Monday, February 3, 2014

The appeal beyond numbers

Some things can't be measured, despite the increased quantification of living. They cannot because numbers do not apply. To wit, that rarity in American politics, an avowed socialist, has been elected to the Seattle City Council. According to the NY Times, Kshama Sawant says
If you ask me as a socialist what workers deserve, they deserve the value of what they produce.
This sounds appealing since it does not explain how that value is to be measured. Pertinently, under such a system, it would not be accurately measured at all, but arbitrarily decreed as a 'measure' of justice. But abstract concepts such as justice can't be measured. What is the upper bound? The lower bound? Numbers can't be assigned to these things.

It would be just -- and more to the benefit of the working class -- if people were allowed to work rather than barred from employment because their skill level is below the price level, or wage floor. It's forgotten that the raising of the minimum wage is the raising of the bar. A rising tide doesn't lift all boats; some people will drown.

Mish has several good points on this: 
    The higher the wages, the more pressure there will be on businesses to reduce the overall number of employees by other methods, including hardware and software robots.

    The higher the overall costs (of which wages are a huge component), the fewer the number of stores that will be built.

    When corporations don’t open stores they otherwise would have, construction jobs are lost, shipping jobs are lost, merchandising jobs are lost, corporate income taxes do not rise as they would have, and property tax collection does not rise as it would have.

    Marginal stores will be shut.

    Employees at those marginal stores will be laid off .

    Shut stores pay no corporate income taxes or property taxes.

    Vacant stores are a form of blight. They reduce property tax collection and lower rent prices.
    Marginal store closings and refusal to open new marginal stores will most likely happen in the very neighborhoods most desperately in need of jobs  and services.
I used to be a socialist, so I understand the appeal beyond numbers. Quality isn't quantity, except that in America, quantity is often taken for quality. And a quality job isn't one to be quantified. Still the confusion, indeed.