Thanks to those few who replied to my request for stuff on calculating real wages. Here's what I've got so far:
Paul Krugman, “Viagra and the Wealth of Nations,”
Arnold Kling, “How Much Worse Off Are We?,” TCS, July 2004
Amartya Sen, “The Welfare Basis of Real Income Comparisons”, Journal of Economic Literature,1979 (available through JSTOR)
Jack Triplett, “Hedonic Indexes and Statistical Agencies, Revisted,” paper presented to the BLS, June 2000. [PDF]
And a bunch of other possibly relevant stuff from Triplett here.
Bureau of Labor Statistics FAQ about the Consumer Price Index.
Krugman gets very close to what I'm thinking about, but the end of his piece skirts the real issue about the extent to which economics relies on implicit psychological and moral theories. I'm still looking for something that's more deeply reflective about the philosophical dimensions of this issue. I'll let you know if I find anything, and please let me know if you know of anything.
[Update: More Citations]
William D. Nordhous, “Do Real Output and Real Wage Measures Capture Reality? The History of Lighting Suggests Not”
The Boskin Commission Report, “Toward a More Accurate Measure of the Cost of Living,” Report to the Senate Finance Committee, 1996.
Robert Gordon, “The Boskin Commission Report and Its Aftermath,” NBER Working Paper 7759
Thanks so far to Tyler Cowen, Ryan Seals, Erin Shellman and Alex Taborrok.