Monday, December 14, 2015

No, There’s No Economic Case for the Minimum Wage

By Per Bylund

Mary King, a professor emerita of economics, writes an op-ed in the Oregonian with the title The economic case for a $15 minimum wage is good. I have no reason to think Professor King is intentionally misrepresenting or using smoke screens, but the op-ed does just that. The very first paragraph makes it clear that King is not talking about anything but artificial analysis without relevance:
Contrary to claims in a recent Oregonian/OregonLive guest column, the economic case for a shift to a $15 minimum wage over the next few years is based on very solid mathematical analyses by the best labor economists in the field.
I should admit I have not read the linked column, so I am in no sense trying to defend it. But King’s claim that there are “very solid mathematical analyses” that provide an economic case for raising (that is, more than doubling) the minimum wage are at best comical. "Mathematical analyses" of course refers to the "mathturbation" of econometricians clouding guesses about the particulars of the unknown future by presenting them using Greek letters in equations and fancy statistical methods. She continues:
Their work predicts higher economic growth and therefore more tax revenue; lower business costs for turnover, recruitment and training; greater labor productivity and job satisfaction; lower poverty rates, particularly among single parents and young families; lower public expenditures for food stamps and other benefits; and a counter-force against spiraling income inequality in our state and nation.
Note what is the core of the argument: averages, aggregates, or averages of aggregates. There are no people involved in King’s analysis – it is all aggregate macro data. In other words, all the human suffering caused by raising the minimum wage disappears as people's lives are made into statistics through aggregation and then averaged. That we'll have fewer jobs due to this policy measure can then be balanced by advances in other areas, development of more effective technologies, and higher earnings by not-so-poor people. After all, considering "rates" and averages, then who cares about the unfortunate?
Of course labor productivity will go up if the unproductive will no longer have jobs (the obvious outcome of a substantial increase of the minimum wage). Of course poverty rates will go down if those lucky enough to keep their jobs more than double their salaries. Some people will be better off, some will be worth of. Statistically, we might still end up with a situation that looks better in terms of rates, averages, and aggregates.
But what about the real people adversely affected by the policy for which King claims there is a strong economic case? Many of them will not be able to find jobs as a result of the outright legal prohibition of jobs earning over $7.25 (the current federal minimum wage) but under $15 (the proposed minimum wage). That is, after all, what a minimum wage law is about: prohibiting jobs that don’t earn at least the specified “minimum” wage.
The answer we hear from bleeding-heart macro economists is that we shouldn't give a damn. Because the average might turn out to be higher. If our models are right.

The above originally appeared at


  1. It's really a shame what has happened to an important branch of social science like economics. The leftard academic ideologues have turned it into a politicized pseudo science in order to push their statist agenda. It's now impossible to take mainstream economics seriously when it is dominated by agenda politics and rank intellectual fraud. It's no different than climate science now. Just a corrupted means to an end seen as morally imperative by leftists.

  2. What is really unfortunate is how the mainstream libertarian world sees this economic non-sense as some "plot" by "leftists" as the previous comment shows instead of as a sort of complex evolved myth. Hayek is the key here too. Especially his book "The Counter Revolution of Science: Studies on the Abuse of Reason" . I'm not surprised Mr. Wenzel mentioned Hayek's book as one of his top 5. More people need to see our economic evils as evolved myths instead of a deliberate plan by clueless "corrupted" leftists to screw the world.