Useful skills, personal initiative, and flexible employers are the better alternatives to minimum wage laws.
This is relevant in light of Friday's report by the Boston Globe's Katie Johnston on low-wage workers in the Boston area. Johnston (whose byline suggests she is a fair, objective reporter) reports that the booming economy is leading employers to expand opportunities for lower-skilled workers.
Considering a recent shift crew at Shake Shack, Johnston notes that "All of them were actively recruited by the restaurant chain, including those who spoke little English - a marked difference from years past, when only workers with strong English skills made the cut."
Having already employed those with the best skills for the jobs, Johnston explains that employers are now looking with more flexibility to immigrants and former criminals.
This is good news.
Yet it's also positive in what it says about how individuals can best get ahead in life. Johnston references Djennyfer Joseph, a 2016 immigrant from Haiti, who "is working toward becoming a cross-trainer, a kind of jack-of-all-trades role that comes with a bump in pay from $12 to $14 an hour. Joseph also recently became a certified nursing assistant, a profession in high demand, but plans to keep working at Shake Shack even after she finds a job in health care."
If an immigrant who came to America with weak English skills can achieve these things, just about anyone can.
Joseph's ethic of hard work, skills-improvement, and the opportunities that Shake Shack have afforded her, all highlight capitalism's best potential. Moreover, in the context of an aging population, Joseph's looming nursing assistant role is sure to produce her even higher earnings for her in the future.
Stories such as this one demand more attention in the context of the ongoing minimum wage debate. Even as they proclaim themselves servants of human morality, those who call for $15 minimum wages are overlooking cases like these and ignoring the negative impact their agenda would have on total employment and the youngest/least skilled (who most need a foot in the job market door).
Their greatest error is to consider wages through the prism of static skills and stationary employment rank. But that static bigotry is just not the case for most companies and most employees who have ambitions to earn and do more.
All of this speaks to that unyielding, inexorable conclusion: capitalism is far more moral than socialism.