Saturday, February 25, 2017

According To Hoyt

According To Hoyt

No, I’m not going to rehash the problem that raising minimum wage means fewer entry jobs, which over time make for fewer people who even have the (timeliness, work) habits to hold a job, which, over time, impoverishes a society and leads to more welfare. This is a classic “kindness can be cruel” paradox, impenetrable to do gooders who operate on feels.

Being the world’s worst-ever person (but I have to share the trophy with Kate) I’m not even going to rehash the whole “but people can’t live on minimum wage” controversy. It’s true in most states of the Union (but not all) most single people can barely squeak by on minimum wage. It’s also true that you can’t raise a family on it (but then why should minimum wage earners be sole-earners when no one else can afford to be?) though this is somewhat mitigated by earned income credits, or at least it was the year when that was about our income. Being the world’s worst person I’m just going to say “Good, it’s an incentive to move up the ladder.” I’m also going to note that even in the current economy and for struggling millenials, everyone I know who got a minimum wage level job was making more within a year.

I’m going to admit there are cases of people trying to raise a family on minimum wage. There are also cases of people trying to raise a family on nothing. The problem of poverty and/or lack of ambition is not an easy one to solve, and hard cases make bad law. Lousy social programs, too. Minimum wage is one such, having far more horrible than good consequences.

Having a minimum wage at all is a left-hand policy, one that believes individuals, left on their own, will mercilessly exploit other humans beings, who, left on their own, have no recourse but taking it.

Like most such policies, and outside certain places and times, it is daft and more than a little presumptuous. It assumes that one side is needlessly villainous, and the other side is completely helpless, BUT the bureaucrat, without the slightest knowledge of the business of one or the skills of the other has the right information to set “minimum wages.”

Sure men try to make as great a profit as they can on their business, which includes paying employees as little as they can get away with. This means in practicality that they pay as little as they can to ensure a valuable worker isn’t poached by the next guy over.

This means when you start out, unless you have extensive preparation (and sometimes even then. I’ve heard beginning engineers are a net DRAIN) you aren’t worth much and you get paid very little indeed. (I worked for two years for just over $2 an hour.) But, as your skill increases, and particularly your skill at your particular employment, your wage is raised, to prevent you finding someone who will pay you more. Somewhere there, it will find its equilibrium, aka, what you’re worth.

This works for writers, who as contract workers have no minimum wage, for instance, and our advance often gets raised when we hit a new sales milestone, just so we won’t wander off to house B and say “Hey, do you need a novel?”

Yes, again, there are those people who will be exploited. (There are people who ARE helpless and absent a kind-hearted boss will make next to nothing.) But I submit it would be easier to have a more robust earned income supplementation than to distort our economy with A minimum wage law of any kind. (Yeah, I’m a libertarian. A man can seduce me by whispering in my ear “Taxation is theft.” BUT I’m also aware that some evils will always be with us, and that we’re not getting rid of redistribution. Envy and its effects are a monkey-sin. I’d just be happy if government meddling did LESS harm.)

As I’ve said before, economics is a science. Trying to legislate it makes as much sense as legislating the law of gravity or the rate of rain fall. It might make you feel good, but it doesn’t work that way.

The way it works is by seeking other channels, which include being paid “under the table”, forcing other employees to work unpaid hours (trust me, it can be done, particularly in a bad economy) and firing the dead weight, and … hiring illegal labor.

The US doesn’t have an illegal immigration problem. The US has a minimum wage problem.

Given our large and unguarded border (yes, wall, but how much will be built and how much will it stop armed coyotes and drug smugglers) with a country where the cost of living and wages are MUCH lower, paying $10 an hour (let alone $15) means you’ve built an attractive nuisance. This is like having a pool without a fence or any barriers that might attract neighborhood children who can’t swim.

The minimum wage will attract otherwise honest people, cause them to risk their lives, feed illegal businesses and break the law. People will break every law to get here, because at that rate, and living 20 men to an apartment, they can send home enough to keep their wife and children in luxury. You can’t stop men from coming over and trying to do that, particularly when the pay is for illegal work. You just can’t. It’s a biological imperative for a father to take care of his brood.

On top of that there’s the corruption of the employer. Oh, sure, if you’re hiring them with fake social security numbers, you’re paying minimum wage. Probably. Only they’re illegal, and it’s easy to make them work double time. Or you know you don’t have to declare exactly how much they worked and pay benefits. They’re not going to file for taxes. A lot of employers will also hire under the table and pay less than minimum wage.

We also can’t stop the employer doing that, not even if the employer is otherwise an honest man and devoted to the nation. Why not?

Because in many cases we’d be requiring them to kill off their business. I understand many agricultural businesses simply can’t afford to pay minimum wage and stay in business. At any rate, the attractive nuisance law applies again. All it takes is some employers not being too scrupulous and hiring illegal workers. Then the illegal workers allow these employers to lower the price of their product.

The end result is forcing everyone in that field to hire illegal workers. Rumors that Toni Weisskopf drove by a home depot and said “I need to people to write novels” and Larry and I jumped in the back of the truck are somewhat exaggerated, but a similar effect is seen in my field, not from illegal laborers but from academicians moving into writing. When someone starts writing science fiction to pad her university resume, she’ll take an absurdly low advance, now down to something like 3k per novel. This is not her income, or even a decent part of her income, it’s just a satisfaction to “publish and perish.” The ability to pay that low an advances forces down all the advances across the field. It is not the sole explanation for why advances declined from a living wage in the forties and fifties to “money for some pizzas” now, but it is a portion of it. What it did to the field wasn’t pretty in terms of quality either.

What illegal labor does to the fields it takes over is not pretty either. There is a lot less investment into working at very low wages in a foreign land, as a worker who will move around a lot, and who doesn’t care what his record is, than in building a career. There is a reason we joke about things built by “Manuel labor” and their inherent shoddiness.

And the way to get rid of it is not a wall, nor enhanced verification. When you have an attractive nuisance of this magnitude, the neighbors will be attracted, and man is a clever ape. Humans will find a way.

The way to get rid of illegal immigration is to get rid of minimum wage and supplement the income of the truly needy in other ways.

What are the chances of getting rid of this bad idea whose time should never have come, but which has been with us for over a hundred years?

So. About that wall. How much do you think it will cost to build and guard?

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