by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The political left’s great claim to authenticity and honor is that what they advocate is for the benefit of the less fortunate. But how could we test that?
T.S. Eliot once said, “Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm — but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.”
This suggests that one way to find out if those who claim to be trying to help the less fortunate are for real is to see if they are satisfied to simply advocate a given policy, and see it through to being imposed — without also testing empirically whether the policy is accomplishing what it set out to do.
The first two steps are enough to let advocates feel important and righteous. Whether you really care about what happens to the supposed beneficiaries of the policy is indicated by whether you bother to check out the empirical evidence afterwards.
Many, if not most, people who are zealous advocates of minimum wage laws, for example, never check to see if these laws do more good by raising some workers’ wages than harm by preventing many young and inexperienced workers from finding jobs.
One of my own pieces of good fortune, when I left home at age 17, was that the unemployment rate for black 17-year-old males was in single digits that year — for the last time. The minimum wage law was ten years old, and the wage specified in that law was now so low that it was irrelevant, after years of inflation. It was the same as if there were no minimum wage law.
Liberals, of course, wanted the minimum wage raised, to keep up with inflation. The result was that, ten years later, the unemployment rate for black 17-year-old males was 27.5 percent — and it has never been less than 20 percent in all the years since then.