Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Live by the Sword

For over a century labor unions have been the darlings of the center left. Labor unions and their members provided the horse-power for the progressive agenda and the educated elite responded with privileges and government largesse.

The progressive agenda has been a mixed blessing for the working man. It has privileged some workers. For half a century auto and steel workers lived the life of Riley on government privileges, but now Detroit is a wasteland.

For half a century government unions have delivered fabulous wages and benefits to their union members. But now it looks like the worm is turning. As Josh Kraushaar writes, unions are taking a big hit this year, and not just from crazed Republican governors like Scott Walker (R-WI). Unions think the public loves them, but now even Democratic governors are giving them the push.

They lost in Connecticut, where a Democratic governor who was elected on the efforts of labor, Dan Malloy, abruptly issued pink slips to about 10 percent of the unionized public workforce this month after negotiations hit a standstill—with threats of more to come. His approach worked: Labor leaders conceded to $1.6 billion of givebacks of wage and pension benefits, with concessions in collective bargaining. This from the governor who has framed himself as “the anti-Christie”—someone who would run counter to the way New Jersey GOP Gov. Chris Christie antagonized public unions.

Look, there is no rocket science here. Politicians love you to death when they think you can deliver money and votes. But if it looks like you could be a liability, politicians are long gone.

There's a bigger story here. In the 19th century politics changed from an elite game of landowners and absolute monarchs to a game of popular democracy. So the new democratic politicians got all lovey-dovey with the working man, and offered them privileges and benefits from the government in exchange for their votes.

If you ask me, the working man would have done better to follow the advice of cigar-maker Samuel Gompers and keep away from the left-wing political class. Politicians don't give a damn about "people like me." They just care about getting elected. So the center left doesn't really care about helping the working man get into the middle class, or getting a decent competence in the burgeoning city economy. It just liked the idea of being the source of government benefits and getting working people to look to the government instead of their authentic social institutions.

Oh dear. Now that the government unions have looted the government coffers, encouraged by the politicians, the voters are mad. So we can expect that the politicians will now say, heck, I never liked those union thugs anyway. In my view the Democrats have been leading the labor unions towards a cliff in the last decade. The Card Check bill that the Democrats dangled in front of the unions was probably never a real possibility. And the current tilt at the National Labor Relations Board, symbolized by the action against Boeing for expanding its aircraft production in South Carolina, is going to end up with a humiliating defeat for labor.

The conservative line on this is that people should not look to the government for security. They should look to their own social and cooperative organizations. They should not get in bed with politicians and look to them for privileges and benefits. Because it will all end in tears.

Human beings are social animals, not administrative animals. You get a much better society when people cooperate with each other than when an administrative elite orders people around. But some people have to learn this the hard way.

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