by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
You can make the statutory minimum wage whatever you like — $10.10 or $110.10 — and it will not change the physical reality that the value of an hour’s labor is not what you get paid for it but what you produce. Money is just a means of facilitating trade, and the real problem facing low-skilled American workers is that they don’t have enough to trade — a condition that will not be relieved by price-fixing, which is what the minimum wage is. Trying to improve the condition of the working poor in real terms by manipulating statutory wage floors is like trying to improve the life of a farmer with one acre by putting a floor on the price of wheat and doing the same thing with the one-acre corn farmer down the way: They each have so many bushels to consume or to trade with one another, little green pieces of paper notwithstanding. What they need isn’t higher commodity prices but superior seed, more acreage, tractors, fertilizer, etc. Progressives think that they can make the community as a whole richer by reassigning acreage from one farm to the next and by shuffling the seeds around.
To grow more, somebody has to clear new land and plant it. Somebody has to do the work.