Minimum Wages Exemplify Conflict between Government and Freedom

By all rights, in a free country, minimum wages shouldn’t even be something that a government at any level, city, state or federal, can impose and force to be legal. A minimum wage is an obvious use of force to restrict freedom of contract between consenting adults.

What kind of freedom exists when a third party, a government with guns and jails and fines, can legally interfere with bargains and exchanges in which both parties agree or else do not conclude their exchange? An agreement by both sides, settled freely without the imposition of force by either party, is what is meant by freedom in the context of an exchange.

How can any government pretend to be operating in a free country when it imposes minimum wages? It cannot. It has to be admitted by everyone who looks at this matter that minimum wages imposed by government destroy freedom. They are incompatible with freedom.

New York City has a minimum wage all its own as do some other American cities, states and the federal government. They all exemplify the conflict between government and freedom.

Today, the news is that New York City has “…passed the nation’s first minimum pay rate for drivers who work for ride-hailing apps…” The target company is Uber. My immediate reaction was “They shouldn’t even have this power over wages.” The VOX article on this new law goes on at great length, but nowhere does it question the institution by which such a power is contained in a government.

Our country is in a very bad way intellectually. A youngster who takes civics and history courses is bound to run squarely into a host of contradictions, such as that between legislated minimum wages and freedom. If the Constitution allows such a thing as a minimum wage, how can it possibly stand as a bulwark of freedom? If it does not allow such a thing, then how can a wrong Supreme Court decision stand and allow it? Either way one looks at it, one cannot wrap one’s head around these contradictions in any logical way.

If the Constitution is flawed so basically, why can’t we fix it? If it’s flawed so badly that it cannot be fixed, why do we still have it? If the Supreme Court makes such invasions of freedom legal, why do their decisions command respect? Why do we bother obeying them? Why doesn’t our government live up to its freedom rhetoric? Anyone with an ounce of sense who is faced with these contradictions and has the least bit of curiosity is going to raise dozens of questions that are directed at our politics and our government.

Demagogues mislead. A president can make a speech saying that full time workers paid the minimum wage are below the poverty level and that therefore the minimum wage should be raised.

Debates about the level of the minimum wage accept it uncritically as an institution, but the critical debate we’re not having is why government has the power to establish any minimum wage whatsoever.


5:33 pm on December 5, 2018