The Minimum Wage Machine

Via Andrew Fishman’s Art, minimum wage machine is a sculpture installation by Blake Fall-Conroy, allowing anyone to work for minimum wage for as long as they wish:

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.

30 Comments on "The Minimum Wage Machine"

  1. bobbiethejean | Dec 15, 2012 at 10:19 am |

    Brilliant, poignant, powerful.

  2. Yeah, you could use this as an argument for raising the minimum wage, but you’d better serve the youth by taking it down to the cafeteria of the local High School and letting them figure out how much time and work equaled how many pennies. Especially if they built a version that withheld FICA and taxes, and “Child Support” for the male crankers.

  3. Your friend, Virginia Cassidy | Dec 15, 2012 at 12:03 pm |

    It doesn’t look like that sturdy a machine to me. Less than 5 minutes with a heavy blunt instrument of some kind should net you the whole shebang.

  4. InfvoCuernos | Dec 15, 2012 at 1:16 pm |

    …or you could be an artist and build gadgets like this for a living

  5. I will say first is I like This art installation.
    What bothers me is that either way $7.25 or more than $7.25 peoples livelihoods are completely socially constructed. All these power relations mediating your survival needs.

    Up until 1980 people could escape this by going and living on the Frontier. But with the Alaska pipeline the Homesteading program was ended. No more cabin in the woods. No more direct contact with nature carving out you own survival with your own two hands.

    I mean if this thing cranked out quarters would you feel less pathetic doing this? This is really good commentary on modern life.

    • Good point.

      The closing of “frontiers” frequently (always?) has implications for the more established institutions and elements of a society.

      I would argue that the “frontier” in the U.S. effectively closed earlier than the Alaska/1980’s date that you give, but the point still stands.

      “if this thing cranked out quarters would you feel less pathetic doing this?”

      Welcome to post-scarcity economics.

      • Yeah, I mean you can still, buy land and be a “homesteader” and do permaculture and raise goats or whatever. I have a lot of respect for people that do that. I’ve done different aspects of it myself. But its twice as hard with a mortgage, almost impossible. You need an outside job, plus the Homestead life.

        I am hoping eventually CSA’s will continue to spread and form and give little communities more food security and independence People shouldn’t have to dance around like an organ grinder monkey for coins just to meet basic survival needs.

        I know people can still have careers they like and be self employed, but most people can’t. Most people are alienated from an independent means of survival.

        • InfvoCuernos | Dec 15, 2012 at 5:44 pm |

          I am self employed, and the only way I can make it is by hook and crook. It would be absolutely impossible to keep the doors open if I actually followed all the regs, laws, and paid all the bills on time etc. I am considering taking on a second job just to pay off debt from the first one, but its a job I love that much that I would do it despite the lack logic of it. Some skills need to survive even if they don’t make sense in this economy.

        • By the way, in response to a Disinfo post by Thursdaynine a month or so back, I found and joined a CSA in my area.

          Even though I’ve got garden space here and raise chickens, the CSA is a very nice arrangement.

          Here’s the CSA locator website I ended up using, from the Distant Soil blog post.

    • Liam_McGonagle | Dec 15, 2012 at 4:34 pm |

      Your point about the entrepreneurial possibilities at that time are well taken, but feel a little incomplete.

      The federal government fought its bloodiest and most expensive war ever to keep western lands open for homesteaders and out of the hands of slaveholders. Not to mention coordinating ethnic cleansing to ’empty’ it to begin with.

      Farm life was never an isolated rural idyll of total independence, either. Those regions suffered and still suffer the highest incidence of mental and physical illness due to a lack of infrastructure and services. Watch a couple episodes of ‘Frontier House’ or read a few vignettes from ‘Wisconsin Death Trip’ to get a practical feel for it.

      The true difference between now and then is that the ratio of avaiable resources per capita to the ability of information technology to support concentrations of ownership was much more favorable back then. It is not a function of social or government involvement as much as technological development.

      • Well, I’m not simply a naive romantic. I mushed dogs in Alaska and Minnesota and spent all of this past spring summer growing vegetables in the Wilderness of the Adirondacks, with out any power tools, or chemical fertilizers or pesticides. If Homesteading was still going on in Alaska right now I would be there doing it right now.

        It doesn’t have to be completely fantasy land idyllic for it to be favorable to modern life, IMO. The book “Coming into the Country” is a good presentation of the last Alaska homesteaders.

        Very few people desire this type of lifestyle, fewer can pull it off, but my point is its not available.

  6. They should display these side by side.

    I think the birds might be getting the better deal!

  7. BuzzCoastin | Dec 15, 2012 at 7:51 pm |

    that’s not art
    that’s a statement of fact

    art would be showing you how to get the pennies
    without turning the crank

  8. the government gets more tax money from forceing business’s to increase there wages. i work at a burgerking and i make 8.50. and yea im the highest paid non manager in the store. every one else does make there 7.25. but the jr whopper is 1.89 now, it used to be just a 1$ when i started, when u raize what people have to earn, then the total power of the dollar drops, u can still get so much stuff with a dollar, in other countrys.

  9. Andrew Gray | Dec 17, 2012 at 2:02 pm |

    Raising the minimum wage doesn’t work…Like rent control, it sets a price floor and It causes the unemployment rate to rise putting more people out of work. Most people don’t understand why we have a minimum wage.. it was never meant to be a “living wage” it was created out of the depression when the courts were flooded with cases where employers made promises to employees they never kept (because people were so desperate for work). Thus the minumum wage was established to settle the cases when employers alleged that the employee agreed to work for $0.01 a day or whatever.

    • Jin The Ninja | Dec 18, 2012 at 12:29 am |

      rent control actually does work, why do you think they repealed it in california?

      • Andrew Gray | Dec 18, 2012 at 12:55 am |

        If you have ever tried to get an apartment in Santa Monica, you will know the only way to get a rent controlled apartment is through the obituaries. Writing in 1946, economists Milton Friedman and George J. Stigler
        said: “Rent ceilings, therefore, cause haphazard and arbitrary
        allocation of space, inefficient use of space, retardation of new
        construction and indefinite continuance of rent ceilings, or
        subsidization of new construction and a future depression in residential
        building.”Although those paying lower than market rent are “protected,” most
        economists argue that newer residents actually pay higher rent due to
        reduced supply.

  10. disqus_11A0ccVL42 | Dec 17, 2012 at 2:46 pm |

    Lets just raise the minimum wage up to $20 per hour!(?) Then all these small businesses would have to lay people off because they can not afford to pay them. Unintended consequences that the libs never take into consideration.

  11. Minimum wage is not intended to be a living wage. It’s basically the artificially raised wage a business owner pays someone who has little to no skill while they work to make themselves actually useful and worthy of a real wage.

    • Jin The Ninja | Dec 18, 2012 at 12:28 am |

      so what is the person making min. wage supposed to ‘live’ on if not their wage?

      • Andrew Gray | Dec 18, 2012 at 12:59 am |

        If you compare the minimum wage standard of living to most impoverished countries, they get paid like kings. I’m not saying living on minimum wage is easy. But I will say that people making minimum wage never have to worry about starving to death…something a large percentage of the world has to worry about.

        • Jin The Ninja | Dec 18, 2012 at 11:55 am |

          first of all. cost of living increases in the first world. second of all why are so many wal mart and min wagers earners on foodstamps/ medicaid if they can survive on their wage?

          • Yes, cost of living increases, however with low unemployment so do wages (since the supply of available workers dwindles thus increasing the price of work). Raising the minimum wage increases unemployment, the opposite of what is needed to increase wages. Second of all, I said they won’t have to worry about starving. In the United States Its pretty easy to survive (i.e. strictly eat) on minimum wage. However, to maintain a first world standard of living, you need more. The most cost effective way to do this is through the Earned Income Tax Credit- which I am heavily in favor of raising. It helps the poor without affecting unemployment – it also helps the poor at a much lower administration cost than welfare or food stamps. Don’t get me wrong here. I’m all for helping the poor. But raising the minimum wage isn’t the right way to do it -because it really doesn’t help them. I’m for helping them in the most effective and lowest cost way – i.e. the earned income tax credit- which we should raise and do away with food stamps and welfare.

    • So tell us, what job is worth hiring people for but not worth paying them for?

  12. People get more from work than cranking a handle. Experience, on the job training, association with others, the chance to get promoted, etc.

    How many people who make better than min. wage would be OK with standing in the corner and cranking the handle for the same pay?

  13. where could i find this.

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