Raising the Minimum Wage for Working Men and Women in California and the Rest of America

Meet the Libertarian Who Wants to Raise the Minimum Wage

Ron Unz is making the case for California workers to earn $12 an hour

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Ron Unz buried the lede. Two and a half years ago, when the Silicon Valleymultimillionaire was still publisher of the American Conservative, Unz penned a characteristically sweeping piece about “Immigration, the Republicans, and the End of White America.” Unz methodically pulled in data and anecdotes—primary vote totals, demographics, 1993 letters to the editor ofCommentary—to explain why closed-border politics could not save the GOP, no matter what the right told itself. Page after page filled with ink before Unz got to his solution.

“Consider the consequences of a very substantial rise in the national minimum wage,” wrote Unz, “perhaps to $10 or more likely $12 per hour.” Knees would jerk, conservatives would call this socialism, but Unz knew better. When Henry Ford doubled the wages of his assembly line workers, it was “a crucial factor in creating the prosperous middle class that eventually dominated America’s 20th-century history.” It was time again for a wage hike, an idea that “raises the income of America’s working class and similarly crosses many ideological lines.”

No conservative politician joined Unz on the barricade. Two years later, he cut his ties to the magazine, looked into the mirror, and saw Henry Ford staring back. As soon as next week, California will approve the language of Unz’s ballot measure to raise the minimum wage to $10, then $12. If that happens, Unz just needs to muscle enough signatures to put this on the ballot.

“I’d never really focused on the minimum wage issue, by itself, until recently,” says Unz over the phone, from his home in Palo Alto. “To the extent that everyone in the economic profession was making another argument, that raising the minimum wage would kill jobs, I vaguely nodded my head.”

• Category: Campaign, National, Notable • Tags: David Weigel