The U.S. is one of the few countries in the world that does not have guaranteed family leave for the birth of a child. Of 41 countries surveyed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the U.S. was the only one not to force private businesses to provide family leave.
As such, having the federal government mandate family leave is gaining popularity, even among Republicans. The policy varies depending on the country and legislation. The Republican proposed plan is a trade-off of sorts; it would delay Social Security benefits at retirement for two months for every month of family leave taken. This approach would cause the least harm of any proposed legislation but would still be a detriment to the republic. Here are five reasons to oppose any mandatory family leave:
1. It’s anti-woman
National family leave would create a disincentive for businesses to hire young women. According to the Pew Research Center, women are more likely to adjust their career and reduce working hours for family needs. Austin Petersen best summarized its effects in an exchange of messages: “[National family leave] will soon be a mandatory requirement on employers that will cause them not to hire young women who might get pregnant.” National family leave creates a disincentive for hiring women over men of the same qualifications.
2. We can’t afford it
Entitlement spending is over two-thirds of the federal budget. According to Real Clear Politics, we have $122 trillion in unfunded liabilities which includes, “Social Security (along with Medicare Parts A, B, and D), federal debt held by the public, plus federal employee and veteran benefits.” National family leave would expand entitlements to yet another aspect of life. Entitlement programs have a tendency to grow in size and are nearly impossible to reform. We can’t afford another.
3. It’s unconstitutional
Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution limits Congress to a specific list of enumerated powers. At most, a constitutional case could be made for the provision of family leave by state-level governments but not the federal government. Some critics may respond that Article 1 Section 8 says Congress may “provide for the common Defense and general Welfare,” and therefore can and should adopt programs like national family leave. James Madison provides a sufficient rebuttal. He argued in Federalist 41 that the general welfare clause does not give “unlimited commission to exercise every power which may be alleged to be necessary for the common defense or general welfare,” because the explicit roles were listed immediately following the clause.
4. It stifles the market
The policy interferes with free choice and outlaws certain mutually beneficial interactions. To illustrate this, let’s look at a hypothetical situation in which some may find themselves. Jane wants a job and would be content without the promise of paid family leave. Sue runs a small business and wants to hire Jane but, required to provide paid family leave, can’t afford the direct cost. So, she can’t hire Jane. Thus, the government prevented them from cooperating even though they both wanted to and had something to gain.
5. There’s a better way (free markets)
The best way to allocate any variation of paid family leave is through free market mechanisms. Companies are more likely to succeed if they treat their employees well and compensate them. Even when it’s in the employer and employee’s best interest to negotiate paid family leave, it is inefficient and does more harm than good for the government to mediate such negotiations, as there may be any number of funding structures and requirements that would most benefit individual businesses and their employees.
Family is important but the government can best strengthen families by staying out of the way. Americans who support national family leave do so because they think it will help people, but good intentions can create bad policy. Conversely, opposing government-mandated family leave will actually do the most good for families and the social fabric. The idea of mandated family leave sounds nice but will only work to harm those individuals to whom it promised help.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.