It is often said by libertarians, or “radicals for capitalism”, to coin Ayn Rand’s phrase, that Big Business is often lousy at defending the market and in fact is only too happy to co-opt the State to make life hard for competitors. I was reminded of this fact when noted Libertarian Alliance author, Sean Gabb, made much of this point in a talk on Friday evening. It appears that the U.S. retailing giant WalMart may be guilty of this by lobbying for a rise in the U.S. minimum wage.
Debate continues as to what exactly is the impact of a minimum wage on the unemployment rate in a country, but in theory at any rate, raising the marginal cost of hiring a worker presumably makes it less likely that said persons will be hired, other things being equal. Marginal Revolution, the U.S. economics blog, has a take on the issue here. Other useful discussions at the Von Mises Institute here, and taking a more supportive view of such laws, is this paper here.
Even if one takes the assumption that minimum wage laws don’t always raise unemployment overall, the businesses that lobby for them may think they do, or think that by raising their would-be competitors’ costs, that it will strengthen their own market position. In short, there is nothing very altruistic about it.
And Walmart, to take this firm as an example, is also renowned as a beneficiary of eminent domain land-grabs. Funnily enough, this has become something of a cause celebre for parts of the left, who ironically, are relying on the same sorts of defences of property rights that I referred to a few days back on this site. It would be nice if the left embraced property rights as a cause. Stranger things have happened.