Well the minimum wage debate rages in the pages of Progressive Bloggers, having said my piece here and here, I will simply add this link to the PB page where you can find the vast debate that is ongoing on this. Check out the posts and the comments. Comments have been extensive on my original post.
The Blogging Tories have not picked up on this issue, so I guess they have ceded the right wing position to Cherniak, on this.
And just to add another two bits into this debate I include excerpts from this interesting article from 1945.
Just as an average banker doesn’t understand money, the average wage worker does not understand wages. Most bankers know how to get money and how to keep it, but still they cannot explain its “mystery.” The worker may fight like a tiger to get an increase in wages, and he/she may know how to spend his income wisely, but the real nature of wages, as such, he/she generally does not comprehend, and may not even suspect.
It is quite impossible to understand the real character of wages without recognizing their connection with the working day. The proletarian, the modern wage worker, is a peculiar historical product. He/She differs from all other workers in history. He/She is not allowed certain days of the week to work for himself/herself and certain days to give to his/her master, as was the case with the feudal serf. In fact, on the average, he/she owns no tools of production and no place of his/her own in which to work. Nor is the proletarian the personal property of a master, with unrestricted control over his/her life and labor, as in the case of the slave.
The wage worker is in a different position. At the termination of a stipulated time, he/she carries home his/her pay envelope, what he/she now refers to as his/her “take-home wages” (withholding tax, etc., deducted) . We will assume that he/she has been working steady, engaged in production, not for himself/herself of course, but for the buyer of his/her labor-power, his/her employer. However, he/she is not doing that for his/her health, nor because he/she likes work, or loves his/her boss. His/Her purpose is to get enough pay to purchase food, shelter and clothing for himself/herself and those depending upon him/her. In other words he/she tries to obtain a standard of living as high as possible.
The cash which the worker takes home, when he/she receives his/her pay, has been called the nominal wage, or wage in name, twenty dollars, forty dollars, or such. Let us call it the money wage. But the worker is too sane just to want money to look at. He/She earns it with the idea of spending it, and generally he/she is forced to do so. The cost of living for him/her and his/her family compels him/her to spend his money wage on the necessaries of life, plus some small luxuries.
What, therefore, the modern worker toils for is not money, but what the money will buy. That which is thus obtained has been called the real wage. Without consideration of the cost of necessities, wages, as such, cannot be properly understood. A high money wage which would purchase but little, might be a very low real wage. If a worker receives, say, 20 per cent increase in his/her “money wage”, and, if in the meantime the “cost of living” had advanced 30 per cent, his/her real wage would actually have fallen. His/Her standard of living would be lowered.
g2: The “visible” ride to being-lessness
The battle to maintain, or increase, real wages, to maintain living standards (the main function of a labor union) is a constant and terrific struggle for the workers. It is a battle which the workers must carry on. They cannot afford to relax or be off-guard, no matter how well-organized or how “great” their temporary gains may be. This necessary, this unavoidable struggle, nevertheless, leaves labor at a disadvantage, in the long run, because of the nature of the present social set-up.
Under the present system of “private enterprise”, capitalism, the workers as a class cannot rise, but only sink, economically. The capitalist system works that way and it will not work any other way. Competition for jobs, especially over a long period, reduces the workers to a starvation minimum. For the workers, in the long run, the “natural” wage is the minimum wage.
While the worker's main concern is with what he/she is actually going to receive in return for his/her services, it is important for him to understand what has been called the relative wage, or in other words, the amount of actual value he/she receives in relation to the value he/she produces. If the worker produces new values to the amount of one hundred dollars, and he/she receives a wage whose value is twenty dollars, his/her relative wage then is but one-fifth of the value he/she has added by his/her labor.
This margin between the value the worker receives (his/her wages), and the value he produces, has been called surplus value. Under the wage system, the former (wages) represents that part of the working day which we previously mentioned, the necessary labor time, the latter, the surplus value, is that which is produced during the remainder of the working day, during the surplus labor time.
Unless all these simple facts, and some others besides, are taken into consideration, it is impossible to fully comprehend the nature of the wage system.
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