Here’s a story which is intended to convey a message, but (as is so often the case) perhaps a different one than that which was intended. And unusually, I don’t know what to think.

A summary: a fellow named Terry is a teacher in Florida. As with most teaching gigs, it’s a nine-month job. At the end of the academic year, Terry files for unemployment until the beginning of the next academic year. This year, Terry decided to take a vacation in the summer and head out to Colorado. Now, I can’t blame him for that, given that Florida is a pretty horrible place, especially in the summer. But… this caused him problems in getting his unemployment. Florida instructed him to file where he is, in Colorado. Colorado won’t help him because he works in Florida and instructed him to file there instead. Terry bounced back and forth between unresponsive agencies until finally contacting someone in the Florida governor’s office. The person they sent him to determined in seconds that, since Terry works in Florida and intended to return there after the summer vacation, he should indeed file there, and straightened out the whole situation is a few seconds.

The author of this article asks (in essence), “Why did this have to be escalated like this? Why couldn’t the bureaucrats have done this right in the first place?” and considers this a question of competence.

It doesn’t look that simple to me. Why is someone eligible for unemployment when they voluntarily work in a seasonal profession? Should their vacations be subsidized? Can they be said to be actively looking for work (a requirement for unemployment) in a state when they are physically several thousand miles away? Is unemployment in a circumstance like this (9 month academic years, characteristic of the profession) an entitlement since you and your employer are forced to pay into the fund?

And most importantly, why is the government involved in compulsory unemployment insurance on their terms in the first place? Is this a legitimate function of state governments and (ultimately) the feds?