WSJ.com is prominently highlighting a kinda provocative piece on the battle of young workers and old workers for the dwindling number of jobs in this economy. The oldsters seem to be winning, in part because companies fear age discrimination lawsuits when they lay off senior workers.
Young workers are cheaper — but they don’t fight back when fired — so companies just fire based on seniority because it looks objective. Objective rules, no lawsuit. labour lawyers report an increase in age lawsuits.
So it looks like a win for the oldsters, but it doesn’t take a Freakonomist to imagine how this could work the other way: If the expectation is that old workers will sue when fired, then when you’re hiring, you’ll find a young worker a better value. That’s bad news if you’re old but not working, as even in normal times, it’s positively hellacious for older workers to find new jobs at the pay and seniority they’re used to. (A more provocative question: How do the expectations of race or gender-based termination lawsuits affect hiring).
But even that’s not the real real story here.
The real real story here is that stories like this one are the result of an economy in which the government (or juries) can select winners and losers in some manner not related to the market. In this scenario, the game is for parties to organise themselves as a political interest to use the tools of government against their nemeses.
So it’s old workers interest groups for un-organised young workers. It’s TARP-invested banks and the UAW beating out unorganized hedge funds in the Chrysler bankruptcy. It’s state employees in California versus unaffiliated taxpayers in California. And it’s Microsoft and Google competing against each other by appealing to the Justice Department, rather than in the marketplace.
That’s our democracy, for ya. Ain’t it grand?
(Picture via Snapshot19)
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