Wednesday, September 21, 2005


There's little question that my posts have veered heavily political in the past few weeks. These are issues I care about, and I have to think that I still have some measure of power to affect positive change in the world, even when so much evidence these days seems to argue the contrary.

Last week, when I posted this bit about California's minimum wage, I posted a copy (edited to make the links clear on a non-web hard copy) on a physical seminary bulletin board used for the purpose of debating such issues. I don't do this terribly often, as the board usually degenerates into a bunch of political name-calling that achieve little positive outcome on either side.

But it had been about a year since I'd posted there last, so I went ahead. A few days later, a student stopped by my office to turn in a paper, and he commented that he appreciated the post, and would post a reply of his own. I thanked him for the compliment, and encouraged him to do so, although I know that the student in question tends to take a far more conservative point of view on most issues than I do. I told him that I thought debate on the board was healthy, so long as the debate didn't become a bunch of useless name-calling. To his credit, when his post finally appeared, it did indeed remain substantially on the issue, although my instinct that he would, in fact, try to argue against my position did, in fact, prove reliable.

More troublesome is the unknown person who wrote "take Economics 101" on my post. Leaving aside for the fact that this is simply rude and against forum rules (not that these have ever stopped similar attacks in the past), it's just annoying. The person doesn't know whether or not I know what I'm talking about, they simply assume by my position that I must know nothing about Economics. I know better than to waste my time trying to defend against such attacks, but it's still disheartening.

Truth be told, I probably won't waste my time trying to defend against the more substantive post that the other student had put up, either. It's a whole four pages long, and to be frank, I couldn't force myself to read through the whole thing. And to make a substantive rebuttal, I'd really need to have a copy at my disposal so I could go through all the substantive points one-by-one, which is difficult to do with a bulletin board post....

It's not that he doesn't make any valid points. In fact, he does, and I'll readily admit as much. It's difficult to argue that businesses should pay more to their employees when, to use an example he cites, lots of large corporations are going bankrupt (he cites several major airlines). On the face of it, paying employees better would be like squeezing more water out of an already dry sponge (which is exactly what I accuse President Bush of trying to do in my previous post).

I don't believe that this is actually the case, of course. Besides the fact that CEOs are paid over 400 times as much as the average worker (a 431:1 ratio according to this site), implying that there's plenty of money to go around if paid more equitably, most jobs at the major airlines aren't minimum wage jobs anyway, and would therefore not be directly affected by a raise in the minimum wage. Such wages would likely go up in time, but only as the economy allows for it. (For the record, I don't argue that CEOs should be paid the same as the average worker. CEOs deserve to be paid for the knowledge and experience which they possess. Such knowledge and experience is valuable and fairly hard to find. However, I expect very few people really want to argue that CEOs are worth 400 times more!)

But the fact is, I'm tired. Defending against the inevitable attacks that come from people who disagree with me on these issues is getting old. People will always be able to post 4 page documents with plenty of flow charts to make their point, even if the argument eventually proves not to hold water. I believe that defending against such spurious arguments is worthwhile, and we need people capable of making these defenses. And I still intend to post such issues here as I feel the need arises, and will respond to comments such as come on this blog. But I know that my readership here is so small as to be almost non-existent. I post as much for my own well-being (learning more about issues I care about, learning more and more how to write effectively, just plain venting, etc.) as for any real sense of social activism that I hope to ignite. I don't have the time or energy to expand my arguments to a bulletin board that tends to become more vitriolic than substantive anyway. Life's too short. I'll do much better just to write the letters to my political representatives myself (as I have done on both of these recent issues) and help the people within my own sphere of influence as I have the ability. Trying to debate with people who won't listen is just wasting my and their time....

1 comment:

  1. Dear Friend ...
    I admit, I've spent a lot of time steering clear from boards of that nature -- an odd thing, if you consider that I've got a B.A. in political science, a J.D. and a healthy history of both training and political involvement. The trouble for me has been that there's been enough contentiousness to go around in my daily life -- work, more work, the people whom I cannot avoid engaging because they are too near, too dear to me to just live next to one another with widely divergent convictions without attempting to let iron sharpen iron (... there's your churchy cliche for the day ...)

    It's also why you will find little to no politics on my own blog -- I've seen others degenerate into bile and vitriol, especially during times like these (... but aren't there always times like these? Elections of some sort, justice selections, etc. etc.)

    What I mean to say is -- be encouraged. Do not waste your energies, but know that you have much support in your community. I would gladly see the four-page reply, and equally gladly set fire to the thoughtless, useless jab from, no doubt, a thoughtless individual.

    Speaking truth in any form is a tough job -- and no, I'm not *quite* equating you to the OT prophets here ;) Speaking truth persistently and graciously is even tougher -- and you do both well.



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