We like Don Boudreaux on this blog, we do. And this is a good example of why we do for Don has teased out, elicited, this observation:
Perhaps you’ve made this connection before, but reading all your posts about the minimum wage and global warming this morning, I was struck by the paradox in the proposed remedies for these two problems by politicians. The first problem is income inequality, and the remedy is to set minimum contract terms. The second problem is externalities from carbon protection, and the remedy is to tax output levels. In both cases, the solution is to raise firm costs. The assumption driving the policy prescription for a Pigovian tax on carbon is the idea that higher costs will spur innovation in ways of reducing carbon output. Of course, that private firms subjected to higher costs will innovate in ways to reduce those costs is precisely the problem with minimum wage legislation, as you point out. This is an obvious point, but my mind never made the connection before.
Yes, I know, people get fidgety when I extoll the virtues of the carbon tax around here. And an entirely different set of people don't like us pointing out that of course a rise in the minimum wage is going to have unemployment effects. They might be small, they might be large, depends upon the rise, but they will be there.
But what Boudreaux's done here is to make the connection to the two policies so obvious.
We want a carbon tax (OK, those of who do want a carbon tax want one because) if does indeed make clear to people the costs of emissions. This clarity, this rise in price, will lead, at least we hope it will, to people reducing their emissions. This is what Osborne and Cameron believe with having a minimum carbon price, this is what Ed Miliband believed about his own earlier plans and it's what the EU and Ed Davey believe about the whole idea of emissions permits and people having to pay for them. Raise the price and people will economise.
But exactly and precisely this logic must prevail with the minimum wage. Raise the price of labour and people will economise on the use of labour. It cannot be any other way, can it? And what really grates is the way in which some will insist on the logic being correct for emissions but flatly reject that it can be true for labour.