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Minimum wage debate rages sans facts

By From page A11 | January 23, 2014

Editor’s note: This is the second in a four-part series on the topic of fact-free liberals.

Words seem to carry far more weight than facts among those liberals who argue as if rent control laws actually control rents and gun control laws actually control guns.

It does no good to point out to them that the two American cities where rent control laws have existed longest and strongest – New York and San Francisco – are also the two cities with the highest average rents.

Nor does it make a dent on them when you point out evidence, from both sides of the Atlantic, that tightening gun control laws does not reduce gun crimes, including murder. It is not uncommon for gun crimes to rise when gun control laws are tightened. Apparently armed criminals prefer unarmed victims.

Minimum wage laws are another issue where the words seem to carry great weight, leading to the fact-free assumption that such laws will cause wages to rise to the legally specified minimum. Various studies going back for decades indicate that minimum wage laws create unemployment, especially among the younger, less-experienced and less-skilled workers.

When you are unemployed, your wages are zero, regardless of what the minimum wage law specifies.

Having followed the controversies over minimum wage laws for more than half a century, I am always amazed at how many ways there are to evade the obvious.

A discredited argument that first appeared back in 1946 recently surfaced again in a televised discussion of minimum wages. A recent survey of employers asked if they would fire workers if the minimum wage were raised. Two-thirds of the employers said that they would not. That was good enough for a minimum wage advocate.

Unfortunately, the consequences of minimum wage laws cannot be predicted on the basis of employers’ statements of their intentions. Nor can the consequences of a minimum wage law be determined, even after the fact, by polling employers on what they did.

The problem with polls, in dealing with an empirical question like this, is that you can only poll survivors.

Every surviving business in an industry might have as many employees as it had before a minimum wage increase – and yet, if the additional labor costs led to fewer businesses surviving, there could still be a reduction in industry employment, despite what the poll results were from survivors.

There are many other complications that make an empirical study of the effects of minimum wages much more difficult than it might seem.

Since employment varies for many reasons other than a minimum wage law, at any given time the effects of those other factors can outweigh the effects of minimum wage laws. In that case, employment could go up after a particular minimum wage increase – even if it goes up less than it would have without the minimum wage increase.

Minimum wage advocates can seize upon statistics collected in particular odd circumstances to declare that they have now “refuted” the “myth” that minimum wages cause unemployment.

Yet, despite such anomalies, it is surely no coincidence that those few places in the industrial world that have had no minimum wage law, such as Switzerland and Singapore, have consistently had unemployment rates down around 3 percent. The Economist magazine once reported: “Switzerland’s unemployment neared a five-year high of 3.9 percent in February.”

It is surely no coincidence that, during the last administration in which there was no federal minimum wage – the Calvin Coolidge administration – unemployment ranged from a high of 4.2 percent to a low of 1.8 percent over its last four years.

It is surely no coincidence that, when the federal minimum wage law remained unchanged for 12 years while inflation rendered the law meaningless, the black teenage unemployment rate – even during the recession year of 1949 – was literally a fraction of what it has been throughout later years, as the minimum wage rate has been raised repeatedly to keep up with inflation.

When words trump facts, you can believe anything, and the liberal group-think taught in our schools and colleges is the path of least resistance.

Thomas Sowell is an author, economist and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

Thomas Sowell


Discussion | 27 comments

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  • Mike KirchubelJanuary 23, 2014 - 6:26 am

    Again, Tommy uses coincidences as if they were proof of some "facts" he wants to push. S.F and New York have high rents. Why? Tommy wants us to believe it's because of "rent control." Could it be that rent control came about because so many people want to live there in the first place? There is no rent control in Podunk, Iowa and the rents there are very low. Also, there are no jobs there. An equally valid point could be made that rent control creates jobs. Why not give us that theory, Tommy? So, there is no minimum wage in Singapore or Switzerland and they have low unemployment, therefore, according to Tommy's magical logic, the cause and effect is very clear given this one data point: minimum wages cause unemployment. Gosh, are there any other factors at work in these two places, like the local economy? Tommy couldn't be cherry-picking the data, could he? Tommy isn't suggesting that these two, far-removed places with good employment numbers are the only two data points on this planet without a minimum wage, is he? This guy is supposed to be an economist? Good thing he got a gig cranking out hit pieces for the wealthy, he has all the tools he needs to sway people with a low threshold for logic and precision, his audience, but he certainly isn't very good at correlating bits of information in any meaningful way.

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  • rlw and the Mike Kirchubel -- Pavlov's MiceJanuary 23, 2014 - 7:16 am


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  • http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ellen-brown/January 23, 2014 - 7:26 am

    Everyone truly interested in Saving our Republic ( The United States of America, for those of you in Rio Linda ) should vote for Ellen Brown for Treasurer of California.....Here is a list of articles by Ellen.....please educate yourselves and read them, then send her money and your time, please work in her campaign.

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  • George Jackson - You Gotta Have SowellJanuary 23, 2014 - 7:34 am


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  • Mike KirchubelJanuary 24, 2014 - 6:08 pm

    Podunk, of course is simply a writer's convention for a small, hick town. I'm simply making a point about Sowell's "methodology." Please don't convict me of "paraphrasing" Will Rogers incorrectly.

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  • CD BrooksJanuary 23, 2014 - 7:36 am

    For a Republican apologist to start a column with "This is the second in a four-part series on the topic of fact-free liberals" is disingenuous hyperbole. I wouldn’t waste my time reading further.

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  • Mr. PracticalJanuary 23, 2014 - 8:19 am

    CD, I agree. It makes him sound too much like Mike when he does the exact same thing with conservatives.

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  • Mike KirchubelJanuary 23, 2014 - 8:23 am

    Ahh, but the difference is that when I do it, it's not disingeuous hyperbole, it is the truth.

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  • "WHAT DOES IT TAKE" TO WIN your Love 4 Me...Mr. Sowell?January 23, 2014 - 7:45 am


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  • SavetheRepublicJanuary 23, 2014 - 7:49 am

    Mr. Sowell.....We need you to read the books Web of Debt and The Public Bank Solution ( Ellen is running for California Treasurer you know ) and No More National Debt by Bill Still and comment. I feel this is even more important than Combating the spreading Disease of Liberalism at this point in time.....Please consider doing this....Please are you a propagandist for the right-Neocons just like some people are propagandists for the left? Also if you are a very smart person tell us how to get rid of the Federal Reserve without the International Bankers crashing our economy....Should be a fun intellectual academic exercise for someone of your prominence and analysis abilities.....I find flattery and being polite are often times an appropriate approach....Do you agree Mr. Sowell ? ( please have a soul Mr. Sowell and respond to my petition ) Thank you.

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  • Mike KirchubelJanuary 23, 2014 - 8:00 am

    You're kidding, right? You act like this guy is some sort of political demi-god. You would be better off praying to Karl Rove.

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  • When you yourself (me) R in danger of being assassinated.....January 23, 2014 - 8:36 am

    maybe you do butter up the assassins.....But the assassin Karl Rove never, I would rather die. Why do you keep trying to make an enemy of me?.....I have done more on here ( if my posts are really showing up on the real Blog, all of them, and not being mirrored back to me ) then you expose the evil deeds of BOTH Republicans and Democrats.....See now you have made my angry ( a short Madness )...even though your book hints that 9/11 was an inside job...you will not come right out and say it....and yes the Clintons and the rest of the top Democrats helped with it also, not just the NEOCONS and all conservatives are not Neocons. You are about as bad as they are. You should tell me you are sorry. Actually I have been threatened with being slowly tortured to death, nailed upside down on a cross and skinned alive...and I am not joking.

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  • CD BrooksJanuary 23, 2014 - 8:44 am

    Of course you're joking. Nobody skins anyone alive anymore.

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  • @ CDJanuary 23, 2014 - 1:55 pm

    Are you a Mason?

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  • CD BrooksJanuary 23, 2014 - 4:39 pm

    I've done my share of concrete, tile and block work...

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  • @ CDJanuary 23, 2014 - 4:56 pm

    Do you enjoy your Turkey Vulture theme song?

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  • Puddin TaneJanuary 23, 2014 - 10:05 am

    Aw, that's cute, STR still thinks that Sowell reads the comments. Let's try this again: Sowell is a nationally syndicated columnist who has likely never heard of the DR and will most certainly NEVER VIST THIS PAGE AND SEE YOUR COMMENTS. Just like George Will and Bill O'Reilly will never visit the comment section and respond to you. Not sure why this is such a difficult concept to grasp. Also, he's a neocon shill who works for the neocon Hoover Institute, so there is a high risk of him being an Illuminati or lizard person or demon possessed soul, whatever works.

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  • SavetheRepublicJanuary 23, 2014 - 10:31 am

    You are the evil one....If Sowell sees this or not it was worth a try....the Media is all controlled by the Illuminati....some of the lower level minions are waking up, those that are not full fledged Satanists, Luciferians, Illuminati, those that recognize who they are really serving and the implications and horrors that are in store for all of us, as we sink into the decadence....Like MK-Ultra if some of the victims had not put their lives on the line, even after being tortured by our own Government...no one would even know about these secret government programs.

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  • Read this Book....January 23, 2014 - 10:39 am

    The Franklin Cover-up: Child Abuse, Satanism, and Murder in Nebraska by John W. DeCamp (Aug 16, 2011) if DeCamp had not written this book, how many more paperboys would have been kidnapped off the streets and sold into Satanic and sex slave networks......Google....CIA The Finders

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  • http://www.voxfux.com/features/bush_child_sex_coverup/franklin.htmJanuary 23, 2014 - 11:25 am

    and remember the Clintons and Bushs are actually friends ( they imported cocaine into Arkansas, were partners) and fellow Illuminists.....Obama is a creation of the Darkside of the CIA which works for the Globalist Bankers...Look at the child sex rings in Britain, Belgium, The Presidio.... Look at the Clinton Death list.

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  • Puddin TaneJanuary 23, 2014 - 11:08 am

    Ha ha ha, I am the "evil one"! I'll have to remember that when I go dust off my pentagram so I can make a goat sacrifice, or whatever it is we do. Let me try making my point again: making a comment here is not a good way to get in touch with Dr. Sowell, because he will never come here. You would have better luck looking for his email address on Standford University's Hoover Institute website, as opposed to doing the equivalent of talking to a table here. Since you're so good at finding all those wonderful links to Alex Jones and other conspiracy theories, I have no doubt you'll be able to find Dr. Sowell's email address. Then you can inundate him with your rants, instead of doing so here for an "unappreciative" audience.

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  • NO "Conspiracies" per say.....actually Facts about ConspiratorsJanuary 23, 2014 - 11:33 am

    You are a fraud yourself....anyone actually willing to look at the information comes to the conclusion that the Conspirators are real....and just voting for someone because they are a Democrat or a Progressive will not solve the problem, because the Democrats and Progressives are in on it also.

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  • U should check your bad self....Puddin TaneJanuary 23, 2014 - 12:05 pm

    I am providing information, it seems you are the one with your panties in a bunch....You are the one "RANTING" not me...calm down please, make your anger a short madness please. NUFF SAID

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  • Please have a peppermint....very refreshing!January 23, 2014 - 3:37 pm


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  • Puddin TaneJanuary 23, 2014 - 4:02 pm

    Not anger, but bemusement. I honestly don't understand how someone can believe those "theories" which have little to no evidence behind them, specifically when the ignore the fact that operating a NWO would require a ridiculous amount of manpower, making the logistics of covering it up impossible. The nice thing is that the people who do believe them are few and far between. Have fun with your conspiracy theories, I'm going to take a leaf out of RLW's book and ignore the mindless drivel.

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  • So you are one of those compassionate liberal types?January 23, 2014 - 5:31 pm


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  • Mike KirchubelJanuary 23, 2014 - 7:55 am

    Tommy gives his hit piece an apt title, he is absolutely debating sans facts.

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