The Locker Room

Another cut at freedom of contract

Posted by George Leef at 08:51 AM

Freedom in America has been dying the death of a thousand cuts. Or as Thomas Jefferson put it, the natural order of things is for government power to grow and liberty to recede.

The latest cut is the nearly inevitable expansion of "family leave" legislation to mandate that the leave be with pay. Today's Wall Street Journal covers the current push in various states and Congress to compel businesses to pay people who are on leave. Read the piece here.

Back in 1993 when the Clinton administration was pushing what became the Family and Medical Leave Act, proponents denied that it would ever become mandated leave with pay, but that was pure deception. The people who want to make business into an arm of the welfare state always have another peg in mind. The activists can't ever say, "We have achieved our objectives and any further governmental intrusion into private decision-making would be harmful and we'll oppose it." Interventionist politics is like the shark that must always keep moving.

The issue with paid leave isn't how much it costs. The issue is whether the state should have any power at all to dictate the terms of the contracts people make. In a free society, it should not. Once it starts to do so, the result is what Hayek called a self-accelerating tendency for government dictates to obliterate more and more of the freedom to live according to your own choices. If Hayek had ever seen kudzu spreading over a field down here, he would have found that an apt way of describing the process of government growth.

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