Should we support minimum wage laws? Several months ago a state representative from Delaware wrote an article in The Dover Post in support of raising the minimum wage. Obviously, a call for an increase implies support for the system. However, the minimum wage is an unjust, counterproductive attempt by an overreaching civil government to do what it was never intended to do. God instituted the civil government to punish evildoers, not fix prices. Romans 13:4 tells us that the civil magistrate has been instituted to “execute wrath upon him that doeth evil” (cf. 1 Peter 2:14).
I understand that some people think we will be helping the poor by having a minimum wage. However, a concern for the poor must never be used as justification for immoral behavior. Additionally, as I explain below in a letter to the editor of the Delaware State News, minimum wage laws actually end up hurting the low-income worker, not helping him.
Several months ago, State Representative Andria Bennett wrote about the benefits of raising the minimum wage (December 11 issue of the Dover Post). While I appreciate her concern to see families “make ends meet,” raising the minimum wage is a false panacea. Minimum wage earners who receive an extra buck per hour may think it is a good thing (for a time). However, artificially raising the minimum wage (instead of allowing the market to dictate wage prices), will simply cause employers to artificially raise their prices as well. This price increase will end up hurting the lower income person the most. After all, as the Representative wisely pointed out, most minimum wage earners work in retail or food service. What prices will be the first to increase with a minimum wage spike? Retail and food—necessities for all people, but the bulk of expenses for lower income families. If an employer will not raise prices to offset the increase in wage expenses, only two options remain: (1) Hire illegal labor at cheaper prices; (2) Refuse any new hires. Additionally, small to medium sized businesses are main sources of jobs and by increasing regulations on these business owners the government will only be making matters worse. Business owners take great risk in starting a business. To dictate what they have to pay their employees may in fact put them out of a job—or at least stymie the prospect of new hires.
Of course, President Obama is in favor of a minimum wage increase as well. The same logic seems to be operating in his mind: if we raise minimum wage, then all those who are making minimum wage will get a boost to their income. In fact, by raising the minimum wage, we will put certain people out of a job. Minimum wage laws are just one small part of the much larger problem of unjust government interference and regulation. The Representative mentioned the “Christmas season” as an impetus for such legislation. However, having a spirit of generosity and sacrifice is not the same thing as raising minimum wage. Government-enforced generosity is an oxymoron—and it simply does not work. Instead of trying to cajole people into voting to raise the minimum wage by appealing to some twisted sense of morality, the government should apply a far simpler standard to itself: you shall not steal (Exodus 20:15). By forcing people to dish out money (money that belongs to the business owners, not the government), the government has not only nullified generosity, but has taken what does not belong to it.
God’s Word calls us to pay our employees promptly (cf. Leviticus 19:13; Deuteronomy 24:14-15), but it never calls on the civil government to dictate how much someone’s labor is worth.