Do I really need a law to state that bread must be always available at every corner shop, that it be priced under $2.00 a loaf, and that it has to taste good? By rejecting bread (and sometimes all products from a particular shop) when a) It is more expensive than you’re willing to pay ; b) If they never seem to have the bread you want left or c) the bread is not nice in one way or another – we are acting as agents enforcing an implicit guarantee that we are getting acceptable value for money. * a statement saying that bread sellers should not overcharge is absolving ourselves of responsibility to keep them honest *
Why have a government agency to enforce bread standards when we are perfectly capable, as individual consumers, to in our own way dictate the standard by what we choose to buy. Poor quality, service or overpricing can still legally happen, but more efficiently adjusts to market pressure, than it could by direct mandates.
Similarly, do we need a law that states what hours you are allowed to work, that it must be at least a certain amount per hour, and that it should be fulfilling? All these criteria are important both for an employee and an employer, but by denying flexibility in the first two distorts the market mechanisms for all three. Different employees will have different priorities between remuneration, hours that can be worked and overall fulfilment in the job. Countries with price controls on bread end up having all bread at the same maximum allowed cost, not being readily available, and generally having dubious quality and no variety of choice. The free market in bread doesn’t necessarily make bread cheaper, but makes suppliers of bread compete to find breads that people will pay a high price for, while consumers will compete to find cheap but good quality breads.
A freer market in jobs will make employees and employers reputations much more important. Power will move from large unions and big companies to agencies, individuals, contractors, small employee groupings and nimble small businesses. The main difference to be seen will be a rise in the importance of job fulfilment over the letter of the industrial relations laws. The guarantees explicit in most awards are also guaranteeing that job fulfilment is a lower priority for employers than getting a reasonable fit in the costs and hours allowable.
Although large unions will lose a great deal of their power and influence, smaller unions and alternative worker groupings may actually have more clout by being able to favour certain employers over others for a range of tangible or intangible offerings.