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Yes, Sometimes the Reductio IS an Appropriate Response

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Here’s a note – shared with his permission – to my friend Mark LeBar, who teaches philosophy at Florida State:

Mark:

It’s always great to hear from you.

You’re correct. Despite my insistence that the reductio ad absurdum makes a poor case against the minimum wage [2], many arguments in support of the minimum wage are indeed appropriately countered with a question such as “If it’s truly good to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour, surely it’s even better to raise it to $50 per hour! Why not do so?!”

As you say, many (most?) people who support the minimum wage

are incapable of thinking in terms of tradeoffs at all. In other words, they are moved by the thought that somebody getting $12/hour today would be better off getting $15/hour tomorrow. And that’s it! QED.

The depth of economic ignorance is indeed vast. And so in reply to those many minimum-wage supporters who seem genuinely to believe that which is absurd – such as that employers can pay ever-higher wages out of idle or frivolously used limitless stores of wealth, or that minimum-wage hikes ‘pay for themselves’ by raising workers’ purchasing power or productivity, or simply that economic reality can be altered in whatever ways legislators fancy – it is indeed appropriate, as you note, to ask them a question such as “If it’s truly good to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour, surely it’s even better to raise it to $50 per hour! Given your assumptions about the way economies work, why not do so?!”

Don