Counter-Moves in the American Economy
Did anyone notice the counter-moves emerging in the American economy last week? The week after the President of the United States sat in a Washington DC park with illegal immigrants telling them that "change" would only come about by their continuing to protest, and the Pope touted the evils of capitalism, thousands of fast-food employees demonstrated across the country demanding that their wages be doubled. Yes, doubled - from roughly $7.50 an hour to $15 dollars an hour. Welcome to chapter 17 of the redistributionist economy, where income is based on extracting benefits from government or industry, rather than being paid what one is worth.
We are living in an age that has forgotten the lessons of the past. Leave aside that minimum wage jobs are mostly occupied by teenage, entry-level and part-time workers. Ignore the fact that imposing higher wages on companies eliminates jobs, raises prices and reduces profitability. Remember in the 70's how badly wage and price controls worked? Apparently "fairness" has trumped both math and logic these days. But wait: There may be a cultural canary in the coal mine that these protesters and our president and his fellow redistributionists ought to heed.
Applebee's has now installed tablet ordering devices on their dining tables. Customers will now decide what they want, touch the screen and send their orders straight to the kitchen. What is the significance of this? It will save Applebee's money because fewer servers will be needed. Less time and employee effort will be occupied at tables discussing the weather or last night's football game. Fewer costly ordering mistakes will occur resulting in more profit for Applebee's. As consumers, we may miss the more laid-back consumer culture of yore. But the lesson here is that as long as companies remain private, they will find ways to cut costs, just as gas stations did years ago by moving from the "service station" model to "pump your own gas."
Right now in the American economy, it still matters what one's labor is actually worth to a company, something that "living wage" advocates ignore at their peril. All the protests in the world will not change the drive for efficiency and productivity that animates American business. Unless of course an increasingly intrusive, bloated and unrealistic federal government steps in to permanently stifle an economy that is the envy of the world. The truth is that almost all fast food workers either move up the chain into management or ownership in the restaurant business or move onto other endeavors, having proved that they can show up, follow orders, and work hard. That is precisely the point of these jobs. Alternatively, we can attempt to do something that no economy has ever done successfully. We can attempt to replace the realities of business with what "ought to be" and sink American business for good.
Jay Haug is a free-lance writer living in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida and author of Beyond the Flaming Sword. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.