Sleepless

By Jason Ropp

TimeMarcus blinked back to reality. “Such a lovely dream,” he said as he leaned to the left and mashed the snooze, inciting five light puffs of air that struck his face. Thirty seconds later he opened his eyes yet again and yawned, sprawling his arms as wide as the sleep-eaze would allow. “Now that’s more like it.”

The glass door, framed in a bright polished stainless steel opened with a hiss as the airlock released. Marcus glanced at the clock on the opposite wall, which glowed 9:01 in neon. “One of these hours I’m going to stop sleeping in so much.” He slipped out of his red friction-free velvet, sleep-eaze compatible jumpsuit and into his tailored three piece suit, a steal he had picked up the other day for only $2,395.99 from the body scan seamstress booth down the street. This would catch Murphy’s eye. He grabbed his tablet off the bureau, folded it to the size of a wallet and tucked it in his breast pocket.

Since he was in a bit of a hurry, Marcus grabbed a light second dinner. A 10-ounce New York strip with a side of steamed shrimp lightly buttered with a touch of basil, and garlic mashed potatoes. “Perfect,” he said to himself, “and perfectly lonely.” He poked at the steak with his fork. “Bah! Pull yourself together.” He set the plate, still half covered with second dinner, and the silverware into the dishwasher, which whirred to life with a soft hum, ejecting the now spotless plate onto a side tray with a ding. The silverware dispensed like change just below. He set them on the shelf next to his cup and headed for the door.

During his commute, Marcus turned on the auto-drive, unfolded his tablet and eased into the dark unit by responding to a few emails as he made his way down the 429. “Send message to Diana Marton, Same-Unit Shipping Solutions. Begin:

Diana, thank you for the update on the overseas costs. I know I’ve been pushing you pretty hard on this one, but I promise I’ll make it worth your while. Maybe an all expenses two unit, double stop vacay to Antarctica, and that new inland Congo river resort that just opened up. I heard they give the staff access to the sleep-eaze, so it’s not one of those nasty shut down for dark hours places you hear about outside post sleep countries. I don’t have any promises, but Murphy has been upping incentives lately.

But that all depends on what we can do with shipping. I mean 51.5 hours to get 45.8 tons from St. Louis to Beijing? Really? We’ve got a waking economy here, which you know means double income, double consumption, double demand, which means we need the surplus inventory, before this all goes down. Remember what happened when Australia switched over? The strike by sleep lovers, the infamous 35.25 hour shutdown in Sydney’s port? Pandemonium, riots, disruption in global economy growth. Do you really want to be responsible for economic chaos in the world’s most important emerging market? Beijing is only the beginning. They’re predicting the first billion will be on half-sleep masks by the end of this decade.

In summary: if you value the wonderful relationship our companies have had for the last 25 meta-units, you know what to do.

End message.

Marcus looked up just in time to see a billboard for a new casino lighting up the rolling underside of the ever- present charcoal clouds. A debonair billionaire surrounded by other celebrity types, a slender blonde on his left arm as he rolled the dice. Marcus sighed. “If only there were more hours in a unit.”

Income vs. jobs: The minimum wage Red Herring

By Andrew Sharp

The guy ringing up your order of fries can’t survive on his minimum wage paycheck. But can anything be done about that? Recent debates about the minimum wage — what it should be and whether there should even be one — have been brought to the forefront by fast food workers demanding their pay be doubled. Well-meaning people take different sides of this argument. The problem is that it’s the wrong argument.

The standard argument generally runs as follows:
Kind-hearted labor advocate: These people can’t live on the money they’re making. They deserve fair pay and the minimum wage needs to be raised to give it to them. People should make enough at their jobs to pay the bills.

Thoughtful capitalist: Raising minimum wage won’t help. Rich business owners will keep their money, and they’ll just raise the prices on all of us to cover the higher wage. Then there will be fewer jobs.
Arrogant capitalist, chiming in: Yeah, and the poor people need to get college degrees or actually get a real job that pays the bills, not a high-schooler’s job. They signed up for that wage, they should just be happy with it or go work somewhere else.

I hardly need to rebut arrogant capitalist; his argument is snide and flimsy (especially because I made it a straw man). But the other ideas are worth careful thought.
Many of those who argue against raising the minimum wage insinuate — or say outright — that there shouldn’t be a minimum wage at all, because then the free market could have full reign as God intended and there would be plenty of jobs for all.

Presumably, we could then all go back to a happier day when everyone had a job at whatever rate the rich people felt like paying, and lived in squalid shacks without health care or enough food or heat in the winter.

In those golden days, when the free market reigned with an iron hand, its serfs often lived and died in squalid conditions. Ask your grandfather, if he’s still around, how he liked breathing coal dust for a living in Appalachian mines. He died at 39, you say? Well, at least it’s a mercy that the family has been able to make a new life on the inheritance he passed down, since he received a fair reward for his hard work. What’s that? Penniless? Oh.

Therein is the flaw, of course. Rather than argue about whether the minimum wage will fix anything, why are we not questioning rich business owners who refuse to cut into their profits for fair employee benefit, but instead choose to pass the costs along to the customers? Of course it’s legal — and good capitalism — but does being legal make it good? The relationship between law and justice is often only a casual one.

While we argue over whether the minimum wage will work, we often ignore the deeper issue of whether free market capitalism, as touted by many of its proponents, is really a good thing. At this point in the discussion, some people will start to get very upset. Their faces flush. They breathe faster. They howl, “BUT THAT WON’T WORK PEOPLE ARE GREEDY AND SELFISH CAPITALISM IS THE BEST WAY CONSIDERING HUMAN NATURE ADAM SMITH HARD-EARNED GAINS NO WELFARE STATE YOU CAN’T FORCE PEOPLE TO BE GENEROUS” and so on.

Sure, maybe unchecked capitalism works, for some people. But again, is it good? If we let people compete savagely with greed and selfishness, with only the fit surviving, we may indeed end up creating vast wealth. But will we end up with a prosperous, happy society? Minimum wage is not a fix, in such a system. Rather, it is a sad symptom of greed.

While I can’t answer these profound questions that people have been wrestling with for centuries — this is an opinion column, not a philosophical breakthrough — I would like to make two simple suggestions. (And no, for those who have been getting worked up, it’s not to get rid of capitalism.) One suggestion is that we no longer assume that business owners who hog all the wealth they can get are somehow virtuous, achievers of the American dream, if they got there by screwing their workers. That kind of behavior should be a shame, spoken of in hushed tones, rather than lauded as success.

And two, I submit that a minimum wage is a good check on greed. If we raise it back up to 1970 levels, adjusting for inflation, and as a result we all have to pony up a few more pence for a hamburger, I don’t think it will kill us. Although the hamburger might.