Has McDonald’s Declared War on the Middle Class?
Only if you define war as consensual trade in a free market.
August 13, 2013 - 11:00 am
While she does not explicitly say so in her report of new tech developments in the fast food industry, CNET blogger Amanda Kooser seems to disapprove of self-service checkouts. She writes:
McDonalds recently went on a hiring binge in the U.S., adding 62,000 employees to its roster. The hiring picture doesn’t look quite so rosy for Europe, where the fast food chain is drafting 7,000 touch-screen kiosks to handle cashiering duties.
Kooser calls the move “another blow against human interaction.” It doesn’t take much to imagine Occupy protesters lamenting a successful corporation destroying good entry-level jobs.
Of course, as we have seen in grocery and retail stores across the country, the addition of self-service checkouts does not completely eliminate the need for flesh and blood cashiers. In my experience, someone still stands by to monitor the transactions and assist customers who run into problems. And cashiers still man standard checkouts, serving a majority of shoppers who like things as they were.
That said, even if computers replaced every cashier on Earth, they could not be properly regarded as destructive. Jobs lost to innovations which increase productivity and profit should not be mourned. After all, a job has purpose only so long as it remains mutually beneficial to both the employee and the employer. That means it must maximize profit.
Such a notion proves offensive to many, certainly to those on the political Left who regard employment as a right. A business owes something to the community in which it operates, the argument goes, and should provide good-paying jobs at the expense of its owner’s gain.
No objective principle informs that perspective. If the purpose of business was to provide unproductive jobs at a loss, who would go into business? There exists no duty for a business to provide jobs.
Arguments to the contrary universally ignore the objective concept of value. As McDonald’s employees across the country have engaged in protests seeking a $15 starting wage, up from the current $8, left-wing pundits have taken the opportunity to promote their false economic narrative. Time’s Eric Liu contributes:
A $15 minimum wage is the key element of “middle-out economics” (a concept I’ve helped shape, along with my co-author Nick Hanauer). Middle-out economics, as opposed to trickle-down, says that the best job creator is a healthy middle class with the purchasing power to generate and sustain demand. It says – as Henry Ford figured out a long time ago – that workers aren’t costs to be cut; they are customers to be cultivated. Investing in that middle class makes more sense than expanding tax breaks for the wealthy.
An impressive amount of fallacy appears in that short statement. The language so thoroughly obfuscates the truth that any response must start from scratch.
A bottle of Coke is a bottle of Coke whether you pay $1 for it or $3. Likewise, an hour of labor is an hour of labor whether compensated at $8 or $15. Value cannot be created by inflating price. Paying someone more does not make them more productive. Paying more for something than the value it represents does not make it more valuable. On the contrary, it thwarts wealth creation in favor of redistribution.
Certainly, wealth redistribution remains sacrosanct to the Left. But let’s not pretend it somehow drives a productive economy. Only in a free market where transactions are consensual can real value be measured by price, providing accurate signals to both producers and consumers. The coercive price-setting advocated by the Left, giving people money simply because they demand it, signals that production is for chumps.
People who produce real value don’t have to protest for higher compensation. They earn it. Employers gladly pay what an employee is actually worth, because retaining that employee proves profitable.
The self-interest pursued in business takes nothing from anyone. Portraying a business like McDonald’s as an enemy in a war against the middle class offends reason. A business engaged in consensual trade with employees and customers cannot take anything from anyone. Only the state has the power to take. By seeking to deploy that power against a business like McDonald’s, the Left declares war against production, value, wealth, and liberty.