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October 03, 2007


Mike Alfred

I think you may have lost me a little bit. First of all, I don't believe that just because a person is told repeatedly that they can't succeed, that they won't succeed. In fact, I think there are a number of great examples of people who were born or raised in difficult environments who were still successful, usually because of one singularly powerful influence like a teacher, mentor, or an inspiring book or idea. This influence acts as a beacon of light in a life of darkness and despair. There are examples of two brothers (that I've read in books) who have an alcoholic father who beat them mercilessly. One brother is drug-addicted and accomplishes little while the other becomes a successful doctor. Bottom line, I think most people now believe that the nature vs. environment argument does not have a straightforward or clear-cut right answer. In most cases, both influences play a part and in some instances one of the two plays a significantly larger role.

So, you lost me a little bit on this first assumption. I also was a little confused on how it's in anyone's best interest to have an already poor person consume less. I'm not a trained economist but I don't think that paying poor people less will have a huge impact on pricing for basic goods and services. It's an interesting theory but I don't think cell phone prices will go down just because less people are using wireless services. Verizon Wireless quite frankly doesn't care too much how many poor people can afford their services because they have already paid for the bandwidth and spectrum and the amount of people using their services (as a tech company) doesn't dramatically affect their internal costs. In addition, Verizon, like most companies, makes their real margins from their premium clients who buy Blackberries, mobile internet, etc.. and are willing to pay $150 per month for service. So whether 10M or 100k people use their networks, they have pricing power as long as the other companies dont dramatically undercut their pricing model.

Poor people aren't large consumers of gas partly because they don't own SUVs and other large inefficient land vessels. Why do you think gas prices have gone up so dramatically since the dawn of the SUV? Even if every household nationwide with less than 30k in income completely stopped filling their tanks with gas, I doubt it would make a large enough dent in gas prices (when you consider that a lot of the cost of gasoline at the gas station level has very little to do with actual demand at the gas station level but more to do with global crude prices, refining costs, and other secretive costs that the oil companies don't want us to understand) to compensate for a significant drop in the wages of the lowest class.

If I am a closet socialist, so be it. But I think that pure capitalism and globalization must have his limits. At some level we need to allow for a baseline of human justice for all people -- including those without Ivy-League degrees, wealthy parents, or the use of all of their basic faculties like sight and hearing. I believe that a minimum wage is necessary to protect those who can't be protected. I'm not advocating for handouts but merely a standard wage that can't be violated for the purposes of basic human dignity.


I do agree we are a product of our environment to an extent but like Mike I don't agree that its a certainty, there are definitely lots of people who break through that barrier and spark change for generations to come. I also don't see the connection with being a product of your environment with the minimum wage debate.

Looking at your minimum wage theory on its own I feel that it is highly valid as competition and free trade will create competitive wages without needing a government imposed limit on what we pay people. I don't think we can assume that lower wages would trickle down into lower costs of goods and services. There are several other factors that could influence pricing, the impact from minimum wage shifts will be largely dependent on the ratio of input it has to the production of those goods (which in our country is rather minimal).

I feel like you are looking at two separate issues here which need to be worked through independently, being a product of our environment (social issue) and we as a nation can impact that and eliminating minimum wage (economic issues) and what those effects would be. I would not be surprised if we removed minimum wage and average wages for lower class America were not materially affected.

Susan RoAne


You have obviously given this some thought. While a philosophy of the Think and Grow Rich has its purpose and it's an inspiration to many, it's not rooted in sound economic theory. Historically, the mininum wage protected workers from those employers, companies and bosses who took advantage, and dare I say, abused them. If the elimination of minimum wage would be supplanted by a system where people would be fairly paid their worth, that would be a welcome step forward.

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