One Big Issue reader argues that the concept of a minimum wage is meaningless without a concept of a maximum wage. Credit: Canva
Big Issue readers react to articles on poverty, Joshua Blackburn’s League of Lexicon board game and the joy of dogs.
Poverty prevention blueprint
I love John Bird’s concept of a Ministry of Poverty Prevention, and hope it includes something along these lines: Tackling the immediate needs of a large part of the population to eat, keep warm and have a roof over their heads won’t be solved unless we change the profit motive of constant growth in the structure of the economy and society.
The Earth’s energy is finite. It doesn’t keep growing, it just changes. Everything gets reconverted and used in different ways. Money is just an abstract representation of that energy but we pretend it can keep growing forever. In fact, it just gets redistributed unevenly.
The right amount of ‘profit’ never arrives, but must always be more than it was last year. The illusion of growth is maintained by being restricted in fewer and fewer hands, leaving vastly more employees to become increasingly impoverished and exploited.
So we desperately need an agreed concept of what an appropriate profit is. And we also need a similar formula for a wage.
The concept of a minimum wage is meaningless without a concept of a maximum wage – both ends of the scale need to be defined. For instance, we could decide on a proportionate wage and bonus for a top earner (ie the CEO) in relation to the lowest-paid worker in a business.
Any excess profit above these amounts could be reconverted via investment and/or the common purse or saved for lean years. It is not ‘me’ as the driving force but ‘we’.
This would not harm but encourage innovation; innovation for the common good, not us as competitors in a dog-eat-dog world.
This has already happened in some small local businesses, but we need a universally accepted blueprint.
Pat McKenna, Cardiff
A woman’s best friend
I’ve just been catching up on the joy of dogs issue [Issue 1578, 21 August].
I’m fortunate enough to live in my own house, but two years ago my husband died and Petra my greyhound gave me a reason to get up each day.
She’s also a therapy dog with Therapy Dogs Nationwide and we visit our local library, our local hospital, a local school and a couple of care homes.
Petra brings so much joy to so many people and keeps me going too. Thought you might like this photo of her ‘reading’.
Though I’ve been living in Spain for the last seven years I felt I had to write to commend you on your excellent magazine. At various times over the last 30 years, I’ve bought your magazine from vendors in Bristol, Totnes, Reading and probably elsewhere. Every time I hand over a few quid for my copy I know I’m helping someone – in however small a way – on their path out of homelessness.
I’m also invariably humbled by the stories of those struggling in difficult circumstances as well as inspired by those who have managed to get their lives back on track. The puzzles and arts coverage help to lighten the mood and the magazine is always well-produced and attractive. In short, I feel a better person for reading it.
On this last visit to the UK, I came away worried for the future of the country. Whether it’s economic hardship and homelessness, racial tension or environmental degradation (to name just a few ‘big issues’), Britain seems to be facing huge challenges.
And while I don’t put a great deal of faith in the politicians to solve these problems, I do believe that human kindness, community initiatives and social entrepreneurship – all things The Big Issue highlights and celebrates – could take us a long way to a kinder, fairer, more sustainable society.
Please keep up your wonderful work. Though I know in an ideal world we wouldn’t need a Big Issue, the sad fact is we probably will need reminding for many years to come of the plight of the less fortunate in society.
Jon Stein, Malaga
I thoroughly enjoyed Chris Poole’s article about the inspirational Freshta Karim [Issue 1590, 13 November].
I enjoyed Joshua Blackburn’s essay on his game, League of the Lexicon [13 November]. If you are in touch with him, he might be interested to know that the Shetlandic word for a slipper is a smuck.
I have also come across this word as a collective noun for a quantity of jellyfish (cf a shoal of herring; a kindle of kittens).
I was once at a lecture when the lecturer said it was impossible to know all the terms for collections of animals etc. He said, “I bet nobody knows the word for a collection of jellyfish!” I raised my hand and replied, “A smuck.” He was astonished.
It was easy for me to remember. My mother was a Shetlander, so I was familiar with the word. She was also a teacher, and one of the books she had at home was one which included a long list of collective nouns. My brother and I loved memorising as many of these words as we could, as a game.
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