The labor market is one of the most regulated markets in our economy.
Minimum wage laws effectively tell teenagers they cannot work unless they can produce $7.25 an hour. When the ObamaCare mandate kicks in next year, that hurdle will climb to more than $15 an hour for many potential employees. OSHA regulations dictate what risks workers may and may not take while on the job. Wage and hour laws dictate what wage rate a worker can accept in order to be able to work at nights and on weekends. Those same laws tell many parents they can't take off to see their kid's soccer game and make up the time in the next pay period.
The law encourages such employer-provided benefits as health insurance and pensions by creating tax advantages at work that are denied to individuals who provide for themselves. But those same laws make employee benefits non-portable, prohibit employees from choosing between taxable wages and non-taxed benefits, and in other ways conflict with the needs of modern families.
A whole slew of laws are designed to make it easier to form labor monopolies and buttress their monopoly power — including laws that take away many employer rights to discourage the formation of unions and the right not to deal with them once they have been formed. The Davis-Bacon Act effectively tells non-union workers they can't work unless they can produce enough value in an hour to match the above-market wage paid to union employees.
Occupational licensing laws keep potential entrants out of 92 different trades, in the average state, covering almost one-third of all workers. These regulations, for example, prevent you from putting a bowl over someone's head, cutting around the edges and collecting 50 cents for the effort unless you have undergone many hours of training in barbering.
Now for a surprise. Amid this sea of regulatory activity a tiny island of freedom is emerging. An international free market for labor is blossoming and you don't have to leave this country to participate in it.
But first, a personal story. I myself am participating in a free labor market, although I can't tell you exactly why.
John C. Goodman is President of the Goodman Institute and a Senior Fellow at The Independent Institute. He is the author of the widely acclaimed book, Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis. The Wall Street Journal and National Journal, among other media, have called him the "Father of Health Savings Accounts.”
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