The New York Times offers summer internships at $900 per week. From what I’ve gathered, most other editorial and journalistic internships don’t pay nearly that much.
Many pay nothing.
So why would anyone work for nothing? Well, for experience.
Thomas Sowell, in his recent book Applied Economics, tells the story of a young man named Frank, who applied for a position in a retail store and got it. When he asked about his wages, his employer said, “Pay you! You don’t expect me to pay you, do you? Why, you should pay me, for teaching you the business!” This, as Sowell notes, seems harsh, exploitative: Three months of hard work without pay.
But Sowell asks “Who benefited most?”
The answer is the young Mr. Frank Winfield Woolworth, who went on to found a retail empire, eventually hiring his old boss, the same man who wouldn’t pay him. But the old man sure did teach Woolworth the business.
Unfortunately, such relationships are illegal. “Convinced that many unpaid internships violate minimum wage laws,” the New York Times relates, “officials in Oregon, California and other states have begun investigations and fined employers.” The regulators’ campaign against internship programs is now going nationwide.
Bottom line: No more Woolworths.
Sure, the Woolworth chain died long ago. What’s left of the company is called Foot Locker. But I’m talking about future innovators, future Frank Woolworths.
Which makes this crackdown a prime example of a counter-productive policy.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.