Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Newt on Economic Liberty: It Means No Annual Vacations For American Workers

My eyes bulged when I read what Newt Gingrich just wrote:
I opened the chapter on “Work” in my book A Nation Like No Other with this anecdote because I believe it cuts to the core of what makes America exceptional. While other countries have enshrined 35-hour work weeks and 60 days’ paid vacation in their laws, America remains one of the few developed nations that have declined to restrict these economic liberties. Here, we value hard work and free enterprise as the substance of opportunity.
I don't know which country Newt has in mind in that quote (probably France), but it is indeed true that the United States is about the only industrialized country which does not legislate annual vacation time for its workforce.

But to turn that into an economic liberty! Whose liberty, exactly? And how can Europe ever compete with this country, given that it not only regulates overtime and offers annual paid (!) vacations but also provides paid parental leave?

No, it's not the economic liberty of the workers Newt has in mind here; it's the economic liberty of the capitalists. American workers are not loudly protesting at Occupy Vacation Time sites, scornfully flinging off the presumption that they might ever want to have some time off to get acquainted with those other people who share the same address. Neither are they demanding that they should be allowed to work Thanksgiving, Independence Day and Christmas Day, without any extra pay! They are not marching against the idea of family leave.

What's so nasty about this drivel is that Newt equates not being a robot with laziness, that only those who are willing to work and work and work are somehow looking towards a better future! What will they do in that better future? Finally take some time off if they haven't dropped from a heart attack first?

Newt then goes on to tell us again about the advisability of child labor, though mostly for poor children:
Eleven or twelve year old children, and especially those in the poorest areas, should have the chance to learn the value of hard work, part time and in the safe environment of their schools. Strong evidence suggests the benefits of starting to work at an early age, and there are dozens of tasks they could be paid real money to do: working in the cafeteria, clerking in the front office, straightening up classrooms, and cleaning bathrooms. Not strenuous labor. Not dangerous work. Exactly the type of things that many parents ask their children to contribute at home.  

It won’t solve the whole problem, but it would go a little way towards helping America’s poorest children learn the habits that can make them successful.
Mmm. And do the children of the richer parents just watch all this work happening? What are the lessons they would learn from that? That work is for the peons?

Newt is an asshat. The government is supposed to be for the benefit of the people who live in it. It is not supposed to be a tool to increase the productivity of the labor input for the firms. People are not robots, and there are better ways to teach work ethics than turning the children of the poor into the servants of the school system and possibly other children.

The hilarious ending to Newt's piece warns us about the ominous shadow of France. That, my friends, might be the alternative if Newt's advice is not followed. Like good food and wine and such. And summer vacations to the beach with the whole family! For weeks and weeks!