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Unpaid Family Leave - A Bad Idea Whose Time Has Come
Howard Richman, 2/11/2019

In his State of the Union speech last week, President Trump came out for paid family leave. He said:

 I am also proud to be the first President to include in my budget a plan for nationwide paid family leave — so that every new parent has the chance to bond with their newborn child.

I'm assuming that he would support a mandate that would require employers to pay parents for time that they would not work. That very mandate has been a disaster in many parts of the world, including South Korea whose birth rate per woman has fallen to 1.17 in 2016, compared to 1.80 per woman in the United States.

Seemingly innocuous laws can have terrible unintended consequences.  In South Korea this government mandate that was designed to help married women, ended up hurting them. Employers don't like to pay people who don't work. So, given a choice, they hire single women, not married women. So South Korean women on career paths stopped getting married. The same could happen in the United States. 

Under Napoleon, France was by far the most populous and powerful country in Europe. But the enlightened French government decided that estates should be divided equally among all of the male heirs. As a result, French farmers decided that they only wanted to have one male heir, and the population of France declined, relative to the rest of Europe, leading to the decline of France, World War I and World War II.

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Comment by Jesse, 2/27/2019:

I think a lot depends upon how the proposal is funded.  You mentioned some problematic approaches.  One of the proposals in Congress involves allowing parents to agree to delay retirement, with the paid leave coming from the foregone social security income.  This proposal has the merit of not placing the entire burden on employers (though there is still the burden of having an employee absent). 




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  • [An] extensive argument for balanced trade, and a program to achieve balanced trade is presented in Trading Away Our Future, by Raymond Richman, Howard Richman and Jesse Richman. “A minimum standard for ensuring that trade does benefit all is that trade should be relatively in balance.” [Balanced Trade entry]

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  • [Trading Away Our Future] Examines the costs and benefits of U.S. trade and tax policies. Discusses why trade deficits matter; root of the trade deficit; the “ostrich” and “eagles” attitudes; how to balance trade; taxation of capital gains; the real estate tax; the corporate income tax; solving the low savings problem; how to protect one’s assets; and a program for a strong America....

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