The Strangling Wage: Robots at Wendy’s, Walmart?

From Uproxx.com, we read:

Wendy’s is currently taking flak for testing automated kiosks. They plan to make 6,000 automated kiosks available to their franchise stores by the end of the year. This isn’t a new thing. McDonald’s has been testing this for years in Romeoville, Illinois, and all over Europe, including Berlin of course. As big corporations are wont to do, they cite the prospect of declining profits due to wage increases (which is impossible in Germany with their justly strict worker’s rights). This is about maximizing profits and increasing safety, full stop. 30% of a restaurant’s costs come from staff. Maintaining iPads and burger flipping robots will cost much, much less. That’s just reality at this point. Also, you don’t have to worry about a robot rubbing your food on its genitals. So there’s that.

I wrote about a similar idea three years ago: a burger-making machine that cranks out delicious burgers in a few minutes flat, freshly cooked and hot off the grill.

The development is not restricted to fast food:

We’ve known since last October that Walmart was hoping to use drones as part of its business. Initially the goal seemed to be rapid delivery, just like its competitor Amazon. But before that happens, drones may start working on inventory management inside Walmart’s warehouses, flying around and scanning items to see what is running low. The New York Timesgot a look at what the company has going on so far:

“At a demonstration on Thursday at a dry goods distribution center here, a drone moved up and down an aisle packed nearly to the ceiling with boxes. Shekar Natarajan, the vice president of last mile and emerging science, explained that the machines could help catalog in as little as a day what now takes employees about a month.

There is no stopping this. No amount of teeth-knashing and complaining from luddite labor activists can stop it. Technological progress cannot be stopped by anything short of an apocalyptic catastrophe that wipes out electrical power sources. Otherwise, technological progress will inexorably march onward. Somewhere, someone will be taking advantage of it; and they’ll be profiting.

A popular phrase among leftists is “living wage”: a minimum wage that supposedly “preserves dignity” and a baseline standard of living for unskilled workers. To this end, these people constantly push for higher minimum wage. Because most Americans are economic dum-dums, they support these measures. In places like California and Seattle, we’re now seeing a minimum wage as high as $15; other locales seem poised to follow.

But reality rears it’s ugly head. A permanent law of economics is this: “When the price is lowered, more will be demanded.” Conversely, we can say this: “When the price is raised, less will be demanded.”

This is exactly what is happening to unskilled, minimum wage work: the price of human labor is being raised (at gunpoint) by the U.S. government. Therefore, unsurprisingly, the demand for human labor is decreasing. There are alternatives, after all. Why should a company pay a rising minimum wage to some ungrateful, envious loser when they could pay for a robot to do the same job for less money, less complaining, less margin of error, and less days off? I’d switch to robots, too.

What are the left-wing union activists going to do about this? There is very little than they can do. Outlaw machines? Nonsense. First of all, there is zero political precedent for this in the USA. It is doubtful that any anti-machine activists could get such legislation passed. Second of all, machines are too useful. They are truly revolutionary, and the regular American knows it. Our lives have been utterly transformed for the better by machinery. Good luck getting voters to agree to paying higher prices for worse service when machines are readily available.

Some union activists will claim that the advent of robots is strangling the livelihood of jobs. WRONG. The robots are merely a symptom of the problem: overpriced human labor. The minimum wage is what strangles the low-paying jobs. Rather than a “living wage”, it would be better called a “strangling wage”.

 

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