Blackadder’s Lair

The home of many a cunning plan

Who Protects the Worker?

In the comments to my post last week on the minimum wage, reader Matt Talbot posed to me the following question:

Blackadder, I’m expecting your answer to be characteristically parsed and lawyerly, but I’ll ask anyway: Do you think there is any imbalance in power between Walmart (say) and a door greeter or stocker that works there? If so, in your libertarian utopia who or what would protect the workers from abuse by management?

It’s a good question. Continue reading

February 24, 2009 Posted by | Capitalism, Economics, Just Wage, Libertarianism, Poverty, Work | 1 Comment

A Minimum Wage for Thee, But Not For Me

ACORN (the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) has been much in the news of late, as the group is being investigated by the FBI and by the state’s of Ohio, Colorado, Michigan, Nevada, Missouri, Indiana, and Washington for possible voter registration fraud. Some have claimed that ACORN is trying to swing the election in favor of Senator Obama via illegal means. Others claim that ACORN is a good group, unfairly maligned by Republicans desperate to distract attention from their own dismal election prospects.

My familiarity with the group dates from a case a few years ago in California involving the minimum wage. You see, in addition to its voter registration activities, ACORN is a big advocate and agitator in favor of living wage ordinances, which it has helped to pass in several localities. In 1995, however, the group sued for an exemption to California’s $4.25 an hour minimum wage, claiming that the law was unconstitutional (only as applied to them). According to the Court, ACORN sought to justify it’s position as follows:

ACORN contends that California’s minimum wage laws, while facially constitutional as supported by the compelling state interest of ensuring wages adequate to maintain a decent standard of living (see Industrial Welfare Com. v. Superior Court, (1980) 27 Cal.3d 690, 701), are unconstitutional as applied to ACORN because they restrict ACORN’s ability to engage in political advocacy. According to ACORN, this adverse impact will be manifested in two ways: first, ACORN will be forced to hire fewer workers; second, its workers, if paid the minimum wage, will be less empathetic with ACORN’s low and moderate income constituency and will therefore be less effective advocates.

Continue reading

October 22, 2008 Posted by | Economics, Just Wage, Work | 2 Comments

On the Atomic Bombings of Japan II

Today is the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. On the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, I posted the first part of what was going to be a debate last year between myself and Shawn of the blog Rerum Novarum on the morality of the bombings. Prior to the debate, Shawn and I agreed that the atomic bombings would be justified only if two conditions were met:

1) the bombings did not involve the intentional targeting of noncombatants; and

2) the bombings saved lives, that is, any alternative course of action would have resulted in even greater loss of life.

In my previous post, I argued that the first condition was not met. In this post, I argue that the second condition also was not met. Prior to the debate, Shawn had argued that the second condition, proportionality, had been met by the bombings, and had cited in support some figures on the high number of casualties (both American and Japanese) that could have resulted from a land invasion of Japan. I responded as follows: Continue reading

August 9, 2008 Posted by | America, History, Just Wage, Morality, Nuclear Weapons, War and Peace | 17 Comments

Two Ways to Help Poor and Low Wage Workers

Suppose that an employer pays some or all of his workers the minimum wage. If the minimum wage is raised, he might respond by raising the wages of his workers to this new minimum. But this is hardly his only option. Instead of raising wages, he might decide to move the jobs in question to a place where the minimum wage law in question does not apply. He might decide to automate the jobs, so that they are done by machines instead of workers. He might decide to lay off workers (or to hire fewer new workers than he otherwise would have done), and indeed he may be forced to do this if the higher labor costs imposed by the new minimum wage law render his business unprofitable.

To deny that an increased minimum wage law decreases employment is to claim that no employer would respond to an increase in the minimum wage in any of these ways, or that any employer who did respond in one of these ways would be canceled out by other employers who responded to the minimum wage hike by hiring more workers than they otherwise would have. This, needless to say, does not strike me as being very plausible.

This negative employment effect is one argument against minimum wage laws, but it isn’t the only one. Another common argument involves demographics. Minimum wage laws aim to help poor workers, yet they apply to low wage workers, and these are not always the same people. Around half of minimum wage workers, for example, are teenagers, many of whom, presumably, do not rely on the wages from these jobs for their daily bread. This is a particularly vexing problem for those who want to use minimum wage laws as a proxy for a just wage, defined as a wage sufficient to support oneself and one’s family, since a just wage will be higher for those with families than for those without. Continue reading

August 1, 2008 Posted by | Economics, Just Wage, Poverty, Taxes, Work | 1 Comment