May 24, 2006

Minimum wage = Minimum work

Should, in a free market system, the degree or intensity of ones labor be directly correlated with the dollars supplied for that unit of labor? Should there be an assumption that regardless of the rate of pay, that a worker should always expend maximum effort? I ask these questions as a result of the debate on immigration and the effect of immigrant labor upon the African American workforce and how and why the Hispanic worker is favored by employers over African Americans.

It must first be noted that one man’s perception of exploitation is another man’s perception of opportunity. Different environments and experiences create different conditions and hence conditioning. Black people have existed in an environment of America under the conditions of racial oppression for the purpose of exploitation for financial gain, for over 300 years. Subsequently, in their freedom, they are averse to volunteer to be exploited, likely much more so than those who are not descendants of slavery in these American lands. Consequently, this aversion is seen and interpreted as laziness by outsiders, because some believe that one should provide maximum work, notwithstanding, minimum wages.

What we are talking about here is the expenditure of human energy. That is why jobs are called “Work”. Thus, should there not be a free market correlation between human caloric energy expenditure and the dollars paid per unit of work, such as an hour? If a minimum wage exists, and it does, then should it not be mapped to the expectation of minimum work? In the free market for commodities is it not expected that “you get what you pay for”? I mean no one expects to get a high end new car for the cost of a low end one, so why does the employment market expect to get high end human energy expenditure, labor, for the lowest possible price?

Of course, maximizing the efforts of labor, while minimizing the price paid for labor, is the closet that "the system" can get to slave like profits in a free society. What the system needs to pull this off is dependency on the system to provide jobs in order that those dependant may survive, and to have a larger supply of people without jobs than there are job openings. When this is achieved, job creators can use the oversupply of labor to bid down wage rates and increase profit margins. That’s what globalization and immigration provides "the system" and American businesses. It increases the supply of labor relative to demand which in turn puts downward pressure on wages and upward pressure on profit margins for businesses, at least in the short run.

Many, if not most, of the Hispanic immigrants coming to America are desperate. The risk they take to get here is often evidence of that desperation as the average person would not take them. People who are desperate are prime candidates and targets for exploitation. There needs are taken advantage of. Thus, these are the people who voluntarily will do work that American citizens will not do for the same low wages.

Hispanic immigrants, due to the conditioning of the environment that they left and their need for work here in America, are willing to provide maximum work often for less than minimum pay, due to their lack of options. Reduced options results in reduced freedom as many people in America are less free than others and the least free are prime targets for exploitation. Desperate immigrants are the least free and hence most exploited. African Americans do not have that same degree of desperation, although many would like them too, and black people have a great distaste for being exploited and treated bad, born from their history. Its also worth nothing Hispanics who are US citizens are not willing to do the work, for the same pay, as hispanic immigrants who are not citizens, either.

In light of this, African Americans are the least favored worker in America. Blacks, more than any other group, due to the conditioning of our mistreatment and forced labor, practice free market economics in that the degree of labor we supply is directly correlated with the price paid for it. In other words, the more you pay for labor the harder black folks will work and the less you pay the less black folks are willing to work hard. That conflicts with business interest because their sole motive being profit, their profit is inversely correlated with pay. In other words, the less they pay their worker the more profit they make, if and only if, they can maintain productivity or the same degree of effort notwithstanding less pay. Hence, the more people are willing to be exploited, the more profits businesses can make. Thus, black people’s aversion to exploitation makes them the least favorite workers while desperate immigrants have become the favorites.

To be fair, not all businesses that pay low wages are exploiting their workers. Many businesses simply cannot afford to raise prices in order to pay workers more, without losing customers. Hence, their break even point, the point where revenues meet expenses, is determined by prices that people are willing to pay for the good or service, which they have no control over. However, that being true does not give license for the expectation that a minimally paid person should be working as hard as a maximally paid person. If the free market rule is that one gets what they pay for, then when one is paying very little it should come with the expectation that they will get an effort level correlated with the pay level, especially for a dead end job that has remote prospects for advancement. To have an expectation that the level of pay for labor have no relation to the level of effort provided by labor is to remove incentive from the market system, when it is in fact one of the psychological pillars of the capitalistic system.


At 7:24 PM, Blogger RaAmen said...

Brother Noah,

What an excellent post. This post is extremely relevent to how I felt as a youth working menial jobs and how I feel even today as an educated young adult. As a youth I refused to put forth maximum effort working at a local grocery due to the paltry wages I was recieving while literally doing back breaking work (pushing carts, cleaning restrooms, stocking groceries and cleaning up customer mishaps). Even today my motto is "work only as well as they pay".

This particular subject interwined with the limited options of immigrants strike a cord with me. A few years back while attending college I worked for AutoZone auto parts, and my manager was an immigrant from Mexico who hadnt as of that moment gained his citizenship in the U.S. He implored me constantly to work harder and could not understand why the more he spoke to my performance and lackadasical attitude, the slower I worked in defiance of his admonishments and prodding. Finally me and Isidro had a heart to heart talk where I explained to him that while AutoZone payed him a hefty sum of money to manage the store there was very little incentive for me to work harder or faster considering the wages I was paid and the fact that I viewed AutoZone as a stepping stone. I truly saw my employment at Autozone as only a temporary part time job to tide me over while in school, while AutoZone fed, clothed and provided shelter for his wife, two beautiful daughters and himself. Isidro had much more at stake than I did....And also got paid much more than I did.

Also let me say that this was an attitude that I noticed in quite a few of the Hispanic brothers while in the Military also. Yes, the Military accepted persons who were not U.S. citizens!

Bravo Bro. Noah, this piece of literary work reflects many of the attitudes of the youth today towards 'they system' and their refusal to be exploited and mistreated. I truly understand them.

At 2:51 AM, Blogger Constructive Feedback said...


What happened to you guys and your indoctrination board?

Are you taking a break, studying to see how you can lead my people astray even more?


At 10:31 PM, Blogger Terry Howcott said...

Mr. Noah,

I'm hopin' you will drop me a line at

At 8:48 PM, Blogger badblk said...

Wow what an eloquent dissertation on justification for being lazy. What about those who come from the middle class or poor of all races that decide to fill the job requirements within the job description they agreed to take on at the time of hiring? Are they selling out? This seems ridiculous to me as a young and educated man. I was taught the value of hard work and it has paid off for my family and me. This is the exact garbage that is hurting the race. Not everybody is meant to be an affluent individual. Name one society in history that has had that as the case. Good Luck. People of every race creed and religion have been oppressed at one point or another. It's the attitudes of the people and the determination they had that saw them through. Not some f--k it attitude. Look at the Irish in America. Or the Dutch indentured servants. Maybe we can learn from them and find ways to help the cause.

At 5:49 PM, Blogger Silvertongues said...

There is no exploitation in this day and age with or without a minimum wage unless you are an illegal immigrant.

Every other class of individuals has the right and ability to rise above the long hours and low pay of many jobs simply by enhancing their skills.

I agree that no minimum wage is not something we should go back to. On the other hand, a person's wage is really the negotiated amount a person agrees to receive in exchange for a negotiated amount of work. Market forces may depress wages when many individuals are willing to work for less but the problem is easily overcome when one has a skill that most others don't possess.

Bottomline: Don't be a fool, stay in school.


At 2:40 PM, Blogger abw said...

To be honest, I respect to some degree this opinion although I would not follow it. I think hard work is the slightly, SLIGHTLY, better strategy until blacks find a way to run their things. I must admit that many of the people that would benefit from the perspective of being more carefree, lazy, and laidback with less consequences seem to be people that have more in their favor like wealth, skin color(White), power and better access to educational resources(though not always intelligence)etc.These ARE things Blacks have less of in comparison to the general population.With that said,badblk, there are alot of working poor people that were born, have or do live and died with nothing. I can understand why you have "the poor will always be with us mentality," but that will not put the food on the table for folks who work hard and can barely survive or console people that worked hard and wound up with nothing. Respect and ideals of hard work will not feed these people although laziness won't. Also, as tenacious as many immigrants are, many of them are struggling and not making ends meet either. I do not say this to downplay the tenacity and accomplishments of immigrants particularly, -I respect them- just to point out that people should not let the idea of hard work blind them to the reality of dismal/problematic conditions that will only get worse if not confronted. Yeah, it could be worse and the Third World may have it harder, but these facts will not confront the economic problems of impoverished communities in the U.S. no more than being too laidback will. Also, blacks made alot of accomplishments in the past and had a stronger economic foundation in some ways in the past than we do now but we did not assimilate as well as the Irish or other immigrants even though we valued,emphasized, and did hard work,education and business more than those groups and more than we do now. Part of the reason I think we are broke now is because we have been working at no and low pay jobs since we been in this blame country. We still have too many black folk in low wage jobs despite all the protest to the contrary. the unemployment rate is not low but many black are working in high,medium,and minimum wage jobs-sometimes two and three-just like other groups. Blacks can learn from their own history(successes and failures) as much as anyone else. Really people should probably not be workaholics nor lackadaisical workers but in between. Anyway, I know that people feel that the world does not owe blacks anything but blacks don't owe " the world" three times everything nothing in return either. I am sick of people thinking that black folk should always accept dismal conditions for themselves as the norm because everybody else do.We don't always have to feel a need to prove our worth or apologize for our outlooks,quirks,or lack or power. Far too often, people that respect the values of hard work do not confront this reality.Education, Hard Work and Business(Cooperative businesses/economics) should be valued to this day, but people need to stop ignoring structural conditions.


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