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Shark v. SolonKR, Resolved: Just governments ought to require that employers pay a living wage.

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Voting Style: Open with Elo Restrictions Point System: Select Winner
Started: 10/17/2015 Category: Economics
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 875 times Debate No: 81098
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This is the final round of the September Beginners Tournament, hosted by The-Voice-of-Truth and lannan13. For the final, SolonKR and I have decided on this resolution, which states - Resolved: Just governments ought to require that employers pay a living wage. I will be affirming the resolution, and SolonKR will be negating the resolution.

For clarification, let me provide definitions of the terms. The definition of "just" is up for debate, but I will define justice as "fairness or reasonableness," or as "giving each their due". A government is a group of people with the authority to govern a country or state. "Ought" indicates moral obligation or moral desirability. "Require" is to demand as essential or fundamental. An employer is a person or organization that employs people.

What is a living wage? A living wage is a wage which is high enough to maintain a normal standard of living. In public policy, a living wage is the minimum income necessary for a worker to meet their basic needs. Basic needs are not the same as a biological minimum. These needs include shelter (housing) and other incidentals such as clothing and nutrition[1].

The first round is for acceptance only. No new arguments in the final round. The burden of proof is shared.




I accept. Good luck to my opponent!
Debate Round No. 1


I thank Solon for accepting.

I affirm the resolution, which states Resolved: Just governments ought to require that employers pay a living wage. For deciding what a "just" government "ought" to do, we need to understand what constitutes "justice". Justice is based on doing what is just - making decisions based on what is right and what is wrong. Thus, I value morality; prefer this value as justice, by definition, makes fair decisions based on what is right and wrong, and it is morality that makes those distinctions. We now move into moral epistemology, which answers the question: "What is moral?"

My epistemological framework gives the answer. The universe is causally closed and entirely natural, so desirability is the basis for morality. Pappineau 2007 argues:
  • "In the middle of the nineteenth century the conservation of kinetic plus potential energy came to be accepted as a basic principle of physics ... the conservation of energy does imply that any such special forces must be governed by strict deterministic laws: if mental or vital forces arose spontaneously, then there would be nothing to ensure that they never led to energy increases ..."
Thus, physicalism is affirmed as true, since all mental states are explained by matter. This means that it is matter that must be the epistemological ground for morality. There are no side-constraints in nature. Suffering is a mental state that we have reason to avoid. Sayre McCord 2001 writes:
  • "the evaluative starting point is … each person thinking "my own happiness is valuable," … this fact about each person is taken as evidence, with respect to each bit of happiness that is valued … Each person … ha[s]… reason to think … there is the same evidence available to each for the value of the happiness that another person enjoys as there is for the value of one's own happiness. … happiness is such that every piece of it is desired by someone, … in taking ourselves to have reason to see the bit we value as valuable, we are committed to acknowledging the value of all the rest."

Consequentialism is the only option. Respecting the rights of others without respecting consequences means we are free to make any choices. Human moral worth - and rationality - both entail consequentialism. According to Cummiskey 1996:

  • "If I sacrifice some for the sake of others, … I do not deny the unconditional value of rational beings. Persons may have …unconditional …worth” …but persons also have a fundamental equality that dictates that some must sometimes give way for the sake of others … The concept of the end-in-itself thus … dictates that one maysacrifice some to save many."
Bostrom 2012 writes:
  • "there is a great option value in preserving ... our ability to recognize value and to steer the future accordingly. Ensuring that there will be a future version of humanity ... is ... the best way ... to increase the probability that the future will contain a lot of value ... if something is not known to be objectively safe, then it is risky ... we may be uncertain about whether or not X would really be bad. But we can say that if we are not sure whether or not X would really be bad (but we are sure that X would not be good), then X is bad in ... the subjective sense relevant to decision making ... we have reason to prefer that X not occur ..."
This mandates utilitarianism - we seek to reduce anything undesirable and maximize benefit. Moral obligation - expressed in terms such as 'ought' - is based on moral desirability. Thus, my criterion is maximizing benefit and minimizing harm.

Contention 1: Poverty leads to increased suffering, and living wages reduce poverty

A) Poverty causes death. According to Dr. Sandro Galea, et al. 2011:
  • "The number of deaths ... calculated as attributable to low educationR13;245,000R13;is comparable to the number caused by heart attacksR13;192,898R13;which was the leading cause of US deaths in 2000 ..."
The same study demonstrated that poverty caused upto 30% of the deaths in the U.S. in 2000. Furthermore, the UNICEF claims:
  • "More than 30 per cent of children in developing countries – about 600 million – live on less than US $1 a day. Every 3.6 seconds one person dies of starvation. Usually it is a child under the age of 5. ... Poverty hits children hardest. While a severe lack of goods and services hurts every human, it is most threatening to children’s rights: survival, health and nutrition, education, participation, and protection from harm and exploitation. ... Children who are not immunized or who are malnourished are much more susceptible to the diseases that are spread through poor sanitation. Poverty exacerbates the effects of HIV/AIDS and armed conflict. ... Poverty contributes to malnutrition, which in turn is a contributing factor in over half of the under-five deaths in developing countries. Some 300 million children go to bed hungry every day. Of these only eight per cent are victims of famine or other emergency situations. More than 90 per cent are suffering long-term malnourishment and micronutrient deficiency."
O'Neill 2006 writes:
  • "The fact that poor people around the world have shorter and harder lives is the result of human design. This phenomenon is called 'structural violence.' "
B) Poverty results in economic collapse. Crain and Sherraden '14:
  • "stagnant incomes led consumers to take on debt in order to finance rising costs ... Politcal pressure rose on government to increase access to credit, and when it complied, consumption rose ... [T]he Wall Street bubble, financed by the dramatic increase in consumer debt, eventually burst."
C) Living wages reduce poverty. First, they increase employment. Shulman '13 writes:
  • "in 12 states with minimum wages higher than the federal level...employment rose more than in states where the federal level was standard. This finding held true for small businesses as well...Workers' increased buying power leads to new purchases, which boost the entire economy--and that creates more jobs..."
Second, they increase disposable income. Brenner and Luce 2008 argue:
  • "[r]eal wages rose nearly 25 percent for affected workers, and real annual earnings rose by roughly 60 percent ... we also saw evidence of a shift to more full-time, higher-wage jobs ... We found clear evidence of sharp reductions in the incidence of poverty among workers covered by the Boston living wage ordinance, and we attribute as much as one-half of the reduction in severe poverty and one-third of the reduction in poverty to the law."
Contention 2: Living wages help the economy

A) The minimum wage helps the economy as it increases consumption substantially. Aaronson, et al. 2011 finds:
  • "household income rises on average by about $250 per quarter and spending by roughly $700 per quarter for households with minimum wage workers ..."
Carroll et al. 2013 found that there is more consumption with lower- and middle- income families if there is a living wage. This is affirmed by multiple other studies.

B) Living wages reduce income inequality. Stiglitz argues:
  • "There are four major reasons inequality is squelching our recovery. The most immediate is that our middle class is too weak to support the consumer spending that has historically driven our economic growth...Second, the hollowing out of the middle class since the 1970s, in a phenomenon interrupted only briefly in the 1990s, means that they are unable to invest in their future, by educating themselves and their children and by starting or improving businesses..Third, the weakness of the middle class is holding back tax receipts, especially because those at the top are so adroit in avoiding taxes and in getting Washington to give them tax breaks...Fourth, inequality is associated with more frequent and more severe boom-and-bust cycles that make our economy more volatile and vulnerable ..."
Mishel '13 adds:
  • “A higher minimum wage wouldf help address growing inequality, particularly as it affects lower-wage women...For workers overall more than half (57.0 percent) of the increase in the 50/50 wage gap [between median-wage workers and workers at the 10th percentile in wages] from 1979 to 2009 was accounted for by the erosion of the minimum wage ...”
Conclusion: Living wages (1) minimize harm by reducing income inequality and poverty, and (2) maximize benefit by boosting consumption and aiding the economy. Thus, under a utilitarian framework, just governments ought to require that employers pay a living wage.


I will define “just”, explain that freedom constitutes fairness, explain the underlying tenet of freedom, and will render government compulsion to provide a living wage unjust based on the idea of freedom of contract.


Given the accepted definition of “justice” as “fairness or reasonableness,” or as “giving each their due,” we must examine what those definition themselves mean in order to give a fair definition of the word “just”. First, we must establish justice as distinct from morality, although intertwined. Morality is “Principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior” (1). Justice, by the given definition, is a practical examination of morality; it is a practical examination of fairness, “the quality of treating people equally or in a way that is right or reasonable” (2), rather than an abstract consideration of right and wrong. Thus, the moral framework for my argument must be a practical one relevant to fairness, and I will consider anything just as moral, and anything not just as immoral.

The final question that must be asked, then, is this: What does it mean to treat people equally? I posit that it represents a guarantee of personal liberties and freedom. Many cultures define justice in completely different ways, so either there must be an objective solution, or there is no such thing as a just government. I will not argue the latter; instead, I will argue that there is an objective solution—the solution of freedom. The idea that all humans are endowed equally with innate and inalienable rights is the only one that guarantees true equality, as more statist ideas unequally favor government officials, and more anarchistic ideas unequally favor the strongest in a society. It is not fair, and therefore not just, to restrict the rights of people of free speech, free religion, and of their contracts, among many others.

P1. Freedom, as the Just Basis of Government, Establishes Liberty of Contract

Let’s go back to the Enlightenment. The social contract theory, advanced primarily by John Locke and Thomas Hobbes, but born as a concept much earlier, argues that the mandate of governments is derived from the masses, who in effect exchange some of their products for some of the privileges of an organized state through a social contract (3). This theory is a fair one in that the “contract” obligates the government to provide services, among them protection, education, and healthcare, depending on the specific country and time, in exchange for certain services on the part of the citizen. The rights are inherently considered to be inalienable and not to be arbitrarily restricted, primarily, according to Locke, the rights of life, liberty, and property. This framework of the contract is the way in which freedom can be reconciled with the sometimes restrictive acts of governments today.

To look at the concept of “contracts” in action, we should examine the state that, unlike the states of Europe, which slowly changed to adhere to values of freedom, was founded with the social contract theory as a primary ideal: the United States. The Declaration itself states, “[a]ll men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” (4). Note that the “pursuit of Happiness”, in practice, is practically identical to “property” (6.581). In Article I, Section 10 of the U.S. Constitution, states are prohibited from “impairing the obligations of contracts” in what is known as the contract clause (5), referring to legal contracts. While the right to freedom of contract has not been constant in the United States, it is important to examine the ideals behind it. Liberty of contract existed as a right for approximately the first thirty years of the twentieth century, but its basis was in much earlier times—the American Revolution. The rise of private contracts was in fact a unique development of the revolution (6.575). According to James Madison, property is “every thing to which a man may attach a value and have a right; and which leaves to everyone else the like advantage.” (6.582). A contract of employment may be included within this definition—a contract is the principle on which the government was founded, so man has a right to contract, and man places value on contract due to the exchange of services rendered by it. As property rights are clearly protected vigorously by the Constitution and the early courts, so too are contracts (6.587).

P2. Liberty of Contract, as a concept of the just system of freedom, renders any sort of minimum wage unjust.

With that established, let us examine employment. Employment is established in the U.S. through contracts; if not explicitly through an actual contract (with or without collective bargaining), then implicitly through the agreed upon exchange of wages for services. In effect, though, forcing employers to provide a living wage, which requires an establishment of a higher minimum wage (7), violates the sanctity of the contract; the right of the employer to offer a lower wage and the right of an employee to accept that wage is infringed upon. The former may not be willing to pay a higher wage for certain services, and the later may be willing to accept a lower wage for those same services, but the presence of a minimum wage destroys the ability of the employer to negotiate the difference. For an example of this principle in action, examine the tale of Gravity Payments, a firm which established a yearly minimum salary of $70,000. While this was not forced by the government, it demonstrates the effects of what happens when employee salaries are not more freely distributed—the long-time hires and more educated workers became furious at being paid the same as new hires, and left in droves (8). Had this been the case everywhere due to government intervention, though, their right to establish a fair contract based on the services they provide would be devastated by this wage.

In summary, the liberty of contract which just governments hold as a principle is violated by establishment of a forced living wage, and this wage mandate is thus unjust and therefore immoral; just governments should avoid forcing employers to provide a living wage at all costs.










Debate Round No. 2



A) "Justice" is beyond merely fairness and giving each their due. The Oxford Dictionary, 2015, defines justice as "just behavior or treatment," and defines 'just' as "based on or behaving according to what is morally right." Further, the resolution demands an 'ought', a moral obligation. Thus, prefer my value as it best represents the distinctions between right and wrong.

B) Con drops util and drops all justifications I gave in favor of it.

== NEG CASE ==

The neg's kritik fails for the following reasons:

Contention 1: The social contract is seriously flawed.

A) There is no true consent in the social contract. "Central to the Social Contract idea is the claim that we owe allegiance to the law because the benefits we have derived have been voluntarily accepted. This is one place where our autonomy is supposed to come in. That is, having benefited from the Rule of Law when it was possible to leave, I have in a sense consented to it." [1] Hume argues, "Can we seriously say that a poor peasant or artisan has a free choice to leave his country-when he knows no foreign language...and lives from day to day by the small wages which he acquires? We may as well assert that a man, by remaining in a vessel, freely consents to the dominion of the master, though he was carried on board while asleep, and must leap into the ocean and perish the moment he leaves her." [2] Implied consent justifies immoral governments. "The contract argument set forth in the case of refusal to emigrate proves too much...It can be maintained that anyone living under the control of a regime receives something that the regime might call benefits. Ultimately, thus, the benefits argument reduces to the claim that all under the control of state should obey the state." [3]

B) The social contract is opposed to feminism. Friend argues, "Virginia Held...argues that social contract theory implicitly relies on a conception of the person that can be best described as 'economic man.' 'Economic man' is concerned first and foremost to maximize his own, individually considered interests, and he enters into contracts as a means by which to achieve this end. 'Economic man', however, fails to represent all persons in all times and places. In particular, it fails to adequately represent children and those who provide them with the care they require, who have historically been women. The model of 'economic man' cannot, therefore, fairly claim to be a general representation of all persons. Similarly, Annette Baier argues that Gauthier’s conception of the liberal individual who enters into the social contract as a means by which to maximize his own individually considered interests is gendered in that it does not take seriously the position of either children or the women." [4]

Friend 2: ""Baier argues that Gauthier, who conceives of affective bonds between persons as non-essential and voluntary, therefore fails to represent the fullness of human psychology and motivations. She argues that this therefore leads to a crucial flaw in social contract theory. Liberal moral theory is in fact parasitic upon the very relations between persons from which it seeks to liberate us. While Gauthier argues that we are freer the more that we can see affective relations as voluntary, we must nonetheless, in the first place, be in such relationships (e.g., the mother-child relationship) in order to develop the very capacities and qualities lauded by liberal theory. Certain kinds of relationships of dependence, in other words, are necessary in the first place if we are to become the very kinds of persons who are capable of entering into contracts and agreements...She therefore suggests that we consider other models of human relationships when looking for insight into morality. In particular, she offers up the paradigm of the mother-child relationship...Such a model is more likely to match up with many of the moral experiences of most people, especially women." [5]

Contention 2: A libertarian framework is flawed

Such a libertarian framework based on liberty of contract is flawed. Liberty of contract grounding freedom is dangerous. Kant argues: "If we take this definition of freedom then the amount of freedom a person has is the extent to which they can act without being coerced to do (or not to do) something against their will. In a libertarian society you cannot (legitimately) do anything with another's property if they don't want you to, so your only guaranteed freedom is determined by the amount of property you have. This has the consequence that someone with no property has no guaranteed freedom, and that the more property you have, the greater your guaranteed freedom. In other words, a distribution of property is a distribution of freedom, as the libertarians themselves define it. Thus...the libertarians are saying that the best way of promoting freedom is to allow some people to have more of it than others, even when this leads to some having very little or even none." [6]


The resolution is affirmed.


[1] -
[2] - David Hume, "Of the Original Contract"
[3] -
[4] -
[5] - op. cit.
[6] -


Pro does not contest my definition of fairness as
“the quality of treating people equally or in a way that is right or reasonable”. As morality is defined as the distinction between right or wrong, fairness invokes morality (“Principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong”. Thus, what is fair must be moral, and since what is fair is just (as justice is “fairness or reasonableness”), what is just is moral. Prefer my framework, as it the most fair.

Pro begins by redefining justice, which we had already agreed upon as meaning, "fairness or reasonableness," or as "giving each their due".

He accuses me of “dropping” his arguments; this is untrue, as I simply used the round for my opening argument, as, given no structure at the opening, I used my R2 only for my opening argument. Prefer this structure, as it is what is guaranteed to give each side the same amount of rebuttals.

He further accuses my case of being a critique. This is also untrue. A critique requires challenging the fundamental assumptions of a resolution or argument. I did not do this. I established, within the context of the given definitions, a framework by which to measure justice, and, by extension, morality. This is no different than his establishment of a utilitarian framework.

Defense 1:

First, it is crucial to note that Pro does NOT rebut my point that just governments are founded on the social contract theory. He only attacks the merits of the theory itself. Because I have established a social contract government as just, prefer the libertarian framework, as it is the morality behind this just system.

Pro’s first contention rests in historical contexts. His example of Hume only demonstrates that the social contract as an explanation of historical governments is wrong, which is irrelevant to the theory’s applicability to today. Pro attempts to state that because a citizen today might not necessarily agree with every verdict of a government, there cannot be any true consent; however, this is untrue. Consider treaties between nations, like the recent Iran deal. In any negotiation, the individual governments cannot obtain every advantage they would like in a treaty, because of conflicting interest. The resultant treaty, therefore, cannot contain entirely agreeable terms to either nation, except in cases of unconditional surrender. Similarly, modern social-contract governments cannot have entirely favorable terms for every member of society; yet, there is true consent of the masses in the form of election of officials.

The feminism argument is entirely irrelevant to both of our presented frameworks of morality; as Pro presents no link to either utilitarianism or libertarianism, this argument is dropped. Pro also presents no reason as to why feminism is moral or just to begin with; nor does he qualify the arguments of Friend, only stating what people argue, and not WHY they argue it. Pro presents no evidence for ‘economic man’, nor why women or children aren’t considered. Friend 2 presents a coherent argument, but it is irrelevant to the resolution, as whether or not affective societal bonds are essential or voluntary does not have anything to do with government; society is a distinct entity from government.

Defense 2:

Pro does not explain how the “flaws” in a libertarian framework he has attempted to expose would cause it to be less desirable. He attempts to call it inequitable, but this argument falls apart when one considers the fact that everyone does, in fact, have property—their own bodies and minds. This is the fundamental concept that liberty of contract rests on when it comes to employment—some people trade away physical or mental bodily products in exchange for other products, i.e. wages, which are used to trade for property.

Furthermore, this point is irrelevant in that the idea that some might have more property than others does not pertain to either one of our moral frameworks. He does not explain how a difference in property is unfair. If one works hard and works intelligently with the resources he is given, he will have the opportunity to negotiate better contracts; this is foundational to capitalist, libertarian thought.

Rebuttal 1

Physicalism is flawed, due to the disregard for consciousness. Chalmers 1996:

“1. According to physicalism, all that exists in our world (including consciousness) is physical.

2. Thus, if physicalism is true, a metaphysically possible world in which all physical facts are the same as those of the actual world must contain everything that exists in our actual world. In particular, conscious experience must exist in such a possible world.

3. In fact we can conceive of a world physically indistinguishable from our world but in which there is no consciousness (a zombie world). From this (so Chalmers argues) it follows that such a world is metaphysically possible.

4. Therefore, physicalism is false.”

Furthermore, Pro does not explain the rational link between physicalism and consequentialism. It is generally true that humans avoid suffering, but this does not explain why it is immoral for one human to harm another, if it is to the benefit of the first human, and not even to society at large. Indeed, Pro actually argues that saving one to save many is moral; by his logic, it would be perfectly reasonable and moral for a just government in one country to require employers to pay lower wages, provided that those sub-living wages maintain a state where more citizens in foreign countries can benefit from it to a greater degree than those who are harmed by it. Living wages are not the same as subsistence wages, Pro noted, and paying a whole country only subsistence wages to do factory and manufacturing jobs would greatly improve the lives of citizens in all other countries thanks to cheap imports. Therefore, just governments certainly can morally be obligated to pay low wages under utilitarianism, and his argument is null at best.

A) Rebuttal: Under a utilitarian framework, deaths are not morally undesirable

It’s first important to recognize that the countries Pro speaks of when talking of extreme poverty are developing country. With low GDPs, these countries simply cannot afford to pay extravagant wages and will economically collapse if they mandate living wages. (1)

B) This issue was far more complex than simply poverty causing the financial crisis. It had to do a lot with irresponsible lending in the housing market, which was caused by people living beyond their means rather than being poor in the first place, and an unregulated money market (2).

C) Pro does not prove at all that living wages reduce unemployment. Correlation does not imply causation, and the quote provides no statistical documentation for its argument about workers’ buying power creating jobs. It could just as easily be a pre-existing favorable economic climate in those particular states. Furthermore, there are more effective ways to increase purchasing power, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (3).

Rebuttal 2

A+B) 1. The upper class can just as easily drive spending and growth as the lower classes through investment. In addition to effects on investment spending, it also increases the number of employment opportunities, still contributing positively to consumer spending in the GDP (4). 2. Small business is not as important in the economy to begin with, as the majority of people are employed in big business (5). 3. Pro never explains why taxes are beneficial in the first place. 4. Pro provides no source for his claim of increased volatility.







Debate Round No. 3


I concede


I accept my opponent's concession. Vote Con.
Debate Round No. 4
No comments have been posted on this debate.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Balacafa 2 years ago
Who won the debate:-Vote Checkmark
Reasons for voting decision: Concession.