Minimum Wage Debate: Why Minimum Wage Laws Hurt, Not Help, Employees


I began working at the ripe old age of 15. I refereed paintball on the weekends. And it sucked. It was hot, stinky, I wasn't a big fan of most of my fellow employees, my boss was a jerk, and I got paid $6 an hour. I only worked 12 hours a week or so, and being a single teenager, Uncle Sam raped me royally on taxes. One would think that such a situation, employers would take advantage of employees and pay them minimum wage, right?

Well, according to the Tax Policy Center, Ohio's minimum wage was almost $2 less than what I got paid. I, an unskilled teenager, was making better than minimum wage running around dodging paintballs. What was that about a "race to the bottom"?

I later got a different, full-time position with the same company, along with a $2 raise (not even having graduated yet, mind you), and then quit for another job, and almost a decade and several jobs later, I still have never worked for minimum wage. So, why do proponents of government intervention in the market insist that we'd all be making two bucks an hour without minimum wage laws?

Of course, in the rose-colored glasses view of modern lovers of government, all good things come as a result of government redistribution of wealth and intervention in the market, and all bad things happen because the government failed to act. Just ignore repeated FEMA fiascos, of course.

Of course, we'd be having thousands slaughtered all the time in workplace accidents without OSHA, this thread and included graph notwithstanding.

By the same token, if it wasn't for enforced federal and state minimum wage laws, everyone would be living hand-to-mouth and only the company owners would have any disposable income, right? Of course minimum wage helps minorities and the youth, right? After all, teens have to be able to afford the latest iPhones and designer jeans, so they deserve to make enough money to pay for all that stuff, right?

Obviously, the anecdotal evidence from my experience isn't necessarily an indicator of the job market as a whole, but the fact that I earn far above minimum wage now, even though I've never been to college, indicates that minimum wage laws don't actually affect employment in the way that many economists would have you think.

At 15, I felt my labor worth $6 an hour. Sure, it would have been great if someone had come along and offered me $10 an hour, but the fact was that an employer and I agreed that my labor was worth $6, and that's what I was paid. Well, before Uncle Sam enacted the aforementioned activities upon my income. Nevertheless, my wages weren't at all affected by minimum wage.

At the same time, there are plenty of teenagers whose labor is not worth $7.25 an hour, or whatever the state's minimum wage happens to be. That means that they can't get a job. If an employer can't get his money's worth of labor out of someone, they will not hire him or her. And forgive my archaic mentality, but isn't a low-paying job better than no job at all? (oh, I forgot, now you can get on welfare and then afford an iPhone 5, which I can't afford to buy. Silly me).

I didn't need laws to help me get a job, or to make sure that I got paid what I was worth. If the well-intentioned but chronically-stupid bureaucrats that decide these things in the sprawling government complex would quit futzing with the economy, and allow employers and employees to set labor prices, more people would be able to get jobs, at the price that their labor is worth.

It all comes back to basic economics. There are three basic "legs" to economic reality: supply, demand, and price. If you mess with one of these three aspects, it will inevitably distort the others. It is simply best to allow the market to determine prices, since it also determines supply and demand.

Less government means more freedom, and in this case it also means more jobs.

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