Bountiful Rats

17 December 2008
Pipe Piper Proposal: Berlin's Poor Should Catch Rats, Says Politician in der Spiegel [auf Deutsch ist hier]

A Berlin politician has come under fire for suggesting that poor people should be encouraged to catch rats by offering them €1 per dead rodent.


It's inhuman and cynical to send poor people out to chase rats so that Berlin can solve its rat problems, said the German Forum for People Without Income.

I'm not sure whether das Erwerbslosen Forum Deutschland believes that it is better to pay affluent people than poor people, or believes that die Ratten should be left unmolested. I am, however, sure that, if a €1 bounty is placed on rats, then people will raise rats for the bounty.

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2 Responses to Bountiful Rats

  • Gaal says:

    Presumably, the forum sees this as a job, requiring social benefits. €1 per rat probably turns out much less than minimum wage, with no pension etc.

    What are your thoughts on minimum wage?

    • Daniel says:

      But das Erwerbslosen Forum raised a very different objection from one that the pay was inadequate.

      First, as an economist, I would argue that minimum wage laws don't simply reduce employment, but remove the lower rungs of the employment ladder, preventing people from acquiring the experience and reputation that will lead to higher-paying jobs. (One can never get a second job if one cannot get a first job.)

      Card and Krueger famously attacked this view, in their Myth and Measurement. However, their model for explaining their results depends upon the implausible existence of a cartel of virtually all employers of low-skill and unskilled employees (in order to have monopsonistic hiring); Card and Krueger were forced to repeatedly back-down from their claim that an increase in the minimum wage actually increased employment (which claim wasn't founded on observed employment but upon a phone poll of employment plans); and the Woman of Interest, who lives in western New Jersey and who has had extensive dealings on both sides of the border with Pennsylvania, informs me that the supposed comparability of economic conditions in western New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania (under-pinning the analysis of the natual experiment) is grossly false.

      From an ethical position, I regard minimum wage laws unacceptable as an initiation of coërcion. While it is quite plausible that many persons otherwise unable to find employment at such wages are victims of some sort of violation of their rights, they are not typically victims of the employers; and, in cases where they are victims of specific employers, some different form of redress is appropriate.

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