Milton Friedman and Walter Williams on Minimum-Wage Legislation

by Don Boudreaux on October 8, 2013

in Crony Capitalism, Seen and Unseen, Video, Work

This 12-minute-plus clip from Milton Friedman’s 1980 Free to Choose series is on the minimum wage; it features, in addition to Friedman and other guests, my GMU Econ colleague Walter Williams.  (HT Mark Perry)

I wonder if the labor-union lobbyists – mentioned at the start of the clip by Friedman as having prominently testified before Congress for a hike in the minimum wage – were motivated to press for a higher minimum wage because they genuinely believed that employers of low-skilled workers have monopsony power.

Actually, in fact, I wonder no such thing – and neither do you.  No one seriously entertains the possibility that labor-union lobbyists were then, or are now, moved to support hikes in the minimum wage because labor-union officials have concluded that monopsony power in the market for low-skilled workers is a real problem.

Obviously, the fact that lobbyists who press for government action M do so for reasons different from those that scholars offer to justify policy M does not prove that those scholars’ justifications, and the theory upon which those justifications are based, are flawed.  But this fact is evidence that those who support - including academic types – should, when judging the merits of M, exercise far more skepticism (and display greater understanding of political reality) than they normally do when issuing their theoretical justifications for policy M.

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