The Problem of The Minimum Wage and Economic Laws

Jonathan Garner
3 min readFeb 9

The federal minimum wage hasn’t been raised in over a decade. In fact, this is the longest period of time that the U.S. has gone without raising the minimum wage (as you can see in the chart above). When is it going to be raised again? I have no idea when it will be raised again, assuming it’s ever raised again.

Debate Dance
There are many types of arguments and objections that come up in the minimum wage discussion. One typical discussion goes like this:

Person A: “If you want to raise the minimum wage, then why do you only want to raise it to $15/hr? Why not $30/hr? Why not $1,000,000/hr? Huh?!

Person B: “I acknowledge that there are obvious limits, so you’re argument is silly. It’s attacking a position that nobody is defending.”

Person A: “But you’ve granted that there are limits, which is my point! Perhaps raising the minimum wage to $15/hr would do a lot of damage.”

Person B: “Perhaps it would do some damage, but not much.”

Person A: “Not much damage? You are doubling the minimum wage!”

Economic Laws

But my view is that we can sidestep all of these issues when it comes to the minimum wage, which is good because a lot of the discussion misses the forest for the trees. In other words, do you believe in supply and demand? If so, you can’t pass a government decree to perfectly fix the problem of someone receiving a low wage. At least you can’t do it merely by price controls, because that is what the minimum wage is.

I suppose someone could respond by saying that markets aren’t perfectly rational, so people aren’t always paid what they are worth. But this response seems to grant that the minimum wage isn’t doing a lot of work, especially because not many people are actually getting paid the minimum wage. In other words, the response seems to implicitly assume that markets are generally getting things correct.

Another response might be an appeal to inflation. In other words, since inflation goes up over time, then the minimum wage should go up over time. This response seems to be grasping for straws, however. For one thing, wages don’t just stay static over time — decree or no decree…

Jonathan Garner

Finance/Investing/Economics/Philosophy/Religion blogger. I’m also a Philosophy of Religion blogger: