Economics of Daddy Days

baby-in-cribImagine if everyone was the same. Imagine if traditional social roles were completely obliterated. Imagine if egalitarianism wasn’t a pipe dream but reality. And imagine if our very understanding of biology and nature was turned topsy-turvy.

At a recent Atlantic Live event in Washington D.C., the topic of radical equality was given the full soapbox effect. Of course, the open discussion wasn’t called “The Progressive End of Tradition” or anything like that. It was disguised with the title “The Daddy Track: The Case of Paternity Leave.” Hosted by New America Foundation Director of Work and Family Liza Mundy and writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, the event was ostensibly about exploring the concept of paternity leave for fathers.

Decades ago, that phrase might have struck an uneasy nerve. But what was once seen as an improbable scenario is now becoming a modern trend. In the digital age, more and more breadwinners are able to work from home. Women, who not too long ago were largely relegated to household chores, are now finding themselves in the workforce. The downfall of prejudice against females in the workplace, along with increased job opportunity, is transforming what we traditionally understand about working adults.

This change in familial dynamic is also beginning to exert a force onto public policy. Many governments in developed countries have already enacted some form of entitlement leave for mothers. Now, fathers are beginning to see the same benefits. In Quebec for instance, five weeks of paid time off is given to newly-minted dads. In the uber-lefty helm of California, six weeks of paid paternity leave is guaranteed for both parents.

Some see “daddy days” as a righteous step in the direction of social justice. Others see it as an equalizer between men and women. There are also those who see government-guaranteed paternity benefits as an economic booster. Writing in The Atlantic, Mundy takes a more utilitarian viewpoint to the concept of fathers spending more time at home. In print and in person, she cites personal research to make the case that fatherly domestic child-rearing promotes better health and increased productivity.

Her list of credible sources includes: the Boston College Center for Work and Family, the World Economic Forum, sociologist Arlie Hochschild, labor economist Ankita Patnaik, economist Eileen Appelbaum, and the sociologist Ruth Milkman. For the casual reader, the list may seem credible. Then again, finding someone with a doctorate who once conducted a study that backed a liberal disposition is not very difficult. Academics, and their corresponding hubs of intellectual exploration, are pretty much always predisposed to finding lefty conclusions. Any other determination puts government grant money in peril.

The inferences from Mundy’s report only scratch the surface for what government-guaranteed paternity leave entails. The Appelbaum and Milkman study cited on California’s generous benefits for parents asserted that  “initial concerns” over the program being a ““job killer” were unfounded.” To compensate for the workforce loss, businesses relied on “effective and creative ways” to cope. In the end, everything is supposed to look hunky-dory. But economics is not about studies that record a snapshot in time. It’s about seeing what could have been. And judging by the admission that management had to jump through hoops to meet the new state requirements, it’s obvious paternity leave doesn’t rank high on the value scale of employers. Someone must lose. If it isn’t employers, than it will certainly be employees who miss out on the chance to work.

The thing about empiric-based economic studies is that data can always be massaged to fit an agenda. The deception also applies to quoting sources of authority. When so-and-so from a fairly recognizable university makes a claim, it’s easy to dismiss the simple ramblings of the hoi polloi with one swing of an accredited voice. There is an aura of acceptance around anyone with a Ph.D. Rebuking their claims is akin to screaming “praise be to Satan” in the middle of Mass.

At one point during the live discussion, Mundy regaled the audience with her experience fielding calls while on a radio show discussing the daddy track. One caller, the owner of a small repair garage, lamented that being forced to give paternity leave would harm overall productivity in her shop. She relies on her mechanics to be available. Missing out on a few weeks of work means less service being rendered. Mundy countered the objection by pointing out that employers don’t typically pay for this leave; that many times workers will chip in to a fund which they can draw from when the time comes.

Like a true mainstream intellectual, she completely missed the point. Employers don’t just pay attention to cash flowing out of their coffers. There is also the potentiality of earnings. Any businessman worth his salt plans for the future. That means projecting profits to come. For a small-time garage that serves a community, business isn’t always a guarantee. So when it comes, it has to be taken care of right then and there.

The art of running a business isn’t done by bowing down to every leisurely demand. Either the work gets done or it doesn’t. There is no bypassing the economic law that production comes before consumption. For a small business, money is usually tight. Long-term accounting doesn’t stretch very far. Sometimes, it’s a gigantic hurdle to make payroll every other week. That makes it all the more difficult to make sure operations run smoothly. Absenteeism is a clear interference in an already unpredictable situation. The only thing left to do for the owner of a day-to-day business is to scramble.

It’s because of economies of scale that larger corporations are better able to withstand government’s expensive diktats. The leftist mindset seems unable to comprehend that not all companies are monolithic entities. Mundy demonstrated this ignorance wonderfully. She clearly had no conception of the market as an ongoing process, and one that doesn’t wait for special life events.

Intellectual studies aside, the topic of maternity leave is wrought with landmines of political-correctness. I imagine that’s why there is little pushback on proposals like mandated paternity leave, particularly after the welfare state has long established its presence. The issue has the indelible mark of “sensitive.” It’s hard to talk about it in a context that doesn’t come off as demeaning for a particular gender. So it stays largely unquestioned.

Something tells me Mundy’s advocacy-disguised-as-science is less about economic benefit and more about levelling the playing field via government force. In her Atlantic piece she writes,

“[W]idespread paternity-leave plans raise the possibility that bosses will stop looking askance at the résumé of a 20‑something female applicant, or at least apply the same scrutiny to a similar male applicant.”

So there it is. Paternity-leave plans may interfere in the hiring process by placing undue discrimination on females. The solution isn’t to remove this government-rendered harm, but simply to apply it to men. As she writes elsewhere, the goal of “daddy days” legislation is that “it could make men behave more like women.”

The whole thing stinks of radical egalitarianism. When progressives attempt to chip away at the foundation of natural laws, it’s always a good indication of a hidden totalitarian agenda. Seeing beyond this utopian vision means considering the limits of mankind, and accepting what’s actually possible.

Raising children is undoubtedly a blessing. It’s one that should be shared with both parents. But state-mandated paternity leave doesn’t come for free. It may not cost employers in terms of dollars spent, but it results in missed opportunities to turn a profit. And without profit, there is all the time in the world for parents to raise their progeny. There’s just no paycheck to back it up.

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2 Responses to “Economics of Daddy Days”

  1. Douglas says:

    I completely understand the desire of some individuals to take steps to bolster the family environment, but I also share your concern that all of these government mandated policies are ultimately undercutting the ability of businesses to make a profit.

  2. Sabine says:

    I'm currently raising 2 sons together with my husband and really like that he can also stay / come home earlier in order to take care of the children. The fact that there are 2 of use who take care of the children makes it much more enjoyable for us and the kids.

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