Not really in the mood to write about this – we live in a world of economic creationists. Nonethless, among the zillions of excellent logical questions one might ask proponents about it, only to be dodged, Jason Brennan (of Why Not Capitalism fame) asks this:
If you believe employers owe employees a living wage, do you think that an employer has a moral duty to pay an employee more just because she has more children? Suppose Bob and Jane are equally productive employees with the same background credentials and qualifications. Suppose they are getting paid the same amount, and both right now make an amount that exceeds the MIT living wage. But suppose Bob later has triplets, and as a result, suddenly makes less than the MIT living wage (since the living wage for a person with three children is higher than a person with none). Is the employer obligated to pay him more because of that? Suppose the employer decides to pay Bob much more than Jane because Bob has triplets, even though they are equally productive employees. Suppose Jane says, “Bob is getting paid $50 an hour, and I’m only getting paid $20, even though we’re equally productive. That’s not fair–he shouldn’t get paid almost three times what I’m paid just because he had kids.” Should we tell Jane she’s an evil and immoral jerk who just doesn’t care about social justice? Suppose Bob’s labor is only worth $23/hr to his employer. When he has triplets in DC, he now needs to make $50/hr to get a living wage. If the employer says, “I can’t afford to keep Bob on a living wage, so I’ll just fire him. After all, I care about social justice, and I don’t want to pay a worker less than a living wage.” Does the employer do the right thing?
Mr. Brennan will not be getting invited to dinner parties. And as far as his particular question goes, I don’t think Mr. Brennan realizes that almost every supporter of the minwage (and opponnent mind you too) has not thought this deeply about it, and has no need for intellectual consistency about it. It is NOT about that. The minimum wage argument (is there an argument) is a political one – with the typical in-group vs. out-group dynamics at play.
For a less politicized version of this question, consider how fair it is that so many workers make their fellow workers pay the “kid tax.” I do it too – on certain days I have to leave the office at 2pm just so I can go home and get my kids. No one seems to object to that, so perhaps people are perfectly accepting of the fact that these workers do in fact already get paid more! On the other hand, I tend to work at all times of the day to make up for it.