Caveat emptor

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luthersloan
Posts: 342
Joined: Thu May 27, 2010 6:43 pm

Re: Caveat emptor

Postby luthersloan » Thu Nov 22, 2012 2:23 pm

vanwinkle wrote:
luthersloan wrote:Well, people almost always work, for money or otherwise, because they are in a situation that is less than ideal. Billionaires tend not to work. By your definition all trade, or employment, is by definition exploitation. A person exchanges something to another person that the other person needs, for the first persons benefit.

Yes, but you wouldn't write that an employer "takes advantage of" another person when they pay that person a living wage for their work.

luthersloan wrote:So at what point exactly does it become exploitation to employ someone who needs work?

When they pay nothing to that person. Part of the reason people need work is to have money to live. It becomes exploitation when you get those people to work, without paying them anything, except the mere hope that someone else will actually pay them later.

luthersloan wrote:And how exactly is the person who needs work made better off by the employer declining to "exploit" them?

Let's consider two obvious scenarios:

1) There are a bunch of people who need work, and a bunch of employers who pay people to work. Some employers go, "I'm not going to pay people anymore, because they'll work for free." Some people then work for free. Other employers see this, and go, "I can do the same thing!" More and more previously paying jobs become free jobs. Eventually, none of the people who need work get paid for doing work, because they have to choose between working for free and not working.

2) There are a bunch of people who need work, and a bunch of employers who pay people to work. All those employers keep paying people to work. Some of the bunch of people who need work thus keep getting paid for doing work.

Those who actually get paid in scenario #2 would not have been paid under scenario #1, so obviously they are made better off by the employers not exploiting them. In scenario #1, the only people who are better off are the employers; none of the workers are better off in that situation.

luthersloan wrote:I believe sir I am not the one with the problem with logic.

LOL. You might want to revise your belief system, then.


So if they pay them a penny a year it is not exploitation, and if they pay them nothing for working a day, after which point they can obtain a job paying a living wage (an equally meaningless term) that employer is engaged in exploitation. These conclusions follow from your definition, does this comport with your understanding of the notion of exploitation?

As to your two scenarios.


In the first case, it is hard to see how the wage rate would fall to zero, absent very odd circumstances, like an expected huge wage in the future, or literally no other employment anywhere. I admit, if there is a single buyer for all labor in a market (by market here I mean geographic market, so if there was only one employer in the whole country.) If there is more than one buyer, wages will not fall to zero for the same reason that the price of widgets will not fall to zero, other employers would bid up wages to attract employees. Obviously the thing that prevents wages from falling to zero, or the minimum wage, is not the moral commitment of employers not to exploit their workers, but rather the need to pay people an amount necessary to get them to work for you, i.e. a market wage.

I confess I am not entirely sure what the point of these two examples was, it is true that the employees in two are off than the employees in 1, but I am not sure what is is supposed to follow from that. The only way for the wage rate to fall to zero is if the employers form a cartel to keep wages down, or if the only reason the wages were above zero is because the employers were engaged in charity, that is paying above the amount they need to because they wanted to transfer wealth to the workers, and then terminating that charitable activity.

Also, you are clearly comparing the wrong things. It is almost tautological that if employers are paid, or paid more, they are better off than if there wages were lower or non-existent. The proper question is whether a person is made better by being given the option to work for free, when presumably their only other option is to both not work, and not be paid. Or to work and be paid, but to not obtain the kind of experience the free employment could offer. So, in addition to being confusing, you examples are also off the mark. I agree if for some reason, the judges offer of a free clerkship would cause all wage rates to fall to zero, then you conclusion would follow. But, that will not happen, and if the market clearing price for law clerks was zero, calling the judge a prick would not prevent the wages from so falling.

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vanwinkle
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Re: Caveat emptor

Postby vanwinkle » Thu Nov 22, 2012 3:12 pm

luthersloan wrote:So if they pay them a penny a year it is not exploitation

Clearly I don't agree with this, and you're clearly not paying attention to my point.

This would be illegal. Not paying someone at all at least leaves this in a legal gray area, since it could arguably be for educational value and thus exempt from minimum wage laws, but if you paid them a penny then under the law you'd be paying them but less than you're legally allowed to. So this isn't exactly a viable scenario, anyway. It's not a sliding scale from "zero cents" upward; there's a big gap from zero up to the minimum that people can legally be paid, and once you're in real wage territory, pressures to pay competitive wages start popping up again.

Going to a "one penny" extreme doesn't disprove anything I said, anyway. Paying someone one penny for an entire year's labor would be just as exploitative as paying them zero pennies.

luthersloan wrote:and if they pay them nothing for working a day, after which point they can obtain a job paying a living wage (an equally meaningless term) that employer is engaged in exploitation

A day? That's not really clearly exploitation at all, but then again, working for one day isn't really something people ever consider a "job" in the sense we're talking about. A year? Yes, definitely. Where is the line drawn? Probably somewhere in the middle. That's the more interesting question, but one which you don't fully grasp, since you think an example of "a day" fully refutes the exploitation of having someone work for free for a full year, just like you stupidly thought "one penny" would.

luthersloan wrote:These conclusions follow from your definition

No they don't, see above.

luthersloan wrote:In the first case, it is hard to see how the wage rate would fall to zero, absent very odd circumstances

You have to be pretty unimaginative to not see this. Here's how it would happen:

One judge gets people to work for free. People do. Other judges see this, and decide to also "hire" people for free. People keep taking these free positions, and not only that, competing for them, since they do produce an eventual likely benefit (paying work later down the road). The more it becomes obvious that judges have a large supply of people who will take these "jobs" for free, the more will stop paying. Ultimately, the entire system would move to zero-pay.

luthersloan wrote:I admit, if there is a single buyer for all labor in a market (by market here I mean geographic market, so if there was only one employer in the whole country.) If there is more than one buyer, wages will not fall to zero for the same reason that the price of widgets will not fall to zero, other employers would bid up wages to attract employees.

This is pretty stupid. The price of widgets will never fall to zero because the entity producing widgets will always need to cover their production costs. They'll never give widgets away for free because the widgets don't earn wages to repay their own expenses themselves.

In this scenario, where one-year employment is being offered, the judges don't have to worry about the costs of "producing" a qualified law student at all; they're taking advantage of the fact that the next employer will pay those costs, or that the recent graduate will otherwise remain on the hook for those costs themselves.

luthersloan wrote:Obviously the thing that prevents wages from falling to zero, or the minimum wage, is not the moral commitment of employers not to exploit their workers, but rather the need to pay people an amount necessary to get them to work for you, i.e. a market wage.

LOL. No. You believing this is a big part of why you're being so ridiculous. These judges are clearly able to exploit the supply of law grads desperate for employment opportunities, because it's happening. If what you just said above was true, then the judges who're already offering these free positions would not be able to fill them with competent law grads.

What prevents wages from falling to zero, absent any moral discussion of the equation, is restrained supply that forces employers to pay to recruit top talent. That is not the case in the present environment, since there are many highly qualified and yet desperate law students who are willing to work for significant periods of time for free. The supply is great enough that they don't need to pay a "market wage" to get what they want.

Or, maybe this will put it in terms you understand: When the supply outstrips the demand enough, the "market wage" drops to zero, creating the moral problem of putting people to work for zero dollars.

luthersloan wrote:I confess I am not entirely sure what the point of these two examples was, it is true that the employees in two are off than the employees in 1, but I am not sure what is is supposed to follow from that. The only way for the wage rate to fall to zero is if the employers form a cartel to keep wages down, or if the only reason the wages were above zero is because the employers were engaged in charity, that is paying above the amount they need to because they wanted to transfer wealth to the workers, and then terminating that charitable activity.

This is such a dumb response on so many levels.

1) You're objecting to my scenario on the grounds that the wage rate can't fall to zero, when this entire thread is about a situation where the wage rate has fallen to zero.

2) There's a third way for the wage rate to fall: Without forming a cartel, and without previous "charity", individual actors can observe what each other are doing, and react accordingly. Actors can see that what they were paying (a significant living wage), which was necessary and not "charity" before, is no longer necessary now, and stop paying it. Instead, they'll pay the new "necessary wage" of zero dollars. This doesn't mean they're in a cartel. It also doesn't mean they were being charitable before. It just means that, absent the moral issue of exploitation to stop them, the wage rate can fall to zero anyway.

3) I was responding to your question about how a "person who needs work" is made better off by employers not exploiting them. If employers don't exploit people by paying them a zero wage, then some of the people who need work will continue earning wages. If employers do exploit people by paying them a zero wage, then none of those people who need work will get paid, whether they work or not. So clearly, at least some people who need work, namely those who actually get the jobs, are made better off by employers not exploiting them. Thus answers your previous question completely.

luthersloan wrote:Also, you are clearly comparing the wrong things. It is almost tautological that if employers are paid, or paid more, they are better off than if there wages were lower or non-existent. The proper question is whether a person is made better by being given the option to work for free, when presumably their only other option is to both not work, and not be paid. Or to work and be paid, but to not obtain the kind of experience the free employment could offer.

Neither of these are the present situation.

There is clearly another option, the one that was happening before judges stopped paying people. The "other option" we're discussing is when the employer is actually obligated (legally, morally, or otherwise) to pay wages. In that situation, they have the option of working, being paid, and gaining the experience they would otherwise gain if they did it for free.

luthersloan wrote:I agree if for some reason, the judges offer of a free clerkship would cause all wage rates to fall to zero, then you conclusion would follow.

This may be the one intelligent thing you've said, and it refutes your rather flawed arguments earlier in this same post.

luthersloan wrote:But, that will not happen, and if the market clearing price for law clerks was zero, calling the judge a prick would not prevent the wages from so falling.

This is true. Simply calling one a "prick" does not change much in the world.

However, enforcing wage laws would; raising ethics objections against the judge's exploitative behavior might; taking other political action might. And even if one could not prevent someone from paying zero wages, that doesn't make what they're doing "not exploitation". You're apparently confusing the two things. I can't stop child labor in Africa, either, but that fact doesn't magically make it not exploitative. This is exploitative, whether or not I can do something about it.

Pokemon
Posts: 1860
Joined: Thu Jan 12, 2012 11:58 pm

Re: Caveat emptor

Postby Pokemon » Thu Nov 22, 2012 3:20 pm

luthersloan wrote:
vanwinkle wrote:
luthersloan wrote:Well, people almost always work, for money or otherwise, because they are in a situation that is less than ideal. Billionaires tend not to work. By your definition all trade, or employment, is by definition exploitation. A person exchanges something to another person that the other person needs, for the first persons benefit.

Yes, but you wouldn't write that an employer "takes advantage of" another person when they pay that person a living wage for their work.

luthersloan wrote:So at what point exactly does it become exploitation to employ someone who needs work?

When they pay nothing to that person. Part of the reason people need work is to have money to live. It becomes exploitation when you get those people to work, without paying them anything, except the mere hope that someone else will actually pay them later.

luthersloan wrote:And how exactly is the person who needs work made better off by the employer declining to "exploit" them?

Let's consider two obvious scenarios:

1) There are a bunch of people who need work, and a bunch of employers who pay people to work. Some employers go, "I'm not going to pay people anymore, because they'll work for free." Some people then work for free. Other employers see this, and go, "I can do the same thing!" More and more previously paying jobs become free jobs. Eventually, none of the people who need work get paid for doing work, because they have to choose between working for free and not working.

2) There are a bunch of people who need work, and a bunch of employers who pay people to work. All those employers keep paying people to work. Some of the bunch of people who need work thus keep getting paid for doing work.

Those who actually get paid in scenario #2 would not have been paid under scenario #1, so obviously they are made better off by the employers not exploiting them. In scenario #1, the only people who are better off are the employers; none of the workers are better off in that situation.

luthersloan wrote:I believe sir I am not the one with the problem with logic.

LOL. You might want to revise your belief system, then.


So if they pay them a penny a year it is not exploitation, and if they pay them nothing for working a day, after which point they can obtain a job paying a living wage (an equally meaningless term) that employer is engaged in exploitation. These conclusions follow from your definition, does this comport with your understanding of the notion of exploitation?

As to your two scenarios.


In the first case, it is hard to see how the wage rate would fall to zero, absent very odd circumstances, like an expected huge wage in the future, or literally no other employment anywhere. I admit, if there is a single buyer for all labor in a market (by market here I mean geographic market, so if there was only one employer in the whole country.) If there is more than one buyer, wages will not fall to zero for the same reason that the price of widgets will not fall to zero, other employers would bid up wages to attract employees. Obviously the thing that prevents wages from falling to zero, or the minimum wage, is not the moral commitment of employers not to exploit their workers, but rather the need to pay people an amount necessary to get them to work for you, i.e. a market wage.

I confess I am not entirely sure what the point of these two examples was, it is true that the employees in two are off than the employees in 1, but I am not sure what is is supposed to follow from that. The only way for the wage rate to fall to zero is if the employers form a cartel to keep wages down, or if the only reason the wages were above zero is because the employers were engaged in charity, that is paying above the amount they need to because they wanted to transfer wealth to the workers, and then terminating that charitable activity.

Also, you are clearly comparing the wrong things. It is almost tautological that if employers are paid, or paid more, they are better off than if there wages were lower or non-existent. The proper question is whether a person is made better by being given the option to work for free, when presumably their only other option is to both not work, and not be paid. Or to work and be paid, but to not obtain the kind of experience the free employment could offer. So, in addition to being confusing, you examples are also off the mark. I agree if for some reason, the judges offer of a free clerkship would cause all wage rates to fall to zero, then you conclusion would follow. But, that will not happen, and if the market clearing price for law clerks was zero, calling the judge a prick would not prevent the wages from so falling.


In your belief system is there ever a situation where someone gets exploited? Because I fail to see one... except maybe in slavery.

Two, there is a very large difference between as you say people work "because their situation is less than ideal," and "working for free 'because they are in a bad enough way.'"
As a society we have decided to put minimum wage laws, and rules in relation to interns to precisely stop the latter situation because of point 3 that is coming up.

Three, the wages will not fall to 0, but there will be downwards pressure if employees could hire tons of individuals and pay them nothing.

In my humble opinion, Judge Marti-poo needs to be ashamed about this. A moral commitment of one year to unpaid work that is no different from what his two paid clerks do?

BeenDidThat
Posts: 704
Joined: Thu Feb 03, 2011 12:18 am

Re: Caveat emptor

Postby BeenDidThat » Thu Nov 22, 2012 3:29 pm

This is one of the more epic shellackings I've ever seen on the internet. Moreover, it's on point.

I commend you, vanwinkle. May your beautiful soul continue its journey through this world forever. Amen.

vanwinkle wrote:
luthersloan wrote:So if they pay them a penny a year it is not exploitation

Clearly I don't agree with this, and you're clearly not paying attention to my point.

This would be illegal. Not paying someone at all at least leaves this in a legal gray area, since it could arguably be for educational value and thus exempt from minimum wage laws, but if you paid them a penny then under the law you'd be paying them but less than you're legally allowed to. So this isn't exactly a viable scenario, anyway. It's not a sliding scale from "zero cents" upward; there's a big gap from zero up to the minimum that people can legally be paid, and once you're in real wage territory, pressures to pay competitive wages start popping up again.

Going to a "one penny" extreme doesn't disprove anything I said, anyway. Paying someone one penny for an entire year's labor would be just as exploitative as paying them zero pennies.

luthersloan wrote:and if they pay them nothing for working a day, after which point they can obtain a job paying a living wage (an equally meaningless term) that employer is engaged in exploitation

A day? That's not really clearly exploitation at all, but then again, working for one day isn't really something people ever consider a "job" in the sense we're talking about. A year? Yes, definitely. Where is the line drawn? Probably somewhere in the middle. That's the more interesting question, but one which you don't fully grasp, since you think an example of "a day" fully refutes the exploitation of having someone work for free for a full year, just like you stupidly thought "one penny" would.

luthersloan wrote:These conclusions follow from your definition

No they don't, see above.

luthersloan wrote:In the first case, it is hard to see how the wage rate would fall to zero, absent very odd circumstances

You have to be pretty unimaginative to not see this. Here's how it would happen:

One judge gets people to work for free. People do. Other judges see this, and decide to also "hire" people for free. People keep taking these free positions, and not only that, competing for them, since they do produce an eventual likely benefit (paying work later down the road). The more it becomes obvious that judges have a large supply of people who will take these "jobs" for free, the more will stop paying. Ultimately, the entire system would move to zero-pay.

luthersloan wrote:I admit, if there is a single buyer for all labor in a market (by market here I mean geographic market, so if there was only one employer in the whole country.) If there is more than one buyer, wages will not fall to zero for the same reason that the price of widgets will not fall to zero, other employers would bid up wages to attract employees.

This is pretty stupid. The price of widgets will never fall to zero because the entity producing widgets will always need to cover their production costs. They'll never give widgets away for free because the widgets don't earn wages to repay their own expenses themselves.

In this scenario, where one-year employment is being offered, the judges don't have to worry about the costs of "producing" a qualified law student at all; they're taking advantage of the fact that the next employer will pay those costs, or that the recent graduate will otherwise remain on the hook for those costs themselves.

luthersloan wrote:Obviously the thing that prevents wages from falling to zero, or the minimum wage, is not the moral commitment of employers not to exploit their workers, but rather the need to pay people an amount necessary to get them to work for you, i.e. a market wage.

LOL. No. You believing this is a big part of why you're being so ridiculous. These judges are clearly able to exploit the supply of law grads desperate for employment opportunities, because it's happening. If what you just said above was true, then the judges who're already offering these free positions would not be able to fill them with competent law grads.

What prevents wages from falling to zero, absent any moral discussion of the equation, is restrained supply that forces employers to pay to recruit top talent. That is not the case in the present environment, since there are many highly qualified and yet desperate law students who are willing to work for significant periods of time for free. The supply is great enough that they don't need to pay a "market wage" to get what they want.

Or, maybe this will put it in terms you understand: When the supply outstrips the demand enough, the "market wage" drops to zero, creating the moral problem of putting people to work for zero dollars.

luthersloan wrote:I confess I am not entirely sure what the point of these two examples was, it is true that the employees in two are off than the employees in 1, but I am not sure what is is supposed to follow from that. The only way for the wage rate to fall to zero is if the employers form a cartel to keep wages down, or if the only reason the wages were above zero is because the employers were engaged in charity, that is paying above the amount they need to because they wanted to transfer wealth to the workers, and then terminating that charitable activity.

This is such a dumb response on so many levels.

1) You're objecting to my scenario on the grounds that the wage rate can't fall to zero, when this entire thread is about a situation where the wage rate has fallen to zero.

2) There's a third way for the wage rate to fall: Without forming a cartel, and without previous "charity", individual actors can observe what each other are doing, and react accordingly. Actors can see that what they were paying (a significant living wage), which was necessary and not "charity" before, is no longer necessary now, and stop paying it. Instead, they'll pay the new "necessary wage" of zero dollars. This doesn't mean they're in a cartel. It also doesn't mean they were being charitable before. It just means that, absent the moral issue of exploitation to stop them, the wage rate can fall to zero anyway.

3) I was responding to your question about how a "person who needs work" is made better off by employers not exploiting them. If employers don't exploit people by paying them a zero wage, then some of the people who need work will continue earning wages. If employers do exploit people by paying them a zero wage, then none of those people who need work will get paid, whether they work or not. So clearly, at least some people who need work, namely those who actually get the jobs, are made better off by employers not exploiting them. Thus answers your previous question completely.

luthersloan wrote:Also, you are clearly comparing the wrong things. It is almost tautological that if employers are paid, or paid more, they are better off than if there wages were lower or non-existent. The proper question is whether a person is made better by being given the option to work for free, when presumably their only other option is to both not work, and not be paid. Or to work and be paid, but to not obtain the kind of experience the free employment could offer.

Neither of these are the present situation.

There is clearly another option, the one that was happening before judges stopped paying people. The "other option" we're discussing is when the employer is actually obligated (legally, morally, or otherwise) to pay wages. In that situation, they have the option of working, being paid, and gaining the experience they would otherwise gain if they did it for free.

luthersloan wrote:I agree if for some reason, the judges offer of a free clerkship would cause all wage rates to fall to zero, then you conclusion would follow.

This may be the one intelligent thing you've said, and it refutes your rather flawed arguments earlier in this same post.

luthersloan wrote:But, that will not happen, and if the market clearing price for law clerks was zero, calling the judge a prick would not prevent the wages from so falling.

This is true. Simply calling one a "prick" does not change much in the world.

However, enforcing wage laws would; raising ethics objections against the judge's exploitative behavior might; taking other political action might. And even if one could not prevent someone from paying zero wages, that doesn't make what they're doing "not exploitation". You're apparently confusing the two things. I can't stop child labor in Africa, either, but that fact doesn't magically make it not exploitative. This is exploitative, whether or not I can do something about it.

luthersloan
Posts: 342
Joined: Thu May 27, 2010 6:43 pm

Re: Caveat emptor

Postby luthersloan » Thu Nov 22, 2012 3:49 pm

vanwinkle wrote:
luthersloan wrote:So if they pay them a penny a year it is not exploitation

Clearly I don't agree with this, and you're clearly not paying attention to my point.

This would be illegal. Not paying someone at all at least leaves this in a legal gray area, since it could arguably be for educational value and thus exempt from minimum wage laws, but if you paid them a penny then under the law you'd be paying them but less than you're legally allowed to. So this isn't exactly a viable scenario, anyway. It's not a sliding scale from "zero cents" upward; there's a big gap from zero up to the minimum that people can legally be paid, and once you're in real wage territory, pressures to pay competitive wages start popping up again.

Going to a "one penny" extreme doesn't disprove anything I said, anyway. Paying someone one penny for an entire year's labor would be just as exploitative as paying them zero pennies.

luthersloan wrote:and if they pay them nothing for working a day, after which point they can obtain a job paying a living wage (an equally meaningless term) that employer is engaged in exploitation

A day? That's not really clearly exploitation at all, but then again, working for one day isn't really something people ever consider a "job" in the sense we're talking about. A year? Yes, definitely. Where is the line drawn? Probably somewhere in the middle. That's the more interesting question, but one which you don't fully grasp, since you think an example of "a day" fully refutes the exploitation of having someone work for free for a full year, just like you stupidly thought "one penny" would.

luthersloan wrote:These conclusions follow from your definition

No they don't, see above.

luthersloan wrote:In the first case, it is hard to see how the wage rate would fall to zero, absent very odd circumstances

You have to be pretty unimaginative to not see this. Here's how it would happen:

One judge gets people to work for free. People do. Other judges see this, and decide to also "hire" people for free. People keep taking these free positions, and not only that, competing for them, since they do produce an eventual likely benefit (paying work later down the road). The more it becomes obvious that judges have a large supply of people who will take these "jobs" for free, the more will stop paying. Ultimately, the entire system would move to zero-pay.

luthersloan wrote:I admit, if there is a single buyer for all labor in a market (by market here I mean geographic market, so if there was only one employer in the whole country.) If there is more than one buyer, wages will not fall to zero for the same reason that the price of widgets will not fall to zero, other employers would bid up wages to attract employees.

This is pretty stupid. The price of widgets will never fall to zero because the entity producing widgets will always need to cover their production costs. They'll never give widgets away for free because the widgets don't earn wages to repay their own expenses themselves.

In this scenario, where one-year employment is being offered, the judges don't have to worry about the costs of "producing" a qualified law student at all; they're taking advantage of the fact that the next employer will pay those costs, or that the recent graduate will otherwise remain on the hook for those costs themselves.

luthersloan wrote:Obviously the thing that prevents wages from falling to zero, or the minimum wage, is not the moral commitment of employers not to exploit their workers, but rather the need to pay people an amount necessary to get them to work for you, i.e. a market wage.

LOL. No. You believing this is a big part of why you're being so ridiculous. These judges are clearly able to exploit the supply of law grads desperate for employment opportunities, because it's happening. If what you just said above was true, then the judges who're already offering these free positions would not be able to fill them with competent law grads.

What prevents wages from falling to zero, absent any moral discussion of the equation, is restrained supply that forces employers to pay to recruit top talent. That is not the case in the present environment, since there are many highly qualified and yet desperate law students who are willing to work for significant periods of time for free. The supply is great enough that they don't need to pay a "market wage" to get what they want.

Or, maybe this will put it in terms you understand: When the supply outstrips the demand enough, the "market wage" drops to zero, creating the moral problem of putting people to work for zero dollars.

luthersloan wrote:I confess I am not entirely sure what the point of these two examples was, it is true that the employees in two are off than the employees in 1, but I am not sure what is is supposed to follow from that. The only way for the wage rate to fall to zero is if the employers form a cartel to keep wages down, or if the only reason the wages were above zero is because the employers were engaged in charity, that is paying above the amount they need to because they wanted to transfer wealth to the workers, and then terminating that charitable activity.

This is such a dumb response on so many levels.

1) You're objecting to my scenario on the grounds that the wage rate can't fall to zero, when this entire thread is about a situation where the wage rate has fallen to zero.

2) There's a third way for the wage rate to fall: Without forming a cartel, and without previous "charity", individual actors can observe what each other are doing, and react accordingly. Actors can see that what they were paying (a significant living wage), which was necessary and not "charity" before, is no longer necessary now, and stop paying it. Instead, they'll pay the new "necessary wage" of zero dollars. This doesn't mean they're in a cartel. It also doesn't mean they were being charitable before. It just means that, absent the moral issue of exploitation to stop them, the wage rate can fall to zero anyway.

3) I was responding to your question about how a "person who needs work" is made better off by employers not exploiting them. If employers don't exploit people by paying them a zero wage, then some of the people who need work will continue earning wages. If employers do exploit people by paying them a zero wage, then none of those people who need work will get paid, whether they work or not. So clearly, at least some people who need work, namely those who actually get the jobs, are made better off by employers not exploiting them. Thus answers your previous question completely.

luthersloan wrote:Also, you are clearly comparing the wrong things. It is almost tautological that if employers are paid, or paid more, they are better off than if there wages were lower or non-existent. The proper question is whether a person is made better by being given the option to work for free, when presumably their only other option is to both not work, and not be paid. Or to work and be paid, but to not obtain the kind of experience the free employment could offer.

Neither of these are the present situation.

There is clearly another option, the one that was happening before judges stopped paying people. The "other option" we're discussing is when the employer is actually obligated (legally, morally, or otherwise) to pay wages. In that situation, they have the option of working, being paid, and gaining the experience they would otherwise gain if they did it for free.

luthersloan wrote:I agree if for some reason, the judges offer of a free clerkship would cause all wage rates to fall to zero, then you conclusion would follow.

This may be the one intelligent thing you've said, and it refutes your rather flawed arguments earlier in this same post.

luthersloan wrote:But, that will not happen, and if the market clearing price for law clerks was zero, calling the judge a prick would not prevent the wages from so falling.

This is true. Simply calling one a "prick" does not change much in the world.

However, enforcing wage laws would; raising ethics objections against the judge's exploitative behavior might; taking other political action might. And even if one could not prevent someone from paying zero wages, that doesn't make what they're doing "not exploitation". You're apparently confusing the two things. I can't stop child labor in Africa, either, but that fact doesn't magically make it not exploitative. This is exploitative, whether or not I can do something about it.


First of all, you are being extremely rude. I do not understand why you are taking this so personally. I realize I said some things that could be interpreted as rude, so I will try to avoid saying any such things in my response, but please try to do the same.

I am paying attention to your point, which I took to be that paying someone nothing was exploitation. In that when I asked at what point it became exploitation, you said when a person was paid nothing. Now, if you want to change your definition or if I misunderstood it, that is fine, but those things do follow from a fair interpretation of your remarks. I of course agree that the penny and day examples prove nothing under your new definition of exploitation, which does not seem to have any clear content. Something is exploitation when a person is paid up to some relatively low amount, for some relatively long time. I think that is just not a useful definition, and to the extent it is, there is nothing morally problematic with “exploiting” someone.

I think you raise a genuinely complex point. Judges would pay to obtain higher quality workers if the experience is not worth enough to cause high quality workers to be willing to work for free. If it is so valuable, then why is there something wrong with this possibility? Why should taxpayers be paying more for federal clerks than is necessary to retain them?

One could think of it as an analogy to schooling, people are not only generally not paid to go to school, but pay to do so. They do this because they think it is worth it to them in terms of a combination of consumption and increased future wages. Both the judges and the schools benefit by having us “work” for them, but neither is engaged in exploitation under any sensible definition. Unless perhaps the experience is really not valuable. So yes, I concede that just as the wage rate for attending school is generally zero, the wage rate for a job could be zero, but only in terms of cash on hand. If you think about the underlying economics of the transaction, a person is exchanging labor for an increase in their future wages, which while the cannot be currently monetized, have undeniable value. It seems strange to attach moral significance to accounting.

I think your point about widget manufacturing misses the market, the price never falling below zero is the present of an alternative use for the assets or persons. That is if in either case the price falls low enough the widget maker will stop producing widgets or the lawyer will stop being a lawyer, they will work at Starbucks or something. If the expected future value of the 1 year of clerkship experience was worth less, both in terms of money and psychic benefit, than a year of working at Starbucks, no one would take the clerkship, and the wage rate would have to rise.

As to your numbered points.

1) you are right, cash wages can fall to zero. I concede that point above, but I think this really a sort of accounting artifact, and it would be highly strange to attach any moral significance to it.
2) This is just the way a market wage declines in the real world.
3) This assumes that there is fixed number of jobs. This is clearly not the case in either the real world, or the Campos piece. The judge was hiring an extra clerk, and there is ever reason to think that whoever is hired for that job would not have had as good a job in terms of total compensation if this option was blocked.

Obviously I agree that raising ethical objections or enforcing wage laws would change the situation, I just think it would change it largely for the worse. Please, in responding, try to be civil. I have tried, and I am sorry if I have not been completely polite.

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Re: Caveat emptor

Postby rapstar » Thu Nov 22, 2012 3:58 pm

luthersloan wrote:While it is certainly a sign of bad times, I fail to see how there is any exploitation here. If a person is in a bad enough way that they are willing to work for free, I fail to see how there is something wrong with that. I agree it is a totally fucked up situation, but in the world in which we live, it seems wildly counter productive to bash the judge. But counter productive behavior is par for the course from Professor Campos.


take a wage and hour class or read the grapes of wrath or use some common sense.

additionally, it's not counter productive to bash the judge. very often people change when subjected to public scrutiny. look at the eventual cancellation of the nyc marathon a few weeks back as an example.

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Re: Caveat emptor

Postby luthersloan » Thu Nov 22, 2012 4:02 pm

Not that it really matters, but no, I think outside of slavery, deception, or a case where the workers dire situation was the employers doing, I do not think exploitation occurs.

Of course I also don't think minimum wage laws are a good idea.

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Re: Caveat emptor

Postby luthersloan » Thu Nov 22, 2012 4:04 pm

rapstar wrote:
luthersloan wrote:While it is certainly a sign of bad times, I fail to see how there is any exploitation here. If a person is in a bad enough way that they are willing to work for free, I fail to see how there is something wrong with that. I agree it is a totally fucked up situation, but in the world in which we live, it seems wildly counter productive to bash the judge. But counter productive behavior is par for the course from Professor Campos.


take a wage and hour class or read the grapes of wrath or use some common sense.

additionally, it's not counter productive to bash the judge. very often people change when subjected to public scrutiny. look at the eventual cancellation of the nyc marathon a few weeks back as an example.



It is counter productive if you think what the judge is doing is on balance a good thing.

I obviously understand this is possibly an illegal employment arrangment. I just don't think it should be.

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Re: Caveat emptor

Postby vanwinkle » Thu Nov 22, 2012 4:39 pm

luthersloan wrote:I am paying attention to your point, which I took to be that paying someone nothing was exploitation. In that when I asked at what point it became exploitation, you said when a person was paid nothing.

I also talked about a "living wage" and how people need money to live off of, and this is all in the context of a thread about people who used to make $50K/yr now being asked to do the same work for free. So while, yes, I did say when a person was paid nothing, I was comparing that to what they used to be paid, not to all possibilities. I wasn't comparing "zero pennies" to "one penny" and drawing some hard line between them. Exploitation by its very definition defies such rigid lines, since it's about whether behavior is unethical or selfish, and those things depend a lot on context.

luthersloan wrote:I of course agree that the penny and day examples prove nothing under your new definition of exploitation, which does not seem to have any clear content.

Sigh. See, this. You wonder why I start being hostile? It's because of backhanded comments like this. It's not a "new definition", it's the same one I've been using the whole time. My definition of exploitation hasn't changed at all, I just hadn't applied it to the concept of being paid one penny until after you brought it up.

luthersloan wrote:Something is exploitation when a person is paid up to some relatively low amount, for some relatively long time. I think that is just not a useful definition, and to the extent it is, there is nothing morally problematic with “exploiting” someone.

The definition has nothing to do with exact amounts. That's the point I made above, and the point I made when I mocked your shallow "one penny" and "one day" hyperbolic examples.

Also, I think you're really, really missing the point here: Exploitation is all about the moral problem. If something isn't morally problematic then it's not exploitation. You can't say there's nothing morally problematic with exploiting someone, that sentence just doesn't make any logical sense whatsoever coming out of anyone's mouth, unless your name is Gordon Gekko.

luthersloan wrote:I think you raise a genuinely complex point. Judges would pay to obtain higher quality workers if the experience is not worth enough to cause high quality workers to be willing to work for free. If it is so valuable, then why is there something wrong with this possibility? Why should taxpayers be paying more for federal clerks than is necessary to retain them?

Let me ask you a question: Do you believe in the concept of the minimum wage? Do you even understand the concept of the minimum wage? I mean the reasoning behind its existence, not how it works.

luthersloan wrote:One could think of it as an analogy to schooling, people are not only generally not paid to go to school, but pay to do so. They do this because they think it is worth it to them in terms of a combination of consumption and increased future wages. Both the judges and the schools benefit by having us “work” for them, but neither is engaged in exploitation under any sensible definition.

Nobody except you characterizes college education as "work". It's education, and there's a difference. We pay people to educate us; we take educational opportunities for free; these things are true. But we do this because an education is considered both valuable and necessary to future advancement, and we provide resources to people who are seeking education. Also, typically you can get an education without doing work to the school's benefit on a full-time schedule. That last bit is an important distinction; the law school isn't going to publish your exam answer or use it to profit. Their only gain in the whole matter is the tuition money you're paying.

Clerking for a judge is not what we normally define as "education". Judges require the clerk already have received a degree from a law school; they require the clerk to work full-time; the work being done by the clerk is directly to the judge's benefit. Unlike the education example, the judge is directly benefiting from the clerk's labor; the clerk is doing the research and in many cases writing the judge's opinions for them. The judge profits from the clerk's labor. This isn't what we characterize purely as "education" at all, and we certainly don't support it the way we support education otherwise.

You shouldn't equate the two so easily; it reeks of unsophisticated thinking, by which I mean, if you had thought it through the above would've occured to you and you wouldn't have said it.

luthersloan wrote:Unless perhaps the experience is really not valuable.

Of course the experience is valuable. That neither begins nor ends the discussion. Most jobs are valuable experience, and many open doors for you; but that doesn't mean you should be expected to do the work for free.

luthersloan wrote:So yes, I concede that just as the wage rate for attending school is generally zero, the wage rate for a job could be zero, but only in terms of cash on hand. If you think about the underlying economics of the transaction, a person is exchanging labor for an increase in their future wages, which while the cannot be currently monetized, have undeniable value. It seems strange to attach moral significance to accounting.

Of course it seems strange to attach moral significance to accounting; but nobody's doing that. The moral significance is to the fact that people are being asked to definitely work for free for the dangling future chance of making more later. It's about this judge exploiting people's hopes for future paying employment and using it to avoid paying them for work they're doing today. Of course, if all you're doing is "think[ing] about the underlying economics", then you're admittedly ignoring the moral and ethical issues anyway.

luthersloan wrote:1) you are right, cash wages can fall to zero. I concede that point above, but I think this really a sort of accounting artifact, and it would be highly strange to attach any moral significance to it.

I ask this again: Do you understand the concept of minimum wages?

Also, it's more than just an "accounting artifact" to take a market where people were making $50K/yr and suddenly shift it to where they're all being asked to do it for free.

luthersloan wrote:2) This is just the way a market wage declines in the real world.

Market wages aren't supposed to decline to zero in the real world. This is exactly the reason people are protesting this. We've chosen to build a system in which zero wages should not happen, and yet somebody, and not just somebody but a federal judge, is disrupting this.

luthersloan wrote:3) This assumes that there is fixed number of jobs. This is clearly not the case in either the real world, or the Campos piece. The judge was hiring an extra clerk, and there is ever reason to think that whoever is hired for that job would not have had as good a job in terms of total compensation if this option was blocked.

It doesn't assume a "fixed" number of jobs. It only assumes that some paying jobs will still exist if no unpaying jobs are allowed to. Any other reading is reading more into what I said than is there.

That said, employers only generally hire people (paid or unpaid) because they have work to be one. This generates a fairly stable limit on the number of jobs being offered; since his two paid employees are salaried and thus don't cost more if he produces more work for them, this judge wouldn't take on a third clerk if his two existing clerks could handle it. The reason he's taking on a third clerk is clearly that he has enough work for three clerks. If he were required to pay all his clerks, it's not unimaginable that he would pay for the third clerk. But even if he didn't, and chose to stick with two, those two would still be getting paid. The alternative I was discussing would have none of them getting paid, which is clearly bad for the two clerks in paying positions.

Also, before you suggest it, it's ridiculous to think that free labor would make judges suddenly start hiring substantially more clerks than they needed. Two reasons: 1) This would actually damage the value of a clerkship in the eyes of future employers, since they'd know that some clerks might have just sat around on their thumbs all day, and thus there'd be no value to people clerking for free and they'd stop doing it. 2) Employers don't like to be responsible for more employees than they need to be. Even if that clerk isn't getting paid, he's still someone the judge has to provide direction and feedback to, and who the judge might be responsible for if the clerk misbehaves, or makes a mistake, or becomes the innocent victim of some defendant/witness' violent outburst. So it's not like the number of clerkships would rapidly expand just because judges could get them for free. They might each take on one extra clerk, but in the grand scheme of things, that's not creating enough new positions to change the analysis much.

luthersloan wrote:Obviously I agree that raising ethical objections or enforcing wage laws would change the situation, I just think it would change it largely for the worse.

Please justify this. It also sounds ridiculous, and you don't even attempt to provide reasons for it.

How does raising ethical objections or enforcing wage laws change the situation? There are only a couple possible outcomes:

A) The judge, and anyone else with any power to do anything, ignores the protests. Nothing gets worse than it already is.

B) Judges agree to pay their clerks. This stops the potential slide toward all clerks making zero wages. If the number of clerkships stays relatively constant, then the clerks keep making money, and since judges need clerks and society is willing to pay for them, the number of clerks will probably stay level. If the number of clerkships would have exploded into a glut of unpaid workers, then it prevents that, which is good since said glut could diminish the value of clerking, creating a situation where more people might have clerked, but clerking would have ultimately meant less for all of them, and still cost them a full year of unpaid wages. So, I have trouble seeing this as a loss in any real way.

C) The judge doesn't agree to pay their clerks, but a government agency or legislative action forces him to. Things have ultimately the same outcome as in B, other than the judge being unhappy he was forced to do something he didn't want, which, well, who gives a damn about that.

In what scenario can you come up with (that's actually plausible, mind you) where this would ultimately be worse for the parties involved?

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Re: Caveat emptor

Postby vanwinkle » Thu Nov 22, 2012 4:40 pm

luthersloan wrote:Not that it really matters, but no, I think outside of slavery, deception, or a case where the workers dire situation was the employers doing, I do not think exploitation occurs.

Of course I also don't think minimum wage laws are a good idea.

This is pretty much all you needed to say. If you have no moral view of employer treatment, then you can't understand when other people do.

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Re: Caveat emptor

Postby luthersloan » Thu Nov 22, 2012 5:20 pm

As to the definition of explotation point, I agree, I should have made clear that I was uncertain as to whether it was a new definition, or whether I had misunderstood what your definition was, because its only application was in the context of a something v. nothing case.

I think the immorality of exploitation point is just a question just a dispute, as you say, about our different views about the moral dimensions of the treatment of employees. So either we disagree about what is exploitation, or what is morality, in either event it is clear that you think there are moral dimensions to these choices and I don't. I doubt it would be useful for us to try to resolve this issue, as neither of us has really provided reasons.

I do understand the idea underlying the minimum wage, and I think it is incorrect. But I already said that.

I think this essentially flows from the disagreement about the moral relevence of employment, but I disagree that there is a meaningful distinction between employment and education. In both cases a person is doing something that they think will increase their future wages, and/or provide consumption opportunities or psychic benefits. In both cases the person either pays, or is paid, in cash for this opportunity.

I disagree that it “reeks of unsophisticated thinking,” but you know that. If you have a reason for this contention, other than an unjustified emphasis on the fact that in one case the employer profits from your presence, and in the other case it does not, please elaborate. Incidentally, this is not even really true, in that a school seeks to recruit students with LSAT scores and grades which will produce value in the form of reputation, and who hopefully will do things both in school and in the professional world that will enhance their standing. Drawing a distinction between the benefit a judge receives, which of course is also not monetary, seems odd, since they are both reputational in nature.

My comment about the experience being not useful was a qualifier to suggest that it is possible, given additional facts, that if the experience was not useful there could be a problematic kind of exploitation going on.

I think we have no disagreement on the accounting question, other than the moral dimension which is likely to be intractable, or take longer than would be worthwhile to resolve.

All I said what it is an accounting artifact to treat the number as zero, the amount of total compensation clearly has fallen.

Obviously, I disagree with the moral dimension again, and for the reasons we have already gone over, do not thing the wages really are zero, even if there is no cash changing hands.

I agree there are unlikely to be a substantial increase in the number of clerks, but there will probably be a small increase, like in this case. If that leads to a decline in wages for other clerks, which has less to do with the effect of the free clerk and more to do with the realization on the part of the federal government that they do not need to pay clerks, I fail to see how that would be paid. The loss born by the clerks would be offset by a gain to the federal government, and there would also be a new clerk gaining valuable experience. That seems to be a net gain from a social welfare perspective.

I think the above is also responsive to your last point. The likely outcome, if the judge held their course is a small increase in the number of clerks (a few hundred at most), possibly a reduction in wages to the still paid clerks, possibly to zero, with an increase in the overall amount of quality legal experience. It is suppose possible that the damage to clerkship credential would be larger than the gain in real world experience, but again the credential effect is largely a distributional one. That is the gain of a credential to someone produces no real value, aside from an increase in the easy of employers selecting high quality employees, whereas the increase in skill set will presumably actually impact the productivity of the clerks. The revenue effects will be clerks poorer, taxpayers/marginal recipient of government spending richer. I see that as a wash. On balance then, it seems like a net gain to the world, unless you you view this changed rate of compensation as distributionally problematic. I do not, because lawyers, even in this market, are likely to have a higher lifetime income than the marginal taxpayer or recipient of federal spending, and federal clerks are likely to have even higher life time incomes than the average lawyer.

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Re: Caveat emptor

Postby vanwinkle » Thu Nov 22, 2012 5:44 pm

There's very little point in discussing things with you, since you reject the reasoning behind minimum wage and thus pretty much reject the entire morality being discussed here. But I wanted to touch on a few things:

luthersloan wrote:I disagree that it “reeks of unsophisticated thinking,” but you know that. If you have a reason for this contention, other than an unjustified emphasis on the fact that in one case the employer profits from your presence, and in the other case it does not, please elaborate. Incidentally, this is not even really true, in that a school seeks to recruit students with LSAT scores and grades which will produce value in the form of reputation, and who hopefully will do things both in school and in the professional world that will enhance their standing. Drawing a distinction between the benefit a judge receives, which of course is also not monetary, seems odd, since they are both reputational in nature.

The way someone "benefits" from reputation is totally different from the direct benefit one obtains from the labor of another. My point, and this is actually a fairly simple and easy-to-understand point, is that in education the educator is not asking the student to generate work product for the educator's benefit. The educator does benefit in other ways, by being paid for their services, by gaining reputation and standing, etc., but they do not actually gain a direct benefit from the labor of the students. In employment, the employer is asking the employee to generate work product for the employer's benefit. They are gaining a direct benefit from the labor of the employee. This is a pretty clear distinction, and an important one. There's nothing odd about this; it is the entire conceptual difference between "education" and "employment".

The benefit the judge receives is not directly monetary, but it is labor worthy of compensation. The benefit that most employers receive from their employees is not directly monetary, but is labor worthy of compensation. If a business hires someone to sweep the floors, there is no direct quantifiable "monetary benefit" to having cleaner floors, and yet the person they hire is still performing labor for their benefit. The business derives a reputational benefit in that it has a reputation for cleaner floors, but it also derives a direct labor-derived benefit in that its previously unclean floors are now clean.

The judge does ultimately derive benefit from the labor of his employees, and that benefit is monetizable in the amount of money that labor is worth. It's monetizable in the value of having people do research and write opinions, which, by the way, is what we pay the judge for, so the judge also derives a monetary benefit by having to do less work himself for the same pay. If we as a society suddenly start letting full-time labor be worth zero dollars, then we've destroyed the entire existing concept of employment and wages, because right now the concept of "employment" is doing labor for the benefit of another and "wages" is the concept that you should be paid at least a minimum wage for that. (This isn't an argument about whether you believe in minimum wage and such, but just an argument about whether you concede it's the status quo and that a shift away from the status quo is occurring.)

Assertions like this are ridiculous and make you look stupid, not just in an "I believe in Ayn Rand" way, but in a "I don't even think through what I'm saying before I say it" way.

luthersloan wrote:The revenue effects will be clerks poorer, taxpayers/marginal recipient of government spending richer. I see that as a wash.

I think this is where you get lost: People have a concept of fairness that is more than just everything balancing out on the whole. To illustrate: If we forced people to be slaves and work for free, but only to build infrastructure that would otherwise cost taxpayers money, then the loss to the slaves is offset by the gain to the taxpayers and it's a wash, right? Sure, things sound good when you ignore the morality of severely unequal outcomes, which is exactly what you're doing, and apparently why you reject the logic of minimum wage laws. This is exactly the purpose of a minimum wage law, the concept I keep asking if you understand, and which the above comment clearly shows you don't: The idea that there will always be inequality, but there is such a thing as too much inequality, and that at some point too much gain on one side for too much loss on the other side becomes immoral even if it does somehow "balance out" on the whole.

Morally it is wrong to exploit people into free labor that you would otherwise have to pay for. (That latter part is contextual; these are paying jobs, which have always until now been understood as the type of labor you earned money for doing.) This is true whether that free labor benefits society or not. The fact that you think a benefit to society somehow makes it better to take advantage of people is, I think, why people are having such a visceral reaction to your one-dimensional worldview.

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Re: Caveat emptor

Postby 20160810 » Thu Nov 22, 2012 5:51 pm

luthersloan wrote:Not that it really matters, but no, I think outside of slavery, deception, or a case where the workers dire situation was the employers doing, I do not think exploitation occurs.

Of course I also don't think minimum wage laws are a good idea.

QFLochner

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Re: Caveat emptor

Postby luthersloan » Thu Nov 22, 2012 6:06 pm

You have not provided a reason, other than it would alter the contemporary understanding of the division between employment and education, for dividing direct and indirect benefits. You say that in case where a person is doing things for the direct benefit of the employer that should be compensated with money, and the same logic does not apply to the indirect benefit flows that attend educational relationships, but you don't give a reason for that, aside from the contemporary understanding of what is school and what is work. I am saying that the distinction between school and work is not defensible. Though I concede that it is a real distinction in our legal and political discourse, and recognizing its irrelevance, at least in some circumstances, would effect our views of things like the minimum wage.

Your point could have been made with equal effect without the insult.

Okay, I think there is just some confusion going on here with the minimum wage. The minimum wage and this issue are really different, even though this involves a wage at a rate of zero dollars.

In theory a minimum wage is supposed to redistribute wealth to very poor people, I reject the minimum wage not because that is a bad objective, but because it is a bad way to go about that objective. Now, the objective of transferring wealth to the very poor is just not applicable to the case of a federal clerk who works for free for a year, because taking a life time view of their earnings, they are no where near poor.

Also, there is a fundamental difference between an employment arrangement, which is voluntary, in which a federal clerk decides to work for free and slavery. I certainly agree that in the case of an involuntary exchange, the answer is clear, and one cannot invoke an offsetting benefits argument. But for that to apply to this case, you would have to view the clerk as having some inviolate moral right to their 50K salary, which seems far fetched in the extreme. I think you just misunderstood my point, as I did not consider the fairness of the exchange, because I do not think the concept of fairness has content.

You say that it is immoral to covert paying work into non-paying work, but you offer no reasons. I think this is just a point of fundamental disagreement. I agree it would be wrong to force someone to enter into a value losing relationship, like slavery, but don't think it is wrong to make already rather wealthy people somewhat poorer.

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Re: Caveat emptor

Postby prezidentv8 » Fri Nov 23, 2012 3:49 am

This has to be some trollin up in this biznass.

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Re: Caveat emptor

Postby BeenDidThat » Fri Nov 23, 2012 4:09 pm

luthersloan wrote:You have not provided a reason, other than it would alter the contemporary understanding of the division between employment and education, for dividing direct and indirect benefits. You say that in case where a person is doing things for the direct benefit of the employer that should be compensated with money, and the same logic does not apply to the indirect benefit flows that attend educational relationships, but you don't give a reason for that, aside from the contemporary understanding of what is school and what is work. I am saying that the distinction between school and work is not defensible. Though I concede that it is a real distinction in our legal and political discourse, and recognizing its irrelevance, at least in some circumstances, would effect our views of things like the minimum wage.

Your point could have been made with equal effect without the insult.

Okay, I think there is just some confusion going on here with the minimum wage. The minimum wage and this issue are really different, even though this involves a wage at a rate of zero dollars.

In theory a minimum wage is supposed to redistribute wealth to very poor people, I reject the minimum wage not because that is a bad objective, but because it is a bad way to go about that objective. Now, the objective of transferring wealth to the very poor is just not applicable to the case of a federal clerk who works for free for a year, because taking a life time view of their earnings, they are no where near poor.

Also, there is a fundamental difference between an employment arrangement, which is voluntary, in which a federal clerk decides to work for free and slavery. I certainly agree that in the case of an involuntary exchange, the answer is clear, and one cannot invoke an offsetting benefits argument. But for that to apply to this case, you would have to view the clerk as having some inviolate moral right to their 50K salary, which seems far fetched in the extreme. I think you just misunderstood my point, as I did not consider the fairness of the exchange, because I do not think the concept of fairness has content.

You say that it is immoral to covert paying work into non-paying work, but you offer no reasons. I think this is just a point of fundamental disagreement. I agree it would be wrong to force someone to enter into a value losing relationship, like slavery, but don't think it is wrong to make already rather wealthy people somewhat poorer.


A component part of most normal people's concept of fairness is some level of equality. This is at least in part because most of us recognize that the economic and monetary system we've put into place, and for the outcomes of which we accept some responsibility, are imperfect in rewarding beneficent labor.

I'm not going to continue in this discussion, because it generally boils down to a fundamental disagreement on the necessity of gov't and the proper role between gov't and individual.

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Re: Caveat emptor

Postby nygrrrl » Fri Nov 23, 2012 4:25 pm

vanwinkle wrote:
luthersloan wrote:So at what point exactly does it become exploitation to employ someone who needs work?

When they pay nothing to that person. Part of the reason people need work is to have money to live. It becomes exploitation when you get those people to work, without paying them anything, except the mere hope that someone else will actually pay them later.

Continuing this line of thought, how do you feel about unpaid internships? (This is a hot topic among a group of my friends - would be interested to hear your POV)

ETA: (Fwiw? I think the subject of this thread is chilling.)

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Re: Caveat emptor

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Fri Nov 23, 2012 4:51 pm

It's a pretty well-established norm that people deserve to be paid for working and there are laws enforcing this norm. The exceptions to those laws are designed to be extremely minimal. Internships are meant to be educational experiences. The judge is seeking a third clerk to do the same work as two other clerks who are, apparently, deemed worthy of compensation for that work. I don't see any justification for the distinction other than the fact that the job market enables it. That is clearly not a sufficient justification in our society or legal system because we have put safeguards in place to prevent just this from happening in other contexts.

This judge is tiptoeing near literal indentured servitude with the "moral commitment" to working for him for a year, and probably the only reason it's only a "moral" commitment and not a legal one is that no court would ever enforce such an "employment" contract. Even, I suspect, Judge Martinez's court.

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Re: Caveat emptor

Postby nygrrrl » Fri Nov 23, 2012 5:16 pm

SBL wrote:
luthersloan wrote:Not that it really matters, but no, I think outside of slavery, deception, or a case where the workers dire situation was the employers doing, I do not think exploitation occurs.

Of course I also don't think minimum wage laws are a good idea.

QFLochner

Well played.
Also, I agree with VW: This is pretty much all you needed to say.

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vanwinkle
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Re: Caveat emptor

Postby vanwinkle » Fri Nov 23, 2012 5:20 pm

nygrrrl wrote:
vanwinkle wrote:
luthersloan wrote:So at what point exactly does it become exploitation to employ someone who needs work?

When they pay nothing to that person. Part of the reason people need work is to have money to live. It becomes exploitation when you get those people to work, without paying them anything, except the mere hope that someone else will actually pay them later.

Continuing this line of thought, how do you feel about unpaid internships? (This is a hot topic among a group of my friends - would be interested to hear your POV)

See, this. This is where the actual intelligent discussion is at. Instead of arguing over whether morality exists, we can actually talk about where the boundaries should lie.

My initial reaction is that I have little problem with internships at not-for-profit entities while still in school. I'm definitely agsinst unpaid internships with for-profit institutions, since that becomes a backdoor to free labor, but for PI/gov't positions there's not the same risk. I wish PI/gov't internships were paid, but I'll accept unpaid ones. There are a few reasons for this: 1) A person who's still in school is clearly continuing their education, and has the financial resources available that educational institutions and society typically offer to cover education expenses. 2) Generally the primary purpose of these internships is to give students an educational opportunity; if it were to get labor out of people, they'd want fully educated and trained people for these positions. 3) The pro bono work being done benefits a needy member or class of society.

This raises obvious questions about why I oppose this unpaid clerkship option. After all, the work doesn't just benefit the judge, if it improves the judge's job performance than it benefits society, which goes to my pro bono point (#3). But clearly this isn't being offered as primarily educational (#2); for clerkships, judges seek people who are already graduated from law school and favor those with work experience, because the emphasis is on their ability to produce solid work product. (Yes, it also provides an educational experience, but this is a really stupid point since nearly all jobs teach us and give us experience, yet generally we expect to be paid for our labor.)

Further, legal employers credit clerkships as work experience, and while they do place value on whether and where someone interned in law school, it's clearly understood that internships are part of the educational experience and not actual practice experience.

I wish unpaid internships were paid, but I'm grateful for the unpaid internship opportunities I had while I was in school. The key, of course, is while I was in school; it's far less morally offensive to ask someone to work without pay when it's understood to be an educational opportunity while in school, then it is when it's full-time post-graduation employment that is clearly in the realm of labor deserving payment.
nygrrrl wrote:ETA: (Fwiw? I think the subject of this thread is chilling.)

Me too.

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Tiago Splitter
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Re: Caveat emptor

Postby Tiago Splitter » Fri Nov 23, 2012 5:39 pm

If we're ever going to make an exception to the minimum wage rules, wouldn't this be the area in which to do it? Given that the judge doesn't get to decide how many paid clerks get hired nor can he adjust their salaries, it seems that there is an argument to be made that this has zero impact on the total number of paid federal clerks. To me the primary concern with allowing free labor is that free workers will displace paid ones, but that doesn't seem to be an issue here.

Perhaps there still is a slippery slope argument in that if lots of judges start doing this the rules will change in the long run. And a Federal Judge doing it could lead the parties we really don't want doing this sort of thing to think it's okay.

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Re: Caveat emptor

Postby vanwinkle » Fri Nov 23, 2012 7:52 pm

Tiago Splitter wrote:If we're ever going to make an exception to the minimum wage rules, wouldn't this be the area in which to do it? Given that the judge doesn't get to decide how many paid clerks get hired nor can he adjust their salaries, it seems that there is an argument to be made that this has zero impact on the total number of paid federal clerks. To me the primary concern with allowing free labor is that free workers will displace paid ones, but that doesn't seem to be an issue here.

If additional clerks are truly necessary, then whoever does decide will ultimately face pressure to allocate money for those additional clerks... unless, of course, the shortfall can be covered through free labor. Permitting free labor does ultimately displace future paid workers, since it practically ensures new paid positions will be created, even ones that would have been absent the free labor alternative.

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dingbat
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Re: Caveat emptor

Postby dingbat » Sat Nov 24, 2012 1:04 pm

I disagree with the above re unpaid internships. I think that if someone works, that person should get paid. I can accept lower wages for interns, but not free labor. I have never worked for free and I abhor the concept that I should have to not get paid "because I'm a student". Why should I have earned more as a 12 year old than a college graduate at his/her first job?

The only exception I'm open to, is certain jobs where the internship really is training, like for surgery. But to suggest that someone should not get paid at all for doing labor, even if it is just licking envelopes or fetching coffee, is ridiculous. At Starbucks people get paid to fetch coffee and at Kinko's for sealing envelopes.

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vanwinkle
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Re: Caveat emptor

Postby vanwinkle » Sat Nov 24, 2012 1:23 pm

dingbat wrote:I disagree with the above re unpaid internships. I think that if someone works, that person should get paid. I can accept lower wages for interns, but not free labor. I have never worked for free and I abhor the concept that I should have to not get paid "because I'm a student". Why should I have earned more as a 12 year old than a college graduate at his/her first job?

The unpaid legal internships I've done have all benefited me far more than my "employer". The emphasis in these jobs was on my learning and not my labor, and even though I ultimately did produce some work product, my supervisor frequently would spend more time reviewing my material and helping me understand my mistakes than if they'd just done the work themselves. Plus, since there was more emphasis on my learning than on work product, a lot of what I did was just observing how my supervisors did the work themselves (including sitting in trials and appellate oral arguments).

I agree with you on the principle that people should always be paid for their labor, but in these training internships it's hard to distinguish how much is really "labor" and how much is really educational benefit, and in my experience it tips very heavily toward the latter. That's why I accept that they're not paid, even though I think they should be. Well, that and the fact that there would be far fewer of them if they all had to be paid positions, since a lot of them are with underfunded PI/NGO/gov't positions that couldn't afford to hire a bunch of incompetent interns and spend most of their time training them just to watch them leave at the end of the summer.

It's also distinguishable from a situation like a post-graduate clerkship, where you're definitely learning on the job, but the focus is on the job and your work product. Your learning curve is steeper and you're expected to stick around and do a lot of valuable labor, not just feel like you've learned something and call it a day.

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Re: Caveat emptor

Postby dingbat » Sat Nov 24, 2012 1:34 pm

vanwinkle wrote:
dingbat wrote:I disagree with the above re unpaid internships. I think that if someone works, that person should get paid. I can accept lower wages for interns, but not free labor. I have never worked for free and I abhor the concept that I should have to not get paid "because I'm a student". Why should I have earned more as a 12 year old than a college graduate at his/her first job?

The unpaid legal internships I've done have all benefited me far more than my "employer". The emphasis in these jobs was on my learning and not my labor, and even though I ultimately did produce some work product, my supervisor frequently would spend more time reviewing my material and helping me understand my mistakes than if they'd just done the work themselves. Plus, since there was more emphasis on my learning than on work product, a lot of what I did was just observing how my supervisors did the work themselves (including sitting in trials and appellate oral arguments).

But that's a supervisor's job - A) to make sure that the work is of the quality required, and B) to train the new staff to be able to do the job
(note how my answer is specifically not geared toward a summer-only internship. I can understand the need of students, but I don't understand the rationale for employers where someone whose only there for the summer results in a net loss of productivity)




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