≡ Menu

It’s Science: This Case for the Minimum Wage Is Mere Superstition

Here’s a letter to The Nation:

Astonishingly, Benjamin Ryan’s October 15th essay entitled “It’s Science: Raising the Minimum Wage Would Make America A Happier Place” not once even mentions, much less disputes, the central scientific argument against the minimum wage – namely, that the minimum wage shrinks the employment options open to low-skilled workers.  Fancying that he’s presenting an objective “scientific” case in favor of raising the minimum wage, Mr. Ryan simplistically (we might say dogmatically) takes for granted that a higher minimum wage results only in higher wages for all low-skilled workers.  He ignores, quite unscientifically, the downsides – such as greater unemployment and harsher working conditions – that economic scientists have long warned (backed by a great deal of empirical evidence) are the unavoidable consequences of minimum wages.

A brief in support of the minimum wage written in complete ignorance of the familiar and chief scientific argument against the minimum wage has, regardless of its title, zero credibility – scientific or otherwise.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030

If Mr. Ryan genuinely brought a scientific turn of mind to his concern for the happiness of poor people, he would at least have considered the possibility that a higher minimum wage – by causing some low-skilled workers’ pay today to fall to $0.00 per hour and by also stripping these workers of opportunities to get skills-enhancing on-the-job experience (which would have otherwise resulted in even higher pay tomorrow) – would make such workers less, rather than more, ‘happy.’