Battlepanda: My (belate) two cents on the French Riots


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

My (belate) two cents on the French Riots

Yes, yes. Late to the party again I know. But here it goes anyhow: I think the French labor laws restricting the employer's right to fire workers at will are absolutely senseless and a stupid way to go about achieving greater welfare among its citizens.

The Drumstir
and Brad P. argues that restrictive labor laws does not have much overall effect on the overall unemployment figures. Now they might or might not be right. They certainly point to persuasive evidence that undermine the conventional wisdom on this matter. However, even if they are dead right and unemployment levels are completely unaffected by the French firing policies, are they still a good thing?

Of course not. Even if the overall level of employment remains the same, the lower level of turnover naturally makes it harder to find a job if you decide to leave yours. And the more difficult it is to get a job elsewhere, the more unlikely it is that an employee would give up theirs, even if they are unhappy in their positions. Which in turn drives the level of employment opportunities even lower. And this is just looking at this situation strictly from the employee's point of view. I assume that the headaches imposed on the employer by such legislation is too obvious to require explanation.

Forget about job security. The government should just focus on giving people some measure of financial security. I am all in favor of more generous unemployment insurance to make sure people are not driven to penury if they lose their jobs. I'm also in favor of universal health insurance and adequate spending on schools so that the health and education of families are not compromised. But beyond that, I think it is an undue restriction of the freedom of employers as well as the interest of job-seekers to curtail the ability of employers to fire workers at will (with notice).

In a way, my approach on this issue is similar to Josh Bivens on immigration. When we are faced with something that increases welfare in general but hurts a particular group disproportionally, it is much better to compensate the group that is hurt directly than to curtail the behavior completely.