Monday, July 18, 2011
Unemployment from Convenience
On a recent trip to the city of Chicago, I encountered two situations which clarified the idea of creative destruction and its role in unemployment. We decided to enjoy a day at the races, so a trip to Arlington Park Race Track was in order. And I realized how long it has been since I went to the track when I ran in to trouble trying to place a bet. The problem? No cashiers.
The clerks at the betting windows have been replaced by computerized machines where you insert some cash and push a few buttons for the bet. And it was actually kind of complicated ... and you get a voucher for any money you don't spend .... and you can't ask any questions or get any feedback on how to make various bets ... and it was a bit disappointing. How many people lost their jobs for the convenience of computerized betting?
The unemployment became more clear on a trip into the city when I visited one the numerous city parking garages. There is not a clerk to be found. And that is quite frustrating when I pulled into the wrong garage and attempted to turn around. The machine wouldn't let me out for less than fourteen dollars .... after turning around thirty seconds after entering the garage. Who are you going to appeal to? No cops, no attendants, no cashiers. I wonder how many city attendants have been laid off.
Of course, that's the nature of creative destruction. And I'm sure these people who formerly had jobs took advantage of their unemployment to return to school for graduate degrees or, better yet, probably went out and started their own businesses.
Now, do I think the race track or city owed these people jobs for life? No. But is this sort of automation part of our problem? Oh yeah.