WSJ; Notable & Quotable: From "Bourgeois Dignity" By Deidre N. McCloskey, 2010

One cannot explain an increase of real income in a now rich country like the United States or Italy by a factor of, say, ten since 1900 by citing eight-hour-day laws or protection for women's work (for example, the American protective legislation during the 1920s that forbid women from working more than eight hours, which made it impossible for them to become supervisors who come early and leave late).

And if minimum wage laws could explain a factor of ten, that would be wonderful -- an explosion of real income caused by forbidding certain transactions, and moreover by sheer act of Parliament.

Unhappily, the activities of governments are no such miracle workers. Courts, public health, some police, some armies, civil rights laws, and, until seized by bureaucracies and unions bent on lifetime employment and large pensions, public schools have been excellent ideas.

Yet the great bulk of modern enrichment has to be attributed to innovation. Only a tiny part -- if indeed it is positive for the poor as a whole -- can be put to the credit of government or unions in markets.