Jane is a retired lady in her sixties. Because her house is paid for, her health is good, and her expenses are minimal, Jane’s monthly Social Security check is sufficient to pay the bills. But last year Jane decided it would be nice to have a little extra cash, so she decided to start a home business.
Jane has always loved to knit, and the friends who have been the recipients of her creations have always raved about the beautiful sweaters and hats and gloves and socks she makes. So Jane began selling her creations online, and before long she had a thriving business with almost no overhead, doing something she loves.
Jane was happy, her customers were happy, and the folks who owned the yarn shop where Jane bought her supplies were overjoyed. So were all the people whose businesses benefitted from Jane’s increased income — the restaurant where she sometimes treated herself to a nice dinner, the dress shop where she splurged on some new clothes, the landscapers she hired to beautify her yard, and the furniture store where bought herself a new rocking chair. Everyone was happy.
At the end of her first year in business, Jane added up all the money she had taken in, subtracted what she had spent on materials, then divided the net by the number of hours she had worked. In doing so, she discovered that she had earned, on average, $5.89 per hour for her work.
At this point, should Jane have:
A) sued herself for failing to pay herself the government-mandated minimum wage;
B) had herself arrested and sent to prison for failing to pay herself the government-mandated minimum wage;
C) shut down her business and gone back to living on Social Security;
D) raised her prices so that she would be earning minimum wage, rendering her work unaffordable to some of her customers; or
E) shrugged indifferently and carried on business as usual?
Since no one with an IQ above room temperature would choose any of the first four options, the obvious answer is E. Now the question becomes: If it’s okay for someone to work for herself for whatever hourly wage she considers acceptable, why is it not okay for her to work for someone else for whatever hourly wage she considers acceptable?
Suppose Jane’s sister, Liz, wants to get a job. Liz’s husband earns a good income, so Liz doesn’t really need the money; she’s just looking for something to do now that her children are grown and moved out. Liz looks around, but finds her options pretty sparse; it seems not many employers are looking to hire a woman Liz’s age who lacks work experience or paper credentials. Liz finds only two people who are willing to hire her. One wants to employ her as a janitor in a day care center, a physically demanding and tedious job that pays eight dollars an hour and would require Liz to work nights, something she’d rather not do. The other potential employer is a friend of Liz’s who runs a small antique shop. Liz loves antiques and enjoys working with people, the shop is less than a mile from her home, and the hours would be perfect for her. The only catch is that the shop isn’t very profitable, and the owner can afford to pay Liz only six dollars an hour, which is illegal.
Please note that it would be perfectly acceptable for Liz to work in the shop as an unpaid volunteer, but not for her to be an employee earning six dollars an hour. If anyone can explain how this makes sense, I’m all ears.
Wages are prices: the price an employee charges an employer for his/her labor. Like prices, they should be negotiated between the seller and buyer, free of interference from government busybodies.
Interesting perspectives on the minimum wage:
Politics and Minimum Wage, by Walter Williams
Raise the Minimum Wage to $14 an Hour Using This One Weird Trick, by Ann Coulter
Minimum Wage Hike Attacks Young and Industrious, by Terence Jeffrey
Fact-Free Liberals, by Thomas Sowell
Conservatives and the Minimum Wage, by Linda Chavez
Obama’s Attack on Workers, by Arnold Ahlert
Be for Work, by Mona Charen