Rick Spalding (a man of wisdom) said that what made the biggest impression on him during the winter study trip to Nicaragua was that the people doing the hardest, most physically demanding (and demeaning) work were getting paid the least.

On the surface, this seems surely wrong. But ultimately whether this is moral seems to come down to the morality of a market economy in general. I think that the basics of such an economy make a lot of sense, but that additional measures are needed to protect the poor. There is some sense of “fairness” which makes it seem like hard physical labor should be rewarded more than skilled mental labor, but if you are doing hard physical labor that no one needs, than why should you be paid at all to do it? This is how the market allocates money “efficiently”.

So the real issue is not the market but that in Nicaragua there are a whole host of other problems, such as illegal maneuvers made possible because of extreme wealth disparities and poverty in general. Not the market but the fact that workers’ rights are not protected.

It’s ironic that the hardest workers are being paid the smallest sums, but what’s not “fair” is that they do not realistically have the option to change their work or improve their working conditions. A free and fair society is one where these opportunities do exist.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

My mind has been swirling lately with interesting thoughts related to the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. So as not to be overwhelmed I will try to post them as separate Interesting Thoughts at different Interesting Times.