The common error behind leftist economics
The central error of the economic policies of the mainstream American "left" seems to be a failure to consider how others will react to those policies and how those reactions will undermine the goals of the policy. Let me explain this.
Defining political left and right
Example #1: Minimum wage.
Equality is more important than fairness, so we should force employers (on the theory that they're wealthier than their employees which is isn't necessarily true itself, especially when you count debt) to pay their employees more than their labor is worth to the employer.
Not only does this harm the employer, it's likely to harm the worker too! If I want to hire someone for $10 an hour, and the potential employee thinks this is worth it for them, but the government won't let me employ them for less than $15 an hour, I probably just won't hire that person. So the result isn't necessarily low-skill workers being paid more but low-skill workers being unable to find jobs. (And hence of course more justification for "the poor are downtrodden in this capitalist economy, we need the government to help them!") If the minimum wage is below the value of the job to the employer but above the worker's best option elsewhere, it can result in the worker getting paid more, but to show that this is the case more often than not would take serious study, not just a moral appeal.
I should also point out that this concept seems inherently untenable because it can't be upheld consistently. What about a favor? Are you allowed to do someone a favor for $0 an hour? Or if there's some special case against 0, how about $3? What's the actual difference? What about children in schools, who work several hours a day and aren't paid shit?
School is slavery by the way
Example #2: Anti-discrimination.
In a world with a completely free market economy, being prejudiced would be a horrible business strategy. It deprives you of potential employees and customers and vastly harms your reputation. But leftists passed The Equal Pay Act anyway. Note what that means. Paying women less than men for the same work has literally been illegal in the US for 50 years. Keep that in mind when people claim women still face that systematically - it means either they're wrong or government intervention hasn't solved the problem.
The Equal Pay Act
You can't stop people from being prejudiced; but you *can* force them to hide their prejudice so they don't pay the natural costs of it as described above, to be prejudiced in more subtle ways and make up other excuses for their asymmetry, which, if anyone is convinced, will improve the reputation of prejudiced people.
But more sinisterly, discrimination being *illegal* actually discourages employers from hiring women or minorities because if they do they're at risk of being accused of paying them less and sued for it, and claims about such discrimination are often widely open to interpretation: note how the law uses language like "under similar working conditions". Who do you think's going to define what's *similar*? If I know that I could be legally punished because someone else's definition of *similar* doesn't match my own, I'm going to be afraid to take that risk.
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