Thursday, June 09, 2005

Tempus Fugit: Part One of Some

Re-pasting of my first posting on Tempus Fugit's piece on minimum wage. As of now, the last libertarians standing are saying, in effect, "your argument is so stupid I don't need to respond." Read and judge for yourself...

Is it somehow coincidence that the substantive points made by SteveP, Reece, Hugo, and to a lesser extent Chris Beeman aren’t addressed by the supporters of the simplified argument made above?

I, too ended up here as a result of a link from Slate; I guess I can’t complain too much because it is the same way that my blog got a boost in readers; nonetheless, one wonders about them (as I do whenever they publish Steven Landsberg columns). It’s not that points of view shouldn’t be as diverse as possible; it’s that one constantly is forced to say to oneself: “This is the best argument they have?”

The assumptions of basic capitalism are simply not met by the modern economy. MNCs have oligopolies on many, many products; externalities are something one reads about in “Interest” pieces in the papers or in popular science magazines, and are dealt with day-to-day as if they are a drunken would-be passerby sitting outside on your lawn — wait and hope they go away. Of course, if they were ripping up your sod, tearing out your trees by the roots, polluting your air, and pissing in your water you’d think you might do something about it.

Capitalism is based on several premises simply not borne out by reality (though some lit. argues that all preconditions don’t have to be met, they nonetheless change the human costs at the very least and real-world efficiency doesn’t bear out capitalist predictions if you measure efficiency in terms of resources used:items or services produced or in terms of distribution): for one, that people are rational actors, as has been shown in numerous studies, i.e. people will pay more to avoid loss than they will to preserve a gain; they don’t adequately analyze trade-offs in complex situations; they value non-economic commodities which may be contingently valued (i.e. human life) but such valuation is a concession to practicality and not reality-based value (i.e. you can be compensated for loss of a loved one, but only a very cynical minority of people in the world would literally trade, for example, $15 million, for the life of a loved one)… another flaw: the aforementioned externalities — education, the environment, food security, public health (or lack thereof), depletion of resources — oddly enough, you never hear people looking for purified capitalism to call for the end of government subsidization for oil (and I’m not referring to putative wars on terrorism here, though that is oil hegemony is certainly a factor in a pertinent analysis) — the government help to oil companies in innumerable ways, one large one be the externalizing of environmental costs, keeps gas artificially low.

One could go on — but this is essentially what one is paying for in higher tax brackets. At a higher tax bracket, you have, as established by legislation and (the dreaded activist) court cases: more free speech; money = free speech, esp. as embodied in commercials, donations, publicity, coordination, subsidization and budgeting of political campaigns, etc., so those with more money have more speech than me. I can’t finagle a meeting with congresspeople for my personal edification; a captain of industry at the very top has a much better chance at this; and I certainly can’t finance a campaign for myself or others, or even a modest national ad buy; more money is usually the result of greater use of externalized common goods — even if a rich person didn’t go to public school and/or a university and/or in a field with significant government investment (i.e. computer engineering, biotech), if you have a company your employees likely did, and without the public goods of education and health entitlements, a large burden would have been shifted to citizens and employers who want to have large amounts of qualified people; the roads are a common good that makes many long-distance businesses more efficient (i.e. shipping anything by truck), as poorer citizens certainly have needs for roads, but less so for nation-crossing ones and not for huge, important, vital, on-time shipments (which are safely transported owing in part to the paying of law enforcement people and publicly funded rest stops), and indeed the large shipping trucks are already costing us (the tax base) a lot of money in over-weighted trucks requring more frequent repaving of roads; this cost, which is incurred in the service of companies that don’t share their profits with all of us, is paid by all of us.

I could go on. But I won’t. History (i.e. the previous posts) show that detailed refuting arguments aren’t addressed here.

No comments: