$15 Minimum Wage vs. The Burger Flipping Robot

by Rob Roper

Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden) recently affirmed his commitment to passing a $15 minimum wage for Vermont; not this year but next. Ashe’s main concern is that passing such a law would have, from his perspective, the negative consequence of lifting incomes beyond the limits that qualify them for certain welfare programs. I thought creating financial independence was the point (erroneous but well intentioned), but it’s not what makes this such a bad policy.

John Hayward wrote an in-depth article, Robots Know Minimum Wage Is Always Zero, about a new technology being rolled out in California: a burger flipping robot. Everybody should read this.

We’ve all seen how many employers are already replacing certain jobs, restaurants and grocery stores for example, with iPad like tablets. You can order your burger now by clicking on a screen instead of speaking to a human being. Now the burger you order could be prepared by a machine as well.

What government is doing here is making it impossible for entry level workers to compete with technology for jobs. If entry-level workers never have an opportunity to enter the workforce, we’re in deep trouble.

When we artificially raise the price of cigarettes, we force people to quit smoking (or find a cheaper habit). When we artificially raise the price of one energy source, we force a more rapid development of new, alternative energy technologies. When we artificially raise the cost of labor, we force employers to stop hiring and force a more rapid development of alternative technologies.

As Hayward writes,

We can’t stop progress or robots, but we can adopt wise policies that maximize both supply and demand for human capital, encouraging employers to pay the best price for high-quality labor. Right now, we’re trying to force them to pay more than the labor is really worth because our government has not been able to establish a better set of labor, immigration and education policies. BurgerFlipBot is a symbol of that government failure — and a stark warning of what lies at the end of that road.

Since the turn of the century, national labor force participation rates have dropped pretty dramatically and are now just about 63%. High minimum wage laws are part of the problem. As artificial intelligence grows in its capabilities and decreases in its costs to implement, governments need to make it easier for human beings to compete for jobs. The alternative is consigning millions of people the real minimum wage: ZERO.

– Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jim Bulmer March 18, 2017 at 1:07 pm

Ashe wants to raise the minimum wage to $15.00 so he can get a pay raise in his day time job. Not complicated.

Reply

Willem Post March 21, 2017 at 3:57 pm

Ashe should be against artificially lowering wages by illegal immigrant scab labor from South America.
Low minimum wages enhances the continuation of the nanny state, which is a vote getter for Democrats.
These nanny programs should be shut down and the money should be given back to the private sector so it can afford to raise the minimum wage.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post:

About Us

The Ethan Allen Institute is Vermont’s free-market public policy research and education organization. Founded in 1993, we are one of fifty-plus similar but independent state-level, public policy organizations around the country which exchange ideas and information through the State Policy Network.
Read more...

Latest News

Nuclear phase out threatens greenhouse gas goals

April 20, 2018 by John McClaughry The news site Axios recently published an article about a report from the think tank Third Way. It looked at the effect of...

Vermont’s “Taking Game” and Universal Background Checks

April 19, 2018 by John Klar At times, government rightly employs the power of eminent domain to “take” property – for railroads, roadways, prisons, power plants, etc. But...

A Fair Way to Tax Internet Sales

April 18, 2018 by Rob Roper The Supreme Court is hearing arguments about if and how we should tax sales made over the internet. As of now, retailers...

Bernie Sanders: Too Big And Failed

April 16, 2018  by Chris Campion A couple of weeks back, Communism’s own Bernie Sanders took time out of his failed presidential bid to sit down with Jake...

State Education Policy Is Hurting Students

April 13, 2018 by Rob Roper The latest test scores for Vermont students are here, and they continue an unsettling trend of decline for our student outcomes. The...

Video