Raising the Minimum Wage: More Complicated Than It Seems

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About Neil O'Farrell

Pastor, St. John Lutheran, in Brooklyn, a post industrial neighborhood of Baltimore city, Divinity degree from Harvard and doctoral degree in pastoral health. I'm an avid gardener, lover of almost everything with four feet, start books but don't finish them, off the edge liberal, and speak my piece, often when I should be listening.


  1. Ross Steinborn says:

    “Ethics requires the greatest good for the greatest number of people” — this is the definition for Utilitarian ethic, not ethics generally. And there are many philosophical arguments against this, not least of which is what if for everyone to be happy one person had to suffer inordinately?

    • Neil O'Farrell says:

      Dear Ross,

      Thanks very much for your response, and you’re absolutely correct. Let me just respond to a complex issue with a couple of observations. With regards to the income of the working poor, there are very few issues as utilitarian as their income. So choosing the ethical formulation I did seemed to make sense in terms of the topic. One might say that paying workers less increases shareholder value. That is one of the reasons that when major corporations announce large lay-offs, share price goes up over the short term. Increasing share holder value could be seen as a good thing, unless of course you are one of those who are now unemployed. I think the concept of shareholder value has become very much overdetermined in corporate management these days, even though it has legal foundation. I think invoking shareholder value is frequently a smokescreen. Back to my article, it was already running too long, and I wanted to keep it primarily focused on the minimum wage and the working poor. And to use your observation, which you use so accurately and trenchantly, those working poor and those who can’t find work because we have recklessly over-increased the minimum wage,or who lose their jobs, in fact make your point because they are suffering inordinately. I was using ethical shorthand, as you point out, but I felt comfortable for the above reasons giving less nuance to pure ethics, and rather to the working poor, the unemployed, and the nature of the minimum wage. Thanks so often for giving depth to what I wrote. Neil

  2. Tom Janus says:

    Pastor O’Farrell,
    As a student, who does work part time at a local paint store, I feel privileged in my community that I make
    $10.30 per hour, compared to many of my college friends, many who work at larger corporate type stores, at a considerably lower rate. For many of them also, talk of being treated shabbily with little respect.
    The store I work at is locally owned and I find myself treated more like family. I can’t say that I need a big boost in the wallet (although I wouldn’t turn it down), but my friends sure could.


  3. Australia has twice the minimum wage as the US and Big Macs cost roughly the same. – August 9, 13


    Big companies need people to work, they pay the minimum that they can get away with. If you raise the minimum wage then you reduce corporate profits, not the number of jobs.

    Capitalism is efficient, if the work could be done by fewer people, it would already be performed by fewer people.

    Raising the minimum wage cuts profits, not jobs.

    • Last week, fast-food workers around the United States yet again walked off the job to protest their low pay and demand a wage hike to $15 an hour, about double what many of them earn today. In doing so, they added another symbolic chapter to an eight-month-old campaign of one-day strikes that, so far, has yielded lots of news coverage, but not much in terms of tangible results.

      So there’s a certain irony that in Australia, where the minimum wage for full-time adult workers already comes out to about $14.50 an hour, McDonald’s staffers were busy scoring an actual raise. On July 24, the country’s Fair Work Commission approved a new labor agreement between the company and its employees


      i think this was the source article, good discussion in the comments section about it

    • Neil O'Farrell says:

      Dear Tom,
      Congratulations on your enjoyable job. Your prove there are a lot of places to work, and they are not all the big box stores. You can get higher wages (I hope you get that raise), and have a more enjoyable work environment. My wishes for your continued good luck. Neil

  4. Neil O'Farrell says:

    Dear everyone, I’m having trouble getting the site to be tidy about my responses. I’m trying to respond to everyone. Bear with me as I get it sorted out. With regard to Australia, Dear Mike, I wish our economy was more like that nation’s. America has a history of tension, if not outright animosity between corporations and labor, and you are so correct about what a higher minimum wage means is lower profits. Unfortunately, our laws virtually mandate the highest shareholder value, which continues to pit management and labor against each other. The political environment doesn’t help either. It’s not likely to change, but I don’t think we can all move to Australia, particularly the working poor. So we will continue to strive on this side of the Pacific Ocean. Dear Jameseq, I discussed the lamentable state of union organizing in America, and I rejoiced at the efforts to unionize, and to follow up on your comment, I hope the result is more than symbolic. Everyone, thanks for continuing to comment. It’s great, and I very much appreciate it.

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