Targeting Low-skilled Workers

by Don Boudreaux on December 9, 2009

in Competition, Complexity & Emergence, Prices, Reality Is Not Optional, Work

This evening while shopping at Target I noticed that, in a single trip out to the parking lot, one (teenage) employee manages to round up and return to the entry-way of the store a quantity of shopping carts that, when I was working such jobs 30-plus years ago, required the concerted efforts of at least two employees.

Today’s employee is assisted in his or her efforts by this nifty piece of capital equipment.


This mechanical device — the name of which I do not know — pushes the shopping carts from behind as the employee effortlessly guides them into place within the store.

It’s especially important for those persons who support minimum-wage legislation to realize that employers can almost always, at the margin, substitute away from human labor and toward mechanized or electronic “labor” — that is, capital.  Mythical indeed is the notion that employers must hire a given, or minimum, number of low-skilled workers.  As the cost of hiring such workers rises, employers have greater incentives to substitute away from employing such workers.

This machine whose operation I witnessed today at Target testifies to the futility of minimum-wage legislation to improve the lot of most low-skilled workers.


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