November 25, 2009
The Minimum Wage: An Open Plea to My Friends on the Left

A few weeks ago, a friend posted a link to a story about how the NAACP is pressuring President Obama about African-American unemployment. Sadly and tragically, "repeal the minimum wage" is not one of their proposals even though the evidence suggests that it reduces employment and increases poverty. Here's an excellent post by Steve Horwitz on how "the science president" is ignoring the economics of the minimum wage. Here's my case for repeal. Here's a piece in which Steve and I join forces to rebut criticism of free-market economists. Here's my review of Donald Stabile's book on the living wage. Here's a piece on how the minimum wage affects the disadvantaged. Here's a piece on the hidden costs of the minimum wage. Here's Neumark and Wascher's comprehensive survey of the empirical research on the minimum wage; if you're at Rhodes, you have access to this paper because we have a subscription to NBER Working Papers.

At the SEA meetings, Jagdish Bhagwati dismantled the rhetoric of "fair trade" and said something that will stick with me for a long time. I paraphrase here: movements advocating what is grossly and misleadingly called "fair trade" and movements advocating higher minimum wages are filled with people who imagine themselves fine human beings but who are actually busy (unwittingly) doing horrible things to the people they claim to love so much.

With unemployment in double digits and with a lot of people struggling to make ends meet, I offer an appeal to my friends on the left who think that higher minimum wages do not reduce employment or who think that higher minimum wages are good for the poor: I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, to consider the possibility that you may be wrong. Please. For the sake of the poor.

Addendum: I neglected to add Steve's "An Open Letter to My Friends on the Left", which is also well worth reading.

Posted by Art Carden at 08:34 PM in Economics

The statesman who should attempt to direct private people in what manner they ought to employ their capitals would not only load himself with a most unnecessary attention, but assume an authority which could safely be trusted, not only to no single person, but to no council or senate whatever, and which would nowhere be so dangerous as in the hands of a man who had folly and presumption enough to fancy himself fit to exercise it. -Adam Smith

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