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My contra-rian take on contra-ceptives

March 6, 2012

Economic theory should predict that employers have an incentive to force contraceptives on their employees. That’s because it reduces the risk that workers will be unavailable for maternity or paternity reasons. “Forcing” being illegal, bosses might instead partly compensate employees with contraceptives in place of cash. Unfortunately it’s not legal to resell those “free” pills or “free” condoms etc…, so the employees are stuck with them whether they want them or not.

An extreme example might illustrate the situation. Suppose that you run a business in a very competitive environment, say a WNBA team. You just won a spot in the play-offs and your leading scorer tells you that she’s pregnant. Well that’s a bummer from the point of view of the team. So one could very well imagine that players at such high level be encouraged to always be on the pill or some other contraceptive method. In fact, one could argue that NBA players would also benefit in performance were they to be on the “male” pill.

So in fact, were it not for the fact that I don’t like bans, I would be in favor of a law forbidding employers to compensate employees with anything other than cash. Wages would be higher and then responsible individuals would go about purchasing what they prefer. That would guarantee that everybody’s right were protected and if for some reason some people had a hard time or ran into some bad luck then we could provide a generous safety net, again mainly consisting of extra cash.

Helping the unfortunate this way would be a lot less problematic. It’s pretty clear for instance that going the other way: namely passing a law that forces employers to pay their employees in contraceptives rather than cash, is quite a welcomed “reform” for the producers of pills. Some might even refer to it as a “boondoggle”. Also the science is not completely settled and people might actually object to taking pills on a daily basis. Focusing on cash helps to get away from the culture war. Unfortunately both Republicans and Democrats love to impose their views on the general population and one of their main tools is to mess with the way workers get compensated.

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From → Economics

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