Friday, February 27, 2015

Right To Work

The current debate going on in Wisconsin on a so-called “Right to Work” law (that bans agreements between companies and unions that all employees of the company need to join the union or pay a fee equivalent to membership dues) brought to the surface a great illustration of when first impressions can steer you wrong.  I like bringing these examples up because I often discuss examples of when instinct is superior to conscious and focused information processing.  I have covered the cognitive and neuropsychological reasons for this before (for example here). 

I don’t want to bring up whether this is a good law or a bad law or whether unions are positive or negative for the economy or for society.  These topics could be the subject of dozens of posts. 

No, what I want to think about today is which side of this issue the small “l” libertarian should be on (for the uninitiated, small "l" means the philosophy, Big "L" means the political party). At first, it seems obvious.  To have the liberty that libertarianism espouses, employees should have the right to join or not join the union.  Case closed.

But think about it a little deeper.  If a private entity (company) wants to make a private contract (closed shop agreement) with another private entity (union), then to have the government involved is anti-liberty.  Libertarianism doesn’t advocate smart liberties or inclusive liberties; it advocates all liberties.  Entities should be able to do whatever foolish thing they want as long as it doesn’t infringe on another entity’s liberty. The most important of these liberties is from government intervention.   Exceptions should be as rare as possible, only what is necessary to maintain a society that provides a framework for liberty.   

So for a pure libertarian, the State of Wisconsin should not pass any laws requiring closed shop agreements, prohibiting closed shop agreements, or even encouraging closed shop agreements (e.g. through tax incentives).  None of these rises to the level of critical to maintain society. A closed shop agreement reduces the liberty of the potential anti-union employee to pursue a job at the company, but this is a much smaller violation, especially with the ability to pay the fee instead.  Government intervention is philosophically much more severe.

So why do you think the Big “L” Libertarians are for Right to Work laws and against closed shop agreements?  Most of them are big “R” Republicans.  Unions donate money to left leaning candidates.  Think there is a connection, or am I being too cynical?

Tell me what you think

Middle East Reconfiguration

Ethnic cleansing is one of the worst crimes against humanity.  But if the massive migrations among all of the warring countries in the Middle East results in definitive, well-defined zones of Sunni, Shia, and Kurd, it could result in more stable countries in the end.  Forced migrations always leave bitter hurts that come back to haunt the evictor.  But when people are fleeing bombed out neighborhoods, perhaps where they end up will feel like a step up, or at least good enough to mute the regret. 

But this would only work if the world at large does a better job at supporting refugees, planning resettlement, creating economic opportunities for migrants, including them in the host's political process, facilitating some assimilation, etc.  The last thing we need is 50-year refugee camps like we have among the Palestinians. Just imagine 100 Gazas all over the Middle East.

I was imagining a peace process along these lines when I heard a BBC report about Eastern Ukraine last night.  In that case, you can't "split the difference, cut the rebelling zones in half, and declare peace."  My thought was if they split Donetsk and Luhansk in half - east and west.  Anyone in the west side who favors the rebels can move to a town in the east side.  They don't even have to leave their "home" province."  Same thing east to west for loyalists. But "home province" is not the same as "home". That is why I question the viability.

I (we?) live in a culture where people move at the drop of a hat.  When your ancestors have lived in the same town for 400 years, I can only imagine the difference in how it would feel.  The end of Fiddler on the Roof comes to mind.  The sad way that Tevye and his neighbors just accepted being moved out of their town by the Tsar's army and the sad-looking caravan of refugees that this caused.

Ironically, it was a weak parallel of this that led me to move to my studio apartment last year.  I don't want to become attached to "stuff," enabling me to move whenever I want without too much regret.