Thoughtless All the Way Through

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

In a recent column about socialism, Thomas Sowell also discussed the high cost of minimum wage laws to those in whose name they are passed:

Back in 1948, when inflation had rendered meaningless the minimum wage established a decade earlier, the unemployment rate among 16-17-year-old black males was under 10 percent. But after the minimum wage was raised repeatedly to keep up with inflation, the unemployment rate for black males that age was never under 30 percent for more than 20 consecutive years, from 1971 through 1994. In many of those years, the unemployment rate for black youngsters that age exceeded 40 percent and, for a couple of years, it exceeded 50 percent.

The damage is even greater than these statistics might suggest. Most low-wage jobs are entry-level jobs that young people move up out of, after acquiring work experience and a track record that makes them eligible for better jobs. But you can't move up the ladder if you don't get on the ladder. [bold added]
I have, at different times, seen in the popular press the argument that the minimum wage results in lower employment. I have also seen proposals for regulation of unpaid internships called into question on the grounds that this would make it hard for prospective interns to gain experience. I am glad that, regarding the minimum wage, Sowell connects the dots here between the immediate problem of higher unemployment and the longer-term issue of inexperience.

Although I would prefer to see economists at least bring up the morality of interfering with the rights of adults to enter contracts, we can easily enough start that ball rolling here: If so many who spout leftist pieties were actually serious about helping the poor, they ought to be considering alternatives to policies that have failed for decades now. The fact that they do not ought to give more people pause: If leftists can't be bothered to look at relatively small matters, like how a single policy works, how can they be trusted with bigger things, such as the purpose of government or moral questions?

Many conservatives fall for the temptation to call leftists hypocrites. This may be true, but stopping at that gives leftists a pass they don't deserve on these bigger matters.

-- CAV


Kyle Haight said...

I don't think the leftist leaders who push the minimum wage are hypocrites at all. They want to make it difficult or impossible for the young to get jobs because that helps breed an underclass whose direct personal experience with the market is "those rich people who won't give me a job". Once brought into existence that underclass serves as the foot soldiers in the left's unceasing war on civilization as such.

Make 'em poor, make 'em dependent, make 'em angry, then turn them loose.

Many rank-and-file leftists are just ignorant of the full effects of the minimum wage. They've been lied to, and they make the common error of focusing on what is seen at the cost of what is not seen. But the thought leaders are smart and well-informed enough to know better. Mistakes of that magnitude are not made innocently.

Gus Van Horn said...


That's true, and I could have been more clear on the point.

That said, many conservatives, sharing the same moral premise of altruism, accept the stated goal at face value, permitting their analysis to stop prematurely. But we can still find value in their incomplete analyses, namely by using them as a springboard to question the thoroughness of thought or motives (as appropriate) of the supporters of such destructive measures. (e.g., Does so-and-so not know that minimum wages depress employment -- or does he not care?)