Home > Uncategorized > A pan-European living wage as a condition for authentic Freedom of Movement

A pan-European living wage as a condition for authentic Freedom of Movement

From Yanis Varoufakis

At the source a link to the UK House of Commons discussion where this idea was put forward can be found.

Britain used to have wage councils that set the minimum wage per sector. Mrs Thatcher saw to it that they were abolished, together (effectively) with trades unions and council houses – thus yielding the present Precariat-Proletariat whose palpable anger and frustration is evident across the land. There is no doubt that we need to bring back a modernised for of wage councils. Not just in the UK but across Europe! It is the only way we can safeguard genuine freedom of movement. Here is why:

The oligarchs in Eastern Europe, and elsewhere, want the freedom of moving their money around and the freedom to export surplus labour from their country – people who would rather stay at home if a living wage were available locally. These oligarchs must be told in no uncertain terms: Your freedom of movement (and that of your money) is conditional on legislating a living wage in your own country for your citizens. This is a condition for being part of a European free movement area. And this condition must be imposed by the EU! Why does Brussels think it has a right to come to, say, Greece, to impose cuts to the lowest of the low pensions? How about imposing, instead, across Europe a minimum living wage and pension which terminates instantly involuntary migration, and thus safeguards genuine freedom of movement?

  1. February 4, 2018 at 11:42 am

    Currently, capital is free to move across geo/political boundaries but, physical movement of labor is restricted, immigration/migration. Today, enter services like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, AMT, where skilled labor can move virtually, across these boundaries by bidding for service jobs. In other words, the 1% or so can move wealth. The broad middle income and often college educated, who can not find permanent employment, locally, enter the precariate and now have the possibility of advancing economically, at best, and possibly not sliding down the economic ladder. This leaves those without such skills and, consequently, lower expectations, again, voiceless against the voices of the frightened precariate and the indifference of the 1%

  2. Rik Pinxten, Belgium
    February 5, 2018 at 7:46 am

    I buy this analysis. Still, there is one weakness on the side of critical, more leftist people (like us, I presume) : there is a climate of fear in the populations of the former western powers and a rational analysis such as this will not suffice , I am afraid. I am tempted to side with george Lakoff (linguist/cognitive scientist of Cal) on this point: we need to talk on basic moral issues in a language that can be recognized by those who are fearing. The right and populist groups do this with success now, and we are lacking here. So, I agree, but I think this is not enough : European elections are won by massive voting by large populations, so we should somehow appeal to the more. I have no solution here, but I am sure I have a point.

  3. February 5, 2018 at 10:23 am

    Here I agree with Yanis rather than Rex. The problem is not so much fear as complete disinterest: people wanting to get on with their own lives and trusting governments (like they trusted their parents) to make that possible. The fear becomes a problem only when the government is manifestly not doing its job, and at that time it is the government needs to be persuaded of the need for change, not the people. Hence the moral argument Yanis has drawn attention to: what right has Brussels to impose cuts on the lowest of low pensions?

    But is it “Brussels”? Is it not rather bankers and the financiers and financial advisers of the IMF and WTO pulling the strings in Brussels we should be putting the fear of God into? This is not just an EU problem but a global one, so we in Britain as well as Greece and elsewhere are being crushed with “austerity”, too (hence this argument having come up in the English parliament). W have the Yaris solution, which works for me: a suffient and reliable pension leaving me time to do my bit towards what needs doing. The problem is it works also for those innocents who trust the present authorities. Cynical “economical” governments buy support by providing enough of their loyal “children” with more than sufficent and reliable pensions, but generate fear in THEM by lying that they will lose them if anyone else is in charge. In the end the solution is to exclude finance from government authority by enshrining honest money (i.e. credit repaid by earning it) as an inalienable constitutional right, not just here but throughout the United Nations. That is not wishful thinking: it is a concrete reform aim. Let’s hear Chesterton again:

    “Reform is a metaphor for reasonable and determined men: it means that we see a certain thing out of shape and we mean to put it into shape. And we know what shape”.

    Chesterton’s predecessor William Cobbett saw what was wrong as a “wen”, a cancer. The cure for a cancer is not a corset to contain its shape. It is to cut it out and get the economy back into the shape it should have had, where local wealth goes into a local barn (ikewise with regional infrastructure, etc) and is available to everyone as needed, though everyone is expected to help in getting in next year’s harvest and maintaining this year’s infrastructure.

  4. Rob Reno
    February 5, 2018 at 10:28 am

    Thank you all for your thoughtful comments. I can only add that here in the US anyone intelligent to see what is happening are living in fear waiting for the next shoe to fall.

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