Posts filed under ‘Economics’

Mo’ money, mo’ problems.

As the federal minimum wage increases to $6.55 today, I imagine I can hear millions of business owners screaming in agony.  Many people (especially Liberals) would argue that everyone in the country deserves to make a “living wage” and that even with today’s increase many people are still not making enough to make it out of poverty. 

The problem with increasing the minimum wage is that business owners that were paying their employees $5.15 last year are now paying those same employees over a dollar more per hour.  Most workers at the minimum wage level are teenagers with summer jobs or people with very few skills.  An increase in the minimum wage is a mandated raise for these workers, whether or not they’ve actually gained new skills or increased their productivity. 

Alan Greenspan famously recommended the abolishment of the minimum wage on grounds that it would exclude unskilled teenage workers from gaining the necessary experience to succeed in the work force.  The 1923 case Adkins v Childrens Hospital deemed the 1918 legislation establishing a minimum wage unconstitutional (it was later overruled, obviously). 

The real point here is that increases in the minimum wage hurt workers that are affected by the minimum wage.  If an employer doesn’t feel that a hire will provide $6.55 worth of productivity, then he or she has two choices: either do not hire the person and save the money it would take to train them to output their salary’s worth of production, or add those duties to another position and hire an already trained worker that is guaranteed to work to their expected output.

Eliminating the minimum wage would allow unskilled workers to be added to a payroll at a wage level proportional to their productivity, and would allow them to gain work experience and move up the pay scale as they gain new skills. 

Federal minimum wages really only apply to half the country, as most states have their own that are much higher.  The same problems apply, and many businesses as well as unskilled workers are being unnecessarily adversely affected.  Unfortunately most people feel that wage equality is the moral thing to do, and that it’s necessary to keep people out of poverty.  It really has no place in a capitalist system, and does more harm than good to the people who supposedly need it.

July 24, 2008 at 6:06 pm Leave a comment

Facebook points out a societal problem

After reading Stanislav Shalunov’s post on the two types of Facebook users, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the reason why I never log on to MySpace.

The problem is the majority of users as described in the article, those that use the animated GIFs and have auto-playing music when the profile loads.  These are the things that make MySpace unusable for me.  MySpace profiles are almost always cluttered and improperly formatted, leaving an asymmetric mess of a web page that makes me more inclined to close the browser and walk away from the Internet than stay and find out about someone.

Facebook (pre-redesign) was moving in this direction, with its pages sprouting app after app filled with hatching animals and bumper stickers that were lifted off humor websites (like someecards.com).  Not only does this make a page difficult to use, but I believe it points out a deeper problem.

The Warning Signs

As Shalunov mentions in his post, “giggly” users are far less likely to read blocks of text, and are more inclined to communicate by clicking (Poking and playing games).  As the internet grows up and moves to the services found under the umbrella of Web 2.0, I cringe to think that these “giggly” users are still stuck in the days of Hamster Dance (see: WebHamster…the original HamsterDance has actually cleaned up its act a little).

Web 2.0 is (at least in my opinion) centered around the exchange of ideas and information, and using the power of the internet to connect people instantly, and allowing those people to generate new knowledge on the fly (that’s not to say that Web 2.0 isn’t about having fun at the same time; see: Flickr and Last.fm). If the majority of users can’t focus on text and only want to see glittery animations, then the problem runs a lot deeper than a profile page.

Who they are and how to fix it

Shalunov further explains who a “giggly” user might be:

Giggly users love to have fun with their friends, love to chit-chat and giggle, forward things easily and without a second thought. Giggly users generally don’t review applications because it requires typing. They don’t visit the about pages much. The prototypical giggly user is a female teenager who might later go to a party school to major in English.

This notion of not reading what an application is about before installing it, about being those that forward silly emails to their friends (and facilitate the spread of viruses) and are only in school to party is a real issue.  These are the college students that will be moving into the workforce soon, and what are we to do when our interns and junior associates can’t concentrate long enough to read a memo? Are companies going to cater to them, adding Lisa Frank stickers to their letterheads? No, they’re going to fire these people for being incompetent, and in the famous words of Ross Perot, there’s going to be a sucking sound as the pool of skilled workers dries up.

This country is moving eerily toward the situation seen in the movie Idiocracy where flashing lights and sensationalism attracts our eyes and our brains, and where laziness and apathy lead to underachievement and an economy that underproduces.

We need to take a serious look at our society and where we are headed. Facebook’s redesign that de-emphasizes the glittery applications is a start, and I’m happy to see them catering more to the serious user, who wants a place to exchange those ideas and find other people with similar interests. Images and media can be used in smart ways, and plenty of fun can be had interacting on the web, but the written word is something that we should never be too lazy or too giggly to appreciate and use.

July 21, 2008 at 3:32 pm 2 comments

“What really grinds my gears” republished

A friend of mine, Kyle Brockman, just wrote this amazing piece on capitalism as a note on Facebook.  He’s allowed me to republish it here so I can share it with my Friendfeed and Twitter followers:

You know what really grinds my gears?
So, you are sitting around with your friends, having an intellectual discussion, and all of a sudden the word communism get mentioned. This in itself is not a problem, or at least, it wouldn’t be if it weren’t for a particular social nuance associated with the word. Inevitably as the bloody tides, someone will just have to add in a nasal ivy-league voice before acting smug:

“Well, communism is a good idea… in theory.”

NO. COMMUNISM IS A TERRIBLE THEORY.

Every time any reasonable number of people have attempted to establish a communist society, they have managed to bring about not only total economic failure, but an inevitably fascist state that throws human rights out the window and ushers in a newfound era of human suffering. If communism is a “good theory”, then it is officially the poorest implemented theory in human history… ever.

Oh wait, here comes the self-righteous anti-capitalism brigade, demanding that someone acknowledge the suffering capitalism causes. Except… wait a second… It is completely, 100% impossible for capitalism to cause suffering. The very idea of capitalism is that all exchanges are voluntary and optional. If you think a trade or exchange is going to make you worse off, don’t make it. If you don’t have a choice, surprise! That’s not capitalism! Any supposed sins of capitalism are not only fabricated outright lies, but completely overshadowed by the bloodbath that is communism anyway.

This isn’t an opinion piece. There is no viewpoints for us to share or respect. Humanity already figured this out guys, it’s a solved issue. The earth is round, not flat: arguing otherwise makes you both ignorant and stupid, not “respectful” or anything of the sort. A centrally planned economy and group ownership of resources sounds like a clever idea to maximize productivity; so did the idea of the Earth being the center of the universe surrounded by ether-filled spheres that the other planets and bodies glide around on. Clever, but completely wrong.

Communism brought out the worst in humanity, and speaking fondly of it only makes you sound like an idiot for digging it out of its well-deserved grave.

July 19, 2008 at 8:52 pm 2 comments

Wishful thinking?

I always love a good plan for a future city, especially one with pretty graphics like this one

The good news about the components of this plan is that it’s a good place to start thinking about how urban areas will be organized in the future.  While algae ponds and vertical farms might be a little far-fetched, the ideas of short-term-use cars and new high-tech forms of mass transit are things that leaders should start looking at and implementing yesterday.  I really love the idea of a pod car beacuse it allows people to maintain that feeling of being in control of their transportation, but it limits that use to a certain area, more specifically the area that we travel the most, which usually includes short trips to shopping, dining, nightlife, or work.

While a lot of these ideas are almost sci-fi in nature, there are many things here that are great for the urban area of today.  Car pods (lol, a boy can hope), rainwater collection, wide use of solar energy, and focused and efficient mass transit are all things all cities (large and small) should be looking at right now. 

June 15, 2008 at 9:33 pm 2 comments

I love good inspiration.

This summer has been a strange one for me, since instead of spending all of my money on going out to eat and buying DVDs I’ve been saving it, mostly because I want the feeling of having lots of money.  More than that, my goal is to have enough money to turn it into more.

One of the things I have been doing in my free time this summer is brainstorming business ideas, writing down problems I have that I could solve for other people, and generally coming up with money-making ideas.  So far I have a depressingly short list, but its really because I’m not trying hard enough, and I needed some inspiration.

Following a series of links, I found myself listening to a lecture entitled “Things I wish I knew when I was 20”.    The audio of which can be found here. Listen to this podcast if you need your eyes opened to some great ideas for entrepreneurs, and great advice for life itself.

June 2, 2008 at 9:27 pm Leave a comment

My perfect presidential candidate

So I’ve been listening to the candidates lately, and there really isn’t one that I agree with totally, though John McCain will most likely be the lesser of evils come election day.

If I personally could create a party/candidate, here’s what they’d stand for (in quasi- order of importance):

  • Support of NAFTA, as well as free trade with any country that would agree to it with us.
  • Support of global free labor movement, which would allow US workers to go where the jobs are, and allow foreign workers to come clean up our shit, or whatever illegal immigrants do here these days. This would probably make US goods cheaper and make the value of the dollar go up a little.
  • Support for English as the official US language.
  • Pro-choice.
  • Someone who would make it illegal to have laws based on any sort of lifestyle choice. (AKA, the government has no place deciding if it’s right or wrong to be gay)
  • Every grade K-12 should be harder, faster paced, and better tested.
  • Failing schools should be the ones getting the money (never thought I’d be against vouchers, but I guess I’ve come around)
  • Social security should be abolished starting for anyone younger than 35. Not paying the taxes for it alone would save us all a lot of money.
  • Abolish the minimum wage. Or at least scale it to allow employers to pay workers based on their skills. A new worker in a new field (usually teens) doesn’t give 7 dollars worth of productivity to a firm. This would do wonders for unemployment, as well as allowing people to increase their training and skills.
  • Two words: fair taxation. Tax me based on what I consume rather than taking money away when I produce.
  • Eliminate earmarking in federal bills. States can earmark all they want. Better yet, have people pay a tax based on how much their representative gets for their district. They don’t want to pay the tax? Get a representative that won’t earmark for them.
  • Totally overhaul the energy policy of the US. At least 50% of US energy should be renewable by 2025.
  • CAFE standards should be 50 MPG at the very least.
  • It should be illegal for the government to bail out any company that is stuggling.
  • If Iraq is still on the agenda in 2010, we should spend 500 billion dollars to bomb the living hell out of every place that could conceivably have a terrorist, then pay for food and water and some infrastructure and never go back with the military unless it’s a UN decision.

So that’s just a list of what I can think of right now. I think the person that rolled out that agenda wouldn’t make it past the first debate, but hey, a boy can wish, right?

May 9, 2008 at 12:08 am Leave a comment

The best article on the web today

Gin, Television, and Social Surplus by Clay Shirkyon

May 3, 2008 at 6:01 pm Leave a comment


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