But Now You Know

The search for truth in human action

Government Workers Who Strike, Violate the Public Trust

Anyone who is granted a monopoly on an essential public service, then tries to hold it hostage for money, is betraying the whole of society

People who complain that government unions colluding with government officials for extravagant pay are “bargaining with themselves” are missing the whole point about collective bargaining:

When the government says something you need is so important that it claims a monopoly over providing it, then that government has an obligation to deliver that thing as promised, as long as you keep up your end, like paying your taxes. It can’t let its bureaucrats withhold what you need, for their own gain.

Bribery is Corruption

If the drone at the driver’s license bureau refuses to help you unless you slip him a fiver, or the mailman “can’t guarantee everything will arrive safely”, unless you “tip” him, we all recognize that as bribery, intolerable in a government official. They are entrusted with what we consider “public good”, and must deliver on it, because it’s considered essential, and has been made into a government monopoly. Withholding that trusted thing in demand for personal gain is intolerable corruption.

It’s OK to have to tip your waitress for better service, but not your fireman.

And we, for most of history, recognized in America how important this distinction is, unlike the rest of the world. We weren’t, say, India:

In India, if you want your driver’s license, you automatically bribe the bureaucrat who is supposed to give it to you. Same if you want electricity, or health care. In fact, you have to bribe hundreds of government officials per year, in order to simply function normally. You need to already have enough money to pay off public thugs, in order to be allowed to prosper. This is part of why hundreds of millions of poor have remained trapped in a caste system, while most of the world has outgrown theirs.

It’s not that regular people shouldn’t be able to trade money for service, it’s that government officials must never withhold service in order to get money.

Democrats against Collective Bargaining

This is why, for so many years when the rabidly pro-union Democrats dominated the Federal and state governments, government employees and civil servants were banned, by those Democrats, from collective bargaining and strikes. Even Franklin D. Roosevelt agreed that a union is a monopoly, over both the workers and employer, that strikes withhold services from legitimately customers, arbitrarily, in order to extort more money out of them — and when the customers are taxpayers, and the services essential, everyone recognized that this is wrong:

The process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service…A strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government.

—  Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Federation of Federal Employees against Strikes in Federal Service

If someone wants the right to refuse you services, your right to take your tax money and pay for a private alternative must be protected

It wasn’t until 1959 that, for the first time ever, a state government in the US — Wisconsin — allowed its bureaucrats to form monopoly unions that could cut off taxpayers from their paid-up, legitimate services. Unfortunately, other states began to follow suit. Soon, as we might fear, government employees began to threaten to withhold services from us, even though we’d paid our taxes, unless they got special money and favors.

In order to not be bankrupted immediately, the government officials who had caused this mess by allowing the unions were forced to impose taxes on the taxpayers’ grandchildren, by promising to pay extravagant retirement benefits to the monopolists later, when the extortionists retired.  This is, of course, taxation without representation; the main people who’d be super-taxed to pay for the bribes in twenty to forty years were often not yet born, much less of voting age.

Those public sector bureaucrats held the people of Wisconsin hostage, for their own gain, and the payoff was insanely cushy, gold-lined pensions.

Well, now the ransom is coming due.

Protecting Americans from Extortion

Appropriately, the first to reach this crisis was the state that started the problem, Wisconsin. And, for once, they did the right thing:

Scott Walker reversed the previous trend and restored the taxpayer’s right to not be extorted by government bureaucrats.

Anyone who doubts that this is a good thing needs to look to Britain, where civil “servants” recently tried to extort money from the taxpayers, by cutting off essential services. They bragged about their goal of holding up travelers and bankrupting parents by forcing them to stay home with kids while the schools shut down. They admit that they’re already being paid far more than the private sector, and are striking simply because they’re being asked to pay a few percentage points of their fat pensions.

Tens of thousands of emergency calls were ignored, except for those deemed “life threatening”, and thousands of surgeries were postponed, leaving people to suffer longer. Millions were trapped in their homes by lack of bus and rail service. Over ten thousand schools were shut down, putting millions of parents in a bind, however happy it made their kids.

All because the government employees entrusted with providing these services, violated the public trust.

We don’t need that kind of ganster-like corruption, here in the US.

Of course we could also have a discussion about how this proves the government can’t be trusted to meddle in health care, mass transit, and education…but at the very least, when it usurps those vital needs, it must then provide them, no matter what.

This is why “collective bargaining” can’t be tolerated, when public good is at stake.


December 5, 2011 - Posted by | Economy, International, Philosophy, Politics | , , , , , , ,


  1. Terrific article! This is the type of information that are supposed to be shared
    across the net. Shame on the seek engines for not positioning this
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    . Thanks =)

    Comment by Jan | February 20, 2013 | Reply

  2. Thanks,

    Great commentary!

    Got you linked here http://normanhooben.blogspot.com/2012/04/unionsare-they-help-or-hindrance.html

    Comment by whobeen | April 8, 2012 | Reply

  3. Got you linked here http://normanhooben.blogspot.com/2012/04/unionsare-they-help-or-hindrance.html

    Thanks …great commentary!

    Comment by whobeen | April 8, 2012 | Reply

  4. i must say i have now opened my ear and mind to collective bargaining, thanks great write up

    Comment by spurge62 | December 9, 2011 | Reply

  5. Your article appears to be informed and offers an interesting perspective, one which I will have to give some thought.

    However, while the comparison isn’t exact, it seems to me that the ethical schema adopted by this article would leave one to conclude also that wealthy business men and women have an obligation not to hold the government and the citizenship it serves “hostage” by threatening to cease creating jobs if new taxes are imposed or old tax breaks lifted. Would this not fit the mafia metaphor just as aptly?

    At the end of the day, we are talking about how to distribute limited resources. Can we really judge one group advocating for greater resources (or simply to retain those they have enjoyed previously) at the expense of others over another group who would do the same. Surely it is not correct to refuse to provide essential services you have been contracted to perform and compensated for providing. It is also not correct to refuse to provide for essential services when you have the ability to pay and are a major beneficiary of them.

    Yours Truly,
    Comrade Bingo

    Comment by Richard Little | December 8, 2011 | Reply

    • The businessman is not gaining his living through coercion, nor is he forcing anyone to buy his stuff. The government is. The businessman therefore, unlike the government, has no special obligation to live up to its coercive, monopoly status.

      The coercive state monopoly on public education does almost universally fail to teach that important point: The difference between good and bad is whether there is coercion. The initiation of coercion changes everything. Without that differentiation, you end up with the confusion over whether you can coerce businessmen like government, or give government free rein like businessmen.

      Oh, and let’s note that not even the government should be trying to “create jobs”. That is like noting that a healthy, fit man’s heartbeat is slower than a fat, sick man’s heartbeat, and therefore going around giving people drugs to slow their hearts. Job creation must always be a natural symptom of a healthy economy. Makework jobs kill the economy the same way drugging fat, infected people to slow their hearts would kill human beings.

      The problem with government using its coercive power to distribute resources is exactly that it’s never capable of doing so efficiently, much less fairly. We need, therefore, to work at giving it as few to distribute as possible, not simply accepting that it will carry out injustices (like extorting money by withholding resources) as a natural part of the process.

      Comment by kazvorpal | December 9, 2011 | Reply

  6. it dependent on the level of funding a state having
    in a low unemployement state //GOVT officials can
    use the powerfull 24 / 7 republican media machine
    where turning a large majority against the minority
    the saving of $ /giving the impression of good govt
    in a election on horizon it brings forth political spin
    the worst of political corruption / cunning as deceit.

    In main the higher one rises up the political ladder
    as into govt the more corrupt it becoming. / Where
    normal times govt employed workers / & politicians
    work hand in glove / where in reality the public but
    seen as sheep to be fleeced / cut to the very bone.

    In periods of very high unemployment /govt having
    to keep its govt employees sweet / yet not showing
    they being favoured /// in over generous treatment.

    Periods of extreme high unemployment as present
    such normal bond betwixt govt as govt employeees
    then tested unto its limit. Govt employees but need
    face the reality of the situation (thus work with govt
    as they will in coming to their senses.HOWEVER at
    first there be clashes /till reality of present situation
    takes root. Demands but made reasonable / taking
    common sense into account / faced with dire times.

    Comment by william wallace | December 7, 2011 | Reply

  7. Bravo!! Unfortunately, the distinction you speak of now falls on too many deaf ears. Call it bribery, call it corruption, call it extortion, call it crony capitalism, call it whatever we want…. we’ve been indoctrinated to it for so, long half the country doesn’t recognize it as a failing of our society.

    Back around 1955, the general notion that unions promote better wages/conditions for the working man convoluted into better wages/conditions over the other working man. Again, a distinction that makes all the difference in the world.

    Comment by markmcinturf | December 6, 2011 | Reply

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