1. L a u r a
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    L a u r a New Member

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    What if everyone had the same wages?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by L a u r a, Jan 16, 2012.

    Right now a story idea is simmering in the back of my mind. I don’t have many details yet, and I don’t plan to start the book for a few years because I want to finish my current project first…but if I don’t explore the newest edition to the List of Random Story Ideas, my head will explode.

    Everyone is always complaining about the “big guys” making tons of moola, and the battles will continue until a new system for wages is breached. Then, of course, people will find different things to complain about, and the process will start all over again.

    In the future, say the government came up with a tiered system for income. On the bottom of the pyramid would be the jobs that don’t require any form of education: waitressing, working at a department/grocery store, mowing lawns…basically anything that a highschooler could do. For every year someone would attend college/the military, so much money would be added onto his/her salary. Doctors, actors, teachers, and business owners would all make the same per hour. However, how many hours a week someone worked would be his/her choice; thus, the harder workers would earn more money.

    Like I said, the idea is rough around the edges, and I’m still exploring it. In fact, I’m not even sure if I’ll use it.

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    But do any of you have thoughts about this? What are some problems that could arise because of everyone having the same wages? Any benefits to the system?

    Basically, anything would help me at this point…so babble away. :)
  2. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I've always found it odd to feel that people ought to be better rewarded for jobs that require more education, as if it's a just and correct reward rather than just a result of market factors.

    It's not as if going to college, at least at the undergraduate level, is a horrible painful experience that most people remember with a shudder - most people that I know enjoyed those years and remember them with fond nostalgia. And it's not as if working in a nice clean air-conditioned office is harder and more unpleasant than slinging fries in a hot kitchen.

    And it doesn't seem to be the fact that most of the people slinging fries or cleaning hotel rooms or doing the other unpleasant jobs are doing so because they're not intelligent enough to do something else. Instead, I would guess that they're doing so because they didn't get the educational and other opportunities to do something else.

    So what would happen if everyone could get all the education they wanted and were intelligent enough for? I wouldn't be surprised if the hot, sticky, backbreaking, dirty jobs went begging, so that it became necessary to pay very, very well for those jobs before anyone would work them.
  3. muscle979
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    muscle979 Member

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    So the idea is that America becomes a communist state?
  4. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick New Member

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    I really like your hours idea. Whoever works the most hours gets more pay. What about a system in which you were payed more given how good you were at a job? I don't mean just getting raises, I mean the best waiter gets paid the same as the best doctor? I think quality of work should be considered.
  5. CidTheKid
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    CidTheKid New Member

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    How much money would Business owners earn? What about Patent Holders? Investors? How much would artists get paid?

    What happens when there's an excess of educated labour that forces people to take lowly jobs slinging fries? Would people with a college education earn more than a highschooler with the same job?

    If we start from a system like this, heads will roll in a few years or so.
  6. L a u r a
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    L a u r a New Member

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    Chicken Freak –

    You pose an interesting point. Perhaps everyone should receive the same wages, regardless of education? But then another problem arises: Why would people go to college? Although you describe an office job as “nice,” “clean,” and “air-conditioned,” there is more to it. Personally, I wouldn’t want to sit in a cubicle all day, staring at the computer screen. I get enough of that at home when I’m working on my writing projects. As for “slinging fries in a hot kitchen,” there’s more to that job as well: You get to meet people working in a fast-food restaurant. Right now, I work at a local meat market, and I love it. Although I wouldn’t qualify scrubbing stairs and burning my hands when I wash dishes as “enjoyable,” I like talking with the customers. If it was a choice between an office job and working at the meat market, I would choose the latter.

    So. How about this? What if machines took over the “backbreaking” jobs (My story will take place in the future.)? For instance, at a fast food restaurant, instead of driving up to a menu and telling a highschooler your order over a speaker, you could punch a button. Inside the restaurant, any assembly line of machines could prepare the meal, and vuala! The burger and fries would pop out at the next window. (Or a person could hand it to you…it could be a one-man job to run the restaurant.)

    As for education…well. It could be paid for by the state, couldn’t it? Perhaps residents of a different state/country would have to pay, but state residents could go to college for free. Any opinions on this?



    Muscle979 –

    First of all, I never said what country the story would take place in. I have no idea if I want it in the US, China, or Mars. Also, there is more to a communist government than wages. So the answer to your question is “no.” The idea is not that America would “become a communist state.” I don’t know where you pulled that from.



    Funkybassmannic –

    Thank you for the compliment! And I like your idea as well…but how would someone’s ability be judged? How do you determine the “best” doctor or waiter?



    CidTheKid –

    Yes. If there was an excess of educated labor and people had to take lowly jobs, then people with a college education would earn more than highschoolers doing the same job. You sound shocked at this…but a system like this is already in place. A relative of mine works at a machine shop, and he does not have a college degree. Although he has been working there for 20+ years now, a college graduate was just hired. The graduate earns more money than my relative.

    Of course, that is not fair. But how could I prevent this? Should it be prevented? In the story, there will need to be area for conflict: This could be a source.
  7. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick New Member

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    I mean, it would probably have to be determined within a community of peers, or perhaps "customer" satisfaction ratings, if the job involves a service to others. The criteria, whatever they are, would be dependent on the occupation. So, for a doctor, criteria might include how many correct diagnoses combined with patient satisfaction.
  8. CidTheKid
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    CidTheKid New Member

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    Life isn't fair, and neither should your system, unless it's supposed to be. If your system is absurdly unfair though, people are going to bitch about it very loudly. At first at least. Perhaps dissenters have been quieted down by some sort of totalitarian Regime?

    The dissonance in pay between the educated and the uneducated is a great source of conflict, and whether or not you should prevent it depends on whether or not you want to show such a system as "fair".

    You could prevent it by turning education into a "tree" system, where a certain path in education lets you work in certain jobs that pay more than other jobs, and further education in a "branch", lets you work in even better paying jobs, without locking you out of any jobs that are below you. It's a brilliant system! Just like in- Oh.

    Also, hey, what about artists and writers? How do they get paid?

    Or shareholders? Do they still exist?

    What about Corporate Executives? Do they still get paid the same as everyone else, considering they pay themselves?

    What happens if someone gets paid too much?
  9. highwaymanlee
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    highwaymanlee Member

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    one question i have is the tax system in your story. is there a universal tax or does it depened on the job your doing. since this effects how much you bring home it would help to kno about this to
  10. AmsterdamAssassin
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    AmsterdamAssassin New Member

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    So, unskilled labor should be rewarded at the same level as skilled labor? And experience, would that entail higher paychecks, or not?
  11. AmsterdamAssassin
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    AmsterdamAssassin New Member

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    I foresee a big problem - hourly jobs vs. task-oriented jobs. If someone is paid hourly for a project, instead of a straight project fee, they might loaf about to get enough hours into the project to equal the straight project fee. An hourly system would also doom anything requiring efficiency, because efficiency means consuming less time, while those on hourly wages want to consume more time. More hours, higher paycheck.

    Also, workers would do the minimum required, because there would be no bonus or other incentive for doing a more than mediocre job.
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    so, you'd rather pay a lower fee to a ditchdigger to perform open heart surgery on you, instead of the higher fees a trained surgeon would have to be paid?
  13. spklvr
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    spklvr New Member Contributor

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    That system actually sounds a lot like Norway... Free education, free medical care, set wages according to education, etc. The wages varies more according to the different jobs of course. I'd study socialism if I were you.
  14. muscle979
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    muscle979 Member

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    This is a very specific example. In the medical field college training is very focused and job oriented. Here's another example. If you went to the FBI's website and looked into applying for a job [and many other places I'm sure] you'd see that a four year college degree is a requirement for the vast majority of their positions. Here's the thing: they don't care what field of study the degree was in. So you take two men or women of the same age, one has a four year degree in something purely academic, let's say it has nothing to do with criminology. The other didn't go to college, maybe he did four years in the military, worked somewhere else, who knows. The FBI will not consider the latter applicant because he didn't go party for four years at a university. The FBI [or whoever else] will have to give the degree holder the exact same on the job training as they would have to give the other person. What is the degree holder being rewarded for in this scenario?
  15. muscle979
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    muscle979 Member

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    You basically cited the occupy wall street movement in your OP. How was I supposed to not think you meant America?

    America in it's current state would never accept a wage system like this. Something to keep in mind moving forward if you go that way. I just asked a simple question I'm not sure where your indignant response comes from. I know what communism is. I had the impression you wanted feedback here, I can't read your mind. I read your post and wondered what kind of government we were dealing with.
  16. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis magnetismus Contributor

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    Yeah, good point. And despite the FBI example that was used as a follow up, there are many additional cases where the specific education is a factor, and where you want to lure those educated people to a job by paying a higher wage. Other times the mere existence of a college degree is used as an initial threshold to cut down on the number of applicants, as well as an indicator of the wherewithal to stick out some sort of training and education process to achieve a goal. The idea that knowledge and education shouldn't be compensated iis odd to me. You want the expertise, and that's one way to attract it. Also, your pool (supply) is going to be smaller as you move up the educational chain, so demand has to reflect that.
  17. prettyprettyprettygood
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    prettyprettyprettygood Member Supporter

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    Apart from the suggestions already made, I think there'd be real potential for corruption/lawbreaking within the Government- who would watch over the wages of Government officials? Who would watch over those watchers? If there's even a perception that someone is earning more than they should be, civil unrest could easily follow.
  18. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    My point is: The value of a job is not entirely, or in many cases not even substantially, about education. Maybe I didn't make that clear in my first post. I'm not sure what your position is in arguing against my post, so I may be effectively assigning a straw man to you and we may not actually disagree. If that's the situation, then please just take the below as a clarification of my original point.

    Actually I was arguing that it was unreasonable for jobs with more education to necessarily get higher pay. So if you're going to take my point to an extreme, the question should be "So you'd rather pay _the same fee_ to a ditchdigger..."

    Taking the reverse point to an extreme: Are you arguing that the surgeon's value is _purely_ about the number of years of education that he has? A surgeon, Google tells me, studies for eleven to seventeen years to achieve that goal. Would a professor of Renaissance literature who has also received eleven to seventeen years of post-secondary education be paid just as much? Would you be OK with the professor of Renaissance literature performing that open heart surgery? What if he has _more_ years of education than the surgeon - do you want him in the operating room instead of the surgeon?

    No, of course not; we both want the surgeon. The surgeon is paid more not because, "Wow, he's gone to school for practically twenty extra years!" but because of what he studied, and how his skill fits into our society, and because the rare talents and personality characteristics required in oder to complete those studies make his skills scarce. The professor studied just as long, and maybe even just as hard, but he doesn't get paid nearly as much. Years of education is not the overriding factor, and I doubt that you're arguing that it is either.

    So let's go to people with fewer years of education. Is a firefighter who saves lives and property, at substantial risk of his own life, every day, worth less than the professor because he had less education? I don't know if he makes more or less money than that professor, but I hope it's more. I'm not saying that Renaissance literature isn't worth studying, that it doesn't have value in itself and also in what it can teach us about ourselves in the modern day, but I do think that the firefighter offers more to society at large. And, in fact, I'd say that, like the surgeon, the firefighter also has special talents and personality characteristics that make him valuable above and beyond a bare tally of his years of education.

    I enjoyed college. I went when student loans were still widely and easily available, so I was able to go without the grinding struggle that many people go through. The skills that I learned are useful, but not exactly vanishingly scarce in this society. My job is adequately pleasant; my worst complaint is boredom. I don't deserve to be rewarded for going to college as if it were some sort of sacrifice that I made for the good of humanity.

    ------

    Returning to the original premise (Is it still bad for the same person to post twice in succession? This really belongs in a separate post.), it occurs to me that a society that rewards people purely based on education, but doesn't provide education cheaply or free, would become a society where people's positions are essentially permanently fixed. Parents who didn't finish high school would be paid correspondingly low wages, and wouldn't be able to pay for their kids to get further education, so their kids would, in turn, be paid low wages, and so on indefinitely.

    Also, there are many areas of education beyond college and the military. To go into an indignant anecdote: I remember, forever ago, that at my high school we had a particularly talented shop student who was working on becoming a cabinetmaker. His work was displayed in the library for a time, and I can assure you that it was very impressive. But at least two teachers had contempt for his career goals and felt that the library display area shouldn't be used for his work, _purely because he wasn't planning to go to college_ - he was instead planning to find an apprenticeship.

    So your world could account for apprenticeships as well as college and the military, or it could be like those teachers and not count them, and as a result see a rapid decrease in people willing to work professions that are taught in ways that the wage system doesn't account for.

    Also, the system's elimination of market forces would likely result in a huge black market in labor, and possibly a huge illegal barter economy. Let's say that someone in the government decides that the profession of plumber doesn't require a college education, and therefore sets its wages really low. People won't become plumbers. Plumbers will be scarce; waiting lists for plumbing work will be months long. So people will be bribing the plumbers with cash or goods to bump them to the top of the list, or they'll swap services based on market value rather than government-assigned value.

    Let's say that the government decides that interior design does require a college education, in art and design, so it's better paid. But people want plumbers more than they want interior designers. So the plumbers might get a quick degree in interior design and make design calls, during which they would illegally fix the sink and get paid the college-educated wage for that job.

    It would be incredibly difficult to prevent this inevitable underground economy.

    Dystopia version: You could only really control wages by controlling every other aspect of society - eliminating cash so that every transaction could be tracked, tracking people's movements so that every work hour, and what was done, could be tracked - and of course, you can work in your recreational hours, too, so you'll have to fill out a time sheet for every hour of your day. The government might regularly audit personal possessions to eliminate the possibility of payment in goods instead of money. Gifts would be regulated; perhaps you'd have to prove a personal relationship before you could give a gift above a certain value. (If cooking is a low-wage-tier profession, and you love your food, maybe you marry or adopt the cook so that you can pay him or her sufficiently.) Anyone seemingly living above their wage tier would be investigated and perhaps criminally charged.

    Most of the "wage crime" would be about people trying to get higher wages than they're entitled to. So the system would slowly be focused on preventing that. If education isn't free, then as I said before, the classes would become fixed. But people can self-educate and thus pose as more educated people and get higher wages. Therefore, it might become illegal for the less-educated classes to even learn to read. It would slowly become accepted that "the uneducated" _can't_ learn to read, that they're a fundamentally inferior form of humanity. It would really be easiest to make a servant or slave class out of all but the upper educational classes, requiring them to live in government housing with government-provided possessions, to ensure that their standard of living was kept low enough.

    Eventually, someone gets executed for unclogging a sink and accepting a silk blouse in payment.

    ChickenFreak
  19. Heather
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    Heather New Member

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    I dislike the idea of "backbreaking" jobs being given to machines (which you identify above as working on an assembly line, or working in a fast food restaraunt), because where would the students then work? And, without meaning to sound like a bitch, some people may not actually be smart enough to get a better education or a 'better' job - and if machines take all of those jobs, you've suddenly got a group of people who cannot find work as they have been replaced by machines. The idea of better education meaning better money raises another issue (which admittedly, we have anyway, but it wouldn't be changed by your proposed system) .... if we pay a person according to how difficult their job is, who is to decide on the difficulty? Someone with learning difficulties may find their job as a shop assistant as difficult as a uni graduate finds their job, difficulty is perceptive to the individual. So then paying based on 'difficulty' isn't really a 'fair' way of doing things either.


    Then, as I think ChickenFreak has already touched upon, there would be cases where people wouldn't feel the need to be as ambitious as they would usually have. For example - an office worker gets £20 an hour, a teacher gets £25 an hour. For an 40 hours week the office worker would get £800, the teacher would get £1000. Someone may decide that, actually, as an office worker, over the course of a week they would rather just work a few extra hours to get it up closer to £1000 than train to be a teacher - thus there becomes a shortage in teachers. Also, in a system where you are paid according to the hours you work, and it's up to you how many hours you work, some jobs your hours will be limited - a teacher can only teach when students are at school. A doctor can only work till he is too tired. In the opposite respect, what if in a factory, someone hogs up all of the available working hours to earn more, leaving everyone else with not enough hours to earn a living?

    That being said, it is an interesting idea, I just think there are a lot of things you would have to seriously consider if you decided to write this. Also, would you be doing it as a political based story - or just as a background to the world?
  20. SunnyDays
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    SunnyDays New Member

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    Look up the Danish Government. They like to soothe over the money. For example I was an exchange student who lived with two specialized doctors. But they lived like a middle class Americans, except they only had one car, the other would bike. They have so much tax, around 50% on income and then sugar tax, and fat tax. School is free and students are given money from the government to rent their own apartment at the age of 18.
  21. L a u r a
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    L a u r a New Member

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    I apologize. I didn't realize how crabby I sounded. :redface: To be honest, I'm not sure what type of government we're dealing with. A tiered system of wages, based on education and military experience, just popped into my mind. I wanted help exploring the pros and cons of that type of system.

    And, let me tell you, some interesting points have come up!
  22. L a u r a
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    L a u r a New Member

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    At first I was going to respond to you guys and try to adjust the system to make it fairer—but then I realized something. For my story, I want corruption. Of course, the façade will be that the government is well-rounded; however, on the inside, it’s full of corruption.

    So. New government update (and of course it has expanded past wages now…):

    Education:
    The elementary school - high school system will be similar to today’s. Parents will enlist their kids in whatever education system they want; there will be a choice of public or private. After high school graduation, kids will have two choices: military or further education (college).

    Military:
    Basic training will be a couple years long, during which the newcomers will learn military strategy, fitness, and the basics of college education. Once in the service, they will trade off between being on duty and studying. Most political leaders will stem from the military.

    College:
    Once in college, instead of just studying theory, the students will have a mix of both theory and practicalities. In essence, college will be more like a series of internships (or apprenticeships) so that the students can get a taste of a variety of jobs. Once a student decides on a career path, he/she will spend x number of years (I’m not sure yet) training for that specific career sector.

    **Note: all schooling will be funded by the government. Also, there will be public transportation provided, so no one will need cars. (**QUESTION: What about those living in the country? What’s your opinion on them having their own personal vehicles?) If students want extra cash, they can do favors for the government (e.g. cleaning community parks, upkeep of machines, filing/data input).

    Wages (Hourly):
    (For this next part, disregard artists or anyone else whose job depends on the number of items sold versus an hourly wage.) Trash the pyramid idea from before: Everyone is paid the same, flat across the board. Again, depending on how many hours someone worked, he/she could earn more money. What’s the incentive to do your best, then? Why wouldn’t the workers slack off? Each business/industry would have its own “score board.” By reaching certain goals and doing certain tasks for the company, the workers would get points. Once so many points accumulate, the workers will receive paid time off of work in addition to their regular scheduled days off.

    Wages (Task-oriented):
    This would be an open market. However, just like taxes are taken from people who work on regular schedules, a certain percentage of the gross pay would be given to the government.


    Thoughts?
  23. psychotick
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    psychotick Member

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    Hi,

    First, before you can even worry about the wage system and how it affects people, you have to consider that the scheme you're imagining could only happen in a non free-market economy. In short, capitalism is gone. In the capitalist system you get paid according to the demand for your skills, and the supply of people with them. This no longer applies.

    Simply changing this one tier of the free market, wages, cannot be done without creating some gross distortions in the entire market. First, why would you work at all if instead you could earn of shares, speculation or owning companies? So a tiered wage system and no controls over other income systems, would lead to a grossly inequitable system, where those who could invest would soon find themselves, far outstripping the earning potential of their college room mates who instead became doctors. Of course this happens now, but it would be worse, since if you didn't have to pay huge wages to your best a brightest, say millions a year to reconstructive surgeans, then companies stand to make oddles.

    But then say you stop this by preventing people from earning vast amounts through stocks, speculations and owning companies. Now what happens. Why would you have a company at all if you can't make millions from it? So if the companies aren't to collapse completely, which they would do if no one could profit from them, then the government would have to step in and run them. That's communism. And no it's not necessarily a bad ideal, in fact as an ideal it's probably better then capitalism which is the ideal of the greedy. But it does have two problems. The first is that it's usually inefficient compared to private sector company management. The second, it puts all the power in the hands of the government, which leads to the very real chance of a dictatorship.

    Whole sectors of the economy would of course collapse. If there are no millionaires any more, who's going to buy those luxury yachts, mansions and flash sport's cars? They would become unsustainable industries.

    Just a few thoughts.

    Cheers, Greg.
  24. L a u r a
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    L a u r a New Member

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    Our society is very materialistic, right? Everything’s about moneymoneymoney. However, people also enjoy spending time with their families and friends; time off of work is valued almost as much as the money work provides.

    I’m proposing a government where, instead of people striving for wage raises, they work towards getting more (paid) time off. This way, there would be two ways of making money: Someone who works a bunch of hours but slacks off could make the same amount as someone who works hard for fewer hours. (If you haven’t read my latest post outlining the government, please do so to avoid me repeating the same thing. Specifically, look under the “Wages (Hourly)” section.)

    By using hours off as a new source of “pay,” I think the system could still be considered capitalist—just a new form of it. Why? Instead of focusing on wages, it would focus on people getting paid time off of work. (Then, on the inside, government leaders would force the system to be corrupt…but I won’t get into that. At least not yet.)

    You do bring up an interesting topic, though, and it’s one that I hadn’t thought of: the stock market. The thing is, in order to invest in the stock market, you need money to start off with, which is where a job would come in. Then, if somebody could really earn enough money from the stock market to quit his/her job, I think he/she would deserve to. I’m obviously not a stock-market guru, but I don’t think that there are many people who have made enough money to outstrip “the earning potential of their college room mates who instead became doctors.”

    Of course, I know virtually nothing about the subject, so I could be missing something here. And, if I am, feel free to cure me of my ignorance.

    Then, to answer your second question: Why would you have a company at all if you can’t make millions from it? Because, by owning a company, you wouldn’t have to work as much. Once you climbed up the ladder and established a successful business, you could hire people (or machines) under you to do the work for you. Then, because you owned the company, you could set your own hours. If you wanted to, you could spend half the week lazing on the couch, eating bonbons. The trick, though, would be to keep the business running smoothly; you would still have to make sure that your business had a profit, and that takes someone with great leadership skills. But you know what? I think some people like that position of power. That alone could be reason enough for someone to own a business.

    The point of the government with flat-rate wages is this: people learn to live for a new type of “rich:” time spent with family and friends.
  25. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis magnetismus Contributor

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    If the government is mandating that people approach wages in this way, then I do not believe it will be a capitalist system. And for this to take effect, the government would have to be involved at all levels, mandating human behavior. Otherwise, what would stop individual citizens from deciding they want to compete for wages instead of hours off, and from hiring one another for money because they wish to?

    You are going to have to have a pretty oppressive government to make this work.
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