High minimum wages were designed to hurt minorities

By Rob Roper

With institutional racism becoming an increasingly discussed topic in Vermont, it is ironic that some of our legislators are again promising to pass a very high state minimum wage of $15 per hour. After all, the origin of minimum wage laws were rooted in institutionalized racial discrimination.

Rob Roper

Rob Roper is the president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Early minimum wage laws were adopted specifically to keep black laborers from competing on price — and winning — with their white counterparts. For example, around the turn of the 20th century, as Dr. Walter Williams points out, “On some railroads — most notably in the South — blacks were 85–90 percent of the firemen, 27 percent of the brakemen, and 12 percent of the switchmen.”

The response from unionized, white laborers was to first try to outright legally ban blacks from doing these jobs. When that failed, they settled for the next best thing: a high minimum wage to be applied equally to all. That may sound racially sensitive, but the motivation and the effect were to keep blacks unemployed. The motivations may have changed today, but the effects have not.

As economist Thomas Sowell, who also happens to be an African American, points out in his book “Discrimination and Discrepancies,” before the real impact of The Fair Labor Standards Act law kicked in “there was no significant difference in the unemployment rates of black and white teenagers in 1948, [each being around 10 percent]. …  After the effectiveness of the minimum wage law was restored by recurring minimum wage laws in later years, not only did teenage unemployment rates as a whole rise to multiples of what they had been in 1948, black teenage unemployment rates became much higher than the unemployment rate for white teenage males, usually at least twice as high for most years between 1967 on into the 21st century.” A similar story plays out for labor force participation rates.

The reason for this is that in a competitive labor market, employers face a real cost if they discriminate against minority workers: they pay more for labor than their non-discriminating competition. This creates a positive Darwinian dynamic of survival of the least-racist. But, creating an artificially high wage that all employers have to pay has the effect of removing that economic pressure to not discriminate, and actually enables a racially biased employer to let racial considerations drive hiring decisions.

People will — and should — say that hiring minorities for less than whites is a form of discrimination and an injustice in and of itself, and that’s true. But using the minimum wage as tool to solve this problem is counter-productive, exacerbating and perpetuating race-based disparities.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/sarahmirk/CC BY-SA 4.0

3 thoughts on “High minimum wages were designed to hurt minorities

  1. The beauty of being “progressive” is that you do not have to engage in critical thought nor consider any facts that might expose your fraudulent message. The “progressive” mentality is that you latch on to an idea, no matter how hare-brained, and as long as it SOUNDS good, as long as it SEEMS like you care about the victim groups you’ve worked so hard grooming, and as long as it gets you VOTES, well, you just reject logic and reason, and you insult and denigrate anyone who disagrees with you. As a “progressive,” your job is not to actually lift people up, it is not to actually show them the path to economic freedom, it is not to truly empower them. Far from it. It is to manipulate them and keep them dependent on their neighbors as long as they vote for your party. “Progressivism” is the antithesis of all that is decent and empowering and that rings of personal freedom. The Vermont legislative majority is the epitome of the “progressive” mentality. The reason I use quotation marks for each reference to “progressivism” is because it is a case where the far left has coopted a word that means the opposite of everything they stand for. No one who advocates for enslaving minorities to the whims of an omnipotent government can possibly claim to be for “progress.” The last thing anyone who calls themselves “progressive” wants is for minorities to engage in free thought. If you don’t believe it. see how the left-wing mob in the fake news has treated Kanye West for daring to venture off their “thought plantation.”

  2. The phenomenon described by Rob is well illustrated and discussed by Burgess Owens in his book “Liberalism or how to turn good men into whiners series and wimps”. A direct descendent of slaves, an NFL Super Bowl champion, man of G-D, and very effective teacher, Owens reveals not only why an artificially high minimum wage hurts the poor, especially poor blacks, but exposes liberal institutions such as Planned Parenthood (the “plan” is horrifying!); the connections between Margaret Sanger, early feminists, and the eugenics movement which set the stage for the rise of Hitler and Nazi Germany.

    His treatment of the issue of the black royalty elite as modeled by W.E.B.Dubois who loved the centralized unlimited power of the totalitarian state is revealing as is his review of Booker T. Washington, Dubois’ opposite, whom we should all learn from! No surprise, after reading his book, that BET, owned by white leftists, and NAACP would lead the charge against Kanye as they have been doing against Stacey Dash and Condolezza Rice.

    While exposing the left’s creation of and support for the urban plantation, Owens reinforces the ideal of black men being taught to treat their women well, as we should all be doing, of men learning to be gentleman and women being ladies.

    An excellent, timely and import book, in my opinion.

  3. Legislators that are pushing this $15 per hour boondoggle are just looking for a few quick votes. What this $15 per hour will do is push people back into unemployment as many small or medium-size businesses will not be able to sustain that rate of pay and will layoff or even close. Another Liberal feelgood policy, $15 per hour you were sold a pig in a poke.

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