Scott Sumner  


The Consumer Gratitude Heurist... Remember Marxism?...

Donald Trump once said. "I know words, I have the best words". Interestingly, all of those words are one syllable. But I happen to know an eleven-syllable word, which is defined by Wikipedia:

Antiestablishmentarianism (or anti-establishmentarianism) is a political philosophy that views a nation's or society's power structure as corrupt, repressive, exploitative, or unjust.
That seems as good a way as any to describe how conservatives in the UK can be embracing Brexit while the Labour Party moves to the far left. In America, Trump is the closest analogy to Brexit, and now we see the Democratic Party also beginning to shift left (albeit not as far left as Labour.):
Of course, almost any proposal to increase the minimum wage -- much less one to $15 an hour -- is dead on arrival with Republicans in Congress and President Donald Trump in the White House. But Sanders and his team are applauding the Democratic Party's leadership and for coalescing around the $15 an hour minimum wage -- a position almost universally viewed as radically left-wing just a few months ago.
And it's not just that issue:
Since Trump's inauguration, Democrats in Congress have moved sharply left on a whole host of key policy issues.

In prior Congresses, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) could only find about 60 co-sponsors to back his single-payer, Medicare-for-All House health care proposal. That number is now already over 100 members just a few months into the new session. Similarly, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) has found 12 other House Democrats to co-sponsor her bill to eliminate tuition at public universities for those whose families make under $125,000 -- one that only a handful of the most left wing Democrats previously supported.

Indeed even Obama now looks relatively right wing:

Added Terrence Wise, a McDonald's worker and member of the Fight for $15 movement, in a statement: "Think back to five years ago: President Obama had yet to call for even a $9 an hour federal minimum wage, and the two members of Congress brave enough to call for $10.10 an hour were considered crazy. ... We've gone from laughable to inevitable."
Five years ago the minimum wage had recently been boosted by over 40% in just three years, and all that at a time of less than 2% inflation. No wonder President Obama didn't think another increase was needed. Of course inflation has remained under 2%, but now the Dems favor a more than 100% increase on top of the previous 40% rise.

The idea may be "inevitable", but it's still just as "crazy" and "laughable" as it was back then. It would essentially make it illegal to hire any worker who's productivity was below $15/hour. Why would you want to ban low productivity workers from working? And if it's such a great idea, why do labor unions frequently ask to be exempted from the $15/hour minimum wage? What are they afraid of?

Both political parties are now embracing a fairly anti-intellectual agenda.

PS. I have a more negative view of a recent Ross Douthat post than Tyler Cowen. If Douthat's description of Le Pen and her party were accurate, she would not be trailing by 20% in the polls. After all, everything is in her favor---the economic problems in France, the recent upsurge in Islamic terrorism, and more broadly the fact that the nearly 10% of the French population that is Muslim is having a much harder time assimilating than our (smaller) Muslim population.

My theory is that the French left won't support her because of her perceived racism, and the French right is also skeptical because of her left wing economic views (which are completely at variance with what France needs right now.) Douthat mocks Macron, but at least he's promising aggressive economic reforms to help business. At times, he seems to favor the Nordic version of neoliberalism. The French stock market soared after Macron did better than expected; I suspect the French people understand what a Le Pen victory would mean for their investments.

Of course if Le Pen wins this post will look silly.

Comments and Sharing

COMMENTS (14 to date)
Matthew Moore writes:

'Antiestablishmentarianism (or anti-establishmentarianism) is a political philosophy that views a nation's or society's power structure as corrupt, repressive, exploitative, or unjust.'

The British (and before (and after?) that, the English and Celtic nations) have always been relatively intolerant of repression by the nation. See, for example Kipling's 'Noman and Saxon' (although Chesterton's 'The Secret People' claims the opposite about the same period and later).

However, they haven't had to tolerate foreign oppression​ since the Normans (which is why we have to go so far back for historic examples). It just doesn't fly.

Matthew Moore writes:


I have the better words.

I expect many Brexiteers are also antidisestablishmentarianist (12 syllables)

Square that circle

Kevin Erdmann writes:

I've probably mentioned this before. But, it's amazing to me to think back to the last set of national minimum wage hikes. They happened in three steps. The 2nd step was imposed when the job market was so bad that the first round of extended unemployment insurance had been passed. The 3rd step was imposed when unemployment was at 9.5%. I don't remember so much as a whisper about delaying those hikes. That's what we did to marginal workers the last time - forced them to demand a 15% raise in the middle of the worst economic dislocation in a decade.

Todd Kreider writes:

Thanks Matthew.

Didn't every 7 year old memorize how to spell that in the 70s?

I mastered that one but sadly misspelled almost everything else until spell checker saved my sorry ass.

Matthew Moore writes:

@Todd, unfortunately I was born in '88, so I had to resort to Google.

AlanG writes:

Todd Kreider wrote - "Didn't every 7 year old memorize how to spell that in the 70s?"

Goes back further than that. I can remember being a sixth grader in 1958 and thinking this was the longest word in the English language!!!

Peter H writes:


Where - please:whère - do we find those "aggressive economic reforms" Macron is supposed to have proposed?
What - if anything - is" the Nordic version of neoliberalism"?

Easier: "Cohabitation".
Hollande thought he had a majority to reign with. Macron doesn't even expect to have one and knows there will still be a majoritarily etatist populace (with even Fillon not even much of a French version of neo-liberalism).

Suggestion: "The good, the bad and the ugly."
In stead of: In the land of the blind .......

(Full disclosure: I live in France, I work from France, I can't vote because I'm not French, and I took and keep my money out of the country for the time being)

Lewis writes:

I don't think it's too surprising that people are pushing for a $15 minimum wage. Most of the advocates live in cities, and the cost of living in cities has exploded in the past ten years. Americans take it for granted that someone working 40 hours a week in a "real job" (not an artist or something) will at least be able to afford a bedroom in a shared apartment. But in many places, not just in Manhattan, this isn't really the case, and that's a relatively recent phenomenon.

I don't agree with a $15 per hour minimum wage. But I don't think it only reflects a philosophical or cultural change. To some degree it reflects the same old expectations people in Western countries have always had, adjusted to the new circumstances of high housing costs.

Shane L writes:

Following on from Lewis's comment, I have wondered if minimum wage laws penalise rural areas with low property costs. I could imagine that a small town business could offer lower wages than would be acceptable in the city because the workers themselves have such lower costs of living where rent is cheap. In that way, small towns could attract lower-income businesses. Minimum wage laws could eliminate that advantage of the small town, however, and the businesses might gravitate back towards cities instead of taking advantage of cheaper labour in rural parts.

ColoComment writes:

Shane L., here's a visual to accompany your comment.
MW laws absolutely penalize locations with a lower average cost of living than the coasts, etc., when you consider that the value of the last dollar paid in wages is far greater than the value of the labor thus purchased.
There is no way that a national minimum wage can be considered "fair" when one considers the relative higher/lower cost of living in the various states/localities.
If a national minimum wage is the default choice of our legislators, perhaps it should encompass a "cost of living" adjustment*.
* downward MW adjustment only, as employers are always free to pay labor more than the MW, but not less. I believe that gov't salaries are only adjusted upward, yes?

Scott Sumner writes:

Peter, Fair enough, Macron's plans are vague. He's pointing in the general direction that he'd like to move, without providing details. But at least he's pointing in the right direction. Le Pen is pointing in the wrong direction.

Lewis, Interesting that people think a 16 year old working at McDonalds should be able to afford an apartment in New York City.

Shane and Colocomments, Good points.

Lewis writes:

Scott, I don't mean a whole apartment in New York City. I mean a bedroom in an apartment in any major city without spending more than, say 40 or 50% of your income on rent. These activists look around and see major emigration of working class locals from the cities, and a higher minimum wage seems like a natural response. It isn't only 16 year old who would be affected by a higher minimum wage, not at the levels being advocated. A $15 minimum wage would raise the wage, for those employees who keep their jobs, of a significant number of people. So if you doubt the disemployment impacts, it seems to follow that a higher minimum wage is necessary in today's environment, without a major philosophical shift.

Shane L writes:

Thanks ColoComment, very striking indeed. I am surprised how little that argument is made. In a time of apparent reaction by more rural areas to economic and political alienation, this one doesn't seem to have been picked up much as an issue.

liberty writes:

My dad taught me antidisestablishmentarianism when I was about 7. Fun, longest word.

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