The Nation: Gov’t-Mandated Lunch Breaks are Somehow Libertarians’ Fault

3510lunchbox The Nation: Govt Mandated Lunch Breaks are Somehow Libertarians’ Fault

Rick Perlstein at The
Nation has an odd,
confounding story ostensibly about how a libertarian University
of Chicago student’s experiences with reality turned him into a
liberal, the opposite of the conventional wisdom that the “real
world” pushes people to the right as they grow older.So apparently this young man, Alex Beinstein, described himself
as a libertarian in college, but when they reconnected later, he
had rechristened himself as a liberal. Here are a couple of
paragraphs that show some real confusion, either on Perlstein’s
part or Beinstein’s part (or more likely, both):
In my first post
on this blog, I spoke of the right’s “curious fallacy, a
crushing intellectual failure. They’ll act like only governments
have the power to deprive citizens of freedom.” Libertarian kids at
the University of Chicago think so, too: “It was all about ‘People
have jobs, and that’s that, and anything that gets in the way
between employer and employee is unhealthy for the system.’”
What happened next? He got a job.
He sold books books at Borders in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It
“did kind of a 180 on me. Just in terms of the rigidity of a
corporate structure! You know: they tell you you have to take your
lunch break at 1:00. But at 12:58 a customer starts speaking to
you. And if you speak to them until 1:02 the bosses at Borders
would start yelling at you to take your break at one, and then if
you got an extra minute to 1:31 it throws off the whole schedule
but if you volunteer to go two minutes early they fear they might
be fined!”
Call it the irrationality of the market.
My own reaction was to furrow my brow and tilt my head to the
side while I was reading, concluding with an actual out-loud giggle
when I was done.Which of these fellows doesn’t realize that these restrictive
lunch break policies are a direct result of government intervention
over business policy? Did the word “fine” not tip anybody off? Who
would be fining them?Behold, Massachusetts’
mandatory meal break law. These laws are a result of
progressives getting directly between the relationship between the
employer and employee. Perlstein should be praising this “corporate
structure,” not using it as some sort of misguided attack on
libertarians. The government was protecting young Beinstein from
potential abuse by his employer!Their combined inability to grasp this relationship becomes more
absurd a couple of paragraphs down when they lament the lack of
paid sick leave.Those paragraphs stuck with me because one of the many
experiences that pushed me further and further toward
libertarianism from the left was essentially the experience of
being the boss of an office of Beinsteins and having to harangue
them about lunch breaks. California has very strict meal break laws
as well, and compliance could be a nightmare in a newsroom where
folks are coming and going. I once had a situation where I had to
formally reprimand an editor for repeated violations of these
stupid regulations, and it was embarrassing for both of us. But it
had to be documented because the state could come in and accuse us
of refusing to let the employee take his government-mandated meal
breaks and fine us.There’s more to Perlstein’s criticism that’s worth a read, if
only to brush up on libertarian debate skills. Infrastructure
issues are brought up (without any analysis of spending patterns or
questioning of where the money that everyone says they want to go
for infrastructure actually goes). Beinstein not incorrectly
questions whether poor people in decrepit neighborhoods actually
have much freedom, but has clearly done no research into the
municipal regulatory system that makes it next to
impossible for private citizens to fix their own problems
anyway.

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The Nation: Gov’t-Mandated Lunch Breaks are Somehow Libertarians’ Fault


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