I hate disccussing economic policy.
Yeah, I said it.
Social policy is easy. I'm not particularly religious therefore I am not beholden to some weird 2000 year old code written by shepherds. I go by the rather simple theory that if you are adults and you aren't hurting anyone else, then it's probably okay. Of course people want to argue around the edges about the definition of hurt. But that's not why I am here.
I'm here to talk about economics, dammit. Ugh.
Might as well start with a bombshell.
I don't believe in the minimum wage.
That alone may be enough to get me tarred and feathered at Georgia For Democracy's David Sirota book signing tonight.
But back to economics for a moment. Economic policy in America is a glacier. Since the radical reforms of the early 20th century (including that minimum wage I mentioned), particulary the speculation reforms following the 29 crash, the American economic behemoth has lurched about, occasionally tilting towards falling over, but never in any real danger of the bottoming out.
I say that despite living in the stagflation days of the late 70s and actually working on the front line of unemployment policy during the recession of the 90s. Sure, things have been occasionally bad, but I am reminded of something I recently heard from a Civil War historian: "The good and the bad is no matter how bad people think things are, we know once they were far worse".
So are we just arguing around the fringes of economic policy that has been relatively stable? Or does that just lead to more incremental barnacles on the ship that will eventually cause it to sink? Do we need radical change? Or a holistic solution?
Which leads me back to David Sirota. As I read this book, I found myself twitching. Warring within my soul were a myriad of thoughts. I believe the underlying principle of economics should be fairness. But what is fair? According to Sirota, it is the social responsibility of corporations to their workers and their communities? My conservative friends would argue that fairness is letting the market decide the winners and the losers. My libertarian friends would say there is no such thing as fairness.
Is it fair, as Sirota argues, to tax profits above a certain level? Is it fair for lax regulation to allow an Enron to scar an entire community? Should there be fair at all?
This is why I don't really like economics. Everyone if wrong. Everyone is right. No one is even sure if it any of it matters. It's one big steaming pile of vague goo.
I believe what ultimately bothers me is that I don't like to hurt people. But the rational part of my mind keep screaming that sound economic policy sometimes results in people being hurt. That's just the fact, jack.
I doubt that attitude will play well tonight. I will go with the knowledge that I agree with Sirota on some solutions (particularly corporate tax policy). I will go with an open mind. Maybe he will even convince me that the minimum wage should be raised. (I doubt that and in the future when I am feeling less waffly, maybe I will tell you why I think it should be abolished.)
But if I see tar and feathers, fairness will dictate I get the hell out of there.
David Sirota speaks tonight at 7:30 tonight at Manuel's Tavern. If you can't make it look for a podcast from Georgia Podcast Network in the near future.