What Do the Likes of Paul Krugman, Robert Reich, and Barack Obama Know That the Swiss Miss? (Answer: Nothing)

by Don Boudreaux on May 18, 2014

in Reality Is Not Optional, Seen and Unseen, Work

Several correspondents today have e-mailed me to report that Swiss voters have rejected a proposed minimum wage in that country.  (Marty Mazorra has more here.)  The exact percentage of voters who cast their ballots against the proposed minimum wage is a whopping 76.3.  More than 3 of every 4 voters in Switzerland rejected a proposed minimum wage!  Some days are better than others!  And, apparently, some countries have voters who are much more economically literate than are the voters (and even many of the economists) of other countries.

Switzerland currently has no legislated minimum wage.  And it appears as though the lowest-skilled workers in that country will, happily, not soon be saddled with the burden of such cruel legislation.  (This most-recent minimum-wage proposal was supported – surprise, surprise! – by Swiss labor unions.  Hmm….  I wonder why.  [Actually, any student earning a grade higher than "D" in my Principles of Microeconomics class at George Mason University can explain why labor unions press for minimum-wage legislation - and the reason ain't because labor unions are populated by caring saints.])

Cafe patron Marco Salvi, of Zurich, (from whom, in a follow-up e-mail, I get the 76.3 percent figure reported above) sent the following note to me earlier; it is shared here with his kind permission (ellipses original):

I would like to put to your attention the outcome of today’s referendum in Switzerland. 77% percent of the voters rejected the introduction of a federal minimum wage of $25/hour. Apparently, the Swiss don’t think that the monopsony model apply to their labour market… Polls showed that 60% of those earning less than the proposed minimum wage were against it.

Low-skilled workers have a difficult enough time of it as it is.  Their best hope for finding and keeping gainful employment is their willingness to work for less pay than more-skilled workers demand.  Minimum-wage legislation strips from low-skilled workers this option, their premier bargaining chip.  Ponder this reality if you’re ever tempted to think of minimum-wage supporters as being enlightened and humane.  They might be one or the other, but they are certainly not both.

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