Saturday, May 2, 2015

NJ Star-Ledger Ignores Own Advice: Won’t Discuss Minimum Wage Laws in Earnest

Congressional Democrats will introduce a bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $12.00 per hour by 2020. The New Jersey Star-Ledger took the occasion to open up an “earnest” discussion on the minimum wage issue.

So the first thing the Star-Ledger did was disassociate itself from any earnest discussion of the issue: The opening paragraph of its editorial, Welcome to America: Those with $174,000 salaries still endorse a $7.25 wage, says:

The minimum wage issue is back in Congress, and we could finally put all this behind us if a certain political party wasn't content to pauperize the working class by embracing the dubious concept of redistributing the wealth upward.

The rest of the editorial argues, in essence, that raising the mandatory minimum wage is popular, so it’s the right thing to do.

I left these comments:

The simple-minded, dishonest demagoguery of the opening paragraph shows that the Star-Ledger is not yet ready to “discuss this subject in earnest.”

Any earnest discussion of minimum wage laws begins with fundamental moral questions concerning the proper role of government. What right does anyone have to use government power (the power of the gun) to force private employers to pay any worker more than the task to be done or the worker’s effort is worth to them? None. What right does anyone have to use government power to forcibly prevent an inexperienced young person from getting his first job because the job pays less than some legally determined arbitrary hourly rate, thus depriving him of the opportunity to get onto the first rung of the economic ladder of upward mobility? None. What right does any worker have to seek a raise by using government to aggressively force his employer to pay him more than he agreed to work for in a voluntary agreement with his employer? None.

Minimum wage laws are immoral because they violate the rights of employers and job seekers to set their own terms of employment by mutually beneficial voluntary agreement. The proper purpose of government is to protect individual rights equally and at all times. This is the most fundamental principle of America. Rights are guarantees to freedom of action, not an automatic claim on material benefits, including some pre-set minimum wage, that others must be forced to provide. Individual rights include the right to voluntary contract—an outgrowth of the right to freedom of association. Therefor, the government’s job is to protect contractual rights, so long as the terms of the contract don’t involve the intended or actual violation of anyone’s rights. A voluntary compensation agreement between an employer and a job seeker, whatever the hourly rate, does not violate anyone’s rights, so the government has nothing to say about it until and unless one side or the other commits fraud or breach of contract.

Public opinion polls are irrelevant, no matter how lopsided. Majorities don’t have rights. Only individuals have rights. Minimum wage laws should be repealed across the board. Short of that, they should be frozen at current levels in perpetuity.


The editors of the Star-Ledger are not the only ones avoiding an “earnest” discussion of the minimum wage law issue. A commenter going by the screen name shaunnj_141 accused opponents of minimum wage laws of being “against [minimum wage workers] earning more”:

It's really disappointing so many commenters view requests for minimum wage increases as people being irresponsible and not living within their means. I doubt those of you who are would turn down a salary increase which comes your way.

I left this reply:

“It's really disappointing so many commenters view requests for minimum wage increases as people being irresponsible and not living within their means.”

This statement is fundamentally dishonest. Minimum wage laws are not about “requests” for wage increases. A request implies the right of the employer to say “no.” Minimum wage laws are about forcing employers, under threat of fines or other penalties imposed by government agents at the point of a gun, to pay more than they otherwise voluntarily would.

Related Reading:

The Economic and the Moral Case Against Minimum Wage Laws: Perfect Together

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