Robots to Fill Regulatory Job Vacuum

Monday, March 21, 2016

Last week, I mentioned an article that explained how a lawsuit against McDonald's could, among other things, hasten automatization of the fast food industry. Let me reemphasize the verb, since it turns out that the latest round of minimum wage laws is already causing one CEO to consider fully automated kiosks:

"I want to try it," [Carl's Jr. and Hardee's CEO Andy Puzder] told Business Insider. He's looking at something "where you order on a kiosk, you pay with a credit or debit card, your order pops up, and you never see a person."

Is he being heartless? No. Just responding to the government's foolish plans to jack up the minimum wage and put restaurants, hotels, bars and other service industries out of business. "With government driving up the cost of labor, it's driving down the number of jobs," said Puzder. "You're going to see automation not just in airports and grocery stores, but in restaurants."
Investor's Business Daily then provides a statistical portrait of the carnage such laws have wrought in the form of a bulleted list, including:
A study by the American Enterprise Institute looked at Seattle's recent minimum wage hike. After it began phasing in a series of hikes in 2014, Seattle lost 10,000 jobs between just September and November, and its unemployment rate jumped a full percentage point. As AEI economist Mark Perry notes, Seattle's minimum wage hike from $9.32 an hour to $15 an hour amounts to a $11,360 tax on every minimum wage job. [link dropped]
Such statistics only add to the mountain of evidence that such measures fail (at least) to achieve their alleged goals, which are some form of helping the less fortunate. (We'll ignore the coercive nature of these laws for the moment.) It goes without saying that support for such measures does not deserve to be called "thoughtful" as it often is. Most people, dimly aware on some level that altruism is impossible to carry out consistently, vote the way they are "supposed to" and get back -- sometimes guiltily -- to the business of living their lives as quickly as possible. The facts that altruism is useless as guidance for living (or voting), and most people do not wish to wallow in guilt actually incentivize such thoughtlessness. First, few wish to spend lots of time considering whether such measures actually work. Second, fewer still, having actually considered the problem, ever get around to asking why they are being called upon to commit sacrifice. The real crime here isn't that such measures fail to help the poor (although it is true), but that the government is forcing people to act against their own judgement, violating their rights in the process.

The first automated fast-food kiosks will not just represent lost chances for people to gain valuable experience as employees, but also a reduction in losses (vice an increase in profits) for their owners. But few will even realize the second, let alone regard it as worthy of consideration.

-- CAV

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