Monday, February 13, 2006

No minimum wage

Let's just nip this one in the bud.

According to today's Nashville City Paper Rep. Mike Turner (D-Old Hickory) (my own representative) is partnering with Rep. Gary Moore (D-Joelton) to make the miminum wage in the State of Tennessee $6.15 an hour. That's one dollar an hour over the current federal minimum wage. Their rationale?

“We’re trying to help out the lower end of the wage scale,” Turner said. “It’s hard to raise a family on the minimum wage, and the thing about it is, we have some people that are trying to do that.”
I'm sure there are 'some' people that are trying to do that. And I wonder if these gentlemen can provide us with some hard data on those 'some'. I suggest that Rep. Turner turn his efforts toward encouraging them to get better training and help them locate jobs that pay more instead of burdening the entire state with this entitlement effort.

The problem with minimum wage is at least two-fold.

1. Every time the minimum wage is raised this family of six with a median income is left with less buying power because employers raise the price of the goods and services we need to accommodate that raise. We're not buying high end goods and services we could live without. We're talking about a family that shops at Aldi's and the nearby Goodwill in order to make ends meet.

2. Wages need to be set by the free market. We're not a socialist society--well, not quite anyway. If no one is willing to pay for the goods or services at that price the price needs to be changed--but not by the government. People who want to earn more money need to make themselves more valuable to their employers and their employer's customers or find a different employer. You don't encourage self-motivation and success by handing folks a paycheck you encourage dependency and a sense of entitlement.

If the problem is that an employer can hire cheap illegal labor the answer is not a minimum wage, it's heavily fining, jailing and shutting down employers who are enabling the illegal labor pool.


S-townMike said...

With the American market controlled largely by wealthy people, it is not clear to me that the market is a free as you would have us believe. And even if it were, I am reminded of a quote by the American Prospect's Keith Mattson:

Anyone who believes that you can strip the government of power and let the market blossom into the best of all possible worlds has not learned the lessons of sin, self-love, and power. In his own day and age, [Christian theologian Reinhold] Niebuhr called the pro-business organization, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), “sentimental.” It’s a perfectly apt description. And it easily applies to Grover Norquist and President Bush. These are not men who know sin and Christian humility. They are utopians enchanted with a naive sense of progress.

I would argue that the pipe dream of a free market is itself a humanist impulse that is so smitten with itself that it ignores its own tendency to treat people as means to its own end. If you allowed businesses to pay people what the market would bear, they would collude to pay them little to nothing at all, and justify it happily.

George Rand said...

Made it on NiT--don't know whether that's good or bad; gueuss as long as she spells your name right.

Kay Brooks said...


I don't believe I'm under the misimpression that we currently have a free market. And I don't think I wrote that we did, only that it ought to be utilized to set wages.

And I don't believe I'm naïve about the evil freedom can bring about. I certainly understand that until we change men's hearts, and even then, they'll be a tendency toward selfishness. But counterbalanced with the employees freedom to leave a bad employer and consumers having a legitimate choice this seems the best system available.

And finally, I do believe, based on my own life experience and the reading I've done, that some of us are lazy and selfish and are content to receive that which is handed to us. The only way, I know of, to encourage them to pull their weight is to allow those people to suffer a few consequences of their actions. (I would step in to avoid harming children, the elderly and infirmed via private local charitities.)

I would think that instead of fussing about my comments about 'free market' the focus should be on a public education system that has failed to empower so many of its former charges to get better than minimum wage jobs. The answer isn't to hand them more of our money, the answer is in helping them obtain the skills and knowledge they need to move past those inadquate wages.

George Rand said...

With appologies to Winston Churchill, the American economy is the worst system except for all others that have been tried throughout history.

Anonymous said...

George, you know without the NiT links, no one really would be reading this blog... ;o)

S-town, I think it is naive to believe that government dictated wages would not also fall under control of sinful, self-loving men - or the influence of the wealthy.

The markets the government controls/subsidizes that I am familiar with (oil imports, gas/electric utilities, medical servies/pharmaceuticals, postal service, public education, commercial airlines) aren't exactly consumer friendly. They don't have to be because they are monopolies. I honestly can't think of any market the government has interfered with that is more successful than free enterprise. Why would I want them to continue inroads into private business?

Eric Holcombe

Kay Brooks said...

Hey, hey...I know the readership here isn't large, but it certainly is quality. :-)

And Eric throw in farming. I'm originally from the Dairy State and my own parents would drive across to MN to get margarine 'cause they couldn't afford the price of butter in WI but margarine wasn't available thanks to the government.