By Rob Roper
There has been a steady stream of testimony over the past two years on the proposed $15 minimum wage and the mandatory paid family leave program concluding that they will hurt the Vermont economy — they will cost people their jobs, negatively impact business, make government more expensive, and negatively impact state GDP.
Every indication is that a majority of legislators simply don’t care. Rather than listen to the evidence and reach the logical (dare I say “moral”) conclusion that these things may have sounded like good ideas, but they are clearly not, and move on, they are coming up with emotion-based rationalities to go forward anyway.
The latest expression of this is an op-ed by freshman Rep. Randall Szott, D-Barnard, titled, “Toward a ‘Moral Economy’.” In it he writes, “In much of the testimony on those bills we heard quite a bit about how they would affect businesses and the economy.
Such information is important and useful, but I ran for office to consider bigger questions as well,” and opines about “values that don’t fit into a spreadsheet.” That’s all well and good, but his conclusions that inflicting significant pain on a majority of Vermonters because the underlying feeling surrounding these policies is one of “caring” is really twisted.
So, what is the moral role of government and those in power? It is best expressed in the Declaration of Independence, which states:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
In other words, the legitimate functions of government are to keep people safe and leave us alone to pursue our own ambitions as each of us sees fit — not as government sees fit. We do not elect representatives to make decisions for us about whether or not to purchase insurance products. Their job is to make sure we are free to make these decisions on our own. It is not their job to negotiate a fair wage between employer and employee. Their job is to make sure we are free to reach these agreements on our own, pursuing happiness in accordance with our own vision and convictions. Not theirs.
The wisdom of this can be seen in Rep. Szott’s background. He is a chef with a master’s degree in fine arts. I have no reason to doubt he is excellent in these endeavors. But what does he know about running, for example, a gas station convenience store in general, let alone a specific convenience store dealing with specific challenges? Probably not much and nothing at all respectively. Yet this guy and 76 or more people like him have come to the conclusion that making these decisions for us from a position of profound ignorance and lack of expertise is the “moral” thing to do. I don’t think so.