Friday, August 19, 2005

When government makes you unemployable

Last night I wrote on how government keeps people poor by making many people depend on the farce of Social Security for their retirement. Tonight we'll look at how government makes people unemployable by trying to act in their best interest.

A New York Post editorial warned yesterday about the New York City Council's imminent passage of the "Health Care Security Act" -- or, as the Post calls it, the "Keep Wal-Mart Out of the Five Boroughs Act." I think it could turn out to be the "Make People Unemployable Act."

The Council did indeed pass the measure, as expected, with enough votes to override Mayor Bloomberg's veto. That is, should he choose to. It's extremely doubtful that he would: his Democratic opponents in this year's mayoral race would seize on Bloomberg's veto to paint him as anti-worker, anti-poor and pro-greed.

The Post is indeed correct that the established, expensive grocers (the ones around where I work are Gristede's, D'Agostino's and Food Emporium) fully back this measure because it protects their unionized labor while hindering Wal-Mart. Some, like the D'Agostino's a block from my work, are so small that I wonder if they even have 35 employees. Not only would such stores be exempt, it illustrates how the politicians and union leaders came up with the "35 employees" figure. Wal-Mart, of course, would not be exempt.

The eventual result the Post suggests is no surety. Wal-Mart certainly could give health insurance benefits to its employees and pass the costs onto customers via higher prices. Or Wal-Mart could simply give up on coming to New York City, meaning a loss of jobs that would have otherwise existed. In the latter, government makes people unemployable by mandating certain benefits, just like when it mandates minimum wages.

The local grocers don't need to force Wal-Mart's prices to be nearly equal with theirs. They just need to saddle Wal-Mart with enough expenses and regulations that, though Wal-Mart is still cheaper, people will still patronize local grocers because it's not worth the time or travel to travel to Wal-Mart to save a few dollars. Then Wal-Mart wouldn't have enough of a customer base to stay in business.

It would be a tragedy if Wal-Mart gave up: think of the lost jobs that people were willing to take, and of course the cheaper prices for consumers. These are true lost jobs, unlike the fictional "lost jobs" that Bloomberg lamented when the West Side Stadium was defeated. The stadium necessarily created jobs at the expense of jobs elsewhere. An efficient, competitive business does not create jobs at the expense of anyone but inefficient competitors who cannot compete.

Since the traditional grocers can't compete, they abuse the power of government. As Bastiat wrote in The Law:
The person who profits from this law will complain bitterly, defending his acquired rights. He will claim that the state is obligated to protect and encourage his particular industry; that this procedure enriches the state because the protected industry is thus able to spend more and to pay higher wages to the poor workingmen.

Do not listen to this sophistry by vested interests. The acceptance of these arguments will build legal plunder into a whole system. In fact, this has already occurred. The present-day delusion is an attempt to enrich everyone at the expense of everyone else; to make plunder universal under the pretense of organizing it.
That U.S. Newswire "release" is just a billboard for pro-labor groups who talk about "justice," "essential benefits" and the "responsibility" of employers to provide health insurance. That's exactly what Bastiat was talking about. Even in mid-19th century France, he was acquainted with the fallacies of guaranteed jobs, minimum wages, "the right to relief," etc.

Everyone wants justice. But is it "justice" when government protects one group at the expense of everyone else, or when it attempts to help people but instead makes them too expensive to employ?

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