The fallacy of the living wage

On occasion I browse some various student newspapers' opinion and editorial columns to get a glimpse of what is transpiring within the minds of college students today (and most of it is quite depressing). However, I came across a good, albeit not the most well-written, column by University of Kansas senior Arrah Nielsen in the Kansan. Although her viewpoint is probably held by the minority on her campus, she presents a case against labor wage manipulation, explains the drawbacks of raising minimum wage, and rightfully criticizes the dreadful book Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich.

Where Nielsen trips up is in the last paragraph, where she claims "liberal do-gooders ... lure stupid people to vote for the Democratic Party". You’re not going to win a lot of ears and minds writing this sort of ink. If Nielsen wants to pursue a career in newspaper editorializing (that is, in widely-read, mainstream media), she'll have to avoid the temptations of these types of name-calling.

Most of the follow-up posts are painfully devoid of any rational argument, and are generally made up of attacks on the author rather than the subject matter. However, the following is from a post by 'Chaseychasem':

Sneer at "leftist do-gooders" though Nielsen might, we sure as hell are the ONLY ones looking out for the interests of people with an income of less than $50,000 per year.

By calling on government to forcibly seize more property from those with an income of $50,000 or more per year? Apparently the morality of looking after one's interests can be measured by a specific income level. If you rise above that level, 'Chasey' doesn't give a whit about your property. It's there for the taking (and redistributing). To him/her, this is being a "do-gooder".

I'd be curious to know how 'Chasey' feels about voluntary functions of charity and the resources of friends and family, as well as personal responsibility. Or does he/she consider "looking out" for others' interests a function of the state?

Share this

Doug: If Nielsen wants to

Doug:

If Nielsen wants to pursue a career in newspaper editorializing (that is, in widely-read, mainstream media), she'll have to avoid the temptations of these types of name-calling.

Actually, given the current American political environment, I'd have to say she'd probably do pretty well if she kept up the name-calling. The more of it a writer uses these days, the more people seem to like her. The market appears to be willing to bear such writing at the present time, regardless of whether said writing adheres to decades-old standards of "journalism."

it's hard not to hear the

it's hard not to hear the moralizing: "forcibly siezing property," as if enforcing property rights doesn't require force. The real questions are (that you libertarians never want to touch):
a. where did this property come from?
b. should we grant absolute property rights to individuals, in general? If so, should we grant them even given the dubious origins of such property (please see "a")?

I think you have to answer these questions first, before you can go on assuming that taxation is theft and whatnot, and decrying people who lament the state of America's poor but don't share your abolutist assumptions.

matt, What makes you think

matt,
What makes you think libertarians are against the use of force?

What makes you think

What makes you think libertarians haven't ever thought about the origins of property?

matt, Who is this "we" that

matt,
Who is this "we" that "grants" rights to people? Do you think some person or group exists that can or should determine what your rights are? Do you think your rights are determined by the shape of ink marks on some piece of paper?

Matt, Let's assume you mow

Matt,

Let's assume you mow my lawn today for a mutually agreed price of $20. Where did I get this $20 bill? From the company I work for. Where did my employer get the $20? From a client who bought our services. Where did the client get the $20? From a customer who bought one of their products at a store. Now, where did this customer get the $20? From mowing my lawn last month.

I'll let someone else tackle the origin of this property, and what theory best describes where the root of this $20 piece of property originally came from. But the exchange of private property under the control of individuals is the best catalyst for a thriving economy. There are a billion and one ways to spend that $20, and the individual who earned this small sheet of negotiable paper is best able, and most qualified, to decide how and where to spend (at least) most of it.

It is also the best catalyst for motivation. After all, if the state extracts a whopping $15 of that $20 and "redistributes" it to others who weren't even near my lawn, what motivation do you have to mow my lawn again? Going back to the subject matter of the linked article, what if the state demands I pay you a minimum of $30 (above mutually agreed market price)? Then I'll let my lawn grow to resemble a jungle or mow it myself, while you are out of a Saturday afternoon job.

With regard to your last paragraph...

Just because you encounter people who feel that a government-sanctioned War On Poverty - fueled by the ubiquitous 'redistribution of wealth' - may not be the best solution to minimize poverty, it certainly doesn't mean these same people do not "lament the state of America's poor". And recall that the writer I pointed out ('Chasey') made it clear that those who share his/her specific viewpoint are the "only ones looking after the interests" of the poor. I don't disagree that Chasey does indeed care about the plight of the poor. However, it was the righteous assumption that ONLY Chasey's ilk has the desire to understand which economic system best accomodates the poor that drove much of my original post.