2015 July 23 Thursday
High Min Wage To Help Bring Haute Cuisine To The Masses

University of California is going to require $15 per hour minimum wage for employees and contractors. New York State is going to probably phase in $15 per hour minimum wage for fast food workers.

This all bodes well for robotics companies. I love to see the cities (SF, LA, Seattle), states, companies, and even universities creating an economic environment that will simultaneously cut the demand for low skilled immigrant labor and also speed up the development of robots, autonomous vehicles, and automated ordering and payment systems. Great news. Progessives finally embrace policies that will make the world a better place - at least for those smart enough to still be employed.

But there is a problem with high minimum wage: It gets in the way of fully qualifying for welfare benefits. In Seattle some $15 per hour workers are asking for fewer hours from their bosses in order to keep welfare state benefits. Hey, that's bad. We need to require 50 hour work weeks for those making $15 per hour. Earn enough to cut welfare benefits even further.

I'm really excited by the prospects for totally automated fast food restaurants. In the long run they'll lower costs as robotics technology matures and prices fall. Plus, robots will be able to make a larger assortment of better tasting food. Robotic chefs will exceed the best human chefs in ability while working for a fraction of the cost and more rapidly to boot. Haute cuisine at your local strip mall. What's not to love?

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2015 July 23 08:58 PM 

Brett Bellmore said at July 24, 2015 3:19 AM:


I do not look forward to ordering a meal at the food court, and getting a tiny serving with an artistic splash of sauce, accompanied by a basically inedible garnish. Designed by somebody who's been cooking so long they've grown jaded about making the food actually taste good, they want it to be bad in an *interesting* way.

Kent Gatewood said at July 24, 2015 6:42 AM:

1. How will people currently making $17 an hour feel about how close they are to the new minimum wage?

2. In the past unions used a higher minimum as an excuse to demand that their people get raises to maintain the difference. This time too?

Black Death said at July 24, 2015 7:04 AM:

Talk about the law of unintended consequences - who ever thought that the newly enriched $15/hour workers would be asking for fewer hours so that they could hang on to their welfare goodies? Why not accommodate them by cutting them to less than 30 hours per week, so they don't qualify for benefits? People with no children (married or not) will lose their EITC, although they will be able to hang on to it if they have kids.

I wonder what will happen to the folks whose efforts are not worth $15/hour?

Randall Parker said at July 24, 2015 7:48 PM:


You will be able to create a set of cooking instructions, put these instructions in some dinner bidding server, and get restaurants indicating whether their robots and supplies can cook what you want the way you want it.

Black Death,

We'll have a lot more unemployed people on the low end of the cognitive spectrum at $15 per hour. This will be edifying for all concerned. I'm excited for what this portends.

map said at July 25, 2015 12:43 AM:

Look, this is not going to fly. It's obvious that cities like Seattle are trying to push low-margin businesses (and their workers) out of Seattle. This just means that Seattle is going to have fewer and fewer minorities as marginal businesses uproot and leave.

Frankly, these minimum wage laws are an interference under the Commerce Clause. Proper interstate trade requires the movement of goods, services and people. You cannot have cities effectively raising a tariff that guarantees certain people may not live there, just like you can't have states raising the cost of doing business in the state.

None of this is going to last.

Randall Parker said at July 26, 2015 8:13 PM:


Governments can do what they want if judges agree. The US Constitution's various restraints on government died mostly in the 1930s and 1940s. Constraints on government action have declined even further since then. I see no signs this is going to reverse.

So, yes, cities with lots of smart people will drive out the least able and least intelligent. High local minimum wages will accelerate cognitive sorting.

Black Death said at July 27, 2015 6:52 AM:

RP -

Agree that we will have lots more people on the left side of the bell curve who will be more or less permanently unemployed (and unemployable). Is this a good thing? Why? Many will turn to crime, and others will just vegetate on the dole while voting for candidates who promise them ever-more welfare goodies. I'm not so sure this is desirable.

Seth W said at July 27, 2015 2:23 PM:

>>>"Hey, that's bad. We need to require 50 hour work weeks for those making $15 per hour."

Easy there. The 40 hour work week was gained with lots of struggle and blood in Chicago. Don't forget, one third of your day for work, one third for sleep and one third for yourself, family, leisure, culture...

Here, check this out


The man's a genius...

Seth W. said at July 27, 2015 2:42 PM:

"I want to say, in all seriousness, that a great deal of harm is being done in the modern world by the belief in the virtuousness of work, and that the road to happiness and prosperity lies in an organized diminution of work."

"Modern technique has made it possible for leisure, within limits, to be not the prerogative of small privileged classes, but a right evenly distributed throughout the
community. The morality of work is the morality of slaves, and the modern world has no need of slavery."

Bertrand Russell

Vote_Trump said at July 27, 2015 5:36 PM:

And how many divisions does Russell have?

Dorian said at July 28, 2015 12:10 PM:

Why wouldn't a progressively more socialist government mandate human employment to corporations? Robots be damned.

Unz and fellow travelers, just don't want to admit that this measure is at least as likely (IMO much more) to lead to more immigration and more onerous taxes and more of everything economically problematic than fostering a new industrial revolution.

Seth W. said at July 29, 2015 2:23 PM:

To Vote_Trump:

I don't know what you are talking about. Care to make yourself clear?

Randall Parker said at August 2, 2015 3:21 PM:

Black Death, Dorian,

I see mass unemployment of the lower classes as the condition most likely to lead to an end to low-skilled immigration. The reason why: Once fast food restaurant owners and farm owners no longer want to hire illegal aliens the business support for low-skilled immigration will evaporate.

I grant you the unemployment causes problems. But I assert low skilled immigration causes bigger problems.

Ross said at August 3, 2015 3:10 PM:

As an ex-pat living in France, where the minimum wage is very high compared to the U.S. (and payroll taxes are obscenely high), I can tell you some things that are different:

Grocery stores have no baggers. Everyone bags their own groceries in France, even in high-end supermarkets.

Restaurants have no busboys. Servers bus their own tables and cooks clean the kitchen. (There is often a dishwasher, though in many places the cooks do this too.)

Automation has been in high gear here for a long time. Self check-out at supermarkets, self book check-out at libraries, weigh-and-post your own mail at the post office, etc, are old hat to the French.

It is just so expensive to hire low-skill workers, both on salary and payroll charges, and so hard to fire them, that they've long found "solutions" to this--but those "solutions" also mean chronic 10% unemployment. And the lowest-skilled (many of whom are Arab/African immigrants) find it near impossible to get their foot in the door employment-wise. America's future?

Mike Street Station said at August 4, 2015 6:22 AM:

@Randall Parker,

"I see mass unemployment of the lower classes as the condition most likely to lead to an end to low-skilled immigration. The reason why: Once fast food restaurant owners and farm owners no longer want to hire illegal aliens the business support for low-skilled immigration will evaporate."

I can't possibly imagine why you think the decline of low skilled employment would have any effect on low skilled immigration. Even if every farm, housing construction, or fast food place was worked entirely by robots, that has nothing to do with the political demand for immigration. The business need is only a small part of it. There is a far greater political need. For Democrats, it's their future voting base, and it's driven by a lot of demand to bring in more co-ethnics from one of the party's constituencies. If they are jobless when they get here, in a political calculation, so much the better.

I know you, Unz, and others in the blogosphere think this will somehow reduce the demand for low skilled immigration simply by removing the need for it. I think those two are not nearly as connected as you think.

Check it out said at August 5, 2015 4:43 PM:

There is a new fad of gastronomic and culinary schools in Mexico turning out "Chefs", who all they know is how to chop vegetables real fast and make ornaments with food some of which comes in geometric shapes. That's all they're good at. Can you imagine a robot chef.... Fuuuuuck, no!

Let's hope we never lose the wonderful cuisine of our grannies with all their secrets, love and dedication.

Dorian said at August 6, 2015 7:46 AM:


The boundary conditions are far from fixed in the proposed economic model. I'm making just one meager point, well perhaps two, I'll restate more clearly.

1. Is there reason to underestimate virtually any governments' pork-kenesiean impulse? As a general thing, the US Gov can readily mandate human employment, and mitigate wide-scale employment of robotics. At least greatly prolong the transformation of certain industries.

2. The Democratic party particularly seems keen to import unlimited number of illegals to insure their empowerment. One can also assume they are quite happy to enable a variety of unions to brutally flog corporations against automation in the service industry.

Those two standing factors really stymie my optimism for me about the economic consequences of a higher minimum wage.

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