Sunday, February 3, 2013

NJ Star-Ledger's Tom Moran Replies to Me On Minimum Wage

One member of the NJ Star-Ledger's Editorial Board replied directly to my comments on their editorial, Christie Veto on Minimum Wage Another Blow to the Working Poor.

Tom Moran, who I suspect penned that op-ed, said:

   Zemac [sic], below, argues that it's immoral to set a minimum wage at all because it interferes with the freedom of a workers to enter a voluntary agreement with the owner, at whatever wage they choose.
   Questions: What about a heroin deal, which both sides agree to? How about prostitution? How about building a factory in the middle of a residential neighborhood, assuming the property owner and factory owner agree? Do we not as a society have a right to set some bounds for the common good?
   And sure, if minimum wage were raised to $100 an hour, it would kill jobs. If it were raised by a nickel, it wouldn't. So where is the line? That's where the economic studies come in handy. Too easy to dismiss that, and to take a stand on pure ideological grounds. Personally, I find Sitglitz's argument solid. It's in our common interests to support a liveable wage.

My response:

Tuesday, January 29, 2013 8:47 PM
Thank you, Tom:

What is common to all of us? Inalienable individual rights; which means, the right to act on our own judgement, so long as we don't physically interfere with the rights of others to do the same.

Whose rights are being violated by a voluntary employment agreement? As to drugs and prostitution, the same question. Contracts that involve the violation of another's rights, such as hit contracts or an agreement to rob a bank or commit fraud, are not valid. As to that factory, the same question. Does it bring excessive noise, dangers to the neighbors from storage of volatile chemicals, or other physical threats to established neighbors who were there first? Otherwise, yes, that factory can get built. When I lived in Cranford, growing up, that's exactly what happened in my neighborhood. The town rezoned one half of our formerly residential/farming block for commercial, and a small Singer factory got built just a few dozen feet from our home. Did it disrupt our residential neighborhood? Essentially, no. The issue is complex, and planning boards certainly have a role to play, but a limited one.

One can only talk about "society," "the common good," or "common interests" in the context of the individual; the actual entity that makes up any group. If a single person's rights are violated--like that business owner and that kid who could have had a job, except that the state essentially forbade jobs at his skill level--then that law is no longer in the common good, but for the good of some at the expense of others. The principle of individual rights defines both the extent to which one may act, and the limits of one's actions. One may act, but not act to violate others' rights. The principle limits the individual but also, importantly, society's power to "set bounds for the common good." That's where the line is.

Yes, I have an ideological frame of reference; put simply, individual rights and free market capitalism. But, so do you, Tom. It's called collectivism. 

One final point. Moran notes that "It's in our common interests to support a liveable [sic] wage." Yes, it is. That's why I support free market capitalism, as opposed to the mixed economy we have now. Economic freedom fosters rising productivity, which in turn fosters rising real wages. Any law mandating "livable" wages above the market rate (freely negotiated contracts) bestows unearned benefits on some at the expense of the violation of the rights of others--and ultimately kills jobs. 

It's not in the "common interest" to use government legal coercion to benefit a select few at the expense of others. It is in the common interest to foster political conditions--i.e., protect individual rights equally--that "lift all boats," and the value of everyone's dollars.

It was a pleasure directly engaging with the editors of the NJ Star-Ledger. I must have hit a nerve. I guess one could say that Tom Moran is the champion of the "common good," and I'm the champion of the victims of the champions of the common good.

Related Reading:

Christie's Veto of Minimum Wage Not what it Seems

End, Don't Raise, Minimum Wage Laws


Mike Kevitt said...

Before I read your response to Moran, I want to give you mine.

No. We don'thave a right to set bounds for the common good, except against initiatory force.

The line lies between having a min. wage & not having a min. wage, not at some point where a min. wage is high enough.

You're already taking your own ideological ground when citing your economic studies & such stuff. Your ideology is wrong. Mine's right. I'll cite economic studies & such stuff from my own ideology. Stiglitz's argument & notion of the common good is taken from his, & your, wrong ideology.

That's my response to Moran. Now I'll read yours.

Mike Kevitt said...

Your response is essentially the same as mine, except you explain the ideologies involved more than I did. And you showed that there can be a legitimate function to be performed by what we usually call zoning or planning boards.

In your final point, I think your key idea is the concept of REAL wages & the actual value of a dollar, determined by productivity. What happens to the older worker who doesn't get that low level job because some kid gets it when there's no min. wage? He gets a better job that wouldn't be there WITH a min. wage. That's better than his being left with just a low level job and the kid having no job. All this happens because of the morality of free choice & free mkts. Morality leads to practicality, by cause & effect, morality being the cause. But it doesn't work the other way around. But the practical usually opens up more possibilities of the moral, of choices & freedom., caused by the right ideology.

Mike LaFerrara said...

That older worker can benefit in other ways, too.

When the value of the dollars the older worker makes rises, it raises the value of his savings, too. This may make it possible for him to retire sooner.

Mike Kevitt said...

Well, yeah, true. I 'forgot'(!) about that. There's probably more. When things are put in order & done right, all kinds of good things come out of it. But it's crucial to keep a grip on what causes it, and how it works. That can get harder when things get good, stay good & keep getting better. Aside from education, the best way to keep the generations from forgetting is to leave'em open, right now, to what happens when they ignore what they're taught: no safety net, no entitlements, and I think no sensible charity will give help with NO strings attached.