Debating Minimum Wage Laws In A Moot Parliament In Iran

After visiting Tehran, Christopher Hitchens called Iran the “as if society.”

In his Vanity Fair piece, following the trip to Iran he puts it very eloquently:

“People [in Iran] live as if they were free, as if they were in the west, as if they had the right to an opinion, or a private life. And they don’t do too badly at it.”

 

Well, every Saturday evening in Tehran, a bunch of mostly young people get together to decide the fate of an “as if” society called Libertas, which is a made-up country with a somewhat similar sociopolitical situation to Iran.

In this picture, you can see the general information sheet given to all participants, in which they learn about the country’s population and other basic statistics.

Participants are supposedly the elected members of the parliament of the Republic of Libertas. They gather every week to discuss challenges facing the country and legislate or deregulate accordingly.

The idea of this moot parliament comes from Farzin, a bright young Ph.D. student of political science. He designed the idea to simulate a parliament and study democratic processes among ordinary people. I must say, I find the idea, especially for a young country like Iran, in which democratic institutions are still at their infancy, quite brilliant. I must add that I haven’t seen the idea put to work quite like that before. We did organize moot courts and parliamentary debates and such on a regular basis back in college but never a fully-fledged ongoing parliament.

This week a few topics were considered and finally, the minimum wage bill found its way to the floor. Among 28 present members of the parliament, to begin with, most of them were in favor of legislating a mandatory minimum wage law, 5 or so MPs were undecided, and a minority was against it.

Five speakers were put forward by each side to present their case. I was the last speaker for the so-called Right which was, of course, against the bill. By the second vote, the Right gained a majority and so it went.

It is worth noting that minimum wage laws are a thing in Iran. On the last days of every year, there is a charade in which the officials spend a long day and a good deal of the following night haggling over setting the next year’s minimum wage. No one comes out of that meeting disappointed. It’s an ideal place for a photo op; jackets are off, sleeves are rolled up, tempers are running high, and so are the voices. As the result of those laws, Iran has a high unemployment rate and some of the lucky people who can find work, have to do so illegally since the minimum wage has been set higher than their labor’s worth.

 

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Jonathan Harston

That’s a map of Oz!