Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on March 27, 2014

in Reality Is Not Optional, Seen and Unseen, Work

… is from pages 41-43 of my great colleague Walter Williams’s 1995 Cato Journal article “The Argument for Free Markets: Morality Versus Efficiency,” which is reprinted as chapter 2 in the 2004 Institute of Economic Affairs collection, edited by Dennis O’Keeffe, Economy and Virtue (original emphasis):

One can hardly determine the casualties of war simply by looking at survivors.  We must ask what happened to those whom we do not see.  Similarly, when evaluating interventionist public policy, we cannot evaluate it simply by looking at its beneficiaries.  We must discover its victims.  Most often the victims of public policy are invisible.  To garner greater public support against government command and control we must somehow find a way to make those victims visible.

The political strategy of those who support liberty should be to expose the invisible victims of minimum wage laws.  We need to show the facts about those who have lost their jobs, or have not been employed in the first place, because their productivity did not warrant their being taken on at the minimum wage.  We should find a way to demonstrate that many jobs are destroyed by minimum wages.  We must show how marginally profitable firms have been forced out of business, though surviving firms may have the same number of employees.  We should show how capital was artificially substituted for labour as a result of higher mandated wages and how firms have adjusted their production techniques in order to economise on labour, such as in greater use of plastic, throwaway utensils, fewer sections in entertainment arenas, fewer checkout stands, etc.  The particular paths firms follow in order to adjust to higher mandated wages are less important than the brute fact that such adjustments will be made.

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