In an episode of The Daily Show, host Jon Stewart described reading an essay in Time magazine about healthcare and feeling as though he was moving along, gaining speed, and breaking the emotional sound barrier. I feel the same way about work and the subject of compensation. My dissonance has been growing exponentially for years. But now, beginning my eighth decade on this planet, I've had enough of the nonsense.
The hot air begins with the mantra of free-markets, arguments against a minimum wage, and the misguided notion that low taxes are the only way to expand the economy. First off, there is no such thing as a free market. Never has been, never will be. Nothing is without cost, which means nothing is free, whether it is measured in human stress or environmental damage, and the political muscle to add actual costs to commercial products simply does not exist. The hidden costs of using fossil fuels alone are mindboggling.
Markets create nothing: people do. Powerful people make decisions that affect everyone else. People with enough money to rig the system do so without hesitation. Many years ago, Friedrich Hayek warned that too much central planning would lead to serfdom. No doubt, he was right. But too little planning has the same effect.
In 1914, Henry Ford made his employees the generous offer of five dollars a day in wages and profit sharing. Business boomed. Commerce flourished because people who earn wages spend their money. The same stimulus happens today when the minimum wage is raised. And yet, the worn-out cry that raising the minimum wage will cost jobs is repeated endlessly. Those who shout it the loudest ignore the economic record. They think if they say it often enough and loudly enough, people will believe it. And sure enough, many do.
A few years after Henry Ford raised his employees’ wages, he instituted polices that made working at his automobile plant a living nightmare. The market didn't do this. He did. But you don't need a road to serfdom like that if people are born there.