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Yesterday I attended a Capitol Hill event sponsored by the Ethics and Public Policy Center on the so-called conservative case for government action to increase paid leave.

Making the affirmative case that such action is needed were the American Enterprise Institute’s Aparna Mathur and the Independent Women’s Forum’s Kristin Shapiro. Making the case against such action were my intrepid Mercatus Center colleague Veronique de Rugy and the Heritage Foundation’s Rachel Greszler.

Regular readers of this blog know that all of my priors – as well as many of my explicit thoughts – about this matter run strongly against any case for government action [2], of any sort, designed to increase paid leave.

I must say that, despite my low expectations, I was nevertheless surprised by just how weak is the case made by the affirmative side. Many flaws infect their argument, but I’ll here mention only two.

First,┬ánever do they make a case – beyond mere assertion – that the market currently fails to supply an optimal amount of paid family leave. Their argument on this front, as expressed in this debate, reduces to this: fewer than 100 percent of working women have access to paid family leave; paid family leave is a benefit to workers who have it; therefore, the market is failing because some workers don’t have such leave.

Second, both Ms. Mathur and Ms. Shapiro appear to be completely oblivious to basic public-choice [3] considerations. They talk breezily – and wholly naively – as if government officials are apolitical stewards of the public interest.

In stark contrast, the arguments offered by Veronique and by Ms. Grezler were economically informed and politically realistic.

But you can judge for yourself. (Some of you, after hitting the start button below, might have then to click on the “Watch this video on YouTube” link that will be offered.)

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