Amherst Rep. Robert Rowe’s comments about minimum wage are speculative

To the Editor:

In a Feb. 27 letter to The Cabinet, Robert Rowe argues that raising the minimum wage would actually “reduce jobs and wages.” Two subsequent letters rebutted his economic arguments. This letter looks at the issue through a different lens.

Mr. Rowe’s is only the latest in a centuries-long line of similar arguments (Malthus being a classic example). One reason they proliferate is that moral and religious ideas to which most Americans pay at least lip service – “comfort the afflicted,” “feed the poor” – run head on into reluctance to spend money for the benefit of others. The argument asserts that we needn’t do this, for if we do, we actually harm the people we mean to help. The argument has a conscience-relieving function.

A common feature of such arguments is to oppose a present good for the sake of a predicted bad. It’s plain that if you are living on a minimum wage, an increase in the wage helps you. Mr. Rowe argues that such an increase will eventually reduce jobs and lower wages.

But the help that can be given now is certain; the effects Mr. Rowe foresees are uncertain, speculative, put forward without evidence and contradicted by authorities.