A recent issue of The Economisthad an article on monopsony and the “non-compete“ agreements that some lower-paid fast-food chain workers have had to sign as a condition of employment. On the whole, The Economist doesn’t like this because it supposedly holds down wages. The Economist is not alone in thinking this. Even noted economists Jason Furman and Alan Krueger have said in The Wall Street Journal: “There is no reason why employers would require fast-food workers and retail salespeople to sign a noncompete clause—other than to restrict competition and weaken worker bargaining power.” What Furman and Krueger are thinking is that these employees have no “trade secrets” to reveal to other firms.
Does this make sense?
The fast-food low wage case has little to do with trade secrets. In this situation the usual argument in favor of such agreements turns on the provision of general human capital. When…
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