Here is the last installment of the Minimum Wage saga. Please do note that some of the citations are unavailable without the proper subscriptions. So I left the original citations, and have added to the end the bibliography of the whole essay. For those who just joined the reading, Part I, II, and III are linked there.
Another way minimum wage laws harm the poor who they are supposed to help is that costs are passed onto consumers. In America we have long been accustomed to relatively inexpensive and abundant food. However, there is no reason to expect that the experiences of other countries that raise minimum wage will not occur here. Zambia is still experiencing the ill effects of raising the minimum wage law there. “The minimum wage increases have backfired on the poor because the prices of food and other essential commodities have escalated” (African News Service 2012).
Minimum wage visionaries assert that business can afford to just eat the costs of the higher wages forgetting that most of American businesses are small businesses which employ the people of their own community and provide basic services for that community. It hurts the poor when these basic services are no longer available. A virtuous sense of compassion and fairness ought to be outraged at the plight of Zambian business owner Kankhara “who owns 200 passenger minibuses. He says, ‘If I pay the new minimum wage to all my drivers at the moment I would be bankrupt within one month and there would be no more Flash Buses on the roads anymore’” (African News Service, 2012). When that service is gone, it is the poor who walk along with the rich.
This is happening in American inner cities which have become economic dead zones. Many goods and services are no longer available to the poor people who live there. It is an economic burden that the poor bear disproportionately since they are the ones who are least able to afford the transportation costs to procure goods and services. Minimum wage laws contribute to the economic conditions which making doing business unsupportable.
These are just some of the ways in which minimum wage laws harm rather than help the poor and vulnerable of our society. The consequences of our so-called compassion turn out to be anything but actually compassionate and fair. When the consequences are so opposite to the claim, perhaps the intent never was what we have been taught.
The Progressive movement in the United States is “usually thought of in glowing terms of social reform and the advance of fairness for all. Yet it has a more sinister side which we cannot afford to allow the mists of time to erase” (Leonard, 2005, abstract). Part of the Progressive agenda was the “process of weeding out the unfit, of preventing the birth of defectives or of those who will become defective” as Margaret Sanger, Progressive and Founder of Planned Parenthood said as quoted by Angela Franks (2012 para.6).
This attitude was shared by Progressivists who shaped America’s early labor reform laws including minimum wage. They thought that unemployment was an actual benefit to society as it would tend to operate eugenically, that is to remove from the human gene pool certain undesirable elements, among which poor blacks topped the list. During the 1930′s these ideas were openly discussed and written into textbooks which were used throughout the United States. Progressives believed that science proved the inferiority of certain races. This inferiority if left to propagate would dilute the human gene pool. They believed and taught that experts should be the ones to direct evolution (Horvath, 2012). Many of the compassionate sounding reforms that were instituted during the Progressive era, had this underlying motive, now long hidden.
For Progressives the only race that showed any promise for improving the race was of white European stock. ” African Americans were indolent and ﬁckle, which explained why… slavery was required: The negro could not possibly have found a place in American industry had he come as a free man . . . [I]f such races are to adopt that industrious life which is second nature to races of the temperate zones, it is only through some form of compulsion. (Leonard, quoting John Commons, 2013, pg. 215). Minimum wage laws make it so that a black worker with low skills, who shows up for a job that he does not have the skills for, can be turned away legitimately. Then society has a reason to isolate the undesirable and perhaps persuade him to kill the offspring he cannot support or prevent their conception. (Leonard, 2005, pg. 213-216).
These were mainstream ideas promoted by American Universities, not just a few kook thinkers. It was not uncommon for academics and politicians to agree with A.B. Wolfe as quoted by Thomas Leonard (2005, pg. 214), “Better that the state should support the inefﬁcient wholly and prevent the multiplication of the breed than subsidize incompetence and unthrift, enabling them to bring forth more of their kind.” Mainstream Progressive economists from the American Economic Association believed that, “establishing a minimum wage above the value of the unemployables worth would lock them out of the market accelerating their elimination as a class (Goldberg, 2009, pg. 269).” We are very close to this situation today in our inner cities.
In conclusion, minimum wage locks America’s most vulnerable populations out of their chances to better their lives as they age. It robs them of hope for a better future. The evidence shows that raising the minimum wage lacks any ethical ground, either in its results or in its original and perhaps not lost intent. Not only should it not be raised, for the good of poor people, teens and especially black teens, it should be abolished. However, there is no political will to do so, nor any political benefit, the best we can do for now is to stop raising it.
Postmodern American visionaries are more about how a thing sounds and feels than what it actually produces. If a thing sounds good and feels good then it is assumed that the intent is good, and since Kant, intent is all that matters in ethical considerations. This is to the shame of our educators, our colleges and universities who promote utopian visions using philosophy for their own ends instead of to uncover timeless truth. It is time we reclaim our skepticism of power and authority so that ideas can once again be freely challenged among free citizens. In order to actually do something to help poor people especially black teens, we need to stop seeing them as parasites and a social disease which needs curing and start seeing them as humans who share the potential to grow and learn and work and become prosperous. While we are fighting about a policy with a track record proven throughout the world and across time to be disastrous for poor people, we cannot focus our attention on creatively devising new policies that would be of service to people. And most of all we need to return to ethical thinking that is built on more than the ideal, the virtuous, the dutiful, the utilitarian or the emotive. Ethics needs to return to a foundation that “integrates human reason and transcendent realities” (Eyer, 2010, pg.37). In other words, we need to return to being able to say that something is not true. And if it is not true it is not ethical, no matter how good it makes us feel about our pure intent. In continuing to raise the minimum wage, America forestalls the best hopes of the poor. In limiting or removing it, hope for a better tomorrow is restored.
African News Service. (2012) Minimum Wage Leads to Steep Food Price Rises.
BalancedPolitics.org. (n.d.) Should the minimum wage be abolished? (i.e. Reduced to $0.00)? Retrieved from: http://www.balancedpolitics.org/minimum_wage.htm
Eyer, R. (2010), Holy People Holy Lives. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House
Franks, A. (2012) A life of passion: Progressive eugenics and Planned Parenthood. Retrieved from: http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2012/01/4445/
Goldberg, J. (2009) Liberal Fascism: The secret history of the American left form Mussolini to the politics of change. New York, NY: Random House.
Goree, K., &Manias, N., & Till, J. (2013) Ethics Applied (6.5 ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson Learning Solutions.
Hannity, Sean. (December 2, 2013). The Sean Hannity Show. WSAU
Horvath, Anthony. (2012). Roots and Fruits: The conquest of America by the culture of death. Athantos Christian Ministries.org
Leonard, T. (2005) Retrospectives eugenics and economics in the Progressive era. Journal of Economic Perspectives—Volume 19, Number 4. Retrieved from: http://www.princeton.edu/~tleonard/papers/retrospectives.pdf
Schiller, R. & Mukhopadhyay, S. Trends in relative earnings mobility. University of Nevada, Reno. Retrieved from: business.unr.edu/Faculty/SankarM/mobility.pdf
Sowell, T. (2013) Minimum wage madness. Retrieved from: http://townhall.com/columnists/thomassowell/2013/09/17/minimum-wage-madness- n1701840
The Washington Times (2008) The abortion industry. Retrieved from: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/mar/26/the-abortion-industry/
Williams, W. (1999) Minimum wage, maximum folly. Retrieved from: http://econfaculty.gmu.edu/wew/articles/99/folly.html
Williams, W (2013) Williams column: Minimum wage killing jobs for black youth Retrieved from: http://www.jacksonsun.com/article/20131016/OPINION/310160003/Williams-column- Minimum-wage-killing-jobs-black-youth