Next debate: how much should a government meddle with wages?

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January 19, 2014 by Adam Smith

British voters may not have decided to give a single political party a majority share of the seats in parliament in 2010, but the Rational Parliament’s next debate topic has at least been chosen by a majority.

George Osborne the sweeper

Credit: acidrabbi on flickr

With 52 % of the vote, by far the most popular topic for our next debate is the living wage and basic income guarantee (see full results below). We’re also likely to cover the national minimum wage now that it’s back on the political agenda, with Labour leader Ed Miliband pushing his views on the “cost-of-living crisis” and the chancellor, George Osborne, saying last week that he favours a huge rise in the minimum wage from £6.31 to £7 an hour.

It’s a fascinating debate because, like all things discussed in the Rational Parliament, it’s really bloody complicated. On the one hand is the principle that an employee should expect to be paid enough to afford basics such as food and a home; on the other hand, government wage fixing causes some peculiar behaviours in employers (including shifts to more part-time workers and higher prices).

The living wage has become something of a hot topic lately among campaign groups and politicians. You might think it’s a new idea but really it’s been on the go since the 1870s when workers in coalfields began to demand it. Meanwhile, Switzerland is due to vote soon on whether every citizen should receive a basic income from the state (yes, you read that right!). Politicians and voters on the left and right become really exercised about this issue of government fixing wages because it mixes macroeconomic theories with the daily lives of individuals. It’s perfect for the Rational Parliament, isn’t it? Values and views debated alongside research evidence from economists and social scientists.

I’m looking for some researchers to come and join our debate now, so if you have any recommendations please comment below or contact me. The date is yet to be set – stay tuned!

Your clerk,

Adam

PS. The full results from the poll are below. Some of these topics will be rolled over to the poll for the next sitting. Especially immigration. That topic is going nowhere.

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Rational Parliament debate on fracking, 26 Nov 2013

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