Why No Job Paternalism?

Parents are “paternalistic” towards their kids in many ways. Parents try to steer kids away from bad sex, drugs, hobbies, friends, and jobs. Parents warn that bad hobbies can lead to bad friends, and that bad drugs and friends can lead to bad sex and poor jobs. Parents warn that bad drugs, sex and jobs can lead to bad health. Parents encourage kids to attend school to encourage good jobs, and parents avoid neighborhoods where kids might meet bad friends.

Governments assist in many of these paternalisms. Governments require school, and prohibit sex and certain hobbies below certain ages, and they ban some drugs for all ages. But it is curious that governments don’t do more. While it seems hard to ban bad friends, it seems more feasible to limit bad jobs. Why are kids allowed to attempt to pursue mostly “dead end” careers as actors, musicians, or athletes against their parents wishes? Why are young kids allowed to take classes preparing them for such career attempts?

Choice of career correlates greatly not only with income, but also with health and happiness. If drugs and young sex are banned, and young is school required, because of such correlations, why not jobs as well? Even if some people are required to do bad jobs, a parental veto over a kid doing such a job would limit supply and raise wages until those jobs weren’t so bad anymore.

I can mostly understand wanting to let folks be free, and I can mostly understand wanting to limit kids freedom “for their own good.” I have more trouble understanding our odd mix of paternalism and freedom.  Why do we limit some things, and not others?

Added noon: The parental veto concept is just an example.  Jobs could also be limited via licenses to do or train for a job.  Most professional licensing is said to protect the customer – why not more to protect the worker?

I suspect we allow harmful acting, music, etc. careers because they raise our society’s status relative to others, and it looks good individually to approve of such activities. Most parents hope it won’t be their kids who pay the price.

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