Thursday, July 14, 2005


In the Albuquerque Journal, in an op-ed July 13, 2005, Professor Alan Reed opposes the proposed minimum wage which may be considered in Albuquerque. He criticizes (Democrat Party Chairman) John Wertheim’s op-ed supporting a referendum on a minimum wage increase. He says that Wertheim's article ". . . trots out images of suffering people without the slightest evidence that such suffering occurs. . . ." He refers to Wertheim's support of an increase in minimum wage (even if it has to be by the City) as ". . . Wertheim's old socialist gambit...," and says it appeals to ". . . the lowest human instincts."

In the nuclear family, we follow the rule, from each according to her ability, to each according to her needs, to paraphrase the socialist. Those are not low human instincts. They are unwise beyond the nuclear family, as unworkable, just as advice to the rich man to sell is property and give the proceeds to the poor, is unworkable and discourages production of goods and services. But, Professor Reed, with due respect, they are not low instincts. The minimum wage law is government interference with the right to contract, and with the free market; but so is the forty-hour week, and workers' compensation legislation. So are the sugar tariff, farm subsidies, and the oil and gas depletion allowance (27% is okay until you reach 100%, but it keeps on going).

Professor Reed says the market sets wages. Maybe the market should be allowed to set wages, but the law can also set (a floor) under wages. He states that the original reason for such laws was not to [merely] share the wealth, but "... They are a statement that exploitation of workers, often new immigrants, would not be allowed...." Is such legislation (to increase the minimum) wrong? Or is it right, as just raising the minimum to keep up with inflation? Of course, if the principle of a minimum wage itself is wrong, then there should be no new legislation, by the City or otherwise, raising that minimum.

Reed says there is only so much money in a business. If minimum wage earners under today’s minimum get more under a new minimum, then some higher paid wage earner must take a cut. Does that necessarily follow? How about management (read that CEO) taking a cut? How about the owner (promoter, or stockholders) taking a cut? If Reed means that every additional dollar paid to the present minimum wage earner, must come from somewhere in the business, then he is correct. But it is not accurate to say that it necessarily comes from higher wage earners.

Is it all right for people to hire others to work and pay them any wage the worker is willing to work for? Even if the wage is below what is necessary to live in decency and health? Maybe so. A good argument can be made against minimum wage laws. But Professor Reed does not forthrightly come out and say he is against all such laws. He speaks of part-time immigrants without much education or language skill, being minimum wage earners. Is he speaking of part-time in the sense of seasonal, or does he think the immigrant only wants to work a few hours a day? That immigrant would probably be willing to work with a short hoe, cultivating the chile in Southern New Mexico; but should our government allow an employer to work a person that way?

Reed seems to be against the principle of minimum wage laws. However, he does not say so. He says not many people are forced to work for the minimum wage we presently have, and that those are probably not breadwinners. That does not answer the question as to whether such a statutory minimum, a mandatory floor, a government interference with the right to contract, is justified in any case. Why does he not address that issue?

With due respect, Professor Reed, it would seem to me that we should have no minimum wage, or we should increase the minimum to keep up with inflation.


Der Tommissar said...

Is it all right for people to hire others to work and pay them any wage the worker is willing to work for? Even if the wage is below what is necessary to live in decency and health?

No. To treat a person as merely a tool towards profit is manifestly unjust.

Oh, I'm a Republican, btw.

Jack L. Love said...

Dear Tommissar: I do not know what the "btw" means after your signature. Thanks for reading this blog. The answer to your question is No. If I want to grow chile and cultivate it with a short hoe [can't remember the name]and sell it at market, fine. If I want to profit from the labor of another, I ought to provide a long hoe and pay a wage which will enable the worker to live in decency and health; or use a machine, which puts the laborer out of this type of work. jack

Der Tommissar said...

btw is By The Way

Der Tommissar said...

And I agree, the answer is no. It's all in Rerum Novarum