Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Bernie Sanders and the $15 Minimum Wage Delusion

Posted by M. C. on February 9, 2019

In reality—and absent any other government transfers—it is better to be employed at $5 per hour, than unemployed at $15.

Forcing people to pay more for labor is counterproductive
Walter Block
…Why do employers want to hire workers in the first place? It’s for their productivity (technically, marginal revenue product). Consider Joe, whose productivity is $5 per hour. This means if you have Joe on your shop floor, behind a counter, pushing a broom, or washing dishes for you, your receipts increase by that precise amount: five bucks per hour.

In the absence of any minimum wage at all, what would the firm offer him? Well, like everyone else, as little as possible. Even you, gentle reader when you purchase something, don’t you look for bargains? If not, you are unique. Suppose it is 1 cent per hour. If Joe takes him up on this offer, the employer will earn a pure profit of $4.99 per hour from his labor. Is this an equilibrated, stable situation? Of course not. Some other company will bid 2 cents and “exploit him” to the tune of $4.98.

Where will this bidding war stop? Why, at $5, assuming no transactions or other costs of putting together the two parties. That is why economists have an axiom that wages tend to equal productivity. LeBron James earns lots of money since his productivity (his ability to fill seats and draw TV audiences) is so high. I earn a middle-class income since my marginal revenue product is far less than his. The guy who asks you if you want fries with that is even less productive in terms of raising revenues for the employer and tends to be paid accordingly.

Now, consider the effect of a $7 hourly minimum wage, let alone one for $15. What happens to our man Joe? He produces $5 for his employer, but can’t legally be paid less than $7. What is the result if he is hired? The firm loses $2 per hour. That isn’t a viable option. Joe will be fired, or not taken on in the first place…

Be seeing you

free lunch

Free lunch.


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