The Unz strategy

If nothing else, Ron Unz would win my admiration for his innovative and carefully argued treatises on anti-Gentile discrimination in college admissions and IQ-related topics.  For a long time now, he’s also been making the case for a large increase in the minimum wage (to $12/hour in his state of California).  A short summary of his argument is here.  An even shorter summary is

  1. Having wages so low that workers rely on welfare to survive means the taxpayers are effectively paying business’s labor costs for them.  If one is going to have welfare programs, there needs to be a minimum wage that keeps businesses from unfairly socializing their costs like this.
  2. Illegal immigration is largely driven by the allure of jobs at such low wages that only desperate third-worlders would take them.  Raise wages, and there won’t be jobs “Americans won’t do”, and businesses would have strong incentives to choose the now-available workers that they can legally hire.  Unz originally proposed his plan as the best way to dramatically reduce illegal immigration.

My own interest in the minimum wage stems from my commitment to the core principle of Catholic social teaching in industrial economies, namely that a man should be able to work for a high enough wage that his wife can be home with the kids.  (Even having the men away from home is not the Catholic ideal enunciated by Pope Leo, but it is the ideal compromise with industrialism.)  In a family wage regime, wages would be higher, and the labor pool would be smaller, because the only married women working (family businesses aside) would be those with some special career talent or ambition.  (And remember, we should not be designing economic policies exclusively for that minority of people with a passion for some sort of career.)

The question is, does raising the minimum wage automatically lead to the family wage regime, as most families choose the now available option of a father-only income?  Or does it just increase full family unemployment, with some families getting two incomes and some moving onto the dole?  Surely this depends somewhat on the cultural and legal environment (e.g. demands for proportional representation) and is a matter for careful thought.

Still, I am pleased that, for once, there is an idea on the table that conceivably might lead us toward a more Christian social order.  If you don’t think it would work, can you think of anything that would work better?

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55 thoughts on “The Unz strategy

  1. Unz originally proposed his plan as the best way to dramatically reduce illegal immigration.

    This assumes illegals come here to work. Illegals who come here to work are not a big problem. The big problem is illegals who come here to live on welfare, crime, hunting cats, gathering from dumpsters, and their girlfriend’s anchor babies.

    Let apply the Dubai solution to inferior races wanting to come here to work, which is pretty much the opposite of the Unz solution.

    • Illegals who come here to work are a problem when you consider the scope. For example, nearly every single back of the restaurant employee I have ever seen is hispanic and most are probably illegal. The effect of this kind of thing in every industry means wages for 85-100 IQ American will never support even a small family. These are jobs that could be done by black people. Can you even imagine a world in which non-elite black people actually have jobs? Can you fathom what that could mean for black culture and for America in general? (It might even lead to a world where elite blacks even have *real* jobs).

      Of course, the illegals are as much a symptom as a cause.

  2. Fiddling with the minimum wage is not going to encourage stable families with a single breadwinner. For that we need economic policies that preserve or create jobs well above the minimum wage, along with policies that ensure that decent families with modest incomes can live in decent neighborhoods with decent schools. What I see standing behind the Utz proposal is the appalling idea that, in the future, lots and lots of American adults will be working for the minimum wage. Minimum is the new normal. I say that we abolish the minimum wage and control the labor supply through border controls and tariffs.

    • Hi JMSmith,

      Many people already are working for less than $12/hour. While the idea that in the future most people will be working for a low legal minimum is frightening, I don’t see how Unz’s proposal would bring this about. Yes, there would be more people working for the new minimum wage, but these would be people who are right now earning less than $12/hour.

      Also, why in the world would we want to abolish the minimum wage?

      • The minimum wage excludes from the labor force classes of people who are too unproductive to justify employment at that rate. I’m thinking primarily of teenagers, but this might also include the mentally handicapped. I’m not advocating a system designed to keep anyone below, or even at, the minimum wage. Workers who improve their productivity should move up the pay scale, and in a properly managed labor market, they do.

        Many, many years ago I managed a unit in a federal employment program for unemployed youth, and this forever after colored my thinking on this topic. All of the youth we employed were unemployable. They had no skills, and to make matters worse, no discipline. What work they did was worth considerably less than the minimum wage at the time. Over time some of those young people developed habits that made them employable at minimum wage, and I sincerely hope that some of them went on to develop skills that made them employable at something much better than minimum wage.

        We had a homily some time back in which employers were exhorted to respect workers and “pay a fair days wage for a fair days work.” All well and good, I thought. But I also thought, why not round it out and exhort the workers to “give a fair days work for a fair days wage.” I’ve had plenty of crappy, minimum wage jobs in my life, and a few crappy employers who would have benefited from the homily my priest gave. But I’ve also supervised, worked beside, and (I’m afraid) sometimes been a crappy employee.

      • “Also, why in the world would we want to abolish the minimum wage?”

        They were introduced to America the socialist President Roosevelt; that is enough to warrant serious deliberation over whether they should be kept.

        Leaving ideology aside, the practical matter is that minimum wage laws harm those they purport to serve: the poor and unskilled. JMSmith has articulated this well.

      • Wm.Lewis:They were introduced to America the socialist President Roosevelt; that is enough to warrant serious deliberation over whether they should be kept.
        Leaving ideology aside, the practical matter is that minimum wage laws harm those they purport to serve: the poor and unskilled. JMSmith has articulated this well.

        When the minimum wage laws were first introduced in America, the union and Democratic Party proponents were very open that the purpose was to price the labor of black men out of the market.

        These days, the union and Democratic Party proponents of constant increases to the minimum wage rate probably don’t have such an explicitly racist goal; rather, their goal is to price the unskilled and low-skilled, regardless of race, out of the market. Of course, they are no longer so honest about that as they were in the ’20s and ‘30s.

        BUT, even if the intended goal were not to make the labor of the unskilled and low-skilled too expensive, such that no one is willing to hire them, for legally they must be paid more than their labor is worth, that is the effect of increasing the minimum wage rate.

        And, this humorous so-called “family wage” is the same – just a way to use State violence to price the labor of low-skilled persons out of the market, so as to artificially inflate the rate some other persons can demand of the market.

      • When the minimum wage laws were first introduced in America, the union and Democratic Party proponents were very open that the purpose was to price the labor of black men out of the market.

        That’s sort of true. The first successful, national minimum wage was passed in 1938, and this was one of its rationales. Of course, this represented a desperate and ultimately unsuccessful rearguard action by the heavily Catholic, urban unions. They were trying to defend themselves against the onslaught visited on them by capital in the form of the Great Migration which was then eroding and ultimately destroying both the economic and physical basis for the ethnic urban culture of the US.

        Blacks may have been victims in this fight, but the unions were not the bad guys. “You damaged my sword! You nicked it with your ulna, you rat bastard Democrat trade unionist!”

      • DrBill is wrong about the dynamic. The Irish were recent immigrant upstarts, while the blacks were American-born and had been in America for generations. Why was the Irish Great Migration across the pond somehow “good immigration” while the minor within-country migration North of American-born, native (by that point) American blacks analogized to a locust plague? I was under the impression that mass immigration of culturally different peoples was not favored so blatantly.

        Also, many employers preferred black labor as their experiences had shown the black employees to be reliable and do good work, which they did not find to be the case with Irish labor. This is all part and parcel of the historical record. The Irish were thugs pushing their way in, not the black, native-born Americans.

      • I think your timing is off here. The great wave of Irish migration was in the 1840s and 50s, and they were widely regarded as a very troublesome bunch. Blacks did not begin to move into northern cities until after the Civil War, and not in large numbers until after the turn of the 19th century. The need for labor during WWI and after the immigration restrictions of 1926 drew Blacks north in large numbers for the first time. Blacks from the American South were, in a sense, the last immigrant group to be drawn into northern cities prior to the resumption of mass immigration after 1965.

        If it is true that minimum wage laws were instituted in part to exclude black workers, the men who framed these laws must have supposed that Black workers were, on average, low-productivity workers who could not justify the wage. However, I don’t see how this would reduce competition for jobs for which low-productivity Blacks (or Irish) were not competitive in the first place. What it would do is is cause managers to replace two low-productivity workers with one higher productivity worker. Two slow floor sweepers making 30 cents an hour might well be replaced by one energetic floor sweeper making 50 cents.

    • @The Unreal Woman

      I think pretty much everything you said is wrong. In 1938 the Irish and the other urban ethnics were not an alien culture. They were the native culture in rust belt cities. There were still “old stock” Protestant neighborhoods, of course, but Protestants had started their drift into the suburbs some decades back, and the dominant urban culture in the rust belt was ethnic Catholic.

      Black sharecroppers were definitely an alien culture: to rust belt cities. The reason the Great Migration was likened to a locust plague is that it was like a locust plague. The reason that employers liked southern blacks then is the same reason they like Mexicans today. They were displaced persons with few community or government resources and no organization—this made them desirable bargaining partners. Furthermore, like Mexicans today, they didn’t seem especially likely ever to get their act together sufficiently to make trouble for capital.

  3. If you don’t think it would work, can you think of anything that would work better?

    You’re (ahem) reasoning like atheists (and leftists (*) and Darwinists and Freudians) do. It doesn’t whether anyone can “think of anything that would work better” — *all* such socialistic schemes will fail and will make things worse.

    How about this? Just leave people the hell alone to figure out how to run their own lives?

    (*) But then, Catholicism does seem to inculcate leftism, doesn’t it?

    • Yikes! Leftism? Maybe. Monarchy? Perhaps. Even post mil Calvinism seems to lead to theonomy, though. But the theonomists leaned libertarian. And Catholics have their distributarians. It’s a mixed bag. You mad, bro?

    • Spoken like a true liberal. Reckless obsession with personal freedom; utter indifference to virtue, justice, or community cohesion.

      Any sane economic attitude must deal with the problem of unequal bargaining power. In times of labour surplus (including labour surpluses engineered by corporations and their feminist and open-boarders, libertarian useful idiots), employers will have the power to present only very unpalatable choices for how the rest of us may run our own lives. Why should you pay a man enough to raise a family, when you can pay him half enough and force the man and his wife to both work for you for that same subsistence? Ah, and if the state were really willing to “leave people the hell alone”, why not force the man to give you his children into your workforce too? Think it won’t work? It certainly will if the alternative is starvation, as it would be if we “leave people the hell alone” and get rid of welfare. So, “leave people the hell alone” means the elites get their sexual perversions while everyone else gets slavery.

      • Bonald:Spoken like a true liberal. Reckless obsession with personal freedom; utter indifference to virtue, justice, or community cohesion. …

        Clearly, you agree with me that you are a leftist, and that this “great idea” is just recycled leftism – which is to say, it is utterly opposed to liberty … and to actual justice and actual virtue.

        Why is it that your leftist “social cohesion” must always come at the end of a gun? Why is it that you shills for leftism will never open your eyes and see the mass graves that must inevitably result were you ever to get you way?

      • utterly opposed to liberty

        Oh the horror!

        Why is it that your leftist “social cohesion” must always come at the end of a gun?

        Yes because capitalism came about through the nonviolent choices of rational individuals. Yep.

        Why is it that you shills for leftism will never open your eyes and see the mass graves that must inevitably result were you ever to get you way?

        How many have been mass murdered in the name of “liberty” and “individualism?”

      • What are we using leftism to mean, here? Was the European social order which prominently featured Benedictine Monasteries leftist?

  4. The minimum wage and the family wage should not be confused with each other. When a government imposes a minimum wage it reduces all workers to a single category and arbitrarily sets a minimum value upon an hour’s worth of labour regardless of the kind of labour or any other consideration. The idea behind the family wage is that a family should be able to support itself off of a single income. The minimum wage is a product of the kind of thinking that wishes to break down society into masses of generic individuals. The family wage is the kind of idea promoted by people who wish to preserve or restore a traditional social order based upon the family.

    • Hello Mr. Neal,

      I certainly agree that they are different in rationale. Numerically, a family wage is a minimum wage that’s too high to be justified on the basis of individualism. In any culture where families would rather live off one income, a high enough minimum wage will function like a family wage. Let us then not be put off by a word. If this proposal pushes us closer to a family wage, we should get behind it for our own, nonindividualistic reasons.

      • Hi Bonald,

        I was thinking also of the way in which the two kinds of law operate. A minimum wage law is in one sense simpler because it is applied across the board. A family wage cannot be applied across the board. It by its very nature distinguishes between men with families and people who are supporting only themselves and says that the former have need of greater income than the latter. This is a reason why a minimum wage cannot be used as a de facto family wage. To turn the minimum wage into a de facto family wage by raising it, you would have to raise the minimum wage to the level where a family can be supported by it. This would eliminate jobs drastically and make it much harder for the man who is just starting out with hopes of establishing a career he can support a family off of.

  5. If even the hardcorest Catholic blog out there basically gives up on Distributism without a fight because Industrialism is somehow totally necessary and cannot possibly be imagined to be different, then I guess I, who just support it for non-religious ideas but just for the basic reason that it comes accross as through and through _natural_, should not have many hopes of selling it…

    Guys, you basically preach medieval, pre-modern morals – so why are you so averse about medieval, pre-modern modes of production? Do you really think efficiency or wealth matters so much more than actually enjoying your job?

    Factories are one thing, but is there any reason a taxi cab should be owned by anyone but the driver?

    • > Guys, you basically preach medieval, pre-modern morals

      Yes, exactly.

      > – so why are you so averse about medieval, pre-modern modes of production?

      Well, there are several issues with that:

      a) They are not a core belief of Christianism, and they are not a core belief of western Tradition also, so they are not our objective
      b) They are not proven to work. Well, less effective production is indeed proven to cause social tension as it leads to a society being comparatively poorer than others, as for example the less effective Soviet centrally planned production led to its downfall. We wouldn’t want to repeat that.

      I’d agree that poverty leads to better morals in most societies, as rich societies atract liberalism like a magnet, but decreasing productivity on purpose is a rather nasty way to acomplish our objectives. I wonder how those rich emirates avoid getting infected with liberalism?

    • Shenpen writes: …”is there any reason a taxi cab should be owned by anyone but the driver?”

      Interesting thought. In Japan, where taxis are common, there are both companies and individual driver-owners; they are not a mutually exclusive premise. Let me think out loud, as it were.

      Why have both? Someone might want to get into the taxi-driving business, but not have the means to acquire his own cab. Going to work for a taxi company is a way for someone to get experience, and save money to buy his own cab.

      After years of driving his own cab, perhaps the driver wants to reduce the amount of time he has to spend behind the wheel; he might also think of his own experience, and give others the same opportunity he had. He buys a second cab and rents it out (as it were), taking a percentage, or simply charges a flat rate, or pays a set amount to the driver for his labor. Voila! Instant company. Success means that he can buy more cabs, hire more drivers, and—the Most Important Thing, the one that leftists of all kinds ignore—increase his profits.

      From employee to independent operator to business owner: not possible for everyone, but I simply don’t see a problem with the model.

  6. Consider also, that many illegals came here trafficked into slavery. Many are working to pay off the people they owe, especially those from Central America and China. Many Chinese restaurants are worked by people living in near slave conditions. I know this because I’ve seen it. Another problem is legal immigration from Middle Eastern and African hell holes. People are coming here with no English, no education, diseased, without employable skills. They are here to be burdens. The Bhutanese are here and not thriving. They are killing themselves. The church run refugee organizations think they are helping, but they aren’t. They are adding to the problem of poverty.

  7. My problem with the Unz approach (especially as immigration policy) is that I don’t think the minimum wage laws will be enforced against employers who employ illegals, or legal Mexicans for that matter. Right now, it is illegal to employ illegals. Theoretically, there are good incentives in place for trade unions and competitors to turn in illegal-employing firms. Are those laws enforced? They are not.

    Such laws will. obviously, be enforced against employers who employ white/black/asian citizens. This will make things worse. It will increase the incentive for firms to employ illegals since it will increase the difference in wages they need to pay to illegals vs citizens. It will also increase the incentives to participate in the “grey economy.” In the US and some other Northern European countries, it is typical for businesses to more or less keep one set of books, to more or less comply with the law, and to more or less pay their taxes. It does not have to work this way. It does not work this way in a lot of countries. If the incentive gets big enough, it may well stop working this way.

    “Conservatives” have this funny cognitive dissonance about “the rule of law.” They think it means that what some dumb piece of paper says causes compliance and punishment of non-compliance. The endless evidence that no such thing is true is magically bracketed by claiming that the fact that judges are not autistic enough is “the problem.” The fact that this has always been “the problem” and always will be “the problem” doesn’t seem to impress on them any need to change their bass-ackwards view of the rule of law.

    Letting in lots of illegal aliens to depress the wages of less skilled labor is US government policy. It is not stated US government policy, of course, but so what? The guys in Congress, the guys at the tops of the relevant administrative branch agencies, and their bosses in the business community want cheap labor. The writing on pieces of paper is going to change none of this.

    • That’s a good objection. Unz’s plan removes the incentive to hire illegals at legal wages. It actually increases the incentive to hire illegals at illegal wages. That at least would have to be suppressed coercively. Perhaps it would be easier to muster the political will for this, because the practice is so nakedly expoitative and because the guilt of the employer is absolutely certain. It’s possible to hire somebody not knowing he’s illegal; but you can’t not know that you’re paying him an illegal wage.

    • “It is not stated US government policy”

      Well, “not stated” to within a few inches of perfect clarity, sure, but, for instance, the Fed’s policy objectives sure sound a lot like deliberately impoverishing people in order to promote consumption over savings/investment.

      What always baffles me about the arguments peddled for mass illegal immigration is what obviously untenable bullshit they are. We had something like a zero-immigration policy for several decades during which lawns were still mowed and gardens tended, ears of corn still picked, grocery shelves still stocked, septic tanks still emptied, tables still waited on and dishes washed, toilets scrubbed, etc. We certainly did not have people dying of malnutrition because they couldn’t afford $17 bananas. Somehow, magically, the market found a way to lure people into these jobs that “nobody wants to do.”

    • Interestingly the great labor leader Cesar Chavez opposed illegal immigration on the obvious ground that immigrants would undermine native born union laborers. Chavez was also a devout Catholic, who while having a large family often practiced a quasi monastic life which would entail at times locking himself in a small room to pray and meditate in the same mold as some of the old Desert Fathers. He studied and often quoted the social thought of Leo XIII. He would also during his marches and protests insist on having a Our Lady Guadalupe banner carried in the front of the march.

      For more info see here- http://www.crisismagazine.com/2012/the-passion-of-cesar-chavez

      I think Chavez was much more of a “traditionalist” than all the so-called Christians found at the Von Mises, Acton and Cato Institutes combined.

  8. Raising the minimum wage is not the answer. It will only increase unemployment. If you think employment prospects for uneducated men is bleak now just wait till the minimum wage is that high. I wonder what will happen to the crime rate in that scenario? Our society needs to do a better job of guiding men and women and teaching them discipline and virtuous habits. It is not only due to lack of intelligence that people earn little; but, due to lack of virtues like promptness, work ethic, soberness, honesty etc. As our culture can no longer handle such a responsibility, the only option other than a nationwide conversion of hearts by the Holy Spirit; is to change the authority structures.

    Not every man is noble. This is a basic fact of our existence here. Our society’s insistence on the absolute sovereignty of the individual is the cause of poverty. Since not all men are noble; not all men are capable of handling the responsibility of absolute control over their own life that is required in a regime where liberty is the highest value.

    The leftist liberals answer to this fact is to create more federal programs administered by specialist bureaucrats. This is a cold, heartless, unhuman answer. This leads to fraud, misuse, unawareness of local particularities, and a lack of charity and empathy on the part of the administrators.

    The Christian answer to this is to place deserving, Christian, empathetic men in authority over men who have not demonstrated a nobleness of character. These men should place the welfare of their wards first and to use their authority to curb self-destructive behavior. In our society self-destructive behavior is permitted so long as it does not conflict with another man’s “rights”; but, in a rightly ordered society a man would not be allowed to destroy his and his family’s life inasmuch as this can be prevented.

    Now in order that the authority figure should be compensated for this effort, he should be due a portion of his wards labor; but, he should also have the responsibility of taking care of his wards in times of crisis. There must be recourse for those under authority in case of misuse of this authority and there must be ways for a man to demonstrate his responsibility to move up a station and likewise for a man who has demonstrate a lack of responsibility to be moved down in the hierarchy.

    Basically, feudalism needs to be reborn in order to have an ordered, just, flourishing Christian society with such a diverse set of peoples as we have in America today.

    • This excellent comment reminds me of a discussion at View From the Right. In a discussion called A New Way of Putting the Problem of Black-White Relations, about mid-way down, commenter Robert B. talks about how things were, and what happened in the aftermath of the Civil Rights movement.

      I remember very clearly the attitude of the older blacks—that they were being abandoned by their whites. Literally—abandoned by “their whites.” They believed that the existing system, whereby they worked for whites and the whites looked after them, was the societal norm. This included the purchase of birthday/Christmas presents, holiday foods, spare clothing for their children, etc. Blacks routinely bragged about their whites. My Nana even sent the brighter children of domestics to post-high school educational facilities. It wasn’t welfare or white guilt—it was simply understood that most blacks did not have the capacity to plan ahead, so their white employers did it for them. My father would have said that it was not racism and that he was not a racist—not even close. It was simply understanding the limitations of people.

      Once upon a time, society did organize itself much as Mr. Nowell discussed. Of course, we know what happened after the system was broken by liberals. We have only to look around to see it.

  9. @Bonald – I think this is an example of what I mean when I keep harping on the need for repentance *first*.

    The fundamental problems are not going to be solved by any trick, nor by stealth – they will only be solved (and they are trivially easy to solve!) on the other side of explicit repentance that states what we have been and are doing wrong, and the resolution to stop doing it, and clarity about what we are trying to do.

    Otherwise *any* measure, any changes to laws, rules, regulations or reforms, will be subverted and probably turned to the bad – there are innumerable ways that this can be done, far too many to guard against when there is the will to subvert – and it will be done so long as we have not repented.

    • Ah, but I am not calling for any subterfuge. If traditionalists decide this measure will lead to a juster society, I want us to advocate for it by openly stating our reasons–to restore patriarchy. We may certainly make alliances with people who support the policy for other reasons, but it would be worse than useless to dress up our position in secular feminist garb.

  10. Thomas More wisely warned against “a conspiracy of rich men seeking their own commodity under the name of the commonwealth.” Our elites are not wise enough or trustworthy enough to solve this problem.

    The rationale for raising the minimum wage and increasing immigration in a time of high unemployment is not clear to me. The minimum wage should not be confused with the family wage. The minimum wage may be seen as a starter wage for teenagers, etc. If raising the minimum wage increases unemployment, that does not help families.

    Consider the following considerations, which remind me why economics is called the dismal science.

    In principle, at a low enough wage, the labor market should clear. Likewise, at a high enough wage, even the hard and dangerous jobs will be filled.

    Once we allowed a free flow of goods and capital across national boundaries, the pressures for a free low of labor would inevitably mount.

    A national welfare state is incompatible with open borders.

  11. Consider the Dubai solution;

    no one comes in, except they have money or a job.

    If coming in for a job, employer must put up a deposit to cover the costs of throwing them out.

    If fired for cause, out, if excessively poor for an unreasonably long time, out, if causes any problem, out.

    • Indeed, I have a secret admiration of the arabs when I read about Dubai & Emirates. But then I read about car bombs in Irak and Taliban decapitating people in Syria & Pakistan and my admiration vanishes.

  12. Sigh. Look, I live in a part of the country where the minimum wage is over 9$/hr (it is heading for about 10/hr in another year or so, it rises most years because it’s indexed to reported inflation). Entry-level jobs are generally expected to offer 10-12/hr. Guess what?

    We don’t have a family wage paradise. We have a low-end labor shortage and a high cost of living, and we have a lot of workers who make 15 or more per hour when they do bother to take a job and complain that it’s a pittance because they can’t buy a house on that. We have a huge shortage in personal and household services because nobody wants to do manual labor or be self-employed for what amounts to 50-60-70k/yr. since it doesn’t involve sitting at a desk and being in meetings all day No, everyone wants a “good job” with lavish benefits that are multiples of the wage paid where they have no responsibility but plenty of privilege and if they can’t have that (which obviously they can’t, nowhere near enough of those to go around), they won’t work.

    We also have a thriving trade in illegal free labor and below-minimum wage labor. The illegal free labor is things like restaurants demanding multiple “trial” shifts for 0$ tips or pay and relying on people simply never reporting them (they don’t). The undercutting labor is generally ethnic-groups not paying their fellow-ethnics very much and pocketing the difference to have a “competitive advantage”.

    That’s just a very small sketch of what the wage picture looks like for the people who aren’t programmers/IT workers, government employees, union workers, or environmental NGO employees. Jacking the lower end wage to the moon doesn’t do much for the industrious but not very bright worker. It just makes life more expensive and harder for such people.

    The kleptocracy and corruption is rampant, horrible and wastes billions of local and state tax money in graft.

    • This is a good point. I’ve deliberately called the family wage the “ideal compromise with industrialism”, but certainly not the ideal Christian order itself. This point needed to be better emphasized, so thank you.

  13. Some commenters are worrying about increased unemployment. And it is certainly true that, at least for small changes, with labour as with anything else, a price floor above the market rate will lead to a surplus of labour/shortage of jobs. However, the beauty of the plan is that this is not necessarily bad. Proponents of the family wage want fewer jobs with higher wages. Getting people out of the job market is a feature, not a bug. The only question is whether it can be engineered that the desired people (fathers of families) stay. This would be a tricky thing to pull off, but not economically impossible.

    Furthermore, I suspect that the supply of labour is actually a very nonlinear and perhaps even nonmonotonic function of price. If wages are high enough, men will stop sending their wives out into the workforce, and the supply of available labour could actually decrease.

    • How is entry level or beginning work done, then? I mean, Germany deals with this by having genuinely useful apprenticeship systems and no blue-collar prejudices (and no minimum wage!).

      How would Americans, especially the poorer ones who have been sold the myth of a good, high-status white collar job as attainable for them and as the only ‘real’ work out there, handle this in a way less crazy than the current system?

      • Germany deals with this by having genuinely useful apprenticeship systems and no blue-collar prejudices

        I think a lot of Catholics are arguing for an apprenticeship system be it distributist guild, union or some syndicalist variation thereof.

      • It would be interesting to know if any work has been done setting up such a thing for real, for a specific industry or town. We have the existing trade union models to start from, flawed though they may be.

      • Uh, that’s a big old scam. I think the wiki talk should have some links about the controversy surrounding that corporation. It sounds good, but in practice they don’t pay people and it’s all very shady.

        At least with the Hutterites, you know what you’re getting into and you also get room and board.

      • I too am a bit ambivalent about some of the examples Distributists cite. Still they would also point to other examples like the Emila Romagna cooperatives which I forgot to mention. I think (especially in its early days) the Polish “Solidarity” movement provided a good template, though I am uncertain where they stand today.

      • I would also point out as well that many Catholics ranging from Hilarie Belloc to the Catholic Worker movement rejected minimum wage laws- not because they did not care about the poor but because they saw such laws as not going far enough. The answer to the poor’s problems was not more bureaucracy (whether corporate or government). The Servile State according to Belloc represented the coalescence of the capitalists and so-called reformers into mandating slavery for all.

      • Well I speak from the Catholic perspective. There may well be other non-Catholic sources I am not familiar with.

    • “Fewer jobs with higher wages” could have some advantages if the jobs were somehow parceled out in an ideal manner, for example, one per family. Realistically, that won’t happen, at least not any time soon. It would be politically impossible even if it were economically possible. We will see the continued rise of DINK families (double income, no kids), while millions will remain unemployed or underemployed. The psychological costs of being unemployed can be very high, and idleness is itself a curse.

      • Hi Leo,

        That’s what I worry about, too. If lots of families take more than their share, moving to a fewer jobs/higher wages regime would be worse than useless. On the other hand, among couples with low wage jobs–not what we think of as “careers”, and not the sort of things that anyone can seriously think women are “actualized” by–my impression is that many would like to let the mother stay home. The family wage is what would let them do that. The extra time, the ability of the family to partially break free of the market collective, has higher utility than two family wages. On the other hand, I also hear even professionals lament that they’d like to stay home and raise their own kids but feel like they can’t. Isn’t freedom wonderful?

      • Bonald@

        Although I disagree with you about the mechanism of raising the minimum wage, I’d like to see an America in which working-class families could lead a decent life on a single income. And since you’ve been taking a good deal of flak in the comments, I’ve tried to think of ways I might lend you some support. No brilliant ideas, I’m afraid. It does occur to me, however, that part of what we are wrestling with here used to be understood in terms of a distinction between the “deserving poor” and the “undeserving poor.” With the demoralization of social policy over the course of the twentieth century, these Victorian terms fell into deep disrepute (isn’t it odd how it has become immoral to be moralistic), but they still seem to haunt the minds of most people. We would all like to help the hard-working and decent young fellow who is trying to support his family under difficult circumstances, but we cannot seem to do it without at the same time handing an equal reward to the feckless sociopath who lives in the house next to his. It doesn’t help matters that the feckless sociopath has children, and we don’t wish to punish them, either (despite the probability that they will grow up to be feckless sociopaths).

        I’ve put my feckless sociopath next door to my hard-working and decent young fellow to make a point. One very large reason for the hard-working and decent young fellow to work overtime (thus neglecting his children) and send his wife into the labor force is to move his family away from the feckless sociopath and his ilk. I’ve lived in many neighborhoods like this, and presently live only a couple of blocks from one. They could be decent and inexpensive places to live, except they are, bit by bit, taken over by feckless sociopaths who play with firearms in the backyard at 2:00 a.m. and have a cauldron of methamphetamine bubbling on the kitchen stove. One way to help our hard-working and decent young fellow is to make sure that there are inexpensive neighborhoods that are also clean, quiet, and safe.

        I have one other very small idea to help out the hard-working and decent young fellow. Whenever we encounter a good worker in a modest position, we should tell the manager. In fact, if the worker is really good, we should tell the manager to give this young fellow a raise! Obviously this can’t help folks stuck in the shop or the back office, but in a service economy the customer has considerable say over who gets promoted and who doesn’t. And this is real social justice.

  14. I don’t happen to think that the minimum wage is a good idea, but posts like these are a valuable reminder of what separates us from the libertarians. We place God, family, and a strong social order ahead of commercial utility. We need not agree on the means to our shared ends, but those ends are important.

  15. The idea that the minimum wage should be a living wage or family wage is deeply flawed, not least because the minimum wage is earned by a tiny fraction of the workforce, between 1% and 5%, depending on whose figures you cite.

    Increasing the minimum wage further depresses the job prospects of the unskilled, and, worse yet, deprives those who most need it the necessary work experience and work habits that can lead to a lifetime of productive engagement in the labor force. Most teens, for example, bring nothing to the table as employees, and need to be trained to operate a cash register, stock shelves, bus tables, and the like. Many can’t even sweep floors so that they are clean! If the value of their labor is less than the minimum wage, not only do they not get the entry-level jobs that lead to something better, they also don’t get the habits—showing up on time, doing the job properly, doing as the boss says—that lead to further employability.

    As usual, the government is sticking its nose into areas it does not belong. As long as we can keep businesses from colluding to depress wages, we ought to let the market decide what labor is worth, not the government.

    As an aside, I will mention In-N-Out Burger, a California-based regional chain. They pay higher than the minimum wage, and as a result, get better workers than the national chains, who pay minimum wage (or less, I suspect, to illegal aliens). It is no coincidence that a majority of the workers in California fast-food shops are Mexican (or other Central or South American), including many adults, whereas most In-N-Out Burger employees are white, mainly in their teens or early twenties (in my experience, anyway; I have no figures to back that up). In-N-Out Burger’s restaurants are always clean and pleasant, the food is always fresh, and the service is good; I cannot say the same about the national chains (which I now avoid, precisely because they are so much worse than In-N-Out Burger). I bring this up to show the value of letting businesses set their own standards, and the effect it has on consumers/customers. If the minimum wage were increased enough that it came close to, or even surpassed, In-N-Out Burger’s starting wage, then In-N-Out Burger would have to increase their wages and pass that cost on to the customer, with all the negative effects that accompany such moves.

  16. While I share Bonald’s concerns about the difficulty of earning a wage sufficient to support a family on one income, I think that tinkering with the minimum wage is analogous to worrying about the size of the bandaid we should apply to the tiny superficial orifice of a deep and festering wound in our political order. If we are going to worry about healing the wound at all (versus either “enjoying the decline” or eagerly anticipating the Collapse and its aftermath), we shall have to get at the buried rot. What’s needed is maggots.

    The minimum wage is barely noticed by businessmen who are in a position to hire employees. What they notice instead is that, when regulatory, legal and tax burdens associated with employing are taken into account, their overall cost of employing the marginal worker is about 1.33 times as great as the gross wages the worker will earn, if not more. This doesn’t count the incredible cost and time suck of HR compliance; add that to the accounting, and you arrive at something like $1.40 to pay $1.00. Nor does it touch the taxes that the worker will pay on his income. All in, then, for a worker to earn a dollar to spend at the grocery store on milk for his kids, his employer is going to have to spend about $2.00. If the marginal hire doesn’t add value to the enterprise that is greater than that $2.00, it won’t happen. So, no employer is going to be interested in hiring low-value employees; the margin on doing so is grotesquely negative.

    In terms of their impact on the ability of an unskilled worker to support himself (let alone a family), these factors dwarf the minimum wage. But that difficulty, ultimately faced and paid for by workers, is the least of the problem. Employers would almost all *love* to have some more people on hand, because there is always more useful work to do than the available hands have time to do. If their cost of delivering a dollar of disposable income to a worker was $1.00, rather than $2.00, they would hire about twice as many workers as they now do (provided wages remained where they are now, which of course they would not). Think about that for a minute, and work through the consequences of such a change: demand for workers would soar, and so therefore would wages; so then would consumer spending, GDP, capital formation, capital investment, productivity, and social wealth.

    Will we get any maggots eating away at the mare’s nest of regulations and taxes that penalize employment? No. We’ll get more bandaids: more regulations that *force* employers to spend more on each worker, structurally depressing the demand for workers, and thus their wages. So, look for the onset of fever.

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