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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Ignorance Is Dangerous

Thomas Sowell wrote this in his Random Thoughts column:

A recent e-mail from a man who says that my writings have changed his mind notes that this has not been all to the good. He says he was perfectly happy as a liberal but now he is frustrated when he hears the kind of nonsense that he used to accept without having to think about it.

Count me as another convert frustrated over liberal dogma accepted as true. After receiving a copy of The Vision of the Anointed, I began to confront my long-held beliefs about the programs of an activist government that I had always endorsed. The empirical data proves since the 1960's that these programs have been not only failures, that they did not ultimately erase the problem to be solved, but actually created more or exacerbated existing problems. (I know the liberal answer is these programs were underfunded.)

One example of a failed government program is minimum wages.

I knew first-hand that when I began working in 1977 that I started at the minimum ($4 or $5 per hour) and within a few years made more and added a promotion raise to boot. I worked on the fishing docks of Point Judith, Rhode Island in the marine hardware store. I did not know a davit from a shackle. I was on my own and shared a 3 bedroom apartment with friends. I supplemented my income in various ways including at one point working 3 jobs. I paid my rent, bought record albums, took out my girlfriend, frequented certain drinking establishments and thoroughly enjoyed life. It was hard but I was young and was up for the task. I had a ball.

Guess what? Most minimum wage earners are in their teens and early twenties. Many others are retirees working a few hours a week.

Through Sowell and other economists, I have learned that rarely are such min wage earners family men with 4 children as portrayed by the MSM. Also, we know that the minimum wage laws reduce the employment opportunities for many teens and minorities. Employers will go with fewer employees or machines to avoid over-paying unskilled workers.

In his Applied Economics, Sowell explains that discrimination by employers has no cost when wages are dictated. But allow employers to charge what they want and there is a cost in denying a black a job at $2 per hour in exchange for hiring a preferred though equally unskilled white at $5 per hour. The history of the world shows the employer that harbors extreme prejudice will not exercise discrimination when he favors his wallet and business returns over his emotional race hatreds.

Another economist who I adore is Walter Williams. He has admitted that he discriminated in his life. He chose his wife at the exclusion of considering all other women. What a bigot!

Here is Williams' take on minimum wages, not from the harm it causes, but just who receives it.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Sixty-three percent of minimum wage workers receive raises within one year of employment, and only 15 percent still earn the minimum wage after three years. Moreover, only three percent of all hourly workers and two percent of wage and salary earners earn minimum wages. Most minimum wage earners are young -- 53 percent are between the ages of 16 and 24.

Furthermore, only 5.3 percent of minimum wage earners are from households below the official poverty line; 40 percent of minimum wage earners live in households with incomes of $60,000 and higher, and over 82 percent of minimum wage earners do not have dependents. My stepfather used to tell me that any honest work was better than begging and stealing.

When I began that minimum wage job in 1977, I complained about the hourly wage to my grandfather. My grandfather asked me, "Do they pay you in American dollars?" I replied they did. He then asked, "What are you complaining about?"

I stopped complaining.

Not long ago I had a discussion with my liberal cousin about gun control. He wants all guns removed from the populace. Without going into the Constitution's protection of that right, I brought up various arguments (see John Lott) about the increase of crime whenever citizens are disarmed. He did not want to hear it and attacked the motivation of the studies rather than the data.

Finally, he smugly said, "That is my opinion. Everyone is entitled to his opinion."

No doubt.

But there are grades of value to opinions. Informed opinions beat uninformed opinions in my book. Uninformed ones become dangerous when they are attached to a vote in America. And his self-congratulation over having a strong opinion supported by nothing but his feelings proclaimed his high moral stature. Moral superiority is a dangerous admixture to ignorance.

Which brings us back to the subtitle of Sowell's Vision of the Anointed.

It is: Self-Congratulation As a Basis for Social Policy.

No wonder I am a big fan.


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