Question for Readers about the Minimum Wage

The blogosphere has been abuzz about Steven Landsburg's article that claims that studies show that the minimum wage does not really affect unemployment.

My question is this: how would you design a study to determine whether or not the minimum wage affects unemployment?


Follow-ups:
Why Respect Rights?
Ethical Subjectivism Share this

Gil, We don't all agree it's

Gil,

We don't all agree it's bad. Micha claims that's only a subjective preference. He can no more think any of this is wrong or evil than he can think vanilla pudding is wrong or evil if he doesn't fancy the taste.

The purpose is to acquire intellectual ammunition to meet arguments that are currently politically persuasive.

Voters have insufficient incentives to evaluate arguments properly under these circumstances. What's in it for the individual? Why bother to invest effort in understanding this argument when the political result will be the same whether you do or not?

Political ignorance is instrumentally rational in the context of a democracy. It's rational for voters to blow off your arguments. You're trying to build castles in sand.

We can agree or disagree on

We can agree or disagree on the morality of the minimum wage... I don't have a dog in taht hunt, being more concerned with the morality of getting in between the employee and the employer in the negotiation process, as opposed to the moral problems with what Billy refers to (perhaps properly) as 'stealing'.

But allow, please for a quick comment, and a question, regarding the claim of "Morality itself is absurd." I'm somewhat taken aback by the claim that this statement is in any way lacking in practicality.

Allow me to point out that as a practical point, anything economic... anything involving commerce, FIRST must involve some degree of trust on the part of the participants.

On that basis, then, tell me; without morality, does economics exist for long? Can law alone, sans morality, be relied on for the continued existance of commerce? The experience of the Former Soviet Union would seem to suggest not.

Reporter Claire Sterling noted in the last days of the Soviet Empire that, "There are fifty ways of saying ?to steal? in Russian, and the Russian Mafia uses them all." The amoral situation in Russia got so bad that we even saw Gorby himself making statements which were historic in nature, for the Soviets..."We need spiritual values. The moral values which religion generated and embodied for centuries can help in the work of renewal in our country."

Argue as you will against or for the religious implications of Gorby's statement; I'm not prepared to aruge them either way at the moment. But it seems clear that the amorality of the USSR was a key issue in their failure as a nation. It seems equally clear that something more than law, and law enforcement, both of which the USSR had in abundance, was needed for the nation to be a successful one.

Gil, "Even if most

Gil,

"Even if most individuals don?t actively investigate issues (rationally), better ideas tend to dominate worse ones in the long run and eventually spread throughout the culture."

Better political ideas in a democracy? You think this republic has just gotten better and better in the long run?

"People didn?t have to travel around the world to learn that it isn?t flat. They won?t have to analyze economic studies to learn that minimum-wage laws cause more harm than good for the very people they are purported to help. But, they will learn it."

Not even Landsburg has learned that, he just dismissed that very argument. But "people" will learn it? You're dreaming.

"I think that there is a much greater general awareness of the practical hazards of economic intervention today than there was 30 years ago, and, with vigilence, this trend will continue."

So would it be Bush or Kerry that would be better equipped to carry forward this supposed expanding awareness of the practical hazards of economic intervention?

Two things; First a

Two things; First a correction:

I?m somewhat taken aback by the claim that this statement is in any way lacking in practicality.

Should instead read "HAS any practicality"

Excuse the error, please.

I wuold extend the point I made with another question: Consider the matter of individual rights. I don't mean any particular one, in this case, merely the concept; If you're rejecting morality, you're also rejecting individual rights. after all; without it, by what means are such rights measured, or for that matter, respected? Seems to me the very concept of rights suggests that there are people around moral enough to respect said rights. Time has shown clearly that law cannot do it. What else, then, but morality?

"If we disengage from the

"If we disengage from the battle of ideas because we think the moral case is the only one that matters and what other people care about is ?beside the point?, then seductive, bad, ideas will gain support and dominate policy."

The essential nature of democracy ensures that seductive bad ideas will dominate policy.

"If we disengage from the

"If we disengage from the battle of ideas because we think the moral case is the only one that matters and what other people care about is ?beside the point?, then seductive, bad, ideas will gain support and dominate policy."

The essential nature of democracy ensures that seductive bad ideas will dominate policy.

I don't think you could find

I don't think you could find any 30 year period in the history of this republic where Americans were generally more free at the end than at the beginning. Slaves were of course more free for being emancipated but everyone else's freedom took a big step back at the same time.

Micha: as long as you hold

Micha: as long as you hold that ?Morality itself is absurd,? you have no standing to use the word ?theft?.

You cannot have it both ways.

Of course I can have it both ways, just as I can say, "Mmm, ice cream. It is tasty and delicious. It is my favorite food" while at the same time rejecting any claims regarding the objective goodness of ice cream.

I don't like theft. I like the stuff I currently own and I don't want to lose it. I feel bad when other people work hard for their stuff only to have it taken away by thieves. I want to live in a society that enforces laws against theft. In this sense--and only in this sense--theft is "wrong".

?Tasty? is perhaps

?Tasty? is perhaps subjective, and yet, so universal in regards ice cream as to be largely beyond debate, but ?theft? is not open to interpretation.

Surely there are many people who do not like ice cream and do not consider it tasty. I have a number if friends who don't eat it for precisely this reason. And when someone tells me they simply don't like something I don't like, I might ask them their reasons for not liking it, but after a certain point, I just have to throw my hands in the air and say de gustibus non est disputatum. There is no possible argument one can make to convince someone of values they do not already share.

The same is true with morality. And theft certainly is open to interpretation, as is every other moral issue. Witness alone the debates libertarians have with each other over issues like intellectual property, enforcement of indentured servitude, abortion, etc. If theft were not open to interpretation, we would expect to see much less disagreement on these issues than currently exists.

Why waste even more tax

Why waste even more tax payer money and cause even more theft than is necessary?

Exactly. And how much is necessary, Micha?

Meaning, "then is necessary to achieve whatever goal you may wish to achieve, even if people like JTK and his five buddies think that your desired goal is fundamentally immoral."

One doesn't have to agree with another person's objectives to convince them that there are less wasteful and harmful ways of achieving said objectives.

We don?t all agree it?s bad.

We don?t all agree it?s bad. Micha claims that?s only a subjective preference. He can no more think any of this is wrong or evil than he can think vanilla pudding is wrong or evil if he doesn?t fancy the taste.

You do not seem to understand ethical subjectivism. Just because I believe that all morality is subjective does not mean that I don't have moral opinions of my own. Only that those moral opinions are no more objectively meaningful than my opinions about ice cream. If the government had a policy of forcing people to eat unpleasant foods every day, I would try to think of ways to avoid this law. Failing that, I would try to think of ways to lessen the unpleasentness of these foods, perhaps by trying to convince others that ice cream is tasty and somehow try to change the policy to include ice cream instead of codliver oil.

I can still think that minimum wages are wrong and evil, just that I don't mean the same thing with these terms that you do. And it is true that I can't think that vanilla pudding is wrong or evil if I don't fancy the taste, but only because "wrong" and "evil" are not the correct terms used to describe one's subjective opinions about ice cream. One doesn't say "murder is sour" or "liberty is delicious", nor does one say "pudding is morally good" or "anchovies are a crime against humanity".

Jeffrey, Well, what a lovely

Jeffrey,

Well, what a lovely intellectual wankfest this is! If any value is as good as any other, why are you arguing here? Because you think your words look pretty on the screen?

My brain just came all over the keyboard.

But on a serious note, just because no subjective value may be objectively better than another, we are still valuing creatures with preferences, desires, dislikes, etc. I try to convince others to share my beliefs, for two reasons: because I enjoy argumentation, and because I hope to live in a freer society in which I can better satisfy my own preferences, and I believe that my efforts at persuasion have a chance of moving us in that direction.

As one of the ?five people? persuaded by Kennedy and Beck, I?ve got to ask: what happens when you set up your experiment and it turns out that Landsburg was right? What then? What if the ?E?ITC DOES work better than minimum wage for distributing the booty?

Then we use other arguments against redistribution: namely, that the government doesn't do a very good job at it and much of it is wasted through administrative costs, that it leads to perverse consequences through dependency and rent seeking, and that private charity would be a better way of achieving the same purposes.

What if we can find a way to turn brown Jewish eyes blue? Wouldn?t the research be worth it then?

Sure. Think about how much money people would save in the long term from no longer having to purchase colored contact lenses!

Bithead, Allow me to point

Bithead,

Allow me to point out that as a practical point, anything economic? anything involving commerce, FIRST must involve some degree of trust on the part of the participants.

On that basis, then, tell me; without morality, does economics exist for long? Can law alone, sans morality, be relied on for the continued existance of commerce? The experience of the Former Soviet Union would seem to suggest not.

Trust is not the same thing as morality. I trust that when I give a bank my money, I will be able to get it back sometime in the future - not because I believe that bankers are especially moral, but because it is not in their self-interest to steal my money, as that would give them a bad reputation and possibly lead to massive law suits.

I don't see how the experience of the Soviet Union supports your argument. The Soviet Union was not "amoral"; they certainly believed that certain things were immoral (capitalism, for instance). And their problem was not a lack of morality - their problem was they lacked free markets to allocate goods properly and lacked a legal system that could provide people with the proper incentives for civil society.

But it seems clear that the amorality of the USSR was a key issue in their failure as a nation. It seems equally clear that something more than law, and law enforcement, both of which the USSR had in abundance, was needed for the nation to be a successful one.

The USSR had laws and law enforcement, but which laws did they have? The content of law is just as important as its existence and enforcement.

I wuold extend the point I

I wuold extend the point I made with another question: Consider the matter of individual rights. I don?t mean any particular one, in this case, merely the concept; If you?re rejecting morality, you?re also rejecting individual rights. after all; without it, by what means are such rights measured, or for that matter, respected? Seems to me the very concept of rights suggests that there are people around moral enough to respect said rights. Time has shown clearly that law cannot do it. What else, then, but morality?

Yes, I reject the claim that individual rights objectively exist, i.e. exist apart from the choices people make and the laws we choose to implement. There may be certain legal or social principles that must be enforced or adhered to if certain social goals are to be achieved. This is Randy Barnett's definition of natural rights, as he explains in the intro to The Structure of Liberty and A Law Professor's Guide to Natural Law and Natural Rights.

I'm not so sure that people have to internalize belief in and respect for individual rights in order for civil society to exist - proper incentives might be all that is necessary. But internalization certainly doesn't hurt, and probably helps. I just don't think it is anywhere near as important as incentives.

"I can still think that

"I can still think that minimum wages are wrong and evil, just that I don?t mean the same thing with these terms that you do. And it is true that I can?t think that vanilla pudding is wrong or evil if I don?t fancy the taste, but only because ?wrong? and ?evil? are not the correct terms used to describe one?s subjective opinions about ice cream. One doesn?t say ?murder is sour? or ?liberty is delicious?, nor does one say ?pudding is morally good? or ?anchovies are a crime against humanity?."

How would you say minimum wages are evil in a sense that can't be equally applied to pudding?

Have you not reduced the term "evil" to mean "I don't like it"?

I don?t think you could find

I don?t think you could find any 30 year period in the history of this republic where Americans were generally more free at the end than at the beginning. Slaves were of course more free for being emancipated but everyone else?s freedom took a big step back at the same time.

I think things took a big turn for the worse in the beginning of this century with a change from realtively laissez faire to FDR's New Deal policies. But I'd say things have gotten a lot better since the 70's - racism against blacks, sexism against women, widespread support for complete government control of the economy, widespread use of price controls, heavy regulation of the airline and telecom industries - all of these and more have radically declined in the past 30-40 years.

How would you say minimum

How would you say minimum wages are evil in a sense that can?t be equally applied to pudding?

There are some differences. I don't sympathize with people who choose to eat pudding even if I don't like it. I do sympathize with those who have their property taken from them. I also have a much stronger aversion to theft than I do to foods I don't like.

Have you not reduced the term ?evil? to mean ?I don?t like it??

A stronger sense than "I don't like it." More like "I hate it, I have little respect for those who engage in it, and I will do what I can to fight against it." Generally not things one says in regard to ice cream.

Micha, Suppose you're in a

Micha,

Suppose you're in a position to steal without having any external costs imposed on you. You know with high reliability that you won't get caught. Now there may be some internal cost associated with your irrational aversion to theft, but won't the rewards of theft outweigh that cost at some point? Even if you really don't like the taste of vanilla pudding you'd probably eat a cup of it for a billion dollars, wouldn't you?

So wouldn't you steal if you could simply get away with stealing a lot?

JTK, That is a great

JTK,

That is a great question and one I have asked myself many times. I've also asked a philosophy professor of mine and neither he or I could come up with a interesting answer. And I also asked the head of the Objectivist organization here at Tech, and he couldn't come up with a good answer either.

This is a difficult question for any and all moral theories: why should an individual act in accordance with a moral system if it is not in his self-interest to do so?

I wouldn't know what I would do until I was put into such a situation. I have not intentionally stolen anything since I was a child, and I remember the guilt and regret that I experienced as a result. Of course, as you mentioned, the question is if there is a quanitity of money large enough to counter my (somewhat irrational) aversion to theft. Perhaps there is, I don't know.

This is a difficult question

This is a difficult question for any and all moral theories: why should an individual act in accordance with a moral system if it is not in his self-interest to do so?

No, it's not a problem for moral theories which identify the moral alternative with self interest. Catholic theology, for instance, would tell you that it really can't be in your self interest to steal, that there is no way to escape the cost of sin.

"I wouldn?t know what I

"I wouldn?t know what I would do until I was put into such a situation. I have not intentionally stolen anything since I was a child, and I remember the guilt and regret that I experienced as a result. Of course, as you mentioned, the question is if there is a quanitity of money large enough to counter my (somewhat irrational) aversion to theft. Perhaps there is, I don?t know."

How can you seriously doubt that you would steal for *some* price when you recognize your subjective preference devoid of meaningful content?

Refusing to steal at any price would reveal that your preferences are not in fact as you have characterized them.

Moralism gone wild? And

Moralism gone wild? And what?s your alternative to rampaging morality, Scott?
Rampaging immorality?
See the problem with that?

depends what you consider immoral now doesn't it?

"There is no possible

"There is no possible argument one can make to convince someone of values they do not already share."

Perhaps one can't convince another to change his "tastes", but people can change their minds on what they value. An open minded person will readily absorb and incorporate newly discovered concepts.

"The same is true with morality. And theft certainly is open to interpretation, as is every other moral issue. Witness alone the debates libertarians have with each other over issues like intellectual property, enforcement of indentured servitude, abortion, etc. If theft were not open to interpretation, we would expect to see much less disagreement on these issues than currently exists."

But we all know what theft is, whereas the taste of ice cream depends on any number of intangibles. It's even likely that no two people taste ice cream the same way. While similarly, any two people will have different feelings about being stolen from, they will still agree on the fact of the theft. The issues you cite as being areas of disagreement over theft are actually disagreements over what constitutes property, not what constitutes theft. Once it is established that something belongs to someone, the unauthorized transference to someone else becomes theft. Theft is immoral because it violates the right of ownership.

Trust is not the same thing

Trust is not the same thing as morality. I trust that when I give a bank my money, I will be able to get it back sometime in the future - not because I believe that bankers are especially moral, but because it is not in their self-interest to steal my money, as that would give them a bad reputation and possibly lead to massive law suits.

So, you're suggesting if they could get away with it, without casuing those issues, that'd be OK?

Doesn't seem to engender much in the way of trust, overall, huh?

I don?t see how the experience of the Soviet Union supports your argument. The Soviet Union was not ?amoral?; they certainly believed that certain things were immoral (capitalism, for instance). And their problem was not a lack of morality - their problem was they lacked free markets to allocate goods properly and lacked a legal system that could provide people with the proper incentives for civil society.

To the contrary; they had plenty of free markets.. it's just that you had to be a criminal to partake of them.

I'm not arguing against capitalism... far from it. I'm suggesting without a basic morality, capitalism cannot exist for long.

The USSR had laws and law enforcement, but which laws did they have? The content of law is just as important as its existence and enforcement.

I'm going to amaze you here. We agree on this point. Background link since this is wandering a bit OT:
http://bitheads.blogspot.com/2004/07/what-is-purpose-of-government-anyway.html

No, it?s not a problem for

No, it?s not a problem for moral theories which identify the moral alternative with self interest. Catholic theology, for instance, would tell you that it really can?t be in your self interest to steal, that there is no way to escape the cost of sin.

True, when I used the term "moral theories" I was thinking about secular systems like utilitarianism, rational egoism, etc. Religious moral systems avoid this problem by postulating an afterlife and a omniscient overseer.

How can you seriously doubt

How can you seriously doubt that you would steal for some price when you recognize your subjective preference devoid of meaningful content?

When did I ever say that my subjective preferences are devoid of meaningful content? Just because they are subjective doesn't make them meaningless. My subjective preference to live a long, enjoyable fulfilling life is not meaningless.

I can imagine many situations where I would steal, even if I knew I was at great risk of getting caught. If I or my family members were starving or needed a life-saving operation, I might be willing to do so. But stealing only for the money, and not for any pressing need? I don't know. I don't have any signficant need for large amounts of money, and past a certain point, diminishing marginal returns kick in, so its not like continually increasing that amount is going to do much good. On the other hand, it doesn't seem like my aversion to stealing is infinite.

The issues you cite as being

The issues you cite as being areas of disagreement over theft are actually disagreements over what constitutes property, not what constitutes theft.

Fine, but that merely shifts disagreement to another term. Either way, there is much room for disagreement over the moral issue of what should be considered property and what shouldn't.

So, you?re suggesting if

So, you?re suggesting if they could get away with it, without casuing those issues, that?d be OK?

It wouldn't be okay with me, obviously, since I'd be out the money they stole me. My point was only that the reason I trust banks with my money is not because I believe that bankers are especially moral, but because it is not in their self-interest to steal my money.

To the contrary; they had plenty of free markets.. it?s just that you had to be a criminal to partake of them.

Um, that's a pretty big leap from the conventional usage of the term "free markets." The prohibition of X is a pretty good indication that X is not free. If X continues to take place illegally underground, it does not magically become free.

Disagreement does not imply

Disagreement does not imply that the subject of disagreement is subjective.

Disagreement does not imply

Disagreement does not imply that the subject of disagreement is subjective.

is the claim that there is some objective truth pertaining to a certain matter falsifiable?

Disagreement does not imply

Disagreement does not imply that the subject of disagreement is subjective.

True, but widespread disagreement, and the impossibility of falsification is a pretty good indicator of subjectivity.

Scott, is your self

Scott, is your self falsifiable? Could it be proven to you that you don't exist?

If not, does the fact that it can't be proven to you that you don't exist persuade you that your existence is subjective?

Micha, "True, but widespread

Micha,

"True, but widespread disagreement, and the impossibility of falsification is a pretty good indicator of subjectivity."

Is that objectively true?

Micha and Scott, Is it

Micha and Scott,

Is it objectively true that morality is subjective?

Is it objectively true that

Is it objectively true that morality is subjective?

No. There is no way to prove whether morality exists or not. Tomorrow, someone may very well develop a "morality machine" that can someone analyze a given situation and sense the 5th dimensional moral properties that were previously undetectable by all known sources. I don't see how one could ever objectively prove that morality doesn't exist objectively, only that statements about objective morality are essentially meaningless until a morality detection device is developed.

In other words, we have a lack of evidence for claims about morality apart from our subjective preferences. This lack of evidence doesn't prove that objective morality doesn't exist, but it does put the burden of proof on those who make the positive claim.

Tomorrow, someone may very

Tomorrow, someone may very well develop a ?morality machine? that can someone analyze a given situation and sense the 5th dimensional moral properties that were previously undetectable by all known sources. I don?t see how one could ever objectively prove that morality doesn?t exist objectively, only that statements about objective morality are essentially meaningless until a morality detection device is developed.

Interesting.
I take a somewhat different stance, that you may find worth consideration. That being that morality exists only within, and as a subset of, a culture. Which would tend to explain how things considered moral in one culture are considered decidedly immoral in another,a nd yet each can be a morality.

Micha: "There are some

Micha: "There are some differences. I don?t sympathize with people who choose to eat pudding even if I don?t like it. I do sympathize with those who have their property taken from them."

How do you know they don't like their property being taken? A good mugging might be just what they like to get their blood flowing in the morning. Even if you ask them, they might like to lie, too.

Is it objectively true that

Is it objectively true that morality is subjective?

nope.

Scott, is your self falsifiable? Could it be proven to you that you don?t exist?

sure.

"For someone who went on and

"For someone who went on and on about ?reality? and ?that which exists?, it?s painfully ironic that Rand focused so much on nonexistent morality and so little on actual, measurable economic consequences."

The complete destruction of modern society (outside of Galt's Gulch) and the return to the Dark Ages doesn't count as an actual, measurable economic consequence?

At any rate, if you can get away with violating someone?s rights and still reap the benefits of living in society, wouldn?t that be the way to go?

I would say no. If you know of a way to violate other people?s rights and get away with it, the fact that your society is still functioning well (assuming it is) is a result of other people not knowing about or not taking advantage of this method. If you carry it out and succeed, those other will either learn of your method, or find their motivation to refrain from it diminished by your example. Eventually, your example will become widespread and the value of living in that society will be diminished.

But won?t that happen anyway without your example? Other people won?t refrain forever. Yes, but you?ll enjoy the benefits of living in a good society for a while longer if you don?t start the ball rolling right now.

Of course, if this degradation has already happened, your society is screwed anyway and your own rights aren?t going to be very safe whatever you do. Time to fix the society or find a better one.

*poof*

*poof* <--- Scott

Damn, it turned my asterisks

Damn, it turned my asterisks around "poof" into bold tags.

I find it interesting that

I find it interesting that my subjective moral system is essentially identical to JTK's, while my understanding of the fundamental nature of morality itself is nearly identical to Micha's.

Here's a summary that might be helpful:

It seems that there exist two different forms of morality.

Subjective Morality: Things are "good" if they conform to my personal value system, and "evil" if they do not. An unpleasant consequence is that disagreements between myself and Stalin are essentially AESTHETIC DIFFERENCES. I find mass murder distasteful, Stalin does not.

Objective Morality: We can empirically derive objective morality if we define "good" actions to be those the Universe rewards and "evil" actions to be those the Universe punishes. An unpleasant consequence is that WEAKNESS can easily be seen to be the essential sin against objective morality and that STRENGTH and RUTHLESSNESS are usually objectively good. People like Stalin, Churchill, etc. thus are demigods under this definition of objective morality.

Throwing God into the mix doesn't get us away from the "might makes right" nature of objective morality. The supremacy of God's morality simply follows from his ultimate power.

Isn't living in a random and uncaring universe fun?

Throwing God into the mix

Throwing God into the mix doesn?t get us away from the ?might makes right? nature of objective morality

Hmmm.

TJ; I don't know as it can be properly said that 'might makes right', even with God in the mix, as you put it. Oh, don't misunderstand; I certainly agree that might has a tendency to try to dictate what is right, and it often succeeds, in the short-term. But unless it is right, might without right never wins out in the end, even though it does keep trying, seemingly.

It would perhaps be more accurate to suggest that right makes might... that power, in the longer term, tends to collect around ideas which are right. Which, to further the point I made earlier explains why some cultures thrive and others do not, in the long term; Morality, right and wrong, are as I've suggested, cultural concepts.

(Which seems to answer JTK's question, as well... there is no objective morality; it's all subject to both cultural perceptions, and within those, personal perceptions, as well.)

Say also, that it's taken humans millions of years to get this far along the path towards 'right'. So, the progress to that end is slow. But such progress, thankfully, does exist.

From a cultural perspective,

From a cultural perspective, "Right" usually involves murdering and robbing people outside the clan/tribe/nation, while refraining from murdering and robbing people inside the clan/tribe/nation. The ruling elite are the exception -- most cultures' morality tolerates their elite ripping off the masses. Hence "obedience to authority" as a cultural norm.

Our culture tolerates elite murder and theft very slightly less than most other cultures.

Soja: "The issues you cite

Soja:
"The issues you cite as being areas of disagreement over theft are actually disagreements over what constitutes property, not what constitutes theft."

Ghertner:
"Fine, but that merely shifts disagreement to another term. Either way, there is much room for disagreement over the moral issue of what should be considered property and what shouldn?t."

How is "ownership" a moral issue? I can see how ethics is part and parcel of obtaining and disposing of property, but don't see how merely possessing something can be either good or bad in itself.

I would like to get back to

I would like to get back to the question at hand, if people don't mind. We have a hypothesis. "Raising the minimum wage increases unemployment at the bottom of the labor market." We can be interested in the validity of this hypothesis for more than one reason, but the objective is to find a way to test it within the context of existing labor laws and attitudes.

Given that the government has claimed the right to declare that it is illegal to employ any person who is of less than a certain value to the employer, businesses have various ways of responding.

Most companies actually structure themselves on the notion that higher valued employees are more profitable than cheap placeholders. They well either select or train there employees to the point that the minimum wage has no impact.

Some companies will absorb the higher labor cost and make less profit. If the business eventually fails and its employees lose their jobs, the effect will not show an obvious correlation to the increase in the minimum wage. Other companies will pass the higher labor costs on to their customers. If this costs them market share and business eventually fails and its employees lose their jobs, the effect will not show an obvious correlation to the increase in the minimum wage.

There is one scenario I believe can be tracked accurately and informatively. Based on my experience in that business, the sales of labor-saving and labor-replacing equipment goes up with the cost of labor. I would think it should be possible to break these numbers out of available data, and correlate it to other variables. As with my rougher examples, the impact on employment will trail the increase in wages, but should now be identifieable. This will also allow the effect of overall wage increases across the scale. The labor contracts tied by a multipler to the minimum wage would be of particular interest.

"...but the objective is to

"...but the objective is to find a way to test it within the context of existing labor laws and attitudes."

Pick out a square mile, raise the minimum wage within it's boundaries to $50/hour. How is that not a valid test? If the minimum wage advocates are right you'll be doing tremendous good.

And you'll find out very quickly that they're flat wrong.

I would like to get back to

I would like to get back to the question at hand, if people don't mind. We have a hypothesis. "Raising the minimum wage increases unemployment at the bottom of the labor market."

Back when I owned and ran my own small business, at some point in the late eighties or early nineties, a mandatory minimum wage increase came down the pike. If I recall the raise was 75 cents. That put the low girl on the totem pole even with the two employees who had been there longer. Naturally, they wanted raises, too. I decided I could pick up the slack myself and let the part time worker go. I'm sure I put the savings in wage and matching taxes and social security, unemployment tax, etc., to good use. ;-)

Micha, I grieve for the

Micha,

I grieve for the intensity of you feeling on the matter of theft. Perhaps you can take one of Woody Allen's Existential Alka-Selzers (TM), the ones that remove the nausea that comes from too much awareness of life.

In fact, ethical subjectivists are the real ad baculum advocates in ethics, since they contend that their subjective preferences should be given value in the public sphere. (Those who do not are merely "ethical" solipsists)

Pick out a square mile,

Pick out a square mile, raise the minimum wage within it?s boundaries to $50/hour. How is that not a valid test? If the minimum wage advocates are right you?ll be doing tremendous good.

John, the argument of course here, once you boil it down, is that the existance of another way outside those boundires, pollutes their efforts.

They can't seem to understand (or at least admit) that the business going elsewhere under such conditions as you propose, constitutes a monumental failure.

As a parallel, consider Communism in those places it's been tried... and yes, we're talking about the same animal in vaired degrees... One of the major complaints we invariably see is that th free world caused the failure of communism simply by existing, and providing another way.

Of course here too... the idea that people are so desirous of that other idea/ideal so as to risk their lives to jump the wall through the barbed wire and gunfire and obtain it, constitutes an indication that communism is a failed system, doesn't complute with Communism's disciples.

And TJ:

From a cultural perspective, ?Right? usually involves murdering and robbing people outside the clan/tribe/nation, while refraining from murdering and robbing people inside the clan/tribe/nation. The ruling elite are the exception ? most cultures? morality tolerates their elite ripping off the masses. Hence ?obedience to authority? as a cultural norm.

If you really think this, no wonder you're about ripping down the culture. It is perhaps obvious that I think your estimation of the concept of culture to be at least misguided...