What Say You? The Intuitive Case Against the Minimum Wage
By Bryan Caplan
Don Boudreaux asks minimum wage supporters to answer two questions they should have asked themselves long ago.
Name some other goods or services for which a government-mandated
price hike of 25 percent will not cause fewer units of those goods and
services to be purchased.
Beer? Broccoli? Bulldozers? Coffee? Haircuts? Natural gas?
Automobiles? Housing? Preventive health-care? Lawn-care service?
Tickets to the movies? Smart phones? Subscriptions to the New York Times?
Books by Paul Krugman? Professors of sociology? Assistant professors
of economics? Any of these products work for you? If none of these
work, surely you can name at least one other for which a
25-percent price hike will not cause fewer units of that product to be
purchased. Or does low-skilled labor just happen to be the one good or
service in the entire world for which a government-mandated 25-percent
rise in the price that its buyers must pay for it will not diminish
buyers’ willingness to buy it?
Seriously, name just one other good or service for which you believe
that a government-mandated price-hike of 25 percent will not reduce the
quantity demanded of that good or service.
[B]ecause if Mr. Obama’s full proposal is enacted the national minimum
wage will also from here on in be indexed to inflation, here’s another
challenge to anyone who dismisses as unscientific or ideological the
standard economic argument against the minimum wage: name one other good
or service whose real price, according to economic theory, should never
fall relative to the prices of other goods or services?
The least-bad answers to Boudreaux’s Question #1 that occur to me probably salt and soap. As Oskar Lange asked in 1937: “[W]ould a decline of the price of soap to zero induce them [the “well-to-do”] to be so much more liberal in its use?” By the standard of 1937, almost everyone in the First World is well-to-do today. For Question #2, I’m utterly stumped.