Sunday, February 27, 2011

Walter Block: Why We Must Support the Union Thugs

This is not likely to make it into the union's PR packet of economist professors supporting the union, but Block has it correct, this is a battle of two thugs:
More than a few people have asked me where I stand on the controversy between Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and the public employee unions against which he is contending.

I favor the union thugs, not the government thugs. For me, it’s like Stalin versus Hitler: a pox on both of them. But, I like to root for the underdog, the weaker of the two bad guys, and that’s the union in this case. I do so because I want the fight to long continue, so that both are weakened as much as possible. The state has more guns, better public relations (they have bought off more journalists, intellectuals, clergy, and others of Hayek’s “second hand dealers in ideas”) than the unions.

So, if we want the battle to weaken the both of them, we must support, ugh (no, double ugh!) organized labor. Also, it is my judgment that the government is a worse violator of human and economic liberties than are the unions, bad as are the latter.
The essence of Block's argument is that this is not a battle of less government versus more government, but a battle over who controls the loot. There is a strong anti-public employee union stance by advocates of freedom, which is great, but somehow this anti-union attitude is being transferred into support of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Despite heavy propaganda otherwise, Walker is not a free market guy.

During Walker's tenure as Milwaukee county executive, according to AP, "overall county spending ... increased 35 percent".

With regard to the agriculture industry, Walker has stated:
My administration will build on this history by strengthening public/private partnerships that will incorporate 21st century innovations into best practices standards to ensure that the next generation of farmers can produce even more than we do now.
You know what that means. Crony deals between the Wisconsin government and government favored ag corporations.

He also wants to direct infrastructure money to "help the farmers":
We must also continue to invest in our state’s infrastructure to ensure farmers can move their products to market for years to come. In the last eight years, Gov. Doyle raided $1.3 billion from Wisconsin’s Transportation Fund. This is money that could have gone to fixing our state’s rural roads, highways and bridges. I will protect the Transportation Fund by ending the raids and supporting a constitutional amendment to protect it from raids by future governors.
Huh, Block may also have something to say about the Transportation Fund.

Back to Walker.

He is certainly not against public education and appears to have no clue that innovation comes about via the private sector and not via a bureaucracy. He says:
We will also create a new class of highly qualified, well-paid teachers who will be given the opportunity to advance in their career. These highly qualified teachers will be called on to mentor other teachers, while still devoting most of their time to classroom teaching.
Bottom line, as Block makes clear, there is no strong reason to cheer the activities of either of these groups. Let's hope they destroy each other in this battle.


  1. I view the unions as an extension and enabler of big government. Not a separate entity.
    Doesn't matter whether one is talking about the teacher's union, police union or defense industry unions.
    If the unions are weakened or destroyed, then the task of shrinking the government becomes much easier.
    Unions were a big player in passing Obama Care.
    I say let the unions die and Walker win.
    When the people get sick of his crony, big government capitalism, they can toss him out and put a small government type in.
    It is pretty obvious what agenda the thugs Mubarek & Khadafy called into the streets have.

    Destroying the unionists is destroying big government even if it doesn't seem so at first.

  2. Who would you root for in cage match between Hitler and Stalin?

    It's kinda like that.

  3. I also say kill the union privileges first. Walker is not just asking for a pay cut, that can be reinstated later, but going after a privilege that hopefully will set a precedent beyond mere wage cuts. The perfect can be the enemy of the good.

  4. Yes, Anonymous, herpes is SO much better than AIDS.

    As with unions and government, I'd like to contract neither.

  5. Walter is wrong. This isn't about an expansion of government power, it's about taking away government power. Since they are taking away government power from the unions, I say hooray. The big picture is that people see this as being anti-government, reducing government, and that is worth far, far more than supporting the thugs.

  6. I think Block has this all wrong. As mentioned, you've got to get the unions out of the way to shrink government, and Walker knows this, which is why he's not stopping with concessions. There shouldn't be any public sector unions, period! I'll support Walker any day vs. the unions (though I don't see eye to eye with him on every issue) and it surprises me that it's even debatable amongst libertarians. I can kind of understand not taking a side, but he's way off in supporting the union thugs.

  7. This isn't just any union though, public sector unions are particularly vile. If the parasitic state government wants to reduce the plunder flowing to its subsidiary parasites, i'm all for it.

  8. You make it seem like it is the union vs. the state government. In reality it seems more like the unions are complaining that they can't control state power and use it to their advantage. See some of the pictures of the protest signs posted here

  9. One thing I've noticed about this debacle is that it is really bringing out the prevalence of both left and right-conflationism.

    RE: Econophile, did you read the post? Block did not say it is about an "expansion of government power". He said it is a battle over that power. You also say "thugs" as if that label can only be applied to one side. Not so.

  10. "Let's hope they destroy each other in this battle." Agree, I am with Walker in his fight to destroy the public sector unions, and I will be with the unions when they fight against Walker and his government spending. Not holding my breath for that though.

  11. I'd rather support the teachers who make $40,000 a year compared to the multibillionaires who have Walker in their pocket

  12. I must disagree with Walter Block. I am a resident of Wisconsin and someone who lives next to the People's Republic of Madison. We have just finished 8 years with a governor who never met a tax he didn't like. CNN recently listed Wisconsin as having the 4th highest taxes in the nation. Thanks to our tax burden my wallet is bare.

    During the past two years, while wage earner income dropped, our local and state governments told us they felt our pain and so were only raising taxes a small amount. Cutting spending never occured to them. Walker was elected to cut spending.

    Rather than debate an abstraction, I need a bit of money left in my wallet to pay bills and feed my family. If Scott Walker can do this, I'll support his efforts to cut spending.

  13. What Walter doesn't seem to understand is that right now, it is government PLUS unionized public workers. Public employees and their unions are an arm of the government.
    While it may be favorable to the oligarchical Koches to break the power of the public sector unions, it is also favorable to all common citizens.

    In a comment on another post i've already put links to some of the things public employees get away with, without fear of losing their jobs, much less fear of being criminally charged (for police brutality for instance), all because of the protection that their unions give them.

    Who is more likely to cause an ordinary man harm? A unionized, almost immune police thug or the Koch brothers? Who is going to poison the head of your child more with either miseducation or complete lack in quality of education? A unionized, almost immune public school teacher or the Koch brothers?

    I think the hatred of some libertarians and anarcho-capitalists for the Koch brothers is taking obsessive levels when they actually take the side of government sector unions, which are the ones that make it virtually impossible to shrink the government in the first place. What else does Mr. Block and others have in mind to finally start bringing the government down to size? Waiting for that one divine, perfect politician without special interests doing all the right things for all the right principles?
    Yeah right...

    Down with the unions, break public worker power and make them accountable for damaging every day life of citizens. They are the ground troops of the government. No politician commits brutality while hiding behind a gun and badge. No politician brainwashes your children. No politician shoot foreigners abroad. It is the ground troops (police, teachers, soldiers etc) that do that. They are the ones whose power need to be taken away first. They chose to work for the government so they don't deserve any sympathy anyway.

  14. The issue Walker faces is that there is no way to intelligently downsize government with union work rules obtained under collective bargaining. Let's say you want to cut back on special ed teachers (very expensive, sometimes +$200k/yr). Well, you can't do that becuase of seniority and work related rules. You also can't transfer this expensive person to another job that is not covered under her collective bargaining agreement. When you find this person a job, if someone else is filling it, you'll need to move that person too, following the seniority rules. In the end the savings from cutting in one area explodes and wipes out the savings. This is why when union shops are cut, they are cut across all depts based on seniority. If an attempt is made to restaff a cut position it has to be offered to the laid off worker first.

    The unions know this and know that this makes it practically impossible, other then through attrition, to down size a unionized governmental shop.

  15. Walker is a partisan hack. He spared the Police and Fire unions from the legislation. These unions are just as much to blame for the pension/benefits/wage crisis as are the teacher unions. Why did he spare them? They supported his candidacy and are predominately Republican. So he'll fix the budget problem if Democrats are involved but won't fix the budget issues if Republicans are involved. The money will still get taken from you and spent, It won't be refunded to you. The issue, as Block says, is who controls the money and corresponding power. You are never in the equation, except as the source of the cash - AKA the milk cow.

  16. Government at the state level is run by unions. The union uses government power to grab as much as they can for themselves at the expense of the average working guy.

  17. Public employee unions are a two edged sword. They contribute solely to Democrats. When the Democrats are elected to office, THEY are the ones to "negotiate" contracts with their constituents. Handy, huh? Taxpayers pay the union employee's salaries out of which union dues are taken. Union dues are then contributed to Democrat political campaigns. Teachers unions are much worse than even that. After they screw you for your $$$$, THEN they indoctrinate your children - WITHOUT teaching them to read.

  18. Seems to me, unions own a good part of the Government. That's how liberals keep getting elected to public office. I say start with the public employee unions, I don't have an opinion on private sector unions. Government will get smaller eventually, if you take away the excessive union control.

  19. Walter proposes support for the union teachers making over $105,000/ yr on average, for under 9 months work. Who supports the taxpayers and removing this process that led us to this point, Walker.

    Pick your side in the cage match, but Stalin and Hitler labels do not help you cause for limited government and personal freedom.

  20. I happened to agree with anonymous et al. The bigger picture is that the International Socialist Organization controls the unions in they're efforts to convert the U.S and world into
    a socialist society,..then communist. I also believe if you start to break down the direct
    conduit that influences gov't and the citizens, it's a solid first step in returning the U.S back
    to our origin of a free society, of which we were founded on. The unions, SEIU, and a vast many other front organizations need to be recognized and exposed for what they really stand for. When Americans finally wake up and
    understand the manipulations that have been imposed on them throughout the decades, we can
    start to make a dramatic change for the better of our country. So...I say remove the collective bargaining to begin with and let the people decide which side of the fence they would like to be on.

  21. Isn't this nothing more than the state fighting itself? Aren't the governor and the public sector employees both part of the state?

  22. I understand the stance of Dr. Block. However, I am more concerned what benefits the individual of the voluntary sector both economically and from a liberty perspective.

    Plus, it would be an interesting dynamic.

    Imagine, public unions (who are essentially the government) would get a slap down from ...government. Maybe these coddled public employees might change how they see government if the government is forced to shut down the big party and tells them to go sober up.

    I think the biggest impact would be to start reversing the trend of public unions and bringing them back to reality.

  23. Walter should reread Mises/ Hayak re; unions and unemployment.
    Or do facts get in the way of a good media post?
    This Wisconsin proposal will remove SOME collective bargaining privileges, not all.
    Don't run away to another state with the details Walter, stay and reason it out. You will see the light if you want to.

  24. In regards to the police and firefighter, Walker has said that he didn't want to endanger public safety with a potential strike (or other forms of "not showing up to work" protests) of those workers.

    Whether you believe him or not, given the reaction of the teachers, I don't think his concern was unwarranted.

    Also, I don't think you can blame the spending increases of Milwaukee County on Walker. The county board was overwhelmingly against him and overrode his budgets, if I'm not mistaken.

  25. The author has it wrong. It's not unions vs govt, it's public unions vs taxpayers. Walker is standing for the people who pay for the government. That's the big view. Ag deals, who knows, you can twist the outcome of legislation to be anything you want it to represent. Doesn't mean he's in bed with them.

  26. Block is a traditional block-head. He confuses the workers IN government with the rulers OF government. It is the super-rich who fund politicians so they can get elected & preserve their privileges. The government workers are unionized to give them some leverage against the massive imbalance of power that exist in our 'free' society.
    If Block did not have academic tenure he would quickly join a union to save his job OR at least his well-paid income level. He's one of the many that think they have earned their high incomes today - deluded fools.

  27. This appears to be a personal attack on Walker rather than a debate on the issue. When Wisconsin teachers are out from under the union's protection, we can always vote out Walker. We aren't able to do that with the unions.

  28. Nobody has mentioned that Federalism was designed for the Walker manuver from the beginning. Your watching the idea of states rights in action. If the citizens of Wisconsin don't like it, they'll change it real quick. Until the fraudently called "union" sits across from the table from the taxpayer and school choice, IT"S NOT A UNION AND SHOULDN"T HAVE ANY RIGHTS.

  29. The Unions have gotten so corrupt that they need to be cut down to size and let it be known that we are not going to stand for their bulling tactics to go on. They intimidate everyone they don't like. This is why we have it in our schools. It needs to stop with them first. We can tackle the State government later if need be. The Union is way too big now. Need to keep up the good fight and help Walker get this thru and then watch Walker to see he does what he needs to do.

  30. Nice theory, however the unions and the gov't are essentially one and the same. They are a revolving cycle where politicians recieve money from unions, unions bilk their members, and taxpayers have to pay for the legislation passed which gives outrageous benefits and pensions to unions. This death-spiral is growing more every year. It is a large % of current and future debt and liabilities.

  31. Those who argue that business leaders control government through political contributions should look at the political contributions of business vs unions in the last election. Unions contributed a larger amount, most of which went to Dems.