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Regulated Free Trade

I am very pleased to see commenters slugging it out over the advantages of regulating working hours - but in line with a couple of other news items can I make a prediction.
All politicians now claim they believe in "the market" and "Free Trade". We all know how they then weasel around "the market" by adding socially, ethical, environmental responsible etc.
I foresee a lot of guff about "Free trade" coming - basically it is too chaotic and unfair so it must be regulated. So watch out for "Regulated Free Trade". Which is, of course, complete balls.

And on one point - I believe in Free Trade for my labour - if I choose to work long hours then that is my choice, how restricting that freedom "enhances" it, is beyond me.

Comments

It is good to see these debates. I’d go along with your prediction and, in your own way, you hit the nail on the head as you go on.

Adam Smith’s great achievement was the discovery of market forces, as a natural side effect of human economic activity. Those who have disputed this are generally victims of their own wishful thinking. There exist no significant examples of the state successfully taking command of economic activity and you’d be hard pushed to find a politician who doesn’t understand this.

However, on the other side are those who fall into the trap of thinking that because market outcomes can be said to be natural, they must also be right, good and proper. This too is nonsense. Just check out this guy http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/3663634.stm who’s business would be thriving if we left paedophilia to market forces. The state will never completely suppress this market, but is still obliged to try.

Market forces are anything that affect the demand for or supply of a commodity and (like nature) don’t necessarily work for good or bad. Pro-market and anti-market are both nonsense positions and believing in the market is like believing in nature; a so what.

What’s good is for mankind to decide and markets aren’t that difficult to understand. It’s not particularly difficult to manipulate markets (through targeting taxes and subsidies, for example) in order to manipulate outcomes for good.

The freedom issue is another red herring. You’re relying on an antiquated definition of freedom that looks only at the legal environment, not the social, political or cultural environments which police our behaviour far more effectively. If the choice is to work long hours or not at all, where’s the freedom?

It’s the old problem of competing liberties; employee’s right to work as long as they like, against employee’s right not to be exploited. If we allow the first, we cannot assure the second. This is the compromise.

Englishman,
Whose's this Stephen Newton bloke then? Some sort of commie? Today, I'm exercising my right to work as long as I want, by naffing orf to the range in 20 mins for some hot 12 bore action.

Sounds like a bone fidi pinko to me Mr F.M.
An employee has a perfect to get himself another job iffin he doesn't like the hours.

Dude, you've got a windbag socialist bloodsucking pompous limpet on your ass! How's my flex-time and where's my telecommuting? We must have days off for pregnant daddies and dual-partner menopause! Driving up to freakin' Richmond across inbound Bridge and East-Bay traffic sucks so bad nobody could conceive it. I'd never done it but to help a buddy. My localized job freedom is scribed by a circle of distance and omits the worst traffic hang-ups. South S.J. for just a stinking money-job? Screw that, small wonder I'm still unemployed.

Maybe we should also have a minimum number of hours law so that employees cannot exploit their employer? Is this not the natural and fair extrapolation of the above legislation?

Does the employee not exploit the employer for money, by only parting with something that is FREE namely the employees time?

P.S. I enjoy working a 64 hour week so F**K off EUSSR!

I'm instinctively opposed to pan European diktats on anything, but I'd be opposed to the Working Time Directive under any circumstances.

It's been quite unpopular in nursing because part of the directive has been to force a fixed number of hours off between shifts. A good thing, you might say, and I'd agree, sometimes. However it doesn’t follow that there shouldn’t be locally agreed exceptions.

In nursing we've tended to use a shift pattern based around two day shifts (early and late) and one longer night shift, with early and late shifts falling randomly. The period between a late shift and the following early fails to meet the EU guideline. The only ways to comply with the directive is to increase the length of time between those shifts (and therefore the corresponding night shift) or introduce a system based around a week of lates followed by a week of earlies etc, which many working mothers find inconvenient (two days a week of child care a week being easier to organise than two separate weeks a month). Neither of these options is popular with nurses, though at my hospital we have plumped, as the better of two bad options, for the former.

Stephen would say, presumably, that this is a small price to pay for a better deal for others but it’s not him whose paying it, and it‘s not true anyway. I’m not against working time directives per se, and agree that legislation protecting workers is legitimate, but it’s difficult to see why a pan European directive benefits British workers more than a British directive would. We have a Labour government which could easily pass a law giving British workers all the protection Stephen wants to give them. If individual trades or professions feel they should be exempt they could put a case to the government. If the law proved to have unforeseen negative consequences it could be repealed. If the government refused to repeal it, it could be voted out of office. None of these safe guards will apply if these powers are ceded to the EU.

You could cross the word British out of every sentence in this paragraph and replace it with the name of any other EU member state and it would be just as true. The only people who benefit from this directive is the institution of the EU, and those whose romanticism about the EU blinds them to it‘s economic and democratic flaws.

pah....bunch of commies....

Not sure who you're calling a commie Mr F

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