ECONOMICS 101. In...

ECONOMICS 101. In regard to the minimum wage debate, I'm getting a little tired of appeals to "Economics 101" (or Social Analysis 10, as the case may be) as a conversation-stopper in political debate. After all, there's a reason they offer more economics classes and you don't get your degree after taking just one. A lot of introductory physics classes don't deal with relativity or quantum mechanics, which doesn't make quantum mechanics wrong; it makes introductory physics an oversimplification of complicated reality designed to provide a foundation for further learning.

Advocates of minimum wage increases aren't fools who don't understand a stripped-down supply and demand model (okay, to be fair, there are lots of fools in the world and presumably some are on our side), which is exactly why you don't find people arguing for a $100/hour minimum wage. I promise you that all these dudes (PDF) took introductory economics (I took the Advance Placement test), and it's perfectly possible to construct more sophisticated models of the labor market showing that minimum wage increases will have beneficial effects. This is why you find economists with a range of views on the subject. The issue at hand, as it almost always is, has to do with empirical disputes as to how the labor market actually works and what sort of model best captures the situation. We're probably not going to resolve this in a blog exchange, but suffice it to say that Ec 101 has very little to do with anything -- like any very basic set of principles, it's the first word on a subject, not the last.

--Matthew Yglesias

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