Showing posts with label Legal Analysis Tool. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Legal Analysis Tool. Show all posts
  • Legal Analysis Tool Kit Series: Baselines or Where Should We Start?

    Welcome to the second episode of Legal Analysis Tool Kit Series! Our today's discussion will focus on the concept of Baseline or to put it in a simple way: where should we start before we can impose a law or policy? The concept of Baseline is an interesting one because it deals with the fundamental issue of the original position of certain rights or obligations. Let me give you an example:

    In Indonesia, we have regulations on minimum wage for workers. Suppose that someone goes to the Constitutional Court and demand that such law should be annulled on the basis that it contravenes his constitutional rights of freedom to work (Article 28 D (2) of the Constitution). The basis of the claim? A company rejects him from a working position because it isn't able to pay him the minimum wage and therefore the company refuses to accept him. This is a hypothetical case since I haven't  done or read any research on the actual relationship of minimum wages and the companies' willingness to recruit new workers. For the sake of this post, let us assume that: (i) there is a big fine for companies who do not follow the minimum wage law, (ii) we are dealing with small and medium enterprises where salary of their workers is a major factor, (iii) the administrative costs for getting an exemption for the minimum wage is too high and taking a long time, and (iv) they tend to reduce their recruitment activities rather than paying new workers with the stipulated minimum wage.

    Question 1: Can we say that this minimum wage law contravenes the constitutional right of the unfortunate potential worker?

    Question 2: To what extent can the Government actively limits the rights of freedom of contract of its people? Should the Government leave them alone and deal with this issue by themselves, i.e employers are free to pay their workers provided that the parties mutually agree such arrangement?

    Question 3: What would be the position of the Government in this case? If the policy brings problem to certain members of the society but also good things to other members of the society (such as the current worker which will enjoy the minimum wage), should the Government revise such policy? On what basis? Can it say that since more people enjoy the benefit of the policy then the policy should be maintained? Is it fair for the unfortunate ones?

    The basic problem of all of the questions above is the issue of Baseline, i.e what's the original position of the Government with respect to its citizen rights to obtain work? Should the Government interfere in the first place or not? Dealing with Baseline is difficult since here we are trying to determine the original position of something to which our next actions will be greatly influenced.

    Anyway, let us try to answer the above questions:

    1. Minimum Wage and Constitutional Rights

    Some people will argue that in general, employers' position are stronger than the workers. Thus, the Government should intervene and provide protection to the weaker party. This should be the intention of the Constitution, fairness and equality for all. But will that argument work for our case? A man losing his job opportunity because the company does not want to pay its additional worker with the current minimum salary. Doesn't this fact contradict the original intention of the Constitution to protect the weaker party (if such intention exists)?

    However, with this kind of fact, do you think that we have enough basis to say that the constitutional right of the worker has been jeopardized by the existence of such minimum wage policy? Does the fact that he is actually willing to receive lower wages in order to secure a job but the current law does not permit that and therefore he loses his opportunity to get that job can be considered as a violation to his constitutional rights? In this case we need to go to the second question.
    2. The Limits of Government's Intervention

    To what extent can the government limits private mutual arrangements between the parties? I would say that we are now dealing with a Baseline, i.e. should Government leave us alone in our private arrangements? Or should Government intervene whenever there is a possibility that a weaker party can face unfair treatment?

    To answer the above question, I will tell you another case: A man is really in need for money to pay the medical bills for his wife and to get the money he is willing to enter into a contract which he would never enter into if he is not in dire need. Currently, he doesn't have many choices. He has asked for loans from his friends and family members and no one can provide him with the amount. At last, he found a loan shark that is able and willing to provide the loan. The loan shark believes that this man capacity to pay is rather weak and he is out of option, so he imposes an extremely high rate of interest. The man agrees with the condition, and so he receives the money to pay the medical bills.  

    If we believe that our basic rule is to always protect the weaker party, should the Government impose a law prohibiting any person to take advantages from this situation or to impose certain conditions that seem unfair in the loan agreement, whereas, as a result of which, the loan must be renegotiated to reduce the interest rate and to give better payment options for the man? Do you agree with this approach?

    Now, let us change the case a little bit. The above troubled man has a very beautiful house. He also tries to sell his house to raise some funds, but since the market is busted, no one is willing to take the offer. Suddenly, a person comes and knowing that the man is in dire needs, he offers to buy the house for just 10% of the original price. The actual economic effect of accepting this offer would be similar with receiving the highly interest loan from the loan shark. Eventually, the man chooses this option and sell his house with such terrible price. Question, should the Government forces them to renegotiate the price of the house to find a better and fair price under the rule that we must protect the weaker party? Would you support the Government's act to force these consenting parties to renegotiate the house transaction?

    Intriguing isn't it? I would like to know whether your opinion would differ for these 2 cases. To be consistent, the answers for these cases should be the same. Why? Because the economic effects are just the same and both deals are made within an unfair condition, i.e. the man doesn't have many options, is willing to enter into bizarre contracts, the necessity for paying the medical bills is high and he doesn't have much time. But I bet that most of you will say yes for the first case and no for the second case. I would happy to hear other opinion in this matter.

    Anyway, the thing that I want to show you here is the fact that it is really difficult to determine the Baseline for    Government intervention. Deciding the case on a case by case basis would most likely costly, and avoiding such cost is one of the reasons for stipulating a general law that could be applicable for any cases. And speaking of that, it's the right time for us to move on to Question 3.

    3. The Government Option

    For the last question, we understand from the above case that some people will receive benefits from the minimum wage policy (current workers) and some won't (potential workers). If we say that the protection for weaker party is necessary for the sake of fairness and equality, how could we justify the fact that this policy may also hurt the parties that we're supposed to protect?

    More interestingly, if in the end the Government chooses to maintain the policy on the basis that more people are being protected, do you think we can still justify this act under the name of equality and fairness? To be honest, this would be another form of implementing cost and benefit analysis in designing public policy, i.e.: if the overall costs are higher than the overall benefits, the Government should not pursue such policy. Some philosophers attack this approach as something that against the concepts of fairness and equality. If we calculate that the costs of protecting minorities are higher than the benefits, why bother making policies that protect them?

    I would stop at this point as my main purpose with this article is to conduct a training of thought. In public policy and law designing, there are no easy answers and determining the Baseline would always be something that we have to analyze carefully. Hope this is useful.

  • Legal Analysis Tool Kit Series: Understanding Ex Ante Perspective

    A robber goes to a bank, takes a hostage and demands the bank teller to give the money or the hostage will die. The teller looks at the amount the bank holds, US$3,000, a petty amount of cash for a bank as big as this. But he refuses the robber's demand, and quickly rings the alarm. The robber goes panic, shoots the hostage and runs away. A few days later, the heirs of the hostage bring a suit to the court, asking the bank to pay a huge amount of damages due to the negligence of its teller. According to those heirs, considering the amount of the cash, it is not worthy to let the robber killed the hostage, so based on fairness, the heirs have reasonable arguments to claim the bank for damages due to the failure of its employee to make the right decision. Assuming that the there is no exact regulation concerning the claim, what should the court do?

    Although the court might have unlimited options, in reality, all of those options can be simplified into two category, to look backwards or to look forward. Looking backwards or using the Ex Post Perspective means that the court will only review how the event occurred and decide what to do about it or how to clean it up. Using this approach, the above case will be considered as a simple dispute between parties. One will win and one will lose. The court can look at past precedents or try to define what fairness really means based on various methods. In the end, either the bank or the heirs will come as the winner, and the case stops.

    The other option, looking forward or using the Ex Ante Perspective means that the court will consider the effects of its decision upon this case in the future, particularly on parties who might enter into similar situations and have not decided what to do, and whose choices may be influenced by what the law will say upon such case. This means that the court must carefully consider the incentives it may create through its decisions to other parties that might be affected by such decision in the future.

    Now, let us try to analyze the above case using both perspectives. First, let us use the Ex Post Perspective. Since we won't put much attention to the effect of the judgment, all we have to do is trying to analyze the case based on sources which have already existed before the event. We can try to find the answer from regulations and precedents. Or, because we have already made an assumption that the regulation is not clear on this issue, we can turn to the opinion of scholars and famous literature discussing this issue. Further, we can work on the most acceptable definition of fairness and try to implement such definition in this case in order to answer whether the teller's refusal to give the money to the robber is a fair action or not, and if it is not fair, whether the bank should pay damages to the heirs. Quite complicated, I must say.

    What about using the Ex Ante Perspective? Try to think the immediate effect of the court's decision if the court decides that the bank must pay a huge amount of damages to the heirs and suppose such decision becomes a final and binding precedent. This decision will affect other similar cases where robbers are holding hostages for the sake of getting money from banks. Logically, other banks will try to avoid the obligation of paying a huge amount of damages and therefore they would most probably instruct their employees to give the money to the robber especially when the robber has hostages in his hand.

    As a result of this, the probability of bank robberies that involves hostages will most likely increase. Why? Well, the robbers might not even know about the decision, but they can learn from the banks behavior. When they realize that having hostages in their hand increase their robbery success, they would quickly understand that having hostages is beneficial and therefore the use of hostages will increase naturally. Through this perspective, we learn that the effect of consenting the payment of damages to the heirs might be harmful to the society. Yes, from fairness point of view, it might not be fair for the heirs that the bank is not deemed liable for the death of the hostage, but for the sake of greater purpose, the court must make the right decision.

    Of course, other argument can be made in different conditions. An an example, suppose that it can be proofed in the court that the robbery occurred because the bank did not maintain a reasonable security force within the bank's office. Using the Ex Ante Perspective, the court should grant the payment of damages to the heirs on the basis of the bank's negligence to provide sufficient security force. What is the expectation here? The decision might provide an incentive to other banks who have less security force to actually increase such force in order to avoid the obligation of paying the damages. As a result of such increase, logically, the rate of robbery should go down as bank robberies become harder.

    Notice from both cases that although the results are different on who win the case, the intended effect is similar, i.e. preventing more crimes that will harm the public. And yes, the arguments that serve as the foundation of the decision must also be clear since it will definitely affect the incentives that the decision will create to the relevant parties.

    In my view, Ex Ante Perspective is very useful in drafting laws, regulations, and other public policies. We might not always know the actual effect of a law to the society, but, we must always remember that the law will definitely affect the society, even if it is only a little. Only by understanding this fact that legal drafter and judges will be more responsible in "creating" the law.

    For further reading material on this issue, I would suggest you to read The Legal Analyst by Prof. Ward Farnsworth. This is a good book for law students and lawyers who wish to develop their analytical skill to the next level. See you in other Legal Analysis Tool Kit Series.

  • The Protection of Criminal Suspects in Law and Economics Perspective

    Forthcoming in Jurnal Teropong Edisi RUU KUHAP 2015 | 23 Pages | Posted: 10 May 2015 | Date Written: April 28, 2015

    Public Choice Theory and its Application in Indonesian Legislation System

    24 Pages | Posted: 8 Oct 2012 | Last revised: 8 Nov 2014 | Date Written: October 8, 2012

    Special Purpose Vehicle in Law and Economics Perspective

    Forthcoming in Journal of Indonesia Corruption Watch, 'Pemberantasan Kejahatan Korupsi dan Pencucian Uang yang Dilakukan Korporasi di Sektor Kehutanan', 2013 | 15 Pages | Posted: 22 Aug 2013 | Date Written: August 18, 2013

    Legal Positivism and Law and Economics -- A Defense

    Third Indonesian National Conference of Legal Philosophy, 27-28 August 2013 | 17 Pages | Posted: 22 Aug 2013 | Last revised: 3 Sep 2013 | Date Written: August 22, 2013

    Economic Analysis of Rape Crime: An Introduction

    Jurnal Hukum Jentera Vol 22, No 7 (2012) Januari-April | 14 Pages | Posted: 12 Nov 2011 | Last revised: 8 Oct 2012 | Date Written: May 7, 2012


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