Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Yes, Virginia, even Charlotte, NC lacks immunity from the current economic correction. I’m not talking about embattled Bank of America or Wachovia. Even our own little office, once figured impervious to the forces of reality, is staring possible job cuts in the face.

Employees were invited to make suggestions on a web bulletin board of how our organization might trim operational costs. Far and away the leading suggestion was simple: pay cuts. Employees are willing to take a cut in salary if in any way it would ensure their jobs being retained.

This vindicates a basic axiom of free market economics – and the vindicators aren’t even economists. They understand intuitively that during a downturn the cost of doing business is costly, and are willing to negotiate a lower price for their services in order to stay employed.

I don’t know if we will see pay cuts or eventual job cuts. What I do know is that our salaries have wiggle room. The most vulnerable victims, however, are those who earn minimum wages; because their pay is mandated by law, they cannot negotiate their way to a lower price for their services. That price is fixed at a rate beyond what many employers are willing and able to pay (if I had the means of drawing a simple supply and demand function here, the graphical illustration would make this clear as a bell).

For the umpteenth time: if the state would get out of the market’s way, living and breathing human beings could work out solutions that would benefit more people. Admittedly, not every job can be saved – some businesses are simply no longer competitive, or so malinvested that efficiency requires radical retooling. Some organized blocs of employees are simply unwilling (perhaps due to coercion) to accept lower pay.

But I know some who are.

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