The Military Order of the World Wars approached the Texas Public Policy Foundation in 2014 about having someone present on the benefits of a free enterprise system at their Southwest Youth Leadership Conference aboard the U.S.S. Lexington in Corpus Christi. The Foundation’s Economist Dr. Vance Ginn has presented to many top-notch, high school students from across Texas each summer since then to discuss the importance of the free enterprise system, especially how it relates to the labor market with the use of a minimum wage game (spreadsheet for the game here).
Click here to watch a video of this year’s full presentation to those students, which provides further explanation of the game and shows the wage negotiations between students.
The game has been expanded upon over time since it was first created by Dr. Ginn and Dr. Mark Frank while both taught at Sam Houston State University. The game is composed of multiple sessions where some of the students are employers and others are workers.
Students learn how a labor market works through negotiations between employers and workers in a free enterprise system and in a system with a government-mandated minimum wage. The game shows that although there’s a higher average wage in a system with a minimum wage, there is also higher unemployment, especially for low-skilled workers that the government is trying to help. Students learn how workers are best able to demand a higher wage with less unemployment by increasing their productivity through education, technical skills, and on-the-job training, which access can be limited when there is a minimum wage.
Ultimately, the game helps students to start thinking like an economist when considering how the free enterprise system works and how government intervention will distort those outcomes. It’s fantastic to see the light bulbs start turning on throughout the game as students realize the costs of a minimum wage.
Recently, the O’Neil Center for Global Markets and Freedom at Southern Methodist University requested that Dr. Ginn write a unit for their series “Teaching Free Enterprise in Texas” that teaches high school teachers in Texas about key economic principles. This series of publications are compliant with Texas' TEKS (state standards) and include the benefits of the free enterprise system with regards to international trade, fiscal policy, and other important areas. Dr. Ginn published a unit on “Labor Market Economics” that includes the minimum wage game, and will present this to high school teachers statewide.
The best path to prosperity is through free enterprise, individual liberty, and personal responsibility—the pillars of improving everyone’s well-being that we promote at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. Unfortunately, these are concepts that many students never learn. With the Foundation’s outreach to high school students on these important principles, there’s a better chance that many will think like an economist and help provide a brighter future for all.
Ph.D. Economist at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. Blog posts are publications by the author.