American Elephants


Milton Friedman Takes On the Minimum Wage by The Elephant's Child

The do-gooders believe that by passing a law saying that nobody shall get less than $9 per hour (adjusted for today) or whatever the minimum wage is, you are helping poor people who need the money. You are doing nothing of the kind. What you are doing is to assure, that people whose skills, are not sufficient to justify that kind of a wage will be unemployed.

The minimum wage law is most properly described as a law saying that employers must discriminate against people who have low skills. That’s what the law says. The law says that here’s a man who has a skill that would justify a wage of $5 or $6 per hour (adjusted for today), but you may not employ him, it’s illegal, because if you employ him you must pay him $9 per hour. So what’s the result? To employ him at $9 per hour is to engage in charity. There’s nothing wrong with charity. But most employers are not in the position to engage in that kind of charity. Thus, the consequences of minimum wage laws have been almost wholly bad. We have increased unemployment and increased poverty.

Moreover, the effects have been concentrated on the groups that the do-gooders would most like to help. The people who have been hurt most by the minimum wage laws are the blacks. I have often said that the most anti-black law on the books of this land is the minimum wage law.

There is absolutely no positive objective achieved by the minimum wage law. Its real purpose is to reduce competition for the trade unions and make it easier for them to maintain the higher wages of their privileged members.




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