Thursday, January 11, 2018

Paying the rent by selling xerox copies, or other things, more an improbability in today's economy

Interesting how the price of a xerox copy hasn't changed much since my college days in the late 1970s. Around 5 cents. Back then, making copies usually met putting nickles in the copy machine. There were a lot of them located in Wilson Library at WWU. A few places were more expensive. The copy machine at the City Library was 10 cents a copy.

Late 70s early 1980s saw the advent of retail copy outlets. Buying in bulk could get the price lower; like 3 cents a copy. There hasn't been much inflation in the world of xerox copies and many other goods and services that make up our economy and provide wages. That's probably why wages tend to be lagging behind inflation. For large segments of the workforce, wages are based on the price that businesses can get for the goods and services they provide. Technological advance, outsourcing, and competition tends to keep prices down. In some fields, like computers, prices drop.

Meanwhile prices in just a few sectors of the economy have gone up. For instance housing. When I was in college, I rented a room in Bellingham for $55 per month. That was a pretty good price even back then, but it would be unthinkable today. Healthcare is a lot more expensive also. Another big change is tuition at colleges. No wonder people who work providing inexpensive goods and services have trouble affording these things.

Somehow, we need to deal with the growing gaps in our economy. The discrepancies between various sectors. This isn't necessarily the problem of inflation or stagnation.

Seems like part of the problem is that we look at the economy as if were one monolithic block. Then we ask does it need stimulation or do we need to damp down inflation? Problem is, the economy is not one monolithic block. One set of gas or brake peddles no longer makes sense. Today's problem relates to the vast and growing discrepancies between different people and sectors of the economy. That needs to be addressed through various means such as graduated taxes.

This problem has many implications such as battles over where to set the minimum wage where one side wants to raise it so people can afford to live while the other side says it will cost jobs since businesses may not be able to raise their prices accordingly. This especially may effect small business and businesses where the top executives don't make huge salaries. Of course in the businesses where the top makes huge salaries, they can redistribute within the business, but not all businesses are in that position.

Another implication of this problem is environmental. People often feel that the road back to being able to afford the cost of living is increasing prosperity. Just sell more stuff. Problem is we are drowning in stuff and revving up the economy has serious implications for things like the carbon footprint. Serious implications for our psychology as well if life becomes a rat race filled with overtime work. We really need to figure out how to have quality rather than quantity when it comes to prosperity. Part of quality is less discrepancy in wages, prices and so forth within the economy.

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