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So, New York State (who is that, exactly?) passes an historic increase in the minimum wage. It argues, implicitly, that raising costs to $15 per hour will benefit workers and not have the adverse consequences economists warn about. Of course, there are myriad adverse consequences, not just unemployment, so keep your eye on the ball. In any case, the argument by the state and its supporters is that workers will not bear the cost.

Then, in the very same legislation, the state passes “historic” legislation that mandates that employers provide 12 weeks of leave to fathers and mothers of newbord children. Ignore the math for the time being, the program is being sold as “no cost to employers” and that the program will be self-funded by workers.

So, let’s get this straight. Minimum wages, which increase the costs of hiring workers and keeping workers, will not be paid by workers and in fact will either be paid by firms or their customers, but perhaps even better the magic econ-fairie will cause the higher pay to reduce turnover so much and improve worker quality so much that everyone is better off – we get lower prices, higher wages and higher profits. Fine, but at the very same time we have a program that makes it more costly to hire and keep workers and in that case, we are being told that the workers will bear the cost and not the firms or customers?

So, which is it?

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Prediction: when the workers either get replaced by innovative technology or end up getting unemployed (or not hired in the first place), minimum wage advocates will claim even that as a success. You see, it took enlightened government action to convince entrepreneurs to make historic capital and technical investments that are the wellspring of true economic growth. Further, no one should have to work in the drudgery of low-paid jobs, so if the minimum wage ends those jobs (consumed be damned) then we are all the better for it. In other words, no matter what the outcome of the minimum wage changes, supporters will claim every last part of it a success.

Let’s play on their turf for this final second. Even if there are no adverse consequences, just as defenders of the minimum wage argue that it is an important symbol about our standing up for what is good and right regardless of its effects, I here claim that the minimum wage is abhorrent, violent, intrusive, racist, nationalist, cronyist, and a dangerous and unnerving symbol about doing something that is bad, about celebrating ignorance, about ignoring the sovereign choices of workers and entrepreneurs and a horrible symbol of an elite class of do-nothing-ers imposing costs on others without raising a finger themselves. It is a dangerous symbol and therefore there does not need to be any justification for banning the practice immediately because it is so obviously a disgusting and dangerous symbol. How do you suppose we adjudicate that? Oh, I get it, my values don’t matter, only “theirs” do?

3 Responses to “Postmodern Labor Economics”

  1. Non-falsifiability is just one characteristic of leftist thought. That unfortunate…thing in Russia wasn’t *real* communism. Venezuelans don’t have toilet paper because of an international conspiracy of capitalist saboteurs.

    Disingenuity is, of course, another. The United States violates human rights, says Bernie, admiring the poster of Castro in his living room.

    The other characteristic is — well, I’ll just let Governor Brown speak for me here: “Economically, minimum wages may not make sense. But morally, socially, and politically they make every sense because it binds the community together to make sure parents can take care of their kids.”

  2. jb says:

    Regarding your Prediction that minimum wage advocates will claim that “no one should have to work in the drudgery of low-paid jobs, so if the minimum wage ends those jobs (consumed be damned) then we are all the better for it.”

    You are probably right. And I predict the very same people will in the next breath complain that poverty stricken third world workers in low wage sweat shops are “stealing jobs from Americans.”

  3. Scott Everett says:

    I always remember when I was digging holes for $8/hr for ten hrs a day and I thought it was great because it seemed like plenty of money because I could buy plenty of ramen noodles after only a few hours of work. most the guys I was working with were ex convicts or they were from Puerto Rico and they would only go home once a year to kiss their wives and hold their daughters and the rest of the time and they were working like me and they would live in little shacks and share rooms with other grown men but they were happy because they could send home a few hundred bucks a month and their kids would have a better life for it and that was all that really mattered. And then I hear Bernie talk about equality and opportunity and his fans go crazy when a bird lands on his podium because they’ve never spent a moment alone in nature and they’ve never see such a thing and I wonder if they know about the little girl in Puerto Rico and how hungry she is.

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