Philly Police Union Looks To Oust Retired Cop

Monday, May 7th, 2012

The Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police is looking to strip a retired captain of his union membership, because he had sex with a 14-year-old girl illegally raided immigrant-owned bodegas across the city, then stole from and threatened their owners illegally arrested and nearly killed a man for legally carrying a firearm beat his girlfriend and threatened to “stamp” her “heart out” sexually assaulted three women during drug raids  . . . hmm. It appears to have been none of those.

So what could he possibly have done?

The retired Philadelphia police captain committed an act so heinous, so unforgivable in the eyes of the FOP, that union president John McNesby filed a rare grievance that could result in Lewis being permanently expelled from the FOP and stripped of union benefits such as life insurance and free legal assistance.

“It’s quite unusual. We had to dig into the books to see what we could do and couldn’t do,” said FOP pension director Henry Vannelli, who made the motion to refer Lewis’ case to the union’s grievance committee. “We don’t want that guy around.”

Lewis’ inexcusable offense?

He wore his police uniform to the Occupy Wall Street protest in Zuccotti Park last year. He wanted to show the world that the economic-equality movement is not just the pink-haired potheads and scatterbrained anarchists that some media outlets tend to focus on. He makes sure to tell people he’s retired.

“They thought everyone thought of them as dirty hippies. I made their concerns legitimate to the masses,” said Lewis, 60, explaining how he was greeted by the protesters last year. “Their gratitude was overwhelming.”

Lewis, who wore his police uniform to Southwest Philadelphia’s Elmwood Park on Tuesday for a May Day rally with Occupy Philly and labor leaders, became somewhat of an Occupy celebrity, appearing in Time magazine and on cable news.

All of which continues to infuriate McNesby and other FOP officials. The grievance committee could complete its Lewis investigation by the end of the month.

“He’s not respecting the uniform,” McNesby said. “People died for that uniform. It’s not Halloween.”

Not only should Lewis be punished by the union, McNesby said, he “absolutely” should be locked up every time he sets foot in Philly with his uniform on.

Only problem: Nothing Lewis did was illegal.

Also, here’s a bonus, fun glimpse at police union logic:

But if it’s all about the uniform, why doesn’t the FOP take issue with Philadelphia lawyer Jimmy Binns? The wannabe cop has been photographed with a Glock on his hip in a look-alike Philadelphia police uniform on a Harley-Davidson that says “police” on the side and is nearly identical to those ridden by city cops.

Simple, the FOP’s Vannelli says: “Binns is a very good friend of police.”

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78 Responses to “Philly Police Union Looks To Oust Retired Cop”

  1. #1 |  Comrade Dread | 

    Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop drinking…

  2. #2 |  Bob | 

    Sure! Any secret society worth it’s salt would do that. Can’t have people disrespecting the uniform! Pretty soon they’ll be doing shit like joining L.E.A.P. and calling for the end of the gravy train that is drug prohibition!

    Organizations like the Masons and the Illiterati just disappear your ass all quiet like, whereas the FOP still thinks they’re a “Respected Organization” so they tend to be more out in the open.

  3. #3 |  Aresen | 

    I wonder what the FOP* would say if he had actually petted a puppy at one of those events.

    (*FOP – I love that name. Just don’t tell them what “fop” means.)

  4. #4 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    “He’s not respecting the uniform,” McNesby said. “People died for that uniform. It’s not Halloween.”

    Oh bull shit. If the retired Captain had worn his old uniform to an anti-drug legalization protest, a pro-death penalty demonstration or even a tea party rally, the union wouldn’t be saying shit. The problem is that the Philly FOP Cappos don’t like some of the underlying messages expressed by the Occupy movement, so they are publicly ex-communicating Lewis. He just ain’t one of da boyz no more, right McNesby.

    It’s getting to the point that when I read a statement by an FOP official I almost always imagine that he sounds like Tony Soprano.

  5. #5 |  Mattocracy | 

    And yet, the occupiers love unions. I don’t get it.

  6. #6 |  Roho | 

    Hell, more people have probably died under color of the local garbage collection uniform. And I’d respect that uniform more!

  7. #7 |  nigmalg | 

    And yet, the occupiers love unions. I don’t get it.

    I’m not quite sure the occupiers know what they love. Their message has been cloudy since I’ve been following it. I’m still not sure what their endgame is.

  8. #8 |  EH | 

    Oh good, hopefully we can get a derail going for the people who don’t understand Occupy yet feel the need to criticize it. Totally on-topic, guys.

  9. #9 |  perlhaqr | 

    Well, duh. You wear the gang’s colors in the wrong way, you’re gonna get capped.

  10. #10 |  Zeb | 

    Who exactly dies for the Philadelphia police uniform? That’s a pretty dumb thing to sacrifice one’s life for.

  11. #11 |  nigmalg | 

    EH,

    Maybe you can point the confused of us to someplace offering a good explanation? I genuinely don’t understand the movement.

  12. #12 |  Nancy Lebovitz | 

    Is it my imagination, or does Philadelphia/Pennsylvania has more justice system problems than a lot of other states?

  13. #13 |  tarran | 

    Is my memory correct? Aren’t the Philadelphia police are the guys who – from a helicopter – firebombed the apartment building occupied by some very disorderly people in the 1980’s?

  14. #14 |  Other Sean | 

    I’m not defending it, just trying to explain it, but there’s a kind of mad logic to all that jingoism about the uniform.

    For cops, those blue outfits are a brand logo that says :”I’m not a normal person, part of my empathy was silenced when I took this job. You should be intimidated by me. You should do what I say.”

    When a cop wears his uniform down to OWS and does something like this, something that sends a message contrary to that of the brand, a certain kind of cop just goes nuts.

    Basically they’re screaming: “What are you doing? You’re messing with my bluff. If these kids start thinking we’re people, then we’ll have to command their attention by some other means – and we don’t know any other way to do that.”

  15. #15 |  BamBam | 

    @9, as Eazy-E said “A car pulls up who can it be
    A fresh El Camino rolled, Kilo G
    He rolls down his window and he started to say
    It’s all about making that GTA”

    I’m not sure what that has to do with your comment, but it’s the first thing that popped into my mind. Anything NWA or Eazy-E speaks volumes.

  16. #16 |  Andrew S. | 

    I wonder how much money I have to donate to the police so I can be above the law like Jimmy Binns. Stuff like this: http://www.philly.com/philly/news/breaking/20120504_Friend_of_cops_dons_blues__illegal_gun_without_penalty.html

  17. #17 |  Fuk'em | 

    I have no sympathy for some moron that supports the fucking “Occupiers”. The issue isn’t this guy getting kicked out — they’re free to do that if they want, and I’d probably be in favor of it too. The issue is all the other criminals that Radley linked to that weren’t similarly kicked out.

  18. #18 |  kant | 

    Radley,

    I know this is nit picky but when I first read the intro, it seemed to imply that lewis was responsible for that long list of atrocities. Clicking on the links made your point obvious but making it a little more clear that these were done by philly pd in general and not lewis in particular would be nice.

  19. #19 |  Jesse | 

    I’m confused about why the union would be so rabidly against the pro-union protesters.

  20. #20 |  David | 

    Because:
    (a) They’re not cops, and therefore the enemy by definition.
    (b) Why does the police union care whether the little people support their (the cops’) cause? God himself could descend from Heaven and say police unions are a shitty idea, and nothing would change. They’re thin-skinned as all hell, sure, but they don’t need defending and they know it.

  21. #21 |  Andrew Roth | 

    Lord.

    First, the Jimmy Binns fiasco sounds an awful lot like the pay-for-play and retaliation that helped get former Orange County, CA Sheriff Mike Carona into federal prison. Carona gave out reserve deputy badges as a quid pro quo for campaign donations and forced one of his opponents in the sheriff’s race into retirement by threatening to demote him.

    That sort of “disrespect for the uniform” is not a savvy move for anyone who doesn’t look forward to bunking with Blago. Actually, Philadelphia is beyond FCI Englewood’s normal catchment area, but in all seriousness, that sort of influence-peddling and retaliation is extremely useful to federal prosecutors as a way of establishing a pattern of corruption. These morons who let Binns play cop should watch their backs. In fact, it could be that they’ve already crossed the Rubicon and gotten some eager beaver AUSA for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on their trail. I can only speculate, but any Philly cops associating with Binns are clearly playing with fire.

    Second, Lewis will probably have a strong tort claim against the FOP should it expel him. The FOP is attempting to deny him substantial benefits that he earned as one of its members, and it’s weakening its own case by going on the record indicating that it is attempting to destroy him via a fishing expedition in retaliation for his political activities. If Lewis files such a suit and it isn’t dismissed, he’ll clean up. Worse for the FOP, the information made public at trial could well result in a federal corruption investigation. Ultimately, these clowns at the FOP are playing with fire by even attempting to retaliate against Lewis because they have so many skeletons in their closet. If they come across any sense, they’ll settle with him at any price in the hope of cutting their losses.

    At least Blago didn’t know he was being recorded. This may be the first time that I’ve felt no sympathy for prospective federal prisoners because they’re just shamelessly dripping with hubris.

  22. #22 |  CyniCAl | 

    Cop on cop crime makes me sad.

    Just kidding, no it doesn’t.

    Funny, you’d think the way RB presented the story that there were good guys and bad guys. Turns out there’s only cops.

  23. #23 |  Thalience | 

    Yep, that’s my philly…

  24. #24 |  Personanongrata | 

    Uniforms, we don’t need no stinking uniforms.

    Stop!
    I wanna go home
    Take off this uniform
    And leave the show.
    But I’m waiting in this cell
    Because I have to know.
    Have I been guilty all this time?

    ~Stop, Pink Floyd, The Wall

    Real men/women don’t need costumes their actions define who they are or aren’t.

  25. #25 |  Jack | 

    Occupy sez: “corporations and the wealthy break the law and warp democracy with impunity, and we don’t like that.” If you need a specific reference, it’s the economic meltdown of the past few years, in which large corporations committed massive fraud and were not punished.

    Not complicated or hazy IMO.

    To the extent that Occupiers have a monolithic opinion about unions — which I’m not sure I buy, BTW — it would probably be that unions are useful as a countering force to corporate power. Police unions probably don’t count in that formulation. To step outside of Occupy and into a larger political discussion, I don’t think there’s anything odd about being pro-union in general and thinking that police fraternal organizations are awfully full of shit in specific.

  26. #26 |  John | 

    As a person who is fairly pro-union but disgusted by police unions, let me give you my take (don’t take this as a “this is what the movement thinks,” just my opinion).

    It’s possible to dislike crazy bullshit like this from unions while still liking unions in general. When unions are standing against awful working conditions (take any of the Amazon shipping facilities), where something needs to stand up for the workers, you see a good side of unions. I’d say most Occupiers see “union as thing that stands up for workers” and ignore “union as the god damned mafia,” especially in the case of police unions.

    I see the problem, in this instance, is that the unionised have too much power. Unions of most workers are checked by the fact that there is a huge supply of labor. Cops are expensive to train. Most unions don’t have the threat of “if we stop doing our jobs, well, it would be a shame if something happened to your house now wouldn’t it?” Most unions don’t have the problem of being made up of cops, who Never Make Mistakes And Don’t You Question It. Mistakes made by cops are exclusively those in which they don’t use enough force in stopping The Threat. Really, just read Balko’s umpteen bajillion articles on the problems of trying to criticize cops, and insert them here, then append “the officers are together in a politically active union.”

    So yeah, I guess the summary is 1) unions exist to protect the most screwed of workers from the worst of managements. Laugh at that if you want, but with crazy oversupply of labor comes crazy exploitation of human beings. 2) Unions should be checked in their power. 3) Cop unions represent cases where the interests of workers and management are in line, and politicians can’t realistically be a check on their power, because people have a skewed view of cops. So you can like unions, be in Occupy (I didn’t because Occupy wasn’t “against free markets” and I am), and still hate police unions. My main idea on the solution side is that while public sector unions are okay, there also need to be oversight boards with teeth. Think the ineffectual citizen review boards that exist for cops, only the police union doesn’t get veto power over their decisions (ie, an actual fucking citizen review board).

  27. #27 |  Stephen | 

    I’m entirely pro-union. I come from 4 generations of union pipefitters, and am currently in law school focusing on labor-side employment law. (and occupying on the side)

    John basically hits the nail on the head. Unions are meant to provide a more equal bargaining position for labor. In general, police departments receive all the funding, pay, benefits and management support they could ever want because they serve as the enforcement arm for all of the politicians “tough on crime, instant voter approval” measures. There’s very little conflicting interests between labor and management in the system the the local governments know that their interests can best be served by protecting the interests of the police. On the other hand, most bosses best interests are in cutting costs, increasing productivity, and boosting profits. For a government, local, state or federal, the benefit of the police employment situation is largely unrelated to the financial costs, and management is perfectly willing to loosen the purse strings to buy political gains of increased police action. Management gains are not measured in exploited labor productivity- earning the most monetary return from the least monetary investment investment, but my earning the most political return for their financial investment. Their financial investment, while limited to some degree by their ability to tax people without inciting outrage, is not rationally connected to the gain they receive from the system (which is why cities on the verge of bankruptcy still pay their police damn well, and never consider cutting police expenditures).

    It’s not the police union that is the problem: it is the lack of a legitimate antagonism between labor and management that basically leaves police unions with all the power they want, to the benefit of their bosses.

    On that note, F*** the Bosses.

    #OccupyAllStreets

  28. #28 |  Bill Poser | 

    What gives the union the right to do anything about this? The only party that has any valid reason to care about where he wears his uniform off-duty is the police department. The union is entitled to care about his behavior on union-related matters but not his private life.

  29. #29 |  Other Sean | 

    John #24,

    Nice comment, but I think you’ve got one thing backwards: far from acting as a safeguard against the exploitation of surplus labor, unions are a huge part of the reason why there is so much surplus labor available, because they work relentlessly to make sure that the job market never gets anywhere near a natural price equilibrium. What I mean is this:

    Imagine what would happen if a bunch of the unemployed kids from Occupy decided to make some change happen by applying to join the police force themselves. In an open market they could simply offer to do those jobs for some amount less than the current rate, and it would be win-win-win. The kids would find work, cash-strapped cities and towns would save a little, and the world of law enforcement would gain some new members with a fresh outlook.

    Why can’t that happen? Because the unions have imposed a licensing scheme in just about every state, which typically requires candidates to spend money and time roughly on a par with the start-up costs for a cosmetology student.

    (And I can’t think of a union that doesn’t try to do exactly the same thing, limited only by what it can get away with it in practice.)

  30. #30 |  cxx terry | 

    Tony Lewis has a heart and can now speak his mind since he is retired. We should all be thankful there are officers like Lewis in the police. The union leader charging against him is likely no where near retirement and is playing to the 1%. Mr. Leader? Are they grateful? Will they support you when you are old or out of power? Do you read history?

  31. #31 |  Mark Z. | 

    nigmalg #11: This is still pretty good.

  32. #32 |  demize! | 

    I don’t know if you’ve noticed up there chief but cops, members of cop unions, virtually the scum of the scum of the earth don’t give two shits about other union members. They’ll gladly act as state Pinkertons in any labor dispute as long as the OT is showing and the blood might be flowing. The question in regards to unions themselves and the confused philosophy of your average lefty occupyista is a different matter for a different time. Ive heard some #OWS use the “your jobs are on the line too” rap to the cops. Uhm, no thats about the only growth sector left in a post industrial, neo-feudal fascist corprocacy. So confused and naive, not to generalize. Most of the Anarchists know better.YMMV.

  33. #33 |  demize! | 

    BTW. the Kelly Thomas CCTV footage has been released and its horrifying.

  34. #34 |  John | 

    @26 Other Sean:

    I can respect what you’re saying there, I think we just have different assumptions on markets.

    First, the Occupy kids are almost certainly untrained in police work. I’m sure the licensing scheme is cleverly built to provide the minimum training for the cost, but I do think you need training for the officers. I’m not suggesting that you’re saying “we should just send untrained morons in,” just that this should be factored in as part of the cost.

    Second, we have a different basic look at markets. I’m guessing by the use of “natural price equilibrium” (and presence on The Agitator) you’re a free-market guy, where while I’m not an economist, I most follow behavioral economics, as the idea “people, as an aggregate, will generally behave as though they’re rational” just doesn’t work for me.

    I am curious about the licensing bit. How does that work in, say, Wal-Mart? Are there licensing schemes in those areas? The unions I’m most ambivalent on are teacher unions, which I know license, but what in the licensing of teachers is designed to decrease the potential pool of labor, rather than ensure the people who are hired are qualified? This seems like the kind of question that might be answered with “look it up yourself,” but am just curious whether you (or other Agitator commenters) have experience with this.

  35. #35 |  Random Thoughts (Political Edition) - Page 394 | 

    […] Philly Police Union Looks To Oust Retired Cop The Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police is looking to strip a retired captain of his union […]

  36. #36 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    @25 – Exactly. If Unions think they can start this kind of crap, time to look at your Union laws. You can certainly damage them too much (as Thatcher did in the UK), but equally US unions seem to be able to pull some stupid crap while not being forced to represent workers properly.

    The key problem for policing in the UK is the ACPO, a private company.

    @26 – How is aiding the relentless downward pressure on wages from companies “win-win”.

    @30 – I don’t get that. In the UK, licensing teachers is in the hands of the “Teaching Agency”, a government body. If you’re part of a Union or not – and there are multiple unions for teachers – is completely separate.

    Indeed, there are considerable differences between the teaching unions, some of which also have auxillary staff and University lecturers (who need no formal qualifications in teaching) as well as licensed teachers, others don’t, etc.

  37. #37 |  rmv | 

    @30 John

    re: behavioral economics
    Rational != Optimal
    Besides that, belief that humans on an individual level and the aggregate level are less rational than the standard models economic models assume does not negate supply and demand and the effects of mandated price floors above the market equilibrium.

    re: licensing
    “but what in the licensing of teachers is designed to decrease the potential pool of labor, rather than ensure the people who are hired are qualified?”

    Ain’t that the point? Restrict(decrease) the pool of applicants to those who are “qualified”?
    The question is whether licensing schemes as they’re generally constituted and enforced actually accomplish those goals. Considering that, in most cases, licensing is pushed heavily by those who would be grandfathered into the new system, it would seem plausible(and if you look up the particulars of most pushes for licensing or stricter licensing, it becomes obvious) that they would seek to restrict entrance into the market.

    Supply and demand; given a certain demand for a good or service(teaching, hairdressing, interior decorating), if supply(the number of teachers, hairdressers, and interior decorators) can be restricted then those selling the good or service can sell their good or service at a price point higher than if no restrictions had been in place.

    This reasoning is true for any market, whether steel production or teaching/hair dressing/interior decorating.

  38. #38 |  Other Sean | 

    John #30 – It’s actually not necessary to assume people are rational to make the concept of price equilibrium work. E.g., I think it’s pretty irrational to buy Justin Bieber’s music, but I know that of people who do buy it, the vast majority will prefer a lower price to a higher one.

    Also, not every union has succeeded in setting up a license raj for their members. It’s tougher to sell for unskilled positions, so Its always going to be easier for the electrician’s local than it is for SEIU. For those jobs, it’s often enough simply to impose a burdensome entry barrier in the form of initial membership fees.

    Think about that for a moment: if unions really were serious about helping the workers and the unemployed, surely they would use a progressive fee structure, so that higher paid and more established employee pay more, while new employees just getting started pay little or nothing. They’d have to do it that way, right? That’s what they argue for in tax policy, so they must live by that in their own shops.

    Of course its quite the opposite. A grocery bagger fresh off the unemployment line will be required to cough up half of his first check to the union, and that’s usually after he’s purchased a “training seminar” from the same.

  39. #39 |  Other Sean | 

    Leon #31

    But that’s my point: any downward pressure on wages comes from the fact that so many people are unemployed. It comes from the fact that incumbent workers have managed to raise their wages at the expense of challengers. That downward pressure is in effect a market correction, pushing back against millions of people who are overpaid by dint of artificial scarcity.

  40. #40 |  Mark Z. | 

    Other Sean #29: Imagine what would happen if a bunch of the unemployed kids from Occupy decided to make some change happen by applying to join the police force themselves. In an open market they could simply offer to do those jobs for some amount less than the current rate, and it would be win-win-win.

    And the people currently doing those jobs would be unemployed. The amount of surplus labor is unchanged; the change is that the employed people are now paid less.

    (And they don’t know what they’re doing, which is only conceivably not a problem because you’re talking about the police force and you’re talking about it here. If it were any other business, completely replacing the incumbent workforce with rookies would be a disaster. So you’re making an argument here that applies only to police unions. Is that your intent?)

    That downward pressure is in effect a market correction, pushing back against millions of people who are overpaid by dint of artificial scarcity.

    Okay, so the problem is that millions of people colluded to raise the price of their own labor so that millions of people could have health insurance and smartphones and piano lessons for their kids. And the solution is to cut everyone’s pay so that almost nobody can afford smartphones or piano lessons and those industries will collapse.

    I’m failing to see how your “market correction” is better, for anyone involved, than the state we were in before. And if it’s not better, then why shouldn’t we come together to resist it?

  41. #41 |  smurfy | 

    I just want to see him use his union-provided legal assistance to fight the FOP.

    Stephen and others taking the pro-union position: I have flip flopped on support for unions over the last few years. Here are some of the observations that have swayed me:
    *I should probably add that I am a shop steward and union negotiator for disclosure and context.

    Many of the safety and working conditions protections that unions have won are now enshrined in law (OSHA, EEOC, the 9th circuit, etc.). We’re down to fighting over mostly trivial BS on the fringes.

    In my public sector union there is no downward pressure on wages, it is a collusion between management and the union to float all boats. Both sides want a better pension and the whole thing is an act to give the governing board political cover (yes they got a better pension but just look at all the concessions we won from the union. Heck, we reduced their vacation accrual cap from 500 to 400 hours!).

    As a young fella, many of the policy positions that my union takes objectively cut against MY interest. Seniority-based promotion for example. They will fight to the death to protect post retirement medical but throw new-hires under the bus of a two-tiered system. Young occupiers, can you not see where your interests lie here? Unions protect your dad at your expense and hell, your dad’s the asshole who flaked on paying for your degree and stuck you with all that debt. Unions cannot simultaneously represent the disparate interests of all four generations of pipe fitters.

    Many of the accumulated work rules just create absurd realities. I had to go throw a breaker in the electric room an hour ago. An electric engineer stood there and told me which breaker to throw but he cannot touch the damn breaker due to union rules. Seriously, if I wasn’t available they were going to call in an on-call electrician…to throw a fucking 15 amp breaker. Arggg.

    They’re expensive. I’m already at least 15k into dues. That would cover Stephen’s retainer handily.

    The only thing I have in my plus column is that some managers are just petty dicks and some sort of structure has to be there to keep them in line. I try to do that through strong and clear policy. I could see other models besides unions that could accomplish that goal (like a low friction job market : )

  42. #42 |  Other Sean | 

    Mark #40,

    Obviously you couldn’t gain any ground against general unemployment just by removing the barriers to entry in police work. You would have to apply the same principle against all such barriers, or at least a bunch of them at once.

    The extra money that cops (or teachers, barbers, etc) now get above the market price of their services has to come from somewhere. The people it comes from have that much less to spend on other goods and services, and that’s basically how unemployment (a very unnatural phenomenon, when you stop to think about it) is brought into being.

    So the question is, what do you prefer?

    1) A world where cops and teachers have to pass on those private piano lessons you mentioned, but everyone who wants a job can find one. (Smart phones are cheap, so everybody can still have one of those in my world.)

    2) A world where 1 in 5 are kept unemployed (definitely no piano lessons for their kids), to protect artificially enhanced wages for the 4 in 5 who have jobs?

    You can stay with option 2, if that’s really what you prefer. But what you can’t do is prefer option 2 AND call yourself an supporter of equality or distributive justice.

  43. #43 |  Neil in Chicago | 

    The only good thing I have ever heard about the Pennsylvania state troopers is that they once got into a firefight with the Philadelphia police.

  44. #44 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    @Other Sean – “artificial scarcity”

    Absolute rot. The simple truth of the matter is, low-skill jobs are vanishing. Robotics is expanding, and technology is replacing them – take the automated checkout machines in supermarkets. While shrinkage goes up slightly, you only need one staff member to monitor a bank of them rather than 3-4 staff on checkouts.

    It’s so TERRIBLE that some members of the 99% can afford piano lessons, this is evil and must be crushed. It’s about ensuring your caste is in control, nothing else.

    Australia, with a high minimum wage, is doing fine.
    Germany, with it’s strong unions, is doing fine.
    The Nordic Countries, with their major redistribution, are doing fine.

    The PROBLEM is your neo-liberalism. It’s enabled corporatists to launch swinging attacks on the 99%, ensuring retirement is a dream for them, that they can never be secure in their jobs and live with fear and terror.

    The answers of upskilling and a trained workforce are things that you – like the Tories in the UK – are going a long way to crush, in favour of competing directly with China, which means paying Chinese wages, no matter what it takes to get there.

    The biggest “joining fee” I’ve heard of for a UK union is £15, most of them have low set dues (Unite, £15/month) or a % salary (mostly arts/actors unions).

  45. #45 |  Other Sean | 

    Leon – I realize this thread is toast by now, but just in case.

    I probably won’t manage to convince you of anything, but I’d love to try even still. So please, if you read this, just entertain one question:

    What happens to a worker who is only capable or producing $4.00 an hour in value, when he tries to find employment in a country that mandates $5.00 an hour in wages?

    If you answer that question honestly, a whole train of interesting implications will follow.

  46. #46 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    @45 – “Only capable”. There are lots of answers to that. Let’s run through some…

    1.

    In other words, there is a mandate that someone isn’t worth paying a wage which will allow him to live on, because he’s “not good enough” in the eyes of the people who hire him? Real productivity has risen dramatically over the years, and how upper management view someone is rarely linked to how productive they really are.

    In any case, you’re not good enough, if you’re in the 99%. Wages are something which have been crushed by capital, in an accelerating trend. Unless you’re in the 1%, there is literally no future for your children which is remotely as well-paid as your own, even WITH the minimum wage.

    Given that trend, take away a minimum wage which lets people live in their own place and afford travel, and you rapidly end up with effective slavery again, since the lowest paid workers become dependent on things like accommodation to live, provided by the company for “fair compensation”, and of course it’s miles from town, and the company store’s right there, and…

    (It’s a common trick in China, after all, and historically in America…thinking it can’t come back is nuts – especially since removing the minimum wage essentially legalises scrip/truck/private currency wages)

    2.

    If you don’t have the minimum wage, he’ll end up costing society a shitload more in support costs (even if the Government doesn’t pay, but it’s still diverted money!) and in cleaning up the results of the crimes he’ll commit to eat, since working won’t let him eat and support himself at the extremely low wages offered.

    3.

    Australia – where the minimum wage is $15 a hour (from 20) – hasn’t suffered the meltdown you claim is inevitable when “those people” can’t get work. And Australia is a heck of a lot closer to full employment than the USA or UK.

    It’s WORTH having 0.1 or 0.2% more of the population unemployed, at effective full employment, to get 15-20% of the population off direct Government support, which amounts to corporate welfare subsiding the minimum wage ANYWAY, in a far less efficient way.

    …You know, I hadn’t give the scrip/truck thing enough thought before, that’s one route the Corporatists are almost certainly going to push. (After all, it’s not even illegal in some countries, and in others if it’s pegged it’s fine even if the exchange isn’t really free…)

  47. #47 |  Other Sean | 

    Leon – Thanks for sticking with this exchange.

    You’re responding not to things I actually said, but to things you associate with people who may – to your ears – sound like me. That’s not fair. (For example, I have never predicted an inevitable meltdown in the Australian job market. Nor indeed do I favor a return to slavery. Nor I am against children having futures so they can end up toiling in Chinese company towns.)

    I am simply presenting you with a theoretical challenge: If I want to hire you for $4.00 an hour, because that’s what your labor is worth TO ME, but the law will not allow me to hire you for less than $5.00, what happens?

    There are two possibilities. The first is that I don’t hire you. The second is that I must be forced to hire you for a service I value less than the $5.00 an hour I am required to pay, under threat of coercive action (usually but not necessarily by the state).

    If you’re cool with those options, I guess that’s that. So…are you cool with those options?

  48. #48 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    With full employment or a minimum wage, either you hire someone or you do without. And the reality is, the bottom end already cost you a lot in tax for support, someone hired at very low wages would probably /directly/ cost you more.

    I’m not real interested in theoretical questions, but *outcomes*. That’s why I don’t really care if you /intend/ bad results from a policy or not. The fact is, the countries doing best right now are ones like Germany, the Nordics and Australia.

  49. #49 |  Other Sean | 

    Leon,

    That’s an honest answer, in the sense that you’ve acknowledged a conflict between full employment and the minimum wage. That’s really what I was getting at, with my original remark about “price equilibrium”, way back when we were still talking about cops and cop unions.

    In the meantime you’ve raised a methods issue that really trumps everything else in terms of importance.

    You claim to prize empirical outcomes over theory. To that end, you offer the examples of Germany, Australia, Norway, and Sweden. You might have added Canada and Japan, as well.

    But that’s not how empirical evidence works! You can’t just pick three or four countries you like, and say “look what the minimum wage can do”. You have to take all of the minimum wage countries, including a whole bunch that won’t help your case at all, like Bulgaria or Greece.

    But even then, it’s still not empirical evidence, because you have no controls. There is only one Greece, and only one Germany, and only one May 2012. Nothing can be tested, nothing can be repeated. You’ll always be able to find a counter-example, or explain away some non conforming facts, and I will always be able to do the same. These disputes cannot be resolved by looking at outcomes.

    You’ve probably seen the absurdity Liberals and Neo-cons arguing on that basis: “I’ll see your Detroit manufacturing economy from the late 1950s and raise you a Chilean service industry boom from the early 1980s.”

    In the end, it’s all just so much noise. Without theory, we’re lost, because only theory has the power to cut through that noise.

    Besides, most of the really important questions in life are theoretical. I.e, If you’re reading this blog, it’s probably because you arrived at a theory that people shouldn’t get their heads bashed in by the state for no reason. It didn’t take an empirical study of head bashing for you to decide that. It took a theory.

  50. #50 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    I was talking about their entire economy, not just the minimum wage. Australia is THE prime example on the minimum wage – why does is have 5% unemployment, when if you were even remotely correct it would be more like Spain, at best?

    “Besides, most of the really important questions in life are theoretical”

    No, they’re practical. How to feed the poorest in this country, for example. I actively work on that. I don’t have any interest in pie-in-the-sky thinking.

    There’s a LOT of evidence. There are lots of ways to use it. You don’t need to repeat every little mistake, as you’re insisting, over and over…

  51. #51 |  Other Sean | 

    You can’t make theoretical questions go away by calling them “pie-in-the-sky”.

    The stuff you describe as “evidence” is anecdotal evidence, or as scientists like to call it, “not evidence”. In this matter variables cannot be isolated, observers cannot be blinded, and neither conditions nor results can ever be reproduced.

    I admit I’m operating in the realm of a priori deductions, thought experiments, broad abstractions, etc. I actually think you’re doing much the same, but you don’t admit it.

    Be honest: if the Australian economy crashed tomorrow, you wouldn’t change your mind about the minimum wage (or any other thing). It would be just too easy for you to say: “Those Aussies must have mismanaged their economy somehow. Maybe they didn’t do enough to stimulate light industrial exports. Maybe their minimum wage as too low, and this had a depressing effect on consumer demand”.

    You could construct an explanation to show that, contrary to first appearances, they failed by straying too far away from the policies you prefer. You could remove Australia from your list of positive examples, but keep using Sweden, Germany, etc., to advance exactly the same position as before. And if Sweden and Germany collapsed right after that, why…you could just limit yourself to using some example from history instead. (A lot of free market guys like to do that from the opposing viewpoint, by using the Lochner-era United States).

    You claim to be using practical, evidence-based approach, but really there is no set of facts I could ever bring forward to falsify your position. Whatever I say you will have this one unbreakable response: “My anecdotes mean something, yours are just accidents.”

  52. #52 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    “The stuff you describe as “evidence” is anecdotal evidence”

    What, the real, hard data gathered is anecdotal? Sigh. There is a LOT of very good, evidence-based work done in the field. You’re saying “economics doesn’t exist as a real science”.

    “if the Australian economy crashed tomorrow”

    But the fact is it isn’t, and won’t. It’s healthy. You’re attributing your own tactics to other people, I’m sure you’ll completely deny that the Tories are responsible for crashing the UK economy, for instance.

    Again – You’re the one insisting that no data can ever exist, that the only possible thing to do is to plunge ahead with the ideological changes and it can’t possibly go wrong if the ideology is “sound”.

  53. #53 |  Other Sean | 

    I’m saying economics doesn’t exist as the kind of empirical science you think it is, or want it to be.

    Let’s try an example: say you want to convince me that the Tories are responsible for crashing the UK economy, and you want to do it scientifically.

    I’ll make it easy: imagine that you already have a perfectly complete record of all economic activity in the UK and everywhere else, since 1945; just a zettabyte worth of flawlessly accurate data sitting at your finger tips.

    What will you do with it? What would be your method, to make that data show me that the Tories really did crash the UK economy?

    Remember: there is still only one United Kingdom, and since I didn’t give you a TARDIS, you can’t go back to 1979 and kidnap Thatcher or anything like that.

    How would you proceed?

  54. #54 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    Exactly, you’re saying we can’t learn from history.

    Your methodology would also rule out learning anything in medicine, I’d note.

  55. #55 |  Other Sean | 

    You certainly CAN learn from history, but it is theory that makes such learning possible. It’s not that facts are irrelevant or uninteresting, it’s just that (when you’re talking about economics and human behavior) those facts cannot be spun into the gold of falsifiable science.

    I mean, just because the case of East Germany vs. West Germany was not a controlled experiment doesn’t mean we can’t learn something from it. That’s where theory gathers it’s initial clues, that’s what leads people like Hayek to discover things like the calculation problem in central planning. But such a theory once established does not remain dependent on the specific cases which inspired it; eventually it comes to rest on a foundation of logic.

    Now you CAN do controlled experiments on human BODIES, as it turns out. So medical research IS a science in the classic sense (excluding psychiatry of course).

    But, as anyone knows who has ever been a patient, the applied science of medicine is a messy business, for some of the same reasons I’ve mentioned above: tons of variables, each patient is an N of 1 as far as he cares, everybody lies, sometimes a cough is just a cough, the placebo effect, etc. That’s why doctors are very careful to distinguish between laboratory research and clinical studies.

    But since you brought up the medicine analogy: what you’ve been saying here is equivalent to this: “All countries are sick with inequality and exploitation. We gave 200 a countries a dose of the remedy known as minimum wage laws. I am happy with the way five of those countries turned out. Therefore I deem this treatment to be a success, and if anyone disagrees with my treatment, let him first explain why the patient known as Australia did not get worse.”

    Whatever that is, it’s definitely not a scientific claim.

  56. #56 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    Except we don’t know the mechanism of action of many common drugs.
    Like, oh, anaesthetics. We just know that when you give drug a, it has results x, y and z.

    Equally, it is known from multiple observed results that when you use austerity in the face of a recession, it slashes consumer spending.

    (And actually, no, we don’t know that about bodies…weird drug reactions from a minority of people is a major issue and then there’s the placebo effect. The one which is getting stronger….)

    Yes, you have to prove in your “theory” why Australia has lower unemployment than Somalia. Otherwise, your theory is clearly disproven. That’s the entire problem with misusing narrow definitions as you are! You’re the one who’s insisting that the minimum wage is the be-all and end-all, refusing to admit that economic performance is important!

  57. #57 |  Other Sean | 

    I’m not arguing that the minimum wage is more important than any other variable in economic policy; of course it’s not the “be-all and end-all” of anything. Nor are you staking your whole case on Australia’s job market. We just needed some way to narrow the discussion into a manageable range, and such were the examples that emerged.

    I’ve never tried to dispute the fact that Australia presently reports both a high minimum wage and a low rate of unemployment. I am merely insisting that the high minimum wage there cannot possibly be to credit for the low rate of unemployment. That’s the extent of my claim as far as the specific examples are concerned.

    In the general case, I am sure of only one thing: Setting the minimum price of labor at $5.00 an hour cannot change the productivity of a worker who is worth only $4.00 an hour. So, to the extent that such workers exist, employers will try to avoid hiring them over the long run, unless forced to do so by some other means. Hence, one logical (really, tautological) effect of minimum wage rates will be that some workers to remain unemployed, who would not have been so in the absence of those rates.

    That seems pretty airtight to me. Am I crazy?

    (You’re right that there are some drugs which work, without a convincing scientific model to explain why they work. But…they have been subjected to massive repetitive clinical trials, and science will keep searching relentlessly for a theoretical explanation until it finds one.)

  58. #58 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    And I’m saying the contention which you made – that a minimum wage will always cause unemployment because people are not worth wage x – falls down badly because of a real-life counterexample.

    You’re not crazy, you’re not looking outside a certain cultural/ideological bias, of considering first the needs of corperations. I’m a trained researcher and I know how hard it is to break outside that box, although in my case it’s aided by the fact I’m not a part of the majority (small-c christian) culture of Britain (I’m Jewish).

    The entire concept that people can be “worth” wages which make it more viable for them to commit crimes rather than work within the system, or need expensive propping up by welfare – essentially corporate welfare – is in the long-term extremely counter-productive, and leads to an underclass.

    Moreover, this highlights the importance of full employment. The minimum wage can be adjusted in line with inflation, having moderate inflation is less important than having people on a living wage.

  59. #59 |  Other Sean | 

    My argument was that, other things being equal, a minimum wage will cause employers to avoid hiring people whose productivity is lower than the required wage.

    The reason why your examples do no mischief for me, is because other things have not been held equal. It could be that German and Australian workers are highly productive, it could be that they are especially well capitalized, it could be that they are riding high on export subsidies that will backfire in the long run, it could be that their other economic policies are not as self-destructive as those of competing nations…in other words, in could very well be that they are doing something that wouldn’t work, if everyone else suddenly tried it too.

    In the meantime, there are a bunch of Spains, Portugals, Irelands, Kenyas, and South Africas out there, foundering in economic misery with double digit unemployment. If we list out all the countries that attempt to control the minimum price of labor, and then look at their unemployment rates, the tally will not be in your favor. Of course you could counter that other things have not been held equal, and of course you would be right. Every country will turn out to be special in 10,000 ways.

    And that’s precisely why I suggested we should try to avoid an exchange of pseudo-empirical evidence.

    More importantly: when I say that a given worker is only “worth” $4.00 an hour, I’m not making a moral or political statement. I simply mean that if I can’t sell a widget for more than $4.25, and a worker can only make one widget per hour, then I can’t pay that worker $5.00 per hour. That says absolutely nothing about his value as a person. It is purely a comment on his marginal productivity as a widget-smith.

    Of course I’m not playing dumb to your concerns. I realize that you hear those words as the siren song of a resurgent class system, where latter day Toffs run around lording it over the little people. You find that prospect revolting, and actually so do I.

    We differ in this sense only: I think your policies keep Toff where he is, and leave the Chav unemployed. And I can’t understand why you’re okay with that.

  60. #60 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    “It could be that German and Australian workers are highly productive”

    That’s also measured, and while German productivity is high, Australian productivity isn’t especially – but you’re missing something. Germany doesn’t have a minimum wage per-se, for most workers. Certain /sectors/ have it from collective bargaining, but not the economy as a whole.

    “the tally will not be in your favor”

    TALLY? You’ve proposed a theory. It’s incorrect, because of a solid counter-example. Stop, go away and come back with a new theory which fits the observed data.

    “when I say that a given worker is only “worth” $4.00 an hour, I’m not making a moral or political statement”

    Yes, you most certainly are. By not paying a living wage, you’re relying on corporate welfare to fill in the gap. Your business is *not viable in the economy*, without subsidies.

    And we have a situation NOW where the bankers and 1% are essentially a separate class. How can taking their tools of domination away from them, as I want to do (and paying people a living wage, freeing them from government dependency, is a TINY part of that) “working” for them? I’m a mutualist, for frick sake – technically an anarchist (although I don’t consider myself one).

    On the other hand, you’re just fine with corporate welfare for low-paid workers and American Libertarian policy is very strongly corporatist, in practice.

  61. #61 |  Other Sean | 

    “You’ve proposed a theory. It’s incorrect, because of a solid counter-example.”

    Look, we’ve traded a couple thousand words back and forth – hardly enough for either of us to prove or disprove much of anything. These subjects are way too big for anyone to be signing off QED.

    Earlier in this conversation you said “I’m a trained researcher and I know how hard it is to break outside that box.” But have you considered the possibility that you might be the one still trapped in that box? Isn’t it just possible that your “observed data” is really just a bunch of selective facts, mortared together with the same confirmation bias that is natural to us all?

    If one’s only goal was to help the poor, there are lots of ways to do that: you might try a minimum wage, but you might also try an earned income credit, a matching program for employers who hire low skilled workers, tax breaks for employees and employers at the lower margins of the economy, government make-work programs, etc.

    So tell me which makes more sense:

    1.) Let my $4.00 per hour widget maker get a job that pays $4.00 an hour, and then try to raise his income up, by public assistance, to whatever level you regard as a living wage. Or

    2.) Make it illegal for him to work at that rate, and try to raise him to a living wage from the considerably more difficult starting point of $0.00 an hour.

    It seems to me that option 2 only makes sense if you consider that the minimum wage might be just a way for middle class and higher skilled workers to outlaw their competition from lower class, lower skilled workers. And the fact that labor unions everywhere support the minimum wage is certainly consistent with that explanation.

    What do you think?

  62. #62 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    I think that you’re arguing for high unemployment as policy to focus on inflation. Because that’s the only way I can see arguing for intrusive and expensive government intervention rather than the *far* cheaper payment of a minimum wage can possibly be justified.

    This isn’t just me, it’s a lot of studies showing the same sort of results. Moreover, the economic performance of the countries in question are the final arbitrators, and they’re quite clear. That kind of inflation-focus doesn’t work in the longer run.

    That you erupt at the very concept of workers possibly organising, when employers most certainly do without the same kind of response, is also telling.

    That you mention “government make-work” programs as a way to HELP the poor, too, is something I find disgusting. I’d of thought slavery would have been even more of a no-go for Americans…

  63. #63 |  Other Sean | 

    I’m not sure how inflation came into this, except in so far as Keynesians usually see inflation and unemployment as joined by a teeter-totter. That’s no part of my thinking, and to be clear, I am not making an inflation-related argument here. I don’t care how fast wages go up or how high they get, I just don’t want the minimum or the maximum wage to be fixed by law.

    That gets at an important point. You assume that the minimum wage actually does what it’s supposed to do…that it produces increased wages on net balance, and that any gains produced come at the expense of profit, not at the expense of other workers. Those assumptions are precisely what I am calling into dispute. To stay with my previous examples…

    If I employ 100 widget makers who each earn $4.00 an hour, my payroll would be 3,200 a day. Again, let’s say they each make one widget per hour, and that each widget sells for $4.25. That’s roughly a 6% profit for me, which would be considered quite healthy by many businesses today.

    Each of my workers gets $32.00 per day, and I get $200.00. From their point of view I am a rich one percenter indeed.

    But now you pass a law saying I must pay these workers $5.00 per hour. Your goal is that the pay of each one of my 100 workers should go up to $40.00 day. But that’s not what happens. Because my cost went up by $800.00 per day, and because you didn’t pass a law requiring my customers to spend more money for the same quantity of widgets, I am now losing $0.75 on every sale.

    Obviously, this can’t continue. If I am very lucky, I will have some inelastic customers who have nowhere else to go, and who are willing to spend $5.25 per widget. If I am even luckier, I might be able to apply some new capital to help my best and most efficient widget makers raise their productivity to 9 widgets per worker per day, so I can stay in business.

    But as for my least skilled widget makers, they can’t keep pace with these developments. They must be let go immediately. Their new rate of pay: $0.00 per hour, $0.00 per day.

    This should trouble you deeply, because the intent of your policy was to make life better for precisely those people.

    You believe you can do that by arbitrarily shifting money away from profit and towards wages, but what if you’re wrong? What if the system gives way in the other direction, and the increase you mandate comes not from the shallow reservoir of profit, but from the deep pool of wages – raising pay for some workers slightly, while catastrophically lowering it for others?

    I’d want to be very sure – much surer than you have cause to be – before I risked any policy that had such an outcome as its downside.

  64. #64 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    @63 – Then you’re simply arguing that it’s acceptable, on no economic grounds, to have the Government support people who you are unwilling to pay sufficient money to live on to.

    You’re “arbitrarily” shifting money from taxpayers to the poor, propping up company profits – it’s pure corporate welfare and very much part of the big-state “conservative” agenda.

    Your widgets factory is utterly reliant on a subsidy, delivered via the workers! Moreover, it’s reliant on that being delivered via a higher tax rate and requires an expensive, intrusive extension of the state into the lives of the people receiving it.

    Your entire argument is that Australia doesn’t exist, since such a high minimum wage in your system would have massive unemployment. Unfortunately for you, it does not; In fact, it has ~3% lower unemployment than the USA.

    Employing people who need expensive, intrusive government support is not “helping” people when there are *perfectly viable* existing, tested, alternatives which cut out several steps of the process – in this case, the minimum wage.

    “Let people work and still starve” isn’t an alternative I consider viable, and I’m yet to see another proposal which is both viable, cheaper and less intrusive than the minimum wage.

    Wages have been increasingly squeezed out by capital in the last 30 years, and you’re arguing that this trend needs to be accelerated, on the back of corporate welfare. I don’t see any grounds you can argue that’s remotely Libertarian.

  65. #65 |  Other Sean | 

    For the record, I’m pretty sure Australia does exist. I did do some late night typing, but I don’t remember saying anything to the contrary of that.

    At any rate, it’s not in the nature of my argument to predict that unemployment should be higher or lower in this unique country or that unique country. That’s why the case of Australia doesn’t falsify my non-falsifiable theory, and that’s why it doesn’t confirm your equally non-falsifiable theory.

    I just googled to see which countries had the lowest listed unemployment rate on planet earth. The answer was…it’s a tie for first place between Monaco and North Korea. Now, if you were really an empiricist you’d have to say: “The data has spoken. The nations of the world should line up and begin emulating the labor policies of North Korea and Monaco.”

    But of course you’re not saying that, and you never would say that. You know axiomatically that North Korea is lying and that Monaco must be some kind of anomaly. You don’t need to travel to either place, you don’t need to interview anybody, you don’t need to start collecting reams of econometric data, you just know on general principle that those numbers do not mean what they seem to mean.

    Can’t you see that the same is going to be true of any other country either of us can name? It’s only a difference of degree, and North Korea and Monaco are just extreme examples. Every country is totally unique, and no comparison between unique countries can be empirically fair.

    My argument has always been: “the minimum wage will tend to make lower skilled workers unemployable, if their productivity level is lower than the mandated wage.”

    I have never once said: “countries with high minimum wages will always have high unemployment, without exception”.

    I’m sure you’re not doing it on purpose, but you’ve consistently failed to see the difference between those two claims.

    (Also, I’m not advocating any welfare corporate or otherwise. My intent back in #61 Para 4 was merely to express surprise that the minimum wage enjoys so much support, when other more direct methods of wealth transfer exist. As you can probably tell from talking to me for so long, I consistently oppose all such transfers for both practical and principled reasons. I.E., I wasn’t actually suggesting make-work programs, I was just asking why YOU didn’t prefer them to a mandatory minimum wage.)

  66. #66 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    Monaco is a city-state with a population of 35k, yes – but even larger city-states can manage very low unemployment.

    “It’s only a difference of degree”

    Except it’s not. Any large country with a modern, mixed first-world economy is going to have basically the same constraints. The ones who have chosen any particular foil for neo-liberalism are doing well, it’s the ones who have most closely followed neo-liberalism who are in deep trouble!

    You’ve gone off on a complete tangent to the important point, and I can only see that as deliberate.

    And if you are not advocating corporate welfare when you pay less than a living wage, effectively, you ARE arguing to starve people even when they work, increasingly (since automation isn’t slowing down) and without recourse.

    Ah yes, killing the poor – you view this as moral, I don’t. Chinese wages come with Chinese poverty, and I view it as sad you’re pushing for that situation. (And no, I don’t care for evasions, you ARE advocating these in what you said)

    “when other more direct methods of wealth transfer exist”

    What are those? Because the minimum wage is one of the simplest, cheapest and easiest.

    “I was just asking why YOU didn’t prefer them to a mandatory minimum wage”

    Because I’m not a slaver, for one thing? Workfare consistently, even when structured not to displace jobs (VERY hard), and does anything worthwhile (harder, if you’re not displacing jobs) creates dependency by significantly lengthening the time period people spend on government assistance. And it’s expensive.

    You wonder why I don’t favour those versus higher employment, people able to live without direct government support and with a degree of dignity? Sigh.

  67. #67 |  Other Sean | 

    Methodological discussions are not tangents – most conversations would be much improved if people stopped to sort out their method problems once in a while. I usually find it saves a lot of screaming. For instance, you just said this:

    “Any large country with a modern, mixed first-world economy is going to have basically the same constraints.”

    In context, you seem to be saying that it’s possible to make nation-to-nation comparisons of economic policy and performance, as long as the nations being compared fall into a category known as “modern, first-world economies”.

    Okay, fine…so let’s say I want to compare export policy in Canada against Italy. You claim it shouldn’t matter that one country has oil, while the other does not. You claim it should be a mere trifle that one country controls its own currency, while the other does not. They are both “modern, first-world economies”, so comparisons should be fair game.

    I reject that assumption, and I am not alone in rejecting it. In my corner there are whole schools of thought in economics, philosophy, political science, etc.

    The danger, you see, is this: let’s say one of your comparisons turns up a “neo-liberal modern, first-world economy” in Nation X that is doing better in every respect than a “modern, first-world economy” that rejects neo-liberalism in Nation Y.

    You’d say, “Oh shit. That’s not what I wanted to find at all. I thought neo-liberalism was bad news for sure.”

    But never fear. Since Nation X and Nation Y are different in a thousand ways, which you were happy to ignore when your comparison began, all you need to do now is take a second look at those differences.

    And guess what you’ll find? A closer inspection of the facts will no doubt reveal that Nation X wasn’t really “neo-liberal” after all. You just had the definition of that term slightly off, but now you’ve fixed it good and true. And it will also turn out Nation Y wasn’t really a “modern, first-world economy”, it was just posing as one. You’ll modify the definition of that term as well, and now that both inconvenient nations have been defined clear out of the sample, you’re back in business.

    Don’t you see the hazard in that?
    _____________________________________________________________________________

    Here’s another methods issue, while I’m at it. You said I view “killing the poor” as a moral policy. Now, since obviously you know I don’t intend to literally kill any poor people (not even one, if fact!) you must have some special meaning in mind when you use those words.

    Probably you meant that my policies might ultimately LEAD to death among the poor, which would have been easy enough to say. But you didn’t say that.

    Hence, even if it seems a bit silly, I have no choice but to pause and ask that we take a moment to discuss what “killing” means. The same goes for some other words you’ve used, like “slaver” and “starve”, neither of which could possibly stand up to the scrutiny of literal interpretation in the occasions of your use.

  68. #68 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    Your argument that we can never learn from history, and that no comparisons are allowed? Tangent.

    “In my corner there are whole schools of thought in economics, philosophy, political science, etc.”

    I use the common definitions, you’re the one who is trying to revise political and economic science *out of existence*!

    And I mean starve and slaver in their literal sense. You can squawk all you like, but that view WILL starve people to death and *very* few workfare programs do not meet the internationally accepted definition of slavery.

    Your “programs”, or rather complete LACK of them, would *immediately* cause mass starvation among the poor, and a massive crime wave. That’s what you’re pushing for.

  69. #69 |  Other Sean | 

    It’s not an accident that you’ve reached the point of calling me an advocate for killing, starvation, and slavery. If the truth really is as blindingly obvious as you say, then I MUST be either crazy, stupid, or evil to deny it. From your choice of words, I guess you picked evil.

    Of course there is another possibility. Maybe your arguments are not as strong as you think, and maybe they need a few patches of such rhetoric to fill out one or two cracks in their logic.

    The worst thing I can say about you is this: I’m confused by your extreme confidence in a position that makes so little sense to me. But that’s a far cry from calling you a blood-thirsty taskmaster of the starving workers.

    So let me ask my fundamental question in a new way:

    Even in your preferred example of Australia, with its 5% unemployment rate, there are still hundreds of thousands of people who want jobs but can’t find them.

    If one of those people finds an employer willing to pay him $14.50 per hour, instead of the mandated minimum wage of $15.51 per hour…my position is that he should be allowed to work, both because that is his choice, and because $14.50 per hour is clearly more than $0.00 per hour.

    Your position is that he should not. In fact, you believe that if this man accepts work for $14.50 per hour, a crime has been committed.

    Please, tell me why…

  70. #70 |  Police State — Cops Are Out-of-Control | 

    […] it seems as if the only time they wish to excommunicate a member is when a retired officer wears his uniform to an Occupy Wall Street Protest . […]

  71. #71 |  Police State — Cops Out-of-Control | Illuminati Mind Control | 

    […] it seems as if the only time they wish to excommunicate a member is when a retired officer wears his uniform to an Occupy Wall Street Protest .  There was a time when the majority of citizens trusted their government.   Now, people are less […]

  72. #72 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    No, it’s no accident. Because you are directly advocating that.

    You have just defined yourself as crazy, evil and stupid when I would would have stuck with “blindly ideological”, well, your ball!

    Yes, I am EXTREMELY confident that not starving people to death is a BLOODY GOOD IDEA.

    Your position is he should receive a wage which he cannot live on. And that there is no support for this, in any way, shape or form. Mine is that he should receive a wage he can live on, or failing that the government should make it possible for him to not-starve, and have a roof over his head.

  73. #73 |  KPR | 

    It is a shame ‘DOMELIGHTS’ (the website owned and operated by members of the Philadelphia police union) is no longer available for viewing.

    On its pages, one could read numerous cops coming to the defense of other PPD’ers when they found themseves in the limelight for stealing from bodegas and taverns and shooting innocent citizens and beating the hell out of kids and women and men.

    It was a terrific insight into the brutal club that is the PPD.

    Alas, some African American cops complained that many of the website’s posts were racist in nature. Yes, they were. But eliminating such websites (or books or public clubs) only serves to drive the racism and abuse of power underground and behind closed doors. Better it be out in the open for the general public to witness.

    McNesby was a fan, btw.

  74. #74 |  Police State — Cops Are Out-of-Control |  SHOAH | 

    […] Police Unions generally go far out of their way to protect and defend the corrupt within their ranks.  Sometimes it seems as if the only time they wish to excommunicate a member is when a retired officer wears his uniform to an Occupy Wall Street Protest . […]

  75. #75 |  Other Sean | 

    I’m not trying to be nasty, but I really don’t understand how you’re using words at this point, so let me ask:

    Is it your position that a man paid $14.50 an hour to work in Australia will “starve”, as in not have enough food to eat? Or did you mean starve is some metaphorical sense?

    And is it further your position that I am advocating stravation, as you say “directly”, where directly would have to mean that starvation was the result I intend…rather than just a negative consequence of my policies?

    Is that what you’re saying?

  76. #76 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    When you abolish minimum wage legislation, you no longer look at if what’s being offered is $14.50, $5.50 or company scrip.

    I don’t give a crap about intentions, I care about results. And yes, I can blame you for the results – if you intended them or no.

  77. #77 |  Other Sean | 

    Okay, then, tell me what minimum you would set? What hourly rate would you consider the threshold for starvation? And how do you propose to determine such a thing, without making a mistake in either direction?

    Also…you can blame people for results, true enough, but you can’t blame anyone for results that only happened in your imagination. If you tried things my way and people really did starve, then I’d say blame away. But you can’t blame me for the starvation of people who haven’t starved.

  78. #78 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    “only happened in your imagination”

    Ah yes, never mind the VERY real effects which happen when the minimum wage is simply dropped by 20-30%, let alone abolished.

    I can blame you for trying to kill people, just as I blame any group of fanatics.

    And I’m not an economist, but setting a living wage is something which is, quite frankly, not controversial. And a “mistake”, like letting the 99% not live like Chinese peasants? Quite.

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