Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A distinguished Cal-Berkeley researcher calls for the elimination of workers' compensation for most workers. But his plan isn't at all ready for roll-out.

            In college I took a course that treated economics from a libertarian point of view -- a class which exposed me to all sorts of counterintuitive ideas.  The most memorable was that the interests and wants of workers and the labor movement should be discounted in favor of those of entrepreneurs and capitalists.  After all, were it not for the initiatives of the latter groups, workers would not be provided with good jobs and lifestyles but would, instead, be engaged in primitive labor, dressed in animal skins and tilling the soil with sharp sticks.  

            And now: a similarly provocative thesis, addressing labor, is found in the pages of the new IAIABC magazine Perspectives.  Its counterintuitive logic goes like this: (1) accident statistics show that work is actually safer than home and play, (2) thus, work actually protects us from injuries and disease; and (3) employers should not, at least for most jobs in the present day, be obliged to insure their employees via workers’ compensation.    

            The author, Frank Neuhauser, is a distinguished member of the research faculty of University of California-Berkeley and a renowned workers’ compensation expert.  He cites statistics showing that the incurrence of workplace injuries has fallen dramatically over the decades, and particularly over the last twenty years.  Injuries suffered outside of work, on the other hand, have not decreased.  In the end, time-adjusted statistics show that a person is 10.3 times more likely to be fatally injured on one’s own time than at work. 

            Neuhauser further asserts that, as a result, workers’ compensation is unnecessary for the vast majority of workers, to wit, those who labor in occupations that other statistics show are not hazardous.  In his view, workers’ compensation is a “relic of the early industrial age ….”  

            This hardly means that Neuhauser is in favor of allowing employers to opt out, as in Texas or under the cunning new Oklahoma machination.  To the contrary, he explicitly states that he is against opt-out.  Instead, he would have those who do not labor in hazardous industry be covered by their health insurance, as now mandated by the Affordable Care Act, and for wage-loss to be satisfied with short-term and long-term disability plans.  

            The thesis is thought-provoking, the vision humane (insurance for everybody!), but, in the present day, it’s a proposition for academic use only.  

            Continue reading at www.davetorrey.info, where you'll find my complete response.


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