Tuesday, January 30, 2007

English 102: Testing Out Economic Ideas


Keith Borgholthaus

English 102

Testing Out Economic Ideas

In "The Life of a Simple Man" the main character, Tienon, befriends a doctor. The doctor is so busy with his political views that he forgets to take care of his own patients. He promises that the party would win freedoms for Tienon and his fellow farmers. The problem is this: when the party does win, the doctor retires. The doctor takes on some high position over the land. Although he does live up to some promises, Tienon's life is still hard.

In "Christ Stopped at Eboli" another man views the life of the poor. He is sent to a poor village in Italy because of his own political actions. He becomes a semi doctor for the people there. At one point he is allowed to see his old city and friends. He attempts to get his friends to help the many poor in Italy. They all claim that some Political Power will save the day. The young doctor realizes that the people themselves must help, not any political power.

In "Nickel and Dimed" Barbara Ehrenreich sees the working poor of the US. She actually goes into stores and holds jobs, trying to make it as a minimum waged worker. She then says that her political views should be followed. She has since held many Writers Workshops, stated her political opinions, and even has a blog talking about her opinion. It seems though that she has never tried to actually help the the Minimum Wage poor. Very likely because she is one of the people that stood in Italy and said, "I have thought some on this matter...."

The first thing to figure out is that she belongs to the Democratic Socialists. As one can decipher from the name, the group is about Socialism. It seems that Ehrenreich's view is that Socialism should be from the Government. Seeing as she speaks about Socialism from her book, it would help to know how some socialist governments viewed the US. The particular group would be the USSR and its propaganda machine.

When describing life in capitalist countries, in the USA in particular, propaganda tended to show it worse than it was, for example it was explained that most of the rich people in the West earned their large fortunes through "robbing" simple workers, by paying them the smallest salaries possible, reducing their social payments (such as ill-time payments, right for free medicine and many others) & causing troubles to professional unions in their work to protect workers' rights (Soviet critics of actions taken against professional unions or workers in the USA or other countries was based on that fact, that working class (workers & peasants) were treated as "ideologically close" and so sympathised, and along with blacks and women, fought for their rights). At some point the emphasis was placed on the difference between the richest and poorest people, while it was stated in Soviet Union everyone is equal and free. Another claimed the major way of income of rich people was producing & selling weapons, which (as was said) made these weapon manufacturers interested in starting or supporting another war, as it was said about the war in Vietnam. For its criticism of the USA Soviet propaganda was using different facts of racism or neo-fascism, which sometime happened there. (Wikipedia.com. 2007)

This seems similar to the way Ehrenreich wrote in her book. What is most interesting about the similarities is that Ehrenreich expects the minimum wage worker to revolt. She makes the many employers out there seem like the hateful Capitalists that the USSR spoke of. The posters seem to perfectly agree with her opinions, that the working man is being dealt some horrible card by the Capitalist. What is so odd is that Ehrenreich seems to believe it. She honestly believes that socialism will save the world.

A quick tour of her blog shows an article on her visit to Seattle. She goes to restaurants and eats food. What is so big about this, is that she was told this would be difficult. That restaurants would be scarce because of the inability to afford workers. She was surprised to see that restaurants were everywhere. She forgets to mention whether the servers are paid minimum wage. She also forgets to mention what the lives of the servers is like. She herself was a server in similar restaurants in Miami. She spoke about the difficulties to get the job, and what it took to live off of it. She never mentions this because it would make her side look bad. The biggest problem is that the states with the highest minimum wage, also have the highest unemployment.

The reality with all of this is that full socialism was tried. The USSR was that great test. It fell. China also tested this out, it went into an economic collapse. Had it not been for Japan's high economy, most of Asia would have imploded. China redid city planning and adopted a mixed bag policy. Many people in China are now living more American lives. Unfortunately, the rural areas still live in the full communist regimes and are suffering greatly from it. There are major holes in the socialist ideals. So why is it being supported?

A girl who grew up in Eastern Europe, and then moved to Canada is annoyed. Her fellow Canadians are wearing the symbol of the USSR. She asks why this would be cool. The comments to her show a very strange thing. Many people yell at her for talking against the USSR. As if it was some kind of grand success. Ehrenreich gets commented on her blog. It seems that supporters for certain economic systems are strong willed on the subject. Capitalism has been disproved as well. In fact, America is not either.

The United States of America has a mixed bag system (Also known as a mixed economy). An example of this is pretty easy to find. The office of Dr. Scott Borgholthaus is a private practice. It must follow certain regulations laid out by the government. The employees are paid minimum wage and the glasses must fit certain governmental regulations. Dr. Borgholthaus must reapply for his license after a certain amount of time. He must continue to take classes to prove he is up to date on techniques.

Almost every private Doctors office must follow these same rules. What makes Dr. Borgholthaus' office more interesting is that he works mainly for medical coupons. The government will pay for certain medical needs of people living in poverty. This means that a patient walks in, shows a coupon for a pair of glasses or eye exam, and the office will accept it instead of money. Later on the doctors billings department -which happens to be his wife - fills out the needed medical info to be billed. A check from the government and various insurance companies is sent. What has basically happened is that this coupon has become money. Dr. Borgholthaus runs a privately owned business, yet he is paid mostly by the government.

This country runs on similar ideas. Private owners can essentially become part of the government. Some even become regulators. The MPAA is a privately run organization that regulates movies. It is the company that places ratings for films. Such things as G, PG, PG-13, R, and NC-17 are used to show what is in a film. The ratings board is funded by the many companies that send in films to be rated. This regulating is there, yet the MPAA is considered private.

A promotion for either full on socialism or capitalism would be a political point of view. No real proof being put forth except opinion. A society that wants regulations and testing on everything, does not want economics tested. They expect that information will do better then testing.

Perhaps the biggest problem relies in how to make the tests. Really though, there are tests being made today. Jared Jakeman is one of these scientists. During his mission for the Church of Jesus Christ in Mexico he saw the poverty of a 3rd world country. He tells the story of a woman living in an apartment complex. "The building was made out of cardboard. And yet they paid rent for it. Then I hear people complain about being poor in America. I would much rather be poor here then there."("Jared Mission Story #32"). With memories of such things, he decided to find ways to alleviate them.

His first test was actually on his roommates. He and 2 friends decided to live in the same house and share rent. The fridge is not big enough to handle one of each of every item. So Mr. Jakeman figured out a plan to alleviate this. He first proposed compensation plans. One person would buy something they buy a lot of anyway. His roommate Anthony for instance has eggs. If a person wants an egg, a compensation of 10 cents is paid. The dime is placed in a jar that has been specially marked for such payments. If Anthony wants milk, he pays Keith (the author of this text) 15 cents for one cup. With this everyone is compensated for the use of food. The fridge is freed up a great deal by the use of single packages.

With this he decided to expand. He began the one third plan. A person could place an item for use. This item would take work to complete. AuGratin potatoes for instance take several different items, and time, to make. The owner marks the box with his symbol and then a 1/3 under it. When another person uses the box for food, a third of those potato's go to the original owner. This way both go with compensation. Anything can be placed for use within these two plans, or they can be held for just the buyer. What happens is that slowly each member of the household has become more generous with his items. No one has argued over such matters as space or needs.

Because of the success with this small model in his home, Jared Jakeman wants to create more models and even expand his ideas. How he expands has been discussed greatly, but for the moment nothing great has come out. He has been figuring out more useful models for the common good though.

The most interesting involves the internet. He proposes a model to be tested here in Yakima. What is needed is a building, and an active internet connection. The building can be large or small, just so long as enough space for 10 computers. The internet connection would go to one computer. This computer would hook up to all the other computers in the room. All internet would come through this computer. In computer terms, this is known as a hub. It is also a safe way to make sure the internet is used without pornography. All of the computers would only have RAM and not a hard drive. To control the computers a program called Puppy Linux would be used. Puppy Linux is program that controls the use of all the other programs on the computer. Puppy Linux is specially designed to only work on RAM. Every day, Puppy Linux would be started up on the computer. It would have every needed program for the average computer user, even a photoshop like program called The Gimp. All of this would be installed and ready, but not take up to much use of the computer. The computer will run much faster, and get the internet just as fast. If a computer is turned off, then Puppy Linux dissapears, and the computer is basically useless. Unless Puppy Linux is installed again, the computer is a non working brick. This will help solve an problems with thieves trying to ruin it for everyone. The computers themselves will be bought from a government auction at $10 a piece. If this all works out, then Mr. Jakeman can expand all of this at very little expense. If it fails, then Mr. Jakeman has only lost $100 and some time.

Testing these small models and then expanding would actually help society. With this the ideas of many politicians could actually be tested, and the results could be shown. Some may even be entertaining. If the model has expanded to a city, then the need for money and support becomes great. So then comes a way to truly compete different ideals. A TV show where different towns compete to survive would be perfect for prime-time. What happens is this, each town is given a special theme. Such things as Dicatorship, Communist Economy, Mixed Bag, Capitalist, Other ideas that come to mind when creating the show. Whatever town survives a year, gets a major renovation from the company. If the town quits, then they receive nothing, but they can go back to normal lives. Each member of the town would have to sign a contract agreeing to live in the conditions given. Some towns may actually be used to show what the outside world is like. How a dictatorship really rules. If people decide to move out, they are allowed to. If people wish to move in, then they can't leave until the entire town gives up. Viewers watch as political ideas are tested in real life. If the viewers dislike the show, and it is canceled, then it will be tested using internet audiences. So long as it is economically feasible, then it continues to test people. If it all fails, then the information already given will go to show what was successful and what wasn't.

Perhaps this model should start small. Ehrenreich speaks about the dangers of Wal~Mart. She said it takes over towns. Then what if someone actually lived in Wal~Mart for an amount of time. A month would be long enough to create a seasons worth of episodes. This person would work there, eat there, and sleep there. He could not leave until his time is up. It would be treated as if this person is in a very small foreign country, and that he lacks credentials to get out. Then everything can be shown what life would really be like if Wal~Mart took over. How much time to afford rent. How much time to afford food. What he does for entertainment. If this show is popular, then the next year the full blown town is shown.

If these tests stay economically feasible, and help in the actual science of economic decisions, then more will be made. Barbara Ehrenreich went into her test with a prepared answer. She never saw outside of it, and then went back to her former life to proclaim her answer. If this was shown to scientists they would not accept her information. Why should we?


RAM- Random Access Memory is information that the computer is dealing with at the moment. Such things as Operating Systems are on the RAM constantly.

Operating System- An Operating System (OS) is used to control the computer. It loads from the hard disk and controls all the needed programs in the computer. There is not a computer that does not have an OS.

Linux- Is an OS that is built by programmers with free time. It has many forms, and is used for more technical work.

Puppy Linux- Is built to load only onto the RAM. It uses a small portion of the RAM and thus allows a faster computer experience. It comes with a free form of Microsoft Word called Open Office. It also has Firefox and any other needed program.

Hard Drive/Disk- A Hard Drive stores information in a computer. If the computer turns off, all information can boot back up from the Hard Drive.

Government Auctions- When the government is updating its computers, the old ones are put up for sale. Usually this is at low prices. The computers sold would be at 5-6 years old. But with Puppy Linux, it won't be to noticeable.


“CCCP-USSR-Soviet Propaganda Posters”.CCCP Fashion. http://www.cccpfashion.com/cccp-ussr-soviet.htm

Ehrenreich, Barbara. Nickel and Dimed: On Not Getting By in America. Canada:Owl Books, 2002

Ehrenreich, Barbara. “Minimum Wage Rises, Sky Does Not Fall”. 2007. Barbara's Blog. Nov 22, 2007.


Garthwaite, Craig. “High Minimum Wage Equals High Unemployment”. Employment Policy Institute. Jan. 26th, 2003. http://www.epionline.org/oped_detail.cfm?oid=18

Guillaumin, Emile. The Life of a Simple Man. New Hampshire: University Press of New England,1983.

Halfbinger, David. "Hollywood Rethinks Its Ratings Process". New York Times. Jan. 17, 2007. B1.

Levi, Carlo. Christ Stopped At Eboli. New York: FSG Classics, 2006.

Soviet Propaganda Against USA (posters)”. 2006. English Russia. Jan 29,2007. http://www.englishrussia.com/?p=312

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National Center for Policay Analysis. “High Minimum Wage Linked to High Unemployment”. NCPA. Aug 20th 2003. Jan. 29th 2007. http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/index.php?page=article&Article_ID=4691

russiananimation. “Animated Soviet Propaganda Trailer”. Youtube.com. March 8th,2006. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L66r-RVKJpQ

“Barbara_Ehrenreich”.Wikipedia. Jan 29 2007. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbara_Ehrenreich

“Propaganda”.Wikipedia. Jan 29 2007.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaganda

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