THE CURSE OF ECON 101 BY JAMES KWAK
AND TWO RESPONSES
Quan Tran Minh
The main article “The Curse of Econ 101” was published in January 2017 by The Atlantic and written by Professor James Kwak. At first glance, the title “The Curse of Econ 101” might be confusing and triggered the curiosity of most readers. Professor Kwak spent most of his article criticizing the “economism,” which he defined as a “misleading application of basic lessons from Economics 101 to real-world problems,” hence explained the meaning of the title. In this particular case, he wrote about economism in minimum wage problem, as economists usually used “supply and demand diagram” which is a typical economic model illustrated in the introductory class of Economics major, to argues about minimum wage in a straightforward but confusing way.
First of all, Professor Kwak stated that “there is no obvious relationship between the minimum wage and unemployment.” He listed some examples such as Crad and Krueger’s research in the fast-food restaurant or “Minimum Wage Effects Across State Borders: Estimates Using Contiguous Counties” by Dube et al. All of the mentioned above concluded that “the number of jobs stays the same and workers make more money when raising the minimum wage.” These evidence has attacked directly toward the core idea of “supply and demand diagram.”
Secondly, “A higher minimum wage will raise labor costs,” but it does not mean that higher labor costs will cause more people to lose jobs according to the professor. He explained “A higher minimum wage motivates more people to enter the workforce, raising both employment and output.” and also “higher minimum wage can boost productivity” as reported by Wolfers and Zilinsky.
Lastly, “higher minimum wage has not affected either the number of restaurants or the number of people that they employ” as stated by the Cornell School of Hotel Administration. The explanation for this is paying employees more cuts into excess profits.
In my opinion, I found this article slightly difficult to comprehend in the first time because my general knowledge about economics is quite limited. Moreover, politics and economics are not my concentration or interest. However, reading again for multiple times helped me understand the idea of the article better. On the other hand, Professor Kwak seems always to provide the sources of other documents when he needs to prove his statement.
As a response to the main article, “The Curse of Econ 101, Cont’d” by various author and “James Kwak Sure Doesn't Understand The Economics Of The Minimum Wage” by Tim Worstall are two...