Kevin: Frankly, eliminating the minimum wage and food stamps is at the very bottom of my list of priorities.
I agree with you on food stamps, but not on the minimum wage. In fact it’s laws like the minimum wage which I especially had in mind when I mentioned crowbars being passed off as crutches. While I agree that a free market would almost certainly result in substantial increases in real income and substantial decreases in cost of living for virtually all workers — to the point where they would either be making well above the current minimum wage, or at least where fixed costs of living would have dropped enough that it amounts to the same — there’s also the question of what we should be pushing for in the meantime in-betweentime, when there aren’t fully free markets in labor, capital, ideas, and land. In that context, the minimum wage law is, I think, actively destructive. Conditional give-aways, like foodstamps, are one thing; the program itself doesn’t violate anyone’s rights (it’s the tax funding that’s the problem), and people can always choose not to go on foodstamps if they decide (for whatever reason) that it’s doing them more harm than good. Not so with minimum wage; the only way to shake off this so-called protection is to seek out someone who’ll let you work under the table, and hope the government doesn’t catch on. The result is forcing one class of workers out of work in favor of another, more privileged class of workers. Hence, I’d argue we should treat abolition of the minimum wage a lot differently, in terms of strategic priorities, from how we treat government welfare, food stamps, etc.
Kevin: One of the best ideas I’ve heard, as an intermediate stage in scaling back the state, was a proposal on the Freedom Democrats’ list: to scale back the licensing system, at the very least, to prohibit any restriction on the number of licenses granted based on an estimate of what the market would support, or any licensing fees higher than the bare minimum cost of administering the system. That, in itself, would utterly demolish the effect of the taxi medallion system, among many other things.
Well, sure, I guess. On the other hand, in terms of practical success, it does seem to me that, as of right now, gypsy cab drivers are doing a lot more to effectually undermine the taxi medallion system in New York City than political activists and legal reformers are. I suspect that in a lot of these cases the best thing to do is really to work on ways to route around the damage, rather than trying to push right through it.