The Analytical Economist; April 1995; Scientific American Magazine; by McCloskey; 2 Page(s)
Economists, astrophysicists, sociologists, geologists as well as some medical researchers spend a lot of time looking at experiments that God has already performed. If God had not arranged things so that some stars were young and some were old, the astrophysicists would not know much about stellar evolution. Likewise, if God had not arranged things so that the minimum wage varied relative to the average wage for unskilled labor from decade to decade and state to state, economists would have a hard time convincing anyone that the minimum wage puts poor people out of work.
Economists and astrophysicists come to their knowledge by finding regularities of some kind in the world; one crucial part of their task is figuring out whether particular correlations point to an important law or to the fickle hand of coincidence. As a matter of fact, economists are having a hard time convincing people that the minimum wage contributes to unemployment because recent studies show no "statistically signi ficant" effect on jobs. When Congress takes the issue up later this year, the livelihoods of thousands of people could hang in the balance.