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Friday Five: Minimum Wage and the Death of the Summer Job

On Fridays we bring you the week’s best from around the web. This week’s collection includes commentary on the minimum wage, a case for political optimism, and more.

The Right Way Forward for Conservatism by Peter Berkowitz, The Wall Street Journal

It has been, in short, a rough month for conservatives. But it’s nothing that conservatives who draw on the best in their own tradition can’t handle. The conservative movement in the U.S. arose in the years after World War II, in response to the New Deal’s enormous enlargement of the welfare state and the Cold War-era threat of expansionist totalitarian communism. Since those days, conservatives have successfully managed a range of setbacks and challenges, and they can do so again today. They should forthrightly reaffirm their commitment to the Constitution’s principles of individual freedom, equality under law, and limited government—all of which presuppose and protect religious faith and traditional morality. They should distinguish among what they can alter, what they must accept and what they should embrace. And they should design principled reforms that can win majority support in a country where diversity ensures that any conceivable national majority will include a significant spectrum of opinion.

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We Need Optimists by Arthur Brooks, The New York Times

My wife, Ester, and I had just endured a difficult parent-teacher conference for one of our teenage children. It was a grades issue. The ride home was tense, until Ester broke the silence. “Think of it this way,” she said. “At least we know he’s not cheating.” That’s an optimist. We need more optimism in America today — especially in our politics. […] Millions of Americans are frustrated by the environment of competing pessimisms in Washington today. Some say it is a result of the fact that the parties have never been further apart ideologically. They hark back to better times when there was more overlap between Democrats and Republicans. I disagree. Maximum progress would come not from convergence on an unsatisfying centrism, but from a true competition of optimistic visions for a better future.

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Why Read Christopher Lasch? by Matthew Harwood, The American Conservative

Over the course of his life and work, Lasch, who was the son of progressive parents and was himself initially drawn to Marxism, grew more culturally conservative as he grew more and more tired with American society’s tendency to equate the good life with mere consumption and consumer choice. Both Democrats and Republicans, he believed, adhered to the “ideology of progress,” a belief system whereby, either through redistribution of wealth or economic growth, “economic abundance would eventually give everyone access to leisure, cultivation, refinement—advantages formerly restricted to the wealthy.” But Lasch’s conservatism was always idiosyncratic, fusing respect for the conservative traditions of working-class life also celebrated by Charles Murray—such as faith, family, and neighborhood—with a genuine desire for egalitarian democracy based on broad-based proprietorship. As a former Marxist, his analysis always held labor, particularly when self-directed or done voluntarily in cooperation with others, in high esteem because of the ethic of responsibility it produced. Work wasn’t, or shouldn’t be, just a means to put food on the table or a roof over your head. Rather it provided meaning, dignity, and moral instruction, something not found by repeating mind-numbing tasks over and over at someone else’s direction.

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Raising the Minimum Wage Is the Perfect Way to Kill the Summer Jobby Jonah Goldberg, Los Angeles Times

Early part-time or temporary jobs teach young people to manage money. They help develop good work habits: show up on time, follow instructions, be courteous to customers, etc. Basically, working teaches young people how to work. There’s no substitute for it. That’s one reason I find the race to raise the minimum wage across the country so problematic. I understand the good intentions underlying it. But the idea that the minimum wage — at least for young workers — should be a “living wage” is absurd, even immoral. Employers are taking a risk when they hire people with no work experience. Why further discourage that?

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Map: How Geography Affects the Value of the Minimum Wageby Niraj Chokshi, Washington Post

While minimum wages range from the federal floor of $7.25 in 20 states to $9.47 in Washington state, they are only as valuable as what they can buy, which also varies by geography, according to an analysis of purchasing power by state. New York ranks among the top 10 states for its minimum wage, but factor in the cost of living, and it falls to the bottom 10. West Virginia’s middle-of-the-pack minimum wage, on the other hand, is actually fairly valuable compared with other states, when considering prices. “Even in some states that have enacted higher minimum wages most recently, the relative value of those is still quite low when you’ve made this adjustment,” said David Cooper, an analyst with the Economic Policy Institute, which often advocates for pro-labor policies.

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