Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Minimum Wage Trap

Iain Dale has YouTube footage of a Channel 4 report on a Labour cameraman who feels hard done by because he wasn't paid for his time as a volunteer which felt work-like. I hate to piss on a worthy bit of sniping at the Labour party but isn't this making a collosal mountain out of a rather insignificant molehill?

Every major organisation, every political party, every think tank and every media outlet takes crowds of unpaid interns/volunteers. The distinction of being "instructed" is clearly bogus; most interns do desperately basic jobs which are very similar to what they would get paid for in agency work.

The reality is that this is a non-problem created by the minimum wage. If I were offered the chance to do the job this Labour guy has I'd borrow my sister's camera and be thrilled (doing the same for Tories would be even better). The CV building effect means that it is also a pretty good idea. However, Channel 4 is right that this is criminalised as one of the Labour ministers inadvertently highlights when discussing the need to clamp down on unpaid "work".

In the end, the problem is the minimum wage. I've always thought it a shame that whereas at the beginning of the century successful opposition to the minimum wage opposed it as an illiberal measure now it can only be successfully opposed through the grubby utilitarian logic of the harms to business. I think it says something about how far liberalism has been corrupted into libertinism that only causes concerning sex are now considered liberal ones.

This debate over internships is where the illiberalism of a measure which says that someone who wants to work for free and someone who wants to employ them cannot make such a contract becomes apparent.

The LSE campaigners are big on the issue of the Living Wage at the moment. I'll write something up about that soon as I'm aware the main focus of the minimum wage isn't on low earners who are happy about that status but it is important to remember that not all people on low wages are being exploited.


Serf said...

I think it says something about how far liberalism has been corrupted into libertinism that only causes concerning sex are now considered liberal ones.

As I like to say, "anything goes between consenting adults", should include economic as well as sexual transactions.

Gracchi said...

Well it depends what you mean by freedom Serf- there is a good argument made Phillip Pettit amongst others that freedom is a decision taken in the avoidance of dependance. See also say Quentin Skinner's conception of Republican liberty- such a conception would allow sexual freedom but not total economic freedom.

Anonymous said...

brilliant post-perfect

in regard to Gracchi;s point

How the heck would Republicna freedom allow sexual freedom but not economc freedom? ( I take it this an invention of Skinner rather than Macheiavelli?)

Under the same logic woudlnt' emotional depdendence count-hencen mnot total sexual freedom

and abscence of dependence- since everyone depends on everyone(ajnd everything even if therre were no other humans one's still depdent on oxygen) woudln't that mean there is no freedom-hence we are all slaves

and how much basic in ecomomic freedom can you count that the right to work for whom you want -this in sexual freedom terms is the equivlan of the governmet saying you can't have sex with x but may have sex with y (or say race x but not race y)

If having a wage higher than the average person in the world is necessary does one have the right to have sex with whoever one wants as well?

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