Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Wages and civil rights

Can talk simply about topics like money with my own ideas, where it doesn't take much to delve into very contentious areas. Like already noted in a previous post that what I call political science leads easily to the hypothesis that wealthy people may drive up national debts as a tax deferment scheme.

Making a hypothesis does not make it so, but it does give a predictive framework, which you can test! And science is testable.

Here will look to see what my ideas about money as a social IOU given in exchange for a favor, which works best with strangers can do in the arena of wages and civil rights.

One of the stranger things with human beings I think can be on issues of value of effort, where for instance in times past, like in Old Europe, someone might work in a manor house for some Lord, and there was status in that, as well as food and lodgings. Wages were probably paid, but the condition of servitude was recognized. When wages were NOT paid, a condition of slavery was in place, which was something that was in the United States during a period.

That a condition of servitude could entail benefits all the way to a condition of slavery with a wage scale going to zero is important for what comes next.

In our times, people see pay primarily as the value returned in exchange for the service of their labor, which includes mental labor, when working for an employer which is distinguished from being self-employed even in our times.

Getting a proper return on the favor of a labor, say writing a computer program if a software developer, is important, as if an employer gets services without giving compensation then as seen above, the wage scale is at zero, which is slavery.

If we look at what happened in the US after the end of institutionalized slavery we can use these ideas to note something of interest: People previously slaves who were freed, often had little choice but to return to the people who had been enslaving them, only now in return for their services they were supposed to get adequate compensation.

Not surprisingly can have serious doubts on the notion that occurred, so from one perspective, their condition of slavery was not completely removed, but lessened, with significant responsibilities placed upon them, like housing. They were forced to make money somehow to purchase needed things, but were limited as to who was available to take the favor of their services in exchange for wages to people likely to value those the least. And under pressure to find some way to survive, things like sharecropping could push even closer back to the original condition.

So with my terminology, can say that workers were pushed into offering the favor of their services, to the very people who often had previously valued those services at nothing because they were slaves then.

Best thing would have been if they could start their own businesses.

That wages involve a valuation of the favor of services provided is key. Someone who honestly thinks workers are rather worthless can potentially pay a much lower wage, believing it is adequate compensation.

Return on the favor of effort is a fascinating subject, and the social IOU system we call money can have the flaw that to make money you both need someone who wants the favor of your services and that person needs to value those at a level that can vary, so what if in both areas there is a serious problem?

But yeah if you're working say at 80% of what you should be making as a wage? And you work Monday through Friday? Then conceivably on the simplest interpretation on Friday you're at 0 on the scale, and that day? You're a slave.

This approach can also be used to talk about pay disparities for women, who can be said to work for free from a certain day in the year, based on the percentage less they tend to receive than men doing the same work. The gender pay gap could also be seriously impacted by valuation of services, where someone might see a man doing the same amount of work as somehow doing them a bigger favor than a woman. That perceptual bias, however, if it exists is nonsense. If the work done is the same, then the favor is the same, and the compensation should be the same.

Is relevant though that in considering some of the worst horror stories around employment I've noticed in the news, they tend to occur in low wage areas, were people can be pressured in horrifying ways, leading to a lot of labor laws to try and curb abuses, as well as laws pushing against discriminatory hiring practices. Actually LOTS of laws to protect against all kinds of abuses, like a boss who pushes someone into sexual favors, or people pressured to steal or lie for an employer. Which can occur at higher wages too, of course.

But if someone is paid a lot less by this interpretation they're giving a favor without getting an appropriate return. And they're outside of natural bounds, and who might know better than the employee what their work is actually worth? The employer.

What kind of person could exploit with that kind of knowledge? Maybe the cascade of modern labor laws are revealing about what kind.

The basic concept is simple--if someone does you a favor you should give them equal favor in return, without exception to the best of your ability to give a return, where money is simply a convenient abstraction allowing people to enumerate the value of a favor.

Maybe the simplest thing is to force employers to not steal from workers, by having governments work tirelessly to be sure that return on the effort of the favor is commensurate with actual value to the employer. Shared information is very useful in this regard.

From one perspective then can argue that slavery did not completely die around the world in just this one respect, where the position is muddled by other compensations besides wages. Like the servants who had a wage, but other benefits working for a noble, so were in servitude but NOT slaves, technically.

But yeah, if working without compensation for efforts, as an employee, even for a day? That day may be the one where many experience a form of modern slavery which has simply not been called out as such. People may instead say, you're working for free! Um, what's the difference?

Which is yet another hypothesis. From my kind of political science perspective, then simply enough former slaves were consistently given less in return for their efforts than should have received, limiting them immensely.

Or in other words, quite simply, they weren't paid enough.

Then I could predict that government efforts to push people to give adequate return for favors, will force equality among them. Which may be a reason for some to fight to maintain unequal systems, to fight back for lower wages, so that they can devalue human effort, and the humans who give that effort as well.

Obviously, valuing human effort to the extent is opinion, can give lots of room to just claim those people aren't good enough for higher wages, whether that is true, or not, in any number of circumstances.

Government should, if the hypothesis is correct, disincentivize the benefit to that devaluation. Simply remove the reward for devaluing human effort.

And I suspect it's easier to suggest, than to get done. Especially if you have people who got away with it for a long time, and found huge financial rewards as a result.

Maybe society is very lucky in that most people simply will not behave that way, but will try to give an appropriate return on a favor received.

James Harris
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