Wednesday, July 16, 2008
The topic that pretty much got me into blogging was the minimum wage (seems a little stupid now, but probably not much more stupid than being into blogging at all). I brought it up in conversation with Trevor and he gave a pretty standard, economically literate response, which was something along the lines of, “I would like to support it but I think it hurts the people it’s intended to help, so I don’t.” Yes I’m a pedant, yes I know he means something like, “It makes me sad that a minimum wage policy won’t make poor people better off.” But in my fake statement, and the sentiment I’m discussing there’s emotional appeal to the minimum wage regardless of whether it works (Nobel Prize winners actually support the minimum wage, even though they think other programs achieve the aims of the policy, better). We may reject it cos it doesn’t work, but we still like it! We root for it to do better. I’m arguing that it’s a little weird to have any feelings about the policy outside of its actual effects. You may be thinking that mentioning support for minimum wage is a signal of your sympathy for poor people, but if it’s a bad policy, supporting it should be a signal that you want bad things to happen to poor people! You may intend it to signal a belief that everybody is as productive as the level of the minimum wage you’d ideally like to see, but again, that’s a factual claim (a false one).