Given the recent and wide-ranging discussion here on the PowerBlog surrounding the the minimum wage (Hunter Baker, Joe Carter, Jordan Ballor, Elise Hilton, yours truly), this short little video offers a nice overview of the seen and unseen effects of such an instrument.
To make its argument, the video assumes the worst about wage-setters, describing Edgar the Employer as Edgar the Exploiter: one who cares only about “making profit” and even dreams about paying his employees less. I have yet to meet such a miser, even in my dark days behind the McDonald’s fry vat, but surely he exists.
Edgar is no exemplar of what Lester DeKoster describes as “the art of executive stewardship,” rejecting a meeting of work and wage “bridged by morality, not mathematics.” Yet as the video illustrates, market competition provides a helpful corrective mechanism for sorting these things out, one that functions best when it is left to function.
Despite whatever qualms we may have with the “fairness” of this or that employer’s particular wage fixings, or with the market wage, at that, to bluntly subvert and manipulate these basic signals is likely to lead to even more disadvantage among the poor. Market signals may not serve as holistic or wholly accurate determiners of human value and worth, but as it pertains to wealth creation in the economic order — something well in the interest of the poor — they serve a central purpose.
Yet though competition serves as a constraint on such misers, we do well to focus more so on what economic freedom provides in terms of opportunity. Whether as employers or employees, we needn’t accept the minimum mindedness of Edgar and the powerless serfs of yore. We have the freedom and opportunity to do good.
If we are to stretch and transform the economic order according to the laws of Christ, reaching above and beyond the miser’s balance sheet, we would do better to get busy as workers, owners, entrepreneurs, and givers.
Treating prices as play things, on the other hand, is likely to leave many a Simon wandering.
(HT Don Boudreaux)
There is considerable debate in the public square these days about a number of issues that have significant economic components. Globalization, environmental protection, and aiding the poor are just a few. Decisions we make in our personal lives are influenced by our assumptions about economic realities as well. So how might mainstream economics connect with Christian values and principles?