An emotionally attractive argument against minimum wage?

The previous post made me think of the argument for and against minimum wage.

Those who support it have the emotionally attractive edge. They say it helps the poor. They also have the easy-to-envision edge. It’s easy to envision Minimum Wage Worker Bobby getting a raise.

Those opposed would seem to have an emotionally attractive edge, too. They say it hurts the poor. If you care about helping the poor, that should get your attention.

But, how it hurts the poor is tougher for someone to envision and maybe not very emotionally attractive, as well.

They say it hurts the poor by reducing entry-level job opportunities for the folks who need them the most, people with little or no job experience. How do you get to the next run in the economic ladder without experience?

What does ‘reducing job opportunities’ mean? That’s tougher to envision than Minimum Wage Bobby getting a raise. Does it mean the burger shop not hiring an extra worker next year? Does it mean that some businesses will never materialize because the costs are too high? Yes and yes. But, again, that’s tougher to imagine than Bobby getting that raise.

And, is entry-level work really a run on the economic ladder? Does it lead to bigger and better and things? That is also hard to imagine, since most folks are brainwashed to believe that it’s education, not entry-level job experience, that moves you up the economic ladder.

They would need to be paying close attention to observe how important many of the work skills, habits and interpersonal skills learned on those entry-level jobs are to their jobs later in life.

The minimum wage argument boils down to, I can envision Bobby getting a raise and I think that is worth more than some nameless person down the road not getting something they never knew they were going to get.

So, how do you frame the argument against minimum wage to make it both more emotionally attractive and easy to envision?

Any ideas?


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10 thoughts on “An emotionally attractive argument against minimum wage?

  1. Seth:

    Interesting question.

    In Thomas Sowell’s Magnum opus, Knowledge and Decisions, there appears a discussion/observation that may help answer your question. How so?

    Sowell discusses price ceilings, price floors and legislation spawning regulation, the summation thereof, as items that reduce the universe of possible transactions. Hence free people making free decisions based on particular time and particular circumstance, in a free market, making exchange at the point of mutual self-interest, will yield X number of transactions. Introducing price ceilings, price floors and legislation spawning regulation merely reduces the universe of possible transactions to X-1. The minus one component being a drag on an economy.

    Given that exchange at the point of mutual self-interest causes the pie to grow [rejecting zero sum transaction depiction], then the reduction in transactions merely causes the pie to grow less. Further, in a related realm, less taxable transactions cause less state revenue.

    Hence James and Jane Goodfellow enjoy X service or good. Third parties introduce price ceilings, price floors and legislation spawning regulation, which in turn distorts or eliminates X service or good. James and Jane lose and so does the other transaction actor on the other side of the transaction regarding X . The pie either fails to grow, grows more slowly or even negative effects occur.

    Since transaction X never occurred then transactions A, B and C never occur. For example, James is low skilled and his labor services are worth $6 per hour. James is outlawed from selling his services at $6 per hour hence transactions have been reduced. Had James been free to transact at $6 per hour, then James might have purchased milk, a hair cut, a video game and saved a few dollars for next week. However, James’ transactions never occur.

    In the end, the emotional aspect of the argument you state, may well be to: Depict the debater as being restricted or forbidden in his/her favorite transaction. For instance, debater Z likes to go to baseball games many times during the season. Sorry you can only go one time every other year. Z will dislike this idea. Then pose the question to Z: During those ball games did Z buy popcorn, a soda and a hot dog? Any occasional souvenirs? What about the now void popcorn, soda, hot dog and souvenir transactions? Sorry, the popcorn, soda, hotdog and souvenirs makers/marketers have been denied the transaction. Moreover, the popcorn, soda, hotdog and souvenirs makers/marketers now must reduce their transactions as income was never realized from Z, and so it goes.

    Therefore, price ceilings, price floors and legislation spawning regulation either affect one directly or indirectly, both affects being negative.

    • William – I am a huge admirer of Dr. Sowell and agree with his and your points. However, Seth is really looking for a 30 second sound bite that can persuade the people who are typically persuaded by the 30 second “feel good” sound bites of the progressives. When you introduce “X” – not to mention, A, B, Y and Z – a glaze forms over their eyes. We are not trying to convince people who have the education or inclination to sit down and consider the long term and/or indirect consequences of “feel good now” policies.

      It’s like a resume. You may have great credentials, but if you can’t condense it to a few lines on a single page – what the person doing the screening can ingest in 30 seconds or less – your resume is going in the circular file.

  2. If there is work to be done, the business will have to expand and profit will be made. Having a minimum wage would not inhibit that. Work can be created for all and all employees can have a wage which at least keeps them from starving. If there is no minimum wage, companies will hire the same number of people anyway, as there is the same work to be done – they will not needlessly pay anyone no matter how low the wage. The minimum wage exists because it’s a race to the bottom, not the top.

  3. That’s always been the difference between the left and the right – the left focuses on what FEELS good (the immediate, transient and superficial), while the right endorses what DOES good. But you’re right – because people have become less well read and less educated (despite having more paper credentials), politics has become a game of 30 second sound bites which makes it difficult to articulate positions that involve trying to avoid the unintended consequences of the left’s feel good policies.

    The best I can do off the top of my head for your minimum wage problem is to counter that the Bobbys must pay their babysitter more and their lawn man more. Indeed, they must pay more to everyone that directly or indirectly provide them with goods or services. Thus, their “raise” does not improve their standard of living.

    If I was to add more, I would then say that this creates a repeating cycle of increases to the minimum wage that increases prices but does not improve anyone’s standard of living and because prices repeatedly increase, it wipes out people’s savings/retirement plan.

    • If we’re talking about subjectivity and superstition, you’ll find that Marxists have always argued against opinions based on such things. Subjectivity, romanticism and superstition remain the practices of the liberals and conservative right.

  4. It boils down to having a compelling narrative. I don’t have a definitive answer, but I have some thoughts.

    First, define the crisis. Who is in trouble and how will it get worse in the future? Put the audience in the shoes of Shawn the teenager who can’t get a job which leads to a fail spiral of poverty, dependency, and alcoholism. Reframe the problem — which is worse for Shawn, a low paying job, or no job at all and a lifetime of welfare dependency?

    Next, demonstrate the failure of the proposed solution. Increasing the minimum wage makes it that much harder for Shawn to convince an employer to hire him, puts any job even further out of reach. How is Shawn ever going to be able to support himself, start a family, continue his education, or pursue his dreams after we’ve made it that much harder for him to take the first step?

    Next, define some villains. What hidden reasons might lurk behind the motives of politicians who want to raise the minimum wage? Do they seek to keep Shawn dependent on their largesse? Does it help them retain power over him and his vote? Does it also serve to buy them votes from the beneficiaries of the increase? Do the politicians pay if their self-serving machinations drive companies out of business, reduce available jobs, or destroy opportunities?

    Finally, debunk the nonsense idea that the typical minimum wage worker is supporting a family of four on that one income. The family of four in poverty is also on welfare, so the minimum wage increase will make only a tiny dent in their total income (may even reduce it). For example:
    However, the harm done when entry-level jobs are denied to low skilled workers, carries long-term consequences. They are the ones who get ZERO!

    Conclusion: increasing minimum wage doesn’t really help the family of four, it harms Shawn and other teenagers trying to start their lives, and the only people it’s really meant to help are the leeches who thrive on inciting drama to further their own power while producing nothing of value to society.

    Personal note: this issue really hits close to home for me. My son is autistic and nobody will hire him. He’s sweet but goofy, easily distracted, awkward, and a little weird. This doesn’t help him in the job application process. He’d work for $1/hour if only somebody would hire him, but legally he can’t accept that amount (he has done some volunteering). Working at any job would give him valuable practice with the interpersonal and self-management skills he desperately needs if he’s ever going to be independent. The minimum wage makes it extra difficult for a kid like that trying to find a place in the world. It’s small consolation that if he ever does get a job, the pay will be “a living wage” whatever that means.

    • Hi Adam – Your example of your son’s dilemma frames the debate as it should. While most people gloat that a higher minimum waste will make it illegal for a business owner (a.k.a. “the greedy rich guy”) to pay less than minimum wage, the flip side is that it makes it illegal for people who cannot produce work equal to the minimum wage to accept a lower amount in exchange for their efforts.

      In a free market, people – employees and employers – trade things they desire less for things they desire more. In the case of employers and employees, employers exchange their cash and other benefits for employee’s labor and employees make the opposite exchange. They both do this freely and while there will be times when labor supply and demand favor one or the other, the market rather that the government is better able to solve this problem and eliminate imbalances.

      As you have noted, the problem is articulating this convincingly in 30 seconds or less in terms a 3rd grader can understand.

  5. I’m picturing an ad spot with the guy who does all the voice overs for cheesy action movies…

    “Imagine a world in which you can pay workers for the actual value of their work.”
    “Imagine a world where you can freely offer your labor for any amount of money you want.”

    (Dramatic pause where a bunch of stuff is shown blowing up.)

    “Welcome to the world of no minimum wage… where there are no rules, no limits… and no remorse!”

  6. Pingback: An emotionally attractive against the minimum wage? 2 | Our Dinner Table


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