… is from Milton Friedman’s first Newsweek column – “Minimum-Wage Rates” – which appeared on September 26, 1966:
I am convinced that the minimum-wage law is the most anti-Negro law on our statute books – in its effect not its intent.
(The first part of Friedman’s quotation is unquestionably true. The latter part might have been true by 1966, when Friedman wrote these words. But the original intent of minimum-wage legislation was, if not explicitly anti-black, certainly unsavory.)
If you mandate that Smith, if he chooses to deal with Jones, bestow more benefits on Jones than Smith would otherwise bestow, you will reduce Smith’s eagerness to deal with Jones, or you will oblige Jones to give more in the bargain to Smith than Jones would otherwise give.
You might feel very self-satisfied about the good intentions that prompt you to force Smith, when he deals with Jones, to treat Jones as you have divined Jones ‘should’ be treated. Or instead, you might be a creep who wishes to thwart Jones, and you have cleverly figured out a way to do so that causes credulous people actually to applaud you as an altruistic saint who acts to further Jones’s well-being. Either way, you harm Jones (and Smith).
Were he still alive, Milton Friedman would today celebrate his 102nd birthday.