In George Gilder’s fascinating book Life After Google, he makes this simple but profound statement: “In every era, the winning companies are those that waste what is abundant … to save what is scarce” (p. 56). In the case of Google, Gilder argues that Google decided to “waste” electronic storage space by giving it away for free (driving everyone in the world to their sites and services) in order to save what was most precious to consumers: time. And so Google became a one stop shop mammoth where anything and everything could be available in micro-seconds through RAM chips housed in massive buildings packed full of water-cooled servers.
My point here is to simply apply the true principle to states and free markets, and minimum wage laws in particular. When an employer/employee relationship is formed, this same principle that Gilder describes is at work in miniature. Each party is “wasting” what is in abundance in order to save (or gain) what is scarce. In the case of a fellow who has invented a widget, he might start out making the widgets himself and selling them, but if it’s a really useful widget the demand for widgets may come to exceed what he is able to make in the time that he has. In such a case, he has a scarcity of time and an abundance of money. In order for his company to “win” (in Gilder’s terms), the owner must waste what he has in abundance (money) in order to save what is scarce (time).
The fellow looking for work has an abundance of time (he’s unemployed) and a scarcity of money (obviously). So, a work agreement is basically a relationship in which abundance and scarcity are traded. The employer “wastes” what he has in abundance (money) paying wages to the employee in exchange for his abundant free time.
Now the point of this little economics lesson (offered entirely free, I might add) is that this is why minimum wage laws are actually hatelaws. Minimum wage laws hate the image of God, hate the way God has distributed gifts and treasures in different measures in different people and in different places and times, and they hate the freedom God grants to man to use his gifts and resources in the way he sees fit.
So for example, here in Idaho, Representative Sue Chew has recently introduced House Bill 55 in Boise. Her bill proposes to raise minimum wage to $8.25/hr in July of this year, to $10/hr by July 2020, and finally to $12/hr beginning July 2021. I would humbly suggest that we call Rep. Chew’s bill the Idaho Progressive Hate Bill (or IPHB, if you prefer).
First off, why are minimum wage laws so popular? Why do politicians mention this in stump speeches and introduce these bills, thinking that people will be impressed and excited? Why don’t these suggestions get people laughed off the stage? The answer is that people are greedy. People naturally want more money, and they don’t care where it came from. Actually, I think a whole lot more people might care if they knew that minimum wage laws simply are an organized form of theft. All governmental price fixing is governmental overreach, tyranny, and theft. But the theft is running in a number of directions, at a number of different levels. And since it’s mugging a number of different people, lawmakers hide behind the veneer of ignorance and compassion – but theft, even organized, legal theft is a form of hatred for all that.
Second, Christians should know better. Minimum wage laws are not only wicked, they are stupid. Why? Because they are bad math. You can’t magically create money out of thin air. You cannot demand that value appear out of nowhere. Someone has to pay. The business has to pay, and that means fewer employees, which in turn means more unemployed people, which in turn means families with less income, eventually resulting in more homeless people and broken families. Not only this, but the government demand that hourly work be worth a certain amount is a great way to make sure it isn’t worth that amount at all, which in turn effects actual productivity and outcomes. What kind of services, what kind of widgets get produced when people are assigned the grades before they turn in the test? In general, you’ll get the quality of work that is barely acceptable. If everyone has a guaranteed B plus as long as they don’t flunk, then you can bet that the class average is going to hover right on that D minus line.
Of course the cries go up that Christians should care about the poor, the minorities, the oppressed, the hourly wage earners. And minimum wage laws promise over and over again to help the poor and those at the bottom of society. But this is a pure fabrication, a complete falsehood. In fact, minimum wage laws only ensure that there will be fewer jobs for those very same people. Is it better for there to be 10 jobs at $7.25/hr (the current Idaho minimum wage) or 6 jobs at $12/hr (Rep Chew’s proposed end goal)? That’s the choice. Every time you hear “raise the minimum wage” you should think “less jobs for poor people.” Minimum wage laws do not help the poor, they oppress the poor. They are forms of hatred of the poor. Every form of price fixing, value by fiat creates inflation because the values are not based on real quality and actual supply and demand, in other words, not based on the real world that God made. Inflation is the other side of the oppression. As prices rise, the poor are even further impoverished. Not only are their fewer jobs but everything costs more because we elected government thugs who command it to.
In this way, we should think of minimum wage laws as what David Chilton called “institutional unemployment.” In Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt Manipulators, he argued that these laws mean that it is illegal for people who are willing to work for less than the minimum wage to sell their labor and illegal for someone to buy it at that price. In other words, the state has prohibited the free trade of one man’s abundant time for another man’s abundant money.
Minimum wage laws are classic bureaucratic tyranny. Who do you think you are to tell me what my labor is worth? Who do you think you are to tell some business man what it should be worth to clean toilets or flip burgers or write a computer program? And who are you to prohibit our free trade of the gifts God has given? How is that any of your business? Well… the answer is that’s the sort of thing people start doing who have a god-complex. They think it is their business because they think they can fiddle with the private affairs of free citizens and “help” them and “fix” their problems. But only the living God has the right to speak into private lives like that. It’s terribly ironic that we can watch Hillary or some other anti-life politician pontificating about government overreach when it comes to regulating or (gasp) prohibiting the murder of unborn babies, but they do not blink or miss a beat when it comes to the government interfering with wages and prices.
The name for all of this is hatred– hatred of the image of God. Christians must repent of supporting minimum wage laws and all price fixing and unjust taxation. They must repent of their bad math, repent of their greed, repent of their hateful “compassion.” But fundamentally, Christians must repent of looking to the state for blessing on our businesses and labors. Christ laid down His life and bled and died to set men free so that they could build free civilizations with free markets. But the State demands the blood of innocents so it can “save” the world through its tyrannical meddling.
And that’s a really bad deal.