Tuesday, December 20, 2016

On 'Deserving' a Higher Minimum Wage

The two most powerful New Jersey Democrats, State Senator Stephen Sweeney, President of the New Jersey Senate, and Assemblyman Vincent Prieto, Speaker of the New Jersey Assembly, argued in a New Jersey Star-Ledger guest column for a much higher state minimum wage, even though NJ voters just three years ago amended the NJ Constitution to raise the minimum wage and index it to inflation. In Sweeney and Prieto: N.J.'s workers deserve a higher minimum wage, the two legislators wrote:

Too many of our fellow New Jerseyans go to work every day, some to two jobs, and do not make enough money to put food on the table, pay the heating and electric bills, and clothe and put a roof over their children's heads.

For too long, the ranks of the working poor have been growing, the middle class has been shrinking, and more and more of the wealth of our society has been flowing into the pockets of the richest 1 percent.

That is why we have joined together to put New Jersey at the forefront of the "Fight For $15" movement by introducing legislation to raise the minimum wage from the current $8.38 an hour to $10.10, and to establish a schedule that will provide all of our state's workers a living wage of over $15 an hour five years after the new measure takes effect.

Sweeney and Prieto acknowledge that Governor Chris Christie will likely veto the minimum wage hike if it passed the legislature. If so, they say, “we will put it on the ballot as a constitutional amendment for the voters to decide.” They go on to add:

To condemn hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens – many of them children – to live in poverty in one of the richest states in the nation is morally wrong.

I left these comments:

The premise implied in the above statement is that wealth is a collective product owned by the state as representative of the collective, to be distributed according to the politicians’ dictates. But since wealth is created by individual effort, the implication of collective wealth controlled by the state is that the individual’s life belongs to the state, to be disposed of at the will of government officials. This is not moral. This is the essence of tyranny, which is where the whole idea of collectivism in any of its manifestations leads.

New Jersey is not a rich state. NJ is a geographical area with a diversity of achievers. Only individual producers create and own wealth, before the tax men and regulators get their hands on it. A minimum wage doesn’t transfer wealth from “one of the richest states” to employees. It forces individual employers to pay more than they judge the employee to be worth to the productive process his business is engaged in. Minimum wage laws, like all forced redistributionist schemes, transfers individual wealth, not collective wealth.

People who oppose the minimum wage are not “condemning hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens . . . to live in poverty.” We oppose forced redistribution of wealth, because when the state forcibly takes money from one person to give to another for no other reason than economic inequality or need, it does not lift anyone out of poverty. The state is merely making a slave out of one person and a moocher out of the other. Rising from poverty must be earned.

What’s morally wrong is for government to forcibly take from one person and hand it over to another. The word “deserve” implies justice. In justice, no one deserves to be forced to turn over his wealth to another against his will. When politicians vote to forcibly redistribute wealth, they are engaging in legalized theft. No one deserves wealth forcibly confiscated by politicians from another. When someone gains wealth by such means, they are essentially receiving stolen goods. No one “deserves” any level of income apart from what they earn, and what a person earns can only be justly determined by voluntary agreement between employer and employee. We who oppose legally mandated minimum wages have the moral high ground.

If the politicians really wanted to address the high cost of living, they should look to the ever-increasing burden imposed on production and trade—in the form of taxes, regulations, and government spending—and the ever-shrinking incentives to work that the welfare state fosters. The $15 minimum wage is a perfect example of this. It makes it less economical to employ people even as it relieves low-wage workers of the incentive to gather the experience, character, productiveness, and skills that actually makes them worth 15 bucks.

Toward the end of the article, Sweeney and Prieto offer this in support of the minimum wage:

As Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich said when asked why he did an end-run around his own legislature to expand Medicaid coverage for the poor, "When you die and get to the meeting with St. Peter, he's probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small. But he is going to ask you what you did for the poor. You better have a good answer."

This is our answer: Let's join together and raise the minimum wage.

If you don’t yet understand why Republicans keep losing the battle for limited government, reread Kasich’s passage. If you agree with that moral sentiment, never ask for whom the bell of socialist poverty and tyranny tolls: it tolls for you.

Related Reading:

Star-Ledger letter: Raising the minimum wage to $15 would cost small businesses dearly—A businessman’s dissent against the minimum wage increase.

Why Don’t Most Americans Get that Government Wealth Redistribution is Theft?


uzza said...

Minimum wage has nothing to do with the collective. As you say, only individual producers create and own wealth. A minimum wage doesn’t transfer wealth from the state to the employee, it forces individual employers to pay a portion of their wealth to the employees who create that wealth. Minimum wage laws prevent employers from taking wealth from its rightful owners and redistributing it to themselves, a.k.a stealing.

What’s morally wrong is for the employer to forcibly take from one person and keep it for themself. No one deserves to be forced to turn over his wealth to another against his will. No one deserves the wealth they create to be forcibly confiscated by an employer. When an employer gains wealth by such means, they are stealing the property of others.

Nor is it the place of an employer to judge what employees are worth. What a person 'earns' and what the wealth they produce is 'worth' is determined by the market. The market gives it a certain worth, the employer redistributes that worth by giving a percentage to the employees who created it. Without minimum wage laws employers are free to, and typically do, set that percentage at an arbitrary amount approaching zero, in defiance of both the market and morality. Minimum wages laws simply prevent employers from taking the wealth of others and redistributing it to themselves.

Mike Kevitt said...

You are quite confused, uzza. How can the government determine the 'market' any more than employers and employees? The market, here, is the employer's and employee's mutual determination, by their own judgments, of the value of the employee's role in the creation of wealth. That value is percentage of the value of the wealth. The government can't judge it any better than anybody else. And it doesn't have the right to do so. Nor does anybody else. Only the employer and the employee constituting this market have this right. You might object that the government DOES have a right to intervene, or that it's not a matter of rights in the first place. But, then, both sides must name their grounds. Ultimately, it all boils down to, either/or. If government is involved, guess what that means. Getting to the either/or requires more than commentary here. It requires a long essay or a book, maybe two of one or the other when two or more sides are arguing. This argumentation would have to resolve just how the government gets involved.

As for Ohio Governor Kasich's statement, it show the inadequacy of a separation of church and state, which is necessary, but insufficient. Kasich's grounds don't have to be religious. They can be perfectly secular and worldly, but, in any case, wrong. He's trying to help the poor with other people's money taken from those other people by force of government, rather than with his own resources and/or those acquired from others by those other's free consent. Incidentaly, Christianity requires that help to the poor NOT be done with resources taken by force. So Kasich is still violating his own religious beliefs.