Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Needed: The Right to Hire Anyone Worthy of One's Trust

In a sense, this post is just another illustration, how voluntary economic activity could make life a lot easier. After finding a company he could trust for appliance issues, Dad discovered he wouldn't be able to hire them to install a new stovetop range. As it turns out, by law he is required to hire someone with the proper installer's license from the place he bought the stove. However, the last time Dad relied upon on the retailer's contract labor for a built in oven installation, they left behind not only a job improperly done (and with the wrong parts), but with a gas leak to rectify. Anytime someone came to visit afterward, they got a bit nervous - at least the house didn't blow up in the meantime.

That improper installation left Dad responsible for the resultant issues, thus he hired the appliance repair company who reinstalled the oven for him properly. Sears had not only refused to tend to the gas leak that resulted from their faulty job, they also refused to assist Dad by recommending someone who could. As a result, it took quite a while to find someone who would willingly take care of the matter.

Through laws which require additional licensing and consequent labor affiliation with retailers, those who are willing to jump through the extra hoops (let alone less than optimal compensation) are not always the trusted locals who gained their reputations from previous service provisions to the public. Thus the customer is now expected - upon the purchase of new appliances - to pay for unquantifiable skills sets from people they don't know. That is, the customer is expected to rely on the integrity of strangers for a proper job.

Wait, what? To be sure, such expectations are normally considered a good thing. That is, we continue to rely on trust networks which capitalism can still make possible when it works properly. But there has been a subtle shift, as to how the process plays out. Skills set intermediation can also happen in ways that distort personal and social relationships. And contract work may differ from some kinds of self employment, in that personal integrity might be the "last incentive standing" to provide good work. Specifically, this might hold true in random environments which contract labor travels to only once, with no supervision by the employer - i.e. the homes of customers.

Apparently in the passing of these recent licensing laws, appliance retailers must have been absolved of responsibility for botched jobs, along with their contracted installers. Perhaps they needed such absolution because of the limited profit that is possible, for moving thousands of appliances into homes on a regular basis. I get that. But if this was the case, why not just just leave intact a marketplace of skills capacity, which can already safeguard local reputations? As a result, those who had built up local trust and known ability, don't have the ability to take part in installations. That in turn, leaves rural areas more dependent on city services than they had been. And in some cases, retailers pocket the monetary incentive which repair and maintenance people might otherwise have, to provide a topnotch job.

Hence there can be greater temptation for contract laborers to use wrong parts for installation jobs - to save time or extra trips - and be fairly certain they will never hear about the matter again. The appliance repair company even had to order a part from Sears to replace the wrong part that the contract labor had used. And - of course - Dad had to pay for the new part as well. For further context, readers can refer to two earlier posts I wrote which explain the prior circumstance here and here.

My libertarian tendencies came from my Dad, and neither of us is "over the top" or aggressive in that regard. Not only is Dad soft spoken and generally accepting of whatever life dishes out, he is one of the easiest people to get along with I've ever known. Even so, in a moment of frustration the other day, he exclaimed, It's getting so you have to have a government permit to go to the outhouse!" (Dad is in his nineties) Then he continued, "...And they talk about free enterprise!"

Many of us are used to the idea of government acting as an intermediary between us and the skills sets we seek out: such as a doctor's care, for instance. But the reality is that a growing lack of skills set negotiations is not just government's doing, even if some private interests insist it is so. Too many private interests also gain by using government power, to set themselves up as intermediaries between the public and needed services, as well.

In other words, some private interests create further marketplace distortions and inefficiencies with impunity. It concerns me in part because of constant political TV commercials which place the entire onus on government in this regard. Much of this distortion in efficiency falls under countless categories of licensing, in terms of what is actually allowed for skills use. Sometimes it's not difficult to do one's job reasonably with licenses in the marketplace. Other times, licenses only get in the way of what actually needs to be done. Or, long story short, maybe licensing doesn't really "protect" the consumer or anyone else for that matter. Perhaps licensing doesn't really work as advertised, at all.

P.S. The stovetop installation job - more complex than I expected - is finally done and I also got some interesting information. A couple of installation companies are starting to form in the city, and these individuals were part of one of those small companies. That allows them to negotiate somewhat with the retailers in wage based terms, although it was telling that they were not doing any work for Sears. I'm sure that a central point for multiple workers helps in terms of coordination and needed supplies for the job. After all things need to be done right the first time, for these are not local repair people - in this case their trip back would take one hour and fifteen minutes.

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