On the Minimum Wage and Free-Markets

Hello everybody. It’s the day after Thanksgiving here in the States. I hope you all sufficiently stuffed yourselves with turkey or tofu, depending on your preferences. But now that we’re solidly into the consumerism orgy that is the holiday shopping season, I thought it was time to hit on a topic that has been brewing in the back of my head for a bit.

A number of very popular stories have hit social media recently, including signs in several Wal-Mart stores asking for donations to help feed needy employees, or McDonald’s workers being told how to avoid hunger pains. Related, and most interesting to me, is a new law recently passed in Washington State that sets the minimum wage at $15 per hour.

Predictably, this move has been met from certain quarters with cries of government intrusion into the free-market, a sense of entitlement on the part of minimum wage workers, and numerous predictions of a cataclysmic increase in the price of goods and services to the public at large.

First of all, as I’ve said before, I am a conservative. I support low taxes, a relatively free market, and an unobtrusive government. So it may surprise many of you to learn that I support Washington’s experiment.

To understand why, let me define a couple of terms, so as to avoid confusion later. First up is Full Time Employment. For many decades, it has been generally accepted here in the U.S. that a person is considered a full-time worker if they work forty hours per week. The old labor refrain of “Eight for work, eight for sleep, and eight for what we will” seems to be a reasonable balance. Excluding weekends, this is where the entire concept of the forty hour work week came from.

Second is Minimum Wage. For many conservatives and business owners, the concept of the minimum wage is nothing more than the absolute least they are required by law to pay their employees, but I take a slightly different outlook. To me, a minimum wage must both logically and morally be tied to a minimum standard of living for the term to have any meaning. As far as I’m concerned, a true minimum wage would be one that allows a full-time employee to afford rent, transportation costs, groceries, electric, heating bills (for those of us in the northern latitudes), health insurance, and some modest contribution to a retirement account. If an employee’s pay for a full week of work can’t cover these minimum expenses, then how exactly does it qualify as a “minimum wage”?

“But!” shouts people not actually on the bottom rung of the socioeconomic ladder, “If we pay them enough for all of those things, the price of our Big Macs and Tall Chai Lattes will go up! And that’s not fair!”

Well, as a conservative, here’s my problem with that argument. We are already paying that extra cost. Right now, we make up for the artificially cheap prices for goods and services created by low wages by paying more taxes into the welfare and other social safety net systems, be they housing assistance, SNAP, or a dozen other programs that help the working poor close the gap between their “minimum wage” and what they actually need to survive.

I don’t approve of that system. Here’s a simplified version of why. I don’t eat at McDonald’s, yet every Big Mac sold in this country is supplemented by MY tax dollars going into welfare, (and beef and corn subsidies, but that is a WHOLE other rant). If you are shopping at a business that doesn’t pay its full time workers enough to live, I am picking up a portion of your bill.

This is why I support raising the minimum wage to reflect an actual minimum living standard, so that people who work full-time do not have to be dependent on government, and the people buying goods and services from these establishments actually pay the true price for them. Doing so will not only reduce the working poor’s dependence on government and taxpayer welfare, but also increase their own buying power, expanding consumer spending and demand, which is the true source of economic expansion and job creation in this economy and all others.

Raising the minimum wage is truly the pro-business, free-market answer. If you’re not paying your employees enough to live, then you aren’t a free-market business. You are a recipient of corporate welfare provided by the American taxpayer. And welfare of any kind is something conservatives, as I understand the term, are supposed to be against.

After the Draft: Episode VII, Michael R. Underwood

Well, it’s Monday everyone, and if you’re here in the Midwest with me, you just got walloped by storms and the temperature dropped thirty degrees overnight.

As a consolation prize, this month’s guest post comes from fellow author and geek extraordinaire, Michael R. Underwood. He’s here to share his story of unusually sudden success, and the extra work it entailed. The journey of Geekomancy is a reminder that there is no one true path to publication, and that you need to be ready for anything. As always, please take a moment to peruse my guest’s websites and blogs, and consider supporting their work. Enjoy!


Michael R Underwood:

From Rough Draft To Pub-Date

I finished the rough draft of GEEKOMANCY, my debut novel, in late November of 2011. I did a quick revision in order to prepare it for a novel contest in at my online writing group. Even as I turned it in there, I knew it was a bloody mess that needed a lot more work. The first round of revisions were big things like “This opening is terrible. I’ll cut and start with the actual character introduction,” and “This can be in 1st person or 3rd, but not both. Bad Mike.”

At the same time, I went ahead and posted several chapters of the barely-revised manuscript on a site called Book Country (an online writing community with strong discussion and critique elements). My intent was to show the book’s entire revision process on the site, to get some extra feedback and give myself additional external accountability.

Little did I know that an editor from Pocket/Gallery, Adam Wilson, would be browsing projects on Book Country, looking for novels to acquire for his list.

In January 2012, I got a message from Adam noting that he’d read the excerpt of GEEKOMANCY on Book Country and saw on my blog that I’d finished a draft, and could he perhaps take a look at it?

This is not a normal thing in publishing. I got really really lucky, and for that, I am very grateful.

But as I said above, the manuscript was a total mess, and I *knew* that there was lots more revision to be done. But Adam wanted to see it anyway.

And when an editor asks to read your full manuscript, You. Say. Yes. (a corollary of the GHOSTBUSTERS rule).

Less than two weeks later, I had an offer for GEEKOMANCY, and a rather early pubdate. Ebooks are much easier to drop into a schedule, since you don’t have to bother with the physical distribution and sell-in process.

To zoom through some steps, I signed with an agent and signed the deal, and moved very quickly into revisions.

After you sell a book or submit a book that’s under contract, the editor gives you an Editorial Letter. They vary in length depending on the work and the editor. The letter gives the editor’s overall evaluation of where the manuscript is, and what big-picture changes they would like the author to consider.

Adam’s main notes included a request to bring more of the Geekomancy magic system into the spotlight, and to zoom in on a sequence where Ree (the main character), is testing out her powers. In the first draft & revision, I just kind of had her leap into the deep end and hope things worked out. Following Adam’s suggestion, I found an appropriate subject for Ree to emulate (Geekomancy allows people to watch a film/TV show they love and then emulate some aspect of said film/show), which in this case was the first episode of the BBC SHERLOCK. That sequence came out really clearly right away, and judging by reader feedback, did exactly what Adam said it needed to in terms of setting the rules and putting some ‘wow’ on the page.

One by one, I took Adam’s notes and went at the manuscript with a mission, my focus targeted to specific efforts instead of being stuck looking at a 90K word chunk of prose and telling myself ‘make it better.’ This, my friends, is where editors are worth their weight in gold. Having an experienced reader who is invested in your success give you challenges on very specific ways to improve your work is an incredible asset.

Shortly after I turned that in, Adam came back and said ‘so…what if we could get this book out for San Diego Comic-Con?’ which was only three months from that point, and four months earlier than we’d discussed for the book’s release.

It meant two incredibly busy and stressful weekends doing the copy edit and then the page proof pass, but with the Pocket Star Production team overclocking their awesomeness, we got GEEKOMANCY out into the marketplace for SDCC, all less than six months after it had sold in the first place.

The whole process was a whirlwind, where publishing is usually very slow. My experience was uncommon, but in this publishing climate, uncommon is getting far more frequent.

If there’s one piece of takeaway from my journey from rough draft to publication, it’s this: give yourself every opportunity you can.


Michael R. Underwood is the author of GEEKOMANCY, CELEBROMANCY, and the forthcoming ATTACK THE GEEK, YOUNGER GODS, and SHIELD AND CROCUS. By day, he’s the North American Sales & Marketing Manager for Angry Robot Books.
Mike lives in Baltimore with his fiance. In his rapidly-vanishing free time, he studies historical martial arts and makes homemade pizza. Mike blogs at michaelrunderwood.com/blog and Tweets @MikeRUnderwood.

An Open Letter to Orson Scott Card

Mr. Card,

Hi. How are things? Great, glad to hear it. I had the chance to see Ender’s Game on opening night, which I must congratulate you on. It was one of the finest movie adaptations of a book I’ve seen. Considering the source material, that was no small feat.

I should tell you that many of my friends and colleagues did not go to see the movie. Many of them chose to participate in the boycott started by members of the LGBT community, in protest of your very public views against the basic humanity of homosexuals, and perhaps even more importantly against your contributions to anti-marriage equality causes. Indeed, it is these views that define you for an entire generation of readers. They believe you to be intolerant and hateful. A bigot.

I declined to participate in the boycott, but not because I support your quixotic quest against queers, (that was just for the sake of alliteration, you understand) but because I’ve read much of your work already, and believe that such claims about your character are incomplete. While it’s true that I find your opposition to homosexuality repugnant and indefensible, I believe it’s not the whole story.

You are a mystery to me. A contradiction. I am not one of those people who believes you can really separate the art from the artist. I do not believe that creatives “channel” their work from a place outside of themselves, be it a God, or ill-defined aether, or some sort of cosmic internet of consciousness. I believe art comes from within.

Which is my problem with you. You see, I simply can’t fathom how the man that wrote Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead can hold the views you do, much less take pride in them.

With both the Formics, (I see the movie dropped “buggers”, which I wasn’t entirely happy about) and later the Pequeninos, you crafted two of the most alien races in sci-fi literature, and two of my favorites. Only the ‘Tines’ of Vernor Vinge’s A Fire Upon the Deep and the ‘Pierson’s Puppeteers’ of Larry Niven’s Ringworld compare in my mind among the ranks of fully-developed, believable, yet truly alien races. You managed to write them both in ways that made them so outside of our experience as humans that it was difficult if not impossible to relate to their existence.

And yet, AND YET, you wrote them with obvious love and compassion. Compassion for their unique circumstances, and love for their differences. But you’ve gone further than this. When it was suggested that a method might be found to alter the Pequeninos reproductive cycle to make it more human, “How dare you,” Andrew Wiggin snapped, “We didn’t come here to attack them at the root of their lives. We came here to find a way to share a world with them.”

He loved them exactly as they were, just as he loved the Formics. Andrew believed, with all his soul, that every sentient creature was deserving of love, compassion, tolerance, and respect. How different, how alien they might be was not important. You even came up with an incredibly clever and insightful Hierarchy of Foreignness, to define the different levels of how ‘alien’ something is to human experience.

You wrote all that, Mr. Card, and it was beautiful. That is why I didn’t participate in the boycott, and why I have strongly advised others not to as well, because boycotting your work would also mean cutting themselves off from what I believe to be the best argument for equality, acceptance, and a universal love that I have ever read.

So what prevents you from seeing it? What prevents you from applying the same simple standards you created for the Buggers and Piggies to homosexuals? Can you honestly sit there and expect me to believe that my gay and lesbian friends are Varelse? Because that’s what your public stance is arguing for; a war against the basic human rights and dignity of many millions of people, simply because they enjoy a different set of genitals than you would prefer. How is THAT such a crime that you are unwilling to find a way to share a world with them, with the same level of respect and compassion Ender showed for the Buggers? How is that minor difference enough that you can’t see that straights and homosexuals are not only the same species, but spring from the same culture, language, and shared history?

How can you not recognize homosexuals as Utlanning?

People are calling you a bigot, Mr. Card. People whom I respect. But I don’t actually believe that is the whole story. The intuitive, creative part of you, free of whatever baggage doctrine and dogma has burdened you with, has written something amazing, inspirational and pure. Something worth sharing and spreading and championing. Something that deserves to be timeless.

That part of you knows the right answer. The only answer. It is your life’s work. Please, consider listening to it.


Your humble servant and fan,

Patrick S. Tomlinson