Now that the Democrats have officially enshrined the Fight for 15 in their platform this year, Hillary Clinton will have a hard time dancing away from it during the general election debates. You’ll recall that she previously had taken a slightly more reasonable approach, calling for that level of pay in high cost of living areas, but not pushing for it in rural locations where it would be immediately crippling to business and employment. Bernie Sanders eventually won that fight and dragged Clinton all the way to the left, so the subject is now one of the planks on which Hillary will stand in Philadelphia.
With that in mind, conservatives should be prepared to keep the public informed about the long term consequences of this populist position. One of the most likely outcomes which isn’t frequently mentioned in the usual DNC literature is described by Panos Mourdoukoutas at Forbes this week. While remaining in the realm of prognostication for now, the message is plain and simple: by the time these proposed laws go fully into effect, the job of being a cashier in the United States (along with several other occupations) will cease to exist.
By the time the minimum wage reaches $15, Wal-Mart, Target, McDonald’s, and Panera Bread will be different places.
There will be no cashiers at Wal-Mart, Target and the like; and robots will flip burgers at McDonald’s and prepare soups, sandwiches and salads at Panera Bread.
The $15 minimum wage movement has a good cause: it wants to make sure that everyone in America is paid a “living wage.” But they want to get there the wrong way – by disconnecting salary from performance, turning business enterprises into welfare agencies.
That was the case in Maoist China and the Soviet Union where corporations were “units” within a centrally planned economy.
Mourdoukoutas doesn’t invoke Maoist China and the USSR out of some need to frighten the masses with cold war imagery, but rather to point out the historical failure of governments to exercise micromanagement style control over a living, breathing economy. Things have value, and that value is precisely equal to what someone is willing to pay for it; no more and no less. That same rule applies to labor costs. As the author notes, the government can, in theory, tell employers what they must pay their workers, but they can’t force them to hire anyone. So if a cheaper method of sustaining their business model is available – such as using ordering kiosks instead of cashiers and robot burger flipping arms instead of short order cooks – the employer will move in that direction. The only way to circumvent such a cause and effect response is to go to a fully socialist system where there is no free choice among either workers or management. If you’d like to see how well that works, stop by Venezuela on your next vacation.
None of the technology required to fulfill Mourdoukoutas’ vision is hypothetical. It’s available today and already in use in a number of places. The only thing that keeps it from being more widespread already is the fact that it’s still marginally cheaper to pay minimum wage workers than to install all of that technology on a nationwide scale. But even if the minimum wage creeps up slowly over the years, those jobs will still become too expensive to pay a human being for anyway. The cost of technology almost always comes down as it’s deployed.
The only difference between that natural progression of capitalism over a few generations and the Democrats’ political solution is that they want to hustle business owners over that cliff immediately. I’m guessing that the majority of the minimum wage workers who Hillary Clinton plans to “help” in this fashion don’t already have advanced degrees in robotics. So I wonder what they’ll be doing for a job after this happens and how grateful they’ll be to the Democrats for their newly obtained “freedom” from working in those jobs?