The Outstater

June 24, 2021

“The feeling that the government should ‘do something’ has seldom been based on a comparison of what actually happens when government does and when it does not ‘do something.'” — Thomas Sowell

HERE’S A QUESTION for those of us living in the post-factual world: Is anyone checking to see if the laws — any of the laws — actually work?

This indifference to reality is not new, of course, but it seems more pervasive. The mass media, so focused on good intentions and the perfectibility of humankind, doesn’t have time for results. Nor does this generation of lawmakers.

In the 1980s there was a brief period when cost-benefit analysis was part of the legislative tool kit. I remember reading about some state making detailed risk calculations as to whether pollution levels at a manufacturing plant, say, were less harmful to workers than the stress of losing their jobs if the plant were to be shut down by environmentalists.

That kind of thinking went out the window during the pandemic. And on another topic, note how many times we learn that a collapsed bridge or other failed piece of infrastructure constructed according to mandated, cost-heavy design standards had just passed a government-required safety inspection. 

A new study says that the progressive’s most sacred cow, the minimum wage, in addition to pushing workers out of the job market entirely, effectively constrains even retained employees’ hours, cuts their eligibility for benefits and reduces the consistency of weekly and daily schedules. 

“So, we make life more difficult for marginal people we’re supposedly trying to help,” says our friend and adjunct Eric Schansberg. “We reduce their ability to earn money; we remove the dignity that comes with work; and we take away their best opportunities to build skills and experience through work. How is that attractive — practically or ethically?”

Another example: Does anyone other than Joe Biden misunderstand the perverse and data-heavy relationship between gun-control laws and increased crimes with guns? How about climate change, née global warming? Increased spending on education and results in the classroom?

Here’s one more: There are few issues we have discussed more fervently than equity, defined as equality of results. So what is the result of the women’s equity campaign, a campaign heartily endorsed by Gov. Eric Holcomb, the leadership of a multi-term GOP supermajority and the guests at every Carmel dinner party for three decades?

Well, the unwoke have known for some time that women’s pay, adjusted for factors such as job dangers, skills and responsibilities, work experience, specialization, child-rearing, lifestyle preferences, etc. is not that far out of whack. Regardless, the pressure has only intensified for government to ensure that women’s and men’s pay be numerically identical.

We should be seeing some results, especially if the gap is a simple matter of prejudice. 

But the percentage of women who are full-time wage and salary workers has remained maddeningly steady. And in Indiana in pre-Covid 2019, the latest year for which data is available, women’s median usual weekly earnings were only $726, or 73.6 percent of the $986 median usual weekly earnings for their male counterparts, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That compares with 84.7 percent in 2016 — a drop of more than 10 percent.

What the heck? 

Those social influencers who have been clamoring for ever-greater penalties for inequity have some explaining to do. Their remedies are flawed somehow, if in fact their remedies are applicable at all.

In this as so many other issues about which it is said government must “do something,” there are hidden factors and unintended consequences for which they have failed to make adjustment.

The fact is that in large swaths of life government has no idea what it’s doing. Somebody should be keeping track of that. — tcl


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