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Are minimum-wage laws illiberal? Should employers and employees have the right to negotiate any wage they both consent to, even if this wage is very low?

June 17, 2010

Response from Eric Silverman on June 18, 2010
I would say that there are at least two competing values in contemporary liberalism: liberty and equality. Minimum wage laws serve to increase economic equality by eliminating the possibility that someone might get paid less than the 'minimum wage'. Yet you are quite right that minimum wage laws are illiberal in that they eliminate one's liberty to hire and work at a lower wage. On the whole, it seems like a worthwhile trade off to me. I'd also point out that this kind of liberty is less meaningful to someone who is so poor that they would be inclined to accept ultra-low wages out of economic desperation.... some of us would regard such a contract as 'exploitation'.


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