Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sick Leave: A Step to Resolve America's Economic Paradox?

Paradox: a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth.

When the subject is money, the world is replete with paradox. A good example is the paradox of thrift first identified by economist John Maynard Keynes. The paradox states that if everyone saves more money then aggregate demand will fall and will in turn lower total savings. So, if everyone saves, then there will be a decrease in consumption which leads to a fall in aggregate demand leading to a fall in economic growth, making savings bad, not good.

Indeed, the President of the United States became a leading advocate of consumption after 9/11 fearing that America would stop spending, start saving in anticipation of the next "event," and send the economy into recession. Yet, we all know that saving for a rainy day, retirement, or a new home is a positive personal trait, one that illustrates the ability to plan for the future, the willingness to assume responsibility for ourselves and our families. This leaves us on the one hand pumping consumerism as necessary to propel an economy that provides goods, services, and jobs, while at the same lamenting America's often negative savings rate as illustrating individual and collective immaturity, even moral derilection of duty.

The workplace, too, is filled with paradox, one being paid sick leave and whether or not it should be mandated. The paradox is that most Americans believe (or say they believe) in "family values," and ostensibly one of those values is to stay home to take care of loved ones who are ill, and to not be economically disadvantaged when we are sick. After all, how can one say "I believe in family," and at the same time say "I believe if you or a close family member is ill that you should be penalized." Yet, some argue that this is exactly what more than half the employers in the United States are saying by not providing a single day, not an hour, of paid sick leave to their employees, this in contrast to 145 countries around the world who require employers to "walk the walk" of family values.

How do most within our society resolve this paradox? With another paradox, of course, that being the "free market" which states the market, not the government (or the people), should determine how much, if any, sick leave employers should provide their employees. That might work but for the fact that the "free market" itself may be the ultimate economic paradox, espousing the principle that everyone pursuing their own economic interests and ignoring the interests of others nets a greater economic good for all. Indeed, at its foundation, the "free market" elevates selfishness to a virtue, which might work theoretically but for the religious foundations of society which are grounded upon giving, not receiving, as the virtue which should be valued and applied.

Regarding paid sick leave, America may soon have an opportunity to resolve a part of a multi-layer paradox that permeates our economic existence. The question to be answered is whether it is more important to support families and the employees who support them by requiring employers to provide compensation during some period of illness or is it more important to allow the free market to work its magic, knowing (or at least believing based on substantial historical perspective) that in the long term free markets right themselves between capital and labor. Applied to compensation and benefits, the argument goes something like this -- when paid sick leave is required to hire and retain good employees, then the market will require employers to provide it.

Ironically, the easy answer to the paradox of paid sick leave won't work anymore, that being, "Employees should save their money so when they are sick they can take care of themselves and their families," for as we all now know saving is no longer a moral virtue, but rather, a flaw that leads to economic Armageddon for all of us.

The upcoming debate over the Healthy Families Act which, if enacted, would require employers to provide every employee seven paid sick days a year may ultimately be reflected upon as a milestone in how America resolves a fundamental economic paradox.


Sunday, October 21, 2007

"Going to the Dogs - Lawyer Trades Practice for Consulting and Canines"

I thought you might be interested in this article from "The Texas Lawyer" which was reprinted in "The New York Lawyer" earlier this month. I value and appreciate the story but mostly I value the opportunity to help Kelly pursue her passion as she has for so many years done the same for me. (If the link below does not take you to the article, please copy and paste the link into your browser.)

As we embrace this week and those around us, we guys can (at least in part) thank the human-animal bond for what nurturing ability we have. From this month's Men's Health magazine, the following:

In a 2003 paper in the journal American Behavioral Scientist, Alan Beck, Sc.D., director of Purdue's center of the human-animal bond, and Aaron H. Katcher, M.D., a psychiatrist at the University of Pennsylvania, point out that cultures like ours have very few forms of play that mold caring and nurturing behaviors in male children. "Boy children," says Beck, "tend to be very self-conscious about having to take care of younger brothers and sisters. They don't play tea party or dollhouse, because that's Mommy stuff. However, taking care of an animal is a notable exception. Caring for your dog is always okay."

This license to love persists into adulthood. In virtually every public setting, women are, by and large, much more demonstrably touchy-feely than guys are. With dogs, however, this gender difference vanishes. "Men are just as likely as women to pet and stroke their dogs, hold them in their laps, kiss them, and so on," says Beck. "It doesn't matter whether they're male or female dogs, either: Men can hug them without inhibition, without feeling any less manly. It's one of the very few areas in life where men feel truly comfortable as nurturers."

Don't miss the entire article which can be found at:

P.S. A recent study notes that 97% of people admit talking to their dog. 3% lie about it.

Best for the week . . .

Friday, October 05, 2007

Advice To My Daughter (Upon Request)

It is an honor to be asked for advice by anyone, but never more than when one of your own children asks. After all, we parents spend a lot of our time as the village idiots among our offspring, or at least I did. This afternoon, one of my daughters sent me an instant message out of the blue and asked this question:

"Dad, do you have any advice about anything, life, being happy, being so critical of yourself, just anything that you think would be helpful advice to your daughter?"

"At 55, hon, I've learned more about how to get it wrong than how to get it right . . . so my advice is mostly what you should not do which will hopefully narrow your options and make it more more likely you will succeed if only because you won't make the same mistakes I did. So, here goes:

"1st -- Don't take anything too seriously. This ends the same for all of us -- we get sick, and we die. No one gets out alive which eliminates the option of "winning." That leaves you with one of two choices: life is either not worth playing or is just a game and should be treated as such.

"2nd -- Money is important but it is not as important as people. I'd rather spend an hour nursing a tall drip coffee in any Starbucks with you than be alone in the fanciest hotel in London or Singapore.

"3rd -- Your work needs to fulfill a passion, something that you not only want to do, but need to do. If you work only for the buck, you will quickly tire of the game. Work has to have its own reasons independent of the toys we are told we need to be happy. Work needs to fulfill you and this is important if only because we all spend most of our waking hours working.

"4th -- Living in the future is a loser. There may be no future (see the bus coming down the street -- it may have your name on it). And even if there is a future for you beyond today, don't allow your ego or some motivational speaker tell you that "you have total control over what happens to you." No, you don't. You never did. Genes and environment determine 90% of what will happen to you. You won't. Ever. Fate has far more control of the external than you ever will. The only thing you have control over is how you feel about what happens and that is your choice everyday.

"5th -- Don't be afraid. Fear paralyzes us. Fear is the dark side of living in the future. Fear is the brother of "hope" which is nothing but fear with a smiley-face painted on it. Look around. What are you doing? If you like what is happening at this moment, you come as close to winning the game as you ever will. If you don't like it, change it if you can, and see if that works better. If you can't change it, change the way you feel about it. Look at where you are right this second and if you can find one thing to like, focus on that thing, whether it is your job, your spouse, your pet, or a flower that is growing in the sun -- just like you are.

"That's it, sweetheart. That's all I know."