Thomas Sowell

The most successful Republican presidential candidate of the past half century-- Ronald Reagan, who was elected and reelected with landslide victories-- bore little resemblance to the moderate candidates that Republican conventional wisdom depicts as the key to victory, even though most of these moderate candidates have in fact gone down to defeat.

One of the biggest differences between Reagan and these latter-day losers was that Reagan paid great attention to explaining his policies and values. He was called "the great communicator," but much more than a gift for words was involved. The issues that defined Reagan's vision were things he had thought about, written about and debated for years before he reached the White House.

Reagan was like a veteran quarterback who comes up to the line of scrimmage, takes a glance at how the other team is deployed against him, and knows automatically what he needs to do. There is not enough time to figure it out from scratch, while waiting for the ball to be snapped. You have to have figured out such things long before the game began, and now just need to execute.

Very few Republican candidates for any office today show any sign of such in-depth preparation on issues. Mitt Romney, for example, inadvertently showed his lack of preparation when he indicated that he was in favor of indexing the minimum wage rate, so that it would rise automatically with inflation.

That sounds fine. But the cold fact is that minimum wage laws create massive unemployment among black teenagers. Conversely, one of the lowest rates of unemployment among black teenagers occurred in the 1940s, when inflation virtually repealed the minimum wage law passed in 1938, since even unskilled labor was paid more in inflated dollars than the minimum wage law required.

Even during the recession year of 1949, black teenage unemployment was a fraction of what it would be in the most prosperous later years, after the minimum wage rate was raised repeatedly to keep pace with inflation. One of the few benefits of inflation is that it can in effect repeal minimum wage laws, which politicians can do directly only by risking their reelection.

Conservative opposition to minimum wage laws is just one of the ways that conservative principles often work out to benefit those with lower incomes, more so than liberal principles that sound so much better as political rhetoric.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate