Beginning Sept. 1, Michigan will finally repeal its 1976 item pricing law that forces grocery stores to put paper tags on most merchandise. The outdated law prevents electronic pricing and costs businesses and consumers money. As Gov. Rick Snyder said at the signing of the bill: “Hopefully it will create jobs because it will give opportunities for lower prices and more economic opportunity. … There’s much more worthwhile things that people ought to be doing than spending their time on stickers.”
The repeal should be a virtual “no-brainer.” After all, technological advances have long made paper pricing a thing of the past, which is why Michigan is one of only two states that mandate the practice. But some employee unions are against the measure, claiming it will cost jobs. Michigan AFL-CIO President Mark Gaffney said that the change will eliminate 200 to 300 positions, and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which represents Meijer employees, also believes the measure will lead to layoffs.
If it is true that government mandates can create employment and wealth, then I have a proposal. Instead of the current law, which requires businesses to have at least one paper tag per item, the state should mandate 10 tags per item. In fact, maybe we should up that to 100 tags per item. After all, think of how many more jobs will be created by forcing businesses to hire more and more workers to comply. Unfortunately, that law would have the opposite effect.
Economic illiteracy has long caused some to believe government can simply mandate certain laws with no cost to businesses, employers or citizens. The truth of the matter is that item pricing merely shifts business costs from one area into another. Without the law, perhaps businesses will hire more cashiers, cleaners or bakery staff. Or maybe they will simply lower their prices for customers. There are countless other areas businesses could better spend their money.
One thing is for sure: Government mandates do not create jobs or prosperity.