Laws frequently only cause harm

(My Eastern New Mexico News column for February 7, 2018)

Laws can’t solve anything, and often destroy things which worked. Sometimes this is due to the unintended consequences of trying to stop something which might actually be harmful, but more often it is due to the person who made the rule simply not understanding how things work in the real world.

Being harmed by laws is probably more common than being helped or protected by them. It’s a consequence of meddling; one I have personally experienced.

Years ago I was looking for a job after moving across the country. I had checked the “help wanted” ads, and they were all for huge corporations with horrible working conditions I wasn’t anxious to endure. So, I set out to explore the area and see what else I could discover. I checked out businesses I thought I’d like to work for. Mostly small family businesses, since those are the ones where I’ve always fit in best.

There were so many little shops which looked interesting. Some in industries I had experience with. But I kept running into the same problem.

One day, for example, I found a dim and dusty sporting goods store. It was obvious they didn’t have time to clean or arrange their inventory, yet they seemed to care about their customers. They were friendly and likable, and I knew I could help them. I really wanted the chance to show them I could benefit their business.

Unfortunately, like all the small businesses I spoke to, they couldn’t afford to hire an employee. They couldn’t afford to pay anyone “minimum wage”, nor could they afford all the other costs– taxes, paperwork, insurance– associated with legally having an employee.

I wasn’t ready to give up so easily, since any money was better than none.

Outlaw that I am, I begged to be allowed to work “under the table” for an amount agreeable to both of us, but they weren’t willing to risk being caught making a mutually acceptable, consensual arrangement with me that violated “laws”. “Laws” which hurt us both.

I was protected out of a job by not being allowed to work where I wanted, for an amount someone was willing to pay. When I think of all the people like me who are priced out of the job market by rules they don’t want and which hurt them in the long run, I get angry at those who pretend to care about people while hurting them for their own good.


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