Monday, August 14, 2017

Heroes in Blue and Gray

Heroes in Blue and Gray

There are many facets of the world that don't really make sense, but we accept nonetheless because it's just the way that the world is.  But since human beings are born with a blank slate, we must learn everything that we eventually accept as reality...somewhere...sometime. Sometimes it is caught, through a series of unintentional observations.  Sometimes it is taught, indoctrinated as a part of one's culture that is deliberately passed on to the next generation.  Either way, there is usually a point where the blank slate of a human mind is presented with a perplexing new concept and a set of beliefs about that concept, and we are forced to establish a belief about that concept.

At about the age of eight I was introduced to the concept of war through a civil war book called Heroes in Blue and Gray.  It detailed the various war heroes of the Northern and Southern armies and their respective achievements that made them widely admired.  War didn't make much sense to me because I couldn't understand the idea of killing another human being to establish supremacy. I was told that the object wasn't to kill, but to maim or injure the fighting force until victory was procured... but this explanation was lacking to say the least, and clearly didn't make sense to me then.  Nor does it today.

Now, strange as this may seem coming from someone writing a blog for others to read, I've never been much of a reader.  At least not a book reader.  So while I don't think I ever actually read the book that I referenced above, the subject matter contained therein did prove to be an excellent source of discussion material between myself and several adults who were in my life at the time.  Those discussions taught me a lot about the concept of war - particularly 18th and 19th century warfare.

One of the things that amazed me at the time was how "civilized" armies would wage war, lined up in squares facing one another and charging right into one another.  It seemed to be a surefire death warrant for the ones on the front lines and I could not for the life of me understand how they could co-opt soldiers to march straight into almost certain death.  Further, once they did get to the "middle" to fight, I wondered aloud how they could tell who were the so-called good guys and who belonged to the opposing army.  In other words, how did they know who to kill?  I was informed that one of the ways they knew was - like modern sports teams - the soldier uniforms were different colors (thus "blue" and "gray").  Easier to know who to kill when you can look at the color of their clothing.

Similarly, in pre-radio naval battles, I wondered how did one ship know if they should fire upon another ship or if that ship was an allied ship?  Presumably the ships would fly a flag (still true today) to identify the ship crew's allegiance.  With the flag displayed prominently, it was easy to see who was on your team and who was not.

I'm sure this is an oversimplification of the realities of war back then, but it's probably not too far off from the truth.

My eight year old mind quietly pondered these things, and once I had determined that the way to win a war was to inflict the highest number of casualties upon the enemy I came to the conclusion that the way they were fighting was stupid.  If one really wanted to hurt the enemy, I wondered, why would they not dress in the same clothing as the enemy to more easily infiltrate their ranks and attack them by surprise?  Or if by sea, why would they not simply fly the flag of the enemy on their ship so that they could attack more easily and by surprise?

Little did I know at the time that I was describing a war tactic called a "false flag attack" where the enemy infiltrates their opposition by wearing the clothes or flying the colors of the opposition so that they could attack from the inside.

As I view the news today, it becomes more and more obvious that what my eight year old mind saw so many years ago is the tactic du jour in modern warfare.  First we must divide people into groups.  If they don't self identify with a group, then we will create groups and assign people to them by certain beliefs, geographic regions, languages, or skin tones.  Then we generalize and de-individualize the members of those groups so that we make it seem like they all believe the same thing about everything.  Commonality is de-emphasized, and difference is emphasized.  Pit one group against another to create instability and a vacuum, making sure the media is present with sufficient coverage and a pre-ordained narrative to foment and cement the instability, then we sweep in to fill the vacuum. If we are unable to sufficiently egg on one group to violence against another group, then we will infiltrate their peaceful rallies and created violence in that group's name - then cover it extensively with the media. Rinse, repeat.

The world is not made up of groups, it is made up of individuals.  Mohandas Gandhi once said of religion, "In reality, there are as many religions are there are individuals."  The same is true with any number of beliefs.  Assigning people to groups is a way to reduce someone's independent individualism to a dehumanized group more easily susceptible to demonization.

They believe that we are all fools.  The only way this stops is if we realize that we are being played, and stop playing.

Right now, I think they may be right.  We might be fools.

Monday, August 29, 2016

I am literally begging you...

I'm begging you...

Looking back over 20 years of employment since I graduated college, I have seen that I have never had to go through the job hunt crap that most people have had to endure.  I've always worked for myself.  This has its pros and its cons, but in general it allows a lot more freedom than a job working for corporate America.

One of the freedoms that it has allowed me to pursue is my curiosity for knowledge.  I have basically been allowed, for the last 20 years, to read almost all day, almost every day, about whatever interested me.  Interestingly enough, nearly everything in our society ultimately is about money so whatever interested me was useful to my job in some fashion.  It didn't hurt that many, many things interest me.

Being in the financial services allowed me to see, first hand, the depths of depravity of mankind.  I got to witness over and over and over again how people will lie, cheat, steal, and sell out their grandmother for a little cash.  Not once, but about a hundred times or more I witnessed this.  It admittedly made me a bit more than a little cynical of...well...everything.

One of the things that interested me - because of the cynicism and because of some health issues that members of my family were going through - was the western medical system (vs eastern "traditional" herbs and natural treatments).  I read up on the FDA, patents, and alternative medicine.  Since I was an insurance agent, I read up on insurance payments and reimbursements.  I read everything I could get my computer on...and I began to apply my knowledge against the only thing that I found that I could trust - my own personal experience.  Since I was a cynic, I knew that profit motives were fierce and that even trusted sources could be compromised.  I began to experiment on myself.  Not willy nilly, though.  Did it have a history of safe use?  Was there a dosage that needed to be heeded?  A specific preparation method to be aware of?  I would read as much as I could, both pro and con, about different things then when I felt safe, I would test them on myself.  Did it work or did it not?  If it did work, I would begin to share the treatment ideas with my family.

Over the years, I found many things that I have become quite comfortable with using to treat various diseases.  Some treatments I cannot tell you *why* they work, only that they do.  Others I can tell you not only why they work, but why the conventional treatment is inferior - and why it is still used even though it is inferior.

I had to come to grips with the fact that while billions of dollars are annually given to charity x,y, or z every year to find a cure for_____ we often have the knowledge to prevent x,y, or z but we fail to disseminate that knowledge.  We love our conveniences, even if they make us sick and die.  My journey to where I am today did not happen overnight, but a series of events and close calls nearly landed me in a very bad place, health-wise.  I slowly began making various small changes that addressed the problems that I knew I was facing at the time.  While I am still far from where I would like to be, most people now consider me somewhat of a hippy or nature freak.  I accept that.

There are indeed many things that I think people should be doing to improve their health.  But first and foremost is a problem that nearly 1 out of every 2 people I encounter is dealing with, whether they know they are or not.  That problem is an excess of sugar and simple carbs (like white flour and breading).  Add that to an Omega 3:6 ratio that is WAYYYY out of balance (salad-type stuff and fish contains omega 3 fats, and nut/grain oils contain omega 6 fats), and most of our health problems in America can be traced to these two things.  Yes, I do mean that.  Nearly every major disease and health problem that Americans are facing can be PREVENTED AND CURED by changing our diets.

As an example, we have known for years that sugars (simple carbs) feed cancer cells.  Yet we eat sugars in amounts that no other nation in history has eaten them.  We also know that too many carbs are responsible for obesity, diabetes, some types of arthritis pain, and fibromyalgia. This is not a is a fact. But we continue to eat these things because - mainly - we see no alternative to not eating them.  Excess sugars not only cause systemic inflammation, they cause oxidative stress which then causes our cells to not function correctly and our bodies to age faster.

Making this ONE change will help Americans more than any other change that I can think less sugar and simple carbs and more whole foods.  Simple enough, right?  But when nearly every processed food that we buy has these cheap carb "fillers" in them, it really means we need to make some conscious changes in the way we live.  We also need to be careful what we replace our sugar with.  For instance, artificial sweeteners like aspartame are excitotoxins which are perhaps more harmful than the sugar that we were seeking to replace.  Additionally, replacing sugar with other simple carbs makes almost no difference to our body's metabolism.

There are, however, some simple - and tasty - bridge steps that we can use to get beyond sugar.  Thankfully, there are solutions that have come which allow us to wean ourselves off of some of our bad habits until we no longer desire them.  If you are at all interested in avoiding the hell of some of the diseases that I've seen wreck the lives and bodies of WAY too many of my friends, let me know.  I won't and can't charge you.  If you are reading this, it's probably because I love you - or you love me - and I want you around and healthy for a long time so your kids and grand kids can enjoy you.  Let me transfer the 20 years of reading I've been doing to something useful in your family life.  The side effect will be a more confident you with less pain and a healthier body.

I do love you...and I consider it a gift from God that you are in my life.  I want you around and healthy to enjoy life as we age.  The simple conveniences that we have enjoyed as fun addictions are killing us.  There are certainly mental, emotional, and spiritual addictions as well, but it's good to start with the physical.  Thankfully, there are some easy solutions (including moderation!) for that. Let's talk about them...I'm begging you!

Addicted to ...?
baked goods
fried foods
processed foods

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

How would Jesus vote?

How Would Jesus Vote:
A non-partisan examination of how Jesus as a U.S. citizen might cast his ballot

As the primary elections draw near for the 2016 presidential race many Christians find themselves considering their choice for who they would like to represent them and their country before the world. While it is not widely disputed that the population at large votes with their wallets, larger ethical issues loom for Christians who would hope to do what Jesus would do.  Since Jesus lived in first century Israel under Roman occupation, it is impossible to draw a direct connection to how he might vote in the 2016 U.S. primary elections.  Nonetheless, it is a question that many Christians grapple with as they peruse social media like Facebook full of memes that attempt to convince them that if they are followers of Jesus, they should vote (or feel) that Jesus supports a certain political party.

Prior to discerning how the Son of God might vote, it is important to consider what the role of government on earth serves.  The founders of the United States made their view of the role of government clear in the Declaration of Independence: 1
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men…
Government exists to secure “God-given” rights for citizens.  What, precisely, those rights are can be and is subject to great debate and interpretation.  Nonetheless, that the purpose of government is to secure those rights is not widely debated.  It does so through the societally sanctioned use of force to obtain compliance with instituted laws (Pilon).2  
Did Jesus promote worldly government?
          The first century Jews lived under a dual governmental system; one which maintained the general traditions and customs of their heritage and a second which caused the people and their traditions to ultimately be subject to the Roman leadership ().3  Jesus taught often of the kingdom of God, and referenced in the Lord’s prayer that his followers should actively pray that the kingdom of God come and be established on earth as it is in heaven ().4  It was clear in his teachings that the kingdom reference was spiritual and was an internal governance of and by the Spirit of God ().5  Clearly if Jesus were to have been concerned with making the kingdom of God manifest on earth through earthly governmental channels he could have pursued the political channels that so many Jews – including his disciples – seemed to think he was pursuing ().6 Instead, he rebuffed or hid from those who would have sought to make him their earthly king () and admonished listeners to practice self-governance based on the leading of the Spirit ().7,8 
          While it is true that Jesus stated acceptance for both Hebraic law () and the Roman occupational law (), he and his parents are recorded as having God’s blessing in disobeying manmade authority in both realms ().9,10,11  Indeed, had Jesus been living in the United States today his behavior with the money changers in the temple () would have earned him the charge of disorderly conduct - at the minimum - and possibly assault and battery.12  His parents would have been turned over to Child Protective Services for neglect when they left him at the temple as a youth ().13  His attempts to evade the law () would be considered resisting arrest.14  He disregarded the prescribed penalty for the woman caught in adultery () and massively reinterpreted the law on divorce () and murder.15,16  Jesus was clearly not overly concerned with the laws of man; he was concerned with the laws and timing of God.  He never sought to compel people to follow God’s laws, but exhorted them to submit themselves to God’s rule ().17
          It has been argued for centuries that government is a “divine institution” derived from “divine authority”; therefore, it is the Christian duty to participate in the process and enforce morality ().18  This notion continues today in much of the Christian writings and political debate on such issues as homosexual marriage, war maneuverings, and social welfare programs.  It has been argued that since Jesus did not actively oppose the Roman military (), and he stated that wars will continue until he returns () that he implicitly endorsed a nation’s right to engage in state sponsored wars.19,20  If such an argument can be accepted, Jesus, through his silence against government, might also be said to endorse the death penalty (crucifixion), gladiator games, and burdensome taxation.  Jesus, however, did not seem to endorse man’s justice in any regard ().21 He instead taught a transcendent message of voluntary submission first to God, but extending to one’s earthly authorities and even one’s enemies ().22
Duty of the state? Or the individual?
          Much of the current debate over helping the poor, for instance, comes down to not only how the poor are helped but who does society consider to be “the poor”.  David Platt makes a fairly convincing argument that to not hold a deep conviction for helping the poor might indicate that a person who claimed to be a Christian never really had a faith.23  If society is organized as a socialist or communist state, then, are Christians absolved from personal responsibility to help others due to communal responsibility?  Or was Jesus actually advocating a socialist form of government and wealth redistribution?  Biblical examples of giving to others seem to be as much focused on removing the sense of pride, haughtiness, and false-security than on the actual benefit to the poor person ().24  Likewise, scripture provides ample admonitions against over-reliance on wealth ().25  Society is comprised of multitudes of individuals.  By realigning the heart-attitudes of the individual, society as a whole would benefit.
                Asking, “For whom would Jesus vote?” seems akin to asking the rhetorical question, “Which leprosy doctor would Jesus refer me to?”  Can it be considered within any reasonable means that Jesus would participate in a process designed to secure his rights through the force of man? The earthly system of governance seeks to establish a kingdom of power and justice by way of the rule of imperfect man (who does what is right in his own eyes).  Evidence of this can be seen quite clearly in the following passage from 1 Samuel 8:5-8 (NIV) where Israel approaches Samuel seeking to establish a king instead of the ordered anarchy of the judge system that God had ordained: 
They said to him “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.” But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you.

It is evident that the very establishment of a man-made government by Israel was offensive to God.  It distorted God’s intentions for right and wrong living through communion with him (e.g. Moses allowed divorce due to the hardness of their hearts – Matt 19:7-9) and provided a false sense of identity and security.  If it is repulsive to God, could Jesus voluntarily take part in the flawed political process? Would he find himself implicitly endorsing the lesser of evils simply because he wished to establish an earthly kingdom by fiat?  Or would he continue to do the same work regardless of who was in power? Are we to believe that God was displeased only because Israel chose a monarchy? Or would God have been happy had they chosen a Representative Republic or Socialistic democracy?

          Though many on both the right and the left claim Jesus’ moral authority for their side, it appears instead that Jesus endorsed a system of personal responsibility guided by the God of the Ten Commandments. His teachings did not focus on obedience to communally imposed law, but upon individual obedience to principle. This political style would be most closely aligned with ordered anarchy if one will call anarchy a style of government.  It is difficult to conclude that Jesus would even take part in the modern political process, much less gravitate to a particular side in it. Politics assert man’s morality and priorities. Jesus would instead focus his efforts on teaching and revealing the kingdom of God.

1.       U.S. Declaration of Independence
2.       Pilon, Roger. The Purpose and Limits of Government. Cato Institute, 1999.
3.       Jesus Central, “Life of Jesus – First Century Context of Palestine (Israel),” (accessed September 17, 2015).
4.       Matt 6:9-13 (NKJV)
5.       Luke 17:21, John 18:36
6.       John 12:13
7.       John 6:15, Matt 26:51-53
8.       Luke 11:38-40
9.       Matt 5:17-20
10.   Mark 12:17, John 19:11
11.   Matt 2:13-16, Luke 23:9, Matt 12:1, Mark 7:1-16, Mark 3:1-6
12.   Matt 21:12-13
13.   Luke 2:41-52
14.   John 10:39
15.   John 8:4-7
16.   Matt 19:9
17.   John 8:11
18.   Politics and the Pulpit: An Essay on the Rights and Duties of the Christian Pulpit in Relation to Politics (Boston: American Tract Society, 1860)
19.   Cliff Leitch,Christian Bible Reference, “What Does the Bible Say About War?” (accessed September 17, 2015)
20.   Mark 13:7-8
21.   Matt 5:25-26
22.   Matt 5:38-48
23.   David Platt, Counter-Culture: A Compassionate Call to Counter-Culture in a World of Poverty, Same-Sex Marriage, Racism, Sex Slavery, Immigration, Abortion, Persecution, Orphans, and Pornography (Tyndale House Publishers, 2015), 57
24.   Mark 10:21, Luke 19:2-8
25.   Mark 10:25, Luke 12:21

Friday, August 8, 2014

Lifetime plans for health and well-being

Developing a healthier and more fulfilling life

Through my life I have had numerous attempts at developing a healthy lifestyle.  Most plans were met with limited success that soon became cumbersome and unattainable for various reasons.  A typical plan would start with a nebulous goal of something like “I want to look buff” or “I want to be in shape”.  Of course neither of these goals are quantifiable and as such progress is difficult to measure or observe.  It becomes easy to get discouraged with any attempt to be healthy because the goal seems unattainable.  A sickness or a disruption to the routine quickly becomes the excuse for the loss of motivation to turn into a resumption of the prior unhealthy routine.

Similarly, many of these goals (weight loss, physical prowess and definition, etc.) are centered around obtaining the undefinable and fickle approvals of other people.  As soon as that approval is given it seems to trigger a “stop” mechanism that says “Goal reached.  You can stop now.”  While this behavior is actually self-defeating, it seems to be pretty common.  Conversely, the opposite effect could occur.  If living healthy or attempting to get in shape does not cause people to suddenly start liking the dieting person, the person might abandon the healthy living attempt because the true unspoken goal wasn’t really healthy living, it was “change my diet or appearance and get someone to like me”.  Not only is this unrealistic, it is impossible to control the thoughts or opinions of other people.  It results in living life with the unstated intention of abandoning one’s self to conform to the perceived thoughts, opinions, and desires of another.  Even if it works initially, eventually the dieter will likely get tired of the fa├žade and will abandon the lifestyle.

The best plan for a healthy lifestyle is one that embraces exercise and eating right for the benefit of how it makes you feel and for how it improves health and feelings of well-being.  When one embraces healthy living because it’s something that a person wants to do for themselves, then reasonable goals can be established towards a lifestyle of health and well-being.  The exercises don’t have to be exercises that push the limits of your abilities and stretch you to get better and better.  They simply have to be exercises that can regularly be done within the confines of a reasonably assumed schedule and budget, and within the resources that one has at their disposal.  Growth will often come naturally and effortlessly over time simply because the body can more easily handle the old exercises that it was given, and to avoid boredom will want to expand the weight or distance it was being told to get used to.

Last year I started such a plan that involved me exercising for me.  I set small and obtainable goals like running a mile with good form.  When that became easy, I would increase that amount slowly to the point where I was running a 5k with little effort.  Sometimes I would try to increase my speed and sometimes I would push to run a bit further  - but when time was short, it was better to run 2 miles than no miles.  I was able to buy some free weights and a used weight machine for cheap.  Rather than trying to “buff up” overnight, I have been focusing on sustainable exercise.  Start with low weights, low reps.  As those become easy, increase the reps.  If that becomes too easy, increase the weight and drop the number of reps.  Rinse and repeat.  I try to do this at least two times a week, if not three.  For me, trying to work out every day is an unreasonable goal because life gets in the way.  I would not be able to keep this goal up for long and it would be easy to abandon it because I was not achieving it.

So for now I try to run 2-3 times a week as time allows.  When time doesn’t allow, I try to make allowances in other parts of my life, like I will purposefully work outside more or will vigorously walk more.  Anything to keep moving.  Additionally I try to work out on weights or use body resistance exercises (pushups, lunges and squats, planking, sit-ups) at least 2 times a week. My workouts are not usually long - 25-35 minutes is pretty standard.   This at least keeps my body from moving backward and it also strengthens my body enough to help protect it from injury.  I definitely do not want to push myself too hard because it could lead to long-term injury – which would jeopardize the whole program.  It also could cause me to burnout by taking the joy out of exercise and turning it into a task.

My biggest exercise breakthrough has come from me learning to exercise because I want to exercise and have good health…not because I want to impress someone else.  Seeing the benefits of this lifestyle in my own life begin to emerge have been icing on the cake.  Seeing the negative health consequences in others that do not practice good health are reinforcement to my resolve.  At this point, I could care less whether anyone else ever encourages me to do it or not, I’m doing it for me (not that I mind being encouraged, it's nice...but no longer necessary).

Good health and well-being comes also from being spiritually centered, nutritionally balanced, and emotionally aware.  It is important to me to continue to seek God and his direction for my life.  That means a continual evaluation of who I am, where my value comes from, and what motivations I have for doing whatever I’m doing.  I don’t ever want to become arrogant – though I will strive for growth, I realize that I need humility to achieve any.  I want to place appropriate value on the things that have eternal consequence rather than temporal benefit.  I want my meditations (things I spend my time and energy dwelling on) to be about things that will benefit and uplift rather than on things that will tear down and discourage.  While not being a Pollyanna in my outlook, neither do I want to be Eor. Where my treasure is, there my heart will be also.

Nutrition is more difficult in our modern and fast-paced society.  It is increasingly difficult to settle down to a nice, balanced and home cooked meal 7 times a week for a variety of reasons.  I try, therefore, to keep a daily mental tab of what I’m eating to avoid an imbalance of carbs or proteins.  Since I don’t like plain water, I try to keep lime or lemon juice handy to spritz in a water bottle so that I don’t end up relying too heavily on soft drinks or coffee for my hydration.  As much as possible I try to buy organic/natural foods and I do garden as a stress relief hobby so I often have a good supply of fresh foods to can and cook with.  Since I’ve now been gardening for the better part of the last ten years, I hope this will continue all my life.

Emotionally I want to make sure that I’m getting the right amount of rest and relaxation.  Keep getting and giving massage.  Listen to lots of varied types of music, try new experiences, talk to lots of stimulating people, watch the storm clouds roll in and the sunsets roll out, and surround myself with people who have a desire to grow and uplift.  I want to never stop being curious, never stop learning and never stop appreciating the little things in life. Enjoy my friends and my family. Be generous with my time and resources.  Laugh a lot, and never be ashamed of who I am.

While I know that there will be setbacks along the way, the path outlined above is one that I hope to stay on my entire life.  I can’t think of a better way to live a healthy and fulfilled life and end my life with minimal regret.

Monday, January 27, 2014

We should raise the minimum wage

Minimum Wage

Every few years new pressure is put on lawmakers to enact legislation to force a “living wage” increase.  Of course, the people who push such ideas have the best of intentions – higher standards of living for those at the bottom of the economic totem pole is hardly something that would be seen as objectionable by anyone with a heart or a conscience.  So why would anyone possibly object to an increase?  As it turns out, there are many reasons.  As with most governmental interference in the free marketplace, Newton's third law of motion is alive and well.  Every action produces an equal and opposite reaction.  Said another way,  "When new winners are created through government fiat, so are new losers."

Who benefits the most and who suffers the most from an increase to minimum wage?  Of course the obvious answer to who benefits the most would be the individuals who are getting a raise.  But many businesses that hire minimum wage workers already run on exceptionally low, and potentially even negative margins.  It is not a given that they would be able to absorb the pay increase and the additional tax burden that a hike in pay would entail.  Who gets hit the hardest?  Primarily the small businessman who doesn’t have deep pockets.  The entrepreneur who doesn’t have extensive capital to draw from.  Many of the smaller and marginal businesses will be the first to fail.  Initially, these small business losers do provide winners…to the mega chain stores with deep pockets who now have fewer competitors and can grab the customers.  Big business wins and the average American slowly loses his ability to go from rags to riches.

Let’s face it.  There are some people who work better than others.  Some people deserve their full pay and some do not.  This is why a flexible pay scale can come in handy.  If a person is a great worker and becomes indispensable to the company, that person would normally be increasingly rewarded with pay raises and perks to keep them from looking elsewhere for work.  But what if they just want someone to sweep the parking lot and keep it looking neat?  That’s an unskilled job that could be filled by any number of applicants.  Why does it deserve the same pay rate as someone who is doing a substantially harder or more complicated job?  Higher minimum wages cause the lower-qualified candidates to be overlooked because they do not generate as much cash for the company.  It is a well-documented fact that each time the minimum wage increases, the young and unskilled labor unemployment rate rises.  It is also why the government has specifically had to exempt certain employers from paying minimum wage to mentally handicapped workers (who incidentally, provide a much needed service where they are given the chance to work at reduced rates).

Along these same lines, companies that are required to pay more for labor often seek out more capital efficient ways to get work done.  This is called “productivity gains” and is generally considered to be a positive thing on Wall Street.  It does, however, have a dark side.  Every computer that takes over a task releases some living, breathing person who used to get paid to do that task.  Consider the telephone receptionist as an example.  How many frustrating calls have you made to a company trying to obtain customer service only to get stuck in an endless techno-loop conversation with a computer who would not let you speak to someone who could actually help you solve your problem?  Labor is expensive, but computers work cheap...even if they can't quite get the job done right.

Another thing that people often neglect to consider is that businesses exist to make a profit because they must take risks to make that profit.  If the business plan is not effectively written or effectively implemented, the business owners may stand to lose significant amounts of money.  Therefore, before they risk their capital, they will want to be reasonably assured that it will be able to be returned to them at a profit. For this reason, all effective businesses build profit margins into their expense calculations – one of which is labor expense.  If labor costs increase, the business owner will often have no choice but to increase the retail costs to consumers.  Most end consumers are familiar with this and recognize this phenomenon as “inflation”.  It is the basic reason why something that used to cost $5 a few years ago might cost $10 today.  And while there are a number of other factors that play into the creation of inflation, labor costs and the need to maintain profit margins are certainly a large part of those factors.

There’s an old adage that says, “If you want more of something, subsidize it.  If you want less of it, tax it.”  In other words, classical behavioral science will tell you to reward behaviors your want to see more of and punish those that you do not want to see.  The minimum wage destroys the lower tier worker by offering the same pay for more desirable jobs.  Who would want to clean out a sewer, for instance, for the same pay that they can get flipping burgers at a fast food restaurant?  Or do air conditioning work on a 150 degree rooftop for the same rate that they could be a janitor in a high rise building?  Distortions are created in the marketplace that establish equal rewards for unequal jobs.  Many jobs that would have been filled in a free marketplace go unfilled when wages are artificially set.  This creates an imbalance which is eventually filled by the unregulated black market.

In my opinion, one of the reasons why illegal immigration is so high in America is because of the minimum wage (though there are other reasons, for sure).  Let’s assume the desires of the current minimum wage lobby groups becomes law and farmers are soon required to pay strawberry pickers $15 an hour to pick strawberries.  The cost of strawberries would be prohibitively high (if they could find workers at all).  This high price for the berries would cause demand to drop.  That is, until someone found a way to hire people who would happily perform this unskilled task for $4 an hour.  But since minimum wage laws prohibit that, the hiring would have to be undocumented, black market labor.  Such is the draw for illegal immigrants.  They may be accustomed to living on $2 an hour wages if they can find a job at all – so a $4 an hour job might be a big step up for them.  They agree to work for cash (no paper trail) and the farmer has a way to control his costs so he can sell his strawberries for a reasonable price and make a profit.  The businesses make decent money and don’t have to provide costly benefits for their employees.  The flip side, though, is that the employees do not have any governmental safety advocacy or recourse against unfair business practices – because they know they could be subject to deportation if they are found to be working or living illegally in the country.  Besides being potentially unsafe and unfair to the worker, this arrangement allows millions of workers and employers to avoid paying any employment related taxes which strains the social safety-net infrastructure by shifting their tax burden onto those who are working legally.

Additionally, when illegals are hired, those who live and try to work legally must compete for work in a tighter job market.  In order to stay off of the government dole, they must work.  But if they lack certain marketable skills, they may not be able to find work.  In a free marketplace, this would cause some people to agree to work for less money in an effort to make themselves more desirable to prospective employers.  Alas; it would be illegal for them to do so.  And if the employment arrangement is discovered, both the job of the individual and the livelihood of the one who hired him could become endangered.  The minimum wage interferes with an individual’s right to be able to freely contract with another individual for exchange of goods and services.  In some cases, it even prevents charitable organizations from allowing the recipients of their efforts the dignity of being able to work for their assistance without cumbersome regulations and bureaucratic red tape to cut through.  It seems that the government would rather have people living on the street than earning their keep by working for a sub-minimum wage.

Tossing all thought about illegal immigration to the wayside, it is important to realize that corporations around the world are always looking to find ways to make a cheaper product to get an edge on their competition.  Most larger companies will not do this illegally because they do not have to.  They can simply outsource jobs to places where the labor is cheaper and the regulations are less burdensome.  This is why inflation has remained relatively benign over the past few decades even though the money supply has increased dramatically and the minimum wage has more than tripled in some states.  Corporations simply move the jobs to Asia, where the workers will do the same job for 1/5th of the price.  A hike in minimum wage simply will make outsourcing even more appealing.  It's big business's legal answer to illegal immigration. The higher we price our starting wage, the more world businesses will simply thumb their noses at our labor force in favor of cheaper labor elsewhere.  What we mean to help the people on the bottom rung will actually end up causing more pain as unemployment rises.

So while there certainly are winners in a minimum wage increase, we must never forget that there are also losers. Governmental generosity always has casualties, and frequently those casualties appear as “friendly fire” hurting the ones whom they are supposed to be helping.  All people of conscience want to see their fellow man lifted up and it often seems like the easiest and cleanest way to do that is by a legislative pen stroke.  Just remember, ideas have consequences.  And they are not always the consequences that we might want to see.