Sent: Friday, September 22, 2017 7:57 PM
To: walter block
Dear A: I can’t bring myself to agree with this analysis of yours, but I am in awe of its beauty. The aesthete in my cries out in congratulation to you for thinking of this way of looking at the matter. Why can’t I agree with it, even though I greatly admire it? Consider the following. A rams his car into C’s because A hates C and wants to damage the latter. He is clearly a criminal. B also rams his car into C’s, but he bears C no ill will. B’s infliction of damage on C’s property was totally accidental. Is B, too, a criminal like A? No. B is only a tort feasor. B owes C only an amount sufficient to make C “whole” again, but not like A, in addition, punitive damages, being subjected to very Draconian libertarian punishment theory. Now, consider the man on the street who knows no economics at all. He supports the minimum wage law, he votes for it, he urges others to do so. Why? Because he erroneously thinks that this law will actually raise the compensation of the poor and unskilled. The last thing on his mind is that it will create unemployment, or that fulfilling this law will unleash violence against those who disobey it. In my view, such a person is more akin to B, in my car story, than to A. I don’t think that people who vote for, support, etc., minimum wage laws are out and out criminals. They are just (invincibly) ignorant. This statement of Murray Rothbard’s is pertinent: “”It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a ‘dismal science.’ But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance.” So I ask, is the minimum wage supporter a criminal? I answer in the negative. Is such a person “irresponsible”? Yes, of course, he is. But irresponsibility is not a criminal offense.
Every time I teach an introductory microeconomics course, I start off by taking a survey of my mainly freshman students. I offer them the following choices.
1. The minumum wage level should be increased
2. The minumum wage level should remain as is
3. The minumum wage level should be decreased
4. The minumum wage level should be eliminated
5. The minumum wage level should be eliminated, and those responsible for implementing it should be imprisoned.
Note, I don’t offer these kids any other option, such as, “unsure.”
Here are the percentage responses I usually get.
5. 2% (these are from students who enroll at Loyola because they came here to study with me and are already an caps)
Should 98% of my ignorant freshman students be considered criminals? I find it very difficult to agree with your assessment. But, note, I share your outlook regarding those who are responsible for implementing such unjust laws, such as congressmen who voted for it (watch out Bernie!), judges and cops who enforce it, etc. I have published a bit on this:
Block, Walter E. 2018. “The case for punishing those responsible for minimum wage laws, rent control and protectionist tariffs.” Revista Jurídica Cesumar – Mestrado, Vol. 18, No. 1, pp. 235-263; http://periodicos.unicesumar.edu.br/index.php/revjuridica/article/view/6392; http://periodicos.unicesumar.edu.br/index.php/revjuridica/article/view/6392/319011:49 am on December 10, 2018 Email Walter E. Block