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You Can’t Make Up Stuff Like This

Here’s a letter to a high-school senior who regularly reads Café Hayek:


Thanks for your e-mail in which you ask my opinion of your “teacher’s proposition to sue businesses who don’t pay workers enough to keep them off welfare.”

The idea is terrible, especially for poor workers. Adoption of your teacher’s scheme would turn all low-skilled workers into potential legal liabilities for their employers.

Of course this policy would render unemployable all workers who cannot now produce enough to enable them to earn wages sufficiently high to make them ineligible for welfare. Who’s going to hire a 100-percent-certain legal liability?

But your teacher’s policy would also render unemployable even many workers whose pay makes them currently ineligible for welfare. The reason is that employers know that governments can, and sometimes do, lower welfare-eligibility requirements. And so many workers who today are paid enough to be ineligible for welfare might tomorrow – simply because of a change in welfare standards – become eligible. Because these workers would suddenly subject their employers to your teacher’s proposed legal actions, these workers even today would be unemployable.

It distresses and angers me that such a proposal comes from your economics teacher. For your own good you should continue to be respectful to your teacher and do your best to do well in his class. But I cannot refrain from warning you that this economics teacher of yours seems to know less about economics than does a dust bunny.

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

(I thank a dear friend – you know who you are – for turning me on to dust bunnies.)