Archive for the Libertarianism Category

Scandis Are Weird: Part One (Paternity Leave)

Posted in Economics, Geopolitics, Libertarianism, Public Policy, ScandisAreWeird on July 2, 2010 by livefreeordeinonychus

One of the major theses of my life is that Scandis are weird. I have literally been blogging about this since 2007. Their languages, their hobbies, their governments, their drinking habits, their political parties, it’s all just weird.

So what are these sons of vikings doing now? Mostly staying home with the kids. Swedish law dictates that companies provide generous maternal leave, and increasingly longer paternal leave. It’s great, you can take your toddler for a moose hunt, maybe a quick swim in the fjord, or just get some errands done while little Leifr Eiriksson Jr. takes a nap on the sidewalk.

Currently, Sweden provides working parents 16 months paid leave per child, “the cost being shared between employer and the state” (to compare, the United States Department of Labor, through the hilariously named FML Act, orders companies to give 12 weeks unpaid leave to new parents). Because of this, 85% of Swedish fathers take parental leave – in itself, this doesn’t sound interesting, but Sweden’s total parental leave is absolute, Fathers’ piece of the pie is getting larger, now over 20%. This transition was partly masterminded by Bengt Westerberg,

“…[who] championed the introduction of the first dedicated father month — 30 days of paid parental leave that could not be transferred to the mother — to encourage reluctant men like himself to do their bit and overhaul Swedish society in the process. A second “daddy month” followed in 2002, and after elections in September the quota may double again.” http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/10/world/europe/10iht-swedenside.html?ref=europe

It’s these kinds of attractive bribes that make make democracy so dangerous, and so expensive. Why wouldn’t you vote for the guy that promises you the most stuff? But while Sweden is insulating its’ citizens from the costs of their own lives, on the other side of Europe, one Maltesian is arguing against increasing parental leave. At least someone (other than Seth) is thinking about deadweight loss. “[The report] notes the fact that extension of maternity leave could reduce the female employment rate, which currently stands at 37.7 per cent (sic), since changes would render women less competitive in the market-place for jobs and lead to overall deteriorating employment prospects for everyone.”

I think it is important to note here that I am not against against parental leave, per se. One of the biggest libertarians I know spends almost all his time with his kids, doing the vast majority of his work over the phone and computer. Libertarians aren’t mindless workaholics, they’re simply opposed to insulating themselves from the costs of their own leisure. It’s not about blindly keeping your nose to the grindstone, ignoring your other responsibilities, it’s about mindfully determining your own work/life balance.

Looking forward, will more businesses embrace time off for fathers, independent of government regulation? Will more citizen decide independently that they will put more time aside for their families, absorbing the cost themselves? Will we vote ourselves into a state of perpetual vacation, until we all starve to death? I’m very interested to hear other thoughts on this issue.

P.S. I would like to thank T-Rex for allowing me to write for this blog, and hope to write much more in the future.