Let’s provide a different perspective on the minimum wage argument

The same “side” always “wins” the debate on minimum wage. It’s as if one side doesn’t realize it’s been using the wrong argument. Unfortunately, nobody actually cares about the poor. They just care about themselves and lip service to make them feel good, otherwise such arguments would be effective. I don’t know that my concept is the right one, but maybe we can at least consider other arguments?

I can’t explain this as an economist would, but here is what I saw when I went to China (many times over a period of 9 years starting in the mid-2000s).

A Chinese widget factory has annual revenue of $80 million and 1200 employees. Of course, that’s just the most recent year’s figures, because the factory is always growing. It’s located in a manufacturing zone and surrounded in a sea of factories that all look much the same.

One thousand of the employees are what the Chinese refer to as ‘the workers’. The workers are unskilled labor. Prior to going to China, if someone were to ask me what unskilled labor is, I would have said it’s someone who graduated high school but doesn’t really know a skill. Unskilled labor in China is someone who cannot read or write and comes from a background of subsistence farming or abject poverty.

The workers typically live on the factory ‘campus’ in what the Chinese refer to as apartments, but I would call them really cramped dormitories. They work 5 to 7 days per week in 8 to 12 hour shifts, depending on the factory’s orders. The factories are typically not air conditioned or heated, and China is both very cold during the winter and brutally hot during the summer (customers sometimes complain when products packaged in sealed bags end up all wet from the exported humidity arriving in condensed form).

The workers have traveled a long ways to work in these factories. By hook or by crook, they arrive from far away to make better lives for themselves and those close to them. Many of them will spend a considerable portion of their income making sure that their and the children of family members can attend school and enjoy opportunity they will never experience.

But that is only the workers. The other 200 employees are of a different sort. They hold the positions in sales, operations management, engineering, and finance.

The widgets provided by this factory are marketed on a global scale, likely they are components found in a product you own and use every day. The factory actually faces very stiff competition not only from other factories in China, but Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and even one or two in developed countries.

To keep these products competitive, the factory must hire good engineers. Imagine, the entire company’s product line is very reliant on how clever these engineers are. The owner of the factory is willing to spend good money on staff to make sure that the factory is not left behind and can continue to grow and gain new customers.

Of course, getting new customers requires good sales people. What is it worth to hire a salesperson that can bring in $15 million in new business? And what is the cost of losing a salesperson managing accounts worth that much?

Managing all those workers is a logistical miracle. Imagine having a couple of bad days and finding yourself 30,000 man-hours into mass confusion? For this, the factory owner needs a good operations management in place to be sure that customers receive their orders on time at the expected quality level.

Believe it or not, caclulating the cost of manufacturing something is no small feat, with some calculations heading off into advanced calculus. Many factories have been surprised to find themselves completely out of cash because they could not accurately calculate the cost of manufacturing, and the market snapped at the opportunity to buy a product the factory was losing money on. On top of that, embezzlement is a problem everywhere in the world, so the factory owner needs to be sure that whoever is counting the money is not only honest, but able to spot when some of that money goes missing.

For these other 200 employees, I have observed that salaries are not that far off from those in the U.S., and that is in real terms, not adjusted spending power. Most factories have plenty of BMWs, Mercedes Benz, and other nice cars parked out front that belong to these employees, and keep in mind that they pay a 50% import tariff on many of those goods. They wear $10,000 watches and are the ones paying $3000 for the latest iPhone.

Many of the recent over-the-hill white-collar employees are the first generation given the opportunity to go to school by parents who grew up in poverty. Their parents are humble and weathered, but beaming with pride that their children have accmplished so much. Meanwhile, here in the U.S., it is unlikely that the next generation will see more wealth than the previous ones for foreseeable future.

This is the unseen in the U.S. that is seen in China, and this seems like the argument that should be made when discussing the minimum wage. Low-cost, low-risk labor is what growing economies are made from.

Be your own host!

Setting up your own web-server has never been easier or cheaper. It used to be that even a bottom tier Linux server included expensive setup costs, high monthly fees, poor performance, and little to no scalabilty. However, cloud computing has truly changed this.

With this project, I am hoping to help those who want to take the leap from just making websites to hosting them. Here are some reasons you might want to do this:

Far more control over the settings and tweaks. Whenever reading instructions on something you are installing, you may read “for those with root access…” Well, now that’s you! You can make all the changes and tweaks you desire.

Nearly infinite domain hosting with email addresses and databases. Okay, there are limits to the server, but for most small sites the load is so small that it won’t reach the limits of the server, and if the load does get that high, it takes only a few minutes to increase the size of the server.

Your site can handle spikes in traffic. If a popular aggregator, blogger or news site links into your site, you can easily increase the size of the server to handle load, and then decrease the size when the traffic slows down again, and all for minimal increase in your monthly cost (assuming you’re not serving videos or other large files).

A dedicated IP address. Most shared hosting plans charge extra for an IP address.

Real SSL, without any scary warnings. With the dedicated IP address, you can now serve up real, authenticated SSL/TLS encrypted websites to your visitors sans obnoxious warnings.

Secure web browsing while away from home. You can easily use your Linux server as a SOCKS proxy through an SSH session, completely locking out any prying eyes that might be snooping around the coffee shop network.

Something to always tinker with and improve. Like any good hobby, server administration is something that you will forever tinker with, improve, and learn. With a smartphone you can manage your server from any location, so if you find yourself standing around bored some place, just pull out your phone and go to work on your hobby.

Of course, there are some downsides:

You’re now taking your destiny into your own hands, and security risks are very real. It’s possible your server could get hacked and ruined, forcing you to start over from scratch. You might make a mistake that destroys your server and then discover that your backup method had a fatal flaw, forcing you to start from scratch.

There is a lot to learn, and it often seems like the errors in the logs will never stop coming and all too often are self-generated. I once spent 6 hours tracking down a problem that was caused by a missing semi-colon.

You are heavily dependent on the kindness of strangers. Although Rackspace provides great support for the servers, for everything else you’re going to be scouring forums, digging deeper into Google searches than you ever have before, and you’ll discover StackExchange (that’s good and bad). You’ll be posting many places, praying someone there can help you to solve your problem so you can bring your server to the next level.

So if none of that turned you away, then I invite you to visit my project page.

Mobile-Friendly U.S. Constitution

I’ve created a website just for browsing the constitution on mobile devices.

http://uscon.mobi

It’s VERY basic HTML, so it should work on every single device and browser ever made that reads HTML.

There are no images and most pages are only 2 KB in size, with some as large as 4 KB in size.

On the downloads page is a pdf of the entire constitution that can be printed out on both sides of an 8.5″ x 11″ piece of paper.

All of the text is copied and and pasted directly from the archives.gov site.