Sunday, October 23, 2005

Free Association With the CUG

Go visit jimmyb's post In Support of Unions, before or after you read this. Follow the post to the Balance of Power blog. It's a good read. Rather than post my view in the comments, I felt like talking here. Of course this will be a conservative libertarian argument. That is what I am.

Balance of power is an appropriate term. That is what the problems are all about. Just like political partisans, union partisans and business partisans can be just as extreme. Both are just as vulnerable to corruption and greed. It is common to confuse political partisans with labor market partisans. They often line up together.

Unions provide leverage against inequity, but they suffer from the same frailties that all bureaucracies suffer from. These include the bureaucracies found in government, business and special interest groups. After all, ambitious destructive people are found in all bureaucracies.

When people politically confront abuse and monopolistic aggregation of power, they often successfully achieve their founding goals of fairness, equity, profit and legal justice. Naturally, this justifies the action taken. It also triggers a common human emotional response. This response argues for more of that good thing, to the point of extremism.

Following positive progress however, bureaucracies rarely yield power or authority to the new landscape. A bureaucracy begins to hunt for goals which will sustain its own power and authority. A shift is made, to structural preservation. A shift is made, to protect individuals with power. This shift is often shielded by amplifying minutiae into arguments for inequity and distracting the public debate, by demonizing the opposition.

Does this sound familiar? It is the root of bad politics.

Created but never Destroyed

When was the last time you saw a powerful organization voluntarily dissolve, after achieving what it set out to achieve?

The answer is never. The goals can never be reached. Closure is a threat to the life of the bureaucracy, which now has a life of its own.
  • Even though doctors are being driven out of practice, insurance companies are leaving entire states and consumers are losing entire services, trial lawyer associations fight tooth and nail to prevent tort reform.
  • Even though illegal immigration is a social tax burden and undermines the wage stability of American citizens in the manufacturing and building sectors, the business and political lobbies continue to pressure against enforcement of the law.
  • Even though we have a constitutional amendment and a raft of legislation, race baiters continue to maintain their special interest groups by increasing racial tensions and lobbing false accusations.
  • The Massachusetts turnpike authority was supposed to dissolve itself years ago, after achieving the goal of building a highway. They floated more bonds to keep themselves alive. This government bureaucracy will need to be forced out of power. It will only be done when the voters get tired enough to fire all the politicians.
  • Even though labor protection legislation extends far and wide and business labor ethics have improved dramatically, unions still push for collective bargaining, entitlements and sanctuary for poor performers. There must always be an inequity to be found and fought for, even if it must be created.
So, unions share the same entrenched corruption and bad company as many other organizations, including big business. Who needs to go over the subject of organized crime? It occurs everywhere.

Balancing the Scales

Unions are only a single element in a system of checks and balances. To a degree, self regulation will occur naturally; but only if people are free to choose their associations. What an absolutely brilliant constitutional right that is, in both simplicity and effectiveness.

There really is no better choice than the one we have. Without formal trade, no business is bad business. Governments cannot set prices, since it would take a bureaucracy so big, there would be nobody left to produce anything. The fluid of supply and demand must flow freely, to set prices properly. However, without government monetary standards, markets cannot regulate the overall money supply, and control inflation.
  • If there were no organized labor to check business, there would be monopoly and abuse of labor. This is why Teddy Roosevelt broke the trusts.
  • If there were a pure socialist government, there would be stagnant consumer markets, high unemployment, large black markets and crippling taxes.
  • If there were a totalitarian or communist government, the only motivation for progress would be the motivation to climb the ladder of bureaucracy, or move within the black markets. You get poor quality from the products produced within the system. You get a dangerous lack of standards for the products produced illegally. You get low production, starvation and brutal inefficiency.
  • If there were anarchy, there would be no laws, no safety standards and the return of clans of power. You would have to discard all business that operate on the efficiency of scale, like energy, telecommunications, national retail, hardware, medicine etc.
Communication and often compromise, for the overall benefit of our great standard of living, is the only way the entire system can stay healthy. Like markets, a strong educated public will find the free associations with each other that make the overall standard of living better.

Forcing people to associate with any bureaucracy, through collective bargaining, government entitlement dependency, racial quotas and non-compete employment contracts are all artificial barriers to free association. These things do not improve society, they create mechanisms to support bureaucratic power in unions, politics and business, respectively.

It happens in the Consumer Markets

When union producers of a product force selfish fiscal priority over the quality of the product itself, that is a bureaucratic decision. The long term result is the destruction of the system providing the benefit. Read Don Surber's The Delphi Oracle post. You will see what I mean. Consumers, who freely associate with whatever they like, will not tolerate poor attitude being engineered and assembled into their products. My Toyota Tacoma truck is built in Kentucky. I bought it because it does not eat through clutches like my Chevy did. It does not smoke ignition modules, suffer from tailgate electrical fires and spontaneously reset its computer like my Ford Bronco did. My consumer dollar is no longer flowing into union pockets. Are they responsible? I cannot say for sure, but I do not buy those products anymore.

Unions which do not respect their environment, over their constituents, face the danger of extinction. When they take away the right of the worker to freely dissociate with the union, they cover up flaws which accelerate this extinction. When they take away the consumer's right to associate with all manufacturers, through trade barriers, they convince consumers that they do not need to compete with quality. These activities breed resentment and political opposition. You can argue against them all you want. Consumers have deaf ears, deep pockets and they pull voting levers.

The Government does it Too

Teacher's unions are trying every desperate political and emotional gambit they can to prevent people from freely associating their tax money with alternatives. They keep saying it's for the benefit of the children, not just the teachers in the union. They fought mandatory testing in MA for years. They say it is unfair. The statistics are beginning to prove them wrong.

How worse can it possibly be, than the pathetic horrible product they have been peddling for years?

How can you measure quality, when they refuse to let you put a meter on it?

Here is the ultimate hypocrisy. Since tax money is involved, the schools fall under the auspices of government. Therefore, they argue that the first amendment strictly prohibits bringing religious discussion into the schools, even in historical context. In the very same first amendment, the right of people to associate freely is also penned! So, I say, since tax money is involved, the schools fall under the auspices of government. Therefore, the first amendment prohibits the public schools from forcing parents to grind their kids through a single bureaucracy, which is failing them miserably. We cannot force consumer unions to do this, since they are not under the government umbrella. However, the teachers have argued for years that they are!

Does the teacher's union wage their labor battle, by asserting they have the highest quality standards over all other possibilities? No. They wage the battle by trying to take away your constitutional right to free association and consumer choice.

So, Do I support Unions?

The answer is yes! Of course there is a major stipulation. I only support them when their goals include a realistic benefit for the people served by the product. They are the people with the money, not the 'evil' business or the 'evil' government. If people are leaving a union, than the union is no longer serving an equitable purpose, or it has become self-serving; the truth will be exposed by the adjustment of membership. I will not support any organization, union or otherwise, that selfishly chooses to ignore economics, overall social well-being and most important of all, a member's right of free association or the consumer's right of free association.


DonSurber said...

Thanks for the link. The inside light miraculously "fixed" itself on Saturday. I should worry about the wiring but I offer this insight.

GunnNutt said...

Wonderful essay. Jimmyb's post got me thinking along the same lines and I'm sure glad you wrote about it. I have only one disagreement and that is with the idea that an organization can never voluntarily disolve.

Last year I read an amazing speech by Maurice McTigue that I at first thought was a joke. McTigue had a long and illustrious career in the government of New Zealand and was instrumental in dismantling that country's bureaucracies. You can read it at Rolling Back Government:
Lessons from New Zealand
. It may seem like a fantasy, but there is a government on this planet that actually shrank, and to the great benefit of its citizens. Would that we could follow suit.

Insolublog said...

Don Surber - Thanks for the post I referred to. It supported my own experience.

GunnNutt - Thanks for the informative link; it was excellent! I hope others visit it. I was about to capitulate to a valid criticism. However, what I meant by voluntary, was an existing power structure, recognizing its own goal achievement, then laying down arms. After reading Prof. McTigue's 5 page essay I noticed a couple of important points.

"Young people were leaving in droves." This looks just like the free association (or dissociation) I was talking about. A very effective bleeding of the body politic.

"..a reform government was elected in 1984". This was not the current government dissolving itself. It was the people initiating change, by throwing out the dirty laundry and replacing the sheets.

What the reform government did, was put new conservative Reagan like principles into effect. Privatization, tax cuts, welfare reform and all the things we know now to be essential for healthy reform. The government shrank because they removed subsidies, halted unnecessary hiring etc.

What we definitely agree on, is there are Lessons from New Zealand! There were too many good things to cover in this comment.

Dr. Phat Tony said...

Great post. There were so many things to include that you could make this a series unto itself. How many government funded bureaucracies have been started to solve a problem and yet after decades have yet to make a dent in the original problem?

GunnNutt said...

Insol, I concede your point about the body dissolving itself - outside pressure must be brought to bear or nothing will change.

The Conservative UAW Guy said...

As always, your insight and writing ability blow me away.

Great post.
Yes, change needs to be brought to bear from outside forces sometimes.

We are seeing that now....

Insolublog said...

DPT - Thanks. You remind me of another point. Nobody in such a situation ever wants to 'kill the job', so the job never gets finished. ( Like Logan Airport and the Big Drip)

GunnNutt - Don't let that that stop you from debating any time. I have been wrong many times. Always be a student, never an expert.

CUG - Thanks. Keep stirring the pot jimmyb. You are the fox in the hounds.
(Post that picture again sometime!)

Uber said...

If you continue to make such sense, Insolu, I will be inspired to shave my head, hang out at airports and pass out pamphlets. Ok, maybe just shave the neighbor's cat's head, but still.

Honestly, all haha aside, your writing style is very distinctive. Easily understood as to make reading enjoyable without totally dumbing it down to a point where much information is diminished.

fmragtops said...

Insol. You rock. That was a great post. Full of thoughts I've thought at one time or another but was not eloquent or intelligent to put together like that.

Insolublog said...

uber - No need to go that far! If you do shave the cat however, you must bless us all with a picture post ;) I appreciate the comments.

fmragtops - Thank you kindly. I think you and all the bloggers I read regularly are literate and intelligent. Just keep taking your thoughts to the voting booth.

Fitch said...

Astounding! I can't think of any response but, WOW! You are my mentor Insol. Perhaps we shoud start a cult on your behalf.

qanaqkuj. This is just out of hand.

Difster said...

However, without government monetary standards, markets cannot regulate the overall money supply, and control inflation.

I don't have time to go through the whole thing, but this caught my eye.

That's dead wrong. The government does not need monetary standards. Monetary standards adjust themselves much more smoothly than govenment can do it. I suggest extensive reading at

Ah, too bad it's so late. I'll just say that I absolutely DESPISE unions and the quasi-governmental force they exercise over their members and even many non-memebers. If I had the power to do so, I'd abolish labor unions in a heart beat. I'm fine with collective bargaining etc., but no group of people should be allowed, by force of law to compel an employer to hire only union people. On the othe side of the coin, if you abolish labor unions, you would have to roll back corporate statism too.

The site I metioned above has some excellent material on the true nature of unions too.

Insolublog said...

fitch - Thanks buddy. As with uber, no need to go that far!

difster - Please do me a favor. When you post a disagreement as 'dead wrong', please don't point me to the top level of a site, and expect me to do the research for a defense. I also do not want an unfiltered deluge in the comments. I took as look at one article from that site, which I could easily dissect with facts both historical and contemporary. Maybe you could provide a single working example of a large economy operating on money not printed by a government, not guaranteed by a government. I am talking about money people are willing to save; willing to put their trust in. Dollars have done well in this world. Precious metals are the only thing I can think of with historical trust. You have to dig it out of the ground and purify it. You cannot just print more. Unfortunately, there is not enough of this commodity to pass around in a world economy full of billions of people. Regulating the size of the pool of money has a proven track record of economic success. I am not saying you don't have something important to say. If I visit your blog and disagree with you, I will give you the short details.

So, we have two key monetary standards. The federal reserved note is one, with a guarantee. The other is the policy to make just enough of them available to track the growth of the economy. Print too much, you get inflation. Print too little, you get recession. Ask for some nebulous free market process to provide the money? You get no trust in the currency, no savings, no standard coinage and a bureaucratic nightmare trying to exchange value.

One more thing. Abolishing unions by dictatorial fiat, misses the point of my post. If people are to have the freedom to associate, that means the freedom to form a union, if necessary.

I think they were necessary at the point in time we had no labor laws, child textile slavery etc. Now we have protections in the law, but union bureaucracies not recoginizing the win, by disbanding. jimmyb is right. It is happening.

I don't despise unions. I despise the union power bureaucracies. There's a big difference.