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Ten Dollars an Hour
September 26, 2009 6:29 AM   Subscribe

In an area where racial divisions are very stark, the relationships between the "haves" and the "have nots" are very illuminating. Leasse William is a cook at the Sigma Nu fraternity house on the campus of the University of Mississippi. She makes ten dollars an hour. For nine months of pay this equals out at about $15,000/year. This places her well within the over 20% of the population in Mississippi that lives below the poverty line. This mini documentary by Ben Guest about Leasse shines a light on the perspectives of the various actors involved in this drama of racial tensions and class disparity.
posted by anansi (85 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is beautifully done!

How many of us depend on the Leasse Williams of the world without thinking about their situation. Is your office cleaned by people like her? Are your supermarket shelves stocked by people who have no health insurance? Is your child's day care teacher making ends meet? Does the nurse's aide who helps granny have any retirement benefits?
posted by mareli at 7:02 AM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Slight derail here; at the beginning of the video where the camera zooms out to reveal William standing in front of the frat's membership photo, there's one woman (directly below the word "of") on the plaque. Just out of curiosity, what's up with that?
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:06 AM on September 26, 2009


Some fraternities have a "sweetheart" or something of that nature that they elect on yearly basis. There are sororities that to the opposite as well.
posted by zennoshinjou at 7:10 AM on September 26, 2009


Christ, I can't type.
posted by zennoshinjou at 7:11 AM on September 26, 2009


Um. acccording to the HHS, poverty level for one person is $10,830 a year (The page seems to be having some trouble, so here's the Google cache. She's not doing great, but are you sure she's below the poverty line? Are there other people in her household? (Why no, I don't often sit through videos. Neither I nor my computer like to).
posted by dilettante at 7:17 AM on September 26, 2009


I'm a grad student, and I make $12,000/yr. Technically I qualify for food stamps. So I'd always thought I was below the poverty line, but yeah that link is pretty clear.

Maybe she has a family?
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 7:32 AM on September 26, 2009


Yeah, I was going to mention dillettante's quibble. According to the economics MA in the film, she makes $18K not counting what she might make with a summer job. The $15K figure deducts an estimated health care cost that doesn't figure into the poverty definition.

All of this says more about the inadequacy of the poverty definitions than the documentary's point about fair pay, but if you're throwing around numbers and citing definitions, you should get them right.
posted by Zed at 7:35 AM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Actually, the 15K figure is after taxes. The Health care would bring her down to about 12K. All quibbles aside, the disparities revealed in the film were, IMO the main point. /end thread shepherding.
posted by anansi at 7:40 AM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, I wonder if Lisa knew she was participating in a documentary calculated to (justifiably) embarrass Sigma Nu. I hope none of the flack from that falls on her.
posted by Zed at 7:42 AM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is not Blues Clues. She is working at the school. She can cook. Perhaps this could be her next step.

If a bozo like Limbaugh can self-educate to a level of achievement; the only thing holding her back might be a shortage of understanding how so many other American generations surrvived the dust bowl, the recession, Polio outbreaks, and on and on to become successful in what is still a land of opportunity via hardship.

I feel for her short pay status, but if she can cook; and I am certain that she would *not* be line one at a tiered frat unless she can cook, she should take her recipes, spice skills. and move on up.
posted by buzzman at 8:14 AM on September 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


If a bozo like Limbaugh can self-educate to a level of achievement; the only thing holding her back might be a shortage of understanding how so many other American generations surrvived the dust bowl, the recession, Polio outbreaks, and on and on to become successful in what is still a land of opportunity via hardship.

Yeah, all those people on low wages need to do is just drag themselves up by their bootstraps. If only they'd realize that the only thing holding them back is a lack of willingness to slaughter their economic oppressors while they sleep and seize control of the means of production and distribution.

There's some real opportunities out there, people. Sharpen your machetes and lets Mau Mau the motherfuckers...
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:31 AM on September 26, 2009 [81 favorites]


If a bozo like Limbaugh can self-educate to a level of achievement;

Not a great example. Talking a bunch of shit to rile people up is a form of parasitism, not achievement. Surely there are better rags-to-riches stories than going from being merely ignorant to becoming an ignorant loudmouth with a microphone who probes people's resentments for a living.

But yeah, let's do the "if she'd just raise herself up by her bootstraps; immigrants do it all the time but then they appreciate being in the land of opportunity" thing. That's always fun. It's not even false as far as it goes, but perhaps it misses the point.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:47 AM on September 26, 2009


My problem with the "then get a better job!" argument is that we're not talking about the specific person in that instance of the job, we're talking about compensation for the job itself. There's always going to be someone doing the cooking, or waiting tables, or taking your order, or whichever case you're dealing with.
posted by droob at 8:51 AM on September 26, 2009 [18 favorites]


She makes more money than I do per hour.

If you make good money, appreciate what you have. And be nice to the rest of us when we wait on you/cook for you/ sell you stuff.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:54 AM on September 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


Screen shots reveal some pretty good recipes, and her line is well kept. The fact that the kids are serving themselves even, and not leaving a mess also reveals some great skill in her kitchen management skills. Food looks good too!
posted by buzzman at 8:54 AM on September 26, 2009


I'm not justifying anyone's actions, but I find it interesting that the doc basically claims that the cook and the house manager have equal jobs. I don't know the details of either, but it seems to me that's pretty unlikely.
posted by toekneebullard at 9:07 AM on September 26, 2009


It's funny. Some people work a crappy job when they're 17 and then think they know what it's like to be working poor. "Hey, I worked for $8 at Burger King once, but I pulled myself up by my bootstraps and look at me now, I'm a lawyer cause I worked liked the dickens!" They don't credit the privilege they had in going to college, or getting a good internship, or the help in finding a job or an apartment after college from Mom and Dad. It's not that those people are evil or unsympathetic, it's just that they take too much credit for their own success. They actually believe it was their hard work exclusively that got them to where they are and give no credit to circumstance. Then there are others who not only worked a shitty job but worked a shitty because they had to, to make ends meet. They are the ones who remember what it's like to wake up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night because oh shit, how am I going to pay all my bills if I lose my job? Do I need to get a second job, or a third job? These are the people who see a person stocking shelves or cleaning the elevator or fixing food at a cafeteria and think, "I hope you're doing well, that was me, that could be me again, and there but for the grace of God go I." Next time you see someone working a shitty job, give 'em a smile and give 'em a break. At the very least, don't be a dick. Being a dick to poor people because you think they should work harder is pretty much the most despicable thing you can be, in my book.
posted by billysumday at 9:11 AM on September 26, 2009 [128 favorites]


The kitchen is spotless. Watch the kitchen scenes several times over. Very ordered, 100% debris free. Color coded labels, pots and pans lined up to spec, etc.

This video could be edited to be the best resume she could ever wish for.

"This is my kitchen".

If a barrier is holding her back, be it geographical or educational; it is one that is easily breeched by the products of her own accomplishment at Sigma Nu. Essentially, she is doing her apprenticeship to mastery, and is ready for the next level when she wants it.
posted by buzzman at 9:16 AM on September 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


You know what's fun arguing about whether someone is technically impoverished. Because there's this wizard. He has a long white beard and shit and once you make 12,000 dollars or something he casts this fucking everything is fine spell.
posted by I Foody at 9:20 AM on September 26, 2009 [62 favorites]


It's hard to be mad at the kid who says "oh, duh, I never thought about her having health insurance" because he's never been independent or on his own or had to think about this stuff. The university guy and the accountant for the fraternity, the latter being the guy who hemmed and hawed about it costing too much to insure the cooks and custodians? Not so much.

I was glad to see the talk about the uneven power dynamics in the affectionate relationship between Leasse and the students brought up. That's uncomfortable stuff, but you can't talk about service jobs like that without discussing it.

I know it would have weakened the specific case they were making in the film, but all the decision-makers about money issues were men, and all the workers (even the house mother) were women. The house mother is clearly doing a lot better than Leasse, and she's not on the edge of/in poverty, but the free rent and the living in the house means 24x7 availability and responsibility, and that's hard on having any kind of a life outside your job. And like Leasse, the problem isn't how much she's paid, it's the question of how the system is set up so adults (college students) require/have access to 24-hour caretaking not from their peers.

/went to a Southern college without frats and sororities but saw enough in common with my own experience to be disturbed by the film
posted by immlass at 9:55 AM on September 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Eh, it doesn't really make the case for racial tensions, it just lets people fill in the stereotypical gaps in a lazy way.

Screen shots reveal some pretty good recipes, and her line is well kept. The fact that the kids are serving themselves even, and not leaving a mess also reveals some great skill in her kitchen management skills. Food looks good too!

The recipes were created by the house mother, Janice, when she was a stay at home mom, not Leasse, who just follows them.

The more interesting documentary would have compared how Janice, who receives the higher salary and benefits, managed to get in her position vs how Leasse wound up working for her.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:12 AM on September 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


she should take her recipes, spice skills. and move on up...

to the East Side? To a deluxe apartment in the sky?
posted by eatyourcellphone at 10:12 AM on September 26, 2009 [10 favorites]


I was in a fast food place with a friend of mine once and we watched someone drop their tray and make some huge mess. The person said to their kid: "Someone else will clean it up" and left with the tray, drink cup, etc. on the floor.

Now I would have at least picked up the big pieces, gone to counter, told them of the situation, apologized, and offered to help.

The point of this: my friend observed "Everyone should at least once have a job where they are that 'someone else', maybe you'd see less of that kind of crap."
posted by marxchivist at 10:18 AM on September 26, 2009 [13 favorites]


The person said to their kid: "Someone else will clean it up" and left[...]

That was 50 years ago, and that kid is now CEO of Exxon.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:21 AM on September 26, 2009 [13 favorites]


George_Spiggott: "Talking a bunch of shit to rile people up is a form of parasitism, not achievement."

Without arguing against the noxiousness of the Limbaugh show, to dismiss the - yes - talent involved in what he does is ignorant.

To appreciate these skills and some of the difficulties involved, you might wish to do an experiment. Try sitting alone in a room with a clock, turning on a tape recorder, and starting to speak into it. Speak about anything you want—with the proviso that your topic, and your opinions on it, must be of interest to some group of strangers who you imagine will be listening to the tape. Naturally, in order to be even minimally interesting, your remarks should be intelligible and their reasoning sequential—a listener will have to be able to follow the logic of what you're saying—which means that you will have to know enough about your topic to organize your statements in a coherent way. (But you cannot do much of this organizing beforehand; it has to occur at the same time you're speaking.) Plus, ideally, what you're saying should be not just comprehensible and interesting but compelling, stimulating, which means that your remarks have to provoke and sustain some kind of emotional reaction in the listeners, which in turn will require you to construct some kind of identifiable persona for yourself—your comments will need to strike the listener as coming from an actual human being, someone with a real personality and real feelings about whatever it is you're discussing. And it gets even trickier: You're trying to communicate in real time with someone you cannot see or hear responses from; and though you're communicating in speech, your remarks cannot have any of the fragmentary, repetitive, garbled qualities of real interhuman speech, or speech's ticcy unconscious "umm"s or "you know"s, or false starts or stutters or long pauses while you try to think of how to phrase what you want to say next. You're also, of course, denied the physical inflections that are so much a part of spoken English—the facial expressions, changes in posture, and symphony of little gestures that accompany and buttress real talking. Everything unspoken about you, your topic, and how you feel about it has to be conveyed through pitch, volume, tone, and pacing. The pacing is especially important: it can't be too slow, since that's low-energy and dull, but it can't be too rushed or it will sound like babbling. And so you have somehow to keep all these different imperatives and structures in mind at the same time, while also filling exactly, say, eleven minutes, with no dead air and no going over, such that at 10:46 you have wound things up neatly and are in a position to say, "KFI is the station with the most frequent traffic reports. Alan LaGreen is in the KFI Traffic Center" (which, to be honest, Mr. Z. sometimes leaves himself only three or even two seconds for and has to say extremely fast, which he can always do without a flub). So then, ready: go.

posted by Joe Beese at 10:22 AM on September 26, 2009 [6 favorites]


Was the link not sufficient, Joe? I got the point after the first sentence. I didn't say it didn't require talent, only that it was parasitism, as opposed to something honestly productive. His task is to interest his listeners, but he does it by finding the insecurities and resentments that will stir up their resentment and hatreds of each other.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:28 AM on September 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


I know it would have weakened the specific case they were making in the film, but all the decision-makers about money issues were men, and all the workers (even the house mother) were women.
By "all the decision-makers about money issues", you're talking about one single person who was interviewed, right?

And you're explicitly not talking about another person interviewed, who says she does all the hiring and firing decisions, and who spoke as if she at least had significant input into whether the cooks get a raise or not?

Or perhaps you're talking about the alumni board, most of whom were not interviewed. It is not surprising to me that the alumni board of a fraternity consists solely of men, nor is it clear to me why the alumni board of a fraternity shouldn't be the ones responsible for financial decisions of their fraternity. Similarly, if the people responsible for the financial decisions of a sorority were all women, I would find that neither surprising nor objectionable.

And not all of the workers are women. In addition to the two female cooks and the one female manager, the video said they employ two janitors. At least one of them is a man, assuming that the man who sure looked like he was performing janitorial duties is a janitor.

So, other than "it would have weakened the specific case they were making", I think you might be off base with that sentence.
posted by Flunkie at 10:35 AM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


"If a bozo like Limbaugh can self-educate to a level of achievement" was meant to read as it was written, and to be understood in a dictionarial context.

I meant no derail by using the other "L" word in our vocabulary here. A list of successful bozos is near infinite from the far left to the far right, and at all points of the economic ladder. Some bozos are more prominent than others, thusly coming to mind quicker as examples.

Derail would perhaps be pointing out the guy in the cammies as a potential way out of a 'live with no health insurance/retirement/job guarantee/bonuses/education/opportunity experience'.

Miss William is performing far above her pay scale; I hope that this exposure leads to her advancement. Her sincerity in her work is evident, her eyes and smile show that she has a desire.
posted by buzzman at 10:50 AM on September 26, 2009


This is not Blues Clues. She is working at the school. She can cook. Perhaps this could be her next step. ... many other American generations surrvived the dust bowl, the recession, Polio outbreaks, and on and on to become successful in what is still a land of opportunity via hardship.

Immigrants often have access to a network of fellow-immigrants from their home countries who can help with loans and whatnot to get them started. As far as going to a cooking school and moving up, that might be possible for some people, obviously the people who end up going to that school. But let's be realistic, there are far more people out there working crappy jobs then there are places at those kinds of schools. Not everyone could handle it, and people with kids might be stuck taking care of their kids after work when they're not at school. Not everyone is in a position where they can just take a couple years off work and go to school.

I mean, if they got student loans to pay for living expenses while they went to school, would their future job actually pay enough to pay them back? How much money/month would they be able to save in advance for tuition and then go to school?
posted by delmoi at 10:58 AM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


This felt patronizing. The cook may be overall satisfied with her life. In her community there may be high levels of joblessness and instability. She might take pride in being able to look after herself, not to float a mortgage but pay the rent, get by. She may not have interest in being a manager or a professional. Without showing any interest in her wider life, the film sets her up as an object of concern for a couple experts, the filmmakers and the viewers. All the rest of us so easily agree that she must be disadvantaged. The economics prof or the race relations advocate never say, you know, some of my job involves filling out bullshit paperwork that no one ever reads, but I have the great privilege of working at something that asks me to read, have opinions and chat with other interesting people at faraway conferences, plus I enjoy high social status and far above average renumeration. Compared to those who work routine menial jobs, like this woman, my incredible good fortune is a crime! No, they probably feel quite deserving of all they have. After all, they spent all those years and all that money attending school, getting A's, being smarter than other people. Instead, we find another member of the working class, the house mother, and conclude that any differential in status and compensation between her and the cook is due to race and culture.
posted by TimTypeZed at 11:12 AM on September 26, 2009 [7 favorites]


This is not Blues Clues. She is working at the school. She can cook. Perhaps this could be her next step.

To begin with, she is working AT the school, but not FOR the school, which is made very clear in the film. There are none of the typical perks associated with working for a college included with her job.

Second, going to cooking school does not mean you necessarily have any better job opportunities than someone who started out as Ms William did, or someone who started washing dishes and worked their way up in the kitchen. It's not that much of an inside joke within the broader cooking community that the Cordon Bleu program creates a lot of people who think they know what they're doing but who lack actual ability. More than once, a very good friend of mine who attended the school in San Francisco has pointed out that CCA doesn't stand for California Culinary Academy, but rather stands for Can't Cook Anything.

That same friend has found it close to impossible to gain employment which comes anywhere close to being equal to the implication of his degree. He's worked in kitchen after kitchen, with varying levels of success, but mostly you are either an hourly employee (not necessarily making that much more than Ms William, certainly not even twice as much), or you happen to strike it lucky and get employed at one of the very few positions available in the small number of high-powered kitchens in the country. Cordon Bleu and other cooking schools sell the dream of being a well-payed chef with a hugely successful restaurant, but the actual truth is that cooking is a job, not a way to get rich, and most of the jobs available are not well-paid and demand long hours with little real compensation equal to the level of performance.
posted by hippybear at 11:16 AM on September 26, 2009 [6 favorites]


A lot of service industry people measure time by how long the soles on their shoes last.

Culinary schools tend to add onto pre-existing skills and contacts. Miss William already has some campus seasoning via working at the frat that is on the campus serving up students that attend the school; with that she has finest kind objective proof of her professionalism.

Without a singular mention of "Immigrants"; rags to riches defines the domestic experience.
posted by buzzman at 11:38 AM on September 26, 2009


By "all the decision-makers about money issues", you're talking about one single person who was interviewed, right?

No, actually, I was also talking about the university official that Guest interviewed. He doesn't make fraternity financial decisions, but he's involved in (or at least is the film's stand-in for) the university decisions that allow the fraternities to pay the workers the way they do, as opposed to, frex, allowing or requiring the frats to put their workers on the university's health insurance and retirement plans. This issue is alluded to in the video; there's a statement in the voiceover about how the universities stop hazing but they don't keep the fraternity from paying the workers at/near the poverty level.

And I specifically alluded to the house mother as being a worker, on call 24x7 to caretake for the young men, not a financial decisionmaker. I missed the janitor (although not that they talked about the janitors) but it's nice to know that the gentlemen of Sigma Nu aren't totally taken care of by women.

So, yes, "decision-makers about money issues" was too loose, thanks. "Decision-makers about overall financial and insurance policy matters" would have been a better way of putting it.
posted by immlass at 11:41 AM on September 26, 2009


"If a bozo like Limbaugh can self-educate to a level of achievement"

Limbaugh was the son of an attorney. He "self-educated" himself with some major advantages over any blue-collar kid.
posted by shetterly at 12:31 PM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Was the link not sufficient, Joe? I got the point after the first sentence. I didn't say it didn't require talent, only that it was parasitism, as opposed to something honestly productive.

Define "honestly productive". Seriously. Some people consider lawyers to be respectable professionals others consider them the absolute pinnacle of parasitism so what is honest productivity and what isn't?
posted by MikeMc at 12:41 PM on September 26, 2009


I'm not justifying anyone's actions, but I find it interesting that the doc basically claims that the cook and the house manager have equal jobs. I don't know the details of either, but it seems to me that's pretty unlikely.
posted by toekneebullard at 12:07 PM on September 26 [+] [!]


Yes, they are different jobs, and have different hours and responsibilities.

But does the housemother's job take TWO to THREE times more effort? Not only is she paid more than 150% of what the cooks are paid - before taxes - but then she then has free accomodation and health benefits. This comes out to an equivalent salary more than twice, maybe three times what the cooks make.

I just don't get people who justify salary differences of 2 to 4 to 10 times more than other people, just on the grounds that the work may be more skilled/high status. But they are not 2 times or 4 times and certainly not 10 times more stress and work. (Stress is much higher in low status positions - because it is correlated with lack of autonomy. And as for work....well, lets just say that I recently participated in a project where the people in the lowest positions performed about 2 to 5 times fasters than their supervisors doing the same work. Maybe it's because the hourly people didn't feel like they could stop to check their email while on the clock; the salaried - who made 10s of thousands more per year - did, frequently.)

There will always be people who do low status work; pretending that everyone can be in high status work is not just a fiction, it's a corrosive and destructive one. It lets you ignore how we treat people who do jobs that we think we are too good for.

I'm all for merit pay - for experience, education or skills. But let's make that merit pay mean that you get 10% or 20% more than the less skilled person. Not 100% to 1000% more.
posted by jb at 12:48 PM on September 26, 2009 [6 favorites]


Thanks for sharing this. My daughter is assigned a quote to write about every week. This week it's Maya Angelou's "Only equals make friends" which nicely fits with this video. (I'm not sure I"ll share it with my daughter since I don't know if she would grok it or not.)
posted by vespabelle at 12:55 PM on September 26, 2009


I'm all for merit pay - for experience, education or skills. But let's make that merit pay mean that you get 10% or 20% more than the less skilled person. Not 100% to 1000% more.

I'm cool with making only 20% less than the president of the company. Of course if there is only a 20% swing between the highest and lowest paid I'm thinking most people would pass on jobs that came with more responsibility because there really wouldn't be much point to it.
posted by MikeMc at 1:04 PM on September 26, 2009


Not to derail but....

They have a fucking pool? Typing as a former fraternity member and alum somewhat involved with my fraternity's finances, how do they get insured?

Their premiums must be through the roof. That's where Leasse's health insurance money went. Jesus.
posted by MarvinTheCat at 1:17 PM on September 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


I didn't say it didn't require talent

Well, I'd say the thing Joe Beese talks about is more skill than talent. It takes practice, but anyone can learn how to speak for radio or stage, as it's just about timing and inflection (like any skill, some will take to it better than others). I mean, this puts him in the same league as people like ... well, Mancow, Imus, and, yes, Glenn Beck. Say what you want, but they all have that skill pretty much mastered. And as far as that skill goes, Howard Stern is really the modern day genius. But I've heard local broadcasters who are equally good as most of these guys.

Although it's true that not everyone has the best voice for radio, and it's hard to argue that Limbaugh was blessed with a great radio voice. He knows his stuff as far as his craft, and admittedly he's good at it, but he's hardly rare in that regard, though he was lucky to get his vocal cords.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:08 PM on September 26, 2009


"Can we get some shots of you over here, with the books that say RACE on them in the background?"
posted by electroboy at 3:34 PM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm cool with making only 20% less than the president of the company. Of course if there is only a 20% swing between the highest and lowest paid I'm thinking most people would pass on jobs that came with more responsibility because there really wouldn't be much point to it.
posted by MikeMc at 4:04 PM on September 26 [+] [!]


No, they wouldn't. Because there are all sorts of intangeables - like authority and autonomy and getting to do more interesting work. Assistant managers at fast food places get paid like 5% more than the staff, but they still take on the jobs.

Aside from the fact that 20% is still a lot more discretionary spending money.
posted by jb at 3:49 PM on September 26, 2009


Trust me, I would never turn down a promotion which gave me 5% more money, nor would I not go into a competitive and very skilled profession which was also interesting. Wait, I already did that - and I've made no money at it.
posted by jb at 4:24 PM on September 26, 2009


Oh, Lumbaugh has talent. Talent on loan from god. One of the Outer Gods, to be specific. Shub-Niggurath.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:05 PM on September 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm the filmmaker and I have enjoyed reading the comments. Thanks to everyone for taking the time to watch the film. To answer a couple of points:

a) The woman in the photo of the fraternity members at the beginning of the film is the "House Sweetheart." I believe she was the girlfriend of one of the house officers.

b) I'll check my notes on the poverty threshold but it looks like I (and the economist) may have calculated that wrong. To my knowledge Ms. Williams lives by herself. If we did indeed calculate the threshold incorrectly I will edit the video to reflect that she is not living below the poverty line.

c) The stated purpose of the film was to tell the story of a cook at a fraternity or sorority house at the University of Mississippi. This was communicated to all the interview subjects.

d) Virtually all staff members at the fraternity/sorority houses at the University of Mississippi are black. All the "House Mothers" are white. The Sigma Nu house at the University of Mississippi has never had a black member.

Side note on the Sigma Nu house at "Ole Miss": The day James Meredith integrated the campus (October 1st, 1962) there was massive rioting and violence in which two people were killed. The violence that took place that day is sometimes referred to as "the last battle of the Civil War." The next day, October 2nd, the FBI, acting on a tip, raided the Sigma Nu house and uncovered a stockpile of weapons (mainly rifles). The "Commander" or president of the house (Sigma Nu uses military [naval?] titles for house officers) at the time was Trent Lott. Lott was later elected to the U.S. Senate and served, for a time, as Majority Leader. Lott was forced to step down as Majority Leader after remarking that if segregationist Strom Thurmond had been elected president in 1948 (running as a "Dixiecrat") the country wouldn't have had "all these problems."

d) After an initial round of filming both Ms. Williams and Ms. Jones declined a follow-up interview. I had hoped to film Ms. Williams at her place of residence and shed a little more light on her life outside of the fraternity house. I had hoped also to delve into Ms. Jones backstory. In some ways, while clearly better off than Ms. Williams and the other staff, she is a victim as well, at the mercy of the House Corporation who can fire her at any time.

e) For Oxford, MS, ten dollars an hour is a competitive wage for a cook. That is more than most restaurants in town offer. Most restaurants in Oxford do not provide health insurance. Only one sorority house on-campus provides health insurance to the staff.

f) There are four staff members at the house, two female cooks and two male janitors. All four are black. Ms. Jones has authority to hire and fire at will. It is my understanding that Ms. Jones, while living at the house, has regular "office hours" and is not on-call at all times.

g) It was explained to me by one of the active Sigma Nu members (and I have not fact-checked this) that the pool at the Sigma Nu house was donated by former professional football player Archie Manning, who was a Sigma Nu at the University of Mississippi (as was his son, current pro football player Eli Manning).

Aftermath:

Ms. Williams is still working at the Sigma Nu house.

Ms. Jones has twice contacted my professor (this was originally completed as an assignment for a Southern Studies class at the University of Mississippi) to say that the Sigma Nu house is "considering" legal action against me.

After the film was completed an active Sigma Nu member told to me that most current Sigma Nu members are not aware that the staff does not receive health or retirement benefits. He feels that most current members would support financially, through increased dues or decreased events at the house, providing the staff with benefits.
posted by bguest at 5:40 PM on September 26, 2009 [85 favorites]


Ben, that's for stopping by and filling in details.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:58 PM on September 26, 2009


Metafilter: Making the change happen.
posted by buzzman at 7:12 PM on September 26, 2009


I don't know how she does it. It would drive me up the wall to make such little money to get by on by while playing servant to a bunch of spoiled pukes having a four year kegger on Mom & Dads dime.

On second thought, thats probably the lament of most college service employees everywhere.
posted by dr_dank at 8:45 PM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think it's a well done documentary. But I also think it's playing coy with the racial angle. If you really think this is some form of passive or institutional racism, by all means say so.

Somewhere like the Pacific Northwest has its share of poverty or working poor as well, and given the relatively low numbers of blacks you'll find plenty of whites in exactly the same situation. In fact, you'd find plenty for whom $10/hour would be a raise.
posted by bardic at 9:32 PM on September 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


rags to riches defines the domestic experience.

What are you talking about? Most people do not live in a Horatio Alger story. Working at low pay for people with riches more accurately defines the domestic experience.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 11:12 PM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Without a singular mention of "Immigrants"; rags to riches defines the domestic experience.

A belief in the American Dream is a great thing, but how about some empirical data to support your assertion? Everyone has heard anecdotes about someone working hard to get ahead. But if all it took to achieve financial success was hard work, our wealth distribution would look like a bell curve, wouldn't it? Truth is, if you're born poor, you're likely to stay poor all your life regardless of how hard you work.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 11:34 PM on September 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


If a person who regards the fables of Ayn Rand as revealed truth is a Randian, is one who does the same with Horatio Alger tales an Algerian?
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:04 AM on September 27, 2009 [8 favorites]


> I'm the filmmaker and I have enjoyed reading the comments. Thanks to everyone for taking the time to watch the film. To answer a couple of points:

That's a side-barring.
posted by Decimask at 7:11 AM on September 27, 2009


the actual truth is that cooking is a job, not a way to get rich, and most of the jobs available are not well-paid and demand long hours with little real compensation equal to the level of performance.

My first husband was a professional chef-- trained in a five star hotel for 5 years and good enough to be the personal chef to a Japanese ambassador. He was the head chef and kitchen manager for two restaurants. He not only wrote the menus, invented the dishes, trained his staff, and ordered the supplies, he also learned Spanish so he could communicate with his line cooks and his busboys. He generally worked 6 days a week; in the kitchen for lunch prep and staying until after the restaurant closed. Neither of his jobs came with health insurance or retirement and with one week paid vacation a year. He kept going with the idea of one day opening his own restaurant but eventually he gave up that dream to take a desk job as a manager in a completely different industry-- one that came with benefits, sick days, paid vacation and guaranteed pay raises. It broke his heart a little.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:45 AM on September 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


Somewhere like the Pacific Northwest has its share of poverty or working poor as well, and given the relatively low numbers of blacks you'll find plenty of whites in exactly the same situation. In fact, you'd find plenty for whom $10/hour would be a raise.

This is true, but Washington and Oregon have the highest minimum wages in the country, at $8.55 and $8.40 respectively. And neither state allows employers to take tips into consideration when paying workers, meaning that wait staff get paid minimum wage per hour PLUS tips.

So while $10/hour would be a raise for any minimum wage worker in the country, it's not that far of a leap for workers in the PNW, and food service employees get that plus tips, putting them in a much better position in these states than most.
posted by hippybear at 8:25 AM on September 27, 2009


Secret Life of Gravy: My CCA-graduated chef friend floated from restaurant to restaurant, working his skills at running a kitchen, managing the food side of the business, creating menus, etc for years. Finally he landed at a state university working in the kitchens there. It's a 40-hour-a-week job with full state benefits including retirement, health insurance, and state union membership. It also means he's cooking standardized industrial recipes for thousands rather than doing actual chef-type cooking. I think it's broken his heart a little, too. But he's purchased a house for the first time in his life (he's over 50, was a late-life career change into cooking), he has guaranteed employment unless he really snaps and walks into the workplace with a gun and starts shooting or something equally rash, and he isn't putting in 60 hours a week and then staying awake nights wondering how he's going to pay for his blood pressure medicine.

It's a trade-off. I still wish he had a more creative cooking job, but he's landed and seems to be at least partially content, which is more than I could say for the previous decade that I have known him.
posted by hippybear at 8:29 AM on September 27, 2009


And that comment about my friend brings this to mind, and perhaps bguest can answer this for me: Does the university where Ms William cooks for the fraternity have cafeteria service, and if so, how are the terms of employment for the cooks in the university kitchens different from those at the frat house?
posted by hippybear at 8:35 AM on September 27, 2009


bardic: you make a good point that income disparity is something which transcends race and is a problem everywhere.

But at the same time, in this particular region, race does play a part. Why are all of the housemothers white, while most of the staff are black? There were no qualified black applicants at any fraternity or sorority on campus for the more highly paid position? And yet plenty of black applicants for the rest of the positions.

Where you have racial disparities matching up with economic disparities, then you do have a race problem. People on both sides will stereotype by race and class: they will see white people as more middle class (and more responsible and more go-getting and throw-your-middle-class-stereotype-in-here) and black people as more working class (and less educated and skilled and more suited to inferior positions regardless of their personal ability). I've lived in a similar college town in which race and class divisions match up, and people do act like all white people are middle class, and all black people are working class - and it's corrosive to race relations within the city. Imagine being a black kid and realising that most people with a professional job, or a big house, or who shops in the chichy-chichy stores downtown, or who is a student at the local university looks like you? Will you really believe your teachers when they say you can be anything? Obama has so changed things around there. (I experienced the other side: when you have white skin, a lot of people imagine you have never lived in subsidized housing or in neighbourhoods with drug dealers and gangs.)

Nor is it a good thing that the fraternity in question has never had a black member, though 19% of the students at the University of Mississippi are not white. (wikipedia doesn't give more of a breakdown of the non-white student population, but there weren't exactly many asian or hispanic people in the photograph at the beginning of the film.)

This does not mean that the fraternity is racist; I went to a very progressive alternative state highschool, for example, which nonetheless had a 90-95% white student population, in a city where 50% of all people were not white. We had an application problem; we had very few non-white students applying - our staff was more diverse (in that 1 in 8 were non-white, and he was the head teacher) than our student body. Part of our problem was that many of our applications came from social networks of existing students and in Toronto social networks still tend to be segregated by race. So we had a racial problem, without necessarily having concious racism.
posted by jb at 9:05 AM on September 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


But I would agree with you, bardic, that the structure of the North American economy is not racial -- it is classist. We assume that middle class people just ought to be given a more than living wage and benefits like health care because they are somehow more worthy, while people working at working class jobs don't deserve a decent life. We devalue their work and them, and we justify it to ourselves as being "the market" when it's not - the market does not demand that housemothers be granted twice the salary, free housing and health benefits. It's just assumed that, well, the work they do is somehow so much more important, though what they do is entirely dependent on the work of those they supervise.

But that so many non-white people are relegated to working class jobs is a racial problem, and due to both continuing discrimination (sometimes on skin grounds, but also due to unconcious discrimination based on culture and accent - non-white people who dress, eat and talk like you are just fine, but those others just aren't professional, you know?) and historic racism which has left racist structures. If your parents, due to racism, were never allowed to have a job that gave them enough money to support you through college, then you are so much less likely to go than the children of the middle class, and then you will find it very hard to find a job that allows you to support your children through college -- and everyone will say that it's your fault, didn't you know racism is over?
posted by jb at 9:15 AM on September 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


hippybear: The student cafeteria at the University of Mississippi is run by Aramark, a for-profit food services provider. Until the late-1990's the student cafeteria was run by the university and cafeteria employees were university employees, receiving the same basic health and retirement benefits that all university employees receive. Aramark workers do not receive health or retirement benefits. I do not know how much they are paid. Aramark, along with the fraternities and sororities, is an example of a private corporation embedded in a public, tax-payer funded institution. Over the years Aramark has been the subject of several labor disputes.
posted by bguest at 9:33 AM on September 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


jb: The Sigma Nu house at the University of Mississippi has never had a non-white member.
posted by bguest at 9:34 AM on September 27, 2009


Anecdote: my mom came to visit during my freshman year of college (in rural Ohio). I'm from a Southern family that has always attended Southern schools - until me. The first thing she said when we went to the cafeteria was, "Weird, all the staff are white!" It was something I hadn't thought about, and I'm sure that in college she had never thought, "Huh, all the staff are black" - I think it's something that a lot people notice only on a sort of subconscious level. Certainly class and race issues are pretty deeply intertwined in lots of places, but that doesn't negate the fact that white college/university employees also put up with a "four year kegger" mentality from a lot of students. And this isn't just in places with high minimum wages. Given that my school used Aramark (ugh), I'm guessing these people were treated pretty crappy.
posted by naoko at 9:35 AM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ha, and bguest beats me to the Aramark call-out. By the way, thanks for the Trent Lott info - did not know that, very interesting.
posted by naoko at 9:37 AM on September 27, 2009


Oh, yeah. Aramark. Ugh. Yes, I'm familiar with them. Well, it sounds like moving out of the frat house and into the university cafeteria would, at best, be a lateral move for Ms William.

Thanks for your response!
posted by hippybear at 10:34 AM on September 27, 2009


A belief in the American Dream is a great thing.

Thank you. I strongly believe in myself and all people. I refuse to buy into a negating of the opportunities for advancement that have been professed.

I can not discourage enough a belief that if you are born poor you will remain poor. What kind of image is that for people to read and believe in? A veritible caste system via reasearch? Oh hai, you are poor, and according to these pithy words and references you will always be poor so just stop trying. That is some really fine stuff to toss out.

In any context, can it be considered educational? Here, learn your future based on the past, via our educated "Empire" research that tells how you will be your whole life. Just quit now, don't try. Just stick to the status quo.
Yeah. Right. Left. Uh-huh.
posted by buzzman at 11:21 AM on September 27, 2009


buzzman, we do have a caste system in the US. It begins with inferior schools and worse health care for the 40% who own none of the US's wealth. Its markers include bad teeth and dialects that are mocked on television.
posted by shetterly at 12:27 PM on September 27, 2009 [6 favorites]


I can not discourage enough a belief that if you are born poor you will remain poor. What kind of image is that for people to read and believe in? A veritible caste system via reasearch? Oh hai, you are poor, and according to these pithy words and references you will always be poor so just stop trying. That is some really fine stuff to toss out.

I don't think the suggestion is there that the poor are doomed and should just give up. The struggle of organized labor is a testament to how the working poor are far from doomed. There is, however, no discounting the fact that the deck is stacked against a lot of these people, and that advancement in our society is hardly as simple as putting your nose to the grindstone.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:29 PM on September 27, 2009


Buzzman, you can stick your fingers in your ears and ignore the actual evidence if you so choose. Plenty of people believe irrational things to comfort themselves. Most everyone, to some degree or another. Enjoy your fantasy world!
posted by Thoughtcrime at 1:37 PM on September 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


I can not discourage enough a belief that if you are born poor you will remain poor. What kind of image is that for people to read and believe in? A veritible caste system via reasearch? Oh hai, you are poor, and according to these pithy words and references you will always be poor so just stop trying. That is some really fine stuff to toss out.

Other stuff to just toss out: In a comparison of eight European and North American countries, Britain and the United States have the lowest social mobility. A careful comparison reveals that the USA and Britain are at the bottom with the lowest social mobility. Norway has the greatest social mobility, followed by Denmark, Sweden and Finland. Germany is around the middle of the two extremes, and Canada was found to be much more mobile than the UK.

The chances are that if you are born poor and working class in the US, you are far more likely to stay poor your entire life than if you were born in Germany or Canada.
posted by jokeefe at 2:14 PM on September 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


The struggle of organized labor is a testament to how the working poor are far from doomed.

Heh. I'll bet you anything you like that Mr. Buzzman is anti-union, too.
posted by jokeefe at 2:17 PM on September 27, 2009


I can not discourage enough a belief that if you are born poor you will remain poor. What kind of image is that for people to read and believe in?

So your argument is that if this were true, it would be discouraging, therefore it must not be true?

Or is it just that poor people need richer people to lie to them in order to protect them from truths that are unpleasant and discouraging?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:46 PM on September 27, 2009


It's hard to sharpen a pitchfork properly if you're daydreaming.
posted by Decimask at 6:33 PM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Brad Walsh, who identifies himself as a former Sigma Nu House Corporation member, has commented on the Vimeo page where I have hosted the film. I believe it is appropriate to re-post Mr. Walsh's entire comment here. I appreciate him taking the time to comment on the film and also to offer a potential counter-argument (please note that, according to Mr. Walsh, Archie Manning did not donate the funds for the swimming pool):

Mr. Guest,

I am a Sigma Nu and have served as financial advisor and on the house corporation. I feel for the cooks and custodians, but there are economic realities. These workers often have little to no education (I believe Leasse stated she started work at 14 or 15). You admit she is paid a market rate. Several of the older cooks suffer from a myriad of health problems and there is no way to insure them at any cost without firing them once the fraternities premiums get jacked, much like with any small business.

214 members at $4,000 a year hardly works into over $800K in actual collections. Only active members pay. Members who themselves work as servers at sorority houses, etc. do not pay the full dues. Also, college students being college students, they often don't have the funds and drop off the rolls. Dues go to pay for food and for the house itself including the wonderful kitchen shown (which was renovated for the first time since the sixties just a few years ago).

It is not like there is an $800K pot of gold for the members to pay their employees.

We have approached the University about letting our workers work for them, lease them, or form a pool that would entitle them to state benefits paid for by all of the fraternities, but as some other posters on Metafilter point out, the campus has itself outsourced food labor to Aramark to cut costs.

While Sigma Nu is currently strong, the House Corp. who serve for free and often put their names on mortgages have to plan for lower numbers, or, God Forbid, getting kicked off campus for a period. Like a lot of small businesses these are the realities that force the chapter in deciding not to insure.

Sigma Nu at Ole Miss has raised over a million $ in the fight against spinal injuries. Many of the recipients of their fund raising efforts have been African American.

BTW, the pool pre-dates Archie Manning contrary to your comment. It was paid out of dues and donations.

posted by bguest at 6:40 PM on September 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


You know how hard it is being a liberal from Mississippi? Hard as hell. Willie Morris, where are you when we need you?

Good work, Ben. You aren't bad. For a yankee.
posted by gordie at 9:08 PM on September 27, 2009


Buzzman, you can stick your fingers in your ears and ignore the actual evidence if you so choose.

Why should I pay attention to evidence that says the poor are doomed to be poor? Even if I should choose to believe it as certainty; geez. What a nasty conservative hopeless outlook on life.

The struggle of organized labor is a testament to how the working poor are far from doomed.

Heh. I'll bet you anything you like that Mr. Buzzman is anti-union, too
.

You have me mis-quoted Joqeefe. And what does any of this have to do with unions or immigrants? I write some words, and the ideations appear. I'm anti-pre-determinism.

The link to Teh London School of Economics and Political Science "Transitional Matrix" research is lame. I like words like that. Small word, sums up too much paper and time for a dim output. Link. Lame. The time and money they put into garbage like that could have changed the objective life of several families. Yeah. Great research there. Articles that slam the country, good stuff.

I'm stepping away from this fpp, I don't need the 'world is preset for doom' links as part of my life education.
posted by buzzman at 9:31 PM on September 27, 2009


The link to Teh London School of Economics and Political Science "Transitional Matrix" research is lame. I like words like that. Small word, sums up too much paper and time for a dim output. Link. Lame. The time and money they put into garbage like that could have changed the objective life of several families. Yeah. Great research there. Articles that slam the country, good stuff.

Yeah, facts and information are pretty lame.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:37 PM on September 27, 2009 [6 favorites]


Data-point: I pay my house-maid, here in Kenya, 6000 Kenyan schillings a month. At today's exchange rate, that's $80.10.

That's roughly $961.20 a year. No other benefits beyond the monthly cash payment (of course I'd help her out if anything medical or what-have-you arose, but then we're blissfully free of America's health-care debacle here, so decent medical care is affordable).

She comes on Tuesdays and Fridays and works from 8am into the mid-afternoon (as far as I know, I'm usually not there). She does a few dishes (I'm a bachelor, I mainly eat out), the laundry, changes the sheets and towels, cleans the floors and windows, takes out the trash, organizes my minor paperwork messes. I honestly think I'm pretty low maintenance, but I can afford to provide her with a job, so its important that I do. I *could* clean up after myself, but doing that puts her out of work.

She makes more than most. I know a number of my (mostly Indian) neighbors pay in the 4000-5000 KES range, and their maids come 6 days a week, work minimum 8-hour shifts, and not only do they clean everything (for entire families, not just bachelors), on top of that they cook the family meals and sometimes even do the grocery shopping too. And their employers often treat them like shit, but they will never leave their job.

Because they have one. Most of their countrymen can't even get a job that pays even a couple-hundred USD per year, let alone one that pays anything approaching $1,000.

And Kenya is one of the most developed, prosperous nations on the African continent.

So yeah, $15k / year is low. Criminally so. Especially in a country where health care is already unaffordable. But $15k could also gainfully employ 15 Kenyans. I'm not saying this to guilt anyone or point any fingers, its just when I hear arguments around the true definition of poverty that are primarily US-centric, I always feel its important to bring some perspective to the picture.
posted by allkindsoftime at 2:42 AM on September 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


I always feel its important to bring some perspective to the picture.

In Kenya they have a form of public transit called Matatu. The word comes from the word for three, because it used to cost three coins to use them.

My point? $15,000 a year doesn't go nearly as far here as it could in other places because the price for everything else (food, transportation, child care, housing, etc) is more expensive.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:23 AM on September 28, 2009


the price for everything else (food, transportation, child care, housing, etc) is more expensive.

You say that as if knowing what a matatu is validates it somehow.

Gas here costs roughly 90 schillings a litre right now. That's about $1.20 US per litre.

There's about 3.8 litres in a gallon. That makes gas here about $4.56 a gallon. The US average as of September 21st 2009 was $2.55 per gallon.

There's no real operating cargo rail between the port of Mombasa and Nairobi, so everything comes via overland trucking. Really for anything to move anywhere in the country - food, people, construction materials, even fuel itself - fuel is required. I won't go into the details of every category, but I'll point you at the rather important fact that the price of everything is tied to the price of fuel. Which happens to dwarf what your average American pays for it.

Sure, my maid has the option to live in a tin shack without water or electricity - many here live like that. But please don't tell me that this means housing prices in Kenya are drastically lower than in Mississippi. You can't even begin to make that comparison.
posted by allkindsoftime at 6:07 AM on September 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


all - Your point on the relative nature of poverty in Kenya and the US is well taken.

But the film isn't really about poverty, it's about inequality - why when the US is so much richer, are these riches so unequally distributed in American society? I was surprised when I looked it up just now, but Kenya is actually moderately less unequal than the US. (CIA factbook).

The US prides itself on being a land of opportunity and equality - this film reveals some of the inequalities in something as simple as the income of staff members at one fraternity. And also shows up the specious justifications of that inequality - what does it matter that the cook does not have a high school diploma? I don't know about you, but my high school did not teach cooking or kitchen management. Her education is irrelevant to her position. Her skills and her work effort are the only relevant issues - and it's her work which most deserves compensation.

I have a graduate degree, but my hours of work are no more work than this cooks - actually, they take much less effort. Why should I be paid so much more?

I shouldn't. But I am, because I am white, I have the right accent and the right clothes, the right pieces of paper and the right social networks. I'm paid $24/hour to do something entirely unrelated to my graduate training. I found this job through my white and middle class social networks. I previously worked in the exact same type of job (telephone interviewing), but that one I found through the government job bank - that place employed people of different classes and colours. We were paid $7/hour. The work was the same.

(I should say that one of the reasons for the high pay at the second place is that the employer is trying to be socially responsible by paying a good wage, especially as they know they cannot give us many hours of work. But it doesn't discount the cultural, class and racial divisions inherent in our society and economy.)
posted by jb at 8:46 AM on September 28, 2009


Great points jb. I've long believed that "networking" is just a way to be discriminatory. I understand the responsibility and accountability assumed when an applicant that is part of an existing employee's social network gets hired. But still it just seems like a back channel way to keep a "good ol folks" network going, and exclude those who may be talented, but in some way different than 'you'.
posted by cashman at 6:29 PM on September 28, 2009


Interesting film.
I work in central London, and any shop you go into is likely to have five black people working at the tills and five white poeple queueing up to buy stuff. It's pretty uncomfortable when you stop to think about it.
American income inequality has always struck me as particularly harsh though:
Relative Global Income Inequalities
posted by greytape at 11:46 AM on September 30, 2009


when I hear arguments around the true definition of poverty that are primarily US-centric, I always feel its important to bring some perspective to the picture.

I appreciate that sentiment, but I don't think that's the filmmaker's intent. On his blog, linked in his profile, he mentions that he has worked for the Peace Core in Namibia. I would guess he's very familiar with the difference between poverty in parts of Africa and the US.

I would argue that "a rising tide raises all boats," as Kennedy famously said.
posted by Houstonian at 6:21 AM on October 7, 2009


I would argue that "a rising tide raises all boats," as Kennedy famously said.
posted by Houstonian at 9:21 AM on October 7 [+] [!]


Except that the growing income inequality in the first world for the past 30 years - despite the continuing growth and expansion of these economies - suggests that is not true. Profit is not water, it doesn't naturally flow to the lowest point. Rather, history shows that it tends to flow towards the most powerful. What improvements our societies have had in equality over the last 2 centuries has been from the political organisation of poorer sorts in the workplace (union) and in the political arena (political parties), or from efforts to please the working classes because they pose a political threat (thus conservative reforms, like those by Bismarck).

Left on its own, market pressures tend to advantage the larger over the smaller and the richer over the poorer. Just think of two peasant farmers - the larger will usually be able to weather market fluctuations better than the smaller because they will have more produce, and may be able to hold their surplus to sell at a better time, whereas the one working on the edge will be forced to sell by neccessity regardless of price.
posted by jb at 1:42 PM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


That was pretty clever work of Buzzman, there. World-class troll.
posted by jscott at 11:57 PM on October 20, 2009


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