How to Raise Unemployment

Raise the cost of labor.

See, labor, like copper or plastic, oil or stamps, is a commodity.  Businesses need commodities to operate.  Businesses see how much a thing costs, calculates value analysis and then buys some.  How much depends on that analysis.  For example, if copper becomes too expensive, business will try to find a way to use less of it.  Perhaps substituting for something else; a batter value.  Stamps too high?  Go to bulk mailing, or e-mail services.  So it goes with labor.

Why people don’t see this is beyond me.  For example, if we are interested in reducing unemployment, why don’t we mandate that all McDonalds have twice the current number of workers on each shift?  If one McDdude is good, certainly two McDudes is better?  Yes?

No.

See, at some point, more labor doesn’t mean more revenue or profits.  Now, at some point it does.  If I have to wait 20 McMinutes for my McBurger, I am going to walk out the McDoor.  Here, more labor would be worth it to the store.  However, once McDonalds has reached the point that it is servicing the clientele adding more labor doesn’t add up.  The cost doesn’t justify the return.  The simple truth is that the amount of labor someone buys is limited to the business model.  Raising the unit cost of labor reduces the units.  Or, increases the price of the widget.?

So, does raising the minimum wage increase or decrease employment?  In an article from the Wall Street Journal, it seems that studies show jobs will be lost:

There’s been a long and spirited debate among economists about who gets hurt and who benefits when the minimum wage rises. But in a 2006 National Bureau of Economic Research paper, economists David Neumark of the University of California, Irvine, and William Wascher of the Federal Reserve Bank reviewed the voluminous literature over the past 30 years and came to two almost universally acknowledged conclusions.

First, “a sizable majority of the studies give a relatively consistent (though not always statistically significant) indication of negative employment effects.” Second, “studies that focus on the least-skilled groups [i.e., teens, and welfare moms] provide relatively overwhelming evidence of stronger disemployment effects.”

Now, let’s continue to pretend that we don’t know, for sure, that raising the minimum wage will result in job loss.  Let’s instead use the Global Warming argument.  What if it’s just possible that it does?  Why raise it?  What is the upside?  And there, gentle reader, is the rub.  As far as I can see, there is no upside.  Very very few people actually make the minimum wage or less.  Almost none of them will be making the minimum wage in a year.  Most of them are from families with annual family incomes well well above poverty.  The fact is, there just aren’t that many people making the minimum wage.  And for those that do, they would rather make that amount than make the true minimum wage: $0.00.

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