Suppose Congress, in a well-intentioned effort to help teenaged workers, as well as blue-collar immigrant workers, enacts legislation that declares unlawful any attempts by these workers to compete for jobs by offering to work harder per hour than some maximum level of per-hour effort divined by government to be the appropriate maximum level of effort that such workers should exert per hour. And suppose also that Congress has the means to enforce this diktat.
Would today’s advocates of minimum-wage legislation believe that such “maximum-effort” legislation would generate net benefits to teenaged and blue-collar immigrant workers? Would these minimum-wage advocates insist that stripping each of these workers of a bargaining chip – a chip that each could otherwise use when competing for a job – would not reduce any of these workers’ prospects of actually finding a job? Would today’s minimum-wage proponents argue that the only consequence of maximum-effort legislation would be the “Progressive” one of reducing, to “living” levels, the maximum amount of effort that each of these workers would be required to exert while on the job?
My initial sense is that nearly all minimum-wage proponents would oppose such “maximum-effort” legislation, and not only because enforcement would in fact be very difficult. If my sense is correct, then I’d like to explore with such minimum-wage advocates the reason or reasons they have for believing that taking away from low-skilled workers a different bargaining chip (namely, the right to offer to work an hourly wage below the government-mandated minimum) does not reduce any of these workers’ prospects of actually finding paid employment. But, as I ponder the matter, I’m not very confident that most, or even many, minimum-wage advocates would in fact oppose maximum-effort legislation (especially if they believe that such legislation could be enforced at reasonable cost to the government).