5. The Minimum Wage
legislation is one of the great civil wrongs perpetrated against the
low-skilled who need the opportunities which middle-class workers, future
professionals and the self-employed can legally take for granted. What the minimum wage law does to the
poor is to deny to them the same freely chosen opportunities others follow for
their own well-being.
20-year old college student, for example, can work part-time at $5.00 per hour
for half the hours in a work week and attend classes to better his future
employment prospects the other half.
In effect, such a student is earning not $5.00 per hour for his efforts
but a sub-minimum wage of only $2.50 for the full work week of 40 hours (20 hours
on the job at $5.00 and 20 hours in class and study time at $0). And if the costs of tuition, books, and
gas are included the student is possibly earning an effective wage which is
negative! This is done by the
student voluntarily--a subminimum wage effort is freely chosen as a civil right
not denied by government.
An up and coming
30-year old doctor chooses a similar route of economic well-being. The hours spent not only in
undergraduate school as in the case of the 20-year old, but, in medical school
as well, pay no wage. In fact,
both are paying to learn now in order to earn a much higher income later. Again, the future doctor exercises this
option as a civil right--there are no laws preventing him from doing so.
individual starting his own business will often lose money for months, even
years, prior to earning a profit on a new venture. Again, he is earning a wage much less than that mandated by
minimum wage legislation. But, he
is perfectly free, as an entrepreneur, to engage in such behavior--it is not
But what of the
low-skilled citizen with no prospects of college training or a medical career
or of starting his own business?
Here the heavy hand of government literally outlaws an option freely
chosen by others. A worker worth
only $3.00 an hour to an employer is denied the opportunity to accept this low
wage for the opportunity to learn not in the formal setting of a college
classroom or a training hospital or as an actual business owner but in the
workplace itself. It's a safe bet
that most readers of this page made wage gains once on the job, not by way of
formal training but by way of learning and proving themselves on their jobs.
Anyone doubtful that
the minimum wage law is a civil rights issue need only look at the unemployment
statistics to see the truth of this question. The unemployment figures below make it clear that
identifiable segments of society are being legally discriminated
against--discriminated against because their low productive value places them
in a position where they cannot legally choose the combination of wages and job
training they may prefer.
|16 - 19 years of age||17.2%
|Blacks 16 - 19 years of age||37.6%
|25 - 54 years of age||4.1%
Source: Monthly Labor Review, October 1995
Given this analysis
it must be asked why are what I'll call "effective-wage rights"
denied to some segments of society?
The answer is that denying such a right to the low-skilled has no
negative political consequences.
Unlike other groups, these populations generally don't vote, don't
contribute to campaigns, don't write letters-to-the-editor, and don't in
general make themselves heard politically--these people can be denied a civil
right the rest enjoy, because they do not count politically.
The minimum wage law
is a cruelty inflicted by government on a group of people who can afford it the
least, while politicians reap the benefits of appearing to be kinder and
gentler. It is a clear violation
of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In the name of the poor themselves, it
is time to abolish this shameful civil wrong.
Brown, Susan, et. al.
The Incredible Bread Machine,
(San Diego, California: World Research Inc, 1974)
pp. 80 - 83.
Bright Promises, Dismal Performance,
(New York: Harcourt, Brace and Jovanovich, 1983)
pp. 16 - 19.
Economics in One Lesson,
(New Rochelle, New York: Arlington House, 1979)
pp. 134 - 139.
The Biggest Con: How the Government is Fleecing You,
(Hamden, Connecticut: Freedom Books, 1976)
pp. 164 - 178.
(New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1990)
pp. 27 - 28.
The State Against Blacks,
(New York: McGraw-Hill, 1982)
pp. 33 - 51.