Economics

A Modest Proposal?

In which I combine two topics, each worthy of their own, more expansive post(s), to make inroads into the economic and illegal immigrant problems.

First, my preference would be that the minimum wage laws be eliminated. If they are not unconstitutional, they should be. They are anti-life and anti-property, to phrase it redundantly. This idea is really more of a “if we can’t have a perfect world, let’s come as close as we can given where we are” thing.

Second, in that proverbial ideal world, open borders, free immigration, yada yada. Two hands, one mouth, all that stuff. In a less ideal but improved world, if you’re going to have restrictions and enforced borders, then do it. Or be creative with incentives.

So. If you’re not going to go all the way to eliminating the minimum wage, a logical step would be to free it up some. Lower it. Maybe drastically. Call it $3 an hour, for the sake of throwing out a low number. Instant employment rush. No, an adult supporting a family can’t live on it, but that’s not who low earners usually are, and they aren’t for long once they prove themselves. And no, wages in most places, for most things will not drop that far, because market pressure will keep them perhaps not much below where they are now.

But… That would just encourage illegals, and you’d get a flood of those who would work for that little and then it exacerbates that problem. If you concede it’s a problem.

So how about a two-tier minimum?

If you can prove you are legally eligible to work in this country, the low wage applies to you. You have maximum economic freedom to sell your labor.

If you can’t prove your status, being an illegal or ornery, you are not eliminated from working. You are merely in a pool of people for whom the minimum wage is higher. Call it $10 an hour, for the sake of throwing out a proportionately higher number. More might be better, since it would act as a filter on skilled labor immigration. Exemption for self-employment, so if you come here and are the person starting a business, you rock.

Hey, it’s a thought.

Cuba

I just noticed a brief commentary by someone I respect on the libertarian right, and I know there are many others, absolutely vehement against trade with Cuba.

On some level, I can see that. However, I can also see what has and has not worked there and elsewhere to liberalize things. I’m all for a change to engagement, in the case of Cuba.

Trouble is, that potentially messes with the sugar and corn lobbies in the United States.

The price of sugar is artificially propped up here, tied into the whole Cuba thing, and who is more involved in the US sugar industry than ex-pats. In turn, this creates demand for corn syrup as a substitute, and all that it implies, including suspicion of a connection to the “obesity epidemic.” I question the timing.

There are powerful forces who hear sweet music to their ears when they hear folks who might otherwise be onto them cheer on the continued economic embargo of Cuba.

Here’s something else that baffles me:

I’ve got no idea why anybody would be puzzled by the reluctance of folks who are behind on their mortgage to just call their lender and try to work something out.

When you just can’t pay, what good would it do?

And even if you could pay something, the prevailing image of lenders of all types is that they aren’t willing to take that. Perhaps that is incorrect, or perhaps things have changed, but my impression has always been that you’d do better talking to a wall, and it’d be less humiliating. If that impression is incorrect, they might want to publicize the fact.

Gloucester Girls

By now, you’ve probably heard about the 17 pregnancies at the high school in Gloucester, Massachusetts, where apparently a bunch of girls decided it would be cool to get pregnant together and raise their babies concurrently.

My thoughts are perhaps a bit different from some expressed out there. I do agree that it’s nuts to maintain an “if only they had easy access to birth control” refrain in the face of intent. Also, they clearly knew how pregnancy happens, so it’s not a problem of education.

It is, frankly, nuts to expect sexually mature beings not to want to exercise that imperative. Just because we lock away young people who might once have been productive, even married, at least learning how it is to be adults, as if they are icky, that doesn’t make them any less old than people the same age would have been 5000 years ago.

Since birth control exists, it’s stupid to make any effort to keep it from them, tell them they shouldn’t use it, and so forth. So far, so good.

The desire to become pregnant is a powerful thing. It makes any desire to have sex even more powerful, but might strip away selectivity. Why not a 24 year old homeless guy? Sperm without the attachment, and who could blame the dude? Just because there’s an arbitrary norm turned law that says a 24 year old shalt not fuck a 16 year old no matter how persuasive, willing, and equipped for the task, that doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen or they’re not going to consider him a better option than high school boys. That part simply doesn’t bother me.

What bothers me is that the girls had no clear idea of the reality of what they were getting into. Yes, people should help each other when it comes to the raising of and providing for children, as necessary. There’s some question as to whether the support should be so strong and obvious as to encourage profligate parentage in the face of alternatives.

The same locking away of youth who were once members of adult society has too often gone hand in hand with insulating young people from knowledge and understanding of what it takes to be responsible, to function as an adult. It’s as if earning of money and raising of children happens by magic. We shouldn’t deliver kids to their 18th birthday and then expect they have a grasp on how to make and handle money, how it might change their lives to have kids at the wrong time, and so forth.

That is basically what happened to me. The monetary lessons I picked up were unintended and not necessarily good, but mostly it was all opaque.

As far as sex, I was obsessed by it from my earliest memories, even if I didn’t know what exactly I was obsessed with, apart from girls and the fact they were different. I had two deterrents. One was an overwhelming sense of guilt and secrecy instilled by family, and we weren’t even Baptists. Another was being stricken by shyness and being convinced, not without help, that no girl could possibly be interested in me, or in sex, no matter how much evidence existed to the contrary.

I’d have been a good donor for the Gloucester Girls, in my day, as I am obviously as fertile as it gets. I was joking about how well my kids turned out and being a donor with friends of mine recently, when one of them, getting divorced, talked about wanting more kids.

It’s probably a Really Good Thing that I got scared and depressed and obtused out of sex as a teen, because otherwise I’d easily have grandchildren by now. But then, I was born when my grandmother was 45, around the middle of the slew of grandkids she would acquire.

I just wish the dissuading had been done another way. Like not letting me learn about money and economics and stuff entirely on my own, and not making it look like kids just sort of raise themselves. There was the example of my brother, and that did have an impact, but even so.

This probably didn’t come out as coherent as I’d like, or clearly make the point that seems so obvious in my mind. I fully expect my kids to do as they will when they are teenagers, but I fully expect them to know the risks and responsibilities and let that guide them into taking it more slowly and cautiously than might be in an informational and parental vacuum.

This is Only a Drill

It seems the issue of the day is drilling for oil. Well, yeah. If you don’t pay, you can’t play. It’s absurd to have resources in the United States locked up so extensively, and I can’t imagine so much of a conspiracy extant that we’re intentionally sucking the rest of the world dry to have the last laugh with domestic sources.

I believe that, yes, costly gas will trump the ban. No matter how much drilling we do and refinery capacity we finally build, nuclear plants are also imperative. He could have done better about espousing a rational drilling policy, but at least McCain has sense about nukes. They are not your father’s one of a kind, many billions each plants, or at least they needn’t be. Of course, major equipment and infrastructure can take time. There may be elasticity associated with the entire energy market, but it’s of the discountinuous, somewhat brittle kind.

So yeah, about time the idea of heretofore off-limits drilling spread. I was pleased Bush was making sense on that topic, but some say he’s held back too much. If he could have undid executive orders and didn’t, then absolutely, but at least the noises he emits are soothingly correct.

Oil has been cheap for a long time. There are ways in which it being higher will be good, even if you’re not an eco-freak or anti-human prevert. People, meaning companies too, since just like Soylent Green, companies are people, if not always in recognizable form, respond to economic incentives, positive or negative. We’re at a point where the incentives are unambiguous, intense, and unlikely to recede to prior levels for years, if ever. Most of what government policy should be is to get out of the way. In fact, oil is arguably in this mess because of government policy. Heck, not arguably, really.

Drill. Drill soon. Drill widely. Build some freaking refineries so we can use the stuff. Use less of the stuff as gas. Cut it out with the absurd ethanol thing already! Stop starving people in the name of fell good economic inefficiency and pocket lining for limited special interests. Build nuclear plants. Get some efficient, small scale, mass production designs going so it’s even more economical. Put some windmills in Nantucket Sound already, don’t wait until Teddy is dead. And let’s get cracking on those wonderful microbes that excrete crude and make the deep hot biosphere concept sound all the more intriguing.