|Montréal, 5 février 2000 / No 55
by Scott Carpenter
This is the time of year that I inevitably have, after every snowfall, a flurry of knocks on my front door. From November to March kids from all over the neighborhood flock to my house in search of snow in need of shoveling and the almighty dollar.
As always I begrudgingly acquiesce. Now, its not that I hate to shovel
that fun, fluffy white stuff, in fact it¹s great exercise, but I just
can¹t resist those rosy cheeks and frozen smiles as kids as young
as the age of six offer to shovel the driveway for me at cut rate prices.
Besides, it leaves me with time to tend to more important matters, such
as reloading and napping.
But lately I've been having a bit of a moral dilemma. You see it occurs to me that we've been lying to our children for decades. Every year the snow comes and as far back as I can remember parents have said
Skills for cash
When a child comes to my door we enter into a verbal agreement between two sovereign individuals to exchange his labour for mine. That's what money is: it is labour held in the form of a material substance to be disposed of at a later date in exchange for another product or someone else's labor. I do not make a claim of any sort on his labor, he is not my employee but the owner of his own abilities who contracts with me to exchange his skills for my cash. Once the task is completed he owns that money free and clear of any future obligations to me. We have made a consentual and equitable exchange.
So here in lies the moral dilemma. We raise our children to believe that the world is just and sensible. Unfortunately it is neither. In reality that is not the way the system operates. Realistically, before this child shovels my driveway, he should be made to fill out at least three different government forms and upon completion of the task I should be held responsible for withholding at least 40% of the original sum agreed upon.
But we don't do this. We pretend instead that the world is just and fair and we send these budding entrepreneurs out into the universe with blinders fully pulled. What happens when they realize that they do not own their labor and the products thereof? What happens is many of them refuse to abide by the arbitrary rules that our government has imposed upon them. Many of them contribute to the underground economy.
So how is it that an act, such as a free and equitable exchange of labor (which in childhood seems completely righteous), can become suddenly illegal when one becomes an adult? Somewhere, somehow somebody is either teaching a terrible moral lesson or, horror of all horrors, perhaps our system is... wrong? Naaaaa. Couldn't be... the government is never wrong!
Teach your children well
So here's what I propose. In order to limit the level of disappointment (who knows this may even lower the suicide rate) felt by our young people as they enter into the work force we need to pass a few new laws.
First and foremost we must make it illegal for anyone to contract yard work without obtaining the proper permits from the proper authorities. Second each child who decides to do this sort of door to door labor must apply for and receive a proper business license and provincial business registration. Oh, and don¹t forget your social insurance number... this should really be the first task at hand.
Income tax and GST forms should be completed and submitted to the proper authorities and don¹t forget to register with Workers' Compensation Board if you plan to have a friend (employee) aiding your child with their chosen tasks. Have I forgotten anything? Oh yes, last but not least quit teaching your kids that what they earn belongs to them... it just confounds the whole process and turns them into political objectors like myself. Instead it would be better that you teach them the truth: their lives and their labor belong to the state.
Perhaps these suggestions will help curb the expansion of that evil underground economy our leaders keep moaning about.
Oh... and happy shoveling.
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