Tom Knapp: ‘Wisconsin and Unions: You Can’t Get the Right Answer if You’re Asking the Wrong Question’

Thomas L. Knapp at Center for a Stateless Society:

The Big Domestic Policy Question of the Week, driven by Wisconsin’s government budget crisis, is “what to do about government employee unions?”

As the conventional wisdom would have it, collective bargaining between the state and government employees — cops, firefighters and most especially “public educators” — is breaking the government bank by locking the taxpayer into funding healthy wage, and sometimes outrageous benefit and retirement, packages for “public servants.”

Proposed solutions range from “suck it up and pay the bill” on the left to “outlaw government employee unions” on the right … and out in Simply Silly Land, from a guy who bills himself as “one of America’s leading Libertarian thinkers,” the suggestion that Wisconsin governor Scott Walker play Ronald Reagan and fire Wisconsin’s “public” school teachers (hint: Those teachers aren’t employees of the state of Wisconsin).

The conventional wisdom may very well be true, but none of those proposed solutions would amount to more than a band-aid on a gaping wound. That’s because “what to do about government employee unions” is the wrong question. The right question is “what to do about government?”

When government is the employer, employment questions become policy questions … and policy questions are intrinsically political questions. This means that all the players involved will mobilize political power to get the answers they want.

Nothing short of a totalitarian state, complete with conscription to fill classroom teacher slots and secret police to arrest “union troublemakers,” will prevent “public” school teachers from organizing among themselves to get the highest wages and nicest benefit packages they can.

Even formally outlawing unionization for government employees wouldn’t change that. There would still be a wage and benefit schedule, and it would still have to be responsive to teachers’ willingness or unwillingness to accept it. At some point, negotiations would occur. And chances are that the negotiators on the teachers’ side would be wearing NEA t-shirts under their suits and carrying NEA membership cards in their wallets.

The problem isn’t the existence of a teachers’ union. The problem is on the other side of the negotiating table.

A private sector business has to turn a profit to survive. It has finite resources. It has to take in more money than it spends. If its prices get too high, its customers will go elsewhere. No amount of lobbying or majoritarian uproar can trump those considerations.

Government doesn’t operate on a profit motive. In theory, at least, its resources approach the infinite — if it’s out of money, it can just pull out its guns and tax up some more cash. Its customers are forbidden to take their business elsewhere. And lobbying and majoritarian uproar are the deciding factors in its policy considerations.

Get government out of education, and the alleged rapaciousness of teachers’ unions is limited by the ability or inability of private employers to meet their demands (or their ability to generate revenue by forming their own cooperatives and serving willing customers).


IPR note: In addition to referencing Wayne Root’s article, Knapp is himself a former frequent candidate for public office and member/chair of local, state and national committees in the Libertarian and Boston Tea Parties. He has recently renounced electoral politics, and is now trying to organize intentional non-voters.

34 thoughts on “Tom Knapp: ‘Wisconsin and Unions: You Can’t Get the Right Answer if You’re Asking the Wrong Question’

  1. paulie Post author

    My response at C4SS:

    Reprising my points from IPR: Our endgoals are the same. Get government completely out. In fact, end all monopoly government.

    The question is, how do you think we can get there? Either we shrink the government step by step until that decline becomes an avalanche, or we want to accelerate its growth until the bubble pops. My view of history is that the avalanche would work best.

    In concrete real world politics, government unions fight any attempt to make any move, no matter how small, towards privatizing education or any other part of government.

    They have huge political warchests to elect politicians beholden to them. They amass these warchests because they use tax money to administer a system where some of the tax money that each and every government employee is paid is automatically deducted for their union dues and political funds.

    There are ways for government employees to opt out, but in many places that is very difficult in practice.

    So, those who want government jobs – and in many cases, that means if they want to work in their chosen profession at all – are automatically enrolled in the union, and automatically have money taken out of their checks, to lobby for ever more government.

    Yes, the other side of the negotiating table is to blame – but it can’t be reduced as long as this lockbox, and its ability to flex political muscle, remains in place. Unless you want to go the route of having government grow so big that it collapses of its own weight…and having been to some different parts of the world, we have a long way to go down that route.

    We don’t need government goons breaking up government unions. I don’t care if they have union T-shirts and union cards in their wallets. All we have to do is end the system whereby government employees are automatically enrolled in unions and automatically have union dues and union political funds taken out of their checks. If they want to opt in and pay dues to an association they create on their own time, that’s their call.

    Until then – “get government out of education”, or any other field which it monopolizes or quasi-monopolizes, remains a pipe dream that gets further and further away, due to the real world political muscle of government employee unions.

  2. paulie Post author

    Tom’s response to me (I’ll respond later, here; I like our comment system better than theirs):

    Paulie,

    You write:

    “The question is, how do you think we can get there?”

    Over the years, I’ve become something of a fatalist.

    Yes, I do believe that we should be actively building the institutions of the new society in the shell of the old.

    And I certainly believe that we should be reaching as many people as possible with an eye toward getting them interested in, then accepting of, then desirous of, anarchy.

    But … I don’t think that the final push that topples the state is something we’ll be able to predict, let alone consciously bring about through some master plan. Major events, especially cataclysmic ones, tend to come together through a confluence of forces that aren’t consciously controlled to that end.

    To put it a different way, nobody laid out a plan for last month’s revolution in Egypt, then implemented it to its predicted outcome. Some people may have had plans for taking ADVANTAGE of such a situation, and they may have had some success with those plans, but I doubt if any of them guessed, 24 hours before the square started filling up, what was coming down the pike at them.

    We’re not going to “cook” the revolution to some even temperature and then pull it out of the oven and serve it up with a garnish of parsley. It’s going to land on us — and on everyone else — like a ton of bricks from the sky. All we can do is try to be ready, and to help others get ready, for it.

  3. Don Lake, FYI, not necessarily a unilateral endorcement

    Republicnas serve Republicans, Democrats serve Democrats, and No One Serves Americans (You Cannot Serve Two Masters)
    politicalpartypooper | February 25, 2011 at 11:25 am | Tags: America, Democrats, republicans | Categories: Uncategorized | URL: http://wp.me/phL9x-qm

    The mess in Madison has accomplished its goal; at least as far as the two political parties are concerned.

    Once again, we have Americans fighting with Americans over a side-show.

    The facts are plain, the Wisconsin budget is negative by over $3 Billion. It’s either a cut in benefits or massive layoffs.

    No one likes those two choices. One of them will happen no matter what kind of sign you paint for the protest.

    So what is this real battle I speak of? It’s the battle of real America against the political class.

    ……… what bothered me about Governor Walker’s phone call from David Koch wasn’t in what he said, but that Koch had access to him at all.

    I certainly don’t have that kind of access, and Walker is my Governor.

    I actually voted for him, because the alternative, if you can believe it or not, was worse.

  4. Bryan

    Paulie, don’t worry. Most people who are Anti-union, or are R’s (and most L’s) don’t concern themselves with the actual honest answers he gave in this prank call. If they get called on it they will rationalize, trivialize, or some may even try to justify the comments he made. But very few seem to want to be objective…

  5. Robert Capozzi

    p: All we have to do is end the system whereby government employees are automatically enrolled in unions and automatically have union dues and union political funds taken out of their checks. If they want to opt in and pay dues to an association they create on their own time, that’s their call.

    me: What P said. There are probably other steps to address the public choice aspects of government ee union rent seeking, too, though none spring to mind.

    tk: And I certainly believe that we should be reaching as many people as possible with an eye toward getting them interested in, then accepting of, then desirous of, anarchy.

    me: Should the cataclysm you expect come while I’m still vertical, I will re-assess your desire. On the current trajectory, your desired destination seems both unattainable, premature and inconceivable. But, ya never know…stars could align.

    Any predictions or insights on when, where and how the cataclysm will present itself?

  6. Steven Wilson

    It is unnatural to govern oneself in the beginning. Every human must be trained, thusly the idea of immediate success or utopia is false.

    The founding fathers made several mistakes, but the idea of an open document, and a temporary hood called the republic still remain beyond most americans understanding of the language games they played.

    The unions were a reaction to american slavery. The american government was a reaction to british slavery.

    And now you begin another language game.

    “Dear friends, as a master, I want you to know that I will always listen and care, as long as you obey and serve.”

    In the last, all structures go through structural preservation. The government is trying to control the union, without hurting the people. But the union is the people. The union is trying to hurt the government without hurting the people. But the government is the people.

    Regardless of the question, the answer remains.

    There are only two kinds of problems.
    1. Act of God
    2. Act of a person

  7. paulie Post author

    TLK

    Over the years, I’ve become something of a fatalist.

    Yes, I do believe that we should be actively building the institutions of the new society in the shell of the old.

    And I certainly believe that we should be reaching as many people as possible with an eye toward getting them interested in, then accepting of, then desirous of, anarchy.

    That becomes increasingly difficult to do when government schools inculcate society with a collectivist mindset, and teachers unions fight hard against allowing any competition to government schools, while politicians bow to the carrot and stick of government union power in elections or get voted out. Not that it’s easy under any circumstances, of course.

    For instance, homeschooling…teachers unions want to make it very difficult, and, when possible, illegal. And they work successfully to raise the cost of government schools to the point where relatively few parents can afford to send their kids to private schools, which also means the supply of private schools is artificially limited.

    But … I don’t think that the final push that topples the state is something we’ll be able to predict, let alone consciously bring about through some master plan. Major events, especially cataclysmic ones, tend to come together through a confluence of forces that aren’t consciously controlled to that end.

    We can look at history as a guide. Revolutionary changes tend to happen not when things get to their worst, as many people think. They tend to happen when things are already starting to move in the direction that the revolutionaries want, but the people’s desire for change outpaces the ability of an existing system to deliver it within its own framework. The USSR did not collapse when it was at its worst, but when it was already being liberalized. The Soviets only took power after several months of a social democratic government. The American colonists, by many measures, were the most free people on earth at that time right before they revolted. And so on.

    Thus, it seems to me that our best chances lie in pushing for minimizing monopoly government while it exists, creating more space for alternative institutions to take over gradually.

    Fatalism doesn’t seem very productive or satisfying to me. Good things may or may not eventually come to those who wait, but it seems the universe helps those who help themselves more often than not.

    Moreover, I think you agree…otherwise “reaching as many people as possible with an eye toward getting them interested in, then accepting of, then desirous of, anarchy” wouldn’t be necessary either; we could just wait until that happens on its own. My hunch is it would be more likely to happen, and more likely to happen sooner, if government was already shrinking, making going further and further in that direction more plausible to more and more people.

    To put it a different way, nobody laid out a plan for last month’s revolution in Egypt, then implemented it to its predicted outcome. Some people may have had plans for taking ADVANTAGE of such a situation, and they may have had some success with those plans, but I doubt if any of them guessed, 24 hours before the square started filling up, what was coming down the pike at them.

    In terms of exact timing, maybe not. But what made it possible was the regime losing its grip over the flow of information. Facebook, twitter, internet video, cell phones, etc., got to the point where the flow of information became too difficult for the regime to effectively manage. That did not happen over night. It was a gradual process that took years until it built to a point of critical mass, and then the dam burst.

    We’re not going to “cook” the revolution to some even temperature and then pull it out of the oven and serve it up with a garnish of parsley. It’s going to land on us — and on everyone else — like a ton of bricks from the sky. All we can do is try to be ready, and to help others get ready, for it.

    Well, waiting for the second coming and preaching the gospel certainly have their place. But in the meantime, it’s probably a good idea to do some good works, even though we are all fallen and imperfect, and all our works must fall short of the glory of true anarchy until the sky parts and the trumpets sound.

  8. Thomas L. Knapp

    Bob @ 10, Paulie @12,

    I’m going to take another tack here — one might call it, in a way, a Randian tack.

    Paulie, at least, agrees with me that the problem is not unions per se.

    He addresses an intermediate problem — unions in the context of a government monopoly system.

    I address the root problem — the government monopoly system itself.

    We at least nominally agree on ends; our difference is on means.

    I don’t see how attempting to improve the system that represents the problem is in any way a solution to the problem.

    To put it in Randian terms, Paulie is Dagny Taggart in the early part of Atlas Shrugged — breaking his back to make the best of a bad system, trying to make that system work even though he knows it is not only bad but ultimately doomed.

    I’m at least nominally one of Galt’s Gulchers — fuck that bad system, let it choke on its problems instead of continually trying to save it from itself. The quicker it turns blue, collapses, and stops breathing, the quicker the opportunity arrives to replace it with something better .

    [Milsted would refer to this, not entirely without justification, as a Hegelian rather than Randian attitude]

    I’m all for doing good works. I just don’t see:

    a) Supporting the “tweaking” of a bad system for its own survival/benefit; and

    b) Adding power to the more basic/important side of a “coercion added” symbiosis (absent state power, the coercion of government employee unions would boil away like fog under a hot sun; the converse is not true, as witness Stalin’s liquidation/co-option of the Soviets or Hitler’s smashing of unions and incorporation of them into the National Labor Front)

    … as good works.

  9. paulie Post author

    TLK

    He addresses an intermediate problem — unions in the context of a government monopoly system.

    I address the root problem — the government monopoly system itself.

    I address both.

    I don’t see how attempting to improve the system that represents the problem is in any way a solution to the problem.

    Suppose your “problem” was snow on top of a mountain, and how to get it down to the bottom. Carrying it down a little at a time would seem pretty daunting. One solution might be to get some of it to start rolling downhill, picking up more and more snow as it goes.

    Getting monopoly government to come down may work the same way. If it doesn’t work as well as we hope, at least there’s a chance we might be marginally better off in the meantime.

    To put it in Randian terms, Paulie is Dagny Taggart in the early part of Atlas Shrugged — breaking his back to make the best of a bad system, trying to make that system work even though he knows it is not only bad but ultimately doomed.

    I’m at least nominally one of Galt’s Gulchers — fuck that bad system, let it choke on its problems instead of continually trying to save it from itself. The quicker it turns blue, collapses, and stops breathing, the quicker the opportunity arrives to replace it with something better .

    I addressed this, or attempted to, earlier.

    IMO, the system is less likely to collapse because it reaches a certain ballooned sized and pops than it is because it starts deflating and then shrinks at an ever greater rate, until at some point it experiences “runaway” deflation. This was the point of my historical parallels.

    Additionally, waiting for the system to collapse because it has become too big seems rather wishful, given the much greater degree of authoritarianism in many other regimes, now and historically. That strategy seems to be rather hopeless to me.

    And then what if it does collapse? What replaces it will depend a great deal on the mindset of the people at such a time and what they consider plausible. The government schools do a great deal to make sure that any non-monopoly government system seems conceptually implausible to as many people as possible. The government school teachers unions make sure that as many people as possible attend government schools.

    Government unions in general do everything they can to make voluntary alternatives to government as rare as they can possibly make them. The rarer they are, the less realistic they seem to most people if they ever find themselves in a position to replace the current system either with something better or something worse.

    That is like saying that if you are being attacked, you just wait for it to be over.

    “tweaking” of a bad system for its own survival/benefit

    I don’t agree that it is for its survival/benefit. I see it as wedging a crack in the dam.

    Adding power to the more basic/important side of a “coercion added” symbiosis (absent state power, the coercion of government employee unions would boil away like fog under a hot sun; the converse is not true, as witness Stalin’s liquidation/co-option of the Soviets or Hitler’s smashing of unions and incorporation of them into the National Labor Front)

    I would make the case that government unions are like the National Labor Front or to co-opted Soviet labor unions.

    Absent mandatory (with very difficult opt-out) enrollment of government employees in government unions, and mandatory use of a portion of their tax-funded salaries for union political funds, state power would wither away at least somewhat – and possibly, more than just somewhat, once the ball gets rolling.

    I also don’t see how ending this mandatory/opt-out enrollment adds power to the more basic/important side of a “coercion added” symbiosis. It seems to me that it takes power away from the entire symbiosis chain within the parasitic monopoly, giving it less sucking power against the host’s life blood.

  10. paulie Post author

    Darian Worden at c4ss in response to me:

    “The question is, how do you think we can get there? Either we shrink the government step by step until that decline becomes an avalanche, or we want to accelerate its growth until the bubble pops. ”

    Shrinking the government is the domain of conservatives who want a powerful government that doesn’t cost them much. Undermining the power of the government is the revolutionary approach.

    P2: Actually, I want to undermine the power of government by shrinking it, which I think is the most likely way to undermine it.

    I thought step by step until it becomes an avalanche would have made that clear, but evidently not.

  11. paulie Post author

    Mike P at c4ss:

    I wholeheartedly agree with this Tom. A free market in education should always be the line taken by libertarians.

    But I am not unsympathetic to those people that balk at unionization under the state and point out the fact that this gives state unions the effective power to tax. And in some places, many towns in NJ where I grew up, the teachers union IS the effective government. All municipal business is carried out to see to their wants and they can sway city councils to raise property taxes. So the line is not clear in many instances exactly where the government ends and the teacher’s union begins.

    I am in disagreement with sentiments expressed by David D’Amato that the teachers union are blameless or deserve sympathy. They are parasites and left libertarians should not let their sympathies for unions or the working class cloud their judgment here. These people are firmly entrenched in the exploiting class and the teacher’s union as an organization is lavishly funded and receives just as much, if not more, privilege as the average big corporation.

    If the argument is: its not their fault, the state exist and therefore they use it to gain advantage, well that can be applied to excuse anyone lapping at the trough of the state. I would also point out that the teachers themselves would look with contempt and hatred on our position on a free market in education. They like their position of monopoly with the effective power to tax and they will fight to keep that. I would submit that it s not just about the wages and benefits but also about power.

    An analysis of what actually goes on at government schools and what these people actually do to children is also relevant.

    This is basically what I am trying to say as well.

  12. paulie Post author

    One additional point re: 13 TLK

    Paulie, at least, agrees with me that the problem is not unions per se.

    I don’t think unions are the problem at all.

    I support workers organizing as unions.

    I oppose monopoly government interference in worker/management conflicts.

    In the case of monopoly government unions, I think that Tom and other people commenting on his article at c4ss see “ending the system whereby anyone who takes a government job automatically has money taken out of their government pay for the purpose of lobbying for bigger government (unless they jump through some very difficult hoops), and for defeating politicians who don’t give them big enough government for them, as well as any citizen initiatives to cut or create alternatives to monopoly government” as “siding with management”.

    However, I don’t see it that way. I think the dynamics in this case are completely different.

    As Will Wilkinson writes at

    http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2011/02/power_free_association


    I’VE repeatedly argued that private- and public-sector unions operate in different institutional settings, raise fundamentally different moral and political questions, and that it is altogether reasonable to support private-sector unions while rejecting public-sector unions on account of the nature of their differences. A common response I’ve heard from the left is that I’m slyly seeking to sow discord by disingenuously arguing that the larger union movement is not in fact one, but is instead a coalition of fundamentally distinct organisations of unequal moral standing. A common response I’ve heard from the right is basically the same: “you don’t really support private-sector unionism, do you”?

    Well, I do. Sort of. It’s complicated because American labour law is complicated.

    The right of workers to band together to improve their bargaining position relative to employers is a straightforward implication of freedom of association, and the sort of voluntary association that results is the beating heart of the classical liberal vision of civil society. I unreservedly endorse what I’ll call the “unionism of free association”. My difficulty in coming out wholeheartedly for private-sector unions as they now exist is that they are, by and large, creatures of objectionable statutes which have badly warped the labour-capital power dynamic that would exist under the unionism of free association.


    More at the link.

  13. Robert Capozzi

    tk13: To put it in Randian terms, Paulie is Dagny Taggart in the early part of Atlas Shrugged — breaking his back to make the best of a bad system, trying to make that system work even though he knows it is not only bad but ultimately doomed. I’m at least nominally one of Galt’s Gulchers — fuck that bad system…

    me: I’ve been refraining from using the term “indicated” as it does not seem to ring true for the dualistically minded, but here I have no better options. Working w/in the “system” or outside it is a function of individual takes on what is indicated for the individual. Where I get a bit concerned is when one takes too seriously what one senses is likely to happen in the future, and then arrange one’s life and worldview around that pre-cognition. We get wrapped around our axles when we invest so heavily in Scenario A, B or C. Instead, consider taking a more bottom-up, moment-by-moment mode of being. Accept what is, reflect on what is the virtuous next step, and let it be.

    If that means doing what one can to help right the ship, do that. If that means prepare for the worst-case scenario, do that. If the motivation is love and peace, one cannot go wrong. If the motivation is anger, one cannot go right.

  14. Robert Capozzi

    p14: It seems to me that it takes power away from the entire symbiosis chain within the parasitic monopoly, giving it less sucking power against the host’s life blood.

    me: Makes sense. In my case, I don’t engage in the sort of severe anti-union rhetoric we see coming from people like Root and Rockwell. They may well have some theories that make sense about unionization in general, or unionization in the specific case of government-ee unions.

    If the idea is to engage in the issue du jour, I consider it poor argumentation, prone to shorthanded overstatement. I’d prefer that prominent Ls would not give the headline impression that Ls are “anti-union.” Instead, we’re pro-taxpayer, and it should be clear that these government-ees contracts are a big part of the problem.

    I’d prefer to see more fundamental discussions about unionization done in more analytical, long-form, academic-type settings.

    Leaving the impression that Ls are anti-worker seems unwise to me.

  15. paulie Post author

    I would disagree with the apparent contention that stopping the (very difficult) opt-out method of automatic union dues deductions from government employees, and going to an opt-in system that is not administered by the government, would “sustain or reinforce the existing system.” I think it would do exactly the opposite.

  16. paulie Post author

    TLK @ 23 Sorry. I agree with Bob @ 19 about which direction would be a virtuous next step. Bob is of course free to provide his own reply.

    I may have been mistaken in thinking that the fact that you chose to respond in a public forum rather than over email meant that you welcomed comments in reply from whoever chose to reply. My apologies for jumping to that conclusion. It’s usually my default presumption with these things.

  17. Robert Capozzi

    tk21: In general, I do not consider acting to sustain or reinforce the existing system as a “virtuous next step.”

    me: Yes, for you it may not be. For me, it is, both in general and specifically. Sometimes, that might look like letting failure occur, which I often find to be the virtuous path. I, for ex., don’t join the Rs and Ds because they are both IMO on a failing path. I kind of like seeing them self-immolate. OTOH, as they have the reins of government, I will sometimes spend a little energy considering whether their moves are — in a relative sense — helpful or hurtful. Some Tea Party themes, for instance, I find somewhat helpful, and sometimes I think Ls should align with those themes.

    What I don’t do is to encourage chaos, even if chaos might lead to a new day, a new paradigm. I find the risks to be too high, as at the moment I’d say chaos would more likely lead to an even more dysfunctional arrangement than we have now.

  18. Thomas L. Knapp

    Paulie @24,

    I’m not sure what you’re apologizing for.

    Bob does indicate @19 what he thinks the “virtuous next step” is. He offers several expressed or implied alternative “virtuous next steps.”

  19. paulie Post author

    TLK @ 26 I apologized for jumping in to you conversation with Mr. Capozzi @ 24, since you indicated @23 that you preferred me to have not jumped in, as I did @22.

    Nevertheless, @22 I did say that stopping the (very difficult) opt-out method of automatic union dues deductions from government employees, and going to an opt-in system that is not administered by the government, wouldn’t “sustain or reinforce the existing system,” and that I think it would do exactly the opposite.

    My understanding was that I was agreeing with Robert on that. If I misunderstood, my apologies. If I jumped in and you wanted me to stay out of your private conversation, my apologies as well, although I would generally suggest holding private conversations in a more private setting.

    Regardless of whether I was agreeing with Robert or just expressing my own opinion alone, and whether I was welcome in your conversation or not, I stand by the point reiterated in the second paragraph of this comment and expanded on in my previous comments here.

  20. Thomas L. Knapp

    Paulie @ 27,

    Right — except that I indicated no such thing. “I was responding to what he said, not to what you said” isn’t even close to the same thing as “I want to talk to him, not to you.”

    As far as your contention that weakening government unions wouldn’t strengthen government, I disagree.

    It’s not even good enough to be a zero sum game — it’s a “heads I win, tails you lose” situation.

    Right now, government absorbs X% of the productive class’s generated wealth, is constantly pushing to absorb more, and government unions capture some portion of that X%.

    Weakening government unions would not reduce the amount of wealth absorbed by government, nor would it stop government from continuing to seek to absorb more.

    If anything, government would just use the lower wages it could set to hire even more government employees who — after they had successfully lobbied to end the ban on collective bargaining and brought the situation right back to where it had been, only with the unions even stronger — would remain on the payroll of the now bigger government and lobby for even bigger government yet.

    A politician is like an drunk-driving alcoholic who never hits bottom. Rehab is not going to work. He’s going to be a practicing alcoholic who drinks and drives until you either take away the keys or he wraps the fucking car around a tree.

  21. Robert Capozzi

    tk: A politician is like an drunk-driving alcoholic who never hits bottom. Rehab is not going to work. He’s going to be a practicing alcoholic who drinks and drives until you either take away the keys or he wraps the fucking car around a tree.

    me: This overstates, IMO. Some pols have a beer, for ex., Ron Paul or elected Ls for the most part. A paradigm shift could make these sorts of pols more the rule than the exception. Not an easy feat, to be honest. Even if your cataclysm comes and Ls somehow gain major influence after that, odds I’d say are high that States will emerge from the ashes. IMO. This is esp. the case unless and until experiments in nightwatchmen states demonstrate that wide swaths of near-stateless territories are proven workable.

  22. paulie Post author

    Weakening government unions would not reduce the amount of wealth absorbed by government, nor would it stop government from continuing to seek to absorb more.

    I disagree. Any time I’ve worked on a ballot initiative to cut spending and/or taxes, government unions have always been the main opposition, and sometimes they play very dirty. As I’ve watched the progress of those campaigns we did manage to qualify, I’ve seen tons of government union funding and (supposed) volunteers used to demonize and defeat them.

    Who funds ballot initiatives to raise taxes and spending and works to get them passed? Usually government unions, more often than anyone else.

    Weakening government unions would make it a lot easier to prevail on such ballot measures.

    A politician is like an drunk-driving alcoholic who never hits bottom. Rehab is not going to work. He’s going to be a practicing alcoholic who drinks and drives until you either take away the keys or he wraps the fucking car around a tree.

    Politicians are usually made of jello. They respond to pressure. If the pressure comes from citizens who want to cut taxes and spending, the politician will generally bend in the direction the wind is blowing. But most of the time, there is a lot of ill wind coming in the direction of more spending and more taxes from government unions. The politician generally bends to that stronger wind.

    The ones who don’t bend, frequently break (IE get voted out). Either way: they respond to pressure, or pressure moves them out of the way.

    Lower government wages and benefits would mean more incentives to work in the private sector. That’s generally a good thing. The ability to reprimand and fire government employees (something government unions effectively seek to prevent), ditto. Reducing government featherbedding would be easier without government unions being so overwhelmingly empowered to protect it.

    Don’t expect to see those alcoholics hit rock bottom soon. I’ve seen how real alcoholics can drink in the USSR. American “alcoholics” are moderate social drinkers by comparison. I haven’t been to Scandinavia, but I heard they know how to knock the drinks back over there too. I’ve spent some time on the rez too…rock bottom, you say? We’re still in the shallow end of the pool, with rock bottom a long, long way off. It’s all sandy bottom around here, with a strong undertow.

  23. Marc Montoni

    Tom,

    Right now, government absorbs X% of the productive class’s generated wealth, is constantly pushing to absorb more, and government unions capture some portion of that X%. Weakening government unions would not reduce the amount of wealth absorbed by government, nor would it stop government from continuing to seek to absorb more.

    I have to disagree on that.

    Having been, at one time, a member of the theif class, and in that employ being in the environs of the state capitol — like within three blocks — I had ample opportunity to see just how government employment works. In essence, all government employees are lobbyists. Government employees are noting more than “government talking to itself”. When a government worker is hired, even if he is not in a union, the senior management of the agency he works for will typically spend many hours per week engaged in wining & dining — lobbying — elected officials. I even got to do a bit of it myself, except I did it with not quite with the “slant” that my manager probably expected.

    Government employee unions are one example of what I call “Taxpayer-Funded Lobbying Organizations” or “TFLO’s”. These allegedly “non-governmental organizations” or NGO’s rake in huge piles of cash ultimately extracted from taxpayers, and then they use a large portion of that cash to hire lobbyists to convince legislators to send them even more cash.

    As far as I’m concerned, stealing from taxpayers to pay for lobbying for additional theft is criminal activity, plain and simple.

    Public employee unions are not “voluntary” societies because they rely on coercion to fund themselves. For that reason alone, they should be illegal.

    Their equivalents in right-to-work states, like Virginia, are “associations” like the National Association of Counties, etc — and they are also coercively funded. They should likewise be outlawed.

    “If you can’t level the playing field, at least don’t make me pay the other team’s salary.”

    The bottom line is, if there are *any* avenues available to eviscerate unions and their power, those avenues should be used early and often. De-fund them. Lay off union workers, and hire nonunion replacements. Make the job intolerable. Anything. Destroy the power of government unions, and you destroy a *huge* component of government’s ability to increase its power.

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