Good intentions not enough
The government’s regulations on minimum wages are aimed at protecting workers with low income. In practice, the regulations have reduced the number of jobs for unskilled workers with the lowest incomes. The government wanted to increase wages for the have-nots but instead ended up taking jobs from them. The law to protect small shopkeepers guaranteed that tenants of stores would not be evicted for five years and limited the increase rate for the lease to less than 12 percent per annum. But the result was that the lease surged in one fell swoop for the next five years, increasing the burden on shopkeepers. Some people who could not afford the increase were evicted into the streets.
It’s the same with the law to regulate interest rates that lawmakers are pushing to reintroduce. Even though the law emerged from innocent motives to lower interest rates for people with low income, it will actually make it even more difficult for them to borrow money. If a limit is placed on interest rates without consideration for the reality of the economy, people who are not qualified to borrow money from established financial institutions will not be able to get private loans, either.
It may seem that the problems will be solved if employers hire people for low wages, landlords lease their properties to poor tenants and private money brokers bestow favors with genuine intentions.
But that cannot be compelled by the law unless the government or politicians are willing to pay wages, rents or interest on their behalf. It is hypocrisy if politicians force others to make a sacrifice as a way to display their innocent motives.
In legal terms, innocence means being unaware or ignorant of certain facts or intentions, free from moral evaluation. An innocent victim falls victim of crime while being unable to predict outcomes.
However, it is irresponsible if government officials who designed failed policies claim that they are not responsible because they had innocent intentions, and were just unable to predict the results. Innocent victims are protected by the law but innocent culprits are not.
The writer is an editorial writer
of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Kim Jong-soo [email@example.com]