In the current (July 2016) issue of Reason, Deirdre McCloskey reviews Thomas Leonard’s new book on the very illiberal ideas of early “Progressives.” Many of these ideas – such as the alleged benefits to humanity of eugenics – are now thankfully and thoroughly discredited. Many other of these ideas, which often arose in support of horrendous ideas such as eugenics, remain today favorites of “Progressives,” although the excuses to hold some of these ideas have changed. One such idea is the purported loveliness of minimum-wage legislation – which started out as a device to keep ‘undesirable’ people out of the labor market and is today regarded, by economically misinformed people, as a device to raise the incomes of low-skilled workers.
Below, I quote the opening few lines of Deirdre’s review (original emphasis). (I have access only to the print edition of Reason, and not to the on-line edition, so I can here supply no link to the review.) I quote these lines not exclusively to feed my vanity but to remind Cafe Hayek patrons that the offer to which Deirdre refers was first made last summer. Yet still not a single genius “Progressive” among those who are confident enough to put the well-being of low-skilled workers at risk by endorsing minimum wages has stepped forward to actually put his or her own money and effort where his or her own cheap mouth is. We can only conclude that that mouth knows not of what it speaks when it shouts “monopsony!” as an excuse to ruin the lives of many low-skilled workers with minimum wages.
What to do with George, your dear progressive friend who stoutly defends the minimum wage? One idea is to point out how it excludes low-productivity workers from jobs. (To the smart-aleck supposition that “monopsony” is widespread, and so the minimum raises employment, Café Hayek‘s Don Boudreaux has challenged George to pick up the unlimited profits implied by the supposition. No dice so far.)
Indeed, no dice so far. The world appears to be full of people confident enough in their academic claims that these people will arrogantly risk the well-being of others on the truth of those claims, but these people are too cowardly to risk anything of their own.