Karl Marx explains Walmart's pay rise

We've made this point before - the combination of full employment and a market economy is the workers' best friend. Entirely obviating, for example, the need for minimum wages. This being something simple enough that even Karl Marx managed to get it right, a useful example being this announcement from Walmart:

As you know, the President and Congress have approved a lower business tax rate. Given these changes, we have an opportunity to accelerate a few pieces of our investment plan. We plan to continue investing in you, in our customers through lower prices, and in our future--especially in technology to help improve your jobs and the experience for our customers.

So, we’re pleased to tell you that we’re raising our starting wage to $11 an hour for Walmart U.S., Sam’s Club, Supply Chain, eCommerce and Home Office hourly associates effective in February.

No doubt the tax changes have had some effect. It is usual to assign at least some - the amount open to argument - of the costs of the corporate income tax to the workers through their wages after all.

However, this does strike us as being rather closer to the heart of the matter, political announcements notwithstanding:

"Walmart would have had to go to at least $11 in many markets in order to retain reliable employees," University of Michigan business professor Erik Gordon said. "The tax cut made it easier for the company to swallow."

We'd be entirely happy with the description there, that Walmart wanted to do this anyway, the tax cut allowing them to do so. But then the underlying point is one that even Marx did get right. When there's that reserve army of the unemployed then employers don't have to share the profits, or any rise in them through things like productivity improvements, with the workers. For there are those unemployed who can be brought in to do the work. Either because more labour is required or because the current lot get a bit bolshie.

When there are no unemployed then the various capitalists are in competition with each other to find the labour they wish to exploit. That competition raising the price paid for the labour, that is, wages go up. Full employment really does mean wages rise.

It's worth noting that minimum wages have somewhere between little and nothing to do with this. The current Federal such is $7.25 an hour. Walmart already pays $10 an hour, from next month $11. Competition in markets is thus very much more powerful than legislation, no?