I always act like two blog posts in one day is unprecedented, but let’s be honest: I do it all the time.
However, that’s not what I intend to talk about.
Last fall, in my introductory communications class (or Speech 101, if you prefer), I did an argumentative speech on the minimum wage. I argued against it.
What I found, I found from what you would think to be reliable sources.
-Milton Friedman, who is a Nobel Prize laureate in economics.
-David Neumark and Barry Hirsch, who are professors of economics at the University of California, Irvine, and Georgia State, respectively.
-Christina Romer, who chaired President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers from 2009 to 2010 before departing for a professorship of economics at the University of California, Berkeley.
-The Joint Economic Committee, who did 50 years worth of research into the minimum wage before finally publishing their findings in 1995.
I also just ran across a post on Tumblr reblogged by John Green from Wil Wheaton (or someone who uses his name for their Tumblr account), and the post was discussing minimum wage. No, not really. The actual point (and title) of this post was “Wealth Inequality.” Except then the author put in a little asterisk at the bottom with the following text.
“Slightly off topic, but this is the same way I feel about minimum wages. Yes, in an economically rational world, we wouldn’t need minimum wages, because the labor market would find its own equilibrium. But that’s irrelevant to, like, actual human life on earth, which is not an economically rational model at all. So instead, let’s look at the data, which is pretty clear that minimum wages do reduce poverty without affecting employment levels much (if at all).”
Naturally, I clicked on that study. (You can too, because I love copy and paste and also have no interest in taking the time to actually cite it.)
A lot of it is over my head. (Side rant: I hate that lots of important information is tangled up in research studies that use language which is impossible for the people who need that information to understand, but that’s a soapbox for another time.) But I managed to gather that it supported Wil Wheaton’s (or whoever’s) point: “that minimum wages do reduce poverty without affecting employment levels much (if at all).”
I was arguing the exact opposite, and I had complete faith that my sources had supplied me with accurate information.
Wil Wheaton has complete faith that his sources have supplied him with accurate information.
What concerns me is not whether or not I am wrong (well, to be honest, the former middle school quiz bowl champion in me is a bit miffed that I was wrong, but again, a soapbox for another time).
What concerns me is that both I and my sources think we are right; meanwhile, both Wil Wheaton and his sources think they are right.
Yet two completely conflicting sets of information cannot both be applicable across the board. One or both of us has faulty information.
The question I am asking is why?
To be technical, it’s definitely possible that two separate researchers could draw different conclusions from the same set of data. But that’s not what I encountered here. I have found two different sets of data which cannot possibly coexist with each other. Yes, the two samples may be very different, but a sample’s job is to represent the entire population as accurately as possible; therefore, how can two highly qualified researchers or teams thereof have drawn two completely conflicting samples of the same population? (See, I have been paying attention in stats class.)
What concerns me about this is that nobody else is concerned about it. (This is my annoying activist cause.)
The facts are impossible to find and NOBODY CARES ABOUT THAT FACT. Nobody cares about the verifiability of their information. Nobody cares that they don’t know what they’re talking about.
I’d like to know WHY THE !@#$ NOT?
So that’s my cause right now. Helping people to understand the information available to them. Helping people who find information to make the information accessible for those who don’t use words like ’empirical’ and ‘stable, yet key, parameters’ on the daily. Ensuring accurate and unbiased reporting among the people who find information. Information literacy, and I do not mean computers.
(Here’s the Tumblr post, if you were wondering. http://tmblr.co/Z8tCXx1WonRqN)