A lot of people will recognise the name Sam Bowman from his work at the ASI. He blogs there regularly, is popular on Twitter and makes the occasional media appearance. He has written on gay marriage for the Guardian, the living wage for Conservative Home and many times for City AM. A lot of you will have met him at an ASI event, where he manages to present a mathematical puzzle by both working the whole room and being accessible, but also apparently having the time for a serious conversation with complete strangers.
From one such conversation I know Sam is an ethical consequentialist, believing nothing has fundamental value one way or another except as determined by its consequences. There is at least a twenty minute talk in there about whether or not that view is valid on its own, and probably at least another 10 minutes about whether that view is compatible with my own view. That, however, would be something of a diversion from Thursday’s topic which is a review of the minimum wage debate, where it has got to and what the empirical evidence has to say about it.
Like Sam, I started off in a crappy job. I worked on the checkout in the Coop, Sam served french fries in MacDonalds. These are stages in your life that you simply have to go through, either because preparing for anything more is not yet possible, or in order to prove you are a hard worker and that you know how to get on in the workplace. It is people that do this and succeed that rise, and those that don’t stay where they are. How are employers to distinguish those that don’t, from those that were not permitted to try under a minimum wage law?
More recently, Sam appeared on the BBC World Service to debate Will Hutton, the writer and Oxford college principal. Predictably Sam was introduced as working for a right-leaning think tank and Hutton was introduced as an unlabelled economist. Predictably, the presenter interrupted Sam but Will got to ramble on in a relaxed manner for ages. Sam did very well though and managed, just for instance, to get out the idea that the disemployment effect is at least as serious a moral issue as low pay might be. He also told the World Service that a consensus of good empirical research notes a disemployment effect from the introduction of a minimum wage, something that Hutton seemed to dispute.
So I figured it would be a great idea to give Sam the chance to tell us all about this, uninterrupted, for a good 20 minutes, so that we can learn more about the empirical details.
Sam Bowman is speaking this Thursday 6th March at the Rose and Crown.