As an academic and economist, few things are as frustrating and mind-boggling as the fervor with which people embrace and display their economic illiteracy. It appears some, and an increasing number of them, consider it to be a quality or even a moral advantage to remain ignorant of basic economics.
Rather than considering economic knowledge, which has often been known and affirmed for centuries, this knowledge is attacked. While the scientific process should be one of fundamental (that is, not just for show) and constant scrutiny and reassessment of accepted conclusions, scientific discourse is not the primary domain for the critique and outright rejection and dismissal of economics. No, the critique is formulated by those who show no understanding for the discipline, its scientific approach, or its findings.
A recent column by economic illiterates Mike Konczal and Bryce Covert in The Nation illustrates clearly what this critique of economics is about. The column, titled The Score: Does the Minimum Wage Kill Jobs?, poses as an examination of the evidence regarding the effects of minimum wage laws, and is intended to settle the debate once and for all. Konczal and Covert seem completely oblivious to the fact that this “score” has long been settled in economics; raising, introducing, or enforcing a minimum wage above the market wage produces a situation with fewer jobs ceteris paribus.
But note that while this score has been settled in economics, Konczal and Covert have a different audience in mind. They address the reality-immune punditry: “Throw a rock into the punditsphere and you’ll hit someone arguing that minimum-wage increases kill jobs,” they begin the column. We are supposed to accept that this rhetorical politicization (“kill jobs”) of an economic law is ridiculous on its face. And economic illiterates probably willingly do so, especially if they belong to the same party camp as the authors. Most who read their column also likely won’t see the authors’ dishonest representation (frequently used by “both sides” in the punditsphere) of the well-established economic truth that artificially raising costs reduces voluntary supply. (Its truthfulness should be obvious, really.) Read More→