Saturday, February 10, 2007

Arizonans discovering that the so-called "laws of economics" aren't right-wing propaganda

Way back in October 2006, before Obama was an outright socialist, when ugly talk of ILLEGALS dominated the comment sections of the local rags and soft-libertarian Jim Kolbe was still my congressman--a long time ago, in other words, I remarked that, if Arizonans passed a minimum wage increase,
Teenagers, those coming off the welfare rolls, and those in transition between occupationss--none of whom are represented in the AFL/CIO--will be hurt most of all, albeit in a manner invisible to all but the professional economist.

I was wrong. The effects are so obvious that the Arizona Republic reports them without surprise or false sense of irony. Of course teenagers are finding less work. And of course the developmentally disabled are finding themselves unemployable.

The Arizona Industrial Commission, for its part, asked Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard to say it ain't so, that the voters couldn't have meant to raise everyone's wage, that after all, the Federal minimum wage doesn't apply to the disabled! (The voters couldn't have meant to approve the union spying provisions, but that's another matter altogether.) Unfortunately, Goddard got this right; the new state law supersedes Federal law.

Of course, the voters meant it. A minimum wage law is, plain and simple, a ban on selling one's labor for less than a prescribed amount. The economic effects--fewer employment opportunities at the margin--have been well-understood for years, and a vote in favor of such a measure means either (A) the voter doesn't know and doesn't care to know, or (B) knows and doesn't care.

The legislature is trying to fix this; HB 2318 would amend the law to create an exception, subjecting the disabled solely to Federal minimum wage laws. Such a remedy, however, would likely be thwarted by the stipulation that amendments to ballot initiatives must "further their purpose". If the purpose of the minimum wage law is to make the state Candyland or a worker's paradise, (now there's some judicial activism for you!) then that's fair enough. If it's merely a price control, then fat chance!

One of these days Arizonans, and Americans, may wake up and suddenly realize that price controls--and economic central planning in general--don't work, have never worked, and can never work. Until then our hope in this matter is that the legislature forces a special election and voters at least realize that driving the retarded out of work and onto the welfare rolls was a stupid thing to do.

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