yet, the incumbents will benefit from the change immediately. The activists are calling for the university to behave in a community-minded manner that non-living wages run counter to, particularly when the university in question can afford to behave better.

                I’m less convinced by the innovation and job redesign points. Not sure how widespread this practice is but in undergrad dorms required 24 hour human security guard at the reception desk. This was not negotiable (I think due to a murder at the university in the 1990s). Security guards couldn’t be replaced by security cameras and reception desks could not go unattended. Regarding janitorial staff, again, maybe my limited imagination, but there are regular maintenance and upkeep of facilities that just needs to get done. I have no experience with automated dining room attendance.

                Also, just to muddy the waters some, the points you make about the sense of entitlement of Americans limiting the scope of jobs they’re willing to take runs counter to the idea of these jobs, janitorial, security guard, and dining hall attendant, no longer serving as opportunities for the less qualified, immigrants, and low skilled. Just as many farm laborer positions aren’t perceived as desirable and are eschewed by native-born population (not a sensibility unique to America btw, in Britain I recall reports of precisely this attitude), these jobs, even with higher pay, may continue to serve as ladders of opportunity for immigrants and the low skilled. Even in a scenario where these jobs are no longer open to entry-level applicants, they still serve as a next rung for those who may have built up experience outside the university environment.

                Perhaps I’ll just return to this point because it is stripped away in the economic analysis, the question of what kind of institution these universities claim to be, how they conduct themselves in their communities, these identity and idea-based issues go unaccounted for when just speaking of applicants and wage rates. You underestimate the number of lofty speeches deans and university presidents make about how universities are making the world a better place. Is it any wonder that students should ask the administrators to live up to their souring rhetoric?Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                The solution to all economic problems is to hurt the poor in the short run, because it will help them in the long run, and to help the rich in the short term, because it will help everyone in the long term.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                “…live up to their souring rhetoric?”

                My thoughts exactly. Lol.

                Yeah, as Mike pithily clarifies, I would recommend the nation choose the long range. As a college Dean I would be tempted to do what I thought made me look good and which served the interests of my constituents. I might actually side with Creon.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Creon,

                If I had to pay a security guard $15/hour instead of $7.5o, I’d shift away from the average rent-a-cop and look for people with real security training. Why not make sure the Uni gets its money’s worth? (And then I can boast about how much safer I’ve made our students, impress the Board of Trustees, and get that renovation of my office, which is where the Uni’s money really should be going.)Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Hi Creon,

                Living wages is simply a recent and telling example, not a defining issue. I don’t think minimum wage increases, especially if small, are going to shake the pillars of hell. They will just make labor markets less healthy and responsive and make the engine of prosperity a little bit rustier and less efficient. The more interference the worse, especially for those most affected (the less skilled, minorities, immigrants, etc). In summary, I am totally convinced that the more misguided interference we do the poorer we will all be. I am especially appalled by government monopolies forcing artificially higher wages on us. 

                I had a lengthy discussion with Shazbot on the Europe discussion.  To state it as simply as possible, Europe does have considerably lower standards of living. According to the “Luxembourg  Wealth Study” median disposable personal income in the U.S., adjusted to reflect purchasing power parity, was 68 percent higher than in Finland; 45 percent higher than in Germany; 59 percent higher than in Italy; 31 percent higher than in Norway; 73 percent higher than in Sweden; and 31 percent higher than in the United Kingdom. But I am sure the herring tastes great

                They also have higher unemployment currently and over the last few decades. They have slower growth rates despite having the advantage of playing catch up to the US technologically. I agree that performance differs by nation and by US state, but I find nothing to reveal that the US should emulate Europe. If Fox News has come to the same conclusion, then they are right. 

                A question though… Are the poor in Europe better off than the poor in the US? I’ve never seen this answered.  I will acknowledge that the US has an income mobility issue with lower quintile males.  Once again though this is more likely an effect of labor interference, not something to be solved by more of the same. 

                As for the “heroin-pushing liberal” comment, do you really believe:
                1) that politicians wouldn’t push for a program that furthers their careers even though it hurts those it is purported to help?
                2) that some good intentions don’t lead to bad results?
                3) that bureaucrat’s and managers of the various public aid agencies are not doing everything in their power to extend the funding of their agency?
                4) that those making a career fighting for victims aren’t indirectly rewarded if their actions accidentally lead to more victims?

                The left is in the business of finding, creating and maintaining victims. This is their business model, and they are great at it, whether they recognize it or not. 

                I do care about people. There are ways to work together to accomplish more and to do so without creating a permanent victim and rescue class.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                a permanent victim and rescue class

                Do you even listen to yourself?

                This is what I don’t get. You think you’re being cute, you think sometimes you’re being inspirational talking about how conservatives “want everyone to be successful” (if they would only “pull themselves up by their bootstraps”).

                Ever listen to conservatives talk? I had to put up with two of them today bloviating about how one started his own business, how “easy” it was, how “anybody could do it”, how he’s making 6 figures now. Turns out his “easy” business came through a church friend, who just so happens to run an extremely large company, and his “own business” is that he incorporated himself (with his wife as “official business owner”) and is basically a company employee for himself but also taking the tax advantages of claiming to be a “minority owned business.”

                And this sort of fishing tax fraud is what conservatives use anecdotally to talk about how “easy” it is to create businesses. Because when they can claim it’s “easy” to start a business, or “easy” to find a job in a high-unemployment climate, or “easy” to mix trying to get job training with finding work with keeping a family together, then anyone who’s poor must be some sort of loser, right?Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                The left is in the business of finding, creating and maintaining victims. This is their business model, and they are great at it, whether they recognize it or not.

                What a whopper of a pathetic lie. No seriously, this shouldn’t even need rebuttal.

                The Left gave us the 40 hour workweek; the Right is trying to take it away.

                The Left gave us workplace safety regulations; this was AFTER the right wing Supreme Court originally ruled them an unconstitutional infringement of business owners’ rights (Lochner v. New York) and it took until 1937 for the Supremes to get their heads out of their rear ends, after 3 decades of work by the Left to show how wrong the Supremes had been on the matter.

                It took immense and steady work by the Left to get Bowers v. Hardwick overturned.

                We don’t create victims. The Soulless Right and the abusive upper classes do that just fine on their own, we’re doing our best to pick up the pieces and limit the damage that people like you keep causing.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                I was going to make some snide comment about how it’s true, liberals/progressives/the left do try to help “victims,” sometimes (though not always) without empowering them, but conservatives and libertarians don’t want to help or empower them. But that would be just more of the same bullshit that’s become the blow-trading norm between the libertarians and the liberals here, and while I find it amusing sometimes, after a while when one of the liberals or libertarians latches onto a particular cudgel and uses it repeatedly, it becomes more annoying than anything else.

                Look, I think it’s important to separate out what politicians do and what their constituencies actually want. Politicians , both Democrats and Republicans are in the business of maintaining power, and so it’s in their interest to maintain their constituencies. On both sides, this means creating victims and then acting as if to rescue them (but you can’t rescue them too much, because then they might cease to be a viable constituency). What the people outside of power who actually think about this shit want, however, is different, on both sides. I can’t imagine anyone whose power doesn’t depend on it wants to maintain a permanent underclass, for example, as both Democrats and Republicans in essence do.

                Also, Roger, I think you’re a bright guy, but every time you pretend as though the economics were not only straightforward but tautologically in favor of your own position, I find myself less interested in reading anything you write. I suspect I’m not the only one. It reminds me of the discussions of religion on some atheist blogs, in which the zealous atheist yells that all of the arguments for God are absurd, and perhaps provides a superficial argument for the claim, and then says to anyone who disagrees with him (it’s usually a him), “You just don’t understand reason and science.” For anyone who’s interested in the tough, complex questions that are raised by metaphysics, or economics, such tactics are a major turnoff.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Chris,

                I believe it is essential to provide aid to those that need it in ways which do not create dependency and a permanent class of saviors. The latter is not just limited to politians, but to those employed by and running the various agencies of aid too. Furthermore, it does not need to be intentional. The system dynamics of large bureaucracies will naturally lead to actions which extend their power and control of resources. People who really want to help the poor will be attracted to organizations which indirectly flourish upon their dependency.

                The question thus becomes how can we aid those requiring aid in ways which don’t create a victim and savior class? This is the area where libertarians and the left could align.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                The question thus becomes how can we aid those requiring aid in ways which don’t create a victim and savior class?

                Maybe by giving them a living wage, a quality education, health care, subsidized child care, and other things that provide equality of opportunity. See, we’re right back to where we started, and no one has suggested we create a permanent victim class.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Chris,

                You aren’t trying very hard.

                I have repeatedly tried to explain that mandating a living wage in effect is a mandate NOT to hire the unskilled. Thus it will lead to the victim class. If you disagree with my logic or lack thereof, please explain where I am wrong.

                We spend more per student on education than pretty much anywhere on earth, and yet what a libertarian sees is a giant bureaucracy where rent seekers and administrators have siphoned off as much as they can at the expense of students, especially where the victim class lives. Another perfect example of victim and rescue class in action.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                I haven’t followed the whole thread, but if every working person earns a living wage, won’t that possibly drive up prices to the point that that living wage is no longer a living wage?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                How you do keep harping on this Victim and Saviour theme! Want fewer victims and saviours? How about allowing the “victims” to organise into trade unions? How about removing the corporate welfare which subsidises Walmart’s wage slavery? The poor don’t want handouts. They want rights in law.

                For all their mealy-mouthed support for Voluntary Organisations, when the rubber meets the road, the Libertarian will always take the side of the Oppressor and his rights in law against the rights of the Oppressed and their rights in law to organise. The very idea of a “living wage” is anathema to Cato Institute. All the Libertarians ever do is grease the skids on the sled ride to the bottom. They will never agree with the Left, ever. They’re all for Laws, yes they are — just not for the bureaucrats who enforce the laws.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Kazzy,

                I’d say it will a little bit, but it becomes somewhat of a forced transfer from those not benefiting from the mandate to those that do.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Blaise,

                This is an example of you arguing with a phantom libertarian. I actually agree strongly with half of what you assume I disagree with.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                I’m not sure I follow… if the living wage is mandated, who would not benefit? The people who go unhired because of the increased costs of labor? That part I get.

                What I mean is that a living wage could lead to more money overall being earned/spent on labor; if a mandate comes to pass, some companies can’t just cut positions because they need those positions. This will drive up prices for two reasons: increased costs and inflation. This will have a HUGE impact on the unemployed but will also impact those earning the new “living wage”, which may no longer be a living wage if everything is 50% more expensive. You end up in an unwinnable arms race.

                If we’re going to make changes on wealth and income inequality, it is going to happen broadly at the socio-cultural level. It’s going to happen because our values shift. It’s not going to happen with mandates.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                After you put up your Progressive Cookbook, Roger, I don’t want to hear a goddamn thing out of your head about Phantom Anybody.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Roger, no, I’m not trying very hard, because we’ve been over this before ad nauseum, and it’s quite clear at this point that we’re operating with different models. The outputs of your model and mine are different, both short term and long term, and this is largely a result of values rather than empirical reality.

                Also, I would be reasonably happy with a guaranteed minimum income, within our current system (which I’d rather scrap altogether), which would make a living wage irrelevant.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Kazzy,
                more money to the spender class means more jobs for our economy.
                consumer spending drives it, ya know?Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Blaise,

                What is your point? That if I write something you disagree with that you can respond to imaginary arguments I dont believe in as some kind of right?

                Ok. Fine. Good idea…Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Chris,

                “…it’s quite clear at this point that we’re operating with different models.”

                This was indeed the point of this post. I laid out an obviously different model which I obviously don’t agree with. I am not sure though that it is just a matter of values (though it certainly is partially about values). I do not believe that most of those on the left want to create a permanent victim/rescue class. Thus it becomes a somewhat empirical argument on whether this is indeed the case.

                ” The outputs of your model and mine are different, both short term and long term”

                And the way we test these theories is to design competing models and allow time for people to choose between them. If it is a question of values, the competition between institutional solutions will allow those sharing your values to choose it and live with the results, and the same for those choosing mine. My model assumes that I may very well be wrong, and allows for institutional solutions to correct for it.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Kim,

                Sure. But the idea of a mandated living wage is a bit of a myth. As soon as you set the bar, the required amount will shift upwards.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Kazzy,
                Oh, don’t fuck with me like that! ;-P
                With me, it might very well shift downwards.
                After all, if you could have 6 people living in 300 sq. ft. tenement apartments…
                Americans didn’t used to be that squeamish about letting their kids see their parents having sex, that’s for sure!

                And much of our current “need” for living space is outmoded anyway. Who needs a library when you have the internet? How about a “home office” when you have a laptop?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                a living wage could lead to more money overall being earned/spent on labor

                I don’t think that’s at all certain. That extra income for those folks is drawn off from somewhere else. Call that source X. Source X therefore has less to spend, but on what?

                If source X is consumers, because a living wage increases prices (assume, for the moment, the businesses can pass on all the increased labor cost through price increases), consumers have less to spend elsewhere. That means less employment elsewhere. So in that scenario a living wage would not lead to more money being spent on labor.

                If source X is business investment (assume businesses are unable to pass on any of the increased labor cost through price increases), then businesses will invest less. They’ll buy less capital equipment, they won’t expand as much, they’ll only buy new uniforms for their employees every 5 years instead of 3 (made up numbers, of course). That means less employment elsewhere. So in this scenario, a living wage would still not lead to more money being spent on labor.

                Let’s say it’s such a competitive market that businesses can’t pass on any of the cost through price increases, and if they don’t continue to invest consumers will go to the stores that do. And like most businesses, they operate on a pretty thin profit margin. They can’t reduce that anymore or it will make more sense just to close the business and invest the money in currency markets. So let’s say the company takes the bite, decides to be a good citizen, and slashes the pay of its management. Set aside the fact that in most cases slashing the pay of management won’t cover the increased labor costs, and set aside the fact that this could cause the firm to lose much of its competent management staff–pretend nothing changes but that management pay declines. What does management do with its pay? It goes out to eat, goes to the theater and sporting events, buys fancy new homes, fancy cars, yachts, a membership at the Snoot Club, etc., and also invests some of it in ways that send the money back into action, as whenever someone borrows money from the bank (deposited there by the well-paid manager in some form of investment or other) so they can buy new windows for their house. Shift that money from the management to the laborers, and you shift spending from one sector to another–you increase employment where the laborers spend their money but decrease it where the management spends its money. Again,no actual gain in the amount of money spent on labor.

                OK, so let’s say some of the managers money currently goes into the stock market, where they buy some stock, sell some other stock, and so on, some goes into international currency markets, and some goes into government securities. Most of that still comes back into the economy to hire labor. The government securities fund government programs, from welfare (whose recipients spend their money, putting people to work) to road programs (which hire labor to build roads), and so on. The international currency markets work because somebody wants to buy the dollars I’m willing to sell for rubles (or whatever), and people mostly buy dollars because they want to buy things in America, where we don’t accept rubles. So through a roundabout mechanism that money is still putting people to work. So diminishing the total amount management can spend on government securities and in the international currency markets still won’t increase spending on labor, but only shift it.

                The one area where I think there might be a point is in the stock market. If I buy stocks, then sell them, and only use that money to buy more stocks, my I’m not using my money–at least directly–for putting people to work. But what about the people I buy stocks from? It depends what they do with their money. If they just buy more stocks, then they’re also not putting people to work. But what about the people they buy the stocks from? If there’s a large enough pool of people who just buy and sell stocks without ever moving their money out of the stock market, then maybe they’re not hiring much labor (except for some stockbrokers and janitorial crew at the Stock Exchange), but at least some of that money trickles out, because when my mom spent $30,000 to put an addition on her house, she paid for it by selling some of the stock she earned from years of working at General Electric–whoever bought it, the money they paid left the stock market and put a bunch of Amish laborers to work. And eventually all, or almost all, of that money has to leave the stock market sooner or later (not all at once, of course), because when my mom dies and I inherit a portion of that stock, the government’s going to take a portion of it, and who knows what I’ll do with it–maybe I’ll keep it as stock, or sell it to buy other stock, or maybe I’ll sell it to build my dream house, or to pay for my kids’ college, etc. etc.

                So when we say giving low-wage employees higher incomes will lead to more money being spent on labor it’s not really so straightforward as that. It assumes that the money that will be shifted to them is currently somewhere where it’s not being spent on labor. And it’s pretty hard to find money that doesn’t get spent on labor, even if it sometimes takes a circuitous path to get there.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Roger, if we’re going to look at outputs, I’m going to side with the quality of life, and income mobility, of Europe. So I’ve already chosen based on outcomes and values.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                James,
                Yes, it does eventually hit labor. At least most of it. some of it’s just grifting.
                But some of it hits quicker, and cycles faster than others. Paycheck to paycheck is quick money. That 30% of Americans who don’t have 1000 in their bank? that’s quick money.

                Good thrifty folks like me keep a years’ worth of money around. That’s slow money. Yeah,s ure, you give me a 77% off coupon on something I already wanted, and I buy it… but most of the time, the money sits around in my savings for an entire fucking year before it gets spent (on gas, or electricity).

                And most money in the stock market is savings… 75% of it is dumb money, after all.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                James,

                But what are you calling “labor”? Does a CEO making $200M a year (granted, not a reality for the vast majority of businesses) qualify as “labor”?

                If so, that is where I’d point to a broader societal issue. That CEO is unlikely to practically feel the difference between making $200M and $190M a year. If society as a whole put less emphasis on the greed principle and the overwhelming value of the individual, that CEO might make no qualms with a salary reduction of $10M out of a total compensation package of $200M. That company would then be better position to spend money on the lowest rungs of the labor ladder, without necessarily increasing prices or cutting spending elsewhere.

                And I don’t think any of this should be mandated by the government. This should happen only if/when our society decides collectively that we’d prefer to do things a different way and volunteer to do so.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                This is my point, Roger. You can erect Straw Men, beg questions, impute motive, pretty much any ornery thing you want to say about progressives — but let someone call you on it, now you want to make it about you? Your Progressive Recipes were way out of line. If you want to know what progressives believe, you might exhibit the decency to ask us. That you have not done.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Blaise,

                I have spent the two years asking what you guys believe and seeing how you respond. I played the tape back so you could hear. I am very well aware that it says more about my interpretation of the left than the left itself. That is the nature of the game.

                I could easily give dozens of examples of how those on the left divide the world into the oppressed and the oppressors. I really find it fascinating. And not because it is never true, but because it becomes such a cliche.

                I could also give myriads of examples of how those on the left reflexively try to solve problems from the top down. There is another way to solve problems other than creating a rule, a law or an agency.

                If you think I am wrong about those on the left, please say so. Explain why. If you think the observations are true but my conclusions are wrong (for example that the world is best viewed as victims and oppressors) then again just explain why.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Roger, if you’d paid any attention to what progressives were saying, you would never have pooped out that Progressive Recipe Book. Nothing annoys us so much in others as what they find annoying in us.

                Don’t give me that crap about Top Down Solutions. Laws are enacted for the preservation of our rights and the prosecution of criminals who violate them. Law is by definition a top-down proposition and if our lawmakers have become corrupted by those who advocate for the repeal of sound regulation in pursuit of short term profits at the expense of society at large, that diagnosis is a Progressive Position, one I have yet to see adopted by the Libertarians, for whom the Market shall solve every problem from Measles to Menstrual Cramps.

                There is a happy medium between the rights of the individual and the rule of law. As society evolves, so much law, in the recalculation of that happy medium. The recognition of that evolutionary process and the never-ending search for that Happy Medium is the core doctrine of the Progressive. That’s what we believe. And Libertarians damn us for it.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Nothing annoys us so much in others as what they find annoying in us.

                So you’re as guilty as Roger?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Why look at what they say when one can look at what they do and the results of policies?

                Is there any place we can look at and say “well! The Progressives were in charge and this is the culture we need to adopt and these are the policies we need to establish and *THEN* we can finally have a place like that!”?

                I’ve seen Northern Europe held up as a beacon, for example.

                Are there any of the 50 states we could look at?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Are you trying to ride in to Roger’s rescue here, James? Maybe you can write a brief in defence of his Progressive Recipes. He’s not doing such a good job.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Roger,
                Oh, come now, they aren’t ALL sheep. Some of us are foxes, and live with foxes. And some are, of course, lions. Lazy and stupid and living on someone else’s dime (their daddy’s).

                Victims will always be victims, on the main. Some baby will always fall into the puppy pit and get bitten to death. Voila, another victim.

                Sheep give birth to foxes a good deal of the time, though, and I can cite you sources on how hard it is for those foxes to do anything other than become tip-top drugdealers.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Jaybird,
                How about Montana? Or Pennsylvania?
                Can’t take a state that’s been too blue, for too long. Machine states suck, and it don’t matter the color.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Are there any of the 50 states we could look at?

                Heh. Go down to your grocery store. Look at what the Progressives did to regulate sanitation. Flush your toilet. Same story. Progressive legislation led to sewage systems. Look at workplace safety. Child labour laws. Manufactured goods safety.

                In short, Jaybird, I defy you to look at any aspect of any viable market in goods and services and tell me where Progressive Legislation hasn’t had an impact.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Colorado, then? Good enough.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                No, Blaise, I’m just saying it’s clear that you’re very annoyed with Roger. So by your own words, that must mean you’re seeing something of yourself in him.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                James, seconds out. Progressive Recipes are the topic at hand. You and I used to play little games of exactly this sort: I’d say Libertarians were this and you James Hanley weren’t exactly congruent with All That and we kinda came to a position where we’d argue from our own respective viewpoints and avoid Glittering Generalisation.

                It’s time Roger learned that lesson, too. It’s stupid and annoying. You want to fight his battles, you pick up his Recipe Book and let’s have the same old fights all over again, showing we learned nothing.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Blaise,

                The comments to which you’re responding weren’t a defense of Roger’s post.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                I’m not going here with you on this, James. Roger says I’m arguing with Phantom Libertarians, I say his Progressive Recipes are so many begged questions. I’ve put up what Progressives believe in response to this.

                And yeah, can I be angry about these Progressive Recipes? Do you think it’s reasonable to troll like that? Do you think it leads to productive discussion and finding points of agreement? Don’t you wade in here with your tu-quoque about how I’m as wrong as he is. I’ve repeatedly asked you to stay out of this or contribute something of substance. One or the other, James.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Nothing annoys us so much in others as what they find annoying in us.

                Your words. If you don’t want anyone to respond to them, don’t say them. If you don’t want to have to apply them to yourself, don’t say them. If you want to be annoyed at me for holding you to your own words about what annoys in others, well, then it gets a bit through-the-looking-glass, doesn’t it?

                Please don’t get pissed off at me for what you said. Have a good weekend, shed some tears for the lost children, and let’s drown our sorrows in good bourbon.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Blaise,

                You provided one substantive comment through this entire thread.

                https://ordinary-times.com/blog/2012/12/a-well-balanced-recipe-for-the-nation/#comment-433724

                In this comment you expressly agreed (twice) that the world is indeed divided into victims and oppressors. You then defended that the left wants to assume the levers of power (and should).

                You are the living proof of my argument. After I pointed this out, you have just been nasty. Would you like to retract your above comments, or were you agreeing with me facetiously? Perhaps I missed your joke.

                In other words, where exactly do you disagree with me? Please, no name calling. No obfuscations about all you libertarians want to do is institute a gold standard.

                Do you agree with me? If not where do you disagree?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Yes I do believe that Oppressors oppress Victims. I believe they do so because they can. I furthermore laid out how such oppression happens and how such things might be addressed, from the Progressive viewpoint.

                Clearly, you do not agree with the idea of Victims or Oppressors. This is standard Libertarian doctrine of voluntary association, that the individual allows himself to be oppressed, that he could avoid such oppression by quitting his job and finding another, that all capitalism is a quid-pro-quo between what the Market will bear and the Worker will tolerate.

                You will keep a civil tongue in your head, Roger. I will not be called Nasty by the likes of you. I’ve put forward as reasonable a defence of my positions as I can manage. Your responses have been nothing but so much contemptible whining and denial of the sufferings of others and sneering at any possibilities for improvements. You want to deny there are Victims? Have it your way. Such thinking has a long tradition, going back to Plato’s Republic. If I do not subscribe to them, I will in like manner treat your positions with the entirely deserved contempt you’ve demonstrated towards Progressive positions.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Chris,

                Kind of like Sweden, huh? LOL

                This gets back to my questions on Europe. I’ve still never seen any proof at all that the poor are better off there. I’m fine with you choosing a substantially lower standard of living, higher average unemployment, more systemic unemployment, lower growth rate and slower bounce back from economic shocks, if that is what you like. Not a very persuasive argument though to those of us that haven’t drank the Kool Aid though.

                There is a liberal meme that Europe is better. Other than the aforementioned problem on mobility issue with males, how, exactly are they better? The only other argument I have heard is some kind of happiness scale which includes union membership as a factor of human well being.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                What do you know about Sweden? Ever been there? Let me tell you a bit about Sweden and how it manages to keep things on track. Until quite recently, when a flood of refugees entered Sweden, nobody much complained about the social welfare state. See, while everyone could see himself in the other guy, white Swedish guy that is, it was just great.

                But now, with all these refugees flooding in, the Swedes have changed their tune. Now there’s a very ugly ultra-right-wing party cropping up, the SD, very anti-immigration. Fascist roots and fascist overtones. Racial purity. Nationalism.

                See, it happens everywhere. Socialism works when everyone sees himself as just part of the group, hey, we’re all in this together. But let some Hated Other crop up, well, so do the haters. It’s just that simple.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Blaise,

                You’ve frequently called me much worse. Bygones.

                OK, so we agree that progressives frequently view relationships as oppressor and victims. Good.

                You are right that I view oppression through a lens of coercion. This clarifies a key distinction between our views. I do not view employers or white/Asian, or wealthy people as oppressors based upon their status relative to the less powerful. The essential thing for me is whether they used coercion or fraud. If an employer offers a job, I think they are doing good and making the world better, not acting as exploiters.

                And for the record, I firmly agree with equality of opportunity and institutional escalators to help the disadvantaged become more advantaged. I also think it is totally essential that these be built in ways which do not create a victim or rescuer class.

                Can we hug now?Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Never been there. I did briefly travel through Finland a couple of months ago and was totally impressed.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Roger, in what way do you think, say, France or Denmark or Germany have a lower standard of living than the U.S.?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Chris, probably this.

                Of course it’s an imperfect measure. Before we could really talk meaningfully about standard of living we’d have to have an agreement on how we should measure it, and because values are so subjective, I don’t think we really could agree. Some people will reasonably insist that income security is an important element of standard of living, while for my own part my standard of living calculation must necessarily include having a sizable back yard and a sittable front porch.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                James, highly imperfect, but it also illustrates the value difference at the heart of this discussion. I’m more interested in things like health, infant mortality rate, economic mobility, leisure time, etc., none of which are reliability correlated with GDP at the upper levels (that is, for these things, GDP obeys a law of diminishing returns).Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Chris,

                Yep. Exactly. I don’t think GDP per cap is meaningless–there’s a strong correlation between low GDP per cap and unhappiness–but obviously it’s not a very rich measure. Well, I suppose it’s a rich measure of possibility, just not of actuality (at an extreme, if all the money in the U.S. magically shifted to my bank account tonight, GDP per cap wouldn’t change, but obviously nearly everyone’s standard of living would). And of course GDP per cap doesn’t take into account cost of living (which is relevant in comparing right-to-work vs. closed-shop states in the U.S.).

                Unfortunately most of the alternatives I’ve seen suffer from being pretty obviously ideological. That’s hard to avoid when we’re talking about values, after all, but it seems like we might be able to build a multi-variate measure that’s non-ideological that a large majority of non-ideological people could agree to it.

                There is an approach that I think is a pretty good starting point, but for the life of me after a few days of grading I can’t think of it, and since I’m about to head off to a Christmas party I can’t be bothered to look for it. It might be something worth writing a guest post about sometime, though.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Chris,

                (Thanks James)

                So we have data on mobility, living standards, growth rates and unemployment. But I would be very interested in seeing data on living standards of the poor, or lifespan,or liesure, again adjusted for obvious factors. I am not sure if Europe really is better for the poor, or if this is more of a myth.

                Shazbot and Creon also have a wellness index, but it is not something that resonates with me when I look at the scoring.

                If I was to be poor, would I rather be poor here or there?Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Roger,
                dailykos just had some numbers up about living on $2 a day in America. You might want to ping the researchers, they can probably suggest similar research in Europe.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Kim,

                Thanks. There are indeed some people that make nothing at certain phases of their lives. That is why we have public and private safety nets. These are exactly who should get the lion’s share of benefits, rather than corporate subsidies and transfers from the middle back to the middle.Report

              • Avatar Creon Critic says:

                Roger,

                Are the poor in Europe better off than the poor in the US?

                I’d argue the answer is yes. Less social mobility in the US, more inequality in the US, more child poverty in the US, and compounded with less aggressive measures to combat child poverty in the US.

                1) that politicians wouldn’t push for a program that furthers their careers even though it hurts those it is purported to help?

                This resembles a “when did you stop beating your wife?” question to me. Yes, there are unscrupulous politicians out there willing to advance their careers at the expense of segments of the society (very difficult not to take a cheap shot at the republicans at this point!). It is also possible for politicians to push programs that benefits millions of people and increases the prospects for social mobility: free and reduced price school meals, head start, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, Pell Grants…

                I’d argue that the macro-history of left of center politics in America does not fit this mold of programs for self-aggrandizement at the expense of the poor. The first thing that comes to mind is elder poverty, Social Security, and the Great Society programs. Sustained government intervention changed the contours of poverty in the US. Altogether these programs accomplish what social insurance hopes to achieve, successfully transferring risk from the individual to the community. (Which is not to say that there haven’t been awful disasters in policy, some public housing interventions have been later found to have harmed the communities they were meant to help. But to me, the lesson is not “that goes to show government can’t do anything right”, but that policy makers need to be sensitive to the needs of communities involved, including mechanisms for empowering the community you mean to help.)

                2) that some good intentions don’t lead to bad results?

                Yes, it is possible for good intentions to lead to bad results.

                3) that bureaucrat’s and managers of the various public aid agencies are not doing everything in their power to extend the funding of their agency?

                Yes, bureaucratic pathologies exist and need be combated. This fact does not cancel out the necessity of bureaucracies to administer and manage programs, nor does this fact negate all the important work that federal bureaucracies do every day in the sphere of poverty reduction and across various sectors in our society.

                4) that those making a career fighting for victims aren’t indirectly rewarded if their actions accidentally lead to more victims?

                This may be the crux of the corrupt knave allegation. Among the questions I have for you is, have you spoken to social workers, visiting nurses, public interest attorneys, human rights activists? You genuinely believe they went into their professions for the reward of creating even more brutalized people so they can stay in lucrative – Ha! – business? James Bond villains are less sadistic.

                I think one of the fundamentally different starting off points is that I take the brutalization as a fact that has broad and deep historical roots, emanating from past inequalities and structural sexism, racism, etc. that carry on having consequences today. Those –isms, not the left that are “in the business of finding, creating and maintaining victims. This is their business model, and they are great at it, whether they recognize it or not.” Destitute widows, orphans, and the immiseration of the poor long preceded the left’s interventions.

                You’re blaming the firefighters for the fire. Or worse, accusing them of arson without evidence.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                You’re blaming the firefighters for the fire. Or worse, accusing them of arson without evidence.

                +1. That’s the essence of DARVO rhetoric. The goal is to paint the victim as offender.

                In twisted conservative logic, the poor who take a job at wal-mart and yet still don’t qualify to get off of food stamps because of wal-mart’s wage practices and other practices aren’t victims of a system designed to pay the workers as little as possible while subsidizing such abuse out of the social assistance programs, they are “not working hard enough” and obviously “losers” because “anyone can start a small business and instantly be a success.”

                Radio yesterday afternoon had a guy pushing this exact line of logic. He’d started his own “small business”, was now making 6 figures (up from $75k), and so therefore “anyone could do it.”

                What was his business? He incorporated his family. They made his wife the CEO for tax reasons. He was hired as a “contract” by a church friend of his in oilfield services (a highly trained field), he only has one client in his supposed “small business” and only two employees, himself and his wife.

                His entire “small business” is a fishing tax dodge, nothing more, and his opportunities have come not because of “hard work” but the luck to befriend someone positioned right from his (rather wealthy and exclusive) local church.

                And to this sort of dishonest conservative, “anyone can” do what he did. Nevermind that the deck was stacked entirely in his favor from the moment he was born white to affluent parents.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                You genuinely believe they went into their professions for the reward of creating even more brutalized people so they can stay in lucrative

                Creon, I don’t think that’s a correct interpretation of what he said. He explicitly said, “accidentally lead to more victims. (emphasis mine)” And he’s right about that–those helping others do benefit, at least financially (not necessarily emotionally, or anything like that) if their policies harm rather than help.

                It’s not about intentionally doing that.* It’s about having less incentive to solve the problem, vs. just nibbling around the edges of it, when actually solving it would bring de facto financial penalties instead of real rewards. It’s not their fault that structure exists, but neither are they unaware of it. For example, the social work profs I know are not shy about saying their students won’t earn much, but there will always be demand for them. Of course in their hearts they’d love for the demand–that is, the need–for social workers to go away, but they’re not looking for policies that will do that, at least not as hard as they would if there was some kind of reward for such a policy. Instead, they’re looking for ever more situations that can be defined as needing social intervention. But they’re not bad, and certainly not psychpathic, people.

                *Although I did go to high school with a guy who became a combination fireman/arsonist. Crazy bugger, though. When asked why he was setting barns on fire, he said, “I like to ride the fire trucks.” But nobody’s saying he’s the norm.Report

              • Avatar Creon Critic says:

                James,

                Here’s Roger at 9:55am (emphasis mine),

                My reading on the progressive recipe is thus:
                1) separate the world into oppressors and victims
                2) ignore the effects of incentives
                3) ignore how prosperity is created and instead focus completely on how it is distributed
                4) convince the victims to put you in charge
                5) develop “solutions” which never eliminate problems, because the problem is the source of power
                6) then master plan the world

                It is one thing to say we disagree about policy prescriptions, or that a given set of suggested solutions in fact aggravates the problems one hopes to confront. It is another thing to say, well you progressives aren’t really looking for solutions, instead you feed off human misery in order to perpetuate your own power.

                Regarding social workers and finding solutions or not. I think you grossly underestimate the psychic rewards from successfully solving a problem. It’s like saying Human Rights Campaign or Ted Olson and David Boies don’t really want to win the SCOTUS cases on gay marriage next year, as though the incentive is really to string out the battle over the course of decades and fight in the trenches over the issue in perpetuity. I’m not even sure what kind of proof I could present to you, except argument by analogy, that the people involved don’t relish the absolutely awful problems they confront. Lastly, I think Tolstoy probably captured why there’ll always be social workers, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Creon,

                Let me rephrase the issue then in a more constructive way…

                “How would we design aid and assistance to those that need it in ways which does not create a permanent victim and rescue class?” I would add the phrase “and which minimizes the use if coercion,” but this can be optional if those on the left are turned off by it.

                My point is that a classical liberal would recommend processes and dynamics which woul be completely different. I truly do believe that a bureaucracy that exists to address a problem will be drawn like a magnet to actions which don’t eliminate the problem. I am assuming this is kind of obvious to anyone who has worked in positions of power in large bureaucracies, but I can explain in detail if necessary.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                How would we design aid and assistance to those that need it in ways which does not create a permanent victim and rescue class?

                Conservatives and libertarians are the ones standing in the way of doing so.

                You want to know what creates a victim class? What treads on the human spirit? It’s all the fol-der-ol the conserva/tarian nuts spew about “bootstraps” this, “it’s so easy to succeed based on anecdotes about people who struck the luck lottery” that.

                It’s systems designed around misery policing. Not enough that those who are poor have to supplicate themselves to request assistance, no, you have to have people standing over their shoulder making sure that nobody buys a prime cut of steak rather than bargain-bin ground chuck now and then. For all you know they’re celebrating a birthday, or some other anniversary important, but don’t worry, the almighty hands of the righteous have to get their skidmarked panties in a twist over the fact that “oh my god someone on government assistance had a bite of steak! Waste of tax money!”

                It’s the constant conserva/tarian equating of money with worth and morality. The retired community organizer, the woman who volunteers to work the polls every election and who canvases her neighborhood? According to the conserva/tarians she’s engaged in “voter fraud” for trying to get people in a poor neighborhood to vote. The man who’s lost his job, is trying to make ends meet, who finally decides to swallow his pride and get the family on food stamps to make sure his kids are eating? What a loser he is, by conserva/tarian standards, he should just “get a new job.” Nevermind that he’s trying desperately, that his applications go into a bin with hundreds of other people’s, to you he’s a “mooch” who should “get off the government dole.”

                Every time I hear one of you dishonest fishing jerks scream about how “Obama put more people on food stamps than ever before”, I want to punch one of you in the face. You know who put those people on food stamps? THE CONSERVA/TARIANS. The ones who built up the bubbles, the ones who engaged in the fraud that was the mortgage-backed securities bubble, the ones who tanked the economy and then rode golden parachutes down immune to the effects.

                Damn right there are a lot of people on food stamps and welfare right now. The left didn’t put them there: YOU put them there. It was the “socialist programs”, the “entitlement programs” that you constantly rail against on the talk radio networks, that are all that are standing between the people YOU victimized and life in the gutters.

                The left doesn’t create victims, the right does. Anytime you say something differently, you are an abuser engaged in DARVO and THAT is the reality.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Creon,

                I suspect #6 may have been tongue-in-cheek, but we’ll need Roger to tell us about that.

                #2 seems all too true to me. Ignore may be a bit strong, but from my perspective liberals too often tend to downplay or overlook the actual incentives that exist or are created. They’re not alone, of course. Conservatives do this all the time, too (see: Drugs, War on). Whenever someone gets focused on the goal they tend to overlook incentives. (Hence I have coined Hanley’s First Rule of Policy Design: Focus on the incentives you create, not on the goal you want to achieve.) Do libertarians do this, too? Uh, well, erm….no! Not ever!

                3 is also overstated, but from a non-liberal’s perspective seems rather more true than not.

                4. Eh, it is phrased a bit bluntly, but of course liberals do pitch their electoral bids to the have nots considerably more than the conservatives do. I’m not implying that’s wrong (and even I am rather more comfortable with that than with pitching re-election bids primarily to the haves), but it’s not exactly ill-described as “convincing them to put you in power.”

                1 is the really big one here, it seems to me. And I’ll be honest, I see the liberals here critiquing that point, and I believe y’all are being sincere. But it really does look like that to outsiders. Repeated arguments along the lines of “multinationals exploit third world labor,” “Wal Mart is being unfair to its employees,” “whites oppress blacks,” “men oppress women,” “you libertarians are worried about government power but not about private power,” and “our political-economic system as it currently is protects the position of the well-off and prevents the less-well-off from bettering their position,” really do have the ring of “oppressors and victims.”

                I actually agree with a fair amount of it, and I think there are reasonably plausible arguments about most of it. So I’m not trying to bash it and say “stupid liberals believe their are victims, what morons.” I’m just saying that from my perspective it really does seem like the gist of the argument a lot of you are making, and I’m not quite clear why there’s objections to it. (I should note that I don’t think it’s the whole of the liberal argument; not by a long shot.)

                That’s not meant to be combative or accusatory. Call it evidence of the limitations of my understanding, and a request that folks help educate me.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Hanley,

                Roger’s dishonest, abusive DARVO mentality argument is that liberals simultaneously create victims in order to later exploit those victims.

                That’s so fishing dishonest it comes down to what I would call libel.

                Damn straight there are victims and abusers. There are a lot of victims. Elderly retirees who lost everything when the Conserva/tarians crashed the stock market are victims, both because of how the Conserva/tarians crashed the stock market and because of how the Conserva/tarians shifted so much of retirement planning into the stock market and out of pension plans (including the Conserva/tarian corporate raider structure that constantly raided pension funds in hostile takeovers) in the first place.

                There are victims who are screwed because of unfair competition from the overweight, too-big-to-exist pseudomonopoly companies destroying small businesses across America.

                There are victims who are screwed because of outsourcing, and there are victims who have been screwed because of the Conserva/tarian rush to create Right To Abuse (they call it, orwellian style, “Right To Work”) laws and created an environment where instead of dealing honestly with the workers, businesses simply moved manufacturing either overseas or into the gulags of the RTW states.

                I’ll say it again: damn straight there are victims. The liberal response to this is to try to fix the system to make it so that victimization doesn’t harm so badly, so that victims can indeed pick themselves up and move forward again. The Conserva/tarian response? You can hear it every day on their hate radio broadcasts, it starts with “bootstraps”, the middle talks about how “easy” it is to succeed, and it ends with the Conserva/tarians declaring anyone who’s not an overwhelming financial success to be a total loser.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Is there anything measurable? Would we be able to say that a state such as Michigan must have been an awesome place to live/work before the Republicans took it over?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                M.A.,

                I stopped reading after your first two paragraphs. You so consistently begin with name-calling that it’s obvious you are not interested in having actual discussions.

                I’m going to try to exercise more discipline and just ignore you. If you ever decide you’d rather have discussions than just name-call at everyone who disagrees with you, I’ll be around.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Hanley, why would anyone bother reading your “arguments” when you start off by moving the goalposts every time you open your mouth?

                If you ever decide you’d rather have discussions than just cry and whine about “nobody understands us libertarians” while constantly insisting that nobody, ever, has your Extra Speshul Understanding of so-called “true libertarianism” that you will never, ever actually describe, I’ll be around.Report

  5. Avatar Major Zed says:

    Nice. You should have mentioned luck, though.Report

  6. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    The problem, Roger, is that you didn’t write that.Report

    • Avatar Roger says:

      What did I write, Mike?Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        If you’ve got a blog — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the commenters could post stuff on the Internet.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          Can I blame Algore for Javascript popups?Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

            One of my favorite tech-related quotes:

            JavaScript had to look like Java only less so, be Java’s dumb kid brother or boy-hostage sidekick. Plus, I had to be done in ten days or something worse than JavaScript would have happened.

            Brendan EichReport

            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              I can’t see how anything could be worse than JavaScript. Of course, badness being asymptotic, I suppose it’s possible. It never resembled Java at any point. That was just a marketing ploy brought to us by the same bunch of morons who went off and implemented the IMG tag without anyone else’s buy-in.Report

              • Avatar Just Me says:

                They should have stuck with the name LiveScript. My js instructor tells us that he thinks they called it javascript just to get some respect and to feed off the mistaken impression it was somehow based on Java.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                And then there’s this funfun JavaScript exploit for IE 6-10. Still around, still unfixed.Report

              • Avatar Just Me says:

                Another thing to add to the list of all the reasons not to use IE at all. How is it that only IE is affected….because they have to be difficult and do things their own way. Our web experience would be a more boring place if we didn’t have all the wiz bang cool stuff javascript and jquery bring us.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                We could have had all that Wiz Bang without the nonsense. JavaScript turned what was fundamentally an MVC View into a monstrous old Bag o’ Shyte.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                god, you had to rip IE out of XP. it was an integral part of the OS. So just “don’t use it” is a bit facile.Report

              • Avatar scott the mediocre says:

                @Kim (have hit reply nesting limit: sorry Mr. Wager)

                god, you had to rip IE out of XP. it was an integral part of the OS. So just “don’t use it” is a bit facile.
                Please explain: I don’t find it very difficult at all to not use IExploder on anything with any nontrivial probability of bearing an exploit. Firefox plus Noscript and a few Add-ons does nicely. (I assume Chrome fans have equivalent capabilities, though I could easily be wrong about that)Report

              • Avatar Reformed Republican says:

                I think the point is, even if you are not using IE for internet browsing, you are using it when you are doing normal Windows stuff.Report

              • Avatar Just Me says:

                Ok, I’m confused about the requirement to rip out IE. Please explain what you mean. It doesn’t say that if IE is not running that they are able to track your mouse movements. At least I don’t think that is what they are saying. So you should be able to download Chrome or Firefox and not have a problem.Report

              • Avatar Just Me says:

                There is a difference between IE and Windows Explorer.Report

              • Avatar Just Me says:

                oops! sorry Scott didn’t see you already posted the same question I had. Guess if I start a reply and then stop in the middle to take the dog outside I should look at new postings before continuing with mine.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Internet Explorer is a core part of the OS. Look at NLite if you don’t believe me. You use internet explorer’s core if you’re using firefox, unless you REALLY get into the guts. Most of the exploits are on top of that, in the actual InternetExplorer (numbered version here) code.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                IE’s JavaScript engine has nothing to do with the Windows OS, Kim. Especially not the Chakra JavaScript engine. Get your facts straight. The fact that IE only comes with the OS and contains bindings to OS-level components does not make it part of the OS.Report

              • Avatar Just Me says:

                Kim can you put up a link showing that Firefox is built on IE’s core. I’d be pretty interested to read that.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Removal_of_Internet_Explorer
                IE is integrated nine-ways-to-sunday into XP’s OS.

                http://www.msfn.org/board/topic/89104-nlite-vs-vorcks-method/

                Yeah, I’m wrong about Firefox.

                Killing IE core kills Microsoft Update and Add/Remove Programs, which is funfun…Report

              • Avatar wardsmith says:

                @Just Me. As always, Kim is completely full of shit. My reading of this site has improved dramatically since I began ignoring her posts as I’d recommend you do also.Report

  7. Avatar Major Zed says:

    Roger, please email me if you would. (mouse over avatar)Report

  8. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    M.A.

    Re: a living wage

    I asked above what that minimum standard is for this and I think you replied that the person shouldn’t be on food stamps. Obviously this is going to vary from, say, a family with two kids to a family with four. So I would ask you to be more specific. So I am still curious as to what it looks like. What kind of living situation meets a minimum standard? What is the baseline family model that the living wage would be intended to support? Is it supposed to geared towards one worker supporting themselves adequately or supporting a family and kids?

    Additionally, with regards to minimum wage increases, I can tell you from experience that when payroll obligations are mandated, that is when decision makers in businesses start thinking about spending that money on capital equipment which has often has less long-term overhead.Report

    • Avatar M.A. says:

      Obviously this is going to vary from, say, a family with two kids to a family with four. So I would ask you to be more specific.

      That is, indeed, one of the things that has to be negotiated. It’ll be an item of compromise. The minimum standard I would accept would be “Worker plus one dependent”, since single-parent families are a much higher rate among the demographics Wal-Mart hires. I’d prefer it to be “Worker, spouse, and one dependent” (or “Worker and two dependents”) which would also give leeway for single parents with more than one child, but I suspect you would disagree.

      Can we agree that something in the system is broken, knowing that 80% of Wal-Mart workers are working and yet still on government assistance?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        knowing that 80% of Wal-Mart workers are working and yet still on government assistance?

        Is it possible to look at this from a different perspective? Instead of the argument that I’ve seen on this blog and in other reports that the taxpayers are subsidizing Wal Mart, is it possible that Wal Mart is relieving the taxpayers of some of the welfare burden for the poor?Report

        • Avatar M.A. says:

          No. Wal-Mart engages in practices designed to keep employees on public assistance. And have been sued for it over and over again.

          Other practices of Wal-Mart include forcing employees to work off the clock.

          They’re engaged in theft from the commons, using social assistance to subsidize the way they treat workers. They are not, as you try to defend them, “relieving the taxpayers” of any burden.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley says:

            I think you’re missing my point, so I’ll try to be clearer.

            1. These people work at Wal Mart because they can’t get a better job–if they could, presumably they would.

            2. That means they work at Wal Mart or they are completely dependent on public assistance.

            3. Therefore, whatever Wal Mart pays them is a subtraction from the amount of public assistance the taxpayers have to provide.

            As to your links, I’ll say three things. First, the lawsuits are allegations, not evidence, so we can’t say for sure that Wal Mart broke the law. Second, if they did break the law, they should be punished appropriately. Period. No hemming or hawing about that. Third, if they did break the law, that still doesn’t undermine the logic of my suggestion. I’m not saying there isn’t logic that could undermine it; I’m only saying that illegal actions by Wal Mart wouldn’t actually undermine it.

            But mostly, I’m just asking you to actually consider that view point. In the spirit of opposite day, just try to follow it and see why somebody could take that position.Report

            • Avatar M.A. says:

              These people work at Wal Mart because they can’t get a better job–if they could, presumably they would.

              And in many cases, the irony is that Wal-mart put their previous employer under through unfair competition. Many of these people previously worked for better wages at the businesses Wal-Mart destroyed through unfair means.

              2. That means they work at Wal Mart or they are completely dependent on public assistance.

              3. Therefore, whatever Wal Mart pays them is a subtraction from the amount of public assistance the taxpayers have to provide.

              Meanwhile, Wal-Mart pays incomplete wages (compared to other businesses who operate ethically and pay enough that their employees are NOT on government assistance) while pocketing profits at the top end.

              It is the taxpayers who are subsidizing Wal-Mart. Even if I never shop at that damnable cursed store, my tax dollars go to ensuring that their business model can survive.

              Second, if they did break the law, they should be punished appropriately. Period. No hemming or hawing about that. Third, if they did break the law, that still doesn’t undermine the logic of my suggestion.

              The problem with libertarian thinking on this matter is that big businesses like Wal-Mart learned long ago to play the game. There is no real enforcement. Out-of-court settlements are the way to go, and they can get away with abuse for years or well over a decade, never changing the practice, finally settling for peanuts on the dollar the amount of damage they caused.

              Libertarians don’t want real laws with real teeth. I know this because they keep insisting in the face of overwhelming evidence that current laws are already “good enough.”

              Wal-Mart’s business model does nobody a service except for the Walton family. The workers get screwed; the taxpayers get screwed; the local economies are destroyed, local businesses destroyed, replaced by a giant vacuum sucking anything of value out of local communities and funneling it to Bentonville.

              So in short: no, I will not agree to your dishonest claim. Wal-Mart’s business model is not a service to the employees, it is not a “service” to government. It is simply abusive.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                OK, there are multiple problems here, but I’ll just focus on the first sentence of your last paragraph. It’s not a dishonest claim, it’s just asking you to work from a different starting point than your own premise. That’s always legitimate, even if just for a thought experiment (“What if Hitler had ICBS”).

                That you would condemn as “dishonest” a request to consider an issue from a different starting position demonstrates an unfortunate blindness in your thinking.

                And what’s really ironic is that I wasn’t even trying to make this about libertarianism.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                An invalid starting point is an invalid starting point. I can start there, but I can see two steps later that it’s invalid. Wal-Mart simply is not doing what you are claiming.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                You and I have been trained to think in different ways. I’ve been trained to look diligently for alternative explanations, which requires considering different starting points seriously, rather than looking to reject them as quickly as possible.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Considering that the moon might be made of green cheese isn’t a serious starting point, and neither was yours.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Assuming that people with the crappiest jobs otherwise might not have jobs at all is as unrealistic as assuming the moon is made of green cheese?

                That would have gotten me some harsh words from my teachers.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                That doesn’t answer the question. Surely you can get as far as recognising the perversity of a corporation engineering its workforce into the welfare system. If there’s to be a Different Starting Point, it might include some recognition of the value added by the worker being worth reasonable compensation. Without these people, Walmart wouldn’t be able to operate.

                What if people were paid as a percentage of the gross store receipts? Some folks run on that model. A “job” is a completely bullshit concept on its face. It’s a question of value for money. The retail employer is only a pass-through from the maker to the buyer. When demand dries up, there’s no reason to employ anyone. Don’t love your job. It will never love you back.

                Look at the business model for migrant labour: now that these idiotic Adios Mexicanos laws have gone through in some of these states, the orchard owners and farmers and dairymen are howling: nobody wants to do these jobs at their idea of a going rate. Because illegal migrants were able to distort the going rate, we never really knew the actual cost of goods sold.

                And that’s where your defence of Walmart completely fails. The cost of labour is always passed through to the consumer. It’s a trivial fraction of the cost of goods sold: modern efficiencies and technologies such as bar codes and RFID have made workers hugely more productive. What’s the problem with paying them on the basis of value-added ?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                “engineering its workforce intothe welfare system” implicitly assumes they’re not currently in the welfare system. They can’t go “into” it unless they’re currently “out” of it.

                So say Joe is currently unemployed, zero earned income, and in the welfare system. EvilCorp hires him and pays him a pittance, not enough to engineer him out of the welfare system, but enough that his welfare receipts drop (presumably on net he’s still doing better, or he’d stick to being on welfare). The taxpayer is paying less to support him now, and EvilCorp hasn’t engineered him “into” anything he wasn’t already in; they’ve just not engineered him all the way out of it; only partly out of it.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                EvilCorp hires him and pays him a pittance, not enough to engineer him out of the welfare system, but enough that his welfare receipts drop

                Do they? You’re distorting again.

                TANF/Food Stamps are an all-or-nothing proposition. You’re either on the program, or you’re not.

                If they were out of work long enough, they’re not drawing unemployment, so that’s out. They might be drawing some social security income (if elderly) or disability income (if disabled mentally or physically), neither of which ends by employment.

                Plus, they can actually LOSE access to TANF if they don’t manage to meet the “work requirements” of the program (and ironically, working for Wal-Mart Slave Wages is one way to qualify).

                Please offer an honest argument for once…Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Blaise and M.A. start at the point wher epeople were paid decent wages. Not so long ago, in many parts of the country. 1980’s, 1990’s.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                That’s pedantic sophistry. You know perfectly well Walmart is grifting the welfare system.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                M.A.,

                You’re wrong about TANF.

                Even if you were right, all or nothing programs are a choice about how we structure them. There’s no necessary reason they have to be structured that way. In fact one of the arguments in support of a negative income tax is that its not an all or nothing program.

                But also, even if you were totally right, that would only mean I was off on my “reducing the taxpayer burden” argument. It would probably undermine your argument, because the person who still received their entire public assistance amount + some amount of wage would be financially better off than the person receiving just their public assistance.

                By the way, I don’t care about Wal Mart. This isn’t a defense of them. It’s an economic analysis. If you can’t distinguish between those two things, or if you insist they’re the same or that I’m really doing a defense of them, then we’re done here.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                That’s pedantic sophistry. You know perfectly well Walmart is grifting the welfare system.

                That’s non-responsive. Come on, Blaise, you and I should be past this type of thing by now. If you can’t provide an analytical critique of my argument, then let’s just stop before it gets ugly.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                If you’re going to lie, Hanley, make your lies less obvious. TANF has work requirements and if you don’t meet them, you can be booted off the program.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                It is responsive. And stop wriggling. You know it’s sophistry. Walmart is engineering its workforce into the welfare system. Don’t you understand how a nut threads onto a bolt? Do you think society should pay for people to wear a Walmart uniform?

                There is absolutely no way around that question. If you don’t want to answer, you’re being non-responsive. A Walmart “associate” is not an employee. This is corporate welfare at its worst.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                See, M.A., this is why you really aren’t worth trying to have a discussion with. You accuse me of lying, despite the evidence. Here is the direct quote from the link I gave.

                How does the Division of Family Resources determine the amount of cash assistance?
                A review is done of all the income available to meet the needs of the family. Some of the types of income considered are wages, unemployment benefits, Social Security benefits and child support. Available income is compared to a need standard. The need standard is based on the family size.

                How much is the TANF cash assistance payment?
                Payments vary based on the family’s countable income up to the maximum allowable amounts listed in the following charts.

                You owe me an apology for falsely accusing me of lying. I don’t expect one, though, but I’m satisfied to let this stand as a record of your propensity to resort directly to insults and false accusations rather than to engage in reasoned discourse.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Blaise,

                It’s not responsive, because you haven’t addressed the logic of the argument. If you want to avoid addressing the logic, and take the cheap and easy path of claiming sophistry, then just be aware that the respect-o-meter is dipping.

                Now, I’m leaving this argument because I don’t want the respect-o-meter to drop any further, and because the only other person I’m talking to has demonstrated an antipathy to reasonable discussion.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Another one.

                What time limits are imposed for TANF benefits
                An eligible family that includes an adult in the TANF assistance unit may receive TANF for no more than 60 months lifetime benefits unless they meet certain exceptions. Also, no benefits will be paid if the TANF parent or needy caretaker relative is not participating in an approved work activity after being determined “work ready”, or no longer than 24 months (within the 60 month lifetime maximum), whether or not consecutive, after receiving benefits, whichever comes first.

                Don’t work – even at slave labor like Wal-Mart – and lose TANF benefits.

                That’s the reality, Hanley, and you’ll get no apology from me for pointing out you were lying by claiming otherwise.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Now, I’m leaving this argument because I don’t want the respect-o-meter to drop any further, and because the only other person I’m talking to has demonstrated an antipathy to reasonable discussion.

                Translation: you got caught lying and don’t want to fess up.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                From the first link I provided you as well, Hanley:

                TANF participants are required to work in allowable work activities a minimum of 30 hours each week. If you have a child under six years old, your weekly minimum requirement is 20 hours.

                A Personal Responsibility Agreement is a written and signed agreement between you and the TANF Program. You must agree to the following:

                TANF assistance is temporary.
                TANF is a work program.
                It is your responsibility to find and keep work.
                You will accept responsibility for yourself and your children.
                You will follow all program conditions such as developing a work plan, keeping appointments, participating in a work activity, completing and submitting time sheets, and making sure your children attend school.
                Your Personal Responsibility Plan will tell you what work activities you have and how many hours you must work. It is very important that you follow the activities you’ve outlined in your Personal Responsibility Plan.

                The following work activities count towards the number of hours you need to work: (and so on and so forth)Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Can I get a referee’s ruling on whether M.A.’s comment violates the comment policy? I provided factual evidence for my claim, and he’s still calling me a liar, but without addressing the issue in any way. His comment “makes no attempt to address a point germane to the original post or another comment and instead contains nothing more than a blanket personal attack directed at the author.”Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                You claimed TANF has no work requirement, Hanley. Clearly not true.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                No, M.A., I did not. I said you were wrong about TANF being “an all-or-nothing proposition.” Your “all or nothing” was a response to my claim that working could reduce a person’s welfare payments. I provided evidence for that.

                At no point did I ever say there was no work requirement. I understand how TANF works, and would not make such a claim. Nor will you will be able to quote me making such a claim.

                So if someone’s a liar here, it’s most definitely not me.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                I think MA is the epitome of ungentlemanly behavior in every possible way shape and form. He is a cancer to intelligent discourse.

                I think we are all better off pretending he is not here.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                I think Roger is the epitome of ungentlemanly behavior in every possible way shape and form. He is a cancer to intelligent discourse, not to mention a detestable excuse for a human being.

                I think we are all better off pretending he is not here.

                I’m still waiting on the apology for his calling me an anti-semite, months later. Never seen a whiff of remorse from him. So be it.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                He never called you an anti-semite, MA. That was somebody else, though you have tried to use that to tar Roger twice now.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                If it wasn’t him, then tell me who it was and I shall apologize to Roger on that point. My memory indicates it was Roger. And the post the thread it was attached to is 404’ing. I’ve been trying to confirm the exact rewrite and I couldn’t because of that.Report

              • Avatar Trumwill Mobile says:

                I was Brandon Berg. He wasn’t actually intending to call you an anti-semite but rather to draw a connection between antisemitism of yore and hostility towards the 1%. It did come across as accusing you of antisemitism, though.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Roger,

                I apologize for thinking you were the one who called me an anti-semite by way of re-editing a “quote” purported to be from me. I was in error thinking it was you who did it, but I hope you’ll accept it as an understandable error given that the post in question is 404’ed.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Thanks for the note, MA.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      Kicking around some thoughts, let me know what you think:
      1) It’s really less trouble/problem for teens/college students to get lower paying jobs. There ought to be a separate job-category and wage for these (kinda like how unpaid interns have industry standards on what they can be doing… except perhaps a bit more stringent). I don’t necessarily mind if this is (at least initially) non-governmental. I figure there’s enough folks doing it that if the regulators get subverted, we’ll hear about it.
      2) If it’s not geared towards parent supporting kids, you’re gonna hear about it. From house-spouses who are getting divorces, and getting back into the job market.
      3) Nonetheless, I’d be looking at “enough to support themselves” (with potential for temporary “state child care” (argh, i hate to have to even write that!!! do not LIKE, but might be a better solution….))
      4) Yes, decision makers want to spend on capital equipment instead. Is that a bad thing? I like newegg’s warehouse! It’s da bomb. (it defrags like a computer…).

      I don’t find it a problem if we stop having garbagemen, and instead put those people on the “public dole”. I figure most of those people could go do something a bit more useful with their time (and probably would, even if it’s just playing live music in subway terminals).Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        I think the economy has basically decided that retail can mostly be done with kids. My daughter has a retail job at the mall. It pays minimum wage. She says they have close to 60 kids on the payroll. I can’t imagine managing all those schedules BUT they also don’t get healthcare so…win!

        The days of Al Bundy getting a job out of high school selling shoes and supporting a family are long-gone. If grown-ups want jobs in retail, they need to find niche businesses with speacialized knowledge. For example, Cabela’s is opening a store in Louisville in the spring and they’re going to pay associates about $12 / hr. They need a specific knowledge base which the company will give them through training. The guy stocking shelves at my local grocery store? Not so much.Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          Bloody hell, this is NOT what the data is showing. The data is showing that “skilled” 60+ year olds are taking the jobs of your younger generation (walmart type jobs, at least). Well, except for the amusement park jobs, where you have unpaid overtime AND much physical exertion.Report

      • Avatar Roger says:

        Mike and Kim,

        I think this is a really interesting line of thought. There is something totally different with teens and senior citizens and bored housewives who need money on the side; and those trying to support themselves and a family on Walmart entry wages.

        Indeed. The real question is what is wrong with the labor market that heads of households have to resort to such inappropriate jobs?Report

  9. Avatar Roger says:

    Creon,

    I am starting a new thread down here for room.

    “I’d argue the answer [to the question of whether the poor are better off in Europe] is yes. Less social mobility in the US, more inequality in the US, more child poverty in the US, and compounded with less aggressive measures to combat child poverty in the US.”

    I ask this question because I truly do not know and am unaware of a balanced comparison. I’ve seen the conservative arguments that our poor have more amenities like air conditioning and microwaves, and that they have larger living spaces than even the middle class in Europe, but that isn’t decisive.

    On social mobility, I know the mobility of all classes in US is similar to Europe with the exception of a male permanent underclass. I covered this in the inequality forum.

    What I would be interested in is a comparison of actual adjusted for purchasing parity comparison of the bottom quintile in US vs Europe after taxes and transfer payments. The adjusted for driving and race lifespans would also be interesting for the bottom quintile.

    Another useful comparison would be if you could quantify the “less aggressive measures” to combat child poverty. Is this your perception, or is it empirically based?Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP says:

      Europe has different problems. It’s not a good comparison. The EU has led to a mass migration of cheap labour moving here and there in search of work. Because the EU exhibits the worst aspects of economic and political confederation, its poor nations have become encumbered in debt and the rich nations have been obliged to absorb that debt. Money is power: now the EU is forced to act using the only levers at its disposal and none of them are good. Economic inequality in the USA has led to large Brown Spots in our economy.

      Here’s the problem as I see it: a viable economy is mostly demand driven. It’s dependent on disposable income to keep the cash registers working. But unless there’s some incentive to save and invest, the money eventually drifts up, into huge glaciers of corporate cash. American corporations have more cash in the bank than is wise: we used to tax such cash as an incentive to flush it out into the economy again, you know, dividends and such. We don’t any more and these corporations really have nowhere to invest it all. There’s about 5, perhaps 6 trillion dollars in these glaciers of just non-financial corporations. By my estimation, there’s about double that in total.

      These cash glaciers are a market distortion: there’s loads of money around in the system. It’s just not getting into the economy. More importantly, it’s not getting into Ordinary Joe’s Savings Accounts. Savings banks are in serious trouble: our system of taxation is strongly biassed in favour of spending, not saving.

      Capitalism hollows itself out in the process of rising higher and higher. Marx and Adam Smith foresaw this trend. Marx failed to foresee the rise of the trade union as an equalising power in the world: the West did not go Communist. It became more socialist in nature, which wasn’t an entirely bad thing. It did create tax burdens but that money always rapidly enters into the economy: poor people spend. It’s the rich who save and invest: but to what end?

      Curiously, corporations are now disgorging that cash in the form of dividends, anticipating higher tax burdens. It’s had a surprisingly invigorating effect on the American economy. There would be far more incentive for the Little Guy to invest if he got a dividend check. Such incentives would demonstrate how even fractional ownership in a publicly traded corporation pays off.

      If we really wanted to work on poverty in the USA, we’d start by front-loading the educational process. It’s much easier, philosophically and ethically, to ensure a three year old goes to day care and has someone read him stories and feed him proper food and give him a safe place to play and socialise — than it is to incarcerate that same child when he’s 17-18 years old. We’re paying a fortune on incarceration.

      Even if we legalised all the drugs and reduced the prison population (a move I strongly support), we’d still have the same problems. If it’s not drugs it will be something else. These kids went through horrible schools, can’t read, aren’t socialised, aren’t motivated to work, are completely inured to life in the Poverty Trap, actively discourage others from trying to leave it (the whole “Acting White” debate arises here) — we could change this situation but we won’t, preferring to kick the can down the road, not realising it’s a grenade and that it will detonate when that kid’s old enough to enter the prison system.

      The goal here ought to be creating taxpayers. We know what needs doing. We know how to do it. What we won’t do, still clinging to the mythical idiocy of the Self-Made Man and No Coercion, Thanks, is admit that these children are the future of our own society. And by God, there is a mandate for some coercion in this enterprise, for we taxpayers will surely foot the bill for failure, as sure as tomorrow’s sunrise.Report

      • Avatar wardsmith says:

        Two points Blaise. First, the corporations are sitting on piles of cash because cash is insanely cheap. Right now Exxon and I believe Apple have just floated bonds at lower rates than US TREASURIES! That means that in the eyes of investors, those corporations are safer and better investments. Those investors are correct. Second, because of the US’ insanely stupid tax codes, corps can’t repatriate income earned overseas. Here is how that plays out.

        Two corps, one American one Bahamian. American (A) corp earns $100M income in country Z, where the tax rate is 20%. A Corp pays that 20%. Now A corp wants to repatriate that income into the US. By insanely stupid tax laws here, A corp has to declare ALL $100M as income as if it were earned HERE in the US. Therefore they now pay $35M total tax (they are able to count the $20M they already paid as a deduction, however I’m sure MA in his vast genius would claim that was unfair, illegal etc.) What corporation is that stupid? B corp doesn’t have precisely the same problem but there are also issues for them bringing money into this country. The net effect as expected by those with brains and ignored by certain members of the political class is that money that /could/ come back into the US to fund jobs, infrastructure and capital equipment outlays instead /must/ be spent overseas. Doing otherwise would constitute a fiduciary lapse by management.

        During the Bush administration they had a temporary reprieve from these rules collecting 5% instead. The treasury dept collected billions in “found” money they wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Naturally the Democrats cried foul, which is why we haven’t seen a repeat.

        As to the rest of your suggestions, I concur, you and I have already discussed the Spartan system. I liked it, the idea is good, the military emphasis is bad. Re-purposed, there is probably nothing better for society as a whole than to have the indoctrination start young and get most children out of the reach of their incompetent parents. The devil in the details of course is just who is in charge of the indoctrination. I could see plenty of bad actors in this.Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          Cite source? On Exxon and Apple? Last I heard, treasuries had gone nearly negative (aka we won’t give you more money later if you buy these now).Report

    • Avatar Creon Critic says:

      Roger,
      A relpy to this and a point you made at 11:00 am, first 11am,

      I truly do believe that a bureaucracy that exists to address a problem will be drawn like a magnet to actions which don’t eliminate the problem. I am assuming this is kind of obvious to anyone who has worked in positions of power in large bureaucracies, but I can explain in detail if necessary.

      You’ve left out the possibility that these problems are just so difficult that they take years, decades even to confront. Also, a point MA makes, which is that there’s quite a bit of resistance to the solutions on offer from progressives – which is fair enough, we live in a democracy and not a one-party dictatorship of the proletariat so we discuss and try to figure out what policies to apply. But the idea that the left in America has had its preferred policy hasn’t been true for at least three decades or so, if not longer.

      Which leads me to Europe. Actually an aside, thanks for raising the Luxembourg Wealth Study, and in a discussion in the past the IGM Chicago Economic Experts Panel. Online discussions sometimes devolve into, I know all this already and if only discussants would listen to my predigested principles all the world’s problems would be set right. Browsing through new (to me) sources, methods, data is so helpful. I think a commenter said every time you cite a source an angel gets its wings. That said, onto my predigested solutions to the world’s ills.

      First regarding European social welfare provision stats, I’m using OECD Stats.I’d browse through some tables I can’t figure how to link to, “Data by theme” tab, the “Social Welfare Statistics” menu, then Social Protection, Aggregated Data, Social Expenditure. Then there are further drop-down menus to refine the data in the tables, nothing that will spit out child poverty measures, but the US figures on public provision for “Family” as a percentage of GDP would be one place I’d look. Also, the Social Expenditure data allows for some purchasing power parity comparisons. The best link to get somewhere near what the tables present I can figure is this far less granular presentation.

      Second, on social mobility, a literature review I’ve brought up several times before, Intergenerational Transmission of Disadvantage: Mobility or Immobility across Generations? A Review of the Evidence for OECD Countries – it’ll be an OECD pdf. Finding the US underperforms peers on intergenerational earnings elasticity estimates, (p. 33), and that the elite in the US are adept at remaining elite (p. 38). Also worth a look the mega-table on page 49-50, “Some of the channels underpinning intergenerational income mobility: what the evidence says”, which tries to draw together many influences on mobility. One I’d highlight that particularly advantages the US elite is wealth, already possessing wealth helps secure advantage for one’s children which raises questions for a society claiming to strive for equality of opportunity that is as unequal as the US.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        But the idea that the left in America has had its preferred policy hasn’t been true for at least three decades or so, if not longer.

        True. I’d just go farther and argue that no definable group in the U.S. has its preferred policy in place.Report

      • Avatar Roger says:

        Creon,

        Thanks for grounding me in reality as always.

        I have no doubt that solving poverty is a tough job, and should take generations to fix. Oddly enough, I actually think to a great extent we HAVE solved it. After transfer payments, health care, guaranteed education and so on, our poor really are doing better materially and in health in many ways than the middle class did a generation or two ago. Certainly it is much better to be poor in the US or Europe today than to be born in ANY class prior to the 20th century. Let’s celebrate our success.

        That said, the problems I do see are in the endemic nature of poverty. I see dysfunctional cultures of dependency caught in a cycle. I know you disagree, but I really do see a bureaucracy (schools and welfare) which thrives on the problem and the dependency. I would like to see the current dollars spent a lot more wisely with better incentives and institutional dynamics.

        The point about the left not having their way on their preferred policies is true at the national level, thank God, but not necessarily at the local level. The left has Detroit and various other inner cities which they have assumed almost full control of which have been driven into hell. And yes, many classical liberals are convinced that Greece and Detroit and South Chicago are where you guys are taking us. Not intentionally. But that is the ditch the car is going to end up in.

        Perhaps we are wrong.Report

        • Avatar M.A. says:

          The left has Detroit and various other inner cities

          And your counterparts in europe blamed the Jews for the state of the ghettos they were thrown into, too.

          Detroit’s downfall was not because of “the left.” It was in some extent the inevitable result of suburbanization and white flight, racial discrimination and housing discrimination; it wasn’t a coincidence that the first wave, the auto makers relocating factories from the heart of the city out to the suburbs, coincided with the practice of redlining and that the factories inevitably landed where the white flight had run.

          Then there was unfair-competition predation. The policies you in the right wing laud, such as “right to work” laws, didn’t create new jobs in the states they were enacted; they simply shifted jobs, making it more desirable for management to open up new plants in places they could pay workers less. The workers who couldn’t leave Detroit to chase declining wages, who tended to be the poorer workers and uncoincidentally mostly black, were stuck.

          The biggest problems weren’t caused by the Left, they were caused by the Right; a lack of zoning laws, a lack of planning, and playing the game of just letting the companies build where they wanted to created a giant, fished-up mess of a city in terms of structure. It was a giant, fished up, corporatist mess – a right wing business utopia, a “wild west, do whatever you want” fished up libertopia with zero urban planning to try to create a sensible environment.

          Here, read something by someone who lived and grew up in Detroit and get a better understanding rather than throwing up right wing spew that has no connection to reality.Report