Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Simple Test of Economic Justice

Hatcher’s two question test of economic justice:

1)      Scenario 1: one man has ownership of another as a slave, based on the announcement of the king.  Ownership entitles him to the following: he gets to extract all of the economic benefit of the man’s labor, less the cost to keep the slave alive (i.e. food, clothing, shelter).  The slave cannot do work of his choosing, instead having to follow the directions of the slave owner.  The slave also works the hours he is told to work, and leisure is restricted to the minimum time necessary to maximize the slave’s output. In order to exert this much control, the slave owner is able to restrict the man from ever leaving the slave owner’s estate, thus severely limiting his freedom of association, his freedom of speech, and his freedom to practice his religion.  (All such rights are limited to that which he can exercise among his fellow slaves.)  The slave owner uses the profit he derives from his slave for his own private consumption.

2)      Scenario 2: same as scenario 1, except that the slave owner allows the slave to pick from among various jobs needing to be done for the benefit of the slave owner.

3)      Scenario 3: same as scenario 2, except that the slave owner allows the slave the freedom during his leisure time to go where he sees fit.  (Assume, in all scenarios, that any privilege granted by the slave owner cannot result in the slave escaping to freedom, so that ownership and its prerogatives are always enforceable.)

4)      Scenario 4: same as scenario 3, except that the slave owner pays the slave a small wage above and beyond the subsistence costs incurred by the slave owner.  This wage, while small, is beneath what we assume the slave would be able to earn in the free market above and beyond the costs he would face to clothe, feed, and shelter himself.

5)      Scenario 5: same as scenario 4, except that the slave is able to choose his own level of work hours for a week, subject to the constraint that they are sufficient to cover the costs incurred by the slave owner for room and board. 

6)      Scenario 6: same as scenario 5, except that the slave is able to seek work outside of the plantation, where he can negotiate his own wage, but the slave has to pay a percentage portion of this wage (i.e. a tax) to the slave owner that exceeds the costs to the slave owner of room and board for the slave, so that there is still a profit for the slave owner.  Note that now enforcement of the slave owner’s rights requires that the slave owner is able to audit the slave’s economic relationships with his employers, whereas in contrast the slave owner’s economic relationships are private.

7)      Scenario 7: same as scenario 6, except that the slave is permitted to live and work where he wishes, and the tax is reduced by an amount equivalent to what the slave owner would have paid for the slave’s room and board, as these expenses are now assumed directly by the slave.  The profit for the slave owner, who now has no expenses related to the slave, is simply the amount of the tax.

8)      Scenario 8: same as scenario 7, except that instead of one person being the slave owner, the king names a consortium of many people as the collective slave owner, and these people evenly divide the tax paid by the slave.

9)      Scenario 9: same as scenario 8, except that instead of using the profit (tax) for personal consumption, the consortium redistributes all such profits to another set of persons the consortium considers to be in need.  (Assume that in the absence of such redistribution, the slaves would not have voluntarily transferred as much money to the group of recipients.)

10)  Scenario 10: same as scenario 9, except that instead of the king assigning the consortium of slave owners, that consortium is elected by a democratic process.

11)  Scenario 11: same as scenario 10, except that the slave can move out of California, and go to Texas, where the democratically elected consortium takes a slightly different view (13% income tax versus 0%).

Query 1: In the continuum from Scenario 1 to Scenario 10, at which scenario does the  relationship between slave owner(s) and slave become just?

Query 2: If a slave living in California makes a fortune as the pioneer of the Bro and/or Manzere(uh, wait a minute, an easy google search suggests that the more real world example would be a man making a fortune as a professional golfer), and the consortium of slave owners in California raise his taxes yet again, is he an uppity slave if he moves to Texas?


Anonymous pbryon said...

Is the slave Jamie Foxx in this scenario?

1:07 PM  

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