Robots and Unintended Consequences

A predictable consequence of the move to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour will be the hastened transition from human to a more robotic work-force. A photo that went viral this week showed a robot “manning” the take-out window at McDonald’s. You can expect to see more of this. Employers will, of course, be pilloried by the usual cast of economically-challenged Marxists in the political and chattering classes as heartless, sexist racists, etc., who put profits before people. But the non-economically challenged among us realize that the increased use of robots is a completely rational response of the market to government-imposed wage and benefit mandates that push the cost of labor above that which the consumer is willing to pay.

For the heck of it, I started brainstorming and prepared a list of reasons why robots, for economic and non-economic reasons, are preferable to humans as employees.

1 – they don’t need health-care insurance, paid time-off, or workmen’s comp

2 – they don’t call in sick; they’re never late

3 – they follow orders with no back-talk or sassing. They don’t complain or “cop an attitude.”

4 – they don’t get bored with repetitive tasks

5 – they don’t gossip or get involved in inter-office politics

6 – they don’t require maternity leave

7 – they are not subject to onerous OSHA health and safety regulations

8 – they don’t file grievances or sue for civil rights violations

9 – they don’t require a lengthy and expensive training process

10 – they don’t take smoke breaks, bathroom breaks, or lunch breaks

11- they don’t need transgender bathrooms

12 – they don’t lobby for increases in the minimum wage

13 – they don’t stage sit-ins over working conditions

14 – they don’t celebrate Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, or Festivus requiring time off from work

15 – they’re not afraid to get their “hands dirty”

16 – their cars never break down on the way to work

17 – they don’t require drug testing

18 – their kids don’t get sick or need day-care

19 – they never argue with the customers

20 – they never give the wrong change or steal from the company

21 – citizenship is not an issue

22 – there are no language barriers; they don’t have to attend ESL classes

23 – they don’t need permission to wear a burka

24 – they can be completely illiterate and still perform their jobs flawlessly

25 – they’re never at risk for engaging in sexually inappropriate behavior

This list is by no means exhaustive. In fact, I could go on and on. They don’t need to fill out a W-2, etc., etc…. You are encouraged to submit additions to the list. My next brainstorming project, probably out next week, is a list of positions which I believe could reasonably be filled by robots. Again, a completely rational response of the market to the increased cost of human labor largely as the result of government actions. Stay tuned and have a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend. And to those clamoring for the $15 minimum wage–be careful what you wish for.

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