Bluecravat found something telling that I missed a few months ago, namely, Paul Krugman explaining back in August that one potential cause of the high unemployment rate in France is that country’s “high minimum wage.” As Bluecravat exclaims after quoting from Krugman’s August post: “Excuse me? What was that? Minimum wage levels impact employment?”
Of course, it could be that France’s minimum wage is too high compared to the one that Krugman advocates for the U.S. Krugman supports Pres. Obama’s call for a $10.10 hourly minimum wage. So how does the employment-discouraging minimum wage in France compare to the allegedly prosperity-enhancing, non-employment-discouraging minimum wage that Krugman, Obama, et al., support for the U.S.? According to Bluecravat, France’s current minimum wage, when adjusted for purchasing-power parity, is $9.30 per hour, a rate that is lower than the minimum-wage rate advocated by Krugman, Obama, et al.
One can quibble about how best to translate France’s minimum-wage into some U.S. dollar equivalent. Perhaps France’s minimum wage, on some ‘better’ translation, is in fact higher than $10.10 per hour. The larger point is that if a policy of forced wage setting gets it wrong (as Krugman seems to believe might be true of France) the result is unemployment of people who can least afford to be unemployed. At the very least, ought not minimum-wage proponents be more cautious and humble about the likely prospects of success for this ham-fisted policy that has such huge downsides if it is set too high or if the assumptions upon which it is based don’t hold in reality?