Thursday, December 13, 2012

This machine allows anyone to work for minimum wage for as long as they like. Turning the crank on the side releases one penny every 4.97 seconds, for a total of $7.25 per hour. This corresponds to minimum wage for a person in New York.
This piece is brilliant on multiple levels, particularly as social commentary. Without a doubt, most people who started operating the machine for fun would quickly grow disheartened and stop when realizing just how little they’re earning by turning this mindless crank. A person would then conceivably realize that this is what nearly two million people in the United States do every day…at much harder jobs than turning a crank. This turns the piece into a simple, yet effective argument for raising the minimum wage.
The argument here is neither simple nor effective. But hey! It's an analogy.
In reality, this machine is a miracle-worker of sorts. A person turns a crank and gets money. Nothing is being produced, no consumer is benefitting from this job, no goods or services are being offered, and yet the crank-turner is making money.
In other words, the argument here rests upon someone being paid to do nothing. Normally---or at least in a free market---someone is paid commensurate to the goods he produces for people to consume, or to the services he provides for people to use. Neither of these actions is being performed here, no consumer is being benefitted in any way, and still the crank-turner makes money! What a thing to behold. It's a terrible metaphor for market functions, and as far as minimum wage goes it's a non-sequitir, but it's a fascinating machine nonetheless.  

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