It’s So EASY Being a Progressive

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Hundreds of employees at the University of California at Berkeley are getting schooled in basic economics, as the $15 minimum wage just cost them their jobs. Too bad liberal elites “fighting for $15” don’t get it.

A week after California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the state’s $15 minimum wage boost into law, UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks sent a memo to employees announcing that 500 jobs were getting cut.

It’s so easy being progressive.

And yet it’s so hard being the victim of progressive ideas. Ideas such as the minimum wage.

Remember that the minimum wage has nothing to do with helping low-income workers. It has everything to do with making it look like you care about low-income workers, while not actually helping them.

If you really cared about helping them, rather than making it look like you care about helping them, you would want there to be more jobs, not fewer jobs. You would not wish to condemn people currently making the minimum wage to life on the government dole which, the last time I checked, does not pay even as much as the minimum wage. Maybe progressives will work to get that changed too.

Supporting the minimum wage has nothing to do with economics, compassion or politics. It has everything to do with psychology. It has everything to do with feeling good about yourself, with the standard of “good” being giving to others rather than actually producing or creating something of lasting value.

The feelings come from the area of ethics. Ethics tells us what’s right, and what’s wrong. One approach to ethics tells us that it’s virtuous to be self-responsible, to live life for your own sake, without guilt, and to leave others free to do the same. Another approach to ethics tells you that your primary purpose in life is to serve. If you have more than someone else, then you should feel guilty. Progressives are plagued by this problem. And you must take action. Which action? With consequences to whom? It doesn’t really matter; so long as you’re taking it.

Progressivism–the left-wing version of religious fundamentalism–intones, not from the pulpit but from the dark reaches of the subconscious: You must serve. Don’t feel like serving? Then force others to serve, and your work is done. And, perhaps more importantly, be seen as serving and taking action. That’s where supporting the minimum wage comes in. It’s a low-cost bargain, emotionally speaking. Feel like you helped the “working poor” by giving them a “living wage,” and then your good deed is done for the day (or the decade). Leave people who run actual businesses to clean up the mess. Let restaurant owners, supermarket managers, drug store chains, struggling family businesses, job-creating megastores, and all the small business owners whom progressives claim to love, and all the big business owners whose money progressives love to tax, figure out how to handle an above market wage slapped on them overnight. And the employees for whom your heart bleeds? A few of them will get a raise, that’s true; but many others will get laid off, and still others will never find a job in the first place. Their poor paying jobs don’t mean much to you progressives; but those jobs do mean a lot to them. And just so you get to feel morally superior, they have to be sacrificed. Not a problem for the progressive. Back to the middle or upper-middle class lifestyle most progressives enjoy, feeling smug and on a hair trigger of outrage should anyone ever dare challenge them.

Keep in mind, too, that a $15 minimum wage is more than twice the federal minimum wage today. And it would set the wage floor higher than it’s ever been. On an inflation-adjusted basis, the minimum wage peaked in 1968 at just over $10 an hour.

Even the liberal Mother Jones admits that a $15 minimum is “terra incognita” and “might not be entirely benign.”

What’s surprising, then, is that unions, liberals and others pushing the minimum wage hike have managed to convince the public that this law somehow doesn’t apply to the labor market, and so succeeded in getting $15 laws in California, New York and Seattle. You can bet that either Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton will push $15 at the national level if either is elected.

It’s not surprising if you assume that rational, basic economics is the standard being utilized by those who support the minimum wage. Most people who support the minimum wage are either (1) ignorant, or (2) wish to look compassionate in front of their progressive peers, as well as to feel within themselves like they’re compassionate persons. It’s the only way they have of quashing the guilt they feel for some Unnamed Thing over which maybe they should or should not feel guilty, and for which the rest of us who are not progressive must pay.

The motive for supporting the minimum wage is psychological, not economic. It’s based on a willful lack of understanding about how markets work, even on the Economics 101 level, for the sake of making it look like you care about people that, on some level, you feel guilty about not helping like your secular or religious “superiors” have told you there’s a categorical imperative to do.

The reason you feel this way is because you’ve bought the idea—whether preached by the Pope, your local minister, or your Marxist college professor—that your sole justification and reason for living is to live for the sake of others, and not for yourself. You know, especially as a progressive who’s pretty well off and living a pretty self-interested life, for the most part, that you’re guilty of something and you have to find some way to compensate or alleviate that very uncomfortable emotion. What better way than supporting the minimum wage? “Ah, yes, I support a living wage for all. Now back to my comfortable life. I won’t have to feel guilty. And I’ll roar with rage against anyone who opposes me. So there.”

Ah, it feels so good to be a progressive. Unless you’re one of the people at or near the bottom who, thanks to a proposed doubling of the minimum wage (businesses are already bracing themselves), will lose his only means of livelihood and—much worse—any prospects for a life of independence and freedom lived off the government dole.

How good it feels to be a progressive. All you need to do is feel. Forget thinking, forget logic, forget facts and forget reality. Leave that to others. Let it be their problem.

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