Debate on the Minimum Wage Law

Letter 1

From: M
Sent: Monday, September 30, 2019 6:07 PM
To: ‘Walter E. Block’ <>

Subject: You

I found your style engaging, warm, and liked your examples, e.g., the snake ( Of course, I’m not sure the topic was the best; Of course, nearly all of who we are, including a desire for freedom vs security, individualism vs collectivism, etc are partly under genetic control.

At the risk of violating our no-libertarian agreement, since you and Bob mentioned minwage, for the moment, I’m curious to your current reaction to my perhaps clarified position on the subject. Of course, this, unlike the debate topic Saturday, has major implications for most libertarian versus interventionist positions.

I cannot get past my utilitarian belief that freedom is merely one factor, not necessarily a dispositive factor in deciding wise policy. And from my utilitarian perspective (what will do the most good for the most people,) re min wage, the net impact on humankind of a min wage, in my mind is a plus. Of course, some jobs are lost, lost to the biggest losers (dumb, unreliable, dishonest, etc.) But many more people who work for that minimum wage will remain employed as long as the minimum wage is continually titrated for optimization—e.g., Obviously a $50 minimun wage would drive many companies out of business as well as accelerate investment in automation and offshored employees. At the other end of the continuum, a 10 cent minimum wage would have too little impact on the zillions of workers who would be working for, say 1 cent an hour.  It may be that given other factors, that sweet spot might be $16 an hour in San Francisco but as the economy improves or declines, it would be adjusted.

The extra, say, $5 an hour, translates to $10,000 a year. For those millions earning no more than the min wage (disproportionately fast-food, restaurant, hotel workers, etc) that significantly improves their quality of life–e.g., no longer needed to decide between tomatoes and toilet paper, and not having to cut their medication in half to make it last longer.) In contrast, the decrement to the quality of the payer (the employer, the shareholder) is smaller.

Any chance you might agree with me here, or am I missing a more powerful point–from my utilitarian perspective. (There’s no way you can convince me that freedom trumps all other considerations.) I’d rather be a well-treated slave than an 80 IQ, low-motivation, mentally disturbed free person who’d have to rely on voluntary charity—and don’t point to those poor houses of the Dickensian era–That doesn’t strengthen your case, any more than arguing that if the West let Hitler do his thing, we might, net be better off. M

Letter 2


From: Walter Block []

Sent: 30 September, 2019 6:12 PM



Subject: RE: You

Dear M:

Thanks for your kind words about my presentation.

I think your error on the min wage is thinking there’s anything like a “sweet spot”; that the min wage raises anyone’s wage. Rather, wages are determined by discounted marginal revenue product, or, productivity for short. And, the min wage doesn’t raise anyone’s productivity; therefore, it doesn’t raise anyone’s wage. At least not in equilibrium. Of course, we’re never in equilibrium, but we’re always tending in that direction. See below for some basic readings on this issue.

Best regards,


Akihari, 2016; Batemarco, 2014; Baum, 2015; Becker, 1995; Block, 1987, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2014, 2015, 2018A, 2018B, 2018C; Block and Barnett, 2002; Boudreaux, 2015A, 2015B, 2016A, 2016B, 2016C, 2016D, 2017; Burkhauser, Couch, Wittenburg, 1996; Caplan, 2013A, 2013B, 2015; Cappelli and Block, 2012; Deere, Murphy and Welch, 1995; Ebeling, 2018; European, undated; Friedman, undated; Gallaway and Adie, 1995; Galles, 2014; Gitis, 2014; Hanke, 2014A, 2014B; Hazlitt, 1946; Hovenga, 2013; Howland, 2013; Klein and Dompe, 2007; Landsburg, 2004; Leonard, 2016; Lingenfelter, et. Al., 2017; McCaffrey, 2014; McCormick and Block, 2000; Mercer, 2015; Morse, 2018; Murphy, 2014, 2015A, 2015B; Neumark, 2015; Neumark and Wascher, 1992, 1995; New York Times, 1987; North, 2014; Parker, 2018; Powell, 2013; Reisman, 2014; Riebesell, Lalani and Block, 2017; Riley, 2018; Rothbard, 1988, 2015A, 2015B; Rustici, 1985; Salihu, 2013; Salles, 2019; Saltsman, 2015; Schiff, undated; Shaw, 2016; Sohr and Block, 1997; Sowell, 1995; Tucker, 2915;  Vance, 2005A, 2005B, 2019; Vedder and Gallaway. 2001; Vuk, 2006; Ward, 2016; Wenzel, 2013, 2015, 2017; Wiegold, 2014; Williams, 1982, 2013, 2014A, 2014B, 2014C, 2015A, 2015B, 2016A, 2016B, undated.

Akihari, Ferghane. 2016. “In Europe, Workers Use Minimum Wage Laws to Exclude their Competition.” July 13;

Batemarco, Robert, Charles Seltzer and Walter E. Block.  2014. “The irony of the minimum wage law: limiting choices versus expanding choices.” Journal of Peace, Prosperity & Freedom, Vol. 3, pp. 69-83;,+Prosperity+%26+Freedom&source=bl&ots=GjT4AhPz-j&sig=zEQLmFIvlHvsQH5Llp6cyIMFzbs&hl=en&sa=X&ei=JPZYVZO1JI_hsAS-0YGoBQ&ved=0CDsQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=Journal%20of%20Peace%2C%20Prosperity%20%26%20Freedom&f=false;,+Prosperity+%26+Freedom&source=bl&ots=GjT4AhPz-j&sig=zEQLmFIvlHvsQH5Llp6cyIMFzbs&hl=en&sa=X&ei=JPZYVZO1JI_hsAS-0YGoBQ&ved=0CDsQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=Journal%20of%20Peace%2C%20Prosperity%20%26%20Freedom&f=false

Baum, Caroline. 2015. “Caroline Baum Slams Paul Krugman (on minimum wage)” July 28;

Becker, Gary. 1995.  “It’s simple: Hike the minimum wage, and you put people out of work.”

Business Week. March 6. p. 22;

Block, Walter E. 1987. “Minimum Wage Law No Help to Unskilled,” Dateline Canada: Understanding Economics Through Press Reports, p. 37.

Block, Walter E. 2000. “Heritage Stumbles on Minimum Wage,” The Free Market, October, Volume 18, Number 10;

Block, Walter E. 2001. “The Minimum Wage: A Reply to Card and Krueger,” Journal of The Tennessee Economics Association, Spring;

Block, Walter E. 2002. “Delusions of rising wages,” New Orleans City Business, January, 28, p. 28.

Block, Walter E. 2015. “Abolish the minimum wage law.” September 6;;

Block, Walter E. 2014. “The Minimum Wage Law.” January 17;;;;

Block, Walter E. 2018A. “Reconsidering the Minimum Wage Law.” Journal Etica e Politica / Ethics & Politics, December; Vol. 3, pp. 571-580.; ISSN: 1825-5167

Block, Walter E. 2018B. “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;;

Block, Walter E. 2018C. “The minimum wage once again: critique of Sonn and Lathrop.”  Revista Interdisciplinar de Filosofia, Direito e Economia, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp. 1-8;;;

Block, Walter and William Barnett II. 2002. “The Living Wage: What’s Wrong,” The Freeman Ideas on Liberty, December, Vol. 52, No. 12, pp. 23-24

Boudreaux, Don. 2015A. “Dartmouth Remarks On the Minimum Wage.” November 17;

Boudreaux, Don. 2015B. “Noah Smith is no Adam Smith.” November 24;

Boudreaux, Don. 2016A. “The Cruelty of the Minimum Wage.” (Cartoon) January, 15;

Boudreaux, Don. 2016B. “A UMass Professor is Challenged: Should Economists Use Low-Skilled Workers as Guinea Pigs?” March 31;

Boudreaux, Don. 2016C. “Blazing Blindness in France.” May 26;

Boudreaux, Don. 2016D. “Considering the Government Policy of Mandated Theft by Workers.” September 12;

Boudreaux, Don. 2017. “Yes, Students Still Need Econ 101.” February 22;

Yes, Students Still Need Econ 101

Burkhauser, Richard V., Couch, Kenneth A., Wittenburg, David.  1996.  “Who Gets What From Minimum Wage Hikes: A Replication and Re-estimation of Card and Krueger.”  Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 49, no. 3, April, pp. 547-552.

Caplan, Bryan. 2013A. “Phase-In: A Demagogic Theory of the Minimum Wage.” December 5;

Caplan, Bryan. 2013B. “The Myopic Empiricism of the Minimum Wage.” March 12;

Caplan, Bryan. 2015. “Identificationists Beware.” June 10;

Cappelli, Peter and Walter E. Block. 2012. “Debate over the minimum wage law.” Economics, Management, and Financial Markets, 7(4), December, pp. 11-33;

Deere, Donald, Murphy, Kevin M., Welch, Finis. 1995.  “Employment and the 1990-91 Minimum-Wage Hike.”  American Economic Review. 85, no. 2, May, pp. 232-237.

Ebeling, Richard. 2018. “Freedom and the Minimum Wage.” February 13;

European countries:

Friedman, Milton. Undated. “A minimum-wage law is, in reality, a law that makes it illegal for an employer to hire a person with limited skills.”;,+in+reality,+a+law+that+makes+it+illegal+for+an+employer+to+hire+a+person+with+limited+skills.%E2%80%9D&source=bl&ots=oBhaVzo4_o&sig=tPYbXajMPWQADdFdRvvbUvPXsbs&hl=en&sa=X&ei=QoU4U-fSIKeisQTIyoGQBQ&ved=0CDwQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=Playboy%20Milton%20Friedman%3A%20%E2%80%9CA%20minimum-wage%20law%20is%2C%20in%20reality%2C%20a%20law%20that%20makes%20it%20illegal%20for%20an%20employer%20to%20hire%20a%20person%20with%20limited%20skills.%E2%80%9D&f=false

Gallaway, Lowell and Douglas Adie. 1995. Review of Card and Krueger’s Myth and

Measurement: The New Economics of the Minimum Wage, Cato Journal, Volume 15, no.1

Galles, Gary. 2014. “Cognitive Dissonance on Minimum Wages and Maximum Rents.” April 15;

Gitis, Ben. 2014. “How Minimum Wage Increased Unemployment and Reduced Job Creation in 2013” March 30;

Hanke, Steve H. 2014A. “Minimum Wage Laws Kill Jobs.” January 29;

Hanke, Steve H. 2014B. “Let the Data Speak: The Truth Behind Minimum Wage Laws.” Globe Asia, April;

Hazlitt, Henry. 2008 [1946]. Economics in One Lesson. Auburn, AL: Mises Institute;

Hovenga, Claire, Devaja Naik and Walter E. Block. 2013. “The Detrimental Side Effects of Minimum Wage Laws.” Business and Society Review; Winter, Volume 118, Issue 4, pp. 463-487;;,,;;;;

Howland, David. 2013. “Increased Minimum Wage, Decreased Economic Prosperity.”  November 16;

Klein, Daniel B. and Stewart Dompe. 2007.  “Reasons for Supporting the Minimum Wage: Asking Signatories of the ‘Raise the Minimum Wage’ Statement,” Econ Journal Watch. Vol. 4, No. 1, January, pp. 125-167

Landsburg, Steven E.  2004. “The sin of wages; the real reason to oppose the minimum wage. Slate. July 9.

Leonard, Thomas C. 2016. “Minimum wages were first designed to keep women and minorities out of jobs.” April 5;

Lingenfelter, Jonathan, Jose Dominguez, Leandra Garcia, Bryce Mayon and Walter E. Block. 2017. “Closing the Gap: Why Minimum Wage Laws Disproportionately Harm African-Americans.” Economics, Management, and Financial Markets; 12(1): 11–24;; pw: AddletonAP2009

McCaffrey, Matt. 2014. “IKEA’s ‘Minimum Wage.’” July 4;

McCormick, Paul and Walter E. Block. 2000. “The Minimum Wage: Does it Really Help Workers,” Southern Connecticut State University Business Journal, Vol. 15, No. 2, Fall-Spring, pp. 77-80

Mercer, Ilana. 2015. “Minimum Wage, Maximum Folly’ In The Ivy League.” May 10;

Morse, Brandon. 2018. “The ‘Fight For 15’ Crowd Is Now Protesting The Self-Checkout Machines Replacing Them.” April 10;

Murphy, Robert P. 2014. “Economists debate the minimum wage.” February 3;

Murphy, Robert P. 2015A. “The Minimum Wage ‘Experiments.’” June 16;

Murphy, Robert P. 2015B. “Robert Reich Shills for $15 Minimum Wage.” June 22;

Neumark, David. 2015. “The Effects of Minimum Wages on Employment.” December 21;

Neumark, David and Wascher, William. 1992. “Employment Effects of Minimum and Subminimum Wages: Panel Data on State Minimum Wage Laws.”  Industrial and Labor Relations Review 46 (October), pp. 55-81.

Neumark, David and William Wascher. 1995. “Minimum wage effects on employment and school enrollment.” Journal of Business Economics and Statistics. Vol. 13, No. 2, pp. 199-207.

New York Times. 1987. “The Right Minimum Wage: $0.00.” January 14;

North, Gary. “How Minimum Wage Laws Promote Racial Discrimination.” July 19;

Powell, Benjamin. 2013. “Krugman Contra Krugman on the Minimum Wage?” December 12;

Parker, James. 2018. “News With a Twist: Should Louisiana Raise the Minimum Wage?” May 5;

Reisman, George. 2014. “How Minimum Wage Laws Increase Poverty.” April 4;

Riebesell, Valentin, Robert Lalani and Walter E. Block. 2017. “The Effect of the Minimum Wage on Unskilled Labor.”  Journal of Leadership and Management, Vol 1, No 9-10, pp. 31-39;;

Riley, Jason L. 2008. “Does the Constitution Mandate Minimum Wage Hikes? A misguided court ruling ignores the history of labor laws intended to keep blacks from working.” July 31;

Rothbard, Murray N. 1988. “Outlawing Jobs: The Minimum Wage, Once More.”  The Free Market.  Auburn, AL: The Ludwig von Mises Institute, December, 1, 7-8;;

Rothbard, Murray N. 2015A. “On the minimum wage.”July 29;

Rothbard, Murray N. 2015B. “The Crippling Nature of Minimum-Wage Laws.” November 6;

Rustici, Thomas. 1985. “A public choice view of the minimum wage.” Cato Journal. Vol. 5, No. 1, pp. 103-131;

Salihu, Bardhyl N. 2013. “Bending the Laws of Economics.” February 19;

Salles, Alice. 2019. “Robots Ready to Scoop Ice Cream Jobs.” August 2;

Saltsman, Michael. 2015. “Minimum Wage Hike Forces a Nonprofit Restaurant to Close.” January 5;

Schiff, Peter. Undated.

Shaw, Chris. 2016. “Britain’s Minimum Wage Short-Changes Young Workers.” July 21;

Sohr, Kevin and Walter E. Block. 1997. “The Minimum Wage,” The Freeman Ideas on Liberty, November, pp. 681-682.

Sowell, Thomas. 1995. “Repealing the Law of Gravity,” Forbes, May 22; p. 82.

Vance, Laurence M. 2005A. “Minimum Wage, Maximum Intervention, Part 1.” November 1;

Vance, Laurence M. 2005B. “Minimum Wage, Maximum Intervention, Part 1.” December 1;

Vance, Laurence M. 2019. “John Morgan, the Minimum Wage, and Medical Marijuana.” February 19.

Vedder, Richard K., and Lowell Gallaway. 2001. “Does the Minimum Wage Reduce Poverty?” Employment Policies Institute, June.

Vuk, Vedran. 2006. Professor Stiglitz and the Minimum Wage.” September 4;


Ward, Victor, J. 2016. “The Minimum Wage Destroys More Than Jobs; It Destroys the Opportunity for Inner-City Youth to Learn.” April 6;

Wenzel, Robert. 2013. “The Wrong Way to Argue Against Minimum Wage Laws.” February 17;

Wenzel, Robert. 2015. “How Minimum Wage Increases Went Bad in San Francisco, Oakland, Seattle and Beyond.” June 10;

Wenzel, Robert. 2017. “How to Smash Slick Lefties Who Advocate the Minimum Wage,” July 23;;

Wiegold, Benjamin M. 2014. “The High Cost of Minimum Wages” May 30;

Williams, Walter, E. 1982. The State Against Blacks, New York, McGraw-Hill.

Williams, Walter, E. 2013. “Higher Minimum Wages.” February 27;

Williams, Walter, E. 2014A. “Politics and Minimum Wage.” January 8;

Attacking Those Who Can’t Fight Back

Williams, Walter, E. 2014B. “The State Against Blacks and the Minimum Wage.”

Williams, Walter, E. 2014C. “Embarrassing Economists.” October 21;

Embarrassing Economists

Williams, Walter, E. 2015A. “Self-Enforcing Discrimination.” March 31;

Minimum and Maximum Prices

Williams, Walter, E. 2015B. “Embarrassing Economists.” May 10;

Williams, Walter, E. 2016A. “Elitist Arrogance.” June 1;

Proof the Elite Hate the People

Williams, Walter, E. 2016B. “Compensating Differences.” August 2;

How an Ugly Old Man Can Marry a Beautiful Young Woman

Williams, Walter, E. Undated.

Letter 3

From: M

Sent: Monday, September 30, 2019 8:38 PM

To: ‘Walter Block’ <>


Subject: RE: You

Productivity isn’t the only metric that should count. As a utilitarian, I consider all impacts. Of course, raising the min wage doesn’t increase productivity. But it redistributes income in a way that hurts the employer less than it benefits the workers and that takes into consideration the many people who lose their job because of a min wage. In addition to the improvement in quality of life for the 90% of minwage workers (at say $15 an hour) who DON’T lose their job, there, at least logically, is a decrease in their malaise and in turn drug abuse, civl unrest, etc, with all those costs they impose. Then there are the values benefits: A society that refuses to give a minimum wage when there is growing “income inequality” is more likely to become dispirited overall, more likely to steal in various ways from The Man, and as we’re seeing, to vote for extremists like Elizabeth Warren, indeed all the Dems who are now super “progressive.”

What am I missing? M

Letter 4


From: Walter Block []

Sent: 30 September, 2019 6:53 PM



Subject: RE: You

Dear M:

We’re not talking what SHOULD count. That’s normative economics, ethics. We’re discussing positive economics, what DOES count. Economics is a science that examines cause and effect. My claim is that the min wage will unemploy, in equilibrium, ALL workers, EVERY LAST ONE OF THEM WITHOUT EXCEPTION, whose productivity is below that level stipulated by law. If the min wage is $2 per hour, ALL would be employees whose productivity is below that level will become unemployable. If it is $15 per hour, ALL would be employees whose productivity is below that level will become unemployable. If it is $150 per hour, ALL would be employees whose productivity is below that level will become unemployable. The min wage cannot raise the wage of a single solitary worker, unless it increases his productivity, and the min wage does not do that.

So, there is no trade off here. The min wage is not like a floor, raising the wage of some, and unemploying others. Rather, the metaphor is akin to a high jump bar. The higher it is, the more people lose their jobs, or don’t get any in the first place. If I raise the high jump bar from 4 feet to 5 feet, does this enable any high jumper to jump higher? Of course not. It merely disqualifies from the tournament those who could have exceeded the 4 foot limit, but cannot jump over the bar once it is placed at the 5 foot level.

Marty, if you want to continue this, please read a few of the items on this I sent you.

Best regards,


Letter 5

From: M

Sent: Monday, September 30, 2019 9:02 PM

To: ‘Walter Block’ <>


Subject: RE: You

At the risk of revealing my aforementioned modest interest in this, rather than reading up on it, my valuing time-effectiveness leads me to just respond to your points.

In our previous discussions on this topic, I pointed out a flaw in the argument in your most recent email (below): Many employers, in employing people, are CHARITABLE: That is they hire and especially retain people, even if the employee doesn’t earn his or her wage—Think, for example, of the millions of employees with physical or mental diseases and the employer can’t bear to let them go, if only in hopes of creating a workplace culture that makes quality employees stay on and, conversely, that doesn’t increase enmity from the other workers, which would lead them to work less and perhaps to steal, whether in money, product, or most often, time, from the employer–for example, the countless employees who do personal tasks (including surfing the Net) on company time.

The business I know best is my wife’s. She has 200 employees, some of which have serious diseases. For decades now, she voluntarily (not because of the ADA) accepts less productivity, often far less than their salary and benes, in exchange for kindness and the above mentioned side-benefits. M

Letter 6


From: Walter Block []

Sent: 30 September, 2019 7:05 PM


Subject: RE: You

Dear M:

I’m talking purely private sector, where firms go broke, in equilibrium, if they pay more than productivity levels.

We economists have no theory, whatsoever, about wage determination in the public sector.

I should have mentioned this before. My error.

Best regards,


Letter 7

From: M

Sent: Monday, September 30, 2019 9:21 PM

To: ‘Walter Block’ <>


Subject: RE: You

Even in the private sector, many businesses choose to reduce profit, raise prices, reduce shareholder return because of charitable instincts–the so-called triple bottom line. Even if not done out of charity, they benefit from positive media attention, avoiding unionization, customers who choose to buy from companies that are deemed “good corporate citizens” sell only fair-trade coffee, etc. Plus the aforementioned more loyal workforce.

Another reason that employers hire or keep employees who don’t produce enough to even equal their salary + benes, is that the employer has enough money to pay for an employee that makes his/her life even modestly easier. For example, most businesses could hire janitors who do a good enough job at $0 an hour—people crave work for a sense of meaning even if it doesn’t pay–hence all the people who do even high level work as volunteers. But employers are willing to pay even the highest minimum wage (yes, while some, as some restaurants in Seattle lay some off) because in most industries, low-wage workers represent a small fraction of expenditures. It’s just easier to hire who’s easily available. Plus, they get the charitable good feeling of redistributing some of the corporation’s significant assets to people whose lives will benefit from the extra $20 an hour than the corporation will suffer from the loss–I’d guess usually less than a penny of earnings per share. Or they simply raise customer prices an invisible amount or an amount that even if visible, is so small as to have trivial impact on their sales revenue.

For that penny per share or (whatever the trivial amount is,) the corporation gets lots of benefit from paying low-level workers beyond what those feeble souls could earn in the free market—Often near-zero or even NEGATIVE, and avoid all those resultant costs I mention at the beginning of this email and, as mentioned earlier: drug abuse and violence resulting in increased taxation and social unrest, if not massive, the disgruntled employee who shoots up the workplace.

Finally, there is the cosmic ethics of it all: There seems to me something INTRINSICALLY, cosmically wrong about forcing people who lost in the genetic lottery (intelligence, drive, health, who their parents are, what locale they live in) to live on $1 an hour, or frankly, even $15.


Letter 8

Dear M:

Thanks for sharing your further thoughts with me on this. I’m gonna let you have the last (substantive) word on this conversation.

Best regards,



2:10 am on October 18, 2019