John Stossel

Protecting older workers interferes with the market's "creative destruction", the dynamic process that allows businesses to grow though constant change. That growth creates new opportunity for other workers, including older workers.

Roger Pilon of the libertarian Cato Institute says workers should stop thinking they own their jobs: "Freedom permits unfairness, and free markets sometimes encourage it; but what's the alternative? Since the categories in which discrimination might be prohibited are in principle infinite, down that road is the death of individual choice."

Pilon asks the basic question: "Whose business is it? Suppose you're an Italian restaurateur and you want to have only Italian men as your waiters because that's the ambience you want. Shouldn't you be able to do that?"

I would think so, but American law says no.

We don't need laws against discrimination. We need a free, competitive marketplace. Competition is better at punishing sexists, racists and "ageists" than clumsy laws. If a boss discriminated against, say, women, he would be demolished by a competitor who obtains better workers by hiring the women the first boss turned away. If an entire group of bosses turned women away, then men's wages would be bid up over women's, and a new competitor would defeat the discriminators by hiring only women.

Schwartz indignantly asked me, "Who has the right to say that you should stop working when you're 50 or 52 or 53? The boss?"

I said yes, the guy who's paying you ought to get to decide.

"No," he said. "You own your job as long as you're performing effectively."

That's the attitude of today's parasitic labor lawyers: You "own" your job. And this attitude is winning in the arena of public opinion. Never have I received such consistently hostile e-mail.

"I hope you get fired."

"You think that mid-50s is too old to hold a job?"

"Give me a Break! Unless you plan on supporting me for the next 10 years, I suggest you revise your segment."

Give me a break. I didn't say older workers ought to be fired. Heck, I'm 61. Viewers are so invested in job "rights" that they missed the point about freedom of association, private property, an employer's right to control a business he created, etc.

Good intentions are irrelevant. Public policy always has unintended bad consequences. One reason France has nasty riots over high unemployment is France's restrictive labor laws. French employers think, "I don't want to hire someone whom I'll never be able to fire."

Schwartz says repealing the worker-protection laws would be a "disaster."

No, innovation-stifling laws and lawsuits are the disaster.


John Stossel

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "No They Can't: Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at >johnstossel.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. ©Creators Syndicate