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Why Not “There Should be No Minimum Wage”?

I suspect that there was no intention to build bias into this survey, but – as I teach my students – intentions are not results.

February 23, 2022

Prof. L__ C__

Prof. C__:

Thanks for the invitation to participate in the survey of economists on proposals to raise the federal minimum wage. I’d like to participate in the survey, but its first question prevents me from doing so. That question reads:

The debate over raising the federal minimum wage continues in Congress. Proponents say a wage mandate will fill more open jobs, and opponents say a wage mandate so will reduce the number of jobs available for less-skilled workers and close businesses. Based on your knowledge of the economic literature, what do you think represents an appropriate rate for the federal minimum wage?

Missing from all of the 24 options that you offer as possible answers to this question is the only answer that I believe to be correct – namely, that there be no federal minimum wage. Were I to choose what for me is the least-objectionable answer (“Less than $7.25/hour”) among the answers that you offer as possibilities, I would still – in choosing this answer – mistakenly imply that I favor a federal minimum wage.

Because I believe that all minimum wages – local, state, and federal – should be immediately abolished and never again imposed, I cannot participate in the survey without conveying a mistaken impression of my judgment on this policy question. I’m sure that I’m not the only economist who shares my position.

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