Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on June 9, 2014

in Hubris and humility, Reality Is Not Optional, Seen and Unseen, Work

… is from page 141 of the now largely forgotten, but once influential, posthumous 1948 collection of the most notable essays by Henry Simons, Economic Policy for a Free Society; specifically, it’s from Simons’s March 1944 Journal of Political Economy article, “Some Reflections on Syndicalism” (original emphasis):

Whether the wage permits an adequate family scale of living, according to social service workers, is simply irrelevant – as, indeed, are the net earnings of employers.  What really matters is the judgment of workers who would be excluded by an excessive wage as to the relative merits of the employment in question and of employment in the less attractive alternatives actually open to them.

This reality – which, of course, is not optional – is overlooked by advocates of minimum-wage legislation and of schemes to arbitrarily raise the wages of workers in developing countries.  Most such proponents of arbitrary wage setting by government proudly call themselves, on other policy matters, “pro-choice,” but on this (and many other policy matters) they are decidedly anti-choice.  These ‘anti-choicers’ (as we might call them) ignore or disregard the revealed preferences of flesh-and-blood individuals; these anti-choicers deny options to flesh-and-blood individuals; and anti-choicers then think themselves to be humane and “progressive” – thoughts made plausible to them because they mistake their consciously felt motives for outcomes and their theoretical rationalizations for reality.

(By the way, Henry Simons [1899-1946] taught – at the University of Chicago School of Law – the only formal economics course that Gordon Tullock ever took.)

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