The Unions Cannot Survive a Perpetually Down Economy

The thing that most irks me about unions in general and public-sector unions in particular is their way of obscuring natural alliances for the benefit not of their members, but of their organizers and political allies. Now, I can’t speak to the in-fights that union discipline may be keeping out of public view (although I suspect many union readers just chuckled at the notion of such organization), but the workers should realize and begin reacting — soon — to the dire straits into which their leaders are steering them.
Consider this ho-hum article about inadequate funding for public-sector unions in Rhode Island:

The study shows that Rhode Island has no reserves for state employees’ retirement benefits and handles them on a pay-as-you-go basis. …
Karpinski, who oversees the state’s pension plans but not other retiree benefits such as health insurance, said that due to some pension reform measures and full annual payments to the plans, the state system is on the road to recovery. But, he stressed, the key question is, can it keep the momentum given the tough financial times the state is facing?

As Rhode Island government and political structures are currently compiled, state workers must begin to consider the possibility that their pensions will evaporate entirely. There are no reserves, and “catching up” requires an economic recovery that nobody sees on the horizon — nobody, that is, who hasn’t been seeing one on every horizon for the past two years. If the state responds per its habits and attempts to squeeze more revenue out of residents and businesses, they will leave, and leave the state worse off for it.
The only long-term hope for the unions is to become free-market advocates extraordinaire, with a little bit of faith in the winds of economic freedom. Rather than sticking by the tried-and-doomed alliances that have left them trying to subsist off a rotting economic carcass, they must realize that, when times are flush, nobody cares much about their greatly remunerative deals. Lower taxes. Eliminate mandates. Erase regulations.
Private citizens are only loosely tied to the state. Union members are lashed to it with career investments and retirement plans. They need the economy to take off. The reason for optimism is that Rhode Island is such a naturally attractive place to live and do business that throwing of the unnecessary governmental weights will make recovery light work. The reason for pessimism is that union culture leaves labor leaders’ way of doing business as secure as, well, as secure as established politicians in Rhode Island.

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steadman
steadman
11 years ago

I have prob.a very stupid question, however its something thats confused me for quite a while and i’m not sure exactly the details. What is the difference between public and private sector unions? In supporting a right to coalminers or carpenters to unionize, must you also support teachers/govt.workers? Must govt.employees in RI be unionized? I know I asked pretty general things, but I’ve been reading conflicting materials on the matter. thanks for any info anyone can provide

BobN
BobN
11 years ago

A perfectly legitimate and good question. Here are a few thoughts. Of course the issue is controversial so I don’t claim to have the supreme last word. But I’d be happy to engage if the conversation develops. Private sector unions are employees of commercial, profit-seeking businesses. When those businesses are very profitable, there is disagreement over whether the value was created by labor (typically measured by dollars of profit per hour of work), by financial capital (the amount of machines or other automated equipment used in manufacturing the product or providing the service), or by intellectual capital (the invention, innovative design, or brilliant marketing that stimulates large and highly profitable sales of the product/service). The employees and union leaders usually are aware that if the business does not do well, there will be less money for them and possibly even no jobs if the business should fail. This (again, usually) puts some market-driven self-discipline on the unions – kill the goose, lose the golden eggs. Public-sector unions were created by the single worst mistake that JFK ever made (even worse than the Bay of Pigs and Vietnam) – signing the law that created them. The dynamics are different in important ways. Since government revenues are not based on customers voluntarily buying their product, there is no market-based discipline on the unions’ demands. Nor can the value of the employees’ labor be calculated in relation to any meaningful measure of output, so there is no accountability. Additionally, because as citizens public sector employees can vote, and their unions can contribute both money and organized manpower to political campaigns, a feedback loop is created in which the unions use political influence to obtain more jobs and higher pay/benefits for their members through growth of the government, funded by tax increases enacted by… Read more »

steadman
steadman
11 years ago

BobN,
Thanks for the info, we got off to a bad start before due to my unneeded attacks, which I regret making and hope are forgotten. What can the state govt. do exactly in regards to public sector unions? I know thats prob.a detailed question, but even a rough idea would help. As someone who dealt with a labor dispute in the Warwick school system a few years back, I know the damage it can do to students education. I see the debate here on a.r and on another local blog about unions, read articles, but no real answers emerge on how to deal with the problems. We live in a state with high unemployment, low chances for college educated individuals to find meaningful work, and an extremly high cost of living.What policies in dealing with public sector unions could make a difference for taxpayers?

michael
michael
11 years ago

Unions are not the problem. First and foremost, unions are no more than the people who belong to them. The very people who are union members are also taxpayers, neighbors, friends and family members. Demonizing “the Unions” has become sport around here. Most union members are working class people who, because of their collective power fare better in the workplace than their non-union peers.
Deal with the unions. Work with the unions. Public sector unions, that many wish to outlaw, provide a valuable purpose to the taxpayer, of which they also belong.
Politicians come and go. Most know little or nothing about teaching, public works, Transportation, Police, fire and corrections. They ride into office, some owing favors to the unions, some owing favors to big business, most or all owing somebody something. The unions from each respective branch of government represent the collective expertise in their field, and bring that expertise to the bargaining table, thus ensuring that the taxpayer ultimately is provided quality services for their tax dollars.
The system is far from perfect, with power shifting left and right constantly. Until somebody comes up with a better way to run this increasingly complicated society we have created, we must work with it, rather than against it.
Fire all the teachers! Stick it to the unions! Make them pay! It is all chest thumping nonsense that ultimately goes nowhere.
Our leaders need to do a better job negotiating fair contracts within the law that are mutually beneficial to all involved.
And the people making all the noise with the anti-union rhetoric need to understand that this mess we have created (our current society) will only be rectified with slow, steady progress and mutual respect.

BobN
BobN
11 years ago

No worries, mate.
One of the necessary conditions for restoring a successful economy to Rhode Island is the complete re-writing of Title 28. We need to replace the present union-favoring, monopolistic, “closed-shop” system with a right-to-work, right-to-hire system for both public and private employers. The states that have such laws are the top performers economically.
I set up a Group on the Tea Party discussion site (riteaparty.ning.com) to discuss reforming our labor laws, but nobody including me has done much with it yet. Ideally, I would like a committee of Tea Party members to draft a new Title 28 and have a group of friendly GA members sponsor it. It would be great if you would join and contribute to the discussion there.
An excellent resource is the National Right to Work Committee at http://nrtwc.org/

Dan
Dan
11 years ago

Michael, unions are given special powers and protections by government that individuals do not have, so to say that unions are no more than a collection of individual workers is simply incorrect.
You also have not addressed any of the severe economic problems that public sector unions cause, which BobN did a nice job of outlining above. To declare as a matter of fact that “unions are not the problem” and that we should just “deal” with them is just defeatism and shilling for the status quo. There are a great many problems with unions that could be solved by changing the laws governing them, so that they are not given such an unfair advantage in the political process. Your point that every politician owes “somebody something” is irrelevant, since the public sector employees are paid through coerced taxation while private businesses must deal with people voluntarily.

Justin Katz
11 years ago

Michael,
If your comment was directed at my post, I think you’re missing the point. I’m saying that those workers who make up the unions really need to get in the game and stop their leaders and public representatives from placing political alliances above the interests of their members, and the core interest of their members is to get the state’s economy back into functional shape.

michael
michael
11 years ago

At the risk of sounding like a debate team deadbeat, Dan, what special powers and protections by govenrment are you talking about? And what proof are you citing, besides Bob’s claim that unions cause severe economic problems? What proof do you have to substantiate anything Bob has stated?
“Additionally, because as citizens public sector employees can vote, and their unions can contribute both money and organized manpower to political campaigns, a feedback loop is created in which the unions use political influence to obtain more jobs and higher pay/benefits for their members through growth of the government, funded by tax increases enacted by those politicians.”
Is this the passage you are talking about? This is about as objective as my comments.
“As I write that, you can see through the problem it sets up: while the government can’t pick up and leave the state, those taxpayers can and do, and that’s why our employment and tax bases are in such decline. So in the final analysis, there is market-based discipline in the public system, but like an insidious disease it doesn’t show itself until the damage is severe.”
Perhapt this is what you are talking about. Still more opinion.
Nothing against Bob, but his opinions, as well thought out and passionately presented are still just that. Opinions.
Follow the link his post provides. Read the right to work propaganda with an open mind. “Allowing police and firefighters to the freedom to negotiate their own compensation as individuals…” what a load of crap.
Right to work allright. Right to work for peanuts.

michael
michael
11 years ago

Justin,
I had just left the Projo’s comment arena when I read your post. I was probably being a bit defensive after that debacle. I get what your premise was, and agree for the most part. Big difference is the perception that union members are sheep being led by their corrupt leadership. Nothing is further from the truth, at least in my union. Our leadership does what the members, through secret ballot vote on. They represent the body, not the other way around. It is not, nor ever was our intention to bankrupt the state, nor do we feel responsible for the present state we are in. If every taxpaying Rhode Island resident “gave back” the average of what public sector unions members have conceded over the last five years the deficit would be gone.
I think you overestimate the power of “the unions” in regard to fixing the economic disaster that has happened.

BobN
BobN
11 years ago

How does a politician “work with the unions” when the unions say to him, “Give us what we want or we will run a primary opponent against you?” Or when they say to the chairman of the party, “we will not fund you this year unless you…”?
Who represents the taxpayer when school board members are current or retired teachers in other towns or close relatives of the same?
How does a school principal, or the head of the DOT, get rid of incompetent or dishonest employees when the contract specifies a long, drawn-out, expensive process that gives all the benefit of every doubt to the employee?
In Warren, for example, we have a rule on the highway department that in a snow emergency, all trucks must be double-manned until everyone is on duty, and then they can distribute manpower more efficiently. So the contract forces doubling up, at overtime rates, for no justifiable reason.
I’m sorry to say this, Michael, but your expressed view of the public-sector unions seems naive.
Note that I am not a basher, nor do I advocate abolishing the unions as many others do. I merely want to remove their legally-mandated monopoly power and keep them honest via competition.

michael
michael
11 years ago

Q. How does a politician “work with the unions” when the unions say to him, “Give us what we want or we will run a primary opponent against you?” Or when they say to the chairman of the party, “we will not fund you this year unless you…”?
A. Integrity, courage and conviction. A history of fairness and honesty doesn’t hurt either.
Q. Who represents the taxpayer when school board members are current or retired teachers in other towns or close relatives of the same?
A. They are elected officials, the answer is right in front of you.
Q. How does a school principal, or the head of the DOT, get rid of incompetent or dishonest employees when the contract specifies a long, drawn-out, expensive process that gives all the benefit of every doubt to the employee?
A. By following the law and presenting the facts.
I may be naive about the inner workings of politics, but I will not stand for unsubstantiated attacks against union members. The thought process that leads you to write about “the severe economic problems that unions cause” is corrupt, and planted by years of anti-union propaganda. When your belief is such there is no way you can be objective when thinking about or writing about unions.

Ragin' Rhode Islander
Ragin' Rhode Islander
11 years ago

Sorry, but unions are a scam, and in the public sector are worse. The premise underlying their existence is false, a myth perpetuated by union bosses and Marxist-leaning academics.
First of all, over the intermediate and long term, employers don’t set wages, the market does, so over that same period there’s nothing to “bargain” over.
Don’t believe me? Well how come every non-union employee, public or private sector, isn’t making minimum wage and no benefits? Certainly if employers set wages they’d maximize profits by keeping wages at the statutory floor.
The only thing unions due is (for a while) is the coercive power provided them by statute (ability to speak for all employees, even when a near majority didn’t vote to be unionized) and to strike. This raises wages above market rates, for a time.
And this provides the “union advantage” that union bosses use to sell their wares to the gullible. But eventually those above market rates lead to declining union membership / employment as the employer loses business to non-union employers still paying market rates … if it doesn’t go out of business entirely.
Just ask some of the hundreds of thousands of former auto and steel and airline workers about the great things the union did for them, while those that remain employed still enjoy the “union advantage.”
The unions peddle a free lunch. There’s no such thing, and eventually equilibrium is restored.

Dan
Dan
11 years ago

Michael, the economic problems with unions that we are all talking about are not “anti-union propaganda.” We just understand how markets work, and how they tend to efficiently set prices as indicators of supply and demand. Public sector unions are insulated from competition by government laws, which create price distortions, deadweight loss, and malinvestment. People cannot vote against them with their dollars as they can with private services. Then there is the whole problem of industrial due process rights that keep mediocre to bad union members from being fired or disciplined, and all the litigation that surrounds that. That you think people’s wages are “too low” or some such thing shows that you aren’t thinking about markets correctly, because people are paid exactly what they are willing to be paid, which is how much they should be paid, no more, no less.
Guess what, there are no unions for prosecutors… we still get people willing to do the job… we aren’t paid well… life doesn’t end… nobody holds a gun to our head and forces us to work for the government. Just like anybody in your union is free to go work in the private sector at any time.

michael
michael
11 years ago

There is no market for most government work. There is no product to sell. There is no competition, no barometer by which to measure compensation.
Our boss works at the whim of the electorate. Without the union. labor laws and contracts heads would roll every election cycle. I wouldn’t work for the governnment, good teachers would find work elsewhere and your tax dollars would be spent paying for people either ill equipped for the job or friends and family of whoever is in power, much like many management jobs throughout state and city government.

bob
bob
11 years ago

Definition of Municipal Unions-
“Collective Bargaining Against the Taxpayer”
Repeat it 2-3 times.
Still doesn’t sound right, does it?

Justin Katz
11 years ago

Oh come on, Michael. Whether people purchase services through government or through private industry, they still know when they’re getting the level of service that they desire, and they’ll still pay more if they’re not. That we, essentially, elect the CEO who handles hiring and personnel doesn’t change the dynamics of consumption.

BobN
BobN
11 years ago

Michael, you’re too smart to be naive, but I think that you indulge in too much wishful thinking.
Your thought process here is just like those people who still believe that the UN is the best way to achieve world peace.

Ragin' Rhode Islander
Ragin' Rhode Islander
11 years ago

–“There is no market for most government work. There is no product to sell. There is no competition, no barometer by which to measure compensation.”
Funny, there was no federal or state public sector unionization before JFK started the ball rolling with an executive order permitting it in the federal system in the early 1960’s … and the states started following suit after that (RI in 1966).
Yes we still had functioning government for almost 200 years at that point.
The remuneration of public sector employees absent unionization was influenced by the private sector compensation — for (mirror image of today) had private sector compensation been notably higher then government would have had to raise wages in order to attract candidates.
Michael, you can argue the (itself flawed) private sector theory “justifying” unionization equally applies to the public sector, but the theory is at wide variation with impact in practice.
The effective bankruptcy of California, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, i.e., the states with strong public sector unions and their dominance of the political process / Democrat Party, demonstrates the impact.
I’d argue that to the extent that this parallels the private sector, it is in that unions never know when to stop, and eventually shrink the host, if not kill it … again, just look at the auto, steel and airline industries.

michael
michael
11 years ago

The steel, auto, and airline industries would have been fine if the greedy union thugs agreed to work for substandard wages in dangerous factories. Instead, they stood up for rights in the workplace and watched their employers find people who were so desperate they could be easily exploited in countries whose populace doesn’t know or doesn’t care pollution, child labor or human dignity.
Eventually the world will run out of ignorant villagers, desperate for work. Or we all we become desperate slaves foraging for bugs and berries, hoping for mercy from the tyrants that control the world.
Bob, how smart can I be, arguing simple logical points pertaining to labor here at Anchor Rising? I should spend more time at RIFuture.
Justin, a governor is much more than a CEO. Or should be anyway. There is more to government than the budget.

Patrick
Patrick
11 years ago

“what a load of crap. Right to work alright. Right to work for peanuts.”
If that’s their choice, so be it. They’d also have the choice to join the union. Guess what usually happens in businesses with open shops. The union and non-union employees are paid pretty similarly with similar benefits.
“Big difference is the perception that union members are sheep being led by their corrupt leadership.”
Yep, did I miss where the CF teachers took a vote on the proposals being made? All I heard was the Parisis and Rebacks saying “We want more money for this”
“I wouldn’t work for the governnment, good teachers would find work elsewhere…”
Really? Before the 1960s we only had bad teachers? This from the guy who gets upset over broad generalizations?
I’ll stick to my guns that we also need to place a great deal of the blame with those who negotiate the contracts with the public sector unions. Without their signature on the contract, the unions don’t get all these great benefits. I’m still looking for answer on whether a city can simply tell a teachers’ union, at the end of their contract, “thanks, your services are no longer needed.” Or else why bother even having an end date on contracts? They’re basically perpetual anyway.

Ragin' Rhode Islander
Ragin' Rhode Islander
11 years ago

–“The steel, auto, and airline industries would have been fine if the greedy union thugs agreed to work for substandard wages in dangerous factories. Instead, they stood up for rights in the workplace and watched their employers find people who were so desperate they could be easily exploited in countries whose populace doesn’t know or doesn’t care pollution, child labor or human dignity.”
More union mythology.
You mean how the UAW — further along the union lifecycle — made its employers uncompetitive with it’s unionized competitors (not so far along the union lifecycle) from that backward hellhole Japan?
Which in turn is now becoming uncompetitive with (even less far along the union lifecycle) Korea?
Or how UAW employers can’t compete with non-union workers from such backward, third-world hellholes as Georgia and Alabama (whose non-union workers are faring much better than the former UAW workers in Detroit)?
The flip side, Europe, which is even farther along the union lifecycle, has unemployment rates permanently where “greatest recession since the Great Depression” U.S. has now. You might want to ask those unemployed BMW, Mercedes (and soon) VW workers how they like seeing their jobs now being performed at factories in the U.S. (apparently another third-world hellhole under your premise).
And last time I looked, the folks at Eastern, Braniff, TWA, Pan Am etc. hadn’t lost their jobs to backward villagers from third-world countries, but because the union demands finally drove their employers out of business … or the same dynamic forcing Continental into Ch. 11 twice, and United / USAir / Delta into Ch. 11 once (so far).

michael
michael
11 years ago

Great examples Raging. Try looking into China, Vietnam, El Salvador and Hondoras and get back to me.
Union demands forcing Continental, US Air and Delta into Chapter 11? Prove it.
There’s your mythology.
Patrick, the CF teachers hire their leadership to do their bidding. When convenient, or when they wish not to engage in debate it is easier for some union members to simply blame their leadership, or complain it is out of their control. That enables them to collect their pay, enjoy their benefits and blame “The Union” for any controversial descisions.
I can’t really argue for or against right to work states with any legitimacy because I don’t really know the particulars. My knee jerk response from the little I’ve read leads me to believe that abolishing laws to pave the way for right to work status is fueled by greed and will ultimately be a bad thing for the middle class.

Patrick
Patrick
11 years ago

“or complain it is out of their control.”
Yeah, isn’t it? Union management is this nice, touchy feely place where a few discontented members can go to the management and discuss the direction of the union? Or is it “Hey, what the hell are you doing? You hired me to do a job? Sit down, shut up and enjoy the salary and benefits that I’ve negotiated for you!”
I’ve been a member of a few unions and even have refused a job because of the union situation there, and currently have family members in a union. Union management is anything but open to discussion. Maybe yours is a rarity.

BobN
BobN
11 years ago

Look at technology, small manufacturing and all the other industries that do not have union labor in America. Their employees aren’t starving in cardboard huts. They make up the vast majority of the middle class. We aren’t talking about China and Pakistan, Michael, so your example is irrelevant.
Your citation of the auto industry is egregiously wrong. In fact, it was Henry Ford who jump-started the middle-class when he unilaterally decided to pay his workers a high enough wage so that they could afford his products. Ford was instrumental in making the middle class and the middle class made him very rich. A good business decision by a good man.
I will not claim that the unions broke the airline industry. Bad management did that. Why was management bad? Because they got comfortable operating under a highly government-regulated regime that institutionalized a cooperative oligopoly (had that been done privately it would have been criminal under the antitrust laws) with a high-price umbrella. When the industry was deregulated, the companies found themselves crushed by overcapacity and declining prices.
Southwest showed the industry how to make money in the new system.
But we’re talking here about government workers. For them, it’s an entirely different issue for the reasons I’ve written about earlier.

Russ
Russ
11 years ago

“The only long-term hope for the unions is to become free-market advocates extraordinaire, with a little bit of faith in the winds of economic freedom.”
Whew! You’re going to get me in trouble at work, Justin. People are starting to wonder what’s so darn funny. One more time with feeling!!

Ooooh! If you want a raise in pay, all you have to do
Go and ask the boss for it and he will give it to you
Yes, he will give it to you, my boys, he will give it to you
A raise in pay, without delay, oh, he will give it to yooooou
Ohhh, put it on the ground, spread it all around
Dig it with a hoe: it will make your flowers grooooow!

Ragin' Rhode Islander
Ragin' Rhode Islander
11 years ago

–“Union demands forcing Continental, US Air and Delta into Chapter 11? Prove it” Here are some examples: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Air_Lines During Lorenzo’s tenure, Eastern was crippled by severe labor unrest. Asked to accept deep cuts in pay and benefits, Eastern’s mechanics and ramp service employees, represented by the IAM (International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers), walked out on March 4, 1989. A sympathy strike called by the pilots represented by ALPA (Air Line Pilots Association) and flight attendants represented by TWU (Transport Workers Union) effectively shut down the airline’s domestic operations. Non-contract employees, including airport gate and ticket counter agents and reservation sales agents, did not honor the strike. Due to the strike, flights were canceled, resulting in the loss of millions of dollars in revenue.[citation needed] As a result of the strike, weakened airline structure, inability to compete after deregulation and other financial problems, Eastern filed for bankruptcy protection on March 9, 1989. This gave Lorenzo breathing room, and allowed him to continue operating the airline with non-union employees. When control of the airline was taken away from Lorenzo by the courts and given to Marty Shugrue, it continued operations in an attempt to correct its cash flow, but to no avail. —————————- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Airlines#Bankruptcy_and_reorganization With a strong presence on the West coast, United benefited from the dot-com boom which boosted traffic (especially premium traffic) to the San Francisco hub. This increase was only temporary and when the bubble finally burst, United was in a worse position than before because it had failed to keep costs under control, possibly due to giving its pilots pay raises of up to 28% in the summer of 2000.[29] Coupled with a battered network, the September 11 attacks and skyrocketing oil prices, the company lost $2.14 billion in 2001 on revenues of $16.14 billion. In… Read more »

Dan
Dan
11 years ago

“There is no market for most government work. There is no product to sell. There is no competition, no barometer by which to measure compensation.” Michael, unbelievable statements like this encourage me to debate with you less and simply recommend some economics textbooks and podcasts. Reasonable people can disagree on policy, but the claims you are making are just… wrong. First of all, your statement that “There is no competition” for government work is a tautology. Government is a state-imposed monopoly by definition, that’s the whole point of it. To argue that since there is no competition with many government services, those services must necessarily be provided by government interprets the causal link backwards. Second, even the most “progressive” of economists would not argue that there is “no market for government work” or even more ludicrous, that there is “no product to sell.” Of course there is a product. The product is the service being offered. Of course there is a market. Let me help you, the textbook argument for government interventionism is not that there is “no market” or “no product,” it is that there is some kind of a market failure (a very specific situation in which one person could be made better off without making somebody else worse off, not just an outcome somebody doesn’t like) that supposedly can only be resolved by government. You are obviously an intelligent guy, so I don’t know whether you have simply never been exposed to these economic principles or whether you have been so indoctrinated in union propaganda that it is clouding your understanding of the whole market and the place unions have in it. I think you have a lot of insight into the internal union structure to offer, but the economic claims you are making here are simply… Read more »

BobN
BobN
11 years ago

Dan, I take issue with your point about there necessarily being a “service” that government provides. While that is true in some cases, it is not in others. For example, how is onerous regulation a service? What service does the EDC provide that yields benefits in excess of its $5 million annual cost? What service does the Lt. Governor provide?
Another category of “service” is income redistribution. While it serves the recipients, it comes at a terrible cost not only to the payers but to society as a violation of property rights and unequal treatment under the law.
Even where government provides a “service” such as road maintenance, mass transit, education, or health insurance, it does so with such gross financial and bureaucratic inefficiency that it is a major disservice to the public on a net basis.

Dan
Dan
11 years ago

BobN, don’t misunderstand. Services don’t have to be desirable, worthwhile, or efficient. If I set up a “punch in the face – $5” stand outside my house, I am providing a service to the public. That very few or no people at all may want that service doesn’t change the economic definition of what is going on. Unfortunately, as you point out, where government is involved, the public is unable to pick and choose which services they want and which they don’t want. The services are all simply coerced onto people in a package and they are billed for them in taxes regardless of whether they use them or not. I would personally cancel ALL of my government services tomorrow if I would not have violence used against me as a result.

michael
michael
11 years ago

Why do you insist on complicating the simplest truths? There is no competition in the marketplace for police and fire services. Government functions are not at the whim of economic fluctuations. People don’t care if there is a recession when their car is stolen or their house is on fire. The armed services don’t compete with the “other” army. The CIA isn’t worried about the “other” spies.

BobN
BobN
11 years ago

Ok Dan, I’ll buy that – in the same vein, a “protection” contract from the local mafia gang is a “service”.
Michael you cannot conflate the wide diversity of government functions (some of which I categorized earlier) and describe them all as legitimate “services”.

Russ
Russ
11 years ago

“I would personally cancel ALL of my government services tomorrow if I would not have violence used against me as a result.”
That’s not true. You just can’t stay in the U.S. and do that. As Franklin so aptly put it…
“All Property, indeed, except the Savage’s temporary Cabin, his Bow, his Matchcoat, and other little Acquisitions, absolutely necessary for his Subsistence, seems to me to be the Creature of public Convention. Hence the Public has the Right of Regulating Descents, and all other Conveyances of Property, and even of limiting the Quantity and the Uses of it. All the Property that is necessary to a Man, for the Conservation of the Individual and the Propagation of the Species, is his natural Right, which none can justly deprive him of: But all Property superfluous to such purposes is the Property of the Publick, who, by their Laws, have created it, and who may therefore by other Laws dispose of it, whenever the Welfare of the Publick shall demand such Disposition. He that does not like civil Society on these Terms, let him retire and live among Savages. He can have no right to the benefits of Society, who will not pay his Club towards the Support of it.”
Might I suggest the tribal regions in Afghanistan/Pakistan as your ideal milieu?

Dan
Dan
11 years ago

Michael, absent there government-imposed public monopolies, the demand for such services would still exist and there would be markets for fire and police protection. In fact, there are private markets for such services today, albeit more niche ones. Why do you think businesses and colleges hire security guards? Again, you are reversing the causal link. There is no competition BECAUSE government has occupied those fields, not the opposite.
Russ, your point is a very unsophisticated one. Afghanistan and Pakistan had governments the last time I checked, but even if they did not, there is no reason why one voluntary society would necessarily have to operate the same way as any other. I could just as easily use all the corrupt and abusive governments throughout history (virtually all of them, if not all) as evidence that centralized government simply does not work because people will always abuse power over others and politics are always manipulated by powerful special interests.
There is also the issue of coercive governments controlling all of the usable land in the world, not by coincidence. “Go live in the Sahara Desert or the North Pole” is not a meaningful option for people, so please do not pretend like it is, or that simply by remaining on the plot of land you happened to be born upon is some form of consent or contractual agreement. The social contract is political mythology.
I will also point out that the reason I am not an anarchist is that I believe in rules, more than we have already in fact, just privately set ones. I have no problem with government itself as long as it operates on an individual consensual basis and people are allowed to opt out. Where there is coercion there is no legitimacy.

Dan
Dan
11 years ago

“Ok Dan, I’ll buy that – in the same vein, a “protection” contract from the local mafia gang is a “service”.”
As an aside for everyone here, an interesting thought experiment is to attempt to list all the different ways government is different than organized crime.
Fixed popular elections are the only difference I could come up with. Of course, for those in the minority position of any given election, there is no difference between the two whatsoever.

BobN
BobN
11 years ago

Wow, Dan. Even I won’t go that far. Yet.

Russ
Russ
11 years ago

“I have no problem with government itself as long as it operates on an individual consensual basis and people are allowed to opt out.” Ummm, actually maybe you are an anarchist (I’m not one who considers that a dirty word). Anarchy (from Greek: ἀναρχίᾱ anarchíā, “without ruler”) A social state in which there is no governing person or group of people, but each individual has absolute liberty (without the implication of disorder). Noam Chomsky on Anarchism, Marxism & Hope for the Future RBR: Perhaps, more than any other idea, anarchism has suffered from the problem of misrepresentation. Anarchism can mean many things to many people. Do you often find yourself having to explain what it is that you mean by anarchism? Does the misrepresentation of anarchism bother you? CHOMSKY: All misrepresentation is a nuisance. Much of it can be traced back to structures of power that have an interest in preventing understanding, for pretty obvious reasons. It’s well to recall David Hume’s Principles of Government. He expressed surprise that people ever submitted to their rulers. He concluded that since Force is always on the side of the governed, the governors have nothing to support them but opinion. ‘Tis therefore, on opinion only that government is founded; and this maxim extends to the most despotic and most military governments, as well as to the most free and most popular. Hume was very astute – and incidentally, hardly a libertarian by the standards of the day. He surely underestimates the efficacy of force, but his observation seems to me basically correct, and important, particularly in the more free societies, where the art of controlling opinion is therefore far more refined. Misrepresentation and other forms of befuddlement are a natural concomitant. So does misrepresentation bother me? Sure, but so does rotten weather. It… Read more »

Dan
Dan
11 years ago

Russ, I call myself a voluntaryist precisely because of the issues presented in the material you posted. Ask 10 people what anarchy means and you will get 10 different answers. Most of this is due to indoctrination, some of it due to ignorance, and the rest is simply a matter of semantic or philosophical disagreement. However, when I mention voluntaryism, everyone immediately knows what I am talking about (or at least they quickly can if they have internet access). I’m mainly trying to avoid any associations with violence, narrow self-interest, or lawlessness, all concepts commonly (and wrongfully) associated with “anarchy” and which I do not see as parts of a functioning society.

BobN
BobN
11 years ago

Michael, the linked article provides some useful information for the discussion of the pernicious effects of public employee unions. Note the example of Los Angeles, where 13 of 15 City Council members were elected with union money.
http://townhall.com/columnists/BruceBialosky/2010/02/22/illegal_immigrants_or_public_employees__who%E2%80%99s_the_bigger_problem

Ragin' Rhode Islander
Ragin' Rhode Islander
11 years ago

Speaking of timely articles:
Unions out of step with dynamic U.S. private sector
http://washingtontimes.com/news/2010/feb/23/unions-out-of-step-with-us-private-sector/
The weight of evidence indicates that, for most firms in most sectors, unionization leaves companies less able to compete successfully. The core problem is that unions cause compensation to rise faster than productivity, eroding profits while at the same time reducing the ability of firms to remain price-competitive. The result over time is that unionized firms have tended to lose market share to nonunionized firms, in domestic as well as international markets.
After studying the effects of unions on company performance, Barry Hirsch of Georgia State University concluded that unions will typically raise labor costs to a firm by 15 percent to 20 percent, while delivering a negligible increase in productivity. As a result, “Unionization is associated with lower investment in physical and intangible capital and slower growth. The combination of a union tax and sluggish governance is proving debilitating in economic environments that are highly competitive and dynamic,” Mr. Hirsch wrote in a 2008 study.

Russ
Russ
11 years ago

Ah, got it (and I think I finally made the connection to your name over on RIF). I’d still call that anarchist, but noted that anarcho-capitalists and anarcho-syndicalists like Chomsky have their differences.

michael
michael
11 years ago

I could spend all day finding articles to the contrary. I belong to a union. I know what we stand for, and I stand behind it.

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