When Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law requiring all employers to pay workers at least $15 per hour, he unbelievably acknowledged that “Economically, minimum wages may not make sense.” This statement reveals the depravity of leftist ideology and highlights the need for friends of freedom to fight those who would rob us of our liberty on moral grounds.
Economists have long pointed out the serious adverse effects of raising the minimum wage. Just recently Andy Puzder, the CEO of the Carl’s Jr. hamburger chain said, "With government driving up the cost of labor, it's driving down the number of jobs," and "You're going to see automation not just in airports and grocery stores, but in restaurants." He added that "If you're making labor more expensive, and automation less expensive—this is not rocket science."
Rapidly advancing technologies are stepping in to take advantage of government stupidity. We can expect in the future that burger-flippers will not be low-paid or even not-too-poorly paid teenagers in after-school jobs. They will be machines.
Minimum wages not only cause businesses to cut back on the number of workers or worker hours and perhaps go to robots. It deprives young people of the opportunity to learn the personal workplace habits they will need to get better-paying jobs in the future. And the vast majority of minimum wage workers are not single heads of families. They are students, part-time workers, and the like.
So if the economic damage of minimum wage hikes is clear, what could compel Gov. Brown to sign the bill and for leftists from Bernie to Hillary to make $15 per hour a policy promise?
Brown explained that “Morally and socially and politically, [minimum wages] make every sense because it binds the community together and makes sure that parents can take care of their kids.” Of course, Brown’s claim about helping parents care for kids is made false by his admission that such laws make no economic sense—unless he means that parents who are unemployed because of minimum wages will be able to get more from government welfare.
But here we see the truly dangerous notion at root in the left, that it is better for the community if more individuals are poor as long as they are more equal. Winston Churchill put it well when he was fighting the enemies of prosperity in his own day: “Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.”
It is important to make clear that hiking the minimum wage prices workers out of many jobs. Some individuals with mixed values might be persuaded by this fact and, thus, ultimately oppose a policy that actually harms many workers. But it won’t work on the hardcore ideologues.
It is important to make clear the warped ideology of the left that actually prefers poverty with equality to prosperity with inequality. It is important to force leftists to put their ideological cards on the table and confess that they value “the equal sharing of misery.” But this is not sufficient.
It is necessary for those seeking a free and prosperous society to be cultural as well as political entrepreneurs. They need to think outside-the-box; to encourage each individual to take pride in their achievements as individuals; to refuse to be guilt-tripped for their productive virtues; to wish their fellows well but to respect their fellows enough to let them make their own way.
In a society in which millions can applaud Brown, Bernie and Hillary, the battle will be long and difficult. Only by seizing the moral high ground can we win.
Edward Hudgins is research director at the Heartland Institute and former director of advocacy and senior scholar at The Atlas Society.