By Matthew M.
One of the most basic components of liberty is freedom of trade. Yet in this "free country", it's illegal for me to make numerous trades with an employer. Back in the days when I was young and unskilled with no work history, I looked for months before I could find someone willing to hire me. There was plenty of work to be done at hundreds of businesses around me, but I wasn't allowed to do it and build the skills and reputation needed to start climbing the ladder. All because I wasn't productive enough, or at least could not prove that with a work history.
Why wasn't I productive "enough"? I was productive- just about anyone can do hundreds of basic jobs with no significant training costs. But I wasn't productive enough because there was a barrier that neither I nor my potential employers had any control over. I had to be worth a specific amount of money per hour- something north of $8 once all employer costs are counted. Sounds bizarre, arbitrary, and unjust, right? It is, and it is called the minimum wage. And it's still outlawing jobs today, and many people that want to raise this barrier even higher. Worse, they actually think they are being helpful and caring.
But the minimum wage doesn't increase anyone's productivity. It only outlaws the employment of anyone who doesn't have the ability to produce whatever arbitrary value is set by the state. As a result, those people, which I was one of, earn a wage of $0.00. They miss out on an income, the chance to build their skills, and establish a work record; and our economy loses out on their production and is that much poorer as a result.
Though I eventually made it past that barrier, I continue to face others just as arbitrary and unjust. Where I'm currently employed there is no shortage of work to be done, and by supervisors are very happy with my productivity. Meanwhile, my budget is tight and I'd be happy to trade additional hours of labor to increase my income. It's another trade that benefits both of us, but it's illegal.
The same federal legislation that started the minimum wage barrier is also outlawing other trades. I can't work more than 40 hours a week without my employer being forced to pay an "overtime" rate of 150%. They can't afford to do this right now, so I do not have the opportunity to easily increase my income and they do not have the opportunity to benefit from the extra labor of an experienced employee.
As a result, I and many others in my shoes are forced to look for a secondary job elsewhere to get the same number of hours per week (say, 60) without overtime pay rates. Overtime pay law does not actually give us extra pay, it only instead limits choices for workers like me. Choices I would certainly make- just consider the extra costs I face by working for two employers instead of one. Upfront, I'll have to hunt for the job, interview, deal with training; and then daily face an extra commute and uniform changes, all while balancing the schedules between the two. The math quickly becomes clear: I'd be much better off doing over 40 hours with just my current employer - but once again people that think they are helping workers are just making life a whole lot harder for them.
If you're the average reader, you're supportive of the web of regulations in place today, including minimum wage and overtime pay. Do you realize the harm you are causing with these policies you support, which limit choices for employees, reduces our productivity (and thus the whole economy's), and violates our most basic liberties such as freedom to trade? How can you possibly justify this? Let us make our own choices, and you make your own. Everyday issues like these is why I am a libertarian, the only ethically, economically, logically sound political philosophy I can find.