Thursday, April 15, 2010

Minimum Wage Cruelty

Which allows an American Samoan worker to have a higher standard of living: being employed at $3.26 per hour or unemployed at a wage scheduled to annually increase by 50 cents until it reaches federally mandated wages at $7.25? You say, "Williams, that's a stupid question. Who would support people being unemployed at $7.25 an hour over being employed at $3.26 an hour?" That's precisely the outcome of Congress' 2007 increases in the minimum wage. Chicken of the Sea International moved its operation from Samoa to a highly automated cannery plant in Lyon, Georgia. That resulted in roughly 2,000 jobs lost in Samoa and a gain of 200 jobs in Georgia.

Given Samoa's low cost of living, $3.26 provided Samoan workers a higher standard of living than some of their neighbors on other islands. Now these workers are unemployed. What's worse is that Starkist, Chicken of the Sea's competitor, might leave the island as well. If that happens, increases in the minimum wage will have cost more than 8,000 jobs in Samoa's canneries and related industries; that's nearly half of its labor force. Samoan standard of living will be further reduced by the increased cost of goods it imports. Ships delivering goods from the U.S. and elsewhere to Samoa will not have as much cargo on their return trips, making shipping a costlier proposition.

Cannery jobs flourished in Samoa because of its location and it was one of the few American territories exempted from the minimum wage. Even the proposed 2007 increases in the minimum wage exempted Samoa. Since Del Monte, Starkist's parent company, is headquartered in Speaker Pelosi's San Francisco district and Chicken of the Sea is based in Southern California, Republicans had a field day suggesting that Pelosi's calling for Samoa to be exempted from the increases in the minimum wage reflected political payoffs and a conflict of interest. I thought that as well, as suggested in my May 9, 2007 column, but exempting American Samoa from minimum wage increases would have been the most compassionate act, short of minimum wage repeal.

The unemployment effect of minimum wages isn't restricted to American Samoa but to the mainland U.S. as well. Overall teenage unemployment stands at a record 25 percent while adult unemployment hovers around 10 percent. Also at a record high is the 50 percent unemployment rate among black teenage males.

One might ask why teen unemployment, particularly that among black teens, is so much higher than adult unemployment. The answer is simple. One effect of a minimum wage law is that of discrimination against the employment of less-preferred workers. Within the category of less-preferred workers are those with low skills. Teens are disproportionately represented among such workers and are therefore more adversely affected by minimum wages. Black teens are disproportionately represented among teens with low skills and therefore share a greater burden of minimum wages.

One of the more insidious effects of minimum wages is that it lowers the cost of racial discrimination; in fact, minimum wage laws are one of the most effective tools in the arsenals of racists everywhere, as demonstrated by just a couple of examples.

During South Africa's apartheid era, its racist unions were the major supporters of minimum wages for blacks. South Africa's Wage Board said, "The method would be to fix a minimum rate for an occupation or craft so high that no Native would likely be employed."

In the U.S., in the aftermath of a strike by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen, when the arbitration board decreed that blacks and whites were to be paid equal wages, the white unionists expressed their delight saying, "If this course of action is followed by the company and the incentive for employing the Negro thus removed, the strike will not have been in vain."

Tragically, minimum wages have the unquestioned support of good-hearted, well-meaning people with little understanding who become the useful idiots of charlatans, quacks and racists.


Distortions about markets from a Leftist ignoramus

By Greg Lindsay, writing from Australia

In the introduction to the 1982 publication The New Conservatism in Australia edited by Robert Manne, the editor admits ‘to having no competence in economics whatsoever’. That has not stopped him from inserting himself into various debates about economic issues ever since.

His dismal record was highlighted in the book Shutdown from 1992 that he co-edited, which declared that economic reform had failed in Australia and that ‘the most important contemporary example of economic success is Japan’, and, well you can guess the rest.

The fact that Australia is now the strongest OECD economy and on the various scales of economic freedom, quality of life and prosperity, pretty much leads the way, seems to have escaped this academic Nostradamus. Sure, there is room for improvement and our modern democracy exhibits the usual tussles over how this might be done, but no serious observer challenges the moral and economic power of the market.

Well, I’m mostly right. An outbreak of less serious commentary began with the setting up of a straw man some years back called 'neo-liberalism'. It’s a term that started to appear in its latest manifestation in Australia more than a decade ago. We at CIS decided that it was essentially being used as a term of abuse and we would not succumb to the intentions of its promoters. We couldn’t quite work out what it really meant anyway.

In the lead up to the 2007 election, then opposition leader Kevin Rudd added his five cents worth and, with some other essays since then,’ neo-liberalism’ and ‘market fundamentalism’ marched hand in hand. ‘Economic conservatism’ seems to have been trampled in the parade. My colleague Oliver Hartwich tried his best to clarify the issue and in fact showed that the now Prime Minister was in fact a 'neo-liberal' (see here).

Of course the Global Financial Crisis gave neo-socialists of all kinds a whole new field to play on, and so they have. Professor Manne, highlighting his lack of expertise in economics once again, is back in print, this time in The Weekend Australian recently with an extract of a chapter in a new book he has edited with David McKnight. What’s regrettable about this piece is the tone Manne’s chapter exhibits.

We at the CIS admire greatly the work of F.A. Hayek. That’s no great surprise. Indeed there’s a long list of thinkers we admire stretching right back to the founding decades of the Enlightenment. The ideas of such people have taught us much and have laid the groundwork for the prosperity and freedom we see today, especially in the West.

In his recent essay, Manne attacked Hayek personally. He held Hayek responsible for everything from the collapse of the derivatives market to some colourful rhetoric of Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh. It probably needs the analytical skills of an historian to make sense of all this.

Manne’s tasteless remarks about Hayek and his philosophy of liberty, however, show to some extent what liberals are up against these days. The financial crisis is eagerly interpreted by the opponents of liberty as ‘evidence’ that free markets don’t work. The troubles in financial markets serve them as a new justification for more government control, whether it is in US health care or Australia’s new broadband network.

The mistake Manne and his neo-socialist friends are making is twofold. First, they are ignoring the role that state institutions like government-owned enterprises, regulatory regimes and central banks played in the build-up of the crisis. Governments failed at least as much as markets may have.

Second, liberals have never argued that their philosophy would create heaven on earth. With free markets it’s a little bit like with democracy, to paraphrase Winston Churchill’s famous dictum: They are the worst form to coordinate human activity bar all others. Markets can be a messy business with ups and downs. Yet given the right institutions, they generally work rather well.

Markets are not perfect and few economists would argue that they are, but then again nothing on earth is. Even though utopian dreamers may believe in the omnipotence and benevolence of government, history teaches us that such belief has often led to disaster. Or, as Hayek has argued, they lead us down the slippery road to serfdom.

The current neo-liberal straw man is just that, a straw man, and should be given no credence. Markets are not going away. Yes, some institutions in some countries may have been inadequate and can be improved. Many might learn from Australia in that regard and I hope they do. And that of course is not to say that institutional arrangements here are beyond consideration for improvement to the benefit of all.

Just one last word on Hayek. One of his lasting legacies was the founding in 1947 of the Mont Pelerin Society, an international organisation of economists, political scientists and others interested in furthering the ideals of a free society. It has had in its membership some of the world’s foremost intellectuals, including eight Nobel Laureates in economics, Hayek himself being one. Details can be found here. Its 2010 General Meeting is being held in Sydney in October, only the second time a General Meeting has been held in the southern hemisphere.

The MPS conference will bring to Australia some of the world’s leading scholars of liberty and will be a symbolic and cogent reminder to those who still forget so many lessons from history.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 13 April. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

Get real, ladies! Don't expect to find a man earning £100,000 who can cut down trees AND cook, says British lady who should know

Her tales of middle-class romantic yearning have earned her a multi-million-pound fortune and legions of fans. But Joanna Trollope has now claimed women have 'absurd' expectations when it comes to finding a husband.

The Cotswolds-born novelist, 66, says the growing number of women shunning marriage often have a misguided belief they will find the perfect man.

She has also criticised adulterous role models such as love rat footballer John Terry - who cheated on his wife with a team-mate's girlfriend - for promoting a 'babyish' attitude among men.

Joanna Trollope has had a turbulent love life herself, marrying and divorcing twice. She first wed at 22 to City banker David Potter, who she met at Oxford University. The couple went on to have two daughters, Louise, now 36, and Antonia, 33.

They split after 18 years when it emerged that he'd had a string of affairs. She also blamed her ambitious personality, saying: 'The sharp, high-achieving side is there and maybe it ranges from being merely irritating to downright intolerable.'

She met her second husband, television dramatist Ian Curteis, at a dinner party in 1983 and they wed 1985. She blamed her career for the breakdown of the marriage 15 years later, saying: 'It was when I was becoming more successful that our marriage began to go badly wrong.'

Twice-married Miss Trollope, who has made more than £15million from her 16 novels, insisted: 'People have to throw away this absurd Vera Wang shopping list which says of a man that he has to earn £100,000 a year, that he has to be able to cut down a tree, play the Spanish guitar, make love all night and cook me a cheese souffle.

'This is a ridiculously impossible wish list. You can change yourself and you can change the situation but you absolutely cannot change other people. Only they can do that. 'Do not go into a relationship trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. 'Be less adamant, more compromising, less whiney and princessy about it from a girl's point of view and less brutal about it from a boy's point of view.'

Vera Wang is a top wedding dress designer based in New York, whose work is worn by the rich and famous.

Referring to the latest onslaught of allegations surrounding British footballers who cheat, Miss Trollope said: 'We need modern young men to be more grown up. 'We're tired of the incontinence of the John Terrys of this world. It's babyish to behave in this stupid way.'

Miss Trollope's thoughts on women, made in a newspaper interview, echo those of MP David Willetts, who infamously claimed that the collapse of the family was being driven by a 'Bridget Jones generation' of well-educated young women who cannot find a suitable match.

In 2008, Mr Willetts said that for the first time, more women than men were gaining degrees - meaning that many were struggling to find a partner with an academic background and career prospects similar to their own.

Miss Trollope has always been outspoken on relationships. Last month, the writer, who is a grandmother, described turning 60 as 'liberating' because 'there's a cookie- cutter for each decade, but everybody loses interest when you're 60 so there's a blank sheet and you can be whoever you want to be'.

She added: 'Post menopause all sorts of relationships are quite different, and sex is too, because you're not going to get pregnant. 'There is no need to be that sort of cliché of a girl surrendering to a man and wanting to say "do you love and respect me?".'

And when asked if she would get married again, she laughed: 'No. No, no, no. I don't need to. Not as a grandmother. 'I don't want anybody saying to me, "Why are you going to see your children again this weekend, why aren't you going to be with me?" '


How the West was lost: a lack of faith in civilisation

Comment from Australia

There is a growing belief among Australia's most formidable conservative thinkers that the foundations of Western civilisation in this country are being eroded. As a consequence, the grounding that Western civilisation has given everyday society - especially the behavioural and moral influences of Christianity - is disappearing and needs to be reaffirmed.

Such views are not new; they have been espoused from time to time. Now, however, the viewpoint has become organised and it has some serious firepower behind it.

Just over a fortnight ago 84 prominent Australians gathered for a dinner at Stonington Mansion in Melbourne - the home of the art dealer Rod Menzies - to launch a program to "confront these disturbing trends".

The Foundations of Western Civilisation Program had John Howard and Cardinal George Pell as guest speakers. Geoffrey Blainey gave the vote of thanks and the columnist Andrew Bolt was the MC.

The program's chairman is former Liberal minister, Rod Kemp, and the event was organised by the conservative think tank the Institute of Public Affairs.

The event was over-subscribed and more than 50 had to be turned away. Those there included Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, as well as such corporate luminaries as Hugh Morgan, Donald McGauchie, Rick Allert, Steve Skala and Brian Loton.

"Sometimes Western civilisation is treated with outright hostility," read the invitation letter. "Cultural relativism has led to our education system often undervaluing the achievements of Western civilisation. "The rise of the nanny state is undermining our freedoms of association, of speech, of liberal democracy."

John Roskam, from the institute, said the evening tapped into a debate about values, where they come from and what they are grounded in - Western civilisation. "It's rounder than the concept of a threat, it's under challenge," he said.

Howard spoke off the cuff. According to those present, he argued that Australia has a secular tradition with no established church. But, while that tradition must be respected, it was his personal belief the Judaeo-Christian ethic has been the most profound moral and cultural influence in this country and it should be preserved. Other religions could be embraced and welcomed without in any way diminishing the Judaeo-Christian influence.

Howard, who never wore his faith on his sleeve, gave examples of where he saw erosion caused by a combination of factors such as post-modernism and people who think the values of Western civilisation are not worth preserving.

He contrasted the 2003 memorial service for victims of the Bali bombings with the memorial service held after the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria last year. Both were secular services with religious components. At the latter, Howard noted, the religious element was downplayed, to the extent the Anglican and Catholic bishops were referred to as leaders of significant community groups.

Howard said he found the bushfire memorial "very hollow". "I feel Australian society is losing something when we don't recognise the important role of religion," he was quoted as saying.

Howard recounted the faith and values youth forums he attended as prime minister and how he was struck by young people openly discussing suicide. It used to be taboo to talk about the taking of one's own life and Howard believes "there are no absolute taboos any more". Ultimately, he saw it as an increasing lack of meaning in young people's lives due to the waning influences of Western civilisation.

Pell went further, saying he felt suicide today was being "celebrated". Faith and values, he said, meant you're living for some reason other than yourself. He lamented that a secular view is legitimate but a religious view should not be heard in a public place, and that it was deemed permissible to speak openly of a green god but not a religious God.

Beyond religion, Julia Gillard's proposed national history curriculum was singled out for a belting, because it supposedly does not place enough emphasis on British and European influences.

Howard cited the recent push for a human rights charter in Australia as a consequence of a lack of understanding of our system of parliamentary democracy and an independent judiciary.

Both he and Pell acknowledged the flaws and blemishes of Western civilisation and the "black spots" these had left in Australian history.

But Pell referred to China, where he said an erosion of values was also occurring as capitalism took hold. "This radically different culture is now searching for the secrets of Western vitality to provide a code for decency and social cohesion compatible with sustainable economic development."

He quoted the Chinese economist Zhao Xiao's "fascinating comparison with the selfism of Western radical secularism". "These days, Chinese people do not believe in anything," Zhao asserted. "A person who believes in nothing can only believe in himself. And self-belief implies anything is possible - what do lies, cheating, harm and swindling matter?"



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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