20 May 2010

Related questions

That I'll be happy to answer

So now that the cat's out of the bag and the kookiness of libertarian skepticism toward government power comes up there's a bunch more questions

1) Can the federal government set the private sector's minimum wage? It shouldn't have this power, no. I would have thought that research on the effect this has on employment is pretty well established. I also don't see how the federal government has this power to begin with. State and local governments might, depending on local or state charters. But I don't think they should do it either. Market incentives to pay people work in both directions: up and down, according to supply and demand for labour and the skills required for jobs. A federal minimum wage is unnecessary as a result.

2) Can it tell private businesses not to hire illegal immigrants? I think the answer here is probably not. At least not under the current immigration schemes which don't adequately fulfill the labour market's demand/supply situations. It probably does have the power to monitor and regulate this, but I'm not sure this is a useful power for it to have. To avoid the problem of denying the ability of contracts and business/personal associations to be made is more or less why I would have supported something like CRA, so it doesn't seem like something I'd be all that worried about even when it evades other legal matters like proper entry into the country. The better question is what rights would the federal/state/local government be willing to accord to illegal immigrants or what method should the federal government use to increase (or decrease, if that's your flavour) immigration in its legal forms to ameliorate the problem of illegal "backdoor" entries in the first place.

3) Can it tell oil companies what safety systems to build into an offshore drilling platform? I don't think the government should tell the oil company what safety systems it needs. I think it should instead tell the oil company what might constitute an environmental hazard that it would be held liable for cleaning up (types of chemical or environmental damages, without limitations under tort law) and let the oil company figure out how to best and most effectively avoid and mitigate these damages. Telling it what to use may exclude more cost-benefit efficient or even safer methods that might be sussed out by market force. Oil companies probably don't want to be in the business of cleaning up major oil and chemical spills. I think the market incentives there are pretty clearly against doing irresponsible things. At least once you tell them what the irresponsible things are.

4) Can it tell toy companies to test for lead? I guess so. That's usually interstate commerce and might be a public safety hazard that consumers (ie, parents) would want to know about. I have some bugaboos with the law we wrote to handle this situation though, in that it kind of banned all sorts of things unrelated to this (sale of some old used children's books for example, which may have used lead based paints)

5) Can it tell liquor stores not to sell to minors? I don't think the federal government should establish a drinking age and should leave this up to state or local governments. I disagree completely with the use and tying in of federal highway funding with the establishment of higher alcohol drinking ages, and I think the current age should be lowered to 18 from 21 anyway (with a phase-in that allows minors, of any reasonable age, to consume alcohol in the company of a responsible guardian in public but not to purchase it for themselves). So far as I know however most of the time it is not the federal government that establishes liquor licenses. It's usually the state or local that would police this. All the federal government does is require a higher age limit than I think is appropriate and requires other agencies to police the laws that it requires as a standard.

If this is considered a "kooky" idea to reject 4 out of 5 of these as sensible federal tasks, then wow, I need to get out more. I think much of the basis for objecting to the provision of Title II in the Civil Rights Act is mistaken and a kooky assessment of the facts on the ground during the Civil Rights Era, so that tracks, though I do have some philosophical reservations about the mechanisms we can use here for governing private arrangements, I think they are outweighed by some positive gains in combating counterproductive and coercive arrangements imposed on other parties (ie, the less racially/ethnically motivated). I'm not sure how any of these suggested laws relates to laws dealing with systematic and institutional racism, something I'm pretty sure we needed a law to help deal with in some fashion. In fact, I'm pretty sure the minimum wage law does the opposite here, and increases racial disparities of unemployment (historically anyway). So abolishing most of these laws doesn't seem like a problem I'm likely to be concerned about, nor does it actually seem like a problem other people should be getting hyperactive about if what they are actually concerned with is better policy outcomes and enforcement. If that's not what people are actually concerned with, then they should say so.
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