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Tuesday, September 27, 2005



This morning I heard audio clips from a political conference. Several speakers were talking about oppression.

What is "oppression?"

Where can we find it?

Merriam-Webster defines oppression as an, "unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power." This is pretty interesting because we can look at it from and economic point of view as well as a humanistic point of view.

I think It's more relevant to look at oppression from the definition of it being unjust for an economic discussion of it.

The Constitution of the United States sets out to define what is just and unjust. It's our framework for interpreting laws, and influencing policy...ideally.

There are many instances in past supreme court cases where a person could argue that an unjust excercise of authority happened, and where the supreme court upheld that excercise. Economic liberty is provided for in the 14th amendment. In Muller v. State of Oregon in 1908, the supreme court regulated the hours a woman could work in laundrys. In other cases, the court upheld statutes that hurt competition, as in the case of McCray v. U.S. in 1904. There are also instances where public policy has created an unjust use of power. Some examples are education subsidies, CAFE standards, and even some of the taxes we have now.

If economic liberty is provided for in the constitution, then any act which infringes upon that right could theoretically be called oppression. It's a strong word, but Webster's definition is precisely related to economics, and the policies that we can analyze with efficiency analysis. Any oppressive policy would not be efficient. As we've already discussed in class, markets are better left on thier own, than interfered with by imposing undue subsidies (when there is no positive externality), or regulating industry in ways the constitution does not explicitly provide for. Oppression all of a sudden becomes a large part of our discussion of efficiency analysis, and the issue of public policy.
Oppression means different things to different people, for me it is the use of political power and domination having officials control all wealth and goods and dole them out in strict equality to maintain an unjust system, which is for the benefit of the rulers, at the expense of the ruled. Such oppression may exist at the level of the state. Poverty as oppression in America is a direct result of the economic mandates and tendencies of capitalism. A capitalistic economy is inherently impersonal and concerned exclusively with profit. In the ever-present drive for profit, oppression becomes the relationship between workers and employers as employers try to maximize profits by minimizing wages. Thus the primary cause for poverty amidst the working class is oppression. Not only does capitalism require a marginal labor force of the unemployed to depress wages, but recently it has shown its need to eliminate employees and produce internationally to reduce costs. Thus the working class finds itself in periodic poverty due to oppression for three main reasons: unemployment, layoffs, and subcontracting.
I think the term oppression can be used in different ways, however I think the most common way the term is used is in a political context. Oppression, as a political term, has to do with the unfair restrictions placed on members of society. Oppression is found throughout the histroy of the United States, from the African Americans to American women.
I feel that it is important to look at oppression in another form, an economic form. As pointed out in another comment the definition of oppression is an "unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power."
If you look back on previous court cases, oppression is something that has been going on for some time. From the limit on how much women could work in a week, to a limit on the amount of trade and the type of trade allowed to leave a state. These are forms of oppression in an economic standpoint.
Oppression is not only found on the local and national levels but also on the international level. Countries often oppress another country by enforcing trade mandates, and some countries oppress themselves with their cultures. The countries that oppress members of their society based on culture or religion are also affecting their economy. For example the Middle East is known for their oppression of women. However I feel that if this oppression changed the economy in these areas would greatly increase because they would have more man power to create more output, which then creates more money.
Oppression can be defined and found in many different ways. However I feel it would be best for the economy if oppression did not exist as much as it does. Other countries could learn from the United States, we have changed many laws that freed many who were oppressed and we have grown to be the most stable and powerful country in the international economy.
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