Economists who support the minimum wage realize that it is – at best – a small transfer. Why do they keep focusing on it? A common answer: The minimum wage has symbolic value. Here are two of Klein’s respondents:

A low cost demonstration of concern for low wage workers that causes little damage. Elicits a buy-in by low wage workers to the polity…

Creating a culture where people realize that some basic needs of people should be satisfied.

I think these guys are right: The minimum wage is an important symbolic issue. But getting rid of the minimum wage would send a far more valuable message than raising it. By abolishing the minimum wage, we would be making a powerful statement that:

  • Labor markets, like other markets, are governed by supply and demand.
  • The path to prosperity is economic growth, not regulation or worker activism.
  • Regulations intended to help group X typically have negative unintended consequences for group X.
  • European labor market regulation has been a disaster for workers, and we want to avoid anything that remotely resembles it.

    Last but not least, abolition sends the message to:

  • Stop scapegoating employers for your problems and disappointments. If you want to make more money, figure out a way to become more productive.

    Now, I’m more than willing to let anyone with a pulse take my undergraduate Labor Economics class, where I hammer these points into my audience for fifteen weeks straight. But wouldn’t it be a lot less painful for everyone concerned to communicate these lessons by ceremoniously tossing the minimum wage into the dustbin of history?