Sunday, 4 May 2008

Inadvertant Consequences of "Good" Intentions

I was watching the Michael Coren Show on CTS the other day. Michael had a panel of a couple of 'lefties' and a couple of conservatives. The topic of discussion came around to the free trade deal, NAFTA.

One of the panelists whined that because of free trade, the fruit canning industry has suffered enormously in the Niagara Peninsula. "We just lost our last canning plant," I remember hearing him say. Now I know of some that have closed, but I know the biggest was E.D. Smith, in Winona, where I grew up. "Don't tell me that has closed down too!" I thought, in a panic. Well I checked today online and see that it was indeed being taken over by an American firm, Treehouse Foods, but it is still there and operating, as far as I could tell. That has nothing to do with free trade.

However, that is not my point here. I was thinking that if I had been there on the panel, I would have told him just what indeed led to the collapse of the Niagara Peninsula fruit industry. It was the introduction, (under the NDP government of Bob Rae, I believe) of the minimum wage for picking fruit. The results were almost immediate. "Pick Your Own" signs went up all up and down Highway 8 and the QEW. Whereas by paying so much per basket of fruit picked a farmer could standardize his costs, suddenly he had to pay people no matter how productive or non- they were.

Picking fruit was my standard summer employment when I was growing up. Every summer I picked fruit at Bridgeman's farm; 35 cents a basket for cherries, 10 cents for pears or peaches. The introduction of the minimum wage for this type of work didn't protect farm workers, it eliminated their jobs, and they never returned. (I also touched on this in another post here.)

This is not just my theory of what happened. I was there and I saw it.

Unfortunately, these types of social engineering decisions often have consequences unforeseen by the "do-gooders" who enact them. I'm thinking specifically of the current spate of panic legislation seeking to reverse climate change. I am not arguing that there is no such thing as climate change. I am asking, "How much can we actually do about it, and what might be the economic consequences to our decisions?" We have already seen the world price of food skyrocket, in part through the diversion of various foodstuffs for use in biofuels. In the end, I fear that the contribution of human cutbacks to the solution of global warming, if there is a solution, will be somewhat less than miniscule, but many lives will be affected in the attempt.

It occurs to me that this whole thing is an indication of mankind's arrogant thinking that we can fix anything. Well some things are bigger than we are, and in the face of some forces we are powerless.

Not to say we shouldn't to certain prudent things as individuals to help out where we can, but how many Canadians will forego their airplane flights to Disneyland, I wonder.

And, I wonder, has Al Gore moved yet?

Take Care

Take Care

1 comment:

The Nicky said...

And just where would mankind be without our arrogance? Oh, yeah, maybe still in the Garden...(sigh), I'm so grateful that God loves us, no matter HOW we act.