Minimum Wages, and How they Keep the Low Lower

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I’ll begin today’s post with a brief explanation of my absence, which, shockingly, relates in some way to today’s post.

I stumbled upon a liberal message board in which my article about clean elections had been posted. Someone had read the article and then was wondering who the hell decided campaign finance was a protected first amendment right. So, having some knowledge about this, I went and posted the answer as best I could — that for a long time, at least as far back as I can remember, campaign finance had been interpreted by the Supreme Court to be a protected part of your first amendment rights.

And the onslaught began. I don’t think I have heard more hatred of libertarian ideology than I did in that particular setting. I, by virtue of being a libertarian, was called psychotic, selfish, a swindler, and a bully. None of which, of course, I think are true of libertarians at all.

This is what plagues me about liberals sometimes. Many complain of conservative hatred of those who are different, profess themselves to be forever tolerant, and yet they prove that they themselves are some of those who rant and rave and make baseless, angry attacks.

Like the naive young person I am, I spent a lot of time and energy attempting to get these people to stop hating me, and thus I was burned out and not wanting to post here.

If I could change one thing about liberals, it would be just for them to see that many times they want the same thing as libertarians — equality for people, a stable society, freedom,  etc. but we just think that there are different and better ways to go about it.

Take, for example, this video:

I think this person makes a compelling argument that a liberal, while he or she may not agree with it and may have different facts, wouldn’t necessarily hate.  Mr. Divounguy cites several reasons to forgo a minimum wage: it interferes with the right to contract,  it keeps young people out of work, it keeps minority people out of work. Basically, it helps keep the poor people poor by “sawing off the lower economic rungs.” He also realizes that an unskilled worker may not be unskilled because of laziness, sloth, but may in fact be a product of a bad home or a social system that, quite frankly, screws him over. Are these not also ideas that liberals support?

It’s clear that while perhaps Mr. Divounguy’s main philosophical problem is with the existence of a minimum wage, he is still interested in economic equality and wants there to be a chance for non-skilled workers to work their way up in the job market through experience. It’s like he says — high wage earners aren’t hurt at all by a minimum wage hike, low wage-earners are.  And, really, it’s the high wage-earners that are making policy, now, isn’t it? Yes, even the Democrats.

Before I quickly make myself a hypocrite and start hating on liberals, let’s focus a little bit more intently on the argument Mr. Divouguy makes, because I would have some things to add.

I think that there should be more emphasis on the fact that a minimum wage hurts unemployed youth, minorities, and unskilled workers. It does a great deal of benefit for people who are already employed (if they did’t get laid off).  For example, many of the jobs at my school are minimum wage, especially those funded through Work-Study programs. When the  minimum wage went up to $7.25, those workers — largely in unskilled jobs — were able to work fewer hours, because they have a set salary. For simple wage-workers, they got to make more money if the wage-hikes didn’t cause layoffs.  Whatever your thoughts on minimum wages, are, it’s good for people already employed. That is probably who it was intended to benefit.

However, in struggling economic times, with the unemployment level being what it is, I wonder if in fact minimum wage doesn’t hurt the situation more than it helps. People at the “bottom” of the economic ladder are generally hurt more than people at the top or in the middle.  Generally those at the bottom are unskilled workers. If a person who is unskilled is laid off or is unemployed, an employer, as Mr. Divouguy succinctly states, is not as willing to pay that worker a higher wage when they’re not sure if they’re going to get a return on that wage — essentially, its a riskier bet.

I don’t think we can require companies to take riskier bets, seeing as how a very similar situation is what caused us to have this economic collapse to begin with (requiring banks to make riskier loans).

So, essentially, libertarians argue that minimum-wages hurt the unemployed which often consist of the poor, unskilled, minorities, youth, disabled, etc. And to offset these inequalities, libertarians call for a lowering or elimination of the minimum-wage — that is at least part of the motivation, if not a lot of it.  Even if you don’t agree with the analysis, or the end result, why would you question, continually question, the motivation? Is it really so hard to believe that at least some libertarians want to see equality too, but just don’t think it’s the government’s job to make that happen?