Monday, May 22, 2006

Conservatives are slow learners

Richard Viguerie, a genuine pillar of the conservative ascendancy in the latter third of the 20th century, has it almost exactly right in his Washington Post column Saturday. My only quibble is that Viguerie ignores an issue, the importance of which he knows all too well: the distortive effects of Big Labor's coercive power. Why I bring it up I will address in a moment.

Sadly, conservatives are just beginning to awaken to a reality that was right before their eyes all along: just how unconservative George W. Bush is. As Viguerie points out, conservatives believed Bush was their guy, in 1999, because they wanted to believe it. They believed it despite little positive evidence to support this hope, and specific evidence, then, to contradict the "conservatism" of George W. Bush.

Well, Mr. Viguerie makes the case excellently, so I won't repeat it all here.

So why do make an issue of Mr. Viguerie's neglect of the compulsory unionism issue? Because he knows well -- he has said it himself often enough, and has first-hand experience -- that the power of the Left rests squarely and securely on the coercive power and privilege granted to union bosses by federal law. The principal coercive privilege is, of course, the power to confiscate union dues from millions of unwilling working Americans: that both gives a rather secure source of funding, as well as very effective leverage over those same "constituents."

Virtually everything that conservatives care about runs aground, or is torpedoed, politically, thanks to the political muscle of Big Labor, which is still substantial (and people who have written the epitaph of Big Labor political muscle are either self-serving or simply too ill-informed to be taken seriously). I could list the issues for you, but there is no need. Name the issue that conservatives have advocated; then, list the politicians who have blocked it. You will hunt long and hard for names on that list who are not also enthusiastic water-carriers for Organized Labor's top echelon.

Alas, too many on the right are either too pusillanimous or too dense to realize the integral connection between compulsory unionism and the frustration of the conservative political agenda. When my friends on the right think that the principal culprits are "Hollywood," the media, trial lawyers, Bill Clinton, or judges, I want to yank out my hair. It would be like General Eisenhower, before the Normandy landing, saying to the troops: "men, the thing that will endanger you are the bullets being fired at you; your goal is to stop the bullets -- focus on the bullets; that's the key thing: the bullets."

Well, yes, of course -- the bullets are deadly, and you need to deal with them if you can. But you do that by going after where the bullets are coming from -- both the fellows just up the beach, or on the bluffs, and the machinery of the Nazi state, military and industrial, that held it all together.

But too many on the right have mistakenly believed they could somehow advance their agenda against the Left, without ever addressing the foundation of the Left's political power. Please note how successful they've been!

So, now, six years later, people are finally discovering what has been "hidden in plain sight": President George W. Bush is not very conservative.


Tracy said...

Amen! Amen! I say to you Amen! When I said all of this (in a little more "layperson" lingo) 2 years ago during the preseidential campaign, I was SLAMMED by "conservatives" who don't look at anything but if the person attends church. "But he knows GOD," they would say. Yeah, and so does the devil! Sigh...preach it Father! Maybe someday ppl will really figure out who the enemy IS, and why their agendas are not being met. Why do we think that if someone claims to be Christian, then everything else can be overlooked?!

God Bless,

Fr Martin Fox said...

Field Marshall:

It seems you believe personal liberty is illusory.

I infer that from your response to my screed against compulsory* unionism, insofar as you believe that without compulsory organization of working people, we face a return to "child labor" and overpowering corporations, more overwork and less health insurance.

So it appears, from your choice of responses, that we cannot escape this dreary fate, other than through compulsory union affiliation.

It also appears, from your point about union membership percentages, that you can't see any future for union recruiting without compulsory power. That is either an indictment of what the union offers, or of the working people themselves, or both.

Do you even believe in the people's fundamental ability to govern themselves in a representative way? Because, you seem to have little faith that the American people will support public policy against the evils you lament, unless unions have compulsory power. I could be wrong, but I'm guessing you think the essential means for unions to make the gains you credit them with was not politics, but bargaining and related pressure. Therefore, if they lose their bargaining clout, that's the whole ballgame.

Thus I ask, do you even believe in the people's ability to govern themselves? If workers cannot be trusted with personal freedom vis-a-vis union affiliation and labor matters, why not extend that principle to society at large?

*somehow, many of my pro-union critics have a strange affliction that makes them incapable of seeing, or comprehending the meaning of, the term compulsory -- because they respond to my comments as though the word had not been appended.

I invite anyone to cite anywhere I have not focused my criticism on Organized Labor's use of coercion -- i.e., although I would not join a union, as is my right, I do not inveigh against their existence, or the right of working people to affiliate with them voluntarily.

On unions, I agree with Church teaching: workers are responsible, as individuals, for deciding whether to organize and bargain collectively; they should elect to affiliate only where the union's practices and pursuits are consistent with Christian belief and fundamental rights; and their right to organize should be respected by society and law. But it remains the choice of the working person.

Fr Martin Fox said...

Field Marshall says:

"No one forces you to work anywhere."

Right. After all, what's so awful about being unemployed, not putting food on the table?

"Saying that it's unjust to force someone to join a union as a condition of employment is like saying it's unjust to force someone to take a drug test*: it stinks if you don't want to do it, but your only decision is whether or not you want to work there."

Yes, except you conveniently omit the key point: the involvement of federal law in favoring union power. Federal law backs and enforces the "union yes" condition of employment, but prohibits a "union no" condition of employment.

That's what this discussion is about: the privileges granted by federal law -- which you are defending.

If the government should give unions the power to deny individuals work if they don't belong to a union (your position), why shouldn't that extend to their religion (i.e., other than you not liking the idea)? They can always convert; why shouldn't that extend to how they vote? If the union can control your access to employment, why stop there?

(And please don't insult our intelligence by saying unions neither can nor want to control access to all jobs. They certainly want to control access to as many jobs as they can, and you are actively defending laws that would assure that, in principle. Or, do you think the government should decide that some jobs and industries shall be unionized, while others shall not be?)

"The right to have a union shop is something that was won by the people working there. Won by their collective free will."

Sometimes, sometimes not; but who cares? Freedom means limiting what even majorities can do.

Why don't you just admit that you think the individual is better off part of the collective, even if he doesn't agree?

The obvious fact that you won't admit, but which your entire argument essentially concedes, is that in order for a union to have leverage on a employer, it has to control the workers.

As Labor Secretary under Clinton, Robert Reich, said candidly (in a 1985 Associated Press report):

"In order to maintain themselves, unions have got to have some ability to strap their members to the mast."

Sorry, I am for freedom -- and I don't mean subsumed into a collective, because that's what's good for me.

Fr Martin Fox said...

glorybe: I voted for Paroutka too, and Howard Phillips in 2000, and I can't remember who in 1992 and 1996; one of those years I voted Libertarian.

But then, I learned long ago I'm out of step with popular tastes. Whenever I find a product in the store I really like, I expect it not to last, and I'm usually right.

So with my political views. I don't publish everything I think about politics here, let me tell you! Only my more socially acceptable notions. My non-political friends will laugh, with just a little nervousness, when I unload on government schools or certain highly revered past presidents, and I smile and quote Ayn Rand's parting words from Atlas Shrugged: "And I mean it!"

Darwin said...

Field Marshall,

"Sometimes" might also mean that often those elections are cooked. For instance, a couple decades ago the community college where my father worked was voting on whether or not to become a union shop for all staff positions.
The college administration was pushing hard for the union to win, because that effectively meant outsourcing the HR dispute resolution without making the college look like the bad guy. (So if they needed to reduce force, they could work out a deal with the union leadership and de facto have it declared "The best we could do for the workers.") An opinion poll a couple weeks before the vote showed the staff leaning against becoming a shop by around 60/40. (Around 30% of the staff were already voluntary members of the union.) On voting day, my dad showed up to vote as was asked if he was a union member or non member. Members got pink ballots. Non-members got blue ballots. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the union shop vote won by a margin along the lines of 75/20.

Of course, it's easy to win when you've already color coded the ballots so you know which ones to count...

Everyone was then given three options: join the union, don't join the union but pay the dues anyway, get fired.

That may be the way democracy worked in the USSR, but it doesn't sound American to me...

Fr Martin Fox said...


Yes, that is exactly what I meant by "sometimes." I hadn't heard of the color-coded ballots, that's new and clever.

The other way they are "cooked" is simply by not having an election. Rather, union officials solicit signatures on cards; the cards are submitted to the employer, who if the cards represent a majority, and if persuaded (hmm, wonder how a union official might do that?), can dispense with an election and the union wins!

But here's the rub: the union solicits those signatures, and once the worker turns one in, they won't give it back if he changes his mind.

It's no secret the union organizers use misleading claims to get those signatures, such as: "just sign so there's an election," which is partly true; omitted is that that was the worker's vote! And who makes sure no one simply forged signatures?

The bizarro thing about this system is that if a worker does not identify with the union (gasp! how dare he!), do you know who the law presumes will be his advocate? The employer!

Yes, I strongly support Right to Work!

Yes, sometimes that works to the advantage of employers, that can't be helped; just as the First Amendment works to the advantage of kooks, as well as sensible folks who agree with me (grin).

But the fact remains, Right to Work enables the working person to be a free agent, if he chooses, or to affiliate with the union if he chooses.

Fr Martin Fox said...

"Right-to-work neuters unions to the point of worthlessness."

Just to be clear: you, an advocate of unions, are saying that unions to be effective, require coercion. They can't work without it.

You are making that point--just to be clear.

Fr Martin Fox said...

Field Marshall:

"And this is because we both know what happens when it's not a union shop -- management rewards and promotes scabs and passes over "troublemakers" who organize. That's why the right to have a union shop is such an important victory; if the bosses played fair (and they're under no obligation to do it because the workers can and will use every advantage they can get, too) it wouldn't matter.

Which side on you on, father? Which side are you on?"

Your response is revealing; when a worker who says "union no" faces unemployment, you shrug your shoulders; but when an employee says "union yes," and faces the same unemployment (both will get hungry as fast), you cry "outrage!"

So we see whose side you're on: not the worker, but the union.

Your contemptuous dehumanization of workers who don't share your enthusiasm for the union is manifest by what you call them: "scab." That says it all.

Who's side am I on: on the side of human dignity, which does not depend on whether you belong to a union.

I am on the side of Church teaching, which is NOT that workers ought to be in unions, but that they ought to be free to, and that they ought to make that decision based on Christian values.

That is Church teaching.

The Church does not endorse "union yes" over "union no." The Church does not tell workers they ought to join, or ought to vote for a union, and she certainly does not tell workers they ought to coerce other workers into it.

I'm on the side of individual freedom and conscience, which you subsume in the collective -- because you believe they can't make it otherwise. They have no leverage; they can't beat the employer.

Now, that's your belief, and you're entitled to it, but it is not supported by reality.

Your view is remarkably demeaning to workers; they are expendable, exchangeable and disposable; an employer can rearrange them like furniture, and replace them as easily as a light bulb.

Not only is that remarkably anti-worker, it has little connection to how things are for most working people in this country. It's fantasy.

As you ought to know, Pope Leo in Rerum Novarum put the onus on individual workers to refrain from affiliating with a union if it failed to measure up to sound Christian values.

Leo's injunction to workers can only be understood as incumbent on their individual moral-decision-making -- not a collective decision. Please feel free to cite any other instance where the Church says that it's okay to participate in immoral behavior, so long as "majority rules."

And, to think that Leo would command workers to refrain from union participation if circumstances warranted, and then endorse their being fired for obeying him . . . well, feel free to defend that one if you wish.

So I'm on Leo's side, the Church's side, and that is the individual worker's side. The collective may not coerce the personal conscience, not deny the individual his right to work. That is your view; it is not the Church's view.

Fr Martin Fox said...

Field Marshall:

I note you haven't quoted anything from Rerum Novarum (or any other church document) that contradicts my assertion that RN, and Church teaching generally on this issue, presupposes the individual worker can -- and must -- exercise a personal, individual choice, sometimes against the union, if the union runs afoul of Christian principles.

I note you did not quote anything from Rerum Novarum -- or any church document -- that contradicts my assertion that the Church does not consider it acceptable that a worker be fired for exercising that decision as I just described.

However, feel free to quote, here, any passage from Rerum Novarum or any other papal document that proves me wrong.

Deacon David Oatney said...

I'm sure the Field Marshall could give us all a grand lesson in "liberation theology." You won't find him quoting RN to support his tripe because it doesn't.

Anonymous said...

Thus I ask, do you even believe in the people's ability to govern themselves?

No, quite frankly I don't. Here's why:

1992 Bill Clinton, an admitted pot-smoking, draft-dodger is elected over Bob Dole, a decorated war-hero.

1996 The country, having just been through four years of the most corrupt presidential administration in the history of the Republic, re-elects the man. (And this only two years after the Republican Revolution of 1994!)

2000 Having endured eight years of the most corrupt, abuse of power in the history of the U.S., the country elects a faux-conservative, George W. Bush.

2004 - George W. Bush, an even more corrupt administration that the previous low of Clinton, is re-elected.

With all due respect, Father, why should I believe in the people's ability to govern themselves after the past 14 years? Because I don't anymore.

I'm through with the shell-game a politics. I don't regret my votes for Pat Buchanan and Alan Keyes, but I sure do all of the other so-called "conservative Republicans" before them. No more. After 26 years even I finally understand -- politics is BS.

Terry said...

Pretty good article related to the debate at hand.

For the record, I didn't vote for Bush, I voted against Kerry. However, I won't make a similar mistake in the future. I'm pretty much in camp with fbc.