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28 May 2015 @ 09:06 am
The minimum wage and automation  
So I saw this picture on Facebook yesterday, and now it's time for me to rant about it:

Original source here.

First of all, I take schadenfreude that statistically, half of the people in the comments who are complaining about McDonald's jobs are for kids and not meant to live on, that the workers should work harder if they want to get paid more, that they should go back to college, and all the other standard anti-labor talking points, will have their jobs replaced by robots. What's that, Mr. CPA? Your job was taken by a robot? Well, maybe you should also work 24 hours a day without food or sleep. You're obvious just lazy.  photo troll001.png

I'm not going to claim that I have the moral high ground with that, but since a ton of those comments are spiteful "I don't get paid that much, so they shouldn't either" whines, I don't particularly care.

But mostly, they don't seem to understand that one person's expenses are another person's income. I mean, giving money to the poor is incredibly effective in terms of fighting poverty, and it's one of the situations where the phrase "a rising tide lifts all boats" is most accurate. Poor people spend all their money because they have to to survive, that money becomes profit for other businesses, who also spend it, which benefits other people, etc., etc. Give that money to someone like me (or for that matter, raise my salary) and I'd just stash it in investments that may or may not do anyone any good or a savings account that definitely won't do anyone but me any good, but give it to people who have to spend it and it gets spent, and since the majority of the American economy is driven by consumer spending, well...

On the subject of inflation, here's a reasonable article. As it points out, the impact is likely to be minimal, and nowadays we need more inflation anyway to convince people to spend some of that money they've got locked away.

I suppose there's always the Shania Twain Defense for low wages...
Current Mood: annoyedannoyed
Current Music: The Level podcast
Ashley <3ashiri_chan on May 28th, 2015 03:38 pm (UTC)
I'm glad we both had the same first thought. :| Why is the world full of assholes?
dorchadas: Do Not Wantdorchadas on May 28th, 2015 04:05 pm (UTC)
Because it's easy and because it feels good to laugh at people.  photo Kirby_Shake_WaddleDee_Emoticon_by_D.gif

(I'm really not the person for optimism about people.)
Joelkraada on May 28th, 2015 04:41 pm (UTC)
This really seemed inevitable regardless of the cost for individual workers. Once you have the software the hardware is a sunk cost and electricity and general upkeep is pretty trivial. Coming up with a system like this is not something you can do at the drop of a hat so surely it had been in progress for years before any arguments were made.

My only issue with the minimum wage laws is that they do create a surplus of demand while reducing supply of workers for those jobs (which happens any time you create a price floor). I see the value from a social policy perspective but I'd much rather have a tired minimum wage system based on age - let's let teenagers work for less for a couple of years to give them some work experience. Australia already does this and it makes a lot of sense to me.

Also, I'd love to put CPAs out of business by just enacting reasonable and simple tax laws . . . it'd never happen, but I can dream.
dorchadasdorchadas on May 28th, 2015 05:27 pm (UTC)
This really seemed inevitable regardless of the cost for individual workers.

Yeah, that's the other thing. Robots don't strike. Robots don't need breaks (excepting maintenance). Robots don't need personal supervision. Robots can work 24 hours a day. Robots don't need unemployment insurance or workers' comp or health insurance or a salary.

I mean, this is nothing compared to robot shipping trucks destroying the economy (I've seen estimates of 18 million out of work, counting truck drivers and associated jobs like rest stop attendants, hotel workers, etc.), but people are treating it like it's a just reward for uppity menials grasping for coin rather than the thin end of the wedge of the Robot Job Apocalypse.

Also, I'd love to put CPAs out of business by just enacting reasonable and simple tax laws . . . it'd never happen, but I can dream.

If we banned all exemptions, the tax code would fit on an index card!  photo emot-parrot.gif

Of course, I (and everyone else) get a lot of money back from exemptions, so it wouldn't be that popular. We could always have the government do taxes for you and send you the bill, like most other countries do, but anti-government sentiment is high enough in America that it would almost certainly be hugely unpopular even if it would save a ton of time.
Joelkraada on May 28th, 2015 06:05 pm (UTC)
I agree robot truck drivers are going to change the economy considerably. But it being the end of the world seems overblown. We managed to get away from local blacksmiths, farriers and night soil men.

On a macro level, ethics aside, putting lots of people out of work by replacing them with cheap robots is fantastic for humanity. Some of the people out of work will find some other way to contribute effectively and the productivity of humanity as a whole will go up.

Add in a bit of ethics and you have a great argument for a government paid living wage.

I recognize I benefit considerably from deductions, but I think at a macro level everyone having their taxes be a one hour checkbox form to fill out would result in huge gains for America. Anti-government sentiment is high enough that anything the government does will be shit upon - that's no reason not to really improve things.
dorchadasdorchadas on May 28th, 2015 07:07 pm (UTC)
I think there's a reasonable argument that while previous labor disruptions have been about mechanical muscles replacing human (or animal) muscles, the one we're currently just beginning is more about mechanical minds replacing human minds, so we can't look at previous events and necessarily extrapolate forward that the people who are displaced will find new jobs in new industries created by the advance of technology.

Admittedly, a lot of current unemployment is bad allocation of resources and idiotic austerity. Infrastructure improvement and rebuilding could probably employ millions, but no one wants to pay for it.

And yeah, I think the two most likely outcomes are robots do most of the manual labor while people live off of a citizen's wage and engage in creative endeavors (though see Culture Crash for a cynical view of how well that might work), or a nightmare dystopia where the rich live in automated splendor while the poor are locked out of the economy entirely. Which one I think is likely depends on how pessimistic I'm feeling that day.

Anti-government sentiment is high enough that anything the government does will be shit upon - that's no reason not to really improve things.

Oh, I definitely agree. My comments weren't about how it shouldn't be done, but about how it won't. I'd be fine signing a form prepared for me--I did that in Japan and it went great.

Edited at 2015-05-28 07:07 pm (UTC)
dorchadas: Teh sexdorchadas on May 28th, 2015 05:28 pm (UTC)
..."Robot Job Apocalypse" is my new Kraftwerk chiptune coverband.