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The Folly Of The Minimum Wage

The campaign for a minimum wage has been reactivated again, on both sides of the Atlantic, in fact it has never really gone away. In the UK we have seen small and big companies being “named and shamed” for failing to pay it, everything from a nightclub in Stowmarket to the Tesco supermarket chain.

A minimum wage sounds idealistic, indeed for employers to pay their workers miserly wages sounds immoral, but most of the people who support it in principle are profoundly ignorant of what it means in practice.

In a free market or relatively free market, rates of pay like other prices are broadly speaking functions of supply and demand. Of course, there are exceptions. In 1982, the American author Gerald Krefetz pointed out with dry humour “…there are over twice as many lawyers as there are bakers – a fact that does nothing to explain why bread is relat­ively cheap and litigation is not.”

So why not simply increase the minimum wage? Instead of $15 an hour, how about making it $50 an hour, or $500 an hour for everything from babysitting to dog walking to washing up in a restaurant? With reductio ad absurdum, the fallacy is obvious, but let us take a more terrestrial approach.

If the market sets the rate for wages as for everything else, for the minimum wage to mean anything, it must be above the market rate. If a particular trade pays between $40 and $50 per hour, then clearly a minimum wage of $10 per hour will make no difference.  If a private sector company is forced to increase the minimum wage, unless it is making massive profits it will have to cut back on (dividends for a public company), materials, or other costs. Alternatively it can raise its prices or fire staff. The latter is what almost always happens, and indeed this has been noticeable especially with supermarkets and fast food outlets the world over; machines, including self-service check-outs, are gradually replacing staff. In China, some shops are totally automated.

Public sector employers do not have this problem because they can always increase the pay of their staff, but who pays? The taxpayer and the ratepayer, of course.

The reality is that many jobs that are now forced to pay the minimum wage are or were entry level jobs. Cinema usherettes, some retail and fast food jobs, were traditionally the preserve of single mothers working part-time, housewives earning pin money, students, or weekend jobs worked by high school kids. They are “entry level” jobs; no one was ever intended to support a family on them.

So what is the solution? The solution is to stop blaming employers – the principal wealth-creators – and to look to the Government for other solutions. One of these is universal basic income, whose most high profile advocate in recent years has been Andrew Yang, although his idea of paying for it out of taxation is flawed; the national dividend needs to be paid out of newly created debt-free money.

There are also other ways of helping especially the poor that cost little or nothing. With the current situation, many more people are now working from home, which saves on travel and related costs. With the rise of Zoom and other conferencing programs, people also have more time on their hands. When the worldwide lockdown finally ends, work patterns are likely to have changed substantially from what they were before. If Andrew Yang can think outside the box, so can the rest of us. The minimum wage needs to go, and all the legislation associated with it.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.

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buddha9
buddha9
January 6, 2021

Nothing to see here folks –just another confused right winger who sides with the bosses and wants the state to pick up the tab allowing so called ‘wealth creators’ to exploit people to their hearts content — believes in a partially free market lol– that’s like being half pregnant — haven’t you learnt anything from the last forty years -i’ll give it to you in caps THERE NEVER WAS A FREE MARKET & THERE NEVER WILL BE – dubious tastes in dead prog rockers coupled with a total lack of knowledge of anything outside his little middle england class bubble… Read more »

karel kranda
karel kranda
Reply to  buddha9
January 6, 2021

Companies that cannot pay minimum wages have no divine right to exist. Those complaining should first try to reduce the number of lawyers and MBA fools on their staff and cut their salaries. This would not only increase the efficiency of any company but allow the management to pay decent wages.

buddha9
buddha9
Reply to  TheDarkMan
January 6, 2021

oh dear — a fool is always displayed by binary thinking — why do you imagine that my solutions are state based and that I want the state to do every thing? Why? Because you’re a binary thinker. Everything is absolutely good or evil, left or right. The world is full of people who think in binary terms and its childish. — you’re also confused – after all, you are the one who wants the state to implement a universal basic income, something I am steadfast against, precisely because it will give the state endless power over everyone — so… Read more »

Last edited 3 months ago by buddha9
Walter
Walter
January 6, 2021

“Dark Man” lives on Mars? It is self-evident that there is no “free-market” in any industrial economy. Proof? Well, for starters, there is tax – some things are taxed, some are not, and it depends where. Then there are prohibited markets – dope, for instance, or child-prostitution. They to find a “free market” where you can buy or sell a gun… Or a car. Or dynamite. Or even a book. Tax and rules and prohibitions are universal. No sane person wants a “free market. And there isn’t one. This is not limited to human markets – try making equitable deals… Read more »

jpthiran
January 7, 2021

…minimum wage is about avoiding abuse (that is pervasive in the US)…it’s about avoiding obscenity …any other theories on this are rubbish …

Tom Foolery
Tom Foolery
January 9, 2021

What does a minimum wage say to a worker? It says if you can’t provide this much value to an employer, you can’t have a job.

Victor
January 16, 2021

The REAL minimum wage is always ZERO !

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