The assumption seems to be we’re all either children or slaves.

Civility and compassion are important traits we should, as a society, strive to inculcate in our children and uphold ourselves.  However, big-state nannyism has reached the point that well-meaning people no longer appreciate the distinction between how we should act as responsible people and what we should be forced or forbidden to do by an armed government.

I have in mind legislation in the Rhode Island General Assembly that would do as advocate Mary T. O’Sullivan summarizes:

Right now, the Rhode Island State Senate has approved an anti-bullying law, The Workplace Psychological Safety Act (H.B. 8044 and S.B. 2473) “would make it unlawful for an employer or employee to “engage in psychological abuse … that creates a toxic work environment in which a reasonable person would find it intolerable” to perform regular work duties, or that could cause injury or jeopardize future career prospects”.

My experience with manual labor in the seafood industry and then in construction provided many memories to fill out details for phrases like “psychological abuse” and “toxic work environment,” but the word “intolerable” is perplexing.  If a work environment is intolerable, why not leave?  It seems an unstated assumption of such legislation (perhaps subconscious) that workers are either children incapable of understanding their role as responsible decision-makers or slaves, held in their jobs by force of government.

Beyond the stress and anxiety that signaled the problem, “intolerable” work environments had three positive effects on me.  They made me stronger; they prodded me to seek better opportunities; and they motivated me to improve myself so I would have more leverage as I did so.

The counterpoints to this testimony are easy to imagine.  My situation might have had some underlying advantage or privilege.  Not everybody has the wherewithal to turn negatives positive.  Some people won’t succeed quickly enough to avoid cataclysmic problems for themselves and their families.  These points may be true for some, but they aren’t automatically decisive, but must be balanced against other possibilities and implicit change to our system of government when we use it to take action.

Imposing statewide rules by force of law will have unintended consequences advocates do not recognize.  It will also prevent people from the opportunity for growth and learning, if they’re capable, while also making employment risky for employers who can’t know where the subjective line of “bullying” will end up through the regulatory and litigation processes.  And then there will be employees who take advantage of the law to take advantage of their employers.

Again: if a situation is intolerable, don’t tolerate it.  Leave.

To this admonition, the objection may come that many people simply don’t have the opportunity to leave a job.  They need money, and they can’t move.  Here, we have identified the actual problem.  The answer to abusive employers is to make business easier, not riskier.  Then free adults will be able to decide for themselves when a situation is intolerable, and the perpetrators will find themselves with a natural incentive to be better.

Of course, this would reduce the ability of do-gooders to use state government to impose their will on others, which one suspects is the point.  They want to be the adults caring for children and the slave masters telling people how they must conduct their business.


Featured image by Justin Katz using Dall-E 40 and Photoshop AI.

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