Why stop at three?
This is the same fallacious reasoning as the minimum wage argument. Why stop at whatever arbitrary number one’s reached? Why not just a little bit more?
His logic rests on the idea that workers “are more productive after their batteries are recharged.” So productive these workers would be that it would “compensate employers for the cost of hiring additional workers to cover for everyone’s three weeks’ vacation time.” He also explains it would make workers healthier, which in turn “translates into more productive workers, fewer sick days, less absenteeism. And lower health care costs.”
Of course, he adds: “It’s also a win for the economy.” Like a broken window that stimulates economic growth by getting that money circulated!
Because, you see, the per-worker output would be so improved that it would be “enough to compensate employers for the cost of hiring additional workers to cover for everyone’s three weeks’ vacation time.” Amazing! (But if the workers are so much more productive, why would others need to cover their downtime…?)
And he finishes with a flourish:
"In other words, a three-week minimum vacation is a win-win-win — good for workers, good for employers, and good for the economy."
Wow. Sounds like a truly magical idea. Good ol’ something-for-nothing. It’s nice to have central planners who can come up with these things.
Now I’d hate to rain on the gumdrop and rainbow parade, but if simply extending greater vacation time was such a win-win-win, why don’t employers do so now? (Edit: That is, of those employees who do not currently receive such benefits, why don’t employers do so? I thought this was clear, in the same sense that a minimum wage mandate wouldn’t directly affect those workers already paid above the minimum, which are a majority of workers. See more at my response to the comment below.) Aren’t these capitalists irredeemably greedy? Yet if what Reich claims is true - that productivity rises when laborers enjoy greater vacation time - then their greed would compel them to offer more vacation time.
I suppose the solution to that conundrum might be that these greedy employers are also ignorant, unaware of this untapped potential for greater profits. (After all, it took a brilliant polymath like Robert Reich to think up the idea!) But if that’s the case, then why must the state mandate this activity? All Reich has to do is show these employers how much more money they’d make if they’d just pay people to do nothing. In fact, Reich can lead by example: he can give his cleaning lady, his gardeners, and all the other people he employs free vacation time. He practices what he preaches by paying them to take time off. Once he demonstrates how much more productive his various employees are, and in turn how much more well off he is, those greedy capitalists will no doubt scurry to follow suit.
Of course, there is another option: that this idea is merely yet another iteration of the same, tired socialistic notion that disregards the incentives that drive human action (and thus cooperation, innovation, and progress). It could be that Reich’s idea that universally mandated vacations more than pay for themselves, in short, is pure, unadulterated nonsense.
Though how can that be? Reich just came back from a three-week vacation… wouldn’t he be at his most productive?