History is written by the winners.
Or so it used to be. Now it seems that history is written by whomever wants to lay claim to it. The past few years have seen the Right become apoplectic over the “Mosque At Ground Zero”™ (which was neither at Ground Zero nor solely a mosque) and decry Obama for bowing to Muslim leaders or, *gasp*, even being a Sekrit Moslem himself. Now, the Right has decided that labor unions are evil and should be dismantled.
And yet they waive the Reagan flag whenever they can. Sarah Palin was announcing this month that Americans need to reconnect with Reagan’s values. And even Scott Walker, the Wisconsin Governor who is trying to ban public employees from collective bargaining invoked Reagan in his defense.
Are these people too stupid to read?
Reagan was President of the Screen Actors Guild for 7-1/2 years. He wasn’t just a union member. He wasn’t just a union president. He was president of the most liberal bunch of people in the country short of the UC Berkeley Faculty. Now, it should also be noted that he was not the most moral of fellows as he was one of the classless folks that volunteered to name names in front of the House UnAmerican Activities Committee. So that should keep Pamela Geller happy and able to forgive the fact that Reagan believed in and supported unions. And it wasn’t just that he supported them while he was in Hollywood. This is Reagan as President describing labor organizing as a natural right:
(That popping sound you hear is the heads of people trying to figure out how to twist that statement into proof that he really was against unions.)
“Ok, but Reagan at least was on ‘our’ side about Muslims, right?” asks the Wing Nut.
Alas no, he wasn’t. He secretly sold US weapons to the Mullah’s in Iran after all.
“Yeah, but that was to fight the Communists. Nobody said he liked or trusted Muslims,” responds the Wing Nut.
Well, you’re kind of off base there too my unread friend. After all, when Reagan went to Geneva in 1986 where did he stay? At the home of the Aga Khan – a Muslim Imam and direct descendent of Muhammad – who loaned it to him as a favor for the trip. Why? Because they were friends.
History is so much more complex than simpletons want it to be.
If you’re interested in reading more about Reagan I strongly recommend John Patrick Diggins tremendous biography Ronald Reagan. Jack Diggins was a titan of American Intellectual history and, up until his passing two years ago, was my mother’s companion for 15 years.
The City of Newark announced today that they are going to have to lay off 167 police officers effective next Tuesday because of the misaligned incentives of union leaders and their membership. This is another case study in why the modern union is a dysfunctional beast. Let’s look at the winners and losers in this situation to understand why:
Who loses in this situation?
The citizens of the City of Newark lose because there will be fewer officers on their streets.
The officers who are losing their jobs lose because they won’t have jobs going into the holidays and the new year.
The officers who remain on the job are losing because with fewer fellow officers their workload will expand. The crime rate will go up and there will be fewer officers to cover an increasingly difficult situation.
So the citizens, the laid off officers, and the remaining officers all lose – So who wins?
The union leaders win and here’s why.
The city of Newark offered a complex, but reasonable set of compromises (read: pay cuts) that would be spread around the police force as a whole. Mayor Booker asked for the leadership to put the proposal to a vote of the members. The leadership of the Newark Fraternal Order of Police refused to let their membership vote on the proposal and save the jobs of their fellow officers. Why?
Well it’s rather simple: The leadership wants to keep their jobs safe, not the people they represent, and thus their incentives are not aligned with the union’s membership. When faced with the choice between some pain for everyone or extreme pain for a few, the leadership will always choose the latter. From the leadership’s perspective they have no incentive to keep officers employed. Once fired, an officer will soon fall out of the union (payment of dues will be prohibitive and he or she will likely move on), and once out of the union that fired officer won’t vote against the leadership that sacrificed them because they won’t have a vote. If the leadership refuses compromise but loses membership, they can say to the remaining members “I saved your job, I saved your benefits, I saved your wage,” whereas if they agree to broad compromises in the interest of the city, the department, and their members, they run the risk of members being disgruntled at the compromise and voting them out of their jobs.
The Newark Fraternal Order of Police leadership failed their membership today and everyone, except those leaders, will lose.