11 Mar 2015

The Robot Lobby Loves a Minimum Wage Hike

Economics, Minimum wage, Shameless Self-Promotion 47 Comments

There is a clever page on Facebook purporting to represent Robots who are for a $15 minimum wage. Here’s one of their “posters”:

robot min wage

This is fantastic. It alludes to the fact that labor unions and other groups support the minimum wage for personal gain, while cloaking that support with noble-sounding rhetoric. (Here’s a recent article by Jeff Tucker outlining the really ominous history of the minimum wage. It’s not a case of legislators meaning well.)

Elsewhere I have walked through the scholarly debates on the subject, but I imagine clever graphics like the above will reach more eyeballs than my discussion of the peer-reviewed literature.

47 Responses to “The Robot Lobby Loves a Minimum Wage Hike”

  1. guest says:

    From the FEE article:

    “The eugenics movement, as an application of the principle of the “planned society,” was deeply hostile to free markets. As The New Republic summarized in a 1916 editorial:

    “[“]Imbecility breeds imbecility as certainly as white hens breed white chickens; and under laissez-faire imbecility is given full chance to breed, and does so in fact at a rate far superior to that of able stocks.[“] …”

    “… The famed Fabian socialist Sidney Webb was as blunt as anyone in his 1912 article “The Economic Theory of the Minimum Wage”:

    “[“]Legal Minimum Wage positively increases the productivity of the nation’s industry, by ensuring that the surplus of unemployed workmen shall be exclusively the least efficient workmen; or, to put it in another way, by ensuring that all the situations shall be filled by the most efficient operatives who are available.[“]

    “The intellectual history shows that whole purpose of the minimum wage was to create unemployment among people who the elites did not believe were worthy of holding jobs.”


    I think this is the approach that will work best with today’s Progressives / socialists (and some Conservatives).

    • guest says:

      As a former Neocon, I understood that “Illegal Immigrants” (the quotation marks are not intended to deny that this term can be useful in certain contexts) were prospering because they were finding ways to work below the Minimum Wage, and that the Left were likely imposing higher Minimum Wages for this purpose.

      But now that I understand the economics of the division of labor, I know that whatever economic destruction comes from having Illegal Immigrants in the U.S., it is *not* coming from them underbidding U.S. workers. Rather, it comes from them voting for leftist policies, but that is a problem with government, not the market.

  2. S.C. says:

    I don’t know how to respond to Tucker’s article other than “So what?” and “I don’t buy it for a second.”. Absolutely no one today supports the minimum wage for eugenics reasons and it’s dumb to expect that people would stop supporting it because of this possible history.

    • guest says:

      You’re missing the point, which is that your Progressive forebears succeeded in creating unemployment by implementing a Minimum Wage.

      Meaning: The Minimum Wage causes unemployment.

      No one is saying that their motive is what caused unemployment. Whether the motive is to cause unemployment or help the poor, the Minimum Wage necessarily causes unemployment.

      • S.C. says:

        that your Progressive forebears

        “My” progressive forebears? Do you know me? If not, then you shouldn’t make wild assumptions like these.

    • skylien says:

      Some crazy person is saying: “You know I started mixing nuts into the food of everyone because I want that all people with an allergy to nuts die from an anaphylactic shock!”

      S.C.: “Wow, your are really crazy, but so what!? I want to mix nuts into the food of everyone because it is just healthy! I really don’t care why you did it.”

      • Anonymous says:

        i had mentioned the following in the first response: “Do you listen when the “leaders of the world” speak? They are confirming what your are unable to swallow. And quite clearly?”

        Of course that wasn’t cherry picked in your retort. Surely covered under your “I don”t have time or patience,” tin foil hat nonsense.

        No, no. You are busy trolling blogs and such. For that, you have time and patience.

      • Tel says:

        You missed the bit in the middle where people did die after the first person’s efforts.

    • Anonymous says:

      There goes your cognitive dissonance kicking in while you cling to the hope of benevolent/competent leaders doing best to comply with constituents? What makes you think the eugenics and planned society is “history?” Well it is history. If you mean past, present and future. Observe the world around you and you ought to see quite clearly that such an agenda is blossoming. Ever here of Agenda 21? Ever do any research on planned parenthood? Have you ever read any working papers from the think tanks where nearly all policy comes from? Do you listen when the “leaders of the world” speak? They are confirming what your are unable to swallow. And quite clearly.

      • S.C. says:

        to the hope of benevolent/competent leaders

        I don’t believe in “benevolent leaders”.

        Ever here of Agenda 21? Ever do any research on planned parenthood? Have you ever read any working papers from the think tanks where nearly all policy comes from?

        I have neither the time nor the patience to go on wild-goose chases or get out my tin foil.

        • Anonymous says:

          What you mean is that you don’t have time to form your own well informed conclusions. So when people inform you of things as they are, you resort to ad homenim rhetoric. Your response was “so what” and “I don’t buy it for a second.” Thing is… it’s not a hard sell. You don’t need to buy anything for it to be a proper paradigm. You can’t remain ignorant and go on the attack. If you don’t have “time or patitence” stay in the ignorance is bliss camp. You can enjoy ad homenim attack and tin foil hat rhetoric… just a little bit longer. If your lucky.

        • Anonymous says:

          So, according to S.C. if you read working papers or pay attention to comments coming out of the UN, or state funded organizations like planned parenthood or the known think tanks that generate the bulk of our nations (or even global) policy you wear a tin foil hat? Wow. this is what is wrong with people. So sad. Like agenda 21 is not spelled out clear as day. As if it doesn’t exist. As if it is not from the leading supra-sovereign organization. As if it does not have programs already moving forward all over the world. As if you couldn’t go onto to your local town or county website and find factors of implementation. As if elements of eugenics are not dotted all over political/corporate world. As if leading politicians all over the world, including US politicians don’t openly talk of these things. As if the Chinese one child policy isn’t the model for the world. As if our own leading politicians don’t openly worship people like Chancellor Mao. In the context of a not so good for the average Joe scenario.

        • guest says:

          Agenda 21

          “Agenda 21 is a non-binding, voluntarily implemented action plan of the United Nations with regard to sustainable development.[1] It is a product of the Earth Summit (UN Conference on Environment and Development) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992.”

          Earth_Summit – Welcome to the United Nations: It’s Your World

          “The Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro was unprecedented for a UN conference, in terms of both its size and the scope of its concerns. Twenty years after the first global environment conference, the UN sought to help Governments rethink economic development and find ways to halt the destruction of irreplaceable natural resources and pollution of the planet. …”

          “… Governments recognized the need to redirect international and national plans and policies to ensure that all economic decisions fully took into account any environmental impact. And the message has produced results, making eco-efficiency a guiding principle for business and governments alike. …”

          “… The two-week Earth Summit was the climax of a process, begun in December 1989, of planning, education and negotiations among all Member States of the United Nations, leading to the adoption of Agenda 21, a wide-ranging blueprint for action to achieve sustainable development worldwide. At its close, Maurice Strong, the Conference Secretary-General, called the Summit a “historic moment for humanity”. Although Agenda 21 had been weakened by compromise and negotiation, he said, it was still the most comprehensive and, if implemented, effective programme of action ever sanctioned by the international community.

          • Taboo says:

            I am not sure what your tone is. I would say this is the key summary taken from wikipedia;

            “it was still the most comprehensive and, if implemented, effective programme of action ever sanctioned by the international community.“

            It takes much more than a cursory glance at wikipedia to glean anything of value regarding this topic.

            They issues at had are obvious.

            • guest says:

              “It takes much more than a cursory glance at wikipedia to glean anything of value regarding this topic.”

              That quote you cite comes from the UN site, not Wikipedia.

        • guest says:


          Rosa Koire Speech about Agenda 21

        • guest says:

          “I have neither the time nor the patience to go on wild-goose chases or get out my tin foil.”

          S.C., if you could go ahead and acknowledge that belief in the Agenda 21 conspiracy does not require wearing tin foil hats, that would be greeeat, mkay?

    • E. Harding says:

      Are you the Salty Current from PZ’s blog, by any chance? You have a similar tone as most coming from that hive.

    • E. Harding says:

      “Absolutely no one today supports the minimum wage for eugenics reasons”
      Dude, ya heard of Ron Unz? He resurrected this idea and brought it into a conservative sidestream, if not the conservative mainstream.

  3. ax123man says:

    I’ll just add one ore thought to this. It’s my belief that we often make decisions subconsciously, or at least are influenced that way. To further skylien’s example, one doesn’t need to consciously want to kill “inferior” nut allergy people. Instead they can just limit their concern which could lead to exactly that event happening.

    • E. Harding says:

      Strongly agreed. Analyzing unintended consequences is one of the most important tasks of economics.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I think most people who support the minimum wage will continue to do so, in addition they will lobby for a robot ban.

  5. Transformer says:

    Is the robot’s economic logic sounds ?

    Substitute “any worker whose productivity takes them above the minimum wage” for “robot” and you have a good reason from self-interest why the vast majority of workers should support the minimum wage.

    Can that be right ? The minimum wage may allow above minimum wage workers to get a bigger share of the pie. But the pie will be smaller and taxes will be higher and these effects may outweigh the benefits to them of the minimum wage.

    • ax123man says:

      Transformer, not sure I follow your first paragraph. Why should they support it? Because if we raise it very high, robots will take over and increase productivity and pay for the small remaining jobs?

      I’m not sure raising the minimum wage gives those workers a bigger share. The economics of the division of labor says that the ideal state is that there is no minimum wage and everyone gets paid according to the value they add. The result is overall wealth is maximized. That includes the robots.

      Btw, side question: what happens if Robot’s become sophisticated enough to do all menial labor?

      • Transformer says:

        I was assuming that the point of the robot picture was that the robot must be thinking “great, minimum wage for humans, more demand for robots” and I was wondering if that logic was good.

        On your side question: I think if robots were able to do all menial labor then that would represent a huge boost for human productivity, and would mean that using reasonable assumption the real wages of menial workers would go up to reflect this increased [productivity.

    • Tel says:

      Robots generally earn below the minimum wage, so every time the minimum wages goes up, more investment is spent on robot design and construction.

  6. Harold says:

    “It was during this period and for this reason that we saw the first trial runs of the minimum wage in Massachusetts in 1912” Not really the first trial run -what about the 1389 amendment to the Statute of Labourers? Or the 1604 act setting minimum wage for textile workers? Or the Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1894 in New Zealand? In fact, whilst eugenicists may have been on board for the reasons given, most early legislation was not motivate by this.

    • Darien says:

      Tucker is quite explicitly talking about American history, and I’m fair sure none of those examples took place in the US.

    • skylien says:

      Finally it doesn’t really matter if eugenics initiated it or went on board somewhere along the way. If they did it for those reasons then people should ask themselves if they really want to be on board with eugenics and white supremacists when it is about minimum wages..

      • S.C. says:

        How can the same thing not be said for opposition to anti-discrimination laws?

        • Bob Murphy says:

          S.C. wrote: “How can the same thing not be said for opposition to anti-discrimination laws?”

          All right, *that* is a good retort, S.C., I’ll give you that one. I’m not saying it makes me wish I had written something different in the OP, just saying that I think this is much better than your initial, “So what?”

          • skylien says:

            “All right, *that* is a good retort, S.C., I’ll give you that one. I’m not saying it makes me wish I had written something different in the OP, just saying that I think this is much better than your initial, “So what?””

            I guess that should mean that the retort, though good, is still not good enough to settle the issue, so shouldn’t this comment be followed with an argument why it is still not good enough?

          • S.C. says:

            My problem, Bob, is that what Tucker’s wrote is just…well, it’s hard to describe it. It makes me scratch my head more than anything, like if someone hit me with a barrage of non sequiturs. And Tucker’s not the only one who has done this. Like that guy up there talking about Agenda 21. It’s not that I don’t think it exists. I know it exists. It’s just that his take on it is nuts. The text he quoted seemed pretty innocuous to me, so…*shrug*. Perhaps I should say I don’t see how Tucker’s article is so convincing.

            More to come…

            • guest says:

              “Like that guy up there talking about Agenda 21. It’s not that I don’t think it exists. … The text he quoted seemed pretty innocuous to me”

              The text I quoted was proof of the conspiracy, not an argument as to why it was an evil conspiracy.

              Your previous comment referenced tin foil hats, a reference that is unwarranted if we’re merely disagreeing about whether it’s good or bad.

        • skylien says:


          Right as Bob said, that is a proper retort now. However I wrote that it depends on the reasons people are for or against certain things and if they are actually true. If the eugenics and white supremacists were wrong with concluding that the minimum wage was effective in hitting the groups of people they don’t like the hardest, then there is no harm in being for the MW. However it seems no one is trying to justify the MW based on making the life of the poorest, weakest and lowest skilled better. It is only defended in the sense that a “modest” MW doesn’t affect overall unemployment significantly. So at least to me it seems there is no disagreement on the effect on the people hardest to employ (at least at a certain point in time).

          With anti-discrimination there is a disagreement on the effects, are they positive or negative for the actually targeted groups, or/and maybe those laws just shift the problem at a different place or/and create new ones.
          I am not saying having the same opinion on a certain topic as a lunatic automatically makes you one as well. Hitler was a vegetarian, that doesn’t mean that vegetarians want to hurt Jews.. But if you agree that a crazy person who is for X specifically because it results in the negative effect Y, and you agree that it results in the negative effect Y but you are still for X then I have to ask if you aren’t a lunatic as well.

          Much more likely though maybe you just didn’t know or underestimated the negative effect Y, then it might be useful to point to those crazy people who specifically because of Y wanted X, to wake you up a little bit and get you overthink this again.. And this is what Tucker is basically doing. Is that wrong?

  7. Chris says:

    If we ought to question minimum wage because of its eugenics origin, are we to also question Planned Parenthood because of its eugenics origin?

  8. E. Harding says:

    I don’t see the problem with eugenics, but, since unemployment is correlated with poverty, which is correlated with high birthrates, minimum wage-based unemployment just won’t work from a eugenics perspective. It may, however, drive unskilled people out of the area the minimum wage is enacted, possibly leading to an improving social environment and higher property values in the relevant area. Alternatively, the higher minimum wage may just attract these same unskilled people.

    • S.C. says:

      I personally think all practicing eugenicists should be shot, so…

  9. senyoreconomist says:

    Hello Dr. Murphy,
    A couple of months ago you really raved about and recomended a blog. In that blog it had something about the minimum wage which was quite good. HIs name had “Alexander” in it? Anyway, do you know what I am talking about? I meant to save the link, but forgot to…I have an interest in the minimum wage and when I see your stuff on it I try to save it and I would like to save his stuff as well. If you have an idea of who I am talking about could you please post it in the reply section? Thank you very much.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      This was the blog:


      But I don’t have the minimum wage article handy.

      • senyoreconomist says:

        Dr. Murphy,

        Thanks a lot. Wtih that I was able to locate what I was looking for. I was looking for the link, “Beware the man of one study” from December 12, 2014. In that blog entry he says that Card and Krueger wrote a pretty good defense of their postion against the criticisms levelled by Neumark, et al. He gives a link to this defense. I am a bit behind in my reading, I was wondering if in your Mises Canada article do you talk about this defense given by Card and Krueger? Thank you very much.

  10. guest says:

    You know what else the Robot Lobby wants?


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