The voters of the state of Florida passed a law which will result in a $15 minimum wage by 2026. The bill passed with just over 60% of the vote. Some will say this is a victory for workers’ rights and equality and fairness and all that blah blah blah. I am willing to bet it will be the opposite.
Full disclosure: I am a business owner. I have hourly employees. All of them make more than the current minimum wage. Not all of them are at or above $15 per hour.
I have a problem with the minimum wage that has nothing to do with how it may affect my business. See, I will treat payroll as I treat every other expense. I will pass on the additional cost to my customers. I hope they will benefit from the wage increase as well, because they’re going to pay more for everything they buy and every service they contract.
Actually, I take that back. I hope they don’t benefit from the wage increase. I hope they don’t see themselves as minimum wage people. I hope they believe in themselves a little more than that. And please don’t get me wrong. I believe there should be a minimum wage. I just think it should be a personal decision. Shouldn’t I decide what I’m worth? Why does the government get to decide for me? I would never do the work I do now for $15 an hour, but to some people that may seem like a fortune.
But, I would take a job working alongside Jeff Bezos for free. Why? Because I believe I can learn so much from this man. I would take so much from the experience that it would be worth more than an hourly wage or even a nice salary. I wouldn’t think of it as being exploited by a gazillionaire. I would think of it as a free crash course in capitalism. The thing is, Bezos would get in trouble for not paying me the minimum wage. Never mind my willingness, my eagerness, to work for him at no charge. Assume I was independently wealthy and didn’t need to get paid. The government would still not allow such an arrangement. Why? Because they want to protect me no matter how much it hurts me.
A government-mandated minimum wage cannot exist in a capitalist system. Not that what we currently have in the U.S. is capitalism. It’s crony capitalism at best. You can’t regulate a free market anymore than you can charge for a free lunch. It’s either free or it’s not.
There has always been a struggle between capital and labor. At best, it’s an uneasy arrangement. The problem I see with this minimum wage increase, aside from the economic impact on small businesses, is that it’s the culmination of years of government telling people what they are worth. You’re worth fifteen bucks. You’re welcome. There is no negotiation. There is no thought to the market this employee will serve. As an employer, I will use this to my advantage. I might think a job is worth $20, but if I can save $5 it would be irresponsible not to.
Recently, the government found a new way to tell people how little they are worth. It happened when the pandemic took hold, and people were labeled essential or non-essential. If the most important job of any government is to keep us safe from threats foreign and domestic, they have failed. We may have stopped the spread (we didn’t) but we instead have spread insecurity and depression. What better way to destroy a person than to tell them to stay home because the world will be just fine without them? Telling them they are worth minimum wage is almost as bad. The minimum wage could be $1,000 an hour, and it would still carry a stigma. It tells workers they are worth the minimum. It’s almost saying, I’m only paying you as much as I am because Big Brother says I have to.
We are worth more than that.
The views expressed by the author are his alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of anyone anywhere.
Adolfo Jimenez is the chair of the elections committee of the Libertarian Party of Broward County. He is an author, poet, and blogger. He lives in Hollywood, Florida. He has published eight books, which you can find here: http://amazon.com/author/adolfojimenez