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I'm sorry, Mr Posner, but you seem to have it backwards. Eliminating a reasonable minimum wage standard will provide 'job opportunities' that are not sufficient to support even a single person, not to mention a family. How would a person in poverty rise out of this dead end? This was the very situation at the close of the 19th century; perhaps you should review those lessons of history again, with an open mind.

Grumpy Old Man

I presume you will not wish to risk excommunication by commenting on the fact that American blacks on average consistently score one order of magnitude below American whites on intelligence tests; this seems to be true even correcting for education and parents' income.

This difference in aptitude accounts, in part, for different average degrees of worldly success in a meritocratic society.

These results don't mean that there won't be individual blacks whose achievements are exceptional, or whites and Asians who are exceptionally stupid. Nor do they say anything about moral virtue or worth of individuals or groups.

None of the critiques of the tests and the evidence, however, is convincing.

George Weinbaum

This is a disgrace. Blacks score 1.1 standard deviations below whites on IQ tests. This is an old story. What is it you don't understand? The cause is genetic. What is it you don't understand?


Lowering the minimum wage will expand job opportunities. It can be quantified and proven economically and mathematically.

In effect, the minimum wage rations jobs. Having a minimum wage generally adversely affects the people it is designed to help. The people that generally benefit are wealthier suburbanites.


I would like to have us to try legalizing drugs and see if that would help or hurt. If it hurts we could always make them illegal again. It could be that the rise of the illegal drug trade that contributed to the end in progress.


Posner seems unaware that one major flaw in capitalism is that of bidding wages down below even the cost of maintaining a basic standard of living. That IS why every advanced and civilized nation has a minimum wage.

The other problem capitalism has is that of full employment creating unacceptable levels of inflation. Thus, someone in DC has his hand on the valve that creates unemployment. For those "last hired and first laid off" their unemployment rate WILL be double that of the stated unemployment rate........ or higher.

The other mythology is that of "their productivity not being worth" a living wage, while somehow, CEO and upper management compensation that has soared from 60 times worker pay to over 500 times with NO question of such sums relating to their productivity. To which......... I would say if a businessman can't or won't pay even today's paltry minimum wage he can do the work himself, or, better yet, improve productivity by investing in technology and automation. America is not going to get out of its current problems by pounding wages down and using legions of manual laborers who can not afford to participate in our economy.



If businessmen have it so well off, shouldn't we encourage *more* people to become businessmen instead of demonizing the ones we have?


Might one of the factors hampering blacks be the decline in American manufacturing in the 1980s and the failure of African-Americans to adapt themselves educationally (increased math and science skills) to what has become a more services oriented, IT driven economy since 1990?
The shift in emphasis seems to have favored other ethnic groups like Indians and Chinese, that are more inclined towards scientific or technical education, or already have such backgrounds at the time they arrive in the US.

At the lower end of the wage scale, I believe the rise in numbers of immigrant blue-collar workers from Mexico may be a factor adversely affecting the prospects of the black blue-colar workforce. Despite any changes to the minimum wage, the fact remains that these 'incumbent' black workers will have to compete with their immigrant Mexican counterparts, who like all immigrants, are under greater pressure to increase work output & perform.


"it is not as if blacks are newcomers to America, who would be expected to lag the average income of the settled population."

-this comment strikes me as a little absurd. here for many generations maybe, but enslaved until 1860 and socially marginalized and thus denied many wealth creating opportunities until the 1960's. with the soft (on self-image, acceptance of societal norms) effects of blacks unique cultural burden in play, not to mention the direct economic effects, i dont think it should surprise anyone that blacks lag other populations in wealth.

Patrick R. Sullivan

Posner seems unaware that one major flaw in capitalism is that of bidding wages down below even the cost of maintaining a basic standard of living.

Then why is the standard of living highest in capitalist countries?


I have two quick observations:

1) As Neil notes, blacks are far behind in having the opportunity to create generational wealth. This is different from other immigrant populations who came here with the very notion of creating generational wealth, or at least giving their children a better life.

2) Legalize drugs immediately.


"The other mythology is that of "their productivity not being worth" a living wage, while somehow, CEO and upper management compensation that has soared from 60 times worker pay to over 500 times with NO question of such sums relating to their productivity."

This is hand-to-mouth thinking. Frank has money, Fred needs money- so take from Frank and give to Fred.
CEO pay is a market-driven phenomenon. We cannot say it is too high (or too low). CEOs are paid what the market demands. CEOs are effectively paid by shareholders, who have the power to reduce pay, or vote with their feet by not holding the stock. It certainly should not be a matter of public policy. Also, there is no reason to believe that reducing CEO pay would do anything to increase the pay of workers. We may just wind up with fewer talented CEOs, fewer/weaker companies, and fewer jobs available. This is not a zero sum game. Wealth is not finite. One man being wealthier does not make another man poorer.


This is amusing, if I remember my history correctly, this debate on the integration of blacks into the dominant white culture was hotly debated in the White House and offices in Washington prior to Lincoln's signing and issuing the Emancipation Proclamation into Law some 143 years ago. And here we are still debating it.

As someone back then said, "... we can emancipate them, but it will be nigh impossible to integrate them." A prophetic remark perhaps?


Nelson sez:

"If businessmen have it so well off, shouldn't we encourage *more* people to become businessmen instead of demonizing the ones we have?"

.......... great idea. However have you noticed the dearth of small biz since Walmart and other category killers came to town? I try to eat in locally owned cafes here but have to drive by 50 corporate chains or franchises to find one.

BTW I hope I don't "demonize" "businessmen" when speaking of the "curious?" economic laws that bid down low wages to less than the cost of the most basic std of living, while "bidding??" up CEO and upper management pay by 100's of percent in 25 years.

Also, here's a puzzle for "entrepreneurs" to solve:

Given that median and lower wages (half of Americans in other words) have been flat or actually fallen over the last quarter century, while what they DO bring home has been assailed by soaring costs of housing, health care, energy, and food costs, how do you expect to sell them anything beyond the very basics?

Also? in contrast to Kennedy's "rising tide lifts all the boats" while in this period per capita productivity seems to have doubled yet NONE of the benefits of that productivity has "trickle down" even to median income levels much less to those of even lower incomes. What's the explanation for this? Are those CEO's jumping up early and doing it all themselves? and truly "earning" 500 times worker pay by contrast to CEO's of 1980 "getting by" on 60 times worker pay?

Do "we" think an economy can fly on one wing?


Am I the only person who finds it curious that a sitting federal judge is making these sorts of statements not only about fairly sensitive racial topics ("disproportionate incidence of social disorder"), but also about the behavior of Democratic (or, excuse me, as Posner, like Bush, says: "Democrat") politicians?

In any case, Posner approaches the topic at a level of cavalier generality that does not match his usually astute analyses. Here are a variety of issues not even mentioned:

1) Is "average" black or white income a reasonable measure? Would the numbers change at all if we excluded the tiny top fraction of earners? If we excluded the tops and bottoms? If we used medians? And which measure has most relevance?

2) When comparing the change in the rate of gap-narrowing before and after the civil rights act of 1964, more historical context is needed. Why choose 1947 as the starting point for the "fast progress" comparison -- why not 1865 (end of Civil War), or 1871 (end of Reconstruction), or 1919 (end of WWI), or 1929 (Beginning of Depression) -- each of which could be thought of to have had as much or more significance in the lives of black Americans?

2) In the same vein, why choose the 36 years from 1964 to 1990 as the other comparison? What I want to know is, what happened between 1964 and 1975. I would think that that would be the main period in which to judge how those laws affected black Americans.

3) Was the rapid narrowing between 1947 and 1964 perhaps traceable to special historical factors, such as the black migration from south to north, changes from rural to urban, the general postwar economic boon, and so forth? Could it be that the early post-war years picked lots of low-hanging fruit, so that the harder gains were left for later? (It is not be unusual to find diminishing returns as time goes on for a whole range of social changes.) And were there state antidiscrimination laws that preceded the national act so may make the comparison innacurate?


Puzzled: While I share your disgust for the purposeful "errors" in referring to Democrats and their party which dates to Gingrich/Rushie and continues Rove........... I think the judge used the terms properly:

"Moreover, blacks support the Democratic Party so overwhelmingly that Democrat politicians ....."

.......... though his ref to politicians who are Democrats is, at least, a bit clumsy.

As for your points:

#1 I see no way around comparing averages with averages and medians with medians, though perhaps something can be seen by comparing clipped with clipped........ but I'm not sure what. We already know that few "blacks" have climbed to the highest economic levels except in sports, music .......... and rap.

On the others I'm not sure what you'd hope to find by changing from the post WWI model, however, the slowing for "blacks" against the rising AVERAGE incomes of the last 25 years, would largely be mirrored by the ALL who were at or below median income falling behind as well.

"Class warfare?" Yes, Reagan kicked one off in the 1980's by gutting collective bargaining legislation and claiming "the market" would solve all of our woes. The uppers won handily and were awarded the spoils due their win by Bush tax policy. But! predictably, now that the lower half have nothing to spend ALL will suffer in the years ahead.


Social disorder may be the most powerful explanitory variable. Insisting on safe schools and commuinties as a start would remove a toxicity retarding progress.Research seems to support incarceration as a safety increment. A resulting culture of safety would support investment, employment, education and prosperity. Improvement would appear straightforward.Why is this so difficult?


Macko, And where is this safety and security supposed to come from? Imposed from above by a dominant "White Culture"? Then we've got an Authoritarian State. Why should I be made the Black Cultures policeman and security agent? I'm already doing it for the rest of world.

Safety & security has to be generated from within the culture of the community. Otherwise it doesn't exist. As far as I'm concerned, we emancipated these people at great cost, the rest is up to them.


Rule of law and safety are basic governmental functions absent for many reasons in disorderly communities. Restoring seems a fundamental requirement for development and narrowing disfunctional gaps.


Ahh Yes! The plaintive cry of the times! "It's not my resposibility! It's the government's responsibility!" Orwell, here we come.


Neil sez:

"As someone back then said, "... we can emancipate them, but it will be nigh impossible to integrate them." A prophetic remark perhaps?"

......... Well, Neil looking out of the window of the train I see constant progress though at times unlike the tide it comes in fits and starts. Anyway, not too fret, as America is becoming much more diverse and folks getting used to seeing different skin colors, and of course, with "blacks" and new immigrants having higher birth rates plus immigration we'll soon have no "white" majority. Assuming a working democracy things should work out OK.


Jack, Don't get on that train quite yet. "Reconstructionism" and "Know Nothingism" has always flared brightly and briefly on the American political scene and then died out just as quickly as it flared up. Stick around, things are just starting to get interesting. This is Democratic-Rpeublicanism at work. Scary huh!?


whites are smart


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