Our local writers are masters of dissimulation and double meaning. They brilliantly hide a progressive message behind overblown, reactionary rhetoric. Harry Schutle pretended to be an ignorant racist while in fact spotlighting the fallacies in racist thought. Randi Rabin feigned interest in idiotic questions so as to undermine cis- and heteronormativity. And most recently, Sharon Byrne pretended to write a high-school-level paper on political philosophy while actually making a novel argument for moral relativism. (Byrne goes so far as to stay in character on Facebook!)
But Harris Sherline has written the most subtle piece yet, an essay ostensibly concerning the living wage that is really a profound meditation on the problems at the heart of capitalism.
Sherline uses another article as his jumping-off point:
A recent article in the Washington Post reporting that Washington, D.C., is considering mandating a “living wage” caught my attention.
He then spends over one quarter of his column quoting nearly five full paragraphs of the Post story, without actually linking to the story itself. Sherline is clearly trying to make the point that he is not being paid enough by Noozhawk to write his column. And by failing to link back to the Post he draws attention to fact that there are no editors at Noozhawk who are able to catch such basic mistakes (or use block quotes where necessary).
After finishing his copy-and-paste protest, Sherline becomes rather pensive:
I’ve never been a fan of the “living wage” policy, which I believe causes more problems than it solves.
For one thing, does anyone know how much a “living wage” should be? After all, one man’s “living wage” may well be another’s poverty wage.
It is immediately clear that Sherline is not actually asking this question in earnest, because doing so would violate the conversational maxim of “Do Not Solemnly Ask Questions That Can Be Answered In Ten Seconds With Google”. Rather, he is trying to make a larger point, as we can see with his next question:
So, just what amount of compensation is necessary to provide an adequate living, and who should make that decision? It appears that many city and county governing boards have become the decision-makers in such matters—rather than the free market.
Although the concept [of a living wage] has been around for a while and was adopted by the City of Santa Barbara in 2005, I have yet to see a clear statement of what it actually is.
Again, Sherline must be tending towards something of a philosophic nature, because one is not licensed to say something like “I have yet to see such-and-such” unless such-and-such is not easily accessible on the internet.
Sherline begins to reveal his ultimate purpose when he mentions the work of the Employment Policies Institute, a group funded by businesses for the sole purpose of lowering the minimum wage (and who, to that end, spearheaded the smear campaign that helped destroy ACORN). Sherline’s purpose in citing this indefensible organization might seem puzzling at first, but it must be taken in conjunction with his earlier claim that the living wage “is nothing more than a minimum wage packaged under another label and justified as ‘economic justice’.”
So there we are. The living wage is a “bad idea” because it is simply another version of the minimum wage, something that has been combated so effectively by the Employment Policies Institute along with the rest of the right. Living wage laws will not ensure economic justice because there cannot be economic justice under a capitalist system that allows laws to be covertly influenced by corporate interests. Living wage laws are reformist approaches that merely slow the impoverishment of the lower classes while promoting a false sense of security.
Harris Sherline demands more than reform. He demands revolution. Join Comrade Sherline in bringing down capitalism, for only then will we have true economic justice!