Jan Ellison is grateful for the low-wage jobs she had as a kid.
“The difference from the way my own children are being raised is that I was acutely aware of the financial burden of these [educational and other] pursuits. . . . I made money of my own from age 11 onward. I had a paper route. I cleaned houses and swimming pools. I took clerical temp jobs. . . . I can’t say that any of this was important work, but the act of doing it mattered.”
She learned to “work for the ticket” that would take her to better things.
That minimum wage laws make it harder to gain such experience is a problem raised not by Ellison but by a Cafe Hayek reader, Mike Wilson, who calls her memoir “as powerful a case against raising the minimum wage as I have encountered.” (Strictly speaking, against establishing or enforcing any wage-rate floor.)
Wilson’s sensible point is that when you’re just starting out in the work force, you must develop the habits and skills needed to do a job well and to then go beyond it. These include punctuality, mastering procedures, accepting corrections with grace, being civil, staying productive and careful when you’re tired, and more.
What you can bring immediately to a job is willingness to learn what’s necessary. But the higher your pay must be before you’ve made yourself worth that pay, the harder for employers to give you the chance to make yourself worth it.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.