Think "harmonic convergence" and what images materialize?
Mount Shasta at dawn perhaps. Druids and Californians in saffron
robes humming the Windham Hill backlist. Imaginative would be the
person who immediately thought, "Ah, employment policy, ah,
Yet scholarship and the Zeitgeist did converge recently in the
Republican landslide and the near simultaneous publication of a
proposal to overhaul workplace law, leaving two bemused policy
experts unexpectedly enjoying a worldhistorical moment.
They are Edward E. Potter and Judith A. Youngman, authors of
"Keeping America Competitive: Employment Policy for the 21st
Century" (Glenbridge Publishing, $27.95), a compendious excursion
through employment law that was surely destined only for the
seminar tables of policy Washington until the people spoke on
The book contains a blueprint for a Republican
"transformation" _ to adopt the street slang of the new order _
of rules governing the workplace, though entirely without the
Sparta-must-die rhetoric of the party's leaders.
It seems a genuine attempt to balance the needs of employers
who would be internationally competitive and of employees who
would be mobile and flexible. Democrats who worry that the next
few years would be nothing but bile, big hair and Barry Manilow
may be relieved to know that dialogue is possible.
Nothing seems to have surprised the two authors more than the
possibility that their book, the summation of several years of
experience in the relatively arcane arts of trade policy and
employment law, could become someone's legislative agenda.
"This was never intended to be a political book," Potter said
in an interview last week, a few days after the book was
presented at a Washington news conference. "It's the coincidence
of timing that allows these ideas to have a hearing."
Similarly, Youngman: "We hope to start a discussion and
debate, not just of specific proposals but on the fact that
employment policy affects the competitiveness of employers and
Potter is a lawyer and president of the Employment Policy
Foundation in Washington. Youngman, an international trade
specialist, teaches political science at the United States Coast
Guard Academy in New London, Conn.
The book argues that Americans have for too long looked abroad
for culprits to blame for the decline in the country's
competitiveness. However much trade practices, low wages or
simple technological piracy may give foreign competitors an edge,
the more serious problem is domestic.
The country's intricate web of laws and regulations, the
authors argue, impose "structural impediments" on the ability of
companies and employees to do their jobs efficiently and thus