Gongol.com Archives: February 2012
Brian Gongol

February 16, 2012

Business and Finance A $10 minimum wage? Not now.
A subcommittee in the Iowa Senate (that is, three people) approved a bill to raise Iowa's minimum wage to $10 an hour by 2013. The parties involved seem to acknowledge that the proposal really isn't going anywhere, but it's important to ask what the real goal is. Wages and salaries should, generally, represent a return on the amount of economic value that the individual's work creates. People who are more productive are generally paid more than those who are less so. Those who are at the lowest end of the pay scale are presumably there because they don't create a great amount of value per hour worked. Thus the real question is whether the problem is that some people aren't being paid very much, or that some people aren't able to create much value with their labor. If the problem is really the latter (and it is), then what we should be doing is looking for ways to help people increase the amount of value they create per hour worked. (This only makes sense: If you were a farmer a hundred years ago, and you saw that your neighbor consistently brought in half of the yield in crops that you did, you would be doing far more good to help him come up with ways to rise to your level of production than to try to force the grain buyer at the elevator to pay the neighbor twice as much per bushel as he paid everyone else for the same grain.) Some people (like teenagers) don't earn much because they don't have any work experience, which means they don't know yet how to add much value to the work they do. Raising the minimum wage makes entry-level jobs harder to create and find, which only makes it harder for people without job experience to gain it. Other people earn low wages because they lack the job skills to create much value and thus command higher pay. Over the long run, the just thing to do is to help them find ways to become more economically productive -- which in turn will be reflected in higher market rates of pay for their work.

Computers and the Internet Are social networks too big?
The website/app called Path seeks to limit "social networking" to one's 50 closest friends. The argument has it that nobody can really cognitively maintain more than that number of active friendships. One might wonder, though: Is that true for everyone equally? Some people are introverts; others are extroverts. Isn't it likely that one's degree of extroversion is positively correlated with the number of relationships one wants (or even needs) to maintain, and can?

Aviation News Swiss design satellite to clean up space junk
Thank you, Switzerland. This is needed more than most people could possibly know.

Science and Technology One word, son: Plastics
Finding ways to build plastics from renewable resources is a really good idea

The United States of America Ronald Reagan's coat of arms