Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Hidden Cost of Labor-Friendly Government

Why don't ordinary folks rob banks? That's where the money is, said famed bank robber Willie Sutton. The answer is: "you might get caught." If you a rob a bank, you might end up in prison (but, you might get away with it). This is what economists call a contingent liability. You have to do something first, then sit back and see the consequences.

What if you're a businessman, choosing between hiring an employee and a more expensive machine alternative. What would you do? Normally you would hire the employee. But this assumes that both choices have the same contingent liabilities. But, there are no government laws to protect machines...hence no real contingent liability to acquire the machine.

But, what about hiring an employee? Employees have "rights.". Literally, hundreds of rights. These "rights" enable employees to sue their employer, even for things that occur off the job site! The contingent liability of hiring a single employee can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars! Even a small workforce, especially if it satisfies modern notions of diversity, can impose millions of dollars of contingent liabilitiies upon a small business.

So,what to do? The only way to avoid these massive contingent liabilities is to not trigger the enabling event: if you want to avoid jail, don't go around robbing banks; if you as a businessman want to avoid crippling litigation costs over presumed "employee rights," hire fewer employees and, almost as important, do not create a diverse workforce.

Employees with "rights" impose huge contingent liabilities on employers. There is a way out -- don't hire!

This seems to be what is happening in today's labor market.