Robert Reich’s Brain Is On Vacation
Robert Reich, perhaps not entirely seriously, suggests in this post that, “Every American should get a mandatory minimum of three weeks paid vacation a year.”
My first reaction was, “you have to be fucking kidding me”.
The problem I have here is not just an economic one, it a matter of individual freedom and choice. I recall working in a supermarket deli when I was a senior in high school and getting in trouble one time when I decided I didn’t want to take a 15 minute break and another time when I came back from lunch 5 minutes early. The reason was apparently because the store could have gotten fined for my choosing not to take a break or for choosing to only take part of one.
What has happened is the government, in its effort to improve working conditions, has decided not just to require employers to give breaks of a certain duration and frequency, but entirely substitute it’s judgement for that of the employees. Personally I have always found that the required 15 minute breaks just make time go slower, I prefer to just work right through.
The economic problem comes in because paying employees for time they are not working isn’t something that happens in reality. It sounds great, but it just means the employer is spending more money for less work, business people with any kind of sense and desire to keep the doors open will then reduce overall wages or increase prices to compensate.
Robert Reich says that more vacation would improve productivity and therefore more then compensate for the extra expense. If that were true, businesses would be doing it already, no misguided, economically illiterate, government intervention or mandate required. This would just be another failure on the level of minimum wage.
If you are not familiar with the problems minimum wages causes, the high point of the list is that it simply excludes people who don’t have the skills to command whatever level the minimum wage level is. Second on the list is the artificial inflation of the cost/value of labor.
Surely Reich means well, but good intentions are not enough to overcome the freedom that people should have to negotiate the terms of their own employment. Neither are good intentions enough to overcome basic economic principles.