Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Working Within the System

Does wealth result from work, or from occupying positions of privilege?

In the United States, it is more the latter, and government policymakers are more likely to see their role as protecting privilege than protecting work.

A particularly egregious example of this was the Louisiana law that prevented a monastery from selling caskets. Under Louisiana law, only embalmers could legally sell caskets. That law supposedly protected the public, but its real purpose was to protect those in positions of privilege and to prevent others from working, a federal appeals court decided in striking down the law. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to consider the case.

The story at the Los Angeles Times:

Of course, a host of problems result when institutional power is used to prohibit work while rewarding privilege. Most fundamentally, from an economic point of view, when useful work is discouraged, less gets done and aggregate wealth declines. Beyond that, it is important for people not to feel that they have been shut out, or that “the system,” the combined effect of institutional power, is working against them. To simplify somewhat, people who are prevented from working within the system will work around it or against it. When monks are getting involved in “black market” funerals because it is the only practical opportunity open to them, it is abundantly clear that restrictions on work have gone too far.