Monday, February 1, 2010

A Modest Proposal...

And now, something to raise the hair on the back of the necks of readers who are "strict constructionist" when it comes to the Constitution, who believe in the possibility of interpreting same according to "original intent", and who, of course, think that God somehow ordained unrestrained free market capitalism:

"Making globalisation pay: Big corporations are using the banking crisis as an excuse for exploiting cheap labour. Is it time for a global minimum wage?"

"Just as the vast majority of developed economies from which most multinationals hail have minimum wage systems in place, it's time global corporations were made to apply similar practices in their overseas operations in poorer countries.

"In addition to an absolute rock bottom wage which they cannot go below, multinationals should be obliged to implement an indexed salary system in which workers in their overseas operations cannot earn less than, say, half of what a worker doing a similar job in their home territory earns.

"Complaints are bound to be heard about how this interferes with the efficient functioning of the free market. But I doubt CEOs and top managers would be so blase if it was their own jobs that were to be outsourced. I'm sure India and other developing countries are teeming with intelligent, capable entrepreneurs who could probably do a better job than many of our current crop of avaricious business leaders, and at a fraction of the cost.

"Besides, the free market already functions inefficiently – the rich domestic markets of multinationals are still quite well-protected fortresses. And, though we may have freer movement of goods and services than in the past, the movement of labour is severely restricted. In a truly free market, workers would go where the best-paying jobs are, rather than the jobs going to where the worst-paid workers are.

"More importantly, at its core, economics is about human wellbeing and if free-market orthodoxy fails to deliver on this, then something needs to be done to balance efficiency against ethics." (emphasis added)

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