Shump: Lawmakers need to read Marx



Shump: Lawmakers need to read Marx

Nicolas Shump

As I’ve followed the minimum wage debate and vote in the Legislature, the following phrase has echoed in my head: “The last shall be first.” Like many of you, I’m disappointed in the outcome of the recent vote. Despite the attempt to frighten you with references to socialism, Karl Marx and the “free market,” this vote is about the fundamental issue of fairness.

From my recollection, I started working in the summer of 1983. I never made less than $3.35 an hour and earned $5 an hour working downtown for IBM the next fall. As a high school kid with only a car payment, I was in heaven! I couldn’t believe how much money I was making for working 20 hours a week in an office. 

It never occurred to me that the state of Kansas had a minimum wage that was actually below the national minimum wage. Nor could I have imagined how difficult it would have been to provide for myself, let alone a family if I was the primary wage earner.

I read with disgust the ignorant comments of individuals like Jeff Glendening, spokesman for the Kansas Chamber, who claims we shouldn’t be influenced by “socialist teachings of Karl Marx.” I’d like to invite Mr. Glendening to come to my next Western Civilization II class when we read Marx’s “Communist Manifesto” so that he’ll be able to speak intelligently about these issues in the future.

For the record, Marx wouldn’t support a minimum wage, as the stated goal of communism is to abolish the wage system and private property all together. There would be NO wages in a communist society.

Unfortunately, various legislators like Rep. Benjamin Hodge, R-Overland Park, and Rep. Mike Kiegerl, R-Olathe, echoed Mr. Glendening’s comments. Rep. Hodge warned against “European-style socialist bills” and Rep. Kiegerl merely repeated the party line about the danger to the market and raised the specter of increased labor costs and massive layoffs.

I’m glad the folks in Johnson County are so vigilant about the dangerous influence of European ideas like a fair wage. I’m also glad to see that Rep. Kiegerl is such a staunch supporter of the free market, as are many of his colleagues who voted this measure down.

I expect to see Reps. Kiegerl, Hodge and others introducing legislation that would call for the abolition of farm subsidies, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. I’m sure they’ll be happy to explain to you how the various programs I listed above have no place in an economic system based on the free market. How about it, Rep. Kiegerl?

Who needs dangerous ideas like a minimum wage or a philosophy based on the premise that “the last will be first and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20:16) Can you believe that parable about workers getting the same pay no matter how many hours they worked in the vineyard? We better keep an eye on that Jesus and his followers. Rumor has it they “had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need.” (Acts 2:44-45)

Nicolas Shump is a doctoral student in American studies at The University of Kansas. He can be reached at