The victims are the most vulnerable people in society: the unskilled. For the most part, these are young people (many from the middle class) without work experience. Few people over 24 make the minimum wage, and those who do usually move up before long. Young people desperately need that first job to learn skills and work habits, and of course income, but “progressive” politicians, whether they know it or not, favor policies that destroy entry-level jobs. Remember, the minimum-wage law doesn’t create employment; it forbids jobs that pay too little.
Advocates of the minimum wage ought to explain why they believe competition among employers hasn’t already bid up the wages of unskilled workers to reflect their productivity. How can anyone know that a $9 minimum won’t throw people out of work or make low-skilled jobs more onerous? No one can know this because only the market process can generate and disclose such information. Nevertheless, “progressives” are willing to gamble with the lives of people who are vulnerable enough as it is.
If the advocates of the minimum wage really cared about people with low skills and low incomes, they’d support elimination of the myriad government barriers to entrepreneurship and small-business formation, which keep people down. These include occupational licensing, restrictions on street peddling, and zoning, all of which make it tougher for people living on the edge to start up modest businesses and hire people in a similar predicament.
The failure to move against these poverty-sustaining interventions indicates either that the self-styled champions of the poor are ignorant of economics or that they are poseurs. Let’s not forget that the biggest boosters of the minimum wage are the leaders of organized labor, whose members’ incomes are far above the minimum. Before we assume the motive is humanitarian, let’s recall that such legislation was first proposed years ago by people who wanted to exclude their competition—particularly blacks and women—from the marketplace.