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Should the government require employers to provide maternity leave?

by Greg Krehbiel on 27 June 2017

As a matter of first principles, I don’t want the government requiring employers to do much of anything that isn’t a matter of safety. I would rather have a system where companies and workers make their own arrangements in their own best interests. But we’re so far past that it’s hardly worth worrying about. The (sad) reality is that our meddling government is always requiring this, that and the other thing.

So given that reality, would I support a law requiring employers to offer maternity leave?

Before I try to answer that, let me back up a little and discuss my general theory of government.

Government is the world of the possible and the practical, not the world of the ideal. So, for example, I think prostitution is a bad thing and should be against the law, but I can think of situations where it would be better for the government to legalize and regulate prostitution rather than try to end it. Sometimes the cost of enforcing a law simply isn’t worth it.

The larger point is that the government is not able to create utopia by imposing brilliant, righteous laws. All it can do is try to make things as fair and reasonable as possible, given the circumstances. It can (and should, IMO) try to nudge people in certain directions, for the common good, but when the nudge becomes a shove it’s gone too far.

When it comes to mothers and babies, it’s good for the mother to stay home with the child for the first few months. It’s better for the mother to stay home with the child for the first few years, and IMO it’s best for the mother to stay home with the child for several years.

But the well-being of the child is not the only factor, and there is a question of diminishing returns. Just to invent some statistics off the top of my head, let’s say having mom with the baby for three months yields an 80 percent increase in the well-being of the child, while having mom stay with the baby for two years or six years yields a 90 percent or 93 percent increase, respectively. You have to ask what you’re giving up to get that additional 10 or 13 percent increase, because nothing is free. Life is a matter of trading one thing for another.

If all we were concerned about was the well-being of the child, the question wouldn’t be a law requiring employers to offer a few months of maternity leave, but requiring them to pay for the mother to stay at home with the child for several years. Which is clearly ridiculous.

It’s all a balancing act, but it’s a question of what we’re trying to balance, and what value we put on each factor. Here are some possible factors.

  • The well-being of the child
  • Providing a steady supply of workers for the economy
  • Not burdening companies with additional costs
  • Promoting women’s careers

Which one takes precedence is partly a question of values, and partly a question of “facts on the ground.”

For example, if the market is over-supplied with workers, you might think a law that takes some workers out of the market would be a good thing. (Looking at it only from that perspective.) On the other hand, if we desperately needed more workers, you might go the other direction. During WWII, women had to be in the factories whether it was good for the kids or not. Once the war was over, people leaned the other way.

If company profits are soaring, it’s easier to impose some additional costs that have a net social benefit. If companies are failing left and right, maybe not.

The bottom line — for me — is that governing is not a matter of ideological purity, or of imposing some sort of perfect value system. Values have to inform the laws, but they have to do that in a real-world context.

So, when all is said and done … I can’t answer the basic question. I believe children are better off when the mother stays home for an extended period of time, but it’s not my business to impose that on other people. For one thing, I don’t know their circumstances, and for another thing, I don’t have the macro-economic data (or understanding) to know what’s best in any given situation. I can only guess at the best answer for myself and my own family. I can’t impose that on someone else, and certainly not on a whole country.

Given all that, if somebody put a gun to my head and required me to make a decision, I would vote for the status quo, whatever that happened to be.

 ::  Add your comment  ::  2017-06-27  ::  Greg Krehbiel

Is Google a private company or a public utility?

by Greg Krehbiel on 27 June 2017

The EU is fining Alphabet (Google’s parent company) for favoring its own services in search results.

Not that I’m a fan of Google, but this strikes me as a little odd.

Google is a private company that offers a useful service. But it’s not as if they make users any sort of promise about the results. We all know that the secret algorithms that determine search results are constantly tinkered with and adjusted, and we all know some of the search results are paid placements.

Is there some sort of public expectation that search results will be fair and impartial?

The EU … ordered Google to treat rival comparison-shopping services equally in its search results.


If I go to Home Depot and ask for advice about toilet flappers, is the clerk required to give equal treatment to the products at Lowes?

The difference is scale, of course. Home Depot doesn’t dominate the market the way Google does. Which raises the question whether — once a company gets to a certain size — it should either be broken up or regulated like a public utility.

4 comments  ::  Add your comment  ::  2017-06-27  ::  Greg Krehbiel

SCOTUS decision on travel ban seems wrong

by Greg Krehbiel on 27 June 2017

Trump is hailing it as a victory, but I see two big flaws in it.

First, it doesn’t end this idea that some lowly district court judge can over-rule a decision of the president. That is wrong and needs to be ended. Presidential decisions need to be reviewed, but a district judge should not have the power to stay an executive order. It would make more sense to me if the district judge recommended a stay and sent the case to a higher authority.

Second, while many conservatives view the role of the court as “calling balls and strikes” — i.e., applying the rules to a specific case — SCOTUS affirmed a rather looser interpretation of the court’s powers.

Crafting a preliminary injunction is an exercise of discretion and judgment, often dependent as much on the
equities of a given case as the substance of the legal issues it presents.

That makes judges more like legislators, in my opinion — or, honestly, more like back-seat drivers and busybodies.

In assessing the lower courts’ exercise of equitable discretion, we bring to bear an equitable judgment of our own.

IOW, SCOTUS replied to the lower courts’ opinions with its own opinions. Not with law. Not with interpretation of law. But with its own ideas about how things should be. It’s as if they’re saying “our divine and inspired judgement about the equities of life is more serene, more noble, and more reliable than yours.”

I don’t think I like that very much. While there is certainly room for judgment outside the strict, literal meaning of the law — for example, I do believe in jury nullification in cases where a strict application of the law would be absurd — the courts (in general) seem to have taken this too far.

There is a sliding scale between requiring the courts to stick to the law and only to the law, on the one hand, and to exercise “equitable judgment” on the other. I think they’ve gone way too far in the “equitable judgment” direction.

In this case, SCOTUS has taken upon itself to decide who is and who is not a national security threat. What expertise does the court have on that question? Where do they get off replacing the president’s judgment with their own?

It’s not that Trump is some wise and benevolent fellow, of course, and it may well be that every one of the justices has better judgment than Trump, but that’s not the issue here. We’re talking about an office, not a man, and the president has access to information SCOTUS does not. It’s simply not their place to stick their nose into such issues with their “equitable judgment.”

3 comments  ::  Add your comment  ::  2017-06-27  ::  Greg Krehbiel

“Ordinary Americans simply don’t like leftists very much.”

by Greg Krehbiel on 22 June 2017

This is worth your time: Some people hate Trump. More people hate liberals.

The coastal elites who run the Democratic Party and liberal establishment cannot disguise their contempt for ordinary Americans. In Georgia’s 6th District, that smug, self-righteous sense of superiority played about as well as one might expect.

Until the Democrats can learn to mask their hatred of the hoi polloi, ordinary people will hate them more than they hate Trump and the Republicans.

9 comments  ::  Add your comment  ::  2017-06-22  ::  Greg Krehbiel

No welfare for immigrants

by Greg Krehbiel on 22 June 2017

Trump has floated the idea of barring immigrants from welfare for five years. I think that’s a very good idea.

There would have to be exceptions in cases where someone suffers some sort of calamity, but as a general rule, we don’t want to import people who are a drain on our country.

As I understand it, most other countries do this. If I wanted to move back to the ancestral lands of the Krahenbuhl clan in Switzerland, they would have every reason to expect me to prove that I could be a productive member of society.

2 comments  ::  Add your comment  ::  2017-06-22  ::  Greg Krehbiel

I no longer believe anything I hear

by Greg Krehbiel on 22 June 2017

Okay, that’s an exaggeration. But not by a lot.

During the campaign we were told repeatedly — by people who are supposed to be experts in the words they choose to say — that Trump called all Mexicans rapists and murderers. That was a lie, but it was repeated frequently.

Many of those same people have been telling us that Trump is under investigation for collusion with the Russians. Which was also a lie.

We’re told that 97% of scientists believe humans cause global warming — which is a lie. Video reports — especially from the Middle East — are frequently staged and then trotted out as if they were news.

There are lots of examples of these straight-forward factual errors, but the kind that’s particularly bugging me right now is the misrepresentation of what someone says, or has said.

“News” people will casually refer to someone’s comment as racist, or bigoted, or homophobic, or whatever, but when you go and read the actual comment it’s nothing of the kind.

Remember the trouble Lawrence Summers got in for wondering if there might be a biological basis to differences in performance between the sexes? Remember all the accusations about weird posters and statements made at Tea Party rallies — some of which turned out to be plants by left-wing activists?

And it’s not just the left that does this. Remember how Obama was going to create an army to seize power at the end of his second term? Or how Ted Cruz says the Supreme Court is close to sending religious people to jail?

In this kind of an environment, when somebody makes an accusation … I simply don’t believe it.

When they tell me that Alex Jones said Sandy Hook was staged, I simply don’t believe it. Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t, but I don’t trust the media to get it right.

When they tell me that Bernie Sanders didn’t play any role in the Civil Rights movement, or that he doesn’t want any Christian to serve in the federal government, I don’t believe it.

You might be expecting me to say “until I verify it for myself.” But that’s not what I’m saying. I have no intention of finding out what Alex Jones said about Sandy Hook, or what Bernie Sanders says about Christians in positions of power, or any of that stuff.

I don’t believe it, and I don’t care.

If it got to the point that it actually mattered, then sure. I would look into it for myself. But none of this garbage makes any difference. Accusations that so and so is a racist, an anti-Christian bigot, that he runs a secret pedophile ring, … or whatever. It’s all a silly distraction.

11 comments  ::  Add your comment  ::  2017-06-22  ::  Greg Krehbiel

Ann Coulter for press secretary

by Greg Krehbiel on 21 June 2017

I heard that Sean Spicer is stepping down, or aside, or something, to be replaced by @RealDonaldTrump’s twitter feed.

That’s the wrong way to go. If Trump wants to have any success at all, he needs to abandon the idea that Democrats will ever cooperate with him. They won’t. He needs to admit that to himself and go to war. (With the Democrat-media establishment, that is.)

One very effective way to do that would be to appoint Ann Coulter as press secretary. She would make all the monkeys in the media look like monkeys who had been raised on a steady diet of lead paint.

Is this where I want the country to go? No way. I want more moderate, sensible, sane discussions. I want politicians to focus on the 80 percent they agree on rather than the 20 percent they disagree on. I don’t want back and forth wars of ideological purity every time we change governments.

The ugly truth is we’re never going to get that with Trump. We’re either going to have four years of stagnation, inaction, “investigations,” confusion and inefficiency, or Trump is going to have to get serious and buckle down. I’m not sure if I would like it — but it would be incredibly amusing to watch.

13 comments  ::  Add your comment  ::  2017-06-21  ::  Greg Krehbiel

Feminist memes are confusing

by Greg Krehbiel on 20 June 2017

8 comments  ::  Add your comment  ::  2017-06-20  ::  Greg Krehbiel

Are the super-rich a threat?

by Greg Krehbiel on 19 June 2017

Jeff Bezos is $5 billion away from being the world’s richest person

Is it right that Jeff Bezos can buy The Washington Post with what is, to him, probably the equivalent of a night out with the boys?

My basic political principle is that you can’t trust anybody with too much power, and wealth is a form of power. So part of me thinks we should heavily tax the super rich.

On the other hand, there are social benefits to having super rich people. They can endow foundations, build hospitals, invest in medical research, fund orchestras, etc.

But … whenever there’s so much money in play, there’s going to be a trail of corruption — either corruption to lower taxes, or to create tax exemptions, or to make weird accounting rules, or … something.

There’s also the question of who would spend the money better — Jeff Bezos, or Congress.


9 comments  ::  Add your comment  ::  2017-06-19  ::  Greg Krehbiel

“The Healing of America” by T.R. Reid

by Greg Krehbiel on 18 June 2017

Don asked me to read two chapters in “The Healing of America” — chapter 8, on Canada, and the appendix, on “the best health care system.” I just got the book and have read the two chapters.

Don and I come from very different perspectives. Generally speaking, I am suspicious of government and of centralized decisions, and Don is in favor of something like a European health care system. But as you can see in the comments on Incentive-based government? and Don’s question on healthcare, we actually end up agreeing on a fair amount.

The two chapters were not what I expected. I expected the one on Canada to talk about how wonderful the Canadian system is, but it admits that the system is creating a shortage of health care workers and that there are atrocious wait times for relatively basic services. It doesn’t sound so wonderful.

The chapter on “the best healthcare system” does poke at the U.S. quite a lot — saying that other countries have much better systems — but it also explains how difficult it is to come up with a reasonable metric for “the best” healthcare system. In fact, after reading that chapter, I’m fairly skeptical about the concept. It’s like saying “what’s the best vacation spot?”

I’m not sure there is such a thing as a “best” healthcare system. Countries are so very different in so many ways.

For example, when you compare the U.S. to other countries, we have far more immigrants. Shouldn’t that factor in to some of the metrics?

Also, the United States funds most medical innovation — in drugs, procedures and equipment. So the rest of the world is benefiting from our research. Is that fair?

I don’t have an answer for the healthcare question. I would love to live in a world where everybody got the care they needed. But the ugly fact of the matter is that scarce resources have to be rationed, and money is almost always the best way to ration scarce resources.

It’s not nice. It doesn’t give you a warm, fuzzy feeling. But it seems to be the best way.

The other reality we have to face is that the U.S. doesn’t have a market-based system. We have already gone half way down the path to socialized medicine, and we’re very unlikely to roll that back. (I’m not saying we should, I’m saying it’s not going to happen even if it should.)

The thing I really don’t like about nationalized / socialized / single-payer medicine is that boards of politically appointed experts get to make decisions about our priorities. What procedures will be funded publicly? Who gets priority treatment? At what point do we call somebody a lost cause and stop treatment? In some places — at least this is what I’ve read — it’s not just that the government won’t pay for your care, it’s illegal to try to get the care on your own. That’s crazy.

It’s bad and wrong to create little boards of experts to manage these things. It reminds me too much of 1984, or the N.I.C.E., or any of the many dystopian visions of an all-powerful, bureaucratic state.

The general public isn’t as smart as the experts, but there is a wisdom in collective decisions that often confounds the experts. And experts are far more likely to fall in with stupid, trendy ideas. (E.g., sex-change operations.)

So, again, I don’t have any answers. But I’m still very skeptical of giving the government any more power than it already has, and I would rather that we start to peel it away.

2 comments  ::  Add your comment  ::  2017-06-18  ::  Greg Krehbiel

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