Thursday night, I attended a debate at Dartmouth College on the minimum wage. I will post later my reflections on the debate, but first I wanted to share a story.
After the debate, I was cornered in the bathroom by a man self-described as “an old liberal.” He and I had a very interesting, albeit one-sided, conversation regarding the minimum wage, including the ambiguity of evidence the pro-minimum wage side presented and the lack of any real definitive empirical evidence one way or the other. But at the end of the conversation, he said something that bothered me. He said, “we need to run the experiments.”
Despite being a reasonable statement, why did this bother me? Because the man making the statement seemed to forget we’re talking about people, about human lives here. Specifically, we’re talking about the poorest, most vulnerable members of society.
Every policy, every action has winners and losers. However, is it necessary to sacrifice people in order to conduct a political experiment? I contend that, in the light of unconvincing or underwhelming evidence, that no such human sacrifice is necessary.
At the end of the day, we are talking about people’s lives. It’s unfair to demand they be subjected to potential threats to their livelihood in order to test some person’s pet theory, especially when said theory has very little data to support it.