Wages, Workers, and Machines

Today the “Zero to Hero” assignment was to write a blog post that builds upon yesterday’s assignment, to comment on some blogs. I did’t do yesterday’s assignment because it was Sunday and that means a 40 mile bike ride along the beach, lunch at The Spot in Hermosa, on orgy in the living room, and curling up to cheesy horror movies. So, instead I will be elaborating on the comment section of a Facebook conversation that is currently going on.

I shared an article that discussed the further mechanization of low-paying jobs, in this case it is a machine that can make burgers without any human help. I’m sure your big-chain grocery store has “U-Scans” so that anyone who can scan their own purchases can do it themselves and get out of the store more quickly and there are some fast-food restaurants that allow you to order via touchscreen computer and pay without talking to a person… it was only a matter of time before other jobs are replaced by machines. Now, I don’t think this is a bad thing in the long run but I do recognize that it will hurt people in the short run.

One of the main forces encouraging businesses to turn to machines is labor cost, particularly pushes for minimum-wage increases. When the government enforces a minimum wage it forces businesses to either increase their prices or decrease labor (by firing or reducing hours). Large corporations can usually bear this a little bit but small, local chains rarely make large profits and suffer the most. A large chunk of the US economy is small businesses and when people lobby for an increase in minimum wage they are harming small businesses. In addition to that, increased labor costs means increased prices of goods… so everyone is now paying a higher price even if they didn’t get a raise. If the minimum wage goes from $7.50/hr to $8.00/hr the price of goods will go up, even for the person who made $8.00/hr the whole time. And of course, as the article points out, if labor costs go up then businesses will look for a way to replace labor with machines.

So, in the long run, is this a good thing? I think so, yes. Humans are not here on the planet to work at shitty low-wage jobs. I look forward to a Star Trek world where machines do everything while the rest of us spend our time pursuing our passions and just hanging out. Work is a means to an end, not an end itself. Work is a tool to earn money to exchange for goods. We are entering a new era where the economy is based on service, information, and entertainment. We must take steps though to not punish or discourage innovation and entrepreneurship. Raising the minimum wage is a band-aid that makes things worse in the long run. What we need to be doing is breaking down the barriers of entry into different fields. Why do most cities and states regulate hair stylists and other trades, and require accreditation through certain expensive schools? Why does it costs so much to get approved to start your own business? Why is the government wasting time and money shutting down lemonade stands and raiding barbers? If this world is going to advance we need to let people use their gifts, talents, and passions without a bureaucrat stepping in, demanding money, and threatening to send men with guns to their doors if they don’t comply.

Relationship Types

I have always found one-word relationship definitions to be very restricting and unrealistic. I know that labels serve some purpose in simplifying things in life but with complex interactions like intimate relationships I find the simplicity to be harmful. As the below chart highlights, there are a shit-ton of ways to be intimate. I’m not sure of the source of this image but it appears to leave out by-the-books monogamy where two people are only intimate, have sex, and are in love with each other with no cheating by either partner. I guess that would be a bubble outside the graph but in reality many cheat and many have monogamish relationships where certain levels of intimacy and sexual exploration exist.

What I really find unfortunate about the quick definitions we put on relationships is it prevents (and even makes taboo) discussions that get deeper into the details of relationships. It is inappropriate for me to talk to one of my couple crushes (of which I have several) and ask them if they are more open sexually, if they swing or are into BDSM. If I ask these things it is assumed I am hitting on them or looking for a play partner when in reality I may just be interested in the relationship dynamics between two (or more) complex people. I find people and sex fascinating, I would love to know how my friends and acquaintances approach these issues and relationships.

Anyway, I found the image interesting even if it isn’t complete (can anything like this be complete without reducing it down to each individual relationship in the world?).

Domino’s Falling

January 1st, 2014 – The first legal recreational marijuana sale in Colorado occurred. The sale, like the vast majority of legal sales, was peaceful and mutually beneficial. That can’t be said about marijuana sales in the past.

I have strong opinions about the failed War on Drugs and it always surprises people when I tell them I don’t really smoke weed. It just isn’t my drug of choice, but I don’t think my personal tastes and preferences should be used to restrict the actions of others. The War on Drugs isn’t important to me because I want to get high, it is important to me because I truly believe it is the greatest civil rights issue of our time and we are winning.

To outlaw a peaceful activity (and using drugs is a peaceful activity with no victims) is to claim dominion over the bodies and minds of another person. It is to claim that their vice makes you superior to them, so superior that you are somehow morally authorized to use violence against them to prevent this peaceful action. It is the mindset of a tyrant. Many drug warriors will fall behind cliches like “protecting children”, “family stability”, or other such nonsense but they never want to compare whether prohibition causes more harm than good. What destroys more families, allowing people to smoke weed or using the drug war to give America the highest prison population in the world? What protects children better, allowing people to smoke weed or prohibiting a teenager from getting college support because he got caught with a joint? 

The War on Drugs is not about getting high. It is about the type of society that we want to be. Do we want to treat sick people with medicine or jails? Do we want to provide education and harm reduction or do we want to use lies and scare tactics to discourage behavior? As alcohol prohibition and abstinence only sex education have shown time and time again, prohibition leads to unsafe use and violence. We now have real world examples of a better way, a way that treats people equally with respect regardless of their chosen vice. A society that puts love, compassion, and peace above paternalism. The War on Drugs has been a total failure, it has cost billions of dollars, lead the unknown number of deaths across the globe, has militarized the police, and destroyed communities.

And it is coming to an end… finally. The Drug Warriors won’t give up easily, they have invested their lives into it. Entire industries exist because of it, but like civil rights issues of the past the birthing pains we are going to go through are worth it in the end. Thank you Colorado and congratulations to all the freedom fighters out there (NORML, SSDP, etc), you have done the right thing and I look forward to more communities following your example.