Sunday, May 31, 2015

Arguments, Experts, and Evidence

So.. Im about to spew forth that long rant, that most genuine experts, and scientists, and engineers, and doctors, and lawyers and people with decades of experience in their fields, and anyone with formal traing, or skill and experience, in argument and debate; have at least yelled out out in their heads, if not actually to others faces, or in writing or electronic media... When faced with people who really have no basis basis or rationale to claim... whatever it is they are claiming, or dispute whatever it is they are disputing... and aren't even doing so in a coherent manner.

So, basically, most of the internet...

I'm increasingly weary of those who reflexively disagree with conclusions or data that don't fit their social, moral, or ideological preferences (left, right, doesn't matter, people from all sides do it).

I can live with this though, if they can admit their position is not based on supported arguments or data (it may be based on emotion, or differing first principles, morals, ethics, or other primarily or purely subjective opinions or assumptions; not necessarily provable with logic, argument, or data)

...Or if they don't try to argue a subject they don't know well enough to intelligently and usefully argue about (or even to explain their own position properly).

...Or if they can at least accept these things, after they are shown that they are so, if they didnt know this beforehand (which is unfortunately frequent... and sadly many people CAN'T, or at least won't).

I'm more than happy to honestly, intelligently, and usefully, argue or debate just about anything, with just about anyone. In fact I love it, and I actively seek it out. Its fun, its interesting, its amusing, it can even be exhillerating. On top of all that, it's the best way I know of, to actually make everyone smarter, with better ideas, and better arguments for them.

I would rather argue and be proven wrong, than continue to believe (and act on the mistaken belief) that I was right, when I wasnt... I don't find that embarrassing or humiliating (well...unless I made an obvious and stupid error... and then I deserve it)... I find it useful, and helpful. Otherwise, how else do we fix problems, correct errors, and prevent misunderstandings and misconceptions from turning into disasters?

I really hate being wrong. I hate it so much, that I'm happy to be corrected, and I'm happy to admit when I'm wrong... once you've proven it (or if I trust your knowledge in the subject over mine).

If it's something I'm confident in though, you'd better be prepared to do the work, and argue your position properly, with proper support (and I generally won't write seriously about something, unless I am confident in it, otherwise I'll say so, and generally ask for confirmation or correction from readers).

If you want to engage in that way, I've got all the time in the world for it.

What I simply no longer have the energy or patience for, are the disingenuous, the incompetent, and the lazy.

Those who do not wish to honestly, legitimately, and usefully argue, but pretend to do so anyway.

Those who wish to argue, but don't know how to argue properly, or don't know the subject well enough to do so... and either can't admit, or are ignorant of, the fact that they dont (and won't accept it when shown).

Those who argue vehemently, but can't be bothered to do the work necessary to understand, articulate, and support their own arguments and position properly; never mind bothering to read, understand, and evaluate my position, arguments, and supporting data.

Those who in theory, are attempting to use valid data, logic, and arguments, to question or clarify those things they disagree with; but who are in fact just playing "gotcha" games, in order to discredit and dismiss, anything which might challenge their preferences and preconceptions, without real consideration.

... The saddest part being, many honestly believe that those ARE valid strategies and tecchniques for argument and debate; often because they have never been taught otherwise...

...And because very often those invalid strategies and techniques work, and they "win" arguments with them... against those who don't know any better, or who simply don't care...

These people seem to love "challenging" me to explain... or often, to re-explain for the third or fourth time... everything, in depth, with additional sources and citations; which they don't actually care about, won't bother reading, and wouldn't pay attention to or believe if they did. Often they do this in multiple consecutive threads on the same topic, "challenging" me to re-prove the same things over and over, and to deal with the same false and invalid "gotchas", assertions, assumptions, and non-refutations.

Because, of course, they don't want to debate, understand, or learn; and aren't open to challenging, never mind changing, their ideas and positions... They just want to protect their preexisting notions and preferences.

So, I'm just not bothering with most of them anymore. I'll give it one shot, and if they prove to be one of the time and energy wasters, unless I really like and respect them personally... I'm done.

For one thing, I already write several thousand word posts on complex subjects, and those are nowhere near in depth enough to even skim the surface of these issues... but they are generally as comprehensive, well argued, and well supported as this format allows (unless I'm just annoyed or being snarky... but those USUALLY aren't the long complicated ones).

And I'm happy to usefully engage in comments, including giving background and context for those unfamiliar with the issue, or more fully explaining or supporting points and positions.

...TO A POINT...

It's not my job to fully educate someone on a subject. If they are attempting to engage in argument with someone who clearly IS knowledgeable about a subject, and has just spent several hundred or several thousand words writing intelligently about it; it's a prerequisite that they have the background, put in the effort, and do the work, to do so intelligently.

Often, their questions and comments clearly show they didn't read, or didn't understand, what I wrote in the first place... Or they skimmed, or cherrypicked, or read to the point where they thought they hit a "gotcha", before indignantly commenting.

Or worst of all,  they've just decided to argue against a position they assumed I would take, or one completely separate, or even irrelevant to the issue; rather than actually addressing the position, argument, theories, or data presented. 

Straw men, false dilemmas, false dichotomy, splitting, moving the goalposts, reframing the issue to overbroaden or overnarrow it, and attempts to force pivots and redirects abound, as do appeals to motive, and other ad hominem. Then there's everyone's favorite,  argumentum ad nauseum. Because if you simply make the same a priori assertions and invalid or disproven non-arguments over and over again, YOU WIN... right!

And of course, any data or citations provided which might challenge their position, no matter how many and how reputable the sources, would be "biased" and "cherrypicking" or inadequate, or suspect or... Meanwhile, their attempts at refutation, generally come in the from of transparently biased and ideological media puff pieces, on transparently ideological web sites which care nothing for truth or fact; or simply making a priori assertions, unsupported appeals to authority, appeals to motive, ad hominem and tu quoque, and more argumentative games.

...Which of course they then simply positively assert to be unquestionably valid, sufficient, true and correct... and declare their own unquestionable victory, having never actually engaged in argument to begin with.

This is the basic textbook of bad argument technique; whether they have never been taught how to properly argue and support a position... Which, sadly, applies to most people... Or whether it's deliberate in order to shutdown argument or dissent without giving other positions a hearing.

I've just grown tired of it, particularly when most (though certainly not all) don't even have the background necessary to understand the issues in question, or to recognize invalid assumptions or arguments, or to detect when they are being lied to by their sources... Or even to evaluate the quality and reliability of their sources at all. 

....Most especially when it's patently obvious that they don't, and  they are  just parrotting what other people they agree with ideologically tell them... Or worse, what "feels right"...

Honestly, I'm not sure which is worse... When they know they dont have the necessary background but keep arguing anyway... Or when they think they do, and that they have actually made good arguments, or even "won".

When I say they dont have the background, I dont mean that they are unintelligent or poorly educated. If that's what I meant, that's what I would have said.

What I'm saying, is that they dont have sufficient depth and breadth, of knowledge and understanding of the subject matter (and the disparate or  broader subject matters, which it impacts, impacts it, or which it depends on), to properly understand, evaluate, support, or argue, ANY position... at least with any degree of authority or confidence.

Also, and importantly, most people are simply not skilled and experienced in rhetoric, debate, analysis, logic; and the basic modes and methods of legal, philosophical, and scientific inquiry and argument (the basis of most formal argument).

Most don't have the logical, analytical, and critical thinking skills and experience; necessary to frame, articulate, and properly support strong arguments; to detect fallacies and weak arguments; or to independently evaluate and weight the reliability and validity of data, assertions, arguments, and sources.

At one time, most people in this country, with at least a high school education, did have these skills... Or at least they were taught and reinforced; so that people were equipped with the tools, if they put in the effort. Certainly this was true for most college graduates in most fields of study, at most colleges and universities... At least, until the late 1960s anyway (and it still is true for the hard sciences, at least within the sphere of their subject matter).

... Not so much anymore unfortunately... Most people don't even know what these things are anymore (if they even know they exist), never mind having any skill or experience in them.

Because this is so, most people, most of the time, depend mostly on "common sense" (which is frequently wrong), basic assumptions which feel right or "make sense" (but frequently are not, and do not), and appeals to authority (which may or may not be valid, but they don't have the ability to evaluate that validity, so they just pick whatever authority agrees with their preconceived notions, what their friends, teachers, or the media told them, or their "gut feeling").

That is not a good argument... It isn't really even an argument at all.

Presuming you have sufficient intelligence, a decent fundamental education, and aptitude for learning (and have been taught or learned those critical skills in logic, reasoning, research etc...); on many subjects, you can get the background you need for an intelligent and useful argument, through research, self education, seeking out good sources and data you can validate and analyze properly, and finding experts you can learn from and question (not simply blindly accept data, argument, conclusion, or position from... that's just another appeal to authority).

This is not to say expert opinions are without value... just that they should not simply be accepted blindly, without validating their expertise, position, arguments, and data.

Experts need more than just credentials, education, and experience. They need to clearly and properly support their opinions and positions, with strong arguments, and good data which properly support their arguments.

Further, they must properly account for or resolve any exceptions, conflicts, exclusions, variances, and discrepancies; with any pre-existing positions observed to be valid, with any credible and supported new positions which arise, and with observable reality.

If a position is well supported, aligned with observable reality, doesn't have major unresolved issues, and doesn't require require major changes if true or accepted... only then is it generally acceptable to adopt or at least consider that position valid.

However, if any of those conditionals are unsatisfied, that position must be much more stringently validated.

Once the expert has presented their position, arguments, and data (along with resolving issues noted in this process), the hard work is yours. You have to do your best to validate or invalidate their position, arguments, and data; and if at all possible to independently test, and prove or disprove their position.

These must be validated not just in their own context and in the scope of their own arguments and data, in isolation. They must be validated for consistency or contradiction with outside fields and systems, scope, and data.

Anything, in any field, area, or scope, could potentially invalidate or raise a discrepancy in an experts position.

If their position is dependent on certain assumptions being true, and within their own field and scope these assumptions appear true, it is tempting to accept them. However, in an entirely different field or scope, observational data could prove that those assumptions are in variance, are conditional, or are plain false.

Also, any position must be generally validated, against logic, physics, mathematics, the basic science or other basic parameters of the field, and all known provably or observably true theories, laws, and hard data

This is called the "reality test". Any valid position must not be in conflict with, excluded by, or contradicted by observed or provably true or correct "reality" in any way that cannot be properly accounted for.

Nor can there be substantial or significant unresolved variances or discrepancies between the provably true or observed data, and in those things which must be true for their position to be true, or in any major element, assumption, condition, or dependency of their position, or in those things which are predicted or implied by their position, and the observed data.

***with the notable exception of certain esoteric areas of math and physics, where the scientists are certain there ARE laws... They just don't know what they are yet, or how they a work, or why, or why the normal laws don't work the same, or at all... Which they currently explain by saying "the laws work everywhere except here, which is different, because... things" ***

Once raised, any conflicts, exclusions, contradictions, or significant variances or discrepancies, must be resolved; or the position must be considered invalidated, or at best incomplete and unproven with significant unknown factors, and high potential error.

...and guess what?

THAT, is how you analyze and validate (or invalidate) ANY argument or position, no matter whose it is.

THAT, is the difference between a well supported position, and an unsupported position.

... and people used to understand that...

...But for some reason, don't seem to anymore...

Almost anyone can do these things... you just have to be willing to put in the time and effort.

If you're not.. It just takes way too much time and energy, to bother doing all the extra work, for people who wouldn't change their minds no matter what evidence or argument was presented to them.

I don't write these things for them.

I write for me, because Im amused, or angered, or irritated, or frustrated, or fascinated... Or to think out loud... Or just to get stuff out of my head.

I write for those who don't know the details, or the background, or the supporting arguments, or the basic principles; of the positions they assume are true (or false), and who want to learn them. Because a bad argument, or a badly supported good argument, actually HARMS your own position.

If you can't fully explain your own position, and why and how you came to it (with supporting data where applicable)... AND fully understand, explain, and refute, (with supporting data where applicable), those positions opposed to your own...  Then you don't really know your own position.

...You certainly don't know it well enough to make a good argument for it, and you should do your best to never make anything but good arguments, lest you actually harm your position.

Finally, I write for the people who actually DO want to, and are capable of, having an intelligent and useful argument. Because as I said above, that's what makes us all smarter and better.

So, I've taken to stating a position, with arguments and supporting data, as completely and clearly as I can in the space and time available; then leaving breadcrumbs and pointers.

If someone then chooses to engage... or at least those people who I care to bother spending the time and energy on... I tell them two things:


"Please do me the courtesy of presuming that I am not stupid, evil, or insane, until an unless I prove otherwise. I will do the same for you, until and unless you prove otherwise.

Either of us may be mistaken in whole or in part, and we may disagree on details and methods, but we want the same things. Both of us want people to be better off, and for the world to be a better place. Neither of us want people to be worse off or for the world to be a worse place. If you cant do that, there is nothing for us to talk about".

... unfortunately, many people CAN'T actually make that emotional and intellectual leap, but that's another issue...

And second...

"I pointed you in a direction, now you do your own research. You wont believe what I tell you, or the sources I cite anyway, and even if you did, I want you to find your own, so I am not unduly biasing your research.

Don't start from your preferred conclusion and work back just far enough to justify it. Start from the beginning, and do your own research.

Actually educate yourself about the issue, in order to come to YOUR OWN position, not just one told to you by others. You can only do that after understanding and evaluating all the data and the arguments, and all of the background. Educate yourself about my position, and your position, well enough to have a meaningful conversation about it.

When you actually understand the issue, and the arguments and positions, come back and we'll talk about where there are  reasonable disagreements about details, data, conclusions, or where there are fundamental differences in approach or assumptions or principles.

I did it, you can too. I NEVER seriously argue a position without knowing as much as I can about an issue, and coming to my own conclusions.

If I'm bothering to say this to you, it's because I have enough respect for you that I'm sure you can do it as well, and will be worth talking to on the subject when you do.

Again, if you can't be bothered to do that, we have nothing to talk about".

If someone is worth talking to, they will. Otherwise I know I can ignore them.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Low Testosterone... It's not a joke, it's not hard to fix, and if you don't, it might kill you.

Since yet another friend has had this become a major health issue recently... And unfortunately, so many men still don't have good information about low testosterone, what causes it, and the impact it has...

Just a little primer for those who aren't familiar... It's a bit long, but it's the minimum to explain the problem... And it's important for all mens health.

After ages 18-24, 27, and particularly after age 35, and 45, there are substantial changes in average natural testosterone production levels, with lower shorter peaks in T levels, and longer lower troughs.

There are also changes in the bodies efficiency and effectiveness at taking up and using T in the bloodstream.

At the same time, the body tends to naturally convert more T into undesirable amounts of estrogens and other anti-androgens; as well as producing changing levels of Leutenizing Hormone, Human Growth Hormone, Follicular Simtulating Hormone, DHEA, and other hormones and , which impact general mental wellbeing, energy, focus, motivation and drive, muscle mass and tone, fat creation and retention...

...basically everything about your body, and a hell of a lot about your personality.

The higher your bodyfat is above around 14% (possibly as broad a neutral range as 12%-18%, but it appears that for most, the negative effects begin worsening at around 14%) the more testosterone production and uptake are suppressed, the less effective the body is at using the T it uptakes, and the more T is aromatized into estrogens and other anti-androgens (as well as all the other "good" hormones being reduced, and the "bad" hormones being increased).

Other illnesses such as diabetes and other insulin related issues can dramatically worsen this. As can thyroid issues, pituitary issues, excess cortisol, and other adrenal issues... Pretty much every endocrine disorder.

Also, if you have naturally higher levels of estrogens, for example if you are gynocomastic naturally (as a significant portion of men are, including me), this worsens DRAMATICALLY.

One issue that most don't understand, is that even a small thyroid deficiency... "Within normal range", but on the low end of the range, can HUGELY impact testosterone (and all of the rest of the endocrine system, your health, your energy drive and focus, and your wellbeing... "sub-clinical thyroid deficiency, should be eliminated from doctors vocabularies, because there is no such thing).

Also, what doctors regard as "low normal" levels of Testosterone, are essentially the same as 75 year old men. They are paranoid of the DEA penalizing them for over prescribing Testosterone, and are very reluctant to supplement someone unless they are persistently under 300ng/dl peak, and under 100ng/dl trough.

Testosterone levels this low, subject men to substantial negative health consequences, including dramatic muscle loss, fat gain, cardiac health problems, mental focus and acuity problems, depression (often severe), anxiety, personality changes, sexual dysfunction, sleep pattern disruption, developing or worsening other endocrine linked health problems such as diabetes, and substantially increased risks and severity of several forms of cancer.

These include a 50% or greater increase in the chance of developing aggressive prostate cancer, and several times the chance of developing male breast cancer. In general, low testosterone correlates with at least a 50% increase in risk of a lifespan reduced by at least 10%.

However, that isn't the whole story, by a long shot. One need not be nearly so severely deficient in testosterone to suffer significant negative health impact.

Testosterone levels under 700ng/dl peak, and under 300ng/dl trough, are not considered "low testosterone" by most doctors. In fact, they are considered "normal to high normal" for men over the age of 35.

However, at any age, testosterone levels persistently below 700/300, are low enough to make men depressed and anxious, lethargic and sluggish, lose muscle mass and tone, gain more fat, retain water, gain weight, have significant negative health impacts and complicate and worsen other health issues (as above), and generally feel like crap. This is aside from the common issues of loss of sex drive and desire, and intermittent or persistent sexual dysfunction.

You'll note, these effects are also those that suppress testosterone even further, driving it ever lower, in a vicious spiral.

By the time many doctors are willing to supplement, they have to work 3 or 4 times as hard, to get even above 300/100, never mind 700/300... And then, most are not willing to supplement enough, for most men to stay consistently above 300/100.

You have to insist on enough testosterone, frequently enough, to get your peaks above 700, and lasting at least a few days, and your troughs above 300, and lasting no more than a few days. You can force the issue with testing if necessary.

For most people, after the initial 3 months of supplementation (which may be at a higher level more frequently) that means injecting at least every 3 weeks, and may mean injecting every two weeks, every week, or even more often (though more than once a week after the initial period is rare).

It is also important to note, that once one has actually reached such a low level of testosterone that one is experiencing significant symptoms, or when one has bodyfat above 18% to 20% or so (and particularly above 24% to 28%); transdermal patches and gels are substantially less effective (in fact, they are essentially ineffective unless you have almost no testosterone at all) at raising available testosterone in the blood stream.

Even worse, they generally result in greater aromatization of testosterone into estrogens... Which actually suppress the action of testosterone even further.

If this is happening, raising your dosage actually makes the aromatization worse, but may show "sufficient testosterone in the bloodstream", on tests.

So you're counteracting the "sufficient" testosterone you have, and in fact making your symptoms of low testosterone and excess estrogens MUCH worse (especially the depression, muscle loss, fat gain, water retention, gynocomastia, sexual dysfunction, and increased cancer risks).

And yet, these treatments are also several times the cost of injectable T.

Unless you're skinny, with low bodyfat, and you aren't really very low on testosterone, you really need deep intramuscular injection.

Even with IM injection, many men on supplementary testosterone need aromatase inhibitors, to prevent the same issues with excess conversion to estrogens.

This is particularly true if you inject more than 1ml at 100mg/ml every 3 weeks, and almost without question if you have high bodyfat, gynocomastia, high estrogens in general, high cortisol, diabetes, or inject more than 2ml every two weeks.

Unfortunately, as with prescribing enough testosterone in the first place, many doctors are reluctant to prescribe aromatase inhibitors... Again, because they are worried about the DEA penalizing them, for prescribing "performance enhancing substances".

As far as the DEA is concerned, every man wanting to have their heatlh, sex life, drive, motivation, energy, and focus back to near what used to be... Is just another steroid abuser.

You have to advocate for your own health here. If your doctor isn't willing to do what is necessary, find a sports medicine specialist, or a mens endocrine health, or mens sexual health specialist, and they will.

You might not think it's worth the time, or the cost, or the pain of injections, or that it won't have a significant impact anyway... and it's just because you're getting older, or getting fat or... whatever justification you may have...

You're wrong.

I guarantee you, keeping your testosterone above 700/300, is worth every bit of trouble it takes to do so... and a lot more besides

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The even BIGGER Minimum Wage Lie

The narrative that the left is attempting to promote, is that the minimum wage, should be a lower middle class living wage.

They have further determined this "living wage" to be about $15 an hour.

Thats about $30,000 a year based on the standard 2000 hour work year (thats 5 full time work days a week, minus 10 unpaid days for national holidays. Most minimum wage workers do not receive paid holidays or paid vacation).

It's also a $15,500 a year RAISE for those workers, more than doubling their pay (currently $14,500 by the 2,000 hour standard).

...If you think someone picking up  litter in parks, or working a cash register at McDonalds, on their very first day of their very first job, is worth paying $30,000 a year...

There is something wrong with you.

...Or your just don't understand how money, or wages work (which, frankly, is often the case).

Normal wages are not just arbitrarily "set" by some big daddy in the sky, or by evil greedy CEOs looking to "exploit the workers". They are based on the value a worker can provide to an organization, and the cost to the employer of replacing that worker.

Normal wages are not arbitrary, they are not fixed, and they are VOLUNTARY. If you dont want to take what an employer offers, then you can find a different job that you want more and are willing to take less money for, or you can find a job that pays more.

If you can't find a job that pays more, then your skills and experience are not worth more, or you are not selling yourself properly. Otherwise, you WOULD be able to find a job that pays more.

On the other hand, if an employer doesn't pay enough for a job, that people are willing to take what they are offering workers to do that job; that employer won't be able to fill that job. They will have to either make the job more attractive to workers, or increase the pay (or both).

It's basic market economics... Of course, the left don't believe in markets...

Here's the thing...

Really, I think this whole $15 an hour idea stems from the concept many seem to have internalized (whether or not they've put it into words, or consciously thought about it):

Having a "good" middle class life shouldn't be hard.

People shouldn't really have to do things like sell themselves well, or find a better job every year or two, or work harder, or deal with politics, or work overtime, or work more than one job; to make enough money for a "good life".

They see how competitive and harsh the world is, and the job market is, and they think it's bad and scary and stressful, and not everyone can compete. Even if they have the skills and experience some people are bad at interviewing or resume writing, and some people are too stressed by it, and some people are discriminated against, and theres just no demand for the skills and experience many people have, and its all changing all ttthe time...

...and dammit everyone deserves a "good life".

They think everyone who is not disabled, should be able to find a "good" job, that gives them a "good life", regardless of their skills and experience.

In fact, many of them even say you have a RIGHT to a good job, that pays enough to have a "good life".

They don't think you should HAVE to compete, or struggle, or be stressed, to have a "good life".

They just want people to be able to get a default job, for default pay, and have that be "enough", without worrying about negotiating, or getting raises, or competing for better jobs or more money, or losing their job and not being able to find one that pays as much.

Sure, if people want to compete for better jobs, or want to make more they can... but they feel that every job, no matter how unskilled, or how little value it provides to their employer, should pay enough to have a "good life", just for showing up and doing the work assigned, and that people shouldn't have to worry and compete, just to have a good life.

That everyone should be able to make enough money to live where they want, at least with a spouse or a roommate.

That everyone should be able to make enough money to raise kids, or to travel, or to live in new York York or LA, or to go to college...

So we can all be equal and free of "wage slavery", and pursue our real passion in the arts or something, I guess?

Same reason most of these same people think that college should be "free", and school loan debt should be forgiven... or just erased. Same reason most of these same people think health care should be "free" (or paid 100% by employers and the government, which to them, is the same thing).

They want people to be able to have a good life, and not worry about having their life screwed up, by losing their job, or getting sick, or not being able to find a new job.

They want people's lives to not be subject to the whims of the marketplace, or of economics.

How... Utopian.

This in fact, was the original promise of socialism, communism, marxism, maoism... and every other utopian ideology. That somehow, through proper application of government, we can be free of struggle and strife, and free of the need to toil, and free to pursue our dreams without worrying about those things.

Of course, this completely ignores basic economics... There is no such thing as "free", and unfortunately, no matter what laws the government passes, you just cannot ignore basic economics. Because on this planet, we live in a scarcity based economy (no matter what economic system "runs" it), and economics runs EVERYTHING.

In ignoring basic economics, It also completely ignores the fact that jobs don't exist to provide a living for workers.

Though actually, if you ask most leftists, that is actually what they believe jobs are for... or at least what they should be for.

Ask a union organizer why the factory exists, and he'll tell you it's to provide good high paying jobs for his union members first... and whether the employer makes any money or not isn't his problem. They're all greedy exploiters anyway.

But that's not how the world works.

Businesses dont exist to give people jobs. Jobs exist, for the purpose of doing the useful and productive work of an employer, in order to make money for that employer... Hopefully at a profit, or those jobs won't exist for very long.

No, the minimum wage is NOT a living wage, because it is not intended to be, nor should it.

It is meant to be the absolute minimum an unskilled and inexperienced worker will make, while they are learning skills and gaining experience, that will make them more valuable to employers.

... Which is exactly what almost all minimum wage workers do. Excluding tipped employees, over 80% of minimum wage workers earn at least 10% more than minimum wage within 2 years, and at least 30% more within 5 years.

Only 4.5% of the overall work force, and only 1.8% of the full time workforce between the age of 18 and 65, earn minimum wage. It is not, never was, and never should be a living wage.

Also, the common narrative that the minimum wage hasn't kept pace with inflation is a lie.

Not just a misinterpretation or shading the truth, it's a flat out propagandist lie.

They lie, by choosing the starting point of their timeline at the highest relative value the minimum wage has ever been, 1968... Which, incidentally, was immediately followed by the highest annual peacetime inflation the U.S. has ever seen, for over 15 years.

The minimum wage has kept exact pace with inflation for the last 30 years (since 1985, to the penny), and has more than kept pace, since it's inception in 1938. It was only from 1969 to 1984, when inflation in the U.S. went as high as double digit numbers annually, that it did not.

In fact, it's not only more than kept pace with inflation since it's inception, and has a much higher relative purchasing power... It has actually almost  DOUBLED relative to inflation, since its inception in1938.

The 1968 number was unusually and artificially high. How high? It was a near doubling from just a few years before, at $1.60 an hour (a 20% increase from 1966, which was itself a 40% increase from 1962, and overall it was a 100% increase over 1956... Even though the U.S. had less than 3% annual inflation in those years. The 1956 minimum wage in 1968 dollars was $1.02. In 2015 dollars, it's $6.96... a bit less than minimum wage today).

But even in 1968, the "$15 living wage" people's baseline year, the minimum wage was STILL not intended to be a living wage. $1.60 an hour in 1968, meant about $3,200 a 2000 hour work year, or about $10.88 and $22,000 a year in 2015 dollars.

That year, the median wage for ALL workers was $6,580 or $3.30 an hour, a bit over DOUBLE the minimum wage. The household income was appx. $7,800. However, the median wage for full time employed males, was actually $7,600 (because women were a small percentage of the full time work force, made far less then men, and rarely worked if their husbands worked a good full time job).

In 2015 dollars, that would be about $45,000 a year for all full time workers, $51,000 for full time employed men,  and the household income would be about $53,000.

Which by the way, is not very different from what they actually are now. $44,000 for all full time workers, $48,000 for full time men, and household income is about $54,000

Remember, these are medians, not averages. Also note, all were above 1968 levels before October of 2008, but the recession has taken about $2k-4k out of personal income and $4-6k out of household income ("official estimates" are as low as $1k personal and $2k household, but no-one actually believes that. Also, they don't account for inflation... official estimate, or actual... Adjusting for inflation using official numbers... which are well known to be very low... Some estimate as much as $6 personal and $9k household accounting for wage freezes, reduced profit sharing and bonuses, and lack of job growth and promotions; as middle income males were hit worst by unemployment and wage cuts, and have recovered least).

So, by that logic, with the artificially high minimum wage of 1968 being approximately half the prevailing median full time wage; to "keep up" with 1968, the 2015 minimum wage should be...

... Wait for it...

$11 an hour.

So, to match what the highest minimum wage in all of American history, the glory day, their chosen baseline, wouldn't be $15, it would be $11.

Of course, as As I have now explained several times, the 1968 wage was a sudden and artificially high raise, double the 1956 wage, and in constant dollar terms, four times the minimum wage at its inception in 1938.

To keep up with 1938, would be? About $4.20

To keep up with 1956, the year before the minimum wage started jumping every couple years much faster than inflation? About $6.95

At $7.25, we're at about the same in constant dollars, as 1962.

..... So the inflation argument is a flat lie, and the $15 argument is not based in economic reality.

But, just to put the nail in that coffin for good... Just in case somehow the $15 minimum wage sounds like anything close to a reasonable or good idea...

Let's do some comparative analysis:

U.S. military E1 (private/airman basic/seaman recruit) makes about $18,500 a year, or about $9.30 an hour base pay (based on the same 2000 work year... This of course is far less than a duty year even in peacetime, which is about 2700 hours, working out to $6.88 an hour).

Once that soldier, marine, airman, or seaman, are trained and ready to perform the basic duties of their basic occupational field ( E2, at 6 months or so), they get a raise to about $20,800, or about $10.40 on 2000 hours, or $7.70 on 2700 hours.

When they reach fully trained and qualified in the basics of their specialty ( E3, usually around 12 to 18 months or so), they get another raise, to about $24,400, or about $12.25 an hour (or $9 an hour).

Once they are fully trained in the details of their specialty, and have a couple years of experience in their field (E4, usually 24  months or so), and are directing the efforts of 2 to 5 other junior enlisted, they get a raise up to about $25,500, or about $12.75 an hour ( or about $9.45 an hour).

After 3 to 5 years, an E5 (sergeant/staff sergeant/petty officer 2nd class) whose job is to be a well trained and expert specialist in an particular area, and/or to supervise and direct the efforts of 5 to 10 other enlisted personnel...

...and here's the kicker...

... makes a base pay of $30,800, or a bit over $15 an hour on the 2000 hour scale, or about $11.47 an hour on a peacetime 2700 hour duty year.

Oh and by the way, its likely that sergeants immediate "supervisor", in HR terms, would be a 2nd lieutenant. A position that requires a bachelor's degree, and only pays $35,000 a year (with MUCH higher expenses than enlisted men, and they don't get a raise for 18-24 months)

So... According to this theory, minimum wage...

...for a 15 year old high school kid working at the mall food court lets say..

...Should be... about the same as base pay for a serious, skilled professional, with five years experience in their field, and at least two years experience supervising as many as 10 subordinates... With the added bonus of being taken away from their families for months at a time and BEING SHOT AT.

If you can't see just how ridiculous that notion is...

But hell... let's take the comparisons further...

The average starting base pay for cops in the U.S. (and most departments require degrees and certifications now) is?

$26,600 a year, or about $13.30 an hour (before overtime and detail of course)

How about teachers?

$36,000 national average (though they vary significantly by state, from $27k to $51k) or $18 an hour based on the 2000 hour year (which is how teachers are paid, even though they work very different hours... Usually about 1600 a year, including after school and work at home time).

Thats with a degree, and a teaching cert (which in some states can take two more years and thousands more dollars over and above the degree). Before they get certified, they average $24,000


$34,000 with a degree, but no experience, masters or CPA, $48,000 with a CPA but minimal experience.

Auto Mechanics?

$27,000 with no certifications, but at least 2 years experience and their own tools. $31,000 with a certification, tools, and experience.

Computer systems and networks operator or technician?

$29,000 with a degree and at least two years of work experience, preferably in tech support. $22-24k with no degree, a few of the right certs, a demonstrated skill and aptitude, and SOME experience.

How about carpenters?

Apprentices start at between $10 and $15 (with tools), journeymen start at $15 to $22 depending on specialty (framing, finish, roofer, cabinet maker etc..), region, seasonal demand, and unions.


Plumbers helpers and apprentices start at from $11 to $14 an hour. Journeymen $18 to $28.


Apprentices start between $9 and $15. Journeymen, from $16 to $24.

...Hmmm... Thats... Umm...

So... yeah... Apparently a grocery stocker, on his first day at work... should make more to start than a cop, a teacher, a mechanic, a computer and network tech, a carpenter, a plumber, and an electrician?

Yeah... NO.

But wait they say... "Now that the minimum wage is $15, then everyone else will have to get paid more proportionally, and everyone will be better off".

Umm... first, thats not how that works. Ever heard of an "inflationary spiral"? Probably not, since if they had, they wouldn't be suggesting the $15 minimum anyway... So look it up.

Second... hey... wait... that means this isn't actually about the minimum wage at all, and its not abput "helping the poor" now is it?

If it were actually about helping the poor, then they'd be pushing for $11 or $12. First, they would be MUCH more likely to get $11 or $12 than $15.

$11 would be roughly half the median full time wage, at $22,000. This is roughly equivalent to the 1968 level (whereas, today's minimum wage is roughly equivalent to 1962).

Critically, $12 an hour would give a single minimum wage income earning family, with two adults and two kids a $24,000 income, enough to lift them out of poverty, while allowing a parent to care for the children. It would bring a dual income family $48k, which is close to the national median household income (which would be $13.50 an hour with two full time wage earners by the way).

... and of course, we don't even need to get into the fact that outside of wealthy urban areas, minimum wage employment would fall to somewhere around zero, if even an $11 national minimum passed...

No... It's not really about helping the poor.

As it happens... A huge number of union contracts, are index linked to the minimum wage, or to the mean or median wages (which would also be increased).  When them minimum wage goes up, so so do their union contract wages.

So are large numbers of government programs, and statistics... Including many poverty and welfare statistics.

And of course, if non-union labor is forced by law to be as expensive as union labor (and by the by, unions are usually exempt from wage regulations), then there's going to be less competition, less price pressure, and more jobs for union members.

So, all if a sudden it's not a "reasonable living wage" for less than 2 million people... It's a big raise for 15 million union workers, and and big budget increase for a whole bunch of government programs (whose administrators and staff are likely union members themselves. 50% of union workers are government workers)... and... what? They think that's actually going to happen?

Really? They think that's actually going to happen?

Or maybe they're hoping that by asking for $15, they can split they're difference, and get $11?

And hey... it's still a huge increase on their contracts right?

And they think that's going to happen?

Where's the money going to come from?

Hell, the money doesn't exist even to give just the less than 2% who actually make minimum wage, a raise to $11 (about 8 billion a year, mostly born by small businesses who already have an 80% failure rate, without increasing their labor costs by 50%). Never mind giving that same raise to 15 million more... Or... any raise to any more.

What are they going to do, mandate it by law, and just print some more money?

I direct you to the "inflationary spiral" concept I noted above.

The entire concept of $15 is a patently ridiculous and disingenuous scam.

UPDATE for 2021

In July 2021, the last month for which official inflation has been posted, the minimum wage if adjusted for inflation from its original inception in 1938, would be $4.84.

No, the minimum wage was never intended to be the entire household income for a family, or any kind of "living wage". It's intended to be a minimum subsistence wage for someone living within a family unit, such that all working age people are working, or an entry level wage for those entering the workforce for the first time, or for those unable to perform higher compensated work due to disability. 

It's not MEANT to be a primary income fully supporting a household. It was never meant to be. And it has far more than kept pace with inflation.

It has only not kept pace with inflation if you start your basis for comparison in 1968, when the minimum wage was boosted to a historic high rate, immediately before the US experienced 15 years of sustained high inflation. 

The minimum wage was increased that year to $1.60, a 60% increase over what it had been in 1960, and even then that would only be about $12.30 today, nowhere NEAR the $15.00 they're claiming should be the minimum wage. 

This is a deliberate distortion of the facts, through cherry picking. 

If we want to start with a more recent basis, 1985, the first year after the historically high inflation ended, the minimum wage was $3.35, the inflation adjusted minimum wage would be $8.44. 

If adjusted from the first increase after the inflation ended, in 1990 the minimum wage was increased to $3.80, which would be $7.82. That adjustment however only lasted one year and in 1991 it was adjusted again to $4.25, which would be $8.41.

Accordingly, if they wanted to be at least closer to honest, they'd be saying "the minimum wage is about a dollar and a quarter less than it should be to keep up with inflation since 1991", not "the minimum wage is less than half what it should be".

Sunday, May 03, 2015

The Big Secret They Don't Want You To Know

Would you like some secret dangerous truth that they don't want you to know?

There are no big conspiracies. There can't be, because none of the people and organizations that would need to be so in order for them to work, are smart enough or competent enough, and they can't keep secrets.

It looks like there are, because everyone with any power is doing their damndest to keep it, and get more... and that's what it looks like when everyone "in charge" or "running things" does that.

They all act in their own interest, and that aligns with everyone else doing the same thing, making it look like there is some grand master control... when really it's an illusory house of cards, ready to collapse any second.

They aren't actually running things to their advantage...they're trying, but actually they aren't running things at all. The scarier fact, is that NO one is running things, because no-one can... But they keep trying and just making things worse.

The system isn't rigged for them and against you... It's just so horrible, inefficient, ineffective, and destructive, that it seems that way. Not that they wouldn't rig it if they could, but they can't control it enough to rig it.

The smart, the rich, and the connected don't get special treatment by the rigged system.... They just don't even try to work within the system when they need to get things done. They don't wait for approval, they don't ask for permission, and they don't let anyone stop them.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Misunderstanding Law, Government, and Society

Most people... At least most people in modern western democracies... Seem to have a fundamental and unconscious assumption about the nature of law and government, that goes something like this:
Law and government, are or should be, the expression of the will of the majority, for the purpose of making collective decisions, taking collective actions, fixing problems and righting wrongs.
If I gave that definition to most people as what government "should" be, or even what it is, I'd guess they would agree.

 But that's not what law and government are at all. In fact, that notion of the nature of law and government, is not only wrong, it is extremely harmful.

What are law and government?

Government, is the instrument of collective delegation of the legitimate initiation and use of force against others. 
Law, is the body of rules by which that force is administered and applied. 
The only legitimate purpose for which, is to secure and protect the rights of individuals governed by them.
So, what's the other thing, and why is this a problem?

 The other definition, is more properly that of society (as distinct from culture).

Government is NOT Society, and Society, is NOT Government

This conflation of government, and society, is a very serious social and political problem because those who hold it... and I firmly believe it's a large majority... believe that law and government, should be used for "doing what's good, and stopping what's bad".

They naturally wish to see government do what they think is right, or best, and stop that which they think is wrong, harmful, or wasteful... And not just in areas where force should be applied.

They conflate "legal" with "good" and "illegal" with "bad", and try to make laws against things which they think are bad, or mandating things which they think are good.

 They often even conflate "legal" or "attempting to make legal" with "approving and supporting", and "dissapproving and opposing" with "illegal" or "attempting to make illegal".

This is incredibly harmful

We have allowed... even encouraged people... to deeply hold the fundamental notion, that they get to vote on other peoples opinions, choices, and behavior; and if their "side" wins the vote, that it is legitimate to make those things legal or illegal.

 It also means that these people automatically and reflexively try to solve personal, moral, social, or societal problems, with government and law, when it is entirely inappropriate, even harmful, to attempt to do so.

Most of those problems cannot be solved by the use of force;, or at best can only be solved inefficiently, ineffectively, and while violating the rights of others.

 In encouraging this misapprehension, we have in fact made the personal, the political, and the political, the personal.

How do we stop the harm?

We must correct this critical error in peoples fundamental apprehension of law and government. 

People need to understand, at the most fundamental level, that government is force, and that law is how that force is directed and administered. No more, no less.

If we don't correct this misapprehension, then we will continue to simply seesaw back and forth between majoritarian tyrannies, as social changes dictate.

Rights will continue to be violated and abrogated as the opinions of society fluctuate.

The favored, will continue to be privileged over the disfavored at the expense of the disfavored's rights, until the pendulum swings again and the roles are reversed.

Yes, I realize, that is largely how it has always been... But never has law and government had such a depth and breath, had so great a reach into our personal lives, as it does today, and this unfortunately shows no sign of receding.

The absurdity of this reach... and overreach... is finally becoming apparent to many people, on all ideological "sides"; be it the "war on drugs", the "war on terror", privacy and surveillance, or gay marriage and wedding cakes.

So, we have to take action, now 

Use this growing awareness of the overreach, to help people understand.

We have to show people these aren't just outlying excesses. That they result from the way we think of, look at, and attempt to use, government.

We have to get people to understand, that if they can say "there ought to be a law", and then get a law made banning something that they don't like; then their worst enemy, can get a law made banning something they love.

We have to return to the notion that fundamental rights matter, and that the only legitimate purpose of law, and government, is to protect those fundamental rights.

Everything else?

That's up to individuals, and to society as a whole, NOT GOVERNMENT.

Voluntary collective action. If it's really what people want, then they'll work for it, without the threat of force. If it's not really what they want, then we shouldn't be forcing people to do it.