Saturday, July 10, 2004

On the One Hand...

...Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution, quotes Steven E. Landsburg, writing in Slate, who says:
Now that we've re-evaluated the evidence..., here's what most labor economists believe: The minimum wage kills very few jobs, and the jobs it kills were [sic] lousy jobs anyway. It is almost impossible to maintain the old argument that minimum wages are bad for minimum-wage workers.
That's easy to say if you're a well-fed economist who thinks it better to kill a "lousy" job than to have such a job filled by a person who'd be glad to have the income.

On the other hand, Landsburg goes on to say:
In fact, the minimum wage is very good for unskilled workers [those who don't lose their jobs: ED]. It transfers income to them. And therein lies the right argument against the minimum wage....

[T]he minimum wage places the entire burden [of income redistribution] on one small group: the employers of low-wage workers and, to some extent, their customers. Suppose you're a small entrepreneur with, say, 10 full-time minimum-wage workers. Then a 50 cent increase in the minimum wage is going to cost you about $10,000 a year. That's no different from a $10,000 tax increase. But the politicians who imposed the burden get to claim they never raised anybody's taxes.
Which means that the minimum wage causes unemployment among unskilled workers by 1) helping to drive small businesses out of business and 2) shrinking the market for unskilled labor by discouraging the formation of small businesses. Have those effects been measured adequately by our oh-so-clever coterie of economists, whose ilk cannot forecast economic growth from quarter to quarter with anything resembling accuracy? I don't think so.