Sunday, March 12, 2006

Maid's Day Off Rejected

I consider myself a libertarian, and I place high emphasis on civil freedom and human rights. Hence, it was unsurprising that I was not pleased when I first heard that the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) rejected the proposal to grant maids a mandatory day off each week. To me, not granting foreign domestic workers a day off is unreasonable, and almost reeks of bigotry. If the situation were any worse, it would remind me of slavery.

But recently, I began to detect some hidden inconsistencies in my beliefs. Being a libertarian also means that I value economic freedom. What this usually means is that I am against govermental interference in the market economy, such as restrictive trade regulations and labour laws that foster stagnation. However, if you are astute, you will soon realise that there are some contradictions between the beliefs of civil liberty and economic freedom.

If we impose a law to grant maids a day off, then would this not be a form of govermental interference into the market? But if we do not interfere, ostensibly circumstances would force some maids to accept unreasonable employment conditions. This appears to be an important contradiction, one that had to be reconciled for my beliefs to be consistent.

After some thought, I realised that in order to repair this inconsistency, I had to make one belief slightly more valued than the other.But which should I deem more important? To answer this second question, I constructed a third question, one which could test which idea I held more strongly, civil liberty or economic freedom. The question was :

Would you allow people to sell themselves wholly into the service of others? In other words, can you sell yourself into slavery?

My answer was no- there had to be certain rights which were inalienable, and could not be sold even if the participants privy were willing. Thus, laws should be in place to restrict such policies.

However, I am still unsatisfied with my conclusions. I may need to work this out futher.

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