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Author: Gene Healy
Date: Feb. 2020
From: Reason(Vol. 51, Issue 9)
Publisher: Reason Foundation
Document Type: Article
Length: 3,331 words
Lexile Measure: 1220L

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NOBODY LIKES LOSING his job, but if there's any country on Earth that's copacetic about firing people, it's these United States of America. Almost alone among industrialized democracies, the U.S. hews to the old-school regime of employment at will, which means most of us can be frogmarched out of the building at any time--for good reason, bad reason, or no reason at all.

Further up the food chain, "for-cause" termination is the norm; but with contracts that allow removal for offenses as vague as "moral turpitude" or "failure to perform," that doesn't shield CEOs from getting turfed out unceremoniously when they misbehave or don't live up to expectations.

Does it bother us when an old lech like Les Moonves of CBS or some new economy manchild like Adam Neumann of WeWork gets the business end of creative destruction? Like hell it does: This is the country that pioneered the idea of firing people as entertainment. For 14 seasons of NBC's reality TV game show The Apprentice, Americans tuned in eagerly to see which contestants would be shown the door with the signature line "You're fired!" Then, in 2016, we went and elected the game-show host president of the United States.

Since his inauguration, Donald Trump's tenure has been a whirlwind of self-dealing, management pratfalls, and public meltdowns of the sort that might get a mere captain of industry summarily canned. Luckily for him, he's failed upward into a post that comes with more job protection than the vast majority of American workers enjoy. Somehow we've decided that the one job in America where you have to commit a felony to get fired is the one where you also control nuclear weapons. Given the damage an unfit president can do, shouldn't it be easier to get rid of one?


"FOUR CEOs WERE Dethroned Just This Week," Forbes reported one day before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced she was opening an impeachment inquiry into Trump's conduct. In fact, 2018 saw a record 18 percent of large-company chiefs forced out, according to the article. "Mercurial, flamboyant and self-destructive CEOs" are increasingly being told to hit the bricks "when their questionable ethics pose a threat to the reputation, mission or growth of their companies."

A good thing, too: All the way up the corporate ladder, the ability to replace an underperforming or misbehaving employee is essential to keeping companies nimble and responsive. Free competition in America's labor markets is, according to libertarian legal scholar Richard A. Epstein, "the surest road to social prosperity and business success."

Not when it comes to the chief executive officer of the federal government, however: That guy should be harder to fire than a New York City public school teacher, apparently. "Impeachment is the ultimate constitutional sanction" requiring "the most serious deliberations," Epstein wrote as debate heated up in September. "For Democrats to pursue the risky impeachment option shows more about their frenzied collective state of mind than it does about Trump's many foibles."...

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