It’s the time of year for making predictions. I don’t happen to be good at that sort of thing. I don’t know who will be running for president. I don’t know what edict the president is going to make next, claiming such executive orders are within his constitutional authority. I don’t know how various judges are going to vote on redefining marriage.
So I’m going to do something easier: an if/then exercise. We know, based on principle, that anything the government takes on, for whatever “good intentions,” will cause harm—and most likely will create the exact opposite of the stated goal. I can safely predict that, if an idea is actually a good one but is outside the proper role of government, then government will make things worse rather than better. If an idea is worth doing, then the free market is much more likely to bring about the desired ends.
So here’s the list.
Families would benefit from giving dads (in addition to moms) parental leave upon the birth of a new baby.
Government Way: Makes a law requiring all employers to provide paid parental leave for at least one month for any dad whose wife/partner has just given birth.
Result: Businesses hesitate to hire married men whose wives are in child-bearing years. Businesses remove other benefits from employees, in order to pay for this new requirement without going in the red. Businesses will hesitate to promote or increase pay for any man who is likely to (or has taken) paid family leave. Businesses will reflect failure to reach goals during time off in performance reviews.
Many European countries do offer lengthy paid parental leave to fathers and mothers. It looks so civilized. But several things play out in those countries: high unemployment, lack of advancement for employees, and shockingly low birth rates.
Free Market Way: Businesses who want to attract and maintain the best employees consider whether offering parental leave would help. They will consider what works best for the employer and the employee. They may come up with a variety of alternatives, which might include varying lengths of parental leave, or combining work at home with work at the office during new baby times.
Result: The employer can actually offer caring for the individual employee, instead of simply being coerced to follow a one-size-fits-all government plan. The employer feels supported by the employer and is more likely to respond with hard effort to meet the employer’s goals. The employer and employee agree on the importance of family, and families are likely to be stronger—and larger.
Employees Should Be Paid a Living Wage
Government Way: Makes a law requiring businesses to pay at least a minimum wage—for example, $10 an hour—for every employee, regardless of the value the worker brings to the business.
Result: Businesses will only hire employees who can and do contribute the minimum wage cost (which is actually high for the employer, with taxes, benefits such as health care, and management costs). Anyone who has too little experience or ability will remain unemployed. Young people who do not need a living wage, but need some income and experience, will lack previously available opportunities. Young, inexperienced, and part-time workers will be most hurt. Businesses will be less likely to risk starting businesses in areas where low-experience workers are plentiful—so unemployment will be particularly high in places where the most vulnerable live. The costs to produce goods are higher, so the cost to purchase is higher, nullifying the higher minimum wage being earned by the lowest skilled employees. So, if they have income, it doesn’t go as far.
Free Market Way: Businesses make individual agreements with individual workers, based on the work the employer wants done and the worker’s abilities. No employer is forced to pay more than the work is worth. No employee is forced to do work for less than he agrees to be paid.
Result: Businesses attract the best workers by willingly paying them what they’re worth. Less experienced workers start out working at a lower wage, but as they gain experience, their pay increases. Employers are willing to take a chance on less experienced workers, because the cost of employment is lower. Unemployment decreases—possibly down to near zero, which is prevented by current minimum wage laws. Inexperienced workers have a starting place from which they can move up. There is more flexibility for employers and employees. Costs to produce goods are more in line with what the market will bear, without artificially high costs, so money earned goes further.
Everyone Ought to Receive Affordable Health Care
Government Way: Implements a complex and unworkable scheme to force all people to buy health insurance prescribed by government, regardless of what individuals want and need and can afford. Many unwanted details are hidden within the law—i.e., higher taxes on home sales, health clinics in schools that work against parental desires or permission, pressure to force states to set up exchanges to enable the boondoggle. It is insisted this is not a tax when being forced through Congress; it is held up as a tax, in order to pretend it is constitutional, when brought before the Supreme Court.
Result: While this is ineptly named the Affordable Care Act, it is more expensive for almost all Americans, essentially just as many remain uninsured as previously, and many who previously had health insurance and doctors they liked are deprived of those options. Health insurance is mistaken for care, and both health insurance and health care are made less affordable.
Free Market Way: It is recognized that separation from free market has led to higher prices. So free market alternatives begin to appear: health care savings accounts, health care cooperatives, lower prices for direct cash payments, major medical-only insurance, insurance across state lines and portable when changing employers. Low interest payment plans might be allowed, depending on credit histories and other factors. Hospitals coordinate with charities to help those with overwhelming costs.
Result: Individual needs are met with individual options. Competition and connection between patient and payment increase attention to cost, keeping costs naturally lower, and—as happens in free markets—innovation leads to greater services at lower costs
The list could go on. If you want a clean environment, keep government out of it, or you’ll get a dirtier environment. If you want a colorblind society, stop letting government favor certain races. If you want a good education for every child, get government out of the business of controlling education from afar.
There are specific roles for government, always related to protecting life, liberty, and property. Government has been so inept in so many things, we may not trust them even with the essentials, but there is a proper role for government. However, anything beyond that proper role and government will create negative consequences, regardless of possibly positive intentions.
So I predict greater freedom, prosperity, and civilization wherever government is limited to its proper role. I predict movement toward tyranny, poverty, and savagery whenever government steps in to “fix” some perceived problem. Every time.