Comment on The Minimum Wage: Good Intentions, Bad Results
March 1, 1988
Ideas have consequences, Richard Weaver once wrote. They pace the course of human history-both good ideas and bad. And while intentions may be honorable, the passing of time has proven that, in the long term, you can't get good results from bad ideas.
The minimum wage is a classic example of a good intention and a bad idea. The idea behind minimum wage legislation is that government, by simple decree, can increase the earning power of all marginal workers. Implicit in this idea is the notion that employment is an exploitive relationship and that business owners will never voluntarily raise the wages of their workers. Businesses, we are told, must be coerced into paying workers what they deserve, and only politicians know what this is. Not only does this line of thinking run contrary to the most basic economic principles of a free society, but it is also patently illogical. If government could raise the real wages of millions of Americans by merely passing a law announcing that fact, then why stop at $3.35 per hour, or $4.65, or even $107 Isn't $500 per hour more compassionate than $50? Absurd, you say, and I would agree. But the "logic" is perfectly consistent with the idea of a minimum wage, once you have accepted the premise that political decrees can raise wages.