Pathetic justifications for pathetic wages

slavery minimum wageWell, they’ve passed the youth rate bill… Certain workers aged under 20 can now be paid at 80% of the minimum wage; a pathetic $10.80 per hour before tax. This comes a month and a half after a living wage was calculated to be about $18.40 per hour.

One thing I’ve noticed from the Facebook arguments I get myself embroiled in… Every time a debate comes up about the minimum wage, somebody makes the same tired point: if you raise the minimum wage too high, employers won’t be able to afford to provide jobs any more, or people with no skills will be priced out of the market, or workers will be costing employers more than they’re earning them, etc.

That’s of course true, but all it shows is that that the minimum wage CAN be too high, it doesn’t show that (or when) it IS too high.

You can’t just point out that sometimes a minimum wage can be too high and conclude that NZ’s minimum wage in March 2013 is too high (or as high as possible).  That’s not an argument, that’s just pure ideology without anything linking the theory to the present real life situation, therefore it can have no bearing on the present real life situation.  An argument would need to demonstrate that this theoretical danger is likely to happen at current wage levels, here and now… using research and evidence from here and now.

In fact, the evidence shows quite the opposite.  In the terse words of Treasury: the fear about minimum wage increasing unemployment “has not been true in the past. The balance of probabilities is that a higher minimum wage does not cost jobs”.  Increases in the minimum wage have not increased unemployment in recent history (if anything the relationship is the opposite, though it’s not a causal one: minimum wage has been kept low and unemployment pushed up by poor economic conditions and neo-liberal economic policy).

If we accept that it is desirable to have a minimum wage, we accept that it should be high enough to provide a decent living, without being so high that it reduces jobs.  The only matter for debate is where the balance is.  The Living Wage research indicates that our minimum wage is currently failing to achieve that balance, but the problem is not that it’s too high for employers to pay, it’s that it’s too low for workers to live on (and, by the way, John Key agrees).

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8 comments

  1. keith ross

    so true, it seems to me that after being out of the country for over ten years the whole(almost)population has been struck dumb, Were people here always this stupid or is it a new thing? Maybe I just never noticed it before. But surely New Zealanders would never of protested in the south pacific against the French if they were as dumb as they appear today? Is it all the cowshit in the water? The media certainly are now catering for a reduced level of intelligence. Do they know something that we do not? I give thanks to blogs such as your self to provide the few people like myself with reason and depth in events happening in our once fair nation. Keep up the good work.

  2. Shawn

    No, minimum wage laws are theft, and a violation of my right to sell my labour at any price I choose. When the State tells me what I can and cannot do with that my property and my body, that is real oppression.

    • calebmorgan

      You only have property because the State establishes and defends property rights through law and (ultimately) threat of violence. So it’s a fallacy (and an ideological one) to naturalise “my property” and put it on the same level as “my body.” I seem to remember we talked about this when we met Shawn.

      So with regard to your last sentence, it’s only fair that the state which giveth you property can taketh it away, or at least have some conditions for your having/using it – in practice there are very few such conditions. So property itself (and, e.g., the fact that you need it to survive, the fact that some have a lot more than others, the fact that social/psychological/physical health is directly and indirectly linked to how much of it you and others have) tells us what we can and can’t do with our bodies… and gives some people a lot more power/freedom than others over their own and their neighbours’ bodies. That is real oppression.

      • Shawn

        Property rights existed prior to the State, and in many societies with no State. Thus, at least in terms of history, that claim to me does not hold water.

        Property rights, as with all true human rights, derive from human nature. Human nature requires that we have certain things to survive, such as food, clothing and shelter. The necessity of creating these things simply to live is the real origin of property.

        Thus, the State does not create them, human nature does. So when the State falsely lays claim to them, it is merely stealing. And all theft is morally wrong. In doing so the State uses violence, meaning the initiation of force. Minimum wage laws are a form of violence.

      • Shawn

        For more on that subject by better minds than mine; Tibor Machan, ‘The Right to Private Property’ and Tara Smith, ‘Moral Rights & Political Freedom’.

      • Shawn

        All rights are defended through the threat of violence, no matter how a community or society are organized, with or without a State. Without the threat of defensive force against the initiation of force, no person or community would be able to defend rights. Defensive force is a moral necessity, and unavoidable.

  3. Pingback: The parties and the facts on minimum wage | Cut Your Hair

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