Question for advocates of increasing the minimum wage…

Inspired by, and drawing largely from, this post over Cafe Hayek, here is a question that must be answered by every person claiming they support raising the minimum wage:

Regarding the effects of an increase in the minimum wage on the employment prospects of low skilled workers, do you either

1) believe that raising the minimum wage for some low skilled workers will NOT price other low skilled workers out of the job altogether – in other words that there are no trade-offs, no downside, to raising the minimum wage – or,

2) believe there are trade-offs, and some low-skilled workers will be priced out of the labor market – specifically those whose skills are not sufficient to demand the higher wage, such as, for example, teens and recent high school graduates – but, also believe the resulting benefits to the now higher paid workers will outweigh the resulting losses to the now unemployed low skilled workers, and therefore justify the increase?

Believing the first premise is simply economically incorrect. It defies basic economics and few sane people would likely defend such a stance when applied to other goods besides labor. Playstation4 consoles are currently selling for about $400 on Amazon. No reasonable person would argue that were the government to set the price of that console to no less than $800, that there would be no decrease in sales of PS4. Most people would rightly point out that sales of alternative consoles would likely increase, while sales of the PS4 would decrease. This is economics 101. If the price is artificially increased, quantity supplied may go up, but quantity demanded will go down, creating a surplus. Or in the case of low-skilled labor, creating a bunch of teens willing and able to work, but unable to find jobs.


Believing the second premise is, however, more of a statement of values than an economic question. I happen to think it contrary to American values to endorse a government policy that grants benefits to one group at the explicit expense of another group. You may have convinced yourself of the goodness of raising the minimum wage on utilitarian grounds, or you may simply not care if some are harmed, so long as others are helped. Either way, you are endorsing a policy that reduces the freedom of one group to artificially boost the wages of another group.

It is often unclear what exactly is being debated is discussions over the minimum wage. If advocates of raising the minimum wage could please just answer this question up front, it will make it a lot easier to refute all your arguments. Thanks.



Learning how to think doesn’t have to wait until university

At Quest University Canada, they have a lot of good ideas. Small classes, integration of the disciplines, teach how to think rather than what to think, celebrate collaboration. And rather than worry about athletics, and research, urban renewal, economic growth, product development and etc, Quest only teaches.

But, as good an idea as this is, why are we waiting until people have gone through 13 years of ‘schooling’ before learning how to think? The ideas of Quest, ought to be incorporated into the earlier years of school, so that by 17, people can focus on their interests, rather than finally having the opportunity to learn how to think.

David Helfand, Founding Tutor and, since 2008, as President and Vice Chancellor of Quest University Canada (also former Chair of the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Columbia University):

“Rather than the multiplicity of goals other universities take on, we have one goal: to educate undergraduates, to open up and lead forth their minds…”

The point of all the courses is “not to pour knowledge from the full vessel to the empty vessel, not to gain a set of facts which you can find easily with Google, but it is to show by example how a mathematician asks questions about the world and goes a bout trying to answer them, and how a philosopher does that, and how a poet does that, and how a physicist does that. So they can accumulate those tools and apply them to their unique interests…

“Since we don’t do engage in this demonstrably ineffective mode of communication called lecturing, we don’t ‘profess’, so we don’t call ourselves professors. We actually teach, so we call ourselves tutors. And we build into the classroom the kind of environment for which our brains have evolved, which is two-way communication. So we have no lecture hall on the campus at all, every classroom in an oval seminar table…

What’s the purpose of education?

I’m not about to launch into some faux philosophical lament about education versus knowledge or anything like that.

What are we trying to achieve with the education system in America?

Prepare kids for college?

Teach civic mindedness and bring up each new generation according to a common set of national values?

Fight poverty?

Make sure everyone knows their multiplication tables?

To create adults who can compete in a global economy?

To create lifelong learners?

To create emotionally healthy adults who can engage in meaningful relationships?

Assimilate immigrants?

Prepare our citizens to be competitive on the global economy?

The U.S. Department of Education website doesn’t offer much help on this issue. (Which is probably all the better.) Their mission to “promote student achievement.” Achievement of what exactly is harder to say.

How can we possibly have a nationally directed education system when we probably won’t even find consensus in a neighborhood about what we are trying to achieve?