Minimum Wage/Maximum Growth

Robert D. Atkinson February 20, 2013
February 20, 2013

In his State of the Union Address president Obama proposed that Congress increase the minimum wage to $9.00 per hour. Almost immediately a chorus of opposition based on neoclassical economics emerged, arguing that such a change would kill job creation. As former Bush Administration economist Greg Mankiw notes, “there is 79 percent agreement among his peers that a minimum wage increases unemployment among young and unskilled workers.” But let’s be clear, what Mankiw really means to say is a 79 percent agreement among neoclassical economists. The neoclassical economic argument against the minimum wage is grounded in the view that if a worker and employer agree on a wage then this wage level must be welfare maximizing for both of them and by definition for society. The only thing a government regulated price for labor can do is distort labor markets and lead to less, not more economic welfare. In fact, a higher minimum wage would spur economic growth, while also increasing economic fairness.