Change in Position: A Response to “Should Minimum Wage Be Abolished?”

Bryce Dunio '22, Guest Writer

Over the course of my time at Dickinson, I have written several articles on various ideas and policies. Some have been generally respectful and thought-out, but others I would not deem as such. I do not regret them, as I would not be who I am today having not written them, but I do believe some were written hastily for the cheaper partisan points and through using half-baked ideas rather than being written in the pursuit of logic and truth. As such, I would like to revisit my first article, “Should Minimum Wage Be Abolished?”, and more or less argue with myself, or ‘the author.’

The author of this piece sets his argument afloat on the choppy sea that is the free market. This figurative sea is different for all of its coastlines, which is something the author correctly points out: that regions across the United States have vastly varying economies, populations, resources, and many other variables that lead to different costs of living. I believe his point stands and that having the same minimum wage for a rural town as you would Los Angeles is silly, but I disagree with the author’s answer of letting the market alone determine the minimum wage. 

Aside from being a choppy sea, the free market can also be seen as a beast. It does not hate or love, instead instinctually pursuing profit. In doing so the free market in many ways benefits society immensely through technological breakthroughs, providing jobs and developing land in the process. Good examples of these could be Silicon Valley’s inventing of products like the smartphone, which put a machine more powerful than the computers that sent us to the moon in the pockets of millions at an affordable price.

But the free market is a beast nonetheless, and beasts must be tamed. The corporate titans of the late 1800s did not brutally and bloodily break union strikes simply because they hated those workers; rather, those workers were obstacles in the way of the unchecked corporations’ instinctive pursuit of profit. The government failed to tame the beasts in the late 1800s, and it was several dozen workers who consequently paid the ultimate price.

This is where the author’s logic ends and his assumptions begin. The author essentially makes the case that wages would steadily rise as labor’s value and demand increases and would hold if they would decrease. He also invokes how Amazon willingly raised its own minimum wage and how Walmart has lobbied for a hike in the national minimum wage. I believe the author’s logic is sound in thinking that corporations do this to outmaneuver small businesses; after all, it is hard for me to see their lobbying as being out of kindness when they’re silent on their overseas sweatshops and child labor. However, he fails to see into a future with his own prescription. 

Without the federal government’s hiking of the minimum wage nationally as a blanket policy, these corporations – these beasts – in this case could no longer view hiking the minimum wage as a possible weapon to club smaller businesses with..

Ultimately, I believe the answer is to decentralize the minimum wage policy rather than outright throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Pulling this legislative pen from the hands of the federal government and putting it into those of the states, counties, or even townships and boroughs would mean those who know their living costs and situations would best address their needs. The author claims having no minimum wage would make the 21st century a time of “free markets and liberty,” but I would counter that if one wished to have both the fruits of the free market as well as maximizing liberty, the best tradeoff is to give localities the autonomy to best tame their beasts as their situations demand.