Friday, November 21, 2014

What Accounts for Americans’ Widespread Jekyll/Hyde Morality?

In a July 2014 editorial, the New Jersey Star-Ledger essentially calls opponents of a minimum wage increase who make more than minimum wage hypocrites, with special emphasis on Republicans.

Few Americans believe they could live on a minimum-wage paycheck.

. . . That small act of honesty – conceding that the minimum wage is too meager to support their own family – doesn’t stop many Americans (mostly Republicans) from trying to stop the lowest-paid workers from getting a sorely needed boost.

According to a new poll, nearly 70 percent of Republicans say they couldn't live on a $7.25 minimum wage – yet only 37 percent support raising it to $10.10, as President Obama has proposed. You read that correctly: A large majority of the GOP supports a wage structure that deliberately pays people too little to live on.

Notice the Star-Ledger’s own dishonesty. Opponents of legally mandated minimum wages are not “trying to stop the lowest-paid workers from getting a sorely needed boost.” In fact we cheer such raises, so long as it is earned and paid voluntarily by the employer. And people get raises all the time without benefit of government coercion, which is why 96% of hourly American workers earn more than the legal minimum wage.

The S-L then offers up a classic Keynesian rationalization for raising the minimum wage:

The rich save a greater percentage of their earnings than other groups and can’t spend enough to make up for the tens of millions of Americans who are poorly paid or unemployed.

Low-income workers are more likely to spend their new earnings to increase their standard of living.

Republicans who agree that the low-income lifestyle isn’t for them – yet insist on policies that reinforce poverty, even for those who have jobs – should rethink whether they want to stimulate the economy, or continue to stifle it.

Yes, forcibly redistributing wealth—essentially, legalized looting—is good for “the economy”!

Of course, the issue is not “living wages”: Who would be against that? The issue comes down to a moral question: Do the ends justify the means? More specifically, is it right to initiate force against others if the ends are desirable? If you think you deserve a raise, would you think it ok to approach the boss, gun in hand, and demand he raise you're wages or you will seize his wealth or lock him in a cell? What if the object of concern was not your wages, but your neighbor's? Most people, in their private lives, would answer "no, of course not." But when these same people turn their attention to politics and government, they have no problem brandishing that gun, as long as it is a government official is acting on his behalf. On ends justifying means; What causes people to answer “yes” politically but “no” privately?

In these comments, I went a bit into deeper philosophy:

"Few Americans believe they could live on a minimum-wage paycheck."

And few Americans, even minimum wage supporters, believe they privately have the right to force, at gunpoint, someone else to give them a “livable wage”, recognizing such means as criminal and immoral.

Yet, politically, force—legalized criminality, rather than private initiative, increased skills, productiveness, and experience—is exactly what proponents of minimum wage laws advocate, with government as the hired gun. What accounts for this schizophrenic [Jekyll/Hyde] dichotomy between private morality and the predatory, dog-eat-dog immorality of the political arena? Three things:

Collectivism; the idea that the group—"society"—is the focus of moral concern, and can sacrifice any individual[s] it chooses to whatever it deems to be in “the public interest.” Any action is moral as long as the society decides to do it. “Stimulate the economy”—and to hell with the interests of the individual businessmen and workers whose rights to voluntarily negotiate terms of employment are trampled. Collectivism forms the core of all totalitarian socialistic systems, like communism, Nazism, and fascism, and the watered-down precursor to those, the welfare state mixed economy.

Altruism, the moral root of collectivism, holds that the individual’s only moral justification for existing is to serve the needs of others (We are our brothers’ keepers). Need, according to altruism, is the standard. All one has to do is need something, and “society” must sacrifice the rights, interests, and wealth of whomever it must to satisfy that need. Altruism is currently on display in Chicago, in the form of a Service Employees International Union gang that thinks the world owes them a living (just read the attendees’ comments). Failing to get what they want through private voluntary agreement in the free market, they are demanding a legally mandated $15.00-per-hour wage and forced unionization, based on “I need a raise”, and—in a fashion that would make any mob boss proud—are threatening to “shut these businesses down until they listen to us.” Altruism is a predatory, inverted morality that fosters taking over earning.

Statism, or state supremacy: The government as enforcer of the “public good” as determined by the most politically powerful faction of the moment. As long as legislators enact a law, anything goes, and justice and individual rights be damned. The predatory, dog-eat-dog political world of statism is the logical consequence of collectivism-altruism.

Combine collectivism-altruism-statism with fraudulent economics—the idiotic notion that consumer spending, rather than investment, drives economic progress (try eating a loaf of bread before you’ve invested in the knowledge, ingredients, and time necessary to produce it)—and you have the perfect rationalization for the economically destructive minimum wage laws.

Here’s a question: If private individuals have no moral right to a “livable wage” through private criminal aggression against their fellow citizens, on what basis do they have a right to a “livable wage” through legalized criminal aggression via political action? None. Only the rationalizations provided by collectivism-altruism-statism-fraudulent economics makes the moral schizophrenia possible. What’s the opposite? Individualism; rational egoism; individual rights and limited, rights-protecting government (capitalism); and any good economics textbook. Only when the latter replaces the former will we have a fully moral system, where society and politics are brought under the same moral standards as private individuals.

Related Reading:

Do Ends Justify Medicaid Means?

Economics in One Lesson—Henry Hazlitt

Atlas Shrugged—Ayn Rand

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