Self-checkout laws are the sort of question civics education should address.

Americans really need to be able to step back a bit from the immediate issue addressed in legislation and think about how it relates to our understanding of society’s proper structure.  A Rhode Island bill going after self-checkout lanes in retail stores is an excellent case study.  Kathy Gregg writes in the Providence Journal:

An army of lobbyists for Rhode Island’s grocery stores, supermarkets – and unrelated retail businesses fearful they will be the next target – have a message for lawmakers:

Leave us alone!

Their angst – and anger – was directed at freshman Rep. Megan Cotter’s bill to limit the number of self-checkout lanes at any grocery store in Rhode Island to eight and mandate that grocers provide a 10% discount to customers who use self-checkout for 10 or more items.

Cotter’s reasoning shows how important economic understanding and a coherent political philosophy are:

Her argument: “Self-checkout is a way grocery stores are avoiding paying employees by getting customers to do cashiers’ jobs for free. It seems only fair that if they are going to take on cashiers’ work, the customer should get something in return,” said Cotter when her legislation was introduced.

Even just Cotter’s characterization of the retail transaction is questionable.  For one thing, if the self-checkout is offered as a matter of cost, then customers are already “getting something in return” in the form of reduced or not-increased prices.  Perhaps more significantly, customers may consider self-checkout to be preferable, whether because it’s faster, because they prefer not to interact with other people, or because it’s more fun.  (I take my father grocery shopping each week, and we use self-checkout primarily for the third reason.)

In these cases, the argument would actually go the other way.  The store should offer customers something if they’re going to have to waste time, talk to a stranger, and miss out on the fun of self-checkout.

Actually, maybe it’s Cotter who should offer customers something, if she’s the one presuming to force the issue, which gets to the matter of political philosophy.  No doubt, Cotter is an excellent calamari saleswoman, but is it really her role to manage every aspect of Rhode Islanders’ businesses and our lives.

When we vote, is that what we’re doing?  Choosing our dictators?  That isn’t my view, and I don’t think it would be the view of a majority of Americans if they learned to think in such terms — which are the terms in which a free people should always think.


Featured image from Shutterstock.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Rhett Hardwick
Rhett Hardwick
1 year ago

10% is an awfully big hit in a supermarkets profit margin.

CC Reed
CC Reed
1 year ago

Why doesn’t she just shop at Shaw’s? No self checkout there.
How about fixing the roads before taking on the grocery business?

Rhett Hardwick
Rhett Hardwick
Reply to  CC Reed
1 year ago

Maybe try Market Basket in Attleboro. It is in Massachusetts (a few hundred yards) but the plates are all Rhode Island. I believe it is all cashiers.

CC Reed
CC Reed
Reply to  Rhett Hardwick
1 year ago

MB in Warwick, same thing. IF you are suggesting we send our genius solons out of state I second the motion.

Show your support for Anchor Rising with a 25-cent-per-day subscription.