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About Amit Varma

Amit Varma is a writer based in Mumbai. He worked in journalism for over a decade, and won the Bastiat Prize for Journalism in 2007. His bestselling novel, My Friend Sancho, was published in 2009. He is best known for his blog, India Uncut. His current project is a non-fiction book about the lack of personal and economic freedoms in post-Independence India.




Bastiat Prize 2007 Winner

Recent entries

The Paradox of Democracy

This is the 42nd installment of Lighthouse, my monthly column for BLink, a supplement of the Hindu Business Line. Many…

Inside the BJP Machine

This book review was first published in Pragati. Prashant Jha’s book, How the BJP Wins, is an incisive look at…

Death of a Writer

This is the 49th installment of Rhyme and Reason, my weekly set of limericks for the Sunday Times of India…

Agarkar’s Donkeys: A Meditation on God

This is the 41st installment of Lighthouse, my monthly column for BLink, a supplement of the Hindu Business Line. It…

Rights and Riots

This is the 48th installment of Rhyme and Reason, my weekly set of limericks for the Sunday Times of India…

15 November, 2007

Changing the Laws of Gravity

In a brilliant, Bastiat-like display of satire, here’s US Congressman Bill Sali responding to a plan to raise the minimum wage:

Mr. Speaker, a number of my colleagues have pointed out the problems with raising the minimum wage; that it is an unfunded mandate on small business, will likely result in the loss of over 1 million jobs for low wage earners, that it will eliminate entry level jobs and actually hurt the poor more than it helps them.

The negative impacts will result naturally from the rules and principles of the free market. In my college courses, I learned that the rules and principles of free markets are the rules and principles that every business and worker are subject to in every transaction, every negotiation and every new idea. That is, those negative effects of this bill are unavoidable with its passage. In spite of the negative effects, this bill does seem destined to pass.

As a freshman Congressman, the likely passage of this measure has taught me a new principle: The force of Congress can be brought to bear and justified to suspend those natural laws which would otherwise control important matters. The well-intentioned desire of Congress to help the poor apparently will not be restrained by the rules and principles of the free market that otherwise do restrain American businesses and workers. Apparently, Congress can change the rules that would otherwise affect the affairs of mankind.

So, Mr. Speaker, I have asked my staff to draft a measure I call the Obesity Reduction and Health Promotion Act. Since Congress will apparently not be restrained by the laws and principles that naturally exist, I propose that the force of gravity by the force of Congress be reduced by 10 percent. Mr. Speaker, that will result in immediate weight loss for every American. It will immediately help reduce obesity problems in America. Weight loss will also help to promote the overall health of Americans as we have been vigilantly advised by our health care.

Mr. Speaker, I thank this body for the education I have received from the passage of this bill. Since the basis for the use of Congress’s power is the same with both measures, I would also ask that everyone who is supporting the measure before us consider becoming an original cosponsor of the Obesity Reduction and Health Promotion Act, and I have a copy.

Mr. Speaker, I close by noting that, with the new principles I have learned, it appears to me that with Congress the sky is the limit.

Here’s the transcript.

For a lucid exposition on why a minimum wage is counter-productive, read this transcript of Milton Friedman’s famous interview in The Open Mind. He speaks about the minimum wage early on, but the entire interview is magnificent. You can also watch it below the fold in this post.

(Link via email from Gaurav, who found it here.)

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The Video:

Posted by Amit Varma in Economics

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