Liberals never seem to learn from their prior mistakes. It is hard to find a better example of a liberal disaster in the United States than Michigan. The “Great Lakes State” symbolizes the destruction that results from massive intervention by the State. The state of Michigan is a graveyard littered with formerly productive companies that had their capacity to produce castrated by crippling Statist policies.
Unfortunately, for the good people of Michigan, politicians that are like-minded to those that played a role in the destruction remain in power. Evidence of this can be found in a MLive article that reports on legislation knows as “Ban-the-Box,” which was introduced in March by Rep. Fred Durhal Jr., D-Detroit. This liberal dream is gaining momentum in the Michigan Legislature.
The bill would ban employers from asking prospective employees about previous felony convictions. There has not yet been a vote, but the House Commerce Committee heard testimony on the bill this past week.
Michigan would not be the first place to enact such a law. Fifty-three localities throughout the US have approved “Ban-the-Box” legislation in the past nine years. Cities such as Boston, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Atlanta, Austin, Memphis, and Tampa have all adopted laws which make it illegal, in some capacity, for employers to ask prospective hires to disclose previous felony convictions. By in large, most of the laws are only applicable to vendors or contractors doing business with the city. Additionally, many of the laws still require a background check for certain positions or after the offer has been extended.
Why should libertarians and conservatives be fervently opposed to this type of legislation?
From a purely libertarian perspective, the State intervening in the hiring practices of businesses is a blatant violation of the non-aggression principle. Certainly, the State would enforce their hiring edict with fines. If businesses refuse the pay the fines, then an armed employee of the State will eventually show up at the business to confiscate the funds at the point of a gun. So from a libertarian, non-violent, Christian, or moral perspective this type of behavior cannot be condoned.
The practice of the State proclaiming what an employer can ask a potential employee does not add value from a logical or utilitarian view. To validate this outlook I’ll share a personal experience.
Years ago I worked in Colton, CA for a company that manufactured steel framing. Some of my duties included reviewing resumes and conducting the first round of interviews with prospective new hires. The majority of the candidates that applied to our company had some rough edges. The labor pool in the Inland Empire of California is very familiar with the criminal justice system. Virtually every application we received had the box checked for felony conviction.
The methodology we followed to find the best candidates was to look at the rest of the resume and focus on the experience. When candidates were asked to attend an interview I would ask them to answer honestly about their past legal troubles. If a candidate was qualified, then they advanced to the background check portion. The final step was making sure the applicant’s story explaining legal issues aligned with the background check. This method worked very well. When individuals lied, then they lost the opportunity.
Rather than dictating what questions employers can ask on their job application, perhaps the State should look into halting their abhorrent practice of locking non-violent people in a cage. A great start would be ending the war on drugs. That would be a true step towards fairness.
For more on this topic consider listening to our podcast with Dr. Mark Thornton. Our Editor-in-Chief, Marc Clair, interviewed Dr. Thornton, Senior Fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute, to discuss the economics of the War on Drugs. They also discuss some of the lessons we can learn about prohibition from shows like “Breaking Bad” and “The Wire”.
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