That’s what I immediately thought on my way home tonight when I heard that students at Georgetown had staged a hunger strike to protest the wages paid to university Janitors. Now, I’m not against anyone getting paid or getting a raise but this incident smacks more of self-righteous, feel-good whiny Liberalism than anything else. It’s an issue chosen by some activists to make a point and look good – much like the Republicans in the current Schiavo case. Instead of market forces driving up the janitor’s wages, they’ve been artificially driven up. I’d love to get paid more too, who wouldn’t, but there are very real reasons why we all can’t use hunger strikes to get more bling. If you don’t understand, Cafe Hayek has an illuminating explanation.
Why was the pre-strike janitorial wage as low as it was? Answer: because Georgetown University discovered that, at that wage, it got as many janitors as it needed, of sufficient quality, to perform the desired cleaning services. To pay more would have been an act of charity to the janitors and not a act of commerce.
If janitors really weren’t getting paid a living wage, you know what would happen? Some of the would ask for a raise, some would have to move away or look for another line of work. There would be fewer janitors to fill the positions and companies who need them would have to offer better compensation to attract them. Or am I just a bad armchair economist?