This question of whether government should mandate a higher minimum wage is not a new one, says Curt Biren in this week’s Acton Commentary. In fact, it comes up in ancient Jewish texts — related to property rights, labor law and charity law:
Economists have studied the idea, but they often disagree on its impact. Some can cite statistics that purportedly show that there is no marked decline in employment. Others have data to prove that the imposition of higher minimum wages does reduce employment. The issue may seemingly not be resolved until we have sufficient social science data.
But there’s a deeper question. In mandating higher minimum wages, government is requiring that employers pay their lower-skilled workers more than they might otherwise pay them — and more than the rate at which those workers would be happy to be employed. Is this consistent with our traditional notions of justice?