May 3, 2015

WINNING THE WAR ON WAGES:

Our Police Union Problem (Ross Douthat, 5/02/15, NY Times)

FOR decades now, conservatives have pressed the case that public sector unions do not serve the common good.

The argument is philosophical and practical at once. First, the state monopoly on certain vital services makes even work slowdowns unacceptable and the ability to fire poor-performing personnel essential, and a unionized work force creates problems on both fronts.

Second, the government's money is not its own, so negotiations between politicians and their employees (who are also often their political supporters) amount to a division of spoils rather than a sharing of profits. Third, these negotiations inevitably drive up the cost of public services, benefiting middle-class bureaucrats at the expense of the poor, and saddling governments with long-term fiscal burdens that the terms of union contracts make it extremely difficult to lift.

Finally, union lobbying power can bias public-policy decisions toward the interests of state employees. To take just one particularly perverse example: In California over the last few decades, the correctional officers union first lobbied for a prison-building spree and then, well-entrenched, exercised veto power over criminal justice reform.

These points add up to a strong argument that the rise of public sector unions represents a decadent phase in the history of the welfare state, a case study in the warping influence of self-dealing and interest-group politics.

But as we've been reminded by the agony of Baltimore, this argument also applies to a unionized public work force that conservatives are often loath to criticize: the police.


That some good may come of riots.

Posted by at May 3, 2015 9:35 AM
  

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