lördag 3 december 2011

Health and Safety

In a discussion in the Guardian's Comment is Free yesterday, I was asked, "Where in the Physiocrats' Laissez-Faire life of purity do you think health and safety legislation figures?"

It is an excellent question. Laissez-Faire concerns, primarily, the realm of economics. The answer to the question, however, lies in the common law concept of "duty of care". The fear and possibility of being sued is an excellent deterrent against laxity in matters of health and safety. Legislation should do no more than codify good practice for the guidance of the parties concerned.

In the economic sphere, the most important contribution of the Physiocrats is their proposal for the replacement of the multiplicity of contemporary taxes by the Single Tax, or Impôt Unique, which is explained in the Wikipedia if anyone is interested.

However, beware of the Wikipedia. Entries tend to be pulled this way and that by people pushing their own agendas (possibly including me, of course). Thus, "individualism" has been appropriated by Anarcho-Capitalists, who, when tackled, turn out to be bitterly opposed to the single tax proposal which they revile as communistic! The Physiocrat model is the antithesis of Anarcho-Capitalism.

The French Wikipedia entry on L'Impôt Unique is a good example of how unreliable it can be, since it describes it as the "Flat Tax", which it most definitely is not.

In present economic circumstances, the bargaining power of labour is weak, since most people have no option but to sell their labour power to an employer and are little more than wage slaves. The single tax policy would correct this imbalance so that employers and labour were bargaining from an equal position of strength. Employers who were careless about health and safety would quickly find that nobody would work for them.

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