Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Taking vs. Earning a "Livable Wage"

This letter appeared in the 5/21/13 New Jersey Star-Ledger:

Support decent wages
I’m tired of hearing so-called free-market advocates pan a living wage for the working poor.

As long as corporations such as Wal-Mart can shunt the cost of keeping their workers fed, healthy, clothed and housed on to taxpayers, they will. It’s foolish to let such employers control their markets with low prices while making enormous profits by taking advantage of the idea that a decent society won’t let their workers starve, live in a cardboard box or succumb to illnesses our medical system can readily treat.

Adopting the minimum-wage increase, which will be on the ballot throughout New Jersey on Nov. 5, is the least we can do to even the playing field for right-minded businesses, small and large.

Michael G. Busche, Sparta

Busche is writing in support of a proposed minimum wage amendment to the NJ constitution, which will be on the November ballot and which I have argued is a very bad idea. I left these comments:

Mr. Busche, I too am tired: I'm tired of phony do-gooders forcing others to pay for their alleged concern for some needy group.

Do you know what the "free" in free market means? It means freedom from physical force; in this case, the right of an employer and employee to voluntarily agree to terms of employment, including wages. Since rights are moral principles sanctioning a person's freedom to act on his own judgement in a social context, any violation of individual rights is immoral and contrary to a basic principle of a civil society.

Since you favor legally forcing employers to pay wages above what they would voluntarily agree to, you favor armed force as a valid means of social engagement. No decent society would permit it, because a society is an association of individuals considered equal before the law. When "society" seeks to guarantee that some individuals be "fed, healthy, clothed, and housed"--whether through labor laws like minimum wages or redistributionist programs--that means the government must turn other people into slaves to provide it.

Aggressive force is wrong, and force under cover of "law" and "do-good" delusions are the worst because it is dishonest and leaves the victims legally defenseless. Your first sentence is a moral statement, and it has nothing to do with anyone's arbitrary idea of "a living wage." Either you are for a free market, and thus peaceful coexistence among individuals, or you are not. There is no other choice. You've made yours. I've made mine.

Nobody is "panning a living wage for the working poor." Free market advocates oppose immoral rights-violating state coercion to force some people to provide what those workers could not earn through civil interaction with others.

As to Wal-Mart, another letter writer set the record straight. Christopher Jones demanded an apology from the Star-Ledger editorial board for an editorial he said was  "insulting to the 17,000 people such as I who work for Wal-Mart in New Jersey":

While The Star-Ledger may think our employment choice is “dismal,” we know better. Wal-Mart promoted 165,000 people last year to positions with more responsibility and higher pay; about three-quarters of our store management teams started as hourly associates. They earn between $50,000 and $250,000 a year.I should know. I started as a cashier in Oklahoma and, 14 years and nine promotions later, I’m a market manager in northern New Jersey, overseeing store operations in Woodbridge, Linden, Union, Kearny, Bayonne and Watchung.

This, Mr. Busche, is how the working poor earn a living wage--by working their way up and out of "working poor" status. Any other way of "providing" for the working poor is immoral and un-American. 

The freer the market is, the better chance that intelligent, motivated entry-level workers can flourish economically. Minimum wage laws destroy the kind of entry-level jobs from which young workers like Christopher Jones get their chance, effectively kicking the lower rungs of the economic ladder of success out from under the feet of the ambitious poor. 

No decent society would kill jobs, which only kills self-esteem and thus hope, happiness and self-respect by turning the resulting unemployed into parasitical wards of the state. If you actually cared about improving the lot of the working poor, you would become an unabashed "so-called free market advocate." 

Related Reading:

Is Wal-Mart to Blame for the Growing Use of Food Stamps?

End, Don't Raise, Minimum Wage Laws


Mike Kevitt said...

This guy, Busche, seems to think that if people go to work somewhere for next to nothing, gvt. will hand them whatever more they need to live on. so the employer can get away with paying next to nothing. If he thinks that, then rather than advocating min. wage, he should demand that gvt. hand people nothing, whether they work or not. Then people can, individually, demand their own min. wage when seeking work, and reasonably expect they'll get it.

Mike LaFerrara said...

Yeah, he's clueless. But the country is full of people like him. Otherwise, we wouldn't have Obama.