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Generic Confusion

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Nu ma nu ma iei, nu ma nu ma nu ma iei

News? Check. Politics? Check. Music? Check. Random thoughts about life? Check. Readership? Ummm.... let me get back to you on that. Updated when I feel like I have something to say, and remember to post it.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

What would you like for dessert?

Waiter: And what would you like for dessert?
Diner 1: Nothing for me, thanks.
Diner 2: I'm stuffed.
Diner 3: I couldn't eat another bite.
Waiter: But it's included with dinner.
Diner 1: Carrot cake.
Diner 2: Apple pie.
Diner 3: A hot fudge sundae.

It's an old joke, but true. Who's going to turn down something free? (Technically, the dessert is not free, but it is already paid for, so there's no additional cost.)

Always think about that when creating something that is (perceived as) free. The restaurant manager would be a fool to predict a 50% dessert acceptance ratio with this offer.

Now, think about what other situations this rule applies to. Think trips to the doctor will be the same when there's no incremental cost to paying a visit?

Let me turn the discussion to the concept of a "living wage." First, let's state the obvious: the living wage is a wage higher than the minimum wage, but the minimum wage is earned by some people who manage to live, so the name is a misnomer.

But what goes into a living wage? Whose standard of living are we talking about? Must forty hours a week fund a one bedroom apartment, meat with every meal, a television with cable, a car, Internet access?

Let's make some arguments. Good shelter and privacy are clearly required. Obviously, we can't deny the poor meat, the easiest way to a balanced diet for someone with little culinary experience. The Internet provides access to tools useful in studying and for job searches, so a computer with Internet access is essential. And we can't have someone be a social outcast; keeping up on popular music and TV series are key to friendly conversation with neighbors and coworkers.

If you were stating what you needed for a basic life, and someone else were paying, wouldn't you make arguments like that? However, if you were paying your own way on whatever wage you could earn in the marketplace, wouldn't you find a way to make do with less? You would share an apartment, eat foods like lentils and beans, drop the cable TV, and use the Internet at the library when needed.

There's a free market solution to the living wage issue. Allow certain businesses to offer a living wage to employees. Advertise that fact. Let people who support the living wage patronize the business. Certainly, these businesses would succeed and prosper, right?


Where'd all the living wage advocates go?


At 11:12 AM, Blogger honestpartisan said...

My understanding of "living wage" legislation usually refers to a specific situation: a municipality will only contract with businesses that pay their employees said wage (in New York, I think it's $10/hour). I haven't seen any other legislation about a "living wage" that is distinct from the minimum wage.

I think that, beyond a minimum wage and the living wage policy that municipalities may adopt, the best wage policy there is would be to make it easier for unions to organize workplaces. There are unions, incidentally, that follow your advice and advertise which employers do treat their workers well -- UNITE maintains a list somewhere of clothing retailers like this ( http://www.unitehere.org/buyunion/ ). I've also heard that Costco treats workers better than Wal-Mart and that Driscoll's strawberrys better than other strawberry farms.

At 6:58 PM, Blogger Greg said...

In other words, a municipality commits itself to spending its tax revenues inefficiently. This legislation normally arises in big cities with expensive costs of living, and likely problems meeting their budget.

At 3:54 PM, Blogger honestpartisan said...

I guess, although New York City is in surplus this year!


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