There is a common, comforting acceptance that “What is, is.”
However, any disturbance (actual or anticipated) of “what is” may become unreasonable fear. See those daily stock market reports.
Emotionally and economically, we (Hoosiers, Americans, all humans?) are unprepared for change, although we will blithely insist, “The only constant is change.”
Thus, when oil prices fall, selected individuals, companies, communities and countries which depend on those prices suffer severely. Likewise, a rise in those same prices brings hardship to a different set of entities.
What should we do when companies leave town, abandoning workers, relationships and property? That is hardly different from natural disasters and their effects on those left behind, disadvantaged by forces beyond their control. How do we help flood victims, corn farmers or oil field workers? Should we take the health care route?
In health care, we once believed in strange mists and devilish spirits. Ultimately, we blamed the sick for getting sick. They failed to take the precautions advised by grandparents and, more recently, by research. Afterward, we set up systems requiring private insurance (sharing the risk with others). Finally, we accepted the burden of illness as a public responsibility and pay for it, partially, through government aid.
Similarly, we turn business decisions into public policy events. We are too quick to pay companies to locate or expand in our communities. We then feel betrayed if they leave for the sweet wine flowing elsewhere.
Today in Indiana, there is a loud pounding of chests because United Technologies will close manufacturing facilities in Indianapolis and Huntington. About 2,100 jobs will be lost as production moves to Mexico.
Yet Indiana is the self-declared business-friendly state. How can we protest when firms decide that other states are more attractive? Are we conservatives being jilted by companies moving elsewhere?
Economic freedom, as we understand it, permits businesses and households to move as they please. What they leave behind in damaged workers, spoiled neighborhoods, lapsed business relationships and environmental hazards often become governments’ responsibility. In that case, retraining workers and preserving prior living conditions could require higher taxes on companies to pay for the economic dislocation they cause.
For years we’ve had unemployment insurance. Ultimately that insurance is paid for by workers through lower wages and fewer jobs.
Is the next step to require workers to buy private insurance in case a job is lost for reasons beyond the control of the worker? Isn’t that the health care solution given to us by a Congress, the same Congress that now calls it Obamacare?
Losing jobs might be as natural as floods, tornadoes and blizzards. We shouldn’t be surprised when jobs are lost, nor should we overreact with the chest-thumping seen recently among public officials.
My former dean used to say, “We must all learn to play the accordion, to make music as we expand and contract.”