Friday, January 26, 2007

Want to Make the Poor Poorer? Raise Min Wage

From today's WSJ, an article by Nobel economist Gary Becker and Federal Circuit Judge Richard Posner:

The strong bipartisan support for increasing the federal minimum wage to $7.25 an hour from the current $5.15 -- a 40% increase -- is a sad example of how interest-group politics and the public's ignorance of economics can combine to give us laws that manage to be both inefficient and inegalitarian.

Although some workers benefit -- those who were paid the old minimum wage but are worth the new, higher one to the employers -- others are pushed into unemployment, the underground economy or crime. The losers are therefore likely to lose more than the gainers gain; they are also likely to be poorer people.

Even defenders of minimum-wage laws must believe that beyond some point a higher minimum would cause unemployment. Otherwise why don't they propose $10, or $15, or an even higher figure?

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