The Volokh Conspiracy

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Minimum wage: a sonnet


First, Minimum Wage, the song from They Might Be Giants' 1989 Flood album.

Second, though this isn't the main point of this post, what are the employment effects of the minimum wage? For a good overview, see this literature review from the National Bureau of Economic Research, written by David Neumark (from UC Irvine) and William Wascher (from the Fed). Here's the abstract (note my emphasis, paragraph break added):

We review the burgeoning literature on the employment effects of minimum wages—in the United States and other countries—that was spurred by the new minimum wage research beginning in the early 1990s. Our review indicates that there is a wide range of existing estimates and, accordingly, a lack of consensus about the overall effects on low-wage employment of an increase in the minimum wage. However, the oft-stated assertion that recent research fails to support the traditional view that the minimum wage reduces the employment of low-wage workers is clearly incorrect. A sizable majority of the studies surveyed in this monograph give a relatively consistent (although not always statistically significant) indication of negative employment effects of minimum wages. In addition, among the papers we view as providing the most credible evidence, almost all point to negative employment effects, both for the United States as well as for many other countries.

Two other important conclusions emerge from our review. First, we see very few—if any—studies that provide convincing evidence of positive employment effects of minimum wages, especially from those studies that focus on the broader groups (rather than a narrow industry) for which the competitive model predicts disemployment effects. Second, the studies that focus on the least-skilled groups provide relatively overwhelming evidence of stronger disemployment effects for these groups.

Finally, my thesis. Recently, a friend was discussing this Vox post on former McDonald's CEO Ed Rensi's assertion ("I told you so") that the Fight for $15 minimum wage campaign was responsible for the introduction of touch-screen ordering. Writes Timothy Lee in the Vox post: "It's easy to get people fired up about an alliterative slogan like 'Fight for $15.'" But, someone commented, "Fight for Five" is a better alliteration anyway. Which led me to ask: How about "Fight for finally getting rid of the minimum wage"? My friend asked if I could put it into iambic pentameter, and this followed:

Methought I saw the Scottish fast-food chain
Install a set of electronic screens,
To maximize its monetary gain
By having clients order on machines.

While activists began to burn and rage,
The CEO, Ed Rensi, wrote a post:
The increase in the mandatory wage
Has hurt the ones it tried to help the most.

The logic of this claim is not obscure:
The self-serve kiosk's growing use refutes
The "Fifteen Fight"'s alliterative lure
As capital for labor substitutes.

This economic reasoning is right.
For zero, not for fifteen, should we fight.

See also my sonnet rendition of the theme song of Diff'rent Strokes, which is now again newsworthy with the death of Alan Thicke, the author of that theme song. Both of these sonnets are Shakespearean, even though my favorite sonnet form is the Onegin stanza.