Cover for WALTMAN: The Politics of the Minimum Wage

The Politics of the Minimum Wage

Arguing for recasting the debate over the minimum wage in terms of a political economy of citizenship, Waltman not only examines the history and details the processes of determining a miniumum wage, he advocates dealing with the issue out of a communal sense of responsibility.

The 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.

"A good description of the politics surrounding [the minimum wage] as well as those who are affected by it. Waltman also adds to the literature on agenda setting through his examination of enablers -- people essential for pushing issues onto the agenda and through to successful passage." -- Choice

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