Friday, April 04, 2008

The first rule of holes 

Russ Roberts offers a reflection on Hillary Clinton's interview on Jay Leno last night, in which she uses a story of a child's telling her that his mom's hours were cut when the minimum wage was raised (video on Russ' post if you wish.)
She clearly thinks the story is emblematic of something important that needs to get fixed. What is it? Just when you help someone by passing a minimum wage, greedy employers ruin everything by lowering the hours. Well, we need to "fight" and fix that, too.

I wish Jay Leno had pointed out that the cut in hours was the result of passing the minimum wage--that it was as inevitable as gravity. I wish he'd said that the story showed how the minimum wage is a false promise of prosperity. I wish he'd pointed out that fighting isn't enough, caring isn't enough, that prosperity can't be legislated any more than self-interest can be made illegal. I wish Jay Leno had said that when you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is to stop digging.
Now I'm sure some will come to argue that minimum wage increases don't reduce employment, though the evidence from overseas pretty incontrovertible. But it's a harder argument to make on a day when payroll employment was just announced to have fallen 80,000 in March. "But King, you haven't controlled for other effects!" Neither did they. Post hoc for the goose is post hoc for the gander...