The Conservative Case for Raising the Minimum Wage

The American Conservative is a “must bookmark” site for anyone interested in intellectually honest conservatism. If all you’ve ever known of conservatism is Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, TAC is a breath of fresh air.

As an example, they have not one, but two articles, written by Ron Unz and Noah Millmen, advocating for an increase in the minimum wage. Unz’s is a longform article of considerable dept, while Millman’s focuses on the highlights. I’ll focus primarily on Millmans article here, but you should read Unz’s for the full case.

Millmen’s focus is on income inequality derived from wage stagnation, something he credits as the financial crisis’ root cause:

In principle, any kind of “one-nation” conservatism has to care about inequality as such, and particularly about the weakness of labor’s bargaining power in most of contemporary America. Right-wing individualism is often conflated with a conservative approach to governance in contemporary American politics, but that conflation is a profound error. As a practical matter, I’m convinced that wage stagnation is the deep reason for the financial crisis. The Bush-era answer to stagnating wages was cheaper credit. That papered over the problem for a while, but it teed America up for a terrible crash. (Harper’s Canada, having dodged that crisis, may be heading for a similar crisis of their own now.) Avoiding a repeat requires fixing the structural drivers of widening inequality, and particularly means raising wages at the low end of the scale. In that context, a legislated rise in the minimum wage should absolutely be on the table for discussion.

He goes on to address conservative skepticism of this idea derived from over-relying on a particular ideology:

My larger point is this. Wage stagnation is a serious economic and social problem with far-reaching consequences. You don’t get to say “I don’t care about that problem” because your ideology doesn’t have a ready-made answer.[emphasis mine] That applies to free-market-oriented conservatives and client-service-oriented neo-liberals alike, because solving the problem is going to require solutions from the “left” and “right” side of the policy box, and these solutions may be more complementary than contradictory. Using government power to increase the negotiating leverage of labor in the market is more likely to increase wages without taking those gains back through inflation if business owners have more freedom to respond creatively to an increase in labor costs. Giving business more freedom to respond creatively to an increase in labor costs is more likely to result in gains to labor, rather than just increased rents for capital and the businesses that service capital, if the government acts to increase labor’s negotiating leverage in the market.

I hope this example gives you a reason to head over to TAC. In an age where many conservative outlets and think tanks suppress dissent and rely only on ideology, its great to have an place to go for independent thought (aside from here I hope!).

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3 Responses to The Conservative Case for Raising the Minimum Wage

  1. Pingback: The Minimum Wage, From 1928 To Now | Reason and Politics

  2. Pingback: Illinois’ Proposed Minimum Wage Hike: The Pros and Cons | Reason and Politics

  3. Thanks for the website. I have bookmarked it.

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