The Best Time to Alienate Readers is Before I Have Any

This. So. Much. This.

Is what a demonstrably intelligent, college educated acquaintance of mine had to say about what was actually just this.

There’s so much I can say, but long windedness on my part doesn’t even do me any good, let alone you. I’ll elaborate two points: first, this is a prime example of populist irrationality. By populist irrationality, I simply mean that, given the underlying values, the proposed solution does more harm than good. Second, the irony of those values which claim to abhor selfishness, but are themselves motivated only by the sense that some owe others merely for existing and irrespective of what they have to offer in return.


Let’s assume we have some minimal standard of human dignity that it is our sworn duty to uphold for all people at any cost. According to the article, this entails independent living space with climate control, an automobile, access to Western medical care, cable internet and telephone service with ~$25 a day left over for food and miscellany in addition to at least 120/168 hours of sleep/leisure per week. Assuming no effect on the prices of these goods, no transactions costs, no misallocations of capital, and no negative production change as a result of fewer hours worked, all we would need to do is double world GDP and distribute accordingly.* While all of those assumptions are far off the mark, simply redistributing income after production is a much sounder strategy to uphold a given standard of living than what the populist view suggests: raising the minimum wage.

Unfortunately, as is often the case, the emotionally satisfying response is the one that holds sway in the market for intellectual garbage. If people were genuinely interested in rectifying what they see as an inequity, they would understand and admit to disemployment effects and misallocations (high skill workers taking low skill jobs that pay like high skill jobs). Beyond that, they’d advocate that workers be paid what the market will bear in the interest of allocating to maximize gains from trade and leave no resources idle so that a redistribution after the fact could be maximally effective in improving the lives of the least well off. The appeal of the minimum wage vis a vis this suggestion is that it pays workers for their toil, which advocates interpret as desert, forgetting that low skilled workers are providing very little value to the society that is supposed to satisfy their compensatory expectations. 


“Human beings are worth more than that. Anyone who works 40 hours a week (nevermind 74 hours) ought be able to take care of all the basic necessities in life.”

By virtue of birth, humans are entitled to take more from the people who were here before are willing to give them for whatever it is they do. Those people never had any say in whether or not you were born, but now that you’re here, they owe you what you think is fair and anything less is criminal. In all sincerity, I’d like someone to explain to me why they’re the selfish ones.


*Assuming an adult population of 5.5 billion at $24,000 annual income (a bit less than the article suggested) the total comes to ~132 trillion 2012 WGP was ~71 trillion.

  1. July 17th, 2013

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