Not Everyone is Worth Minimum Wage

Advocacy of any minimum wage is predicated on the economic ignorance that every employee’s value is worth at least that minimum. I was thinking on the drive home that a $15 minimum wage would apply to the two imbeciles who wasted my time this morning.

I needed wasp spray and was willing to pay a couple of dollars more at True Value for the triple convenience of location, easy parking and short lines. I found the spray quickly enough, and I thought I’d get a cute animal figurine.

There were two cashiers, perhaps early 20-somethings, and no other customers. The one I chose couldn’t ring up the figurine. Three times, three, he walked over to the figurine display trying to figure it out. Finally, he got it. I wouldn’t have taken it so badly had he done more than barely look at me, not even attempting to offer an explanation much less an apology for the delay. When he said, “I always have trouble scanning these,” it wasn’t even to me, but to the other.

Then he rang me up at full price on the wasp spray. I said there was a sale price indicated on the shelf. It identified the spray by brand, so I knew I had the right one. He grabbed a circular but couldn’t find it. I said again it was on the shelf. Then the other started looking at the circular as if both were deaf and didn’t hear what I said. Then the first walked off toward the shelf, without saying a thing. By this time I’d spent five minutes in this failed effort to get rung up, so I said, “I don’t have time for this.” Damn right, I walked out. I drove a bit further over to Home Depot, where parking was busy, but I checked myself out with no trouble at all.

However they are with other customers, those two did not leave me with any impression that they’re worth the current minimum wage, let alone any “living wage.”

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Blaming Progress for So-Called Inequality

The second article Dr. Steven Horwitz cites in this essay is yet one more time I wish I could go all Jesus-in-the-temple on those who not only complain about mankind’s progress in improving how we live but blame progress for “increasing inequality.” Laundromats are disappearing for the same way appliance repair shops mostly have, and photo services kiosks are extinct: people don’t need them as much as a higher value use for the same area. It’s, in fact, a good sign that a laundromat is torn down and replaced with housing, even expensive housing, because it shows people in the area (whether old-timers or newcomers) are as a whole getting wealthier. They aren’t demanding laundromats as much as they are new housing.

The author of that article, though, doesn’t seem to want anyone to be better off than anyone else. The same article sobs over the disappearance of “game rooms” and movie nights at colleges. Must it be stated what most anyone knows, that it’s because so many students have their own game consoles, and it’s so inexpensive to stream movies from the comfort of their rooms?

“That Kim thinks this is evidence of growing inequality shows that for some, perhaps many, on the left, fighting ‘inequality’ appears to be more important than conquering poverty.” (Horwitz)

Indeed, simple history shows that the claim of “increasing inequality” is patently untrue. Inequality is, in fact, decreasing, yet because some are still without, there are those on the left who’d rather everyone go without. As I posted on Facebook just a couple of days ago, it’s bad enough when liberals are Luddites, but it’s far worse when they’re anti-tech because not everyone can have it. If they had their way, never mind cell phones or flat-screen TVs: they’d have torn down the first hut that anyone built, demanding that it be available to all instead of just the few.

It’s also simple history that as technology advances, its accessibility to the masses has always increased. Look at all mankind has achieved since the Industrial Revolution, and then in the 30 years since cell phones were something only for ultra-wealthy, how many millions of people in the Third World are considered “poor” but have cell phones! So not only does technology become more widely available as its level increases, but the rate at which it spreads is ever accelerating. Consider that it took perhaps *800 years* just for the Iron Age to spread from the Middle East to throughout Europe.

Something I mention from time to time is that people talk about “the good old days” when appliances were supposedly far more reliable. If they were, why were there so many businesses focused on appliance repair, and there are not so many now? Why was the Maytag Man such a selling point if things then were made “better”? A scene early in “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit” shows that the supposed Golden Age of the United States had plenty of money woes, with expensive household items continuing to cost money when they broke down. For comparison, TVs today are as cheap as they’ve ever been, even without adjusting for inflation, and though they aren’t as repairable, they tend to last longer such that many people figure it’s time to upgrade to a better one.

Once upon a time, a family would pay 10% or 20% of the initial price to keep the old box going. What’s more, a TV repair shop wasn’t necessarily the person in town who knew all the ins and outs of a TV, but the man with a comparative advantage in getting replacement vacuum tubes, and merely swapping them in, one by one, to see if a tube had burned out. The advent of integrated circuits improved reliability but was still nothing like today. How many today remember all the shops in the 1980s for people to bring not just TVs and VCRs, but computers as simple as Commodore and Atari computers, and especially disk drives? They had lots of business because a couple of Andrew Jacksons were cheaper than buying a new unit. My parents’ first VCR cost $300 in 1983 and was nowhere near as nice, in aesthetics as well as capability, as a $20 DVD player today, let alone a $50 Blu-ray player.

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The Rate of Service Must Slow

Many people don’t think about how much data they use, so they’ll use things even more heavily once a plan is “unlimited.” There’s only so much bandwidth to go around.

Make no mistake that this is a result of net neutrality. The biggest use of online data is HD video streaming, but per net neutrality rules, an ISP cannot treat non-video and video data differently. An ISP cannot offer unlimited, unthrottled non-video data while capping or throttling video data. Now, I and others knew exactly what would happen, so it was no surprise to me when it was reported last month that Verizon is throttling video. An ISP can’t levy a separate surcharge on video providers, so it’s a pure business necessity to reduce service and/or raise prices in general.

I don’t know how Verizon will fare if it has no friends at the FCC and FTC. T-Mobile last year was unfortunately blackmailed by the feds into a $48 million payment after it was investigated for throttling “unlimited” plans. Such a complaint is akin to accusing a restaurant of slow service when it becomes a buffet, and suddenly has many more customers who will consume even more per individual, but the same number of cooks. Quality must go down, price must go up, and/or the rate of service must slow. For the food that costs the restaurant the most, does it not make sense that even with no “cap,” it would be provided less rapidly (throttling), which discourages customers from consuming it more than the restaurant can afford?

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Threatening People with Fines and Jail

A question on Quora: “Why are so many American conservatives against the systems that are so effective in countries such as Finland and Denmark?”

First, it’s begging the question by using “effective.” European welfare states have had such success that Denmark has had to cut back on benefits, and Finland has tried replacing standard welfare payouts with a “basic income” that hasn’t worked either. Second, the scales of population and demographics are completely different. Those countries’ populations are less than that of New York City alone, with different ratios of worker ages. So it’s absurd to think that the spending can be copied merely by multiplying by a certain factor, no matter the number of decimal places.

Finally, there’s the fundamental moral argument of why someone should be forced to pay for what another receives. Broad welfare benefits and universal health care aren’t an insurance program whose participants have all voluntarily joined, but a government threatening people with fines and jail if they won’t “pitch in” for what others have voted themselves.

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But This Time It’ll Be Done Right!

It should never be a surprise that government will do a poor, even nightmarish job when it declares itself the only entity that can oversee what it forces people into participating in.

In a Facebook comment, someone claimed that at least government doesn’t profit off insurance plans. That unintentionally illustrates the difference: I want someone to profit off providing me with an excellent product I’m willing to pay for, because then he’ll have the incentive to keep up any good work, and the lure of profit might just bring in a competitor who can do it even better.

“Profit” is by itself not an evil thing at all. Why should it be when a buyer and seller peacefully agreed on what leads to someone earning more than what he put into providing the other? What’s evil is for a government to force a person to give for another, whether goods or his services, for less than what he could have gotten via peaceful exchange. A person can voluntarily choose to work for no profit, but it is wrong if he’s forced into it. Now, government by definition is supposedly non-profit, which is part of the myth of “public service.” But since the government gets the same tax revenue no matter what, and government employees get paid regardless, there’s no incentive to provide beyond what’s declares to be “good enough.”

Think of how quickly and how well any particular government responds to road repair, and now think of the same level of reaction to someone’s health care needs. In theory, different agencies have different mission statements, but in practice, we see the same bureaucracies whether at the DMV, USPS or IRS. Consider that the DMV and USPS are the most compassionate of all the agencies, because agents of the IRS, EPA, FDA, FCC, FTC, EEOC et al, may not themselves carry weapons, but they can call in marshals who do.

Advocates of government-run health care like to point to “for-profit” companies as wasting so much on overhead, claiming that single-payer would reduce bureaucracy and paperwork. However, the reputation of other government agencies belies any expectation of streamlining, not to mention that it’s government in the first place that’s responsible for insurers’ and health care providers’ high administration costs. Then we’re told, “But this time it’ll be done right!” — just like communism’s apologists have said for a long time.

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Advocacy of Peaceful Transactions

I’m not being sarcastic when I say that this meme is refreshing (right). I won’t call it an example of “tolerance,” because that word is thrown about by too many people who never stop to think about its real meaning. “Advocacy of purely peaceful transactions” doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily, but it’s more accurate.

There is no right to force another person to provide goods or services. How can it be about “freedom,” then, when it’s someone imposing his “freedom” on another, who will be beaten and jailed for peacefully declining business? There is nothing about “freedom” in someone using a law or regulation to force another, even if there were no other competitors. If there is enough demand, then let other competitors enter the marketplace.

That’s the moral argument. The empirical argument is just like what this fellow says: there are so many other bakeries, but the left wants to continue pulling cheap political stunts.

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