Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Repeal the Minimum Wage: We know the economic case. The humanitarian case is even stronger.
National Review ^ | 05/21/2014 | Amity Shlaes

Posted on 05/21/2014 6:47:48 AM PDT by SeekAndFind

The economic case against the minimum wage exists, and has been made by me and others often enough. But there’s another, even stronger case against the rule. That is the humanitarian case. And until that case, too, receives consideration, the debate will always be a lopsided one.

Consider the current employment culture. Sit down with an employment officer at the company where you hope to work, and something feels strange. After a while, you realize what it is: The party on the other side of the desk is not a company executive, it is Jacqueline Berrien, the head of the EEOC. The process moves in similarly creepy fashion when you are the one offering the job: Sure, your future hire is there in the flesh, but you might as well be talking to Thomas Perez. That is, the rules the United States secretary of labor enforces determine the course of your conversation more than anything you, or the new hire, might feel like saying.

It was not always thus. In the 19th century and well into the 20th, many employers and employees believed that their relationship, the two-party one, was key. Outsiders — regulators, unions, lawmakers — were intruders. That privacy of employer and employee often yielded negative results. The employer might exploit the employee. But the two-party dynamic often succeeded. Because the employee-employer pair set their terms together, they trusted each other. From time to time, they also helped each other.

Example: It’s hard to find employers more vilified in the annals of American history than Andrew Carnegie and Henry Frick. These gentlemen hired the Pinkerton men who shot at the workers during the steel strike over, yes, wages at Homestead, Pa., in 1892. What is mostly forgotten is that the workers also shot at the detectives. What is entirely forgotten is that Carnegie and Frick did much for workers, precisely because they felt responsible to their counterparty. The exploiting Robber Baron Carnegie endowed more than 1,500 public libraries up and down the Atlantic seaboard and out west, and many more around the world. Carnegie’s aim was to dare workers like those who tackled the Pinkertons to improve their skills, so that they might rise as Carnegie himself had. “He that dare not reason is a slave,” reads the motto at the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh. Many immigrants after Carnegie did reason, and did rise.

In 1905, the Supreme Court supported this old view when it held that New York State might not regulate the hours worked at a bakery because doing so interfered with the sanctity of the contract between worker and employer. The case, Lochner, has long been ridiculed by progressives and conservatives alike as an example of absurd federal interventionism: After all, the issue was a state law, not a law passed in Washington, D.C. Several decades later, in the 1923 case Adkins v. Children’s Hospital, the Supreme Court explicitly rejected the minimum wage, with Justice Sutherland explaining of the minimum wage: “It exacts from the employer an arbitrary payment for a purpose and upon a basis having no causal connection with his business, or the contract or the work the employee engages to do.” It was only another decade-plus later, in West Coast Hotel, that the enervated justices finally succumbed and opened the door to a third party, the labor regulator. Well into the second term of a progressive administration, justices do tend to get intimidated, and the Supreme Court certainly demonstrated that in West Coast Hotel.

Speaking more generally, conservatives have never been as strong as they could have been when it came to defending the contract between worker and employer. In a perverse way, the finding in Roe v. Wade ensured that that weakness would continue. Those who would make the argument that abortion should be decided by state law also found, for the sake of consistency, that a Supreme Court impulse regarding workers’ hours must be discounted: Employment policy was up to the states.

This trend, however, misses the point: The relationship between employer and worker does matter. The employer who cannot set his business’s wages, or who must, whether or not he can afford it, increase wages, is an employer who is less likely to invest in his relationship with his employees. He is also less likely to hire and more likely to use a temp agency, to “nickel and dime” in the way that progressive cartoons mock. States and towns rarely supply institutions as wonderful as the Andrew Carnegie libraries. When rules intrude, the loss to personal ambition, workplace satisfaction, and civic culture is great. So great that perhaps someone will eventually figure out a way to quantify that.

— Amity Shlaes chairs the board of the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Foundation.

TOPICS: Business/Economy; Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: minimumwage; repeal

1 posted on 05/21/2014 6:47:48 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: SeekAndFind

Actual minimum wage is ZERO.....Tha comes from NOT working.
Personal minimum wage is the wage of whatever job you accept. If you want more, then apply for the higher paying job. If you aren’t qualified, then get more education and qualify yourself...Don’t look for a handout....

2 posted on 05/21/2014 6:53:15 AM PDT by Boonie
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: SeekAndFind; All

Isn’t Government control of a minimum wage, a form of Government Wage Control?

If that is true, then is Government Wage Control a form of Private Business Control?

Since few in Government have ever worked for a wage in a Private Business, are we not allowing the ignorant and incompetent in Government to control Private Businesses?

Consider the fact that Private Businesses employ the vast majority of Americans, and we have a situation where we vote in the incompetent Government politicians to control how most of us make a living.

It is time, - - - time for a change in 2014.

3 posted on 05/21/2014 7:03:14 AM PDT by Graewoulf (Democrats' Obamacare Socialist Health Insur. Tax violates U.S. Constitution AND Anti-Trust Law.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: SeekAndFind

I notice that the author does not address government’s interference in the labor market via flooding the country with aliens, legal and illegal, permanent and temporary. Many are from countries where big government is the way of life and are comfortable working at wages that leave them dependent upon government handouts. The employer now gets to pass part of the cost of labor onto the taxpayer. This model is used across all levels of employment.

Wages respond to supply and demand.

4 posted on 05/21/2014 7:32:24 AM PDT by khelus
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Boonie

There needs to be something in place of the minimum wage that prevents what in business law are called “unconscionable” acts.

Unscrupulous businesses would (and do) have no problem with using slave labor, even in the US. And from the level of basic slavery, there are any number of coercive and repugnant means of semi-slavery that have been broadly embraced over the years.

A common one, for example (and not limited to the US), is to get foreign workers and illegal aliens, then confiscate their passports, refusing to return them and threatening to have them deported unless they work for a fraction of their value.

Even more common are kickbacks, in which employment is only offered if they will agree to return most of their pay for low value business provided things, like “rent” for concrete walls and corrugated tin roof over dirt floors, and “food” that is just rice and beans.

Every year, hundreds of businesses get small fines for such abuses. A tiny fraction of the money they make from such schemes.

Because the US keeps tightening its labor laws, despite the bitter opposition of such businesses, in recent years many corporations have taken to outsourcing, on the grounds that since they cannot get extremely cheap labor here, they will get it elsewhere, and sell their goods here.

But even that is not enough, because they resent having to pay shipping costs. So the big push, sponsored by none other than the multinational corporation controlled US Chamber of Commerce, is to have pseudo-open borders, or at least amnesty, not really for the existing illegal aliens, but because they know it will bring in a huge new crop of illegal aliens.

They absolutely do not want legal aliens that become citizens, because then they could demand fair wages. They want more illegal aliens they can cheat.

There are a lot of real scum out there.

5 posted on 05/21/2014 7:42:53 AM PDT by yefragetuwrabrumuy ("Don't compare me to the almighty, compare me to the alternative." -Obama, 09-24-11)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Boonie

What I suppose some (mostly liberals) fear is that if a minimum wage were abolished, wages would drop precipitously. A current minimum wage job might go from $7.25/hr (the current Federal minimum) to something much less. That’d be okay for a teenager in a burger joint...but it would not be okay for someone trying to raise a family.

Sure, as you said, that person should go and get an education and try to better themselves. There are some out there....for whatever reason...for whom getting a further education is not an option. One thing that has been in the news concerning that is that continuing education can incur substantial debt on a student. A person has to get further in the hole in order to get out of it. Most view that little fact with dread.

Yes, there are government-backed loans and grants that can take care of paying for it now....but don’t we as conservatives want to abolish all that? If they’re gone, how would a person pay for it if, say, they go to get a loan for college (without the government backing) and they cannot due to a bad credit score?

I have seen many a FReeper complain that the current education system is useless. If a person is to get an education to better themselves, how (in an ideal conservative way) would they do it? I have no answer.

6 posted on 05/21/2014 7:54:06 AM PDT by hoagy62 ("Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered..."-Thomas Paine. 1776)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: hoagy62

RE: What I suppose some (mostly liberals) fear is that if a minimum wage were abolished, wages would drop precipitously.

Well, we do have REAL LIFE examples to show that this won’t necessarily be the case.

Switzerland has no minimum wage ( and just 2 days ago, voted down a referendum to have a minimum wage ).

Guess what? The median Swiss salary is $37/hour.

See here:

Singapore, one of the most prosperous countries in the world, has no minimum wage either.

7 posted on 05/21/2014 8:02:01 AM PDT by SeekAndFind (If at first you don't succeed, put it out for beta test.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: SeekAndFind

We wouldn’t need a minimum wage if EVerify were the law of the land, US citizens got available jobs, and there were negative economic consequence to shifting jobs overseas. As things stand now, there’s unfair competition for available jobs which unfairly sabotages the supply and demand curve.

8 posted on 05/21/2014 8:06:09 AM PDT by grania
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: SeekAndFind

See? We have proof that abolishing a minimum wage is NOT destructive to an economy....but do libs see that? Nooooo.....

As for the second part of my post...I still really don’t know what conservatives should do on the question of educating people who WANT to better themselves.

There are some out there who have made REALLY poor decisions in their lives...getting into drugs and alcohol, having kids out of wedlock, and just plain laziness.
Laziness CAN be cured with proper motivation, but what about the rest?
The answer for unwed mothers: keep your pants zipped and legs closed (sorry to be so crude, but hey).
I wish I had a solution for the poor fool who’s mind is so blown by drugs that they can’t function beyond a minimum wage-type position.


9 posted on 05/21/2014 8:30:29 AM PDT by hoagy62 ("Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered..."-Thomas Paine. 1776)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: hoagy62

Drugs and alcohol are choices...You can’t choose for them...They have to decide whether or not they want to excel at life or “just get by”...
There would be, I believe, a lot less “unwed” mothers if we reverted back to the welfare system that was in place BEFORE LBJ declared “The War on Poverty” in 1964...Actually, per capita, there were more two parent,strong families in the black communities than were in the white communities then. The LBJ welfare system created more money for single parents ans that was taken advantage of and has now become the norm.
Look at the actual percentage and numbers of “minimum wage” workers...It is very small...One of the most damaging aspects of raising the minimum wage would be because of union contracts, union workers would be raised the same amount. There are many more union workers than there are minimum wage workers...
Also, the majority of minimum wage workers are teens who still live at home and work for spending money and play.
As far as the public education system, it needs to be returned to the state level instead of the federal government’s “one size fits all” corrupt sytem. Jimmy Carter did us no favors whatsoever when he started the Federal Department of Eductaion in 1978...That was the beginning of the “dumbing down” of public education...

10 posted on 05/21/2014 9:14:32 AM PDT by Boonie
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: Boonie

Agree Don’t look for a handout but in mommy states it’s the new logic.

11 posted on 05/21/2014 9:50:37 AM PDT by Vaduz
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: SeekAndFind
The intellectual case against the minimum wage is compelling, but the political case is weak and unsustainable in the long run.

Not only is a minimum wage increase popular, but Hispanic voters especially support it. With the ranks of Hispanic voters growing rapidly, further increases in the minimum wage are inevitable. So why should conservatives and the GOP be willing to suffer needless political damage from opposing such increases?

So here is a mischievous suggestion: tell the Chamber of Commerce and the cheap labor and amnesty lobby that unless they can decisively change public opinion on the minimum wage in the next six weeks, in order to appeal to Hispanic voters, conservatives and the GOP will this summer endorse and campaign on a substantial increase in the minimum wage, along with stricter enforcement.

And, by the way, such a measure will also discourage illegal immigration by pricing illegals out of the jobs that attract them.

12 posted on 05/21/2014 10:35:10 AM PDT by Rockingham
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson