Andrew Terhune has an interesting letter in the New York Times. He was responding to a Times op-ed proposing regionally varying minimum wages as opposed to a national, uniform minimum wage. He writes:
their proposal for different minimum wages in a country with "hundreds of different micro-economies" is not only exceedingly complex but also avoids the fundamental question: Why have a minimum wage at all?
The New York Times itself opined in a 1987 editorial, "The Right Minimum Wage: $0.00," that the minimum wage prices the working poor out of the job market. It still does. But it's also about choice. Shouldn't adults have the freedom to decide the price at which they are willing to exchange their labor with other adults? If we are pro-choice, we should be supporting the right of adults to make choices in all aspects of their lives, personal and economic.
ANDREW TERHUNE, PHILADELPHIA
The response I've heard sometimes to this argument is that the power imbalance between a big employer such as Walmart or McDonald's and an individual entry-level would-be-employee is so great that it's not really a "free" exchange. On the other hand, you rarely, if ever, hear proposals to prevent poor or low-skilled individuals from shopping or dining or purchasing at these places. So it's a bit inconsistent that the paternalism and government protection only kicks in when an individual tries to earn money from one of these companies, rather than spend money there. They are both variations of free market transactions.