Diary

The left and the "living wage."

The left have been amazingly successful: these days, wages have fallen to the point where a man is usually unable to provide all of the economic support a family requires, and his wife has to work outside the home as well, just to make ends meet. I suspect, however, that, for most women, this economic change hasn’t exactly been how they wanted things to turn out once women were freed to be able to compete for all jobs, rather than a restricted few.

Nobody wants to admit it, but it was the increased competition from women and blacks which led to the downward pressure on wages. When only white men were allowed to compete for most good jobs, it had the same economic effect as unionization: it restricted the supply of workers vis a vis the demand for workers. Once women and blacks were allowed to compete for the good jobs, the supply of available workers for those positions increased dramatically, far in excess of the increased demand.

The result was totally foreseeable: with many more available workers, employers didn’t need to pay as much to fill the positions. Less foreseen was the economic pressure on workers: once men no longer had to bear the burden of the total economic support of the family, they could accept and be satisfied with jobs which paid less than was required to support the whole family, because their wives could also work. Employers could get away with paying less than a family wage, because they could retain workers with less than a family wage. Employers, after all, are concerned with their bottom lines, and not with Bernie Sanders’ ideas of social goodness.

The huge increase in the workforce led to the high unemployment of the 1970s and early 1980s: the economy simply had to adjust to the new conditions. And it adjusted in a way that no one ever talked about: as there was a vast influx of women and blacks into the workforce, there were new jobs created, but those jobs were primarily (not exclusively) in the fields which provided service to the new employees. With Harriet no longer having the time to prepare a lunchbox for Ozzie before he headed off to work, fast food jobs for lunch, and eventually breakfast, proliferated, and food service jobs for women who now had to work a full day outside the home rather than being home, able to cook dinner for the family, were created as well.

There were industrial jobs created as well: since families now needed two automobiles rather than one, the automobile industry saw an increase. Unfortunately, this occurred at the same time as imported cars were surging, so many of those jobs were created in Osaka rather than Ohio! New demands for clothing were created, at the same time as foreign garment manufacturers were penetrating the American market.

What has the left wrought? For some, with good university jobs, feminism meant great jobs and careers. But, alas! for far more women it meant having to work full time at WalMart or a convenience store. The left, never having understood economics, somehow thought that the entry of women into the labor force in large numbers would mean that families would be much wealthier, would have just so many more resources. Had they understood the most basic concepts, the Economics 101 concepts of supply and demand, they could have foreseen what a dramatic increase in the supply of labor would mean, but, if any of them did see it, it was far too politically incorrect to ever say out loud.

The left were very successful in pushing a cultural change on the United States, on the entire Western world. It can certainly be argued that the liberation of women and blacks was a socially good thing, but we must also recognize the economic consequences of those changes. What the Democrats want to do is something which cannot be done: they want to sever the economic changes that the cultural changes they pushed have made.