Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The just in justice

Who determines a minimum wage, anyway? People have different desires and needs, beyond the basics; they have different levels of debt to service. Setting a price for labor seems as arbitrary as setting a minimum price for a laptop. What is 'just' enough? Again, putting a number to justice is a fallacy, it seems to me. But we cling to it with our emotions, feeling that the labor we put into it imparts value. 

In one area, I think this is true: art. And by that, artifice, in the sense of its etymology, "workmanship, the making of anything by craft or skill." While I appreciate Kandinsky and moreso Magritte, Caravaggio or Michaelangelo take the cake. There is craft there that doesn't exist in the former artists; there is greater skill. In other words, I find that there is greater technical ability. And so to me, their works have greater value because that kind of skill is rare. And scarce abilities should result in higher wages, which any premier architect exemplifies. But who determines his or her 'price'?

In an industrial age of indistinct copies and homogenous forms, where is the value? We recognize the absurd pretension in 'crafted laptop' for good reason. And yet we like 'craft beer.' I do. Hence the craving now for all things crafted.
Productivity increases through technology is [sic] far better than hiring physical employees in excess of current demands. As such, there is currently little incentive to increase employment beyond current needs. This suggests that hopes of declining jobless claims leading to sharp ramps in employment and economic growth may be disappointing. More importantly, advances in technology are continually reducing the need for labor in the economy which increases the drag on both employment and wages. 
This from a good post by Lance Roberts. Apart from the Federal Reserve not giving a shit about lower wage earners -- again, it is an institution of the wealthy, by the wealthy, and for the wealthy -- there are structural problems that the raising of the minimum wage is not going to fix. By making unskilled labor more expensive, businesses are going to want to use less of it. If my 'craft beer' is now twice the price, I'm going to drink less of it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Etude regret

A.J. West writes of his time spend as an anthro major --
I regret studying it, and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who dislikes obscurantism and sanctimonious anti-scientific pseudo-epistemology.
I add that I regret it too. My time and money could have been much better spent.
It is no wonder anthropology graduates are the least employable of all degree holders given that they learn no real skills in anthropology departments.  And it's not that there are no skills to learn: why not try teaching or studying the methods of historical linguistics, population genetics, and archaeological interpretation?
The archeological interpretation I learned was meager -- in fact only learned in a summer abroad, and it was too compromised by religion at that. Jesus walked here, therefore let's raise these church columns, etc. But more importantly, West continues:
The fact that anthropologists no longer teach students to understand societies like that has two important consequences.  First, anthropology departments no longer do what anthropology departments once did, which is to make sense of human societies not directly connected to one's own and to understand humans in a wide range of socio-cultural milieux.  Second, if anthropologists aren't studying or teaching these issues anymore, then nobody is studying or teaching these issues anymore.  What that means is that entire areas of human life are no longer considered the purview of the academy, and that happens to include - I don't think it's accidental - people who don't live like us, who don't have any of the same fundamental values as us, who aren't or weren't wholly integrated into neo-liberal systems or the world economy.
That is essential. Anyone interested in changing the world should know how important this is! 

And here's a great snippet of an interview with anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon by Franke Miele of Skeptic magazine.