A deeply, deeply stupid debate

From a great piece by Kevin D. Williamson at National Review.

Right now, we are embroiled in a deeply, deeply stupid debate over whether to raise the statutory minimum wage to $15 an hour. (I write “statutory minimum wage” because the real minimum wage is always and everywhere $0.00 an hour, as any unemployed person can confirm for you.) Because everything in the economy is in reality priced relative to everything else, using the machinery of government to monkey around with the number of little green pieces of paper that attaches to an hour’s labor manning the register at 7-Eleven or taking orders at Burger King is, necessarily, an exercise in futility. The underlying hierarchy of values — the relative weighting between six months’ work washing dishes and six months’ tuition at the University of Texas — is not going to change. Prices in markets are not arbitrary — they are reflections of how real people actually value certain goods and services in the real world. Arbitrarily changing the dollar numbers attached to those preferences does not change the underlying reality any more than trimming Cleveland off a map of the United States actually makes Cleveland disappear.

…and then receive it back.

From John Steinbeck’s East of Eden—a book I’m trying, for the fourth time, to read through to the end.

It wasn’t very long until all the land in the barren hills near King City and San Ardo was taken up, and ragged families were scattered through the hills, trying their best to scratch a living from the thin flinty soil. They and the coyotes lived clever, despairing, submarginal lives. They landed with no money, no equipment, no tools, no credit, and particularly with no knowledge of the new country and no technique for using it. I don’t know whether it was a divine stupidity or a great faith that let them do it. Surely such venture is nearly gone from the world. And the families did survive and grow. They had a tool or a weapon that is also nearly gone, or perhaps it is only dormant for a while. It is argued that because they believed thoroughly in a just, moral God they could put their faith there and let the smaller securities take care of themselves. But I think that because they knew beyond doubt that they were valuable and potentially moral units—because of this they could give God their own courage and dignity and then receive it back. Such things have disappeared perhaps because men do not trust themselves anymore, and when that happens there is nothing left except perhaps to find some strong sure man, even though he may be wrong, and to dangle from his coattails.

NYT discovers that people respond to incentives!

Here’s a hilariously pathetic choice of words in the blurb of a New York Times piece published today.

It turns out that generous maternity leave and flexible rules on part-time work can make it harder for women to be promoted — or even hired at all.

“It turns out….” Please.

It’s as if this author has no idea this concept is frustratingly obvious to people who know how to think. Require companies to pay certain people for months on end who aren’t actually working for them, and those companies will avoid associating with people who qualify for such an entitlement.

Businesses and people respond to incentives, and thank God they do. In fact, things couldn’t conceivably be otherwise. This fundamental truth is key to underdstanding so much, yet so many refuse to believe it and instead hate those who do.

But I am glad this article was published. Please share it with those you know who are wrong about state-mandated paid maternity/paternity leave.

Scott Walker the socialist (on immigration)

Last month, Scott Walker explained to conservative talk-show host Sean Hannity that immigration policy should be based, first and foremost, on “protecting American workers and American wages.”

The next president and the next Congress need to make decisions about a legal-immigration system that’s based on, first and foremost, on protecting American workers and American wages. It is a fundamentally lost issue by many in elected positions today, is what is this doing for American workers looking for jobs, what is this doing to wages, and we need to have that to be at the forefront of our discussion going forward.

Presumably, he means that immigration drives down wages and hurts Americans in low-wage jobs. At least, that’s what any intelligent person should take away from such comments. I suspect he’ll deny he said all this in the coming months.

But even so, I’m not content to believe this is his actual view. That’s changed a few times in past years. For all the good he’s done in Wisconsin, Walker’s sure panders hard when faced with the prospect of a presidential campaign.

All that aside, though, what frustrates me most about this has nothing to do with Walker himself, but with the blatant, ignorant stupidity of such a view—the idea that immigrants drive down wages and hurt lower-class Americans and that we need government to make sure this doesn’t happen.

I’ve written about all this before after David Brat made a similar argument last year. He was just as wrong. I’m not going to rehash my whole argument here (you should read it, though), but here’s a few quick questions for Walker:

  1. Why is it bad that immigrants drive down wages? Isn’t it good to have a flexible and diverse supply of labor?
  2. Socialists have, for a century, made the same argument you’re making. Are they wrong? Are you a socialist on immigration?
  3. Instead of limit immigration, why not raise minimum wage by a few dollars? It will have the same effect—it will keep wages high and make many illegal immigrants virtually unemployable.

In case anyone doesn’t get me, I’m not arguing in that third question that minimum wage is good. Minimum wage is bad (as I explained here), and I think Walker would at least lend lip service to that idea. I only frame the question that way to show that Walker is all confused.

In this vein, here’s a great meme I came across today. Pardon the French.

Louis C.K. on

A new piece, and a great interview

Here’s my new piece at EnhancingCapital.com on interest-sensitive investments — a handy little read, I hope, for anyone concerned about how an interest rate hike might affect their portfolio. Then again, I still stand by my prediction from last December: The Fed won’t raise interest rates in 2015. Inflation is just too low. In fact, I don’t think raising rates in 2015 was ever a serious possibility when rate-hike-talk began last fall.

Switching gears…

Here’s great interview with some great thoughts on immigration (and other things) from someone who could very well be the next President of the U.S. At the least, it’s encouraging to know that someone running for president actually believes his message is robust enough to convince millions of people (i.e. Republicans) that they are wrong on a big issue (immigration).