The Politics of the Minimum Wage
About the BookThe minimum wage appears to be a standard economic regulatory measure, yet a politics of symbolism more than anything else defines the political contests that periodically erupt over it. Detractors abhor its corruption of market principles, while supporters see it as a measure of society's symbolic commitment to the poor.
Tracing the history of the minimum wage and exposing its inherent contradictions as a political issue, Jerold Waltman proposes an alternative to the economic arguments that now dominate debates over it. Citing overwhelming public support for the minimum wage as evidence of an enduring civic consciousness and humanitarianism, Waltman advocates recasting the discussion in terms of a political economy of citizenship. Such a perspective would focus on the communal value of work, the need for citizens to have a stake in the community, and the effects of economic inequality on the bonds of common citizenship.
Positioning the minimum wage as a fulcrum for the most basic conflict underlying America's unique combination of democracy and a market economy, The Politics of the Minimum Wage shows how a defense of the minimum wage built on a communal sense of responsibility rests on a strong tradition of civic republicanism and strengthens the hope for a truly democratic society.