26 March 2013

Celebrating Diversity

The gay marriage debate is front and center.  I posted my two cents on the matter here over four years ago and, revisiting it today I'd say certain excessive flourishes aside, I stand by what I wrote.

I am a libertarian and hold dear to the notion that behavior by one's self or between consenting adults that does not harm another person or his property is of no concern whatsoever to the state.  I don't know what's best for you, you don't know what's best for me and together we don't know what's best for the other guy.  And this applies to Michael Bloomberg, too.

To recap, I have no problem with gay marriage.  But I am willing to argue the matter with those who may not agree with me.  And I do not think opponents of gay marriage, whatever reason they may have for their opposition, are arguing in bad faith.  So you see how wonderful I am, right?

I was cruising the internet today and I saw this headline at the Huffington Post (here is the story).

I don't really care about the story, it was the headline that grabbed me.  Because places like the Huffington Post (among many other sources) not too long ago bemoaned the "epistemic closure" on the right (Julian Sanchez, libertarian and Cato research fellow, got the ball rolling here and here).  If you don't feel like wading through the morass, it boils down to the fact that conservatives are closed-minded.  Sanchez was making, to my mind, a legitimate critique on contemporary political philosophy. Contemporary in the sense that he was using examples from the (then) current headlines.  The liberals went nuts and ran with the meme, missing the point that this is an issue of contemporary political philosophy, not merely conservatism.

Anyway, the headline reminded me of all this because if you are a Republican who agrees that gays should be allowed to get married, you are either related to someone who is gay or you are truly open-minded.  But if you are a Democrat who opposes either gay marriage or federal intervention into state matters or what have you, you are an embarrassment.  Open-mindedness has nothing to do with considering opinions that you may not necessarily agree with, it means agreeing with liberals (n.b.- Jonathan Chait makes the point that fans of Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck would be well-served to read the Huffington Post or other liberal sources, because the practice of listening to opposing view is essential to good citizenship; he does not provide the same advise to devotees of the New Republic or MSNBC, which is surprising).

Diversity of thinking is a beautiful thing, so long as you agree with me.

19 March 2013

Foolish Thinking

I love this crazy lady
Elizabeth Warren says that minimum wage should be $22/hour.  Well, she doesn't say it, she says someone else says it would be if wages kept pace with productivity.  And apparently she agrees.  And when you are on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions, when you agree with something this stupid, the rest of us had better hold on to our wallets.
Let's put aside the notion that legislators, most of whom haven't the foggiest idea how to create and/or adhere to a budget much less about crazy things like marginal productivity, have insight into what the minimum amount a worker should be paid regardless of that worker's marginal productivity (i.e., no matter what value is produced by a given worker for that hour of labor, we will pay him $x because... well, because that's what's fair!, until, of course, it isn't fair anymore).  Got it?  Let's just ignore all of that.
Let's concentrate on productivity.  Labor is a factor of production, labor does not equal production.  The factors of productivity (Y) are Labor (L), physical capital (K), human capital (H) and natural resources (N).  So the production function would look like this: Y = f(L, K, H, N), because productivity is a function of its factors.
But what about technology?  Technology has its own variable, A, and technology is not a factor of production.  It is a variable that increases (or decreases, let's not forget the Dark Ages), the effective productivity of all factors as the variable increases (or decreases).  So the real production function looks like this:
Y = A f(L, K, H, N)
What this means, simply, is that there is no direct correlation between the increase in productivity and the marginal contribution of any particular employee's labor, and a general increase in Y has no direct correlation to the quantity of L in the macroeconomic sense.  So when they stopped using people to connect phone calls through switchboards and moved over to computers, this increase in productivity (more phone calls being routed quickly, efficiently and correctly all around the country) was not the result of "better labor" or an increase in the marginal production of the labor force.  What the productivity function shows is that productivity can increase even if a particular factor decreases or remains unchanged.
So the question is, is the marginal product of the burger-flipper $22/hour?  Of course it isn't.  How can I say that so easily?  Because the market doesn't pay $22/hour to uneducated, unskilled people to flip burgers.  Because that would be an inefficient allocation of resources.  Resources that must be taken from elsewhere to make up the difference to the person not contributing $22 worth of goods or services per hour of labor to the market.
So even if $7.25 seems unfair please note that fairness is a matter for philosophers and priests and seek counsel from them.  Because $7.25 is also a distortion, just not to the degree, that $22/hour or $100/hour minimum wage would be.
See here, here and here for further readings.  And call you congresscritter and ask humbly that the minimum wage be abolished.