Saturday, January 06, 2007

Policy Disagreement, Not Moral Superiority

In a spirit of seemingly unrestrained arrogance, state senator Doug Jackson lectures Tennesseans this morning, beginning his guest editorial in this morning's The Tennessean by telling them that raising the minimum wage is "a moral issue." Never mind the nuanced arguments for and against such a proposal: Jackson simply dismisses those who disagree with him as immoral -- or at least in opposition, or perhaps indifferent -- to morality.

Of course, The Oracle is generous, so he recognizes that it is possible that Jackson is not really arrogant (note "seemingly" above). It is possible that the senator is simply incapable of nuanced thought. That being the case, I will try to make it simple. Providing assistance to the disadvantaged, including the poor, is a moral issue. Those who disagree that the poor should be helped may be described as immoral. Particular positions as to how to accomplish such aid -- such as raising the minimum wage -- are debatable as matters of policy. On matters of policy, equally moral -- or immoral -- people may disagree.

Yesterday, I referenced statistics from a George Will column suggesting that increases in the minimum wage result in modest increases in school dropout rates. That is a consideration in the debate. It is not a reason for suggesting that Jackson is immoral for wanting to encourage kids to drop out of school via his policy proposal.

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