Last night, in my Public Relations class I caused an uproar by all my fellow students for mentioning that we should completely abolish the minimum wage and how child labor laws are regressive policies. None of my liberal classmates, or professor, could comprehend such a ‘radical view’. (Don’t be like them, help me defeat these zombies by clicking the banner below!)
I first mentioned that the minimum wage should be completely abolished after a fellow classmate suggested that doubling the minimum wage would be terrible for small businesses. If that is the case, then any increase in the minimum wage, whether seen or unseen, will have negative effects. If this was not the case, then government officials, especially in the poorest countries, are doing the world a huge disservice by not legislating that the minimum wage should be raised to dramatic new heights, such as $10,000 or even $1,000,000 per hour. But more money doesn’t create real wealth.
The backfire I received for my ‘radical’ views was laughable and predictable. Of course, one well-intentioned liberal referred me to the liberal talking point of the creation of the minimum wage laws instead of the real, racist history behind the policy. The great Thomas Sowell refers us to various times when minimum wage laws were openly about protecting white jobs and whites’ standard of living,
“In South Africa during the era of apartheid, white labor unions urged that a minimum-wage law be applied to all races, to keep black workers from taking jobs away from white unionized workers by working for less than the union pay scale.
Some supporters of the first federal minimum-wage law in the United States — the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931 — used exactly the same rationale, citing the fact that Southern construction companies, using non-union black workers, were able to come north and underbid construction companies using unionized white labor.” (From “Why racists love the minimum wage”, linked above)
Of course, he has likely never heard this view, so instead he told me that minimum wage laws were created during the industrial revolution to ‘protect’ workers from the evils of their employer. And, again, predictably based his argument on today’s standards, by which case working conditions were bad, but never thought about what working conditions and living standards were like before the industrial revolution. Hint: they were much worse.
Besides, it’s not like these people were forced to work in terrible conditions, they rather valued the money they received greater than the conditions of working and the perks of leisure on their individual value scales, or else they simply would have not accepted the job.
Expanding on this same logic is how we moved from minimum wage laws to child labor laws. The ridicule I received for expressing that, again, the well-intentioned child labor laws, especially in poor countries, does more harm than good was stunning. College is just a behemoth of a liberal echo chamber, save a few instances. Liberals seem to think businesses force children to slave in places where child labor laws don’t exist and overlook the fact that if these children did not work in the factory, their options are working for even smaller wages, in the streets, or death.
Back in Krugman’s more honest economical analysis days (early 1990’s to early 2000’s) he even admitted this fact,
“Paul Krugman summarizes what happened more bluntly: ‘The direct result was that Bangladeshi textile factories stopped employing children. But did the children go back to school? Did they return to happy homes? Not according to Oxfam, which found that the displaced child workers ended up in even worse jobs, or on the streets—and that a significant number were forced into prostitution.'”
Yet, when I mentioned this to a bunch of college liberals living in America their only response was laughter. Liberals so easily forget that they live in the top 1% worldwide, and that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
One of their rebuttals to my dissent was that children in America would immediately be working in factories for $.03 an hour. I tried to explain that no, the likelihood that child labor would boom in America or any other developed country is absurd, and that each individual child and their family are best to decide what’s important for their own survival – not some standard set by bureaucrats who live in luxury, disconnected from the real problems facing real people.
The unfortunate truth is that children only work when they are faced with either working or death. That is precisely why child labor is such a ‘problem’ in third-world countries. However unglamorous child labor might be, there is a real reason the children are working, and even further there’s a reason they work in sweatshops for, say, $.43 an hour – the reason is that it is preferable to other forms of employment or death. Counterintuitively, child labor is one of the few, real beacons of hope to improve standards of living up to the point where children no longer have to work.
Wealthy countries don’t face the same problems, which is why the majority of Americans wouldn’t send their seven year old kid to work in a factory instead of getting an education. This feat would’ve been accomplished just the same with no law, as each family grew wealthier because it is precisely the poor families who must rely on a child’s income, as well as their own income, to survive.
Again, this all falls back to individual value scales. If an individual values the money he receives more than his working conditions, more than his leisure time, more than any other potential job he could have gotten, or more than death by poverty then he will take job. If not, then he won’t. And who is anyone else to determine that highly individualized decision for him?
Individual people are much better at deciding what is best for them given their current situation than the smartest, most well-intentioned bureaucrats alive, which is why time and time again we see well-intentioned policies fail and even hurt the ones they intended to help the most.
The worst part is the liberals were so close-minded in their beliefs they believe they were doing no harm with these policies. It shows their disconnect from people who really live in poverty, and reaffirmed my belief that different views aren’t accepted in ‘higher’ education. So much for diversity!