Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Myth of the Minimum Wage

   Mass Media trumpets a raising Minimum Wage as a boon for the low paid members of society, but in fact, it is destructive to the quality of living of the poor at every turn. It removes access to community resources and economies from the poorest communities and relegates them to government dependent environments.
  To explain this apparent contradiction between what is claimed and what is actual, consider a small population of eight people living together on an island with fish and coconut trees, and a few rare cowrey shells. 
   Two of the people are skilled at basket weaving, but are mediocre fishers, coconut climbers, builders or weavers. Two are skilled at building huts. Two are skilled climbers. The final two are not skilled at any of the trades, but can catch fish passably well. A skilled fisher can catch ten fish in a day.
   Instead of fishing, one of the weavers makes a deal to weave a basket in return for a fish to eat. The fisherman spends the time fishing, and trades the weaver the fish for the basket.  The next day the weaver would weave another basket for fish but the fisherman already has a basket. Why fish for the weaver? Once the coconut climber has a basket, why climb for coconuts for the weaver?  The hut builder would like a basket, but the weaver needs a fish more.
   Currency and economy solves the problem - the builder gives scarce cowrey shells to the weaver for the basket, the weaver gives some of the cowrey shells to the fisherman for a fish, and the fisherman collects cowrey shells together and pays the hut builder to build a hut. The currency and economy allows the society to create and enjoy surplus and the fruit of each others' labor, ultimately providing all the residents of the island with food, shelter, and clothing.
   A new person comes to the island from the mainland.  They plan to return but in the meantime notice that the poorest, the fisherpeople, only earn 3 cowrey shells on average per day, and institute a law requiring minimum wage of 7 cowrey shells per day. The more skilled fisherperson can fish ten fish per day but the economy is strained to pay the less skilled fisherman, and the other people no longer trade with them. The least skilled now have to appeal to the stranger from off island for sustenance.  The exchange rates have been shifted, but the poorest member of society has suffered.
   To bring this to the present reality, vast business and service deserts have appeared in the poorest communities in America since the Minimum Wage law was first instituted by Franklin Roosevelt, at $.25 per hour. In the South Side of Chicago and Detroit poor communities have lost all business to service their needs and to provide employment. Residents of those communities do not have legal businesses and trade - no legal business can profitably sell to poor people and pay the legally required minimum wage to employees, so they cease to exist.  The businesses that cease to exist no longer hire young people in those communities, who must then resort to either illegal businesses, government dependency, or leaving the community, to take care of themselves.   Over decades giant trade wastelands grow.  The surviving economies readjust and adapt, inflating the currency. The 'visitor from the mainland' again convinces the gullible that the Minimum Wage is insufficient, and increase it - multiplying the problem, destroying the beneficial economy for the people living at the bottom margins of the legal economy.
   Once people recognize the Emperor's New Clothes for what they are, perhaps they will throw off this perverse cause of so much misery in America - the Minimum Wage.