The New York Times Wins Bryan's Challenge
By David Henderson
Last week, co-blogger Bryan Caplan posed a challenge: “Tell me how to sell the abolition of the minimum wage to the typical Feeling American.” The next day, Bryan gave what he saw as the best responses. I thank commenter Phil, by the way, for proposing my treatment of a similar issue in my book, The Joy of Freedom: An Economist’s Odyssey.
I think that Celia W. Dugger, a reporter for the New York Times, is a contender. Here’s the title of a 2010 news story she wrote about South Africa’s minimum wage law:
Wage Laws Squeeze South Africa’s Poor
And here are the first few paragraphs:
NEWCASTLE, South Africa — The sheriff arrived at the factory here to shut it down, part of a national enforcement drive against clothing manufacturers who violate the minimum wage. But women working on the factory floor — the supposed beneficiaries of the crackdown — clambered atop cutting tables and ironing boards to raise anguished cries against it.
“Why? Why?” shouted Nokuthula Masango, 25, after the authorities carted away bolts of gaily colored fabric.
She made just $36 a week, $21 less than the minimum wage, but needed the meager pay to help support a large extended family that includes her five unemployed siblings and their children.
The women’s spontaneous protest is just one sign of how acute South Africa’s long-running unemployment crisis has become. With their own industry in ruinous decline, the victim of low-wage competition from China, and too few unskilled jobs being created in South Africa, the women feared being out of work more than getting stuck in poorly paid jobs.
I plead with you, Oprah. Shouldn’t those women be allowed to keep those jobs?