A Philosopher's Blog

Adjuncts & Walmart Workers

Posted in Business, Ethics, Law, Philosophy, Universities & Colleges by Michael LaBossiere on October 4, 2013
A recently renovated Walmart store in Clinton,...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The September, 2013 issue of the NEA Higher Education Advocate featured an infographic comparing working at Walmart with working as an adjunct/contingent faculty member.  Having worked as an adjunct, I can attest to the accuracy of the claims regarding the adjunct experience.

In the usual order of things, a college degree provides a higher earning potential. This is not, however, true for the typical adjuncts. In the United States, a retail cashier makes an average of $9.13 an hour, resulting in a yearly income of $20,410. By way of comparison, Goldman Sachs’ health  coverage for a higher end employee (such as Ted Cruz’s wife) amounts to almost twice that amount. An adjunct who is working 40 hours a week will make on average $16,200 a year (which is $7.78 per hour). Running a cash register sometimes requires a high school degree, but not always. Being an adjunct typically requires having a graduate degree and many of them have doctorates. I did and I made $16,000 my first year as an adjunct. That was teaching four classes a semester for two semesters. Adjuncts generally do not get any benefits, although some of them do get insurance coverage—as graduate students. I had health insurance as a graduate student (at a very low rate) but not as an adjunct—fortunately I had no serious injuries and only minor illnesses during my insurance free time. If I had had my quadriceps tendon tear when I was an adjunct, it would have cost me almost $12,000—leaving me only $4,000 for the year (less after taxes).

The typical workers for corporations like Walmart tend to be no better off—they do not get much (or any) benefits and hence often do not have health care coverage. It might be wondered how people survive on such low wages and with no benefits. In some cases, people simply do without. When I was an adjunct, I did not have a car, I bought only what food I could afford, I lived in a one bedroom apartment and did all I could to live frugally. I do admit that I splurged on luxuries like running shoes and race entry fees. Fortunately, I did make some extra money writing—which helped support my gaming hobby.

This approach can work for a person who has no dependents, can get by without a vehicle, and has no health issues. However, those who cannot do the obvious: they turn to the state for aid. In the case of Walmart, the taxpayers provide support to their employees. For example, in the state of Wisconsin Walmart employees cost the taxpayers $9.8 million a year in Medicaid benefits alone. Adjuncts would also often qualify for state support. Out of Yankee pride, I did not avail myself of any such aid—I could survive on what I was making, albeit at a relatively low quality of life in Western terms. However, many people do not have the luxury of pride—they need to care for their families or address health issues.

As might be imagined, these low salaries and lack of benefits are a point of concern. Laying aside concerns about fairness of wages (which actually should not be done), there is the fact that the low pay of many workers is subsidized by the taxpayers. That is, the taxpayers pick up the difference between what the employers pay and what people need to survive. As I have argued before, this is a form of corporate and university socialism: the state support allows schools and corporations to pay low wages and thus generate greater profits. Or, in the case of non-profit schools, funnel the money elsewhere—most likely to administration and things like bonuses for the university president. For example, the previous president of my university was guaranteed a yearly bonus that that was about twice the average yearly adjunct salary.

Obamacare is supposed to, in some degree, shift the burden of health care costs from the taxpayer to the employer. The idea is that larger employers will need to provide health care benefits to full time employees or pay a fine. This, as might be imagined, has caused some people to threaten dire consequences. To be specific, some employers, including universities, have stated that they will reduce employee hours so that they fall just under the line for full time employment. Some have even threatened to fire people on the grounds that they cannot afford to pay.

One stock counter to the idea that employers should provide such benefits is that the state has no right to impose such costs on businesses, especially when doing so will cause businesses to fire people and cut their hours. This does have some appeal. However, there is still the question of who will provide the workers with the resources they need to survive.

One view is that the employers have an obligation to provide a living wage to those who do their job and do it competently. Few would argue that an employer is obligated to just hand people money for not working or doing terrible work—after all, a person who can earn his way should do so. As might be imagined, many employers (including universities) would rather not do this. After all, increasing wages to an actual living wage would cut into profits. In the case of universities, such increases would mean cuts in other areas of the budget (but surely not presidential bonuses).

Another view is that private citizens or organizations of private citizens (such as church groups) have the obligation to provide assistance to others via charity. That is, individuals should voluntarily subsidize the employers by providing the employees with the resources they need to survive, such as food. Of course, if private citizens have this obligation, it would seem that the employers (being citizens as well) would also have this obligation. One clever way around this is to contend that corporations are people, just not the sort of people who have moral obligations. Obviously, people do provide such support—but it would certainly be a challenge for private citizens to adequately support all the working people whose wages are not adequate.

A third view is that the state has the obligation to provide the resources for people to survive. This is, for the most part, the current situation. However, since the state gets most of its income from the citizens, this is effectively having private citizens subsidizing the employers, only with the state organizing the charity. Once again, if the state is obligated to do this, this merely comes down to the citizens having this obligation.

A fourth option is that no one has an obligation to provide people with the resources they need to survive, even when those people are actually working full time and generating enough value to allow their employer to pay them living wages. One might make references to the morality nullifying powers of the free-market: while people might have moral obligations, these do not hold in economic relations. One might also reject the idea that people have any such moral obligations to others at all: people must make it on their own or perish, unless someone freely decides to provide assistance.

Overall, it comes down to the question of what, if anything, people owe to each other. My own view is that the market does not nullify morality and that we do have obligations to each other. These obligations include an obligation to not allow other people to suffer or die simply because others are unwilling to pay them a fair, living wage. To head off the usual attacks, I am not claiming that able and competent people should simply be handed resources earned by the toil of others for doing nothing. Rather, my view is about fair wages and ethical behavior. This is why I am against both just handing people stuff for nothing and for people profiting off the labor of others. Both are cases of people who are getting the value of others’ work and not earning the value themselves.

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  1. T. J. Babson said, on October 4, 2013 at 9:18 am

    “Obamacare is supposed to, in some degree, shift the burden of health care costs from the taxpayer to the employer.”

    Do you really believe this? If so, I would like to introduce you to a Nigerian friend who only needs you to wire him a few thousand dollars…

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on October 4, 2013 at 10:00 am

      It is supposed to-impacted employers are supposed to provide benefits or pay a fine.

      Now, the way to hit me on this is to say “well, are not employers taxpayers?” To which I must say “Generally, yes.” So, I’d have to clarify by distinguishing between the population of taxpayers that are not employers and those that are (and those that employ but avoid taxes).

  2. T. J. Babson said, on October 4, 2013 at 9:33 am

    Democrats lied, the budget died.

    President Obama’s landmark healthcare overhaul is projected to cost $1.76 trillion over a decade, reports the Congressional Budget Office, a hefty sum more than the $940 billion estimated when the healthcare legislation was signed into law. To put it mildly, ObamaCare’s projected net worth is far off from its original estimate — in fact, about $820 billion off.

    Backtracking to his September 2009 remarks to a joint session of Congress on healthcare, Obama asserted the following: “Now, add it all up, and the plan I’m proposing will cost around $900 billion over 10 years — less than we have spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and less than the tax cuts for the wealthiest few Americans that Congress passed at the beginning of the previous administration.”

    When the final CBO report was released before the law’s passage, critics surmised that the actual 10-year cost would far exceed the advertised projections. In other words, the numbers were seemingly obscured through a political ploy devised to jam the legislation through Congress.

    “Democrats employed many accounting tricks when they were pushing through the national health care legislation,” asserted Philip Klein of the Washington Examiner, “the most egregious of which was to delay full implementation of the law until 2014.” This accounting maneuver allowed analysts to cloak the true cost of ObamaCare, Klein alleged, making the law appear less expensive under the CBO’s budget window.

    If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, maybe this will: “President Obama’s healthcare reform law coverage provisions will cost less but cover fewer people than first thought,” the Hill reported, considering data from the CBO’s Tuesday report. Revised estimates of ObamaCare’s coverage provisions indicate that 2 million fewer people will acquire coverage by 2016.

    Moreover, the CBO estimates that 4 million Americans will lose their employer-sponsored health plans by 2016, a far cry from the 1-million-person figure forecasted last year. Further yet, 1 million to 2 million fewer people will be granted access to the federally-subsidized healthcare exchanges, while an additional 1 million are estimated to qualify for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Provision.

    In a second blog post published on Tuesday, Mr. Klein summed up the debacle: “It’s also worth noting that we were told time and again during the health care debate that the law didn’t represent a government takeover of health care. But by 2022, according to the CBO, 3 million fewer people will have health insurance through their employer, while 17 million Americans will be added to Medicaid and 22 million will be getting coverage through government-run exchanges.”

    http://news.yahoo.com/cbo-obamacare-price-tag-shifts-940-billion-1-163500655.html

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on October 4, 2013 at 10:02 am

      Republicans shut it down. They are like Joker, that evil clown.

      Hey, political rhymes are fun.

      • WTP said, on October 4, 2013 at 10:50 am

        Boolean clownNosePositionOn = true;

      • T. J. Babson said, on October 4, 2013 at 1:38 pm

        While Republicans try to negotiate, Dems only bloviate.

      • T. J. Babson said, on October 4, 2013 at 1:53 pm

        The House passed a funding bill. It went to the Senate and lies there still.

  3. magus71 said, on October 4, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    • WTP said, on October 4, 2013 at 6:30 pm

      Not a Beck fan, per se, but “give me the communist country country that worked”.

      “I’ll take responsibility for China and the Soviet Union if you take credit for Hitler”. Not that I would concede AH as being a capitalist (and certainly not a free market one), but for the sake of argument, 20 million plus killed by Stalin alone, 60 million plus killed by Mao vs. 6 million by AH. Ther is no arguing with these people. Words and facts have no value.

      • magus71 said, on October 4, 2013 at 7:36 pm

        As far as students And he and the US Communist Party support Obama. Why?

        • magus71 said, on October 4, 2013 at 7:38 pm

          Sorry, part of my answer from below is in this.

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on October 5, 2013 at 4:05 pm

          I teach at an HBCU and the students have many reasons for being pro-Obama, some emotional, some rational. From the rational standpoint, many of my students are not well off and need support to pay for school. The Democrats generally offer more to people in that situation. As you say, a person should vote in his own interest. Plus, there is a perception that the Tea Party and some Republicans are racist. That does not play well.

          The Communists probably support him because it was him or Mitt.

  4. magus71 said, on October 4, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    Mike,

    Could the cashier simply switch jobs on a whim and become a high-end employee for Goldman Sachs? No. Could the high end employee decide on a whim to become a cashier? Sure.

    Get why they don’t get paid the same?

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on October 5, 2013 at 3:55 pm

      I never, ever, ever claim that everyone should be paid exactly the same. My claim is that a person is morally entitled to the value s/he generates. So, if Sally can justly generate $200,000,000 by her technology and biochemistry patents and Sam justly generates $20,000 flipping burgers, then Sally is morally entitled to $200,000,000 and Sam to $20,000.

      The principle I use is not “everyone deserves the same compensation” but “everyone deserves compensation in accord to the value generated.” Crudely put, you should earn based on the worth of the results.

      • T. J. Babson said, on October 5, 2013 at 3:58 pm

        There is no objective basis for determining value. For example, how much should professional golfers earn? What is the value of hitting a ball into a hole? Is not a fist grade teacher of greater value?

  5. magus71 said, on October 4, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    Tell me, Mike, should Sam Walton have made only 20,000 dollars a year from Walmart?

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on October 5, 2013 at 3:52 pm

      Morally, a person should make the value of what s/he justly earns. For labor, the most plausible theory is Locke’s. This can be modified for value created.

      Now, a person could be said to earn the value of what they get others to do for them, perhaps allowing an owner to claim the work of his/her slave as value s/he is entitled to. Likewise for paid employees-the value they generate belongs to the employer, but s/he allows them some percentage of it as compensation.

  6. WTP said, on October 4, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    Magus, TJ, I know some of my questions are uncomfortable and a bit off putting. But humor me on this one. Given Mike’s glib, sarcastic (guilty as charged at times meself), and mocking answers, and even many times total silence, to many of the serious questions you ask of him here, do you honestly believe that a student just a few years out of high school would be comfortable challenging Mike on some of the very same valid points that we grown adults, chronologically his equals, pose to him here? If not, is this ethical? Especially as it is being done on the tax payers’ dime?

    • magus71 said, on October 4, 2013 at 8:20 pm

      As far as students challenging him, no, most would not. They simply don’t have the foundation to do so. After all, they go to school to get that foundation. But this is not new in academia. This lady, Angela Davis, ran several times for VP of the US under the Communist party ticket. In 1979 she was awarded the “Lenin Peace Prize” by the Soviet Union. A peace prize named after one of the most malevolent human beings in the history of the world. And she accepted it. She has a PhD of course. She was a member of the Black Panthers, was fired from her original job as a professor in California for using hateful speech and being a member of the Communist Party back in 1970.

      But in those days, America stood for something, not the mushy, anything-goes attitude that passes for freedom now. So of course she is a professor again in California, teaching in the “History of Consciousness Department”, whatever that is.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angela_Davis

      For everyone’s edification, the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) was under the direct control of Moscow about 30 years ago, and before. They took direct orders from the Bolsheviks, starting with Lenin. Their directive was the overthrow of the US government by the incitement of a proletariat uprising. This is not a myth. Thousands of documents were purchased from the collapsed Soviet Union by the Library of Congress and these documents show just how deep the Communists had burrowed into the intellectual elite’s ranks. The threat of Communism has always been addressed with more hand waves. This tactic, too, is addressed in the KGB files, how when real Communists were brought to light, the tactic was to counterattack and accuse the right wing of being paranoid with Red Fever etc. Eventually what happened, is that while most academics were not outright Communists, they were anti anti-Communist. just know that it is much safer for Mike to take the stances he is taking, then say, to espouse the thoughts of Milton Friedman.

      As for the ethics, I suppose the same argument could be made for any stance professors take, even ones we agree with.

      I simply don’t really know what a fair wage really is. Only the person working for it can know, just like only a potential buyer can really know if a Mickey mantle rookie card is worth $10,000. It seems if the wage is outrageously unfair, he or she would not take the job, or would take the job until they found something better. I would not be a professional soldier if I did not feel adequately compensated, because sometimes, it’s ridiculously difficult, more difficult than any other job I’ve worked. I have serious questions about the effectiveness of the minimum wage because other free countries like Germany have no minimum wage.

      Mike should ask himself why we have done so stunningly well with such an unjust system, and why every truly socialist country whose leaders religiously read Marx, failed so miserably. Could it be that perhaps we don’t know all there is to know, that though Marx was a genius, he could not understand all there is to know about near-infinite complex human interactions when those humans are free and able to choose what makes them happy? If we look at a “system” and say, “That shouldn’t work”, but it does work, then the logical conclusion is that we are missing a part of the equation. Mike of course will argue that the system is not working because there is “massive unfairness.” I would retort: Unfairness compared to what?

      • WTP said, on October 4, 2013 at 10:24 pm

        A fair and thoughtful reply. I would like to respond in kind but life factors through the weekend, and right now alcohol, may get in the way. Wil try to get back to this before Monday. Thanks.

      • Michael LaBossiere said, on October 5, 2013 at 4:02 pm

        I’m not a Communist and have never been one. I went through a Thoreau style anarchist and an atheist phase in college that developed into a form of rational and ethical libertarianism. This mellowed a bit under the influence of Locke, Aristotle, Mill and Hobbes. So now I advocate a state that can perform the core functions of the state, plus the duties set by the Constitution in regards to the common defense, general welfare and so on. As far as warranting state intrusion, that can only be justified by the principle of harm: other people have the moral right to prevent me from unjustly hurting them, but what affects only me is my own damn business.

        The “Marxism” of the “communist” states was, as far as I can tell, mainly a cover for dictatorship. Marx’s own view was that highly developed capitalist states would, via a revolution, become socialist and then communist. What has actually happened is that evil dictators have used its ideology to “justify” their crimes against humanity.

        As my adviser said: “Analytical Marxism? Hmm, that would be doubly vacuous.”

        • T. J. Babson said, on October 5, 2013 at 4:03 pm

          And yet, from Wikipedia:

          The labor theories of value (LTV) are heterodox economic theories of value that argue the value of a commodity is only related to the labor needed to produce or obtain that commodity and not to other factors of production (except as those elements can be regarded as embodied labour.) Presently the concept is most often associated with Marxian economics,

          • magus71 said, on October 6, 2013 at 5:36 am

            This is what has bothered me and why I’ve been on the Marx kick. Many of the ideas he’s espousing here are clearly Marxian. it is fine if Mike wants to use these ideas because he really believes it will make the world more just. But don’t deny that they are Marxian ideas. His sneering disdain for capitalists rings of Marx, too.

            • WTP said, on October 6, 2013 at 7:40 am

              “I am not a communist and have never been one”. From wiki:

              …thus, in 1883, Marx wrote to the French labour leader Jules Guesde and to Paul Lafargue (Marx’s son-in-law) – both of whom claimed to represent Marxist principles – accusing them of “revolutionary phrase-mongering” and of denying the value of reformist struggle; from Marx’s letter derives the paraphrase: “If that is Marxism, then I am not a Marxist”.[30][31]

              Like trying to nail jello to a wall. They don’t even believe themselves.

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on October 6, 2013 at 1:04 pm

              I don’t have a disdain for capitalists, just bad capitalists. Adam Smith argued that capitalism would make a better world for everyone, but he should have read Hobbes more carefully. There are those who will behave badly and just as we cannot allow things to just work out by the “invisible hand” of social interaction, we cannot just allow things to work out by an invisible hand of the market.

              To be more concrete, we arrest murderers, thieves and rapists and have laws against such behavior. This is because most folks get that you can’t just let such matters be sorted out by allowing some sort of alleged social forces to sort it out without state intervention. The same holds true for economic criminals.

            • WTP said, on October 6, 2013 at 5:59 pm

              To be more concrete, we arrest murderers, thieves and rapists and have laws against such behavior. This is because most folks get that you can’t just let such matters be sorted out by allowing some sort of alleged social forces to sort it out without state intervention. The same holds true for economic criminals.

              This is simply unconscionable. To compare what capitalists do to rapists, thieves, and murderers. Che Guevera, Lenin, Castro, Ho Chi Mihn, Mao, etc. etc. etc. THESE are actual theives, murderers, and yes even rapists. THESE men were economic criminals in addition to the above. This argument Mike puts forward here is simplistic rabble rousing completely unworthy of someone regarded as an academic. True economic criminals have been prosecuted and jailed in this country. If Mike regards those running Cocacola, Apple, Cisco, Alcoa, etc. as criminals, he should state exactly how. Does such accusation extend to stockholders as well? If not, why not?

            • T. J. Babson said, on October 6, 2013 at 8:37 pm

              Do you regard McDonald’s as a “bad capitalist”? As far as I can tell, you have determined that they underpay their workers. However, you cannot explain how you arrived at this conclusion. Perhaps you have just grokked it.

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on October 7, 2013 at 11:55 am

              Well, McDonald’s reported billions in profits-this suggests that the workers are being underpaid relative to the value they contribute. Now, McDonald’s would thus seem to be very good at being capitalists-they are making huge profits.

              Going back to my essay about taxes, think about what people say about being overtaxed: the argument is that they are being robbed of the value they earned. If this makes sense with taxes, it would seem to make sense with workers’ pay. Being consistent, I am opposed to both unfair taxes and unfair wages.

            • T. J. Babson said, on October 7, 2013 at 1:00 pm

              “McDonald’s indeed bagged $5.5 billion in profits last year. Profit margins are thin in any restaurant that doesn’t serve alcohol, but McDonald’s makes it up on volume. It boasts serving 69 million hungry customers per day.”

              http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324009304579043422002553480.html

              If you do the math, McDonald’s makes about $0.22 profit per customer. Mike, what do you feel is a fair profit per customer for McDonald’s to make if 22 cents is too high?

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on October 8, 2013 at 4:13 pm

              It depends on what is meant by profit. People should, as I have said all along, receive compensation appropriate to the value generated. If someone is getting more than that at the expense of others, that would seem to be (by definition) theft. So, taking profit as getting what one has not earned, then the correct answer would be zero.

              If you take profit to be the amount earned by a contributor appropriate to his contribution (this would also include the folks who provide the capital investment), then there would be no theoretical limit.

              I’ve never been against people being well or exceptionally well compensated-I’m against theft. Be it theft via excessive taxes or theft by deficient compensation.

            • WTP said, on October 7, 2013 at 1:36 pm

              think about what people say about being overtaxed: the argument is that they are being robbed of the value they earned. If this makes sense with taxes, it would seem to make sense with workers’ pay. Being consistent,

              And mike consistently refuses to acknowledge the difference between taxes, which are taken by force, and opportunity of employment, which is a choice. Thick as a brick, he is. But consistent. Though it has been said that a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of weak minds. This being the month for hobgoblins…

        • WTP said, on October 5, 2013 at 5:52 pm

          Judging from what is written here, Mike has no knowledge of Mike’s posts. Of course Mike has never been a big fan of Webster, so the words written here are all open to the most liberal interpretation. So what’s the point?

      • Michael LaBossiere said, on October 5, 2013 at 4:13 pm

        I don’t preach in my classrooms, so it is generally not about my ideas being presented to the students. I do include two published articles of mine in my intro class: one on time travel and one on ghosts & philosophy of mind. Students are encouraged to disagree with these views.

        I generally try to avoid letting the students know what my personal beliefs are, mainly to keep them from trying to write papers calculated to appeal to my beliefs. If directly asked and time permits, I’ll present a brief argument for my view and also reasons why I could be wrong-I try to teach them that philosophy is about searching for truth, considering the possibility that beloved beliefs could be wrong, and not about just repeating the words of the authorities.

        My best students have disagreed with me and made cases for their views-some went on to be lawyers, engineers, doctors and professors. I was that sort of student when I was a kid and I like students who have their own considered views and stand up for them in the face of authority.

        I’m a calm and easy-going person, so people are generally not threatened by me in terms of fearing that I’ll retaliate for holding an opposing view or have some sort of fit if challenged.

        I do hate to lose-but I’m not a bastard about it.

        • WTP said, on October 5, 2013 at 5:49 pm

          I generally try to avoid letting the students know what my personal beliefs are,

          Puh-lease. Do you think they’re too stupid to google?

      • WTP said, on October 6, 2013 at 7:33 am

        So getting back to Magus’ reply to my post, As for the ethics, I suppose the same argument could be made for any stance professors take, even ones we agree with.. I would disagree that it must be this way, but sadly it has become such. Thus the education factor has been severely damaged in non STEM classes. You may recall something I posted here a few weeks ago by a guy who was a student of a Marxist professor back in the 60’s. The guy spoke of how open the professor was and in fact demanded, after suspecting the students were trying to ingratiate themselves with his position, that his students rewrite their papers in opposition to his beliefs.

        …Marx was a genius …, genius like Jim Jones or David Koresh, I suppose. Or Hitler. Of course Marx had the PR advantage of never actually doing anything that might prove him wrong. See my next snark.

        • magus71 said, on October 6, 2013 at 8:33 am

          Oh, I agree that the term genius does not necessarily carry with it positive connotation.

          Having known Mike for so long, I can attest that he is a fair person. He will help people when they are in need. He helped me. What I do wish however, is that he would spend more time telling Burger Flippers how he himself became successful and less time telling them why they are victims of their bosses. What were Mike’s habits that helped his success? Incredibly hard work , showing up for all his classes, reading a lot, learning to write. He would find the mentality of most Burger Flippers utterly alien to his own.

          Last night, my wife and I stopped in to Wendy’s at a mall near the military post, after we finished a movie at the cinema. She noted the rabble behind the counter. Arms lined with tattoos, at least 5 workers shuffling around a burger bun right under their feet, no one simply bending over and picking it up. Some looking unwashed. My wife asked me why Wendy’s would hire these people, and I told her that they are probably the best that they get, so far advanced is the crumbling of our society. Certainly none of them were worth $15 an hour, as none of them could pick up a chunk of food that all the customers could see.

          I do not hate these people. But we as a society have shirked our duties, and the elites are at the vanguard of the shirking.

          • T. J. Babson said, on October 6, 2013 at 10:30 am

            Just so. Like a truth-seeking missile, you hit the target🙂

          • magus71 said, on October 6, 2013 at 10:35 am

            Might I also add that I’m allowing Mike a bit of wiggle room by bringing up Marx. Mike has more in common with the French socialists and Utopians that inspired Marx.

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on October 6, 2013 at 1:11 pm

              I’m also not a socialist-I don’t think that the state should own the means of production. However, I do think that we need a civilization and that, until the masses are capable of acting virtuously without coercion, requires a state.

            • WTP said, on October 7, 2013 at 7:42 am

              Mike does think that the state should control the means of production. To actually own it would involve risk and responsibility.

          • Michael LaBossiere said, on October 6, 2013 at 1:09 pm

            If the workers you mention are only doing work whose value matches their pay, then they are being justly treated. I’ve not advocated that people be paid more than their work is worth. I usually use the analogy of running a race: as long as the race is fair, then it is just the people who run best get the best rewards. But, it has to be a fair race and everyone who contributes gets the post-race food. Our system is hardly competitive capitalism: it is rigged, loaded and so on.

            As far as the workers’ attitude, they might have that view (in part) because of the low pay and lack of other opportunities.

            • magus71 said, on October 7, 2013 at 7:11 am

              “Our system is hardly competitive capitalism: it is rigged, loaded and so on”

              But this has nothing to do with whether Wendy’s employees deserve 15 bucks an hour to run a cash register, which recently, some were protesting for.

              Much of your economic philosophy is based on the labor theory of value, a decidedly Marxist idea. Just because you do not agree with certain aspects of socialism does not mean you aren’t one. Few of them could agree on anything either, See Trotsky…When several people say you’re a socialist, you may want to consider. Of course the term socialist need not be on the face of it, derogatory. Specific arguments must be made against your ideas.

              And since your philosophy is centrally based on LTV, it would seem that if we can determine if LTV is actually true or not would tell us a lot.

              Video #1 on why LTV is an improper way to view the economic world:

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on October 7, 2013 at 11:52 am

              The labor theory of value dates back to at least Locke, so it predates Marx.

              I disagree with the defining and essential quality of socialism, so that means I am not one. Now, if socialism is the belief that the state has a role in providing certain social services, then everyone except the anarchists are socialists and this make the label all but useless.

              The labor theory can work in regards to certain types of labor (like making a burger or putting on a roof). But, as you have noted, it does run into problems when dealing with things like electronic books.

              However, it still seems sensible to develop a theory of value-after all, the hardest core capitalists are all about measuring value. My view seems a fair one: people are morally entitled to the value of their work, be that person flipping a burger or flipping financial products.

            • magus71 said, on October 7, 2013 at 7:25 am

              I could write a book on the problems with LTV. Maybe I will.
              Problem #2: If LTV is ttrue, then that means we must adjust the prices of all goods through government intervention. For instance, you can buy an XBOX game for $60. Most video game franchises put out one game in a line every year. A book can take several years to write, yet I can probably buy it for around 10 dollars. Which is more valuable? The best example is the baseball card. Some cards are highly valued. Even when I was 18, I understood that no person can tell me that the Mickey Mantle rookie card is worth $10,000, yet that is what it was listed at at the time. Yet, surely $10,000 worth of labor did not go in to making a single card. And so you see the inevitibility of increading government intervention when you begin controlling wages; you have to control prices, too.

  7. magus71 said, on October 4, 2013 at 8:33 pm

    Why our democracy doesn’t work well anymore:

    • WTP said, on October 4, 2013 at 10:32 pm

      Not sure if I should “thumbs up” or “thumbs down”

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on October 5, 2013 at 4:14 pm

      An informed, virtuous and educated population is a requirement for a full democracy. Hence the American development of public education.

      • WTP said, on October 6, 2013 at 7:45 am

        hence the development of public education …into the unthinking, uninformed, jingoistic pablum it has become.

  8. magus71 said, on October 4, 2013 at 8:36 pm

    Abortion in a can. Enjoy the Decline.

  9. magus71 said, on October 7, 2013 at 8:15 pm

    Mike,

    What do you think of Distributinism? I rather like it. Strangely, I find many part of Medieval society to be more effective than ours. We sometimes confuse our comfort with the assumption that our systems are better, when mostly it’s just technology that makes us comfortable.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distributism

    • T. J. Babson said, on October 7, 2013 at 8:47 pm

      A nation of small businesspersons–much like the Founders had in mind. What is not to like?

      • WTP said, on November 22, 2013 at 8:35 am

        Well, there wouldn’t be much of an internet. Nor reliable computers to hook into it.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on October 8, 2013 at 4:09 pm

      In the case of large industry, it would not be viable with the current technology. For example, the production of large aircraft/spacecraft would require a large corporation or state.

      However, changing technology might allow for an interesting reversal that would allow Distributivism on a wider scale. For example, if 3D printing became viable and cost effective, we might see a return of local manufacturing of sophisticated items.

      There are advantages to economy of scale, but also advantages to having a broad distribution of property-it could help with social stability and in dampening economic shockwaves that are the norm in the current system.


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