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Violence Veiled and Sweetly Named Is Violence All the Same

Here’s a letter to long-time Café Hayek patron – but not fan – Aaron the Aaron:

Mr. the Aaron:

You disapprove of my approving quotation of Terry Jones who describes efforts to raise the minimum wage as “a national disgrace.”  Astonishingly (because you read Café Hayek regularly), you write as if my objection to the minimum wage springs from a sinister wish to prevent low-skilled workers from being enriched.  But you are mistaken.  My economic objection to the minimum wage is, and has always been, founded on the fact that the higher is the minimum wage, the fewer and worse are the employment opportunities for low-skilled workers.  This economic reality does not disappear simply because some (although hardly all) empirical researchers into the effects of minimum wages fail – amidst the enormous size, complexity, and dynamism of the economy – to detect these negative consequences.

So, yes, I regard minimum wages as disgraceful.  They disgracefully strip low-skilled workers of a valuable bargaining chip – namely, the ability to compete for jobs by offering to work at wages below an arbitrarily set minimum.  As a means of decreasing some workers’ abilities to find employment, minimum wages are simply less sanguinary than would be a government policy of, say, chopping off all low-skilled workers’ left hands or poking out their right eyes.  Unless you believe that such overt violence against low-skilled workers would not worsen their prospects of finding employment, you should see that the veiled violence against these workers that is so sweetly called “the minimum wage” disgracefully worsens their prospects of finding employment.

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

Minimum-wage legislation is violence against low-skilled workers.  That it is veiled and sweetly named changes nothing of significance.  And all proponents of minimum-wage legislation – whether they realize this reality or not – are proponents of violence against low-skilled workers.


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