“Job lock” unchained

The effect of ObamaCare is supposed to be that health insurance is made affordable in some way such that working less or not working will become a realistic option for people.



If you are Democrat, this is an expansion of social welfare benefits, and a good thing.  This is ostensibly a simple premise, but I see conflicts, and I have questions about that.

Over several years I evolved from a Rand-ian, Horatio Alger bootstrap libertarianism.  I accepted taxes and the social safety net, which I came to comprehend and appreciate with the onset of age and wisdom.  As I grew older, my empathic senses sharpened.  My wisdom was then derived from ‘there but for Grace go I” experiences.  You know… I became more worldly as an adult, and encountered people who could not fruitfully work.  I was moved by their material impoverishment.  I understood I should be happy to pay for that out of my taxes.

And this is how it works.  People who can’t work are enrolled in social benefits, and the money that pays for that is taxed from people who work or are in commerce.  In addition to being logical on its face, it also complies neatly with that old truisim ‘to each according to his needs, from each according to his needs.’

I don’t know if there are more people on benefits now.  It seems like it, though I am mindful to note ‘things have always (or often) been thus’ and ‘the more things change the more they stay the same’.  In any event, I don’t really care if there are more people on benefits, as long as they need them.  And my definition of ‘need’ is very ‘liberal’.  At the extremes it encompasses chemical dependency or merely some sort of inability to hold a job.

Include those people or not, there are a lot of people on benefits, right?.  Which requires a broad tax base of people and businesses to throw off money to fund the social safety net.

Going back to “job lock”…  The benefits of Obamacare eliminating job lock are illustrated by saying, well someone might be needed as a care giver.  So here they’ll be able to quit their job and be a caregiver.  Or, with ObamaCare they might be able to quit or retire early so they can pursuit their ‘dream job’.

First illustration you might grant as a positive goal of public policy.

Is the second illustration not extravagant, given limited tax paying resources?

I go back to contrast that “there but for Grace go I.”  What is with this encouraging people to go on benefits when they have an avenue where they do not need them?

More so, I am piqued by the conflict with ‘to each, from each”.   Thing is, the welfare state is very expensive.  What is with this thing where we encourage able bodied people to drop out of the value producing sector so that they can move to the value consuming sector?   We’re ostensibly going to make the from eaches into to eaches, with fewer from eaches to pay for all of this.

Now I know there’s an answer for this: tax the rich.  But they only have so much money, and they don’t make up the broadest part of the tax base.  So my question is, what gives with turning middle class taxpayers into net tax receivers.  Is that constructive?

Insofar as we talk about income inequality, there’s the rich and the rest of us who work, for which there is an enormous material chasm.  But there’s also the rest of us who work, and those on social benefits, for which there is an enormous material chasm.

If you can work, do you not have any obligation to avoid being on the social welfare rolls?  So that you can both contribute to its funding and not contribute to its depletion?  If you can work, aren’t you obligated to act in a manner that mitigates the income inequality of the welfare enrollee by contributing to the safety net as a tax paying worker?  Isn’t that how you act in a manner that conforms to ‘to each, from each?”

What gives people the temerity to think they can drop out, take their benefits, and pursuit their muse before their time?


4 thoughts on ““Job lock” unchained

  1. PM

    “the welfare state is very expensive”—compared to what? It is a lot less expensive compared to other countries with similar income (GDP/capita). Very expensive compared to China or Burkina Faso–but who do we want to be compared to? What kind of a society do we want to be?

    and to answer your last question: “What gives people the temerity to think they can drop out, take their benefits, and pursuit their muse before their time?” Isn’t that what freedom is all about? That the government or Republicans or bloggers don’t get to dictate to us what we do with our time? Seriously, decisions about how much and when and how and where to work are personal choices that people get to make. When you grew out of libertarianism, did you decide that personal freedom was passe? That we really should live in a state that dictates how long everyone should work?

    It wasn’t all that long ago that you were complaining about liberals that they were all scolds, and now you are filling that role. I do not think that people should be forced to work because that is the only way they can get health coverage. That is simply another form of slavery.

  2. Erik Petersen Post author

    I see the inequality gap as largely that between the able minded, able bodied, and the somehow disabled, who’s welfare needs are great. So it’s curious to me that all we ask from the able minded, able bodied is a percentage of work or asset income. But a person can be excused from this requirement if they don’t work or put their assets to work, though they remain able bodied and able minded.

    Just saying re to each, from each, it seems myopic that money is the only way we identify people who have means to contribute.


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