Wages: Some personal Experience

April 27, 2010

Nominal wages have risen continually since the 1930s, a natural result of perpetual legal counterfeiting. Thus prospective employers assume that they must offer you more than your wage on your last job.
At one point I was working as a production engineer for $65 a week. I quit there and applied for a job at another company. The only opening they had was as a technician at $60 a week. I was willing to take that, but they wouldn’t consider paying less than the $65 I’d been earning, so they gave me the title of engineer which paid $75 per week. I didn’t complain!
Working on military contracts is feast and famine. Years later I had a very successful job which I really liked. When the company ran out of contracts, they laid off every engineer but kept their technicians, who could work in production until another contract came through. I offered to downgrade to technician but the company wouldn’t consider it. Apparently that was against company policy.
On the other hand, many workers are determined to never accept a wage cut or a reduction in “status”. After many jobs and many titles, I’m convinced that titles are meaningless. Pay, and freedom to solve problems my own way, are the rewards that matter to me.
I have been laid off 5 times in the 44 years between school and retirement. Each time I moved on to a better job at better pay. The stress in the interval between jobs is painful. My shortest interval between jobs was 2 hours. The longest was 4 months. At one point I got a temporary job mopping floors, at the minimum wage, while my next employer spent 6 months obtaining a security clearance for me. All in all, I have probably spent 1% of my working life between jobs. I believe that is what a free labor market could achieve for all workers.
Workers, too, tend to spend up to the limit and “couldn’t possibly” live on less. When they have to, they find that they can live on less.
As a libertarian, I believe an employer has the right to hire and fire on any basis they choose, just as I have the right to accept or reject a job offer for whatever reasons I choose. If our reasons are foolish, we suffer the consequences, but liberty includes the right to be wrong.
I was once offered a good job in what I considered a good company, on the condition that I shave off my beard. I refused the offer. I sell my services, (and serve with enthusiasm), but not my personal freedom. Another prospective employer refused to even interview me because I didn’t have a college degree. I figure such arbitrary standards diminish their opportunities, as well as mine.
One of my employers, a government contractor, put on a drive to get every employee to buy government bonds. On principle, I refused. I was threatened with reprisals. When the drive ended, they froze my wages. That was their right. I found a much better job and left. I was the only electronics designer they had. They needed me more than I needed them.
Workers, as well as the entrepreneurs who start and guide companies to success, must be able to adapt to changes, and move on when necessary. There is no security, but endless opportunity in the free market.


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