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Intentions are Not Results (Again)

Here’s a letter to the Washington Post:

Your headline on a report about a recent action of the government of New Zealand reads “New Zealand will let victims of domestic violence take paid leave” (July 27). But this headline is misleading given that the government of New Zealand has never prevented victims of domestic violence from taking paid leave.

What New Zealand’s government did recently do, on the surface, is to mandate that paid leave be provided by employers to victims of domestic violence. Alas, providing such paid leave is costly. Therefore employers will off-set these costs by reducing workers’ pay and the value of other fringe benefits.

In effect, the government of New Zealand has really mandated that all employees, whether they want it or not, purchase from their employers – in the form of reduced compensation – guaranteed time off with pay if they suffer domestic violence. The fact that many employees – even those whose likelihood of suffering domestic violence is unusually high – would prefer to have higher take-home pay or other fringe benefits in lieu of this newly mandated benefit seems not to have occurred to the Solons of New Zealand. In this way, as in so many others, the lovely intentions driving the legislation will make many of the legislators’ intended beneficiaries worse off.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030