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The Reagan Diaries:

Vanity Fair has some interesting excerpts from Ronald Reagan's diary that he kept throughout his eight years as president. There is some fascinating material, such as Reagan's early (December 1981) recognition that the Solidarity uprising against communism was a crucial opportunity for the West: "We can't let this revolution against Communism fail without our offering a hand. We may never have an opportunity like this one in our lifetime." Even earlier, he noted that Solidarity was "the first break in the Red Dike." So it indeed proved to be.

But the funniest part is Reagan's 1984 description of liberal Republican Senator Lowell Weicker as "a pompous, no good, fathead."

UPDATE: It is worth noting that Reagan did indeed follow through on his desire to "offer a hand" to Solidarity by providing Polish dissidents with extensive covert assistance, some of it coordinated with efforts by Pope John Paul II.

Randy R. (mail):
"We can't let this revolution against Communism fail without our offering a hand."

And, of course, Reagan failed to offer any hand. Ironically, it was the liberal unions in America that provided crucial aid to Solidarity in their time of need, providing them not only with funds, but practical things like typewriters, paper, paperclips, and so on, which helped them keep it alive. The Pope also provided much needed morale boosting after the Soviet Union crushed Solidarity and installed the puppet Jarulelski. What did Reagan provide?

Was the CIA doing anything to help Solidarity? I don't know -- perhaps someone can illuminate that one.
5.16.2007 2:05am
Randy R. (mail):
I should say it was ironic because Reagan hated the unions and did what he could to bust them up. (See Patco). Yet they did more to sustain Solidarity than anything Reagan did.
5.16.2007 2:06am
Ilya Somin:
Actually, Reagan provided extensive covert assistance to Solidarity. See, e.g., here. Some of these efforts were coordinated with the Pope.

There is also no inconsistency between opposing special rights for unions in a free market economy (Reagan never sought to abolish unions in the private sector, but only to roll back legal privileges they enjoyed above and beyond those allowed to other private organizations) and supporting unions in a communist state where the government was the only employer.
5.16.2007 2:13am
Steve:
It's worth remembering that one of the major Western contributors to Solidarity and other resistance organizations in Eastern Europe and the USSR was none other than George Soros. He reportedly gave $3 million a year from 1979 onwards.

Of course, since he now gives to Democrats, he's Satan, but when the chips were down he was on the right side of the major conflict of our time.
5.16.2007 2:21am
Perseus (mail):
It would be quite odd for a man who "hated" unions to serve 7 terms as president of the Screen Actors Guild.

I concede that Reagan did hate it when PATCO declared an illegal strike.
5.16.2007 3:07am
A. Zarkov (mail):
"I should say it was ironic because Reagan hated the unions and did what he could to bust them up. (See Patco). Yet they did more to sustain Solidarity than anything Reagan did."

Ronald Reagan was president of a union, the Screen Actors Guild. He was first elected in 1941 and subsequently re-elected by the membership for 7 one-year terms. How can you say he hated unions? Did he hate the union he headed?

As for Patco, the air traffic controllers had signed an agreement not to strike as a condition of their employment. As far as I know, all federal civil service employees must sign such an agreement. I know I had to when I worked for the feds. Moreover a court had issued an injunction ordering the union members back to work, and they defied the order. By your standards Truman was much worse because he threatened to end a rail strike by drafting the workers into the army.
5.16.2007 4:27am
rarango (mail):
Ronald Reagan was much smarter than Tip ONeil gave him credit for: Most clearly not an "amiable dunce." Tip O'Neil will be remembered for the saying all politics is local, and little else except, perhaps, in the Boston pubs. History will regard Reagan as one of the top tier Presidents, I believe.

Re Patco, they were foolish and gave Reagan an opportunity to establish a reputation for decisiveness: Why? they were NOT as as they thought they were because there was a cadre of on-hand, and trained military air traffic controllers. Had not the military had the capacity to replace them with no break in service, Patco could have carried it off.
5.16.2007 7:33am
rarango (mail):
oops--insert "irreplaceable" after NOT as above. Sorry
5.16.2007 9:29am
Dennis Nolan (mail):
Randy, Reagan didn't hate unions or try to destroy them. He fired the PATCO strikers only after they violated federal law and their own oaths by striking, and only after they refused his demand that they return to work within 48 hours. Like it or not, the law bars federal employees from striking and the courts upheld the terminations as lawful. You may also have forgotten that Reagan is the only president who had previously served as a union president --- the Screen Actors Guild. He supported law-abiding unions and acted only against one lawbreaking union.
5.16.2007 10:00am
Felix Sulla (mail):

History will regard Reagan as one of the top tier Presidents, I believe.
This remains for history to decide. Particularly since Reagan is still viewed in pretty much all public discourse more like a screen upon which the right and the left project their favored heroic or villianous character as opposed to a real person, historical pronouncements are automatically suspect.
5.16.2007 10:21am
Bretzky (mail):
As much as I admire Ronald Reagan's achievements as president (I would chisel Jefferson off Mount Rushmore and put Ronnie up there), this actually isn't all that surprising.

Reagan readily admitted that battling communism would be one of the two central goals of his presidency. It's not unusual for a man who was looking for opportunities to fight communism to see an opportunity in the Solidarity movement.

What would have been far more prescient would have been if he saw the inherent dangers of funding the mujahideen of Afghanistan in the way that we were doing so. Allowing a radical Islamist Pakistani government to funnel American money and arms into Afghanistan was going to be trouble. Of course, Reagan may have accepted this as the cost of doing business to fight communism, I don't know.

BTW, I would also replace TR on Mt. Rusmore with FDR. We'll leave Washington and Lincoln up there.
5.16.2007 10:27am
keypusher (mail):
Best quote: Getting shot hurts.
5.16.2007 10:29am
Eric Muller (www):
"Reagan's 1984 description of liberal Republican Senator Lowell Weicker as 'a pompous, no good, fathead.'"

Projection.
5.16.2007 10:43am
dk35 (mail):
Well, now I feel justified. Weicker was the only Republican I have ever voted for (against theocrat Lieberman back in 88 for Senate). I've always felt a bit guilty voting for a Republican, but knowing Reagan didn't like him somehow makes me feel better.

And for the life of me, I will never understand the narrative that Reagan had any kind of significant role in the fall of communism in Russia and Eastern Europe. Even as a child, visiting Czechoslovakia semi-frequently in the 70s and 80s, it was obvious that the place was in a state of decay. The whole setup crumbled on its own accord.
5.16.2007 10:46am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
There is also no inconsistency between opposing special rights for unions in a free market economy (Reagan never sought to abolish unions in the private sector, but only to roll back legal privileges they enjoyed above and beyond those allowed to other private organizations)

Well then I'm sure you object to all the legal privileges enjoyed to the private organizations called corporations.
5.16.2007 10:49am
rarango (mail):
Felix Sulla, please note I inserted my personal caveat. I make absolutely NO claims to know how history will treat presidents. I have lived long enough to see Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower's reputations change tremendously as the march of time unfolds. Truman in the 1950s and 1960s was regarded by many as a boob; Eisenhower has a vacationing duffer who spent more time on the golf course than the white house.

Why do I do believe Reagan will be regarded as a top tier president? His rhetoric, policy and actions challenged and ultimately bested the Soviet Union ending the cold war.

Time will tell; and I do agree that history will tell, although I note that many commenters on the left seem to know precisely how the President's mid east strategy will unfold. I claim no such prescience--if I was that smart I would be in the futures market.
5.16.2007 10:51am
JosephSlater (mail):
Ditto what J.F. Thomas said about "special privileges." Also, those folks who actually followed federal labor policy under Reagan know that, despite his past in SAG, he was quite anti-union, and that history went far beyond PATCO. Check out his appointments to the NLRB, and the law made by them.
5.16.2007 10:54am
Montie (mail):
Say what you will about Reagan firing the air traffic controllers. However, I would contrast our current situation with that in several other countries. In some countries, unions will shut down the country when the democratically elected government attempts to implement needed reform.

I personally get a bit antsy when a minority of special interest group has more power than a democratically elected government.
5.16.2007 11:07am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Montie. That's because you prefer the democratically elected government to a minority special interest group. See, it's easier to get power in a strategically-placed special interest group than to win elections.
The left knows this.
5.16.2007 11:15am
Randy R. (mail):
I stand corrected on Reagan's covert assistance to Solidarity. If true, then that was very good of him, and I'm sure that helped them weather the storms. However, as noted, he certainly wasn't the only one who assisted them.

As for the unions, it's really laughable that anyone would argue that he was in any way pro-union. He and Maragaret Thatcher had an obvious plan to break the backs of the unions, and Patco was the opening salvo. True, it was an illegal strike, and they foolishly gave him the weapon to destroy them. But it sent an important signal to corporate America that the US gov't will no longer protect unions, but will do what they can to limit them. Reagan appointed many judges, especially at the NRLB who were anti-union.

Whether this is good for the economy is another story. Whether this is good for the American worker is another story still. And whether corporations should enjoy their protections is a whole 'nother ball of wax.

Incidently, I knew some people in the airline industry in the 80s, and they had some scary stories about the inexperience of the air traffic controllers who replaced the Patco employees. That we didn't have major crashes is a true miracle. Men were rushed through training, they accepted just about anyone who came through the door, they had terribly long hours without breaks becasuse of the shortages, and so on.

But Reagan was willing to play with the safety of the airline industry to make his point. Some experts said it took over ten years to recover from that incident. Finally, many pilots will still not refer to National Airport by it's proper name, Reagan National, because of the bitterness they feel.
5.16.2007 11:22am
Randy R. (mail):
Montie: "I personally get a bit antsy when a minority of special interest group has more power than a democratically elected government."

And the power of corporations, which are another special interest group that often has more power than a democratically elected gov't, doesn't get you antsy?

And if you don't think they have quite a power in Washington, well, I would be aghast.
5.16.2007 11:24am
JosephSlater (mail):
If we want to do international comparisons, in every other western democracy, public employees (like those in PATCO) have a legal right to strike. But again, the point about Reagan's policies toward unions is that PATCO wasn't the main things his critics point to. It was the whole course of federal labor policy, notably the direction of the NLRB.

Now, I assume a number of folks on this conservative/libertarian blog agree with Reagan on the merits of all those anti-union policies. I'm not here to try to convince anybody otherwise on that. I'm just saying (i) he *was* anti-union, generally speaking; and (ii) therefore, Randy R.'s intial point that Reagan's ostensible support of the Solidarity union was in fact somewhat ironic.

And Ilya, what makes you think that Solidarity wasn't in favor of whatever "special privileges" for itself that you object to for U.S. unions? Most unions (and workers in them) want rights to bargain collectively, for example.
5.16.2007 11:25am
liberty (mail) (www):
It is actually perfectly consistent. Keeping unions separate from government is the Reagan - the free market - ideal. This is true whether in a given case it means keeping them separate from communist government (and helping fight against the communist government which wants to nationalize them, for example) or keeping them separate from a more free system (by ending special anti-market privileges afforded by government).
5.16.2007 11:26am
JosephSlater (mail):
Liberty:

I'll ask you the same question I asked Ilya. When you say "anti-market privileges afforded by government," I assume you mean stuff like the right to form unions and collectively bargain without fear of being fired for excersing those rights. While I disagree with you about whether that is "anti-market," the point here is: what makes you think Solidarity wasn't asking for those rights?
5.16.2007 11:33am
JosephSlater (mail):
Ugh, "exercising," not "excersing."
5.16.2007 11:34am
dll111:

It would be quite odd for a man who "hated" unions to serve 7 terms as president of the Screen Actors Guild.

I concede that Reagan did hate it when PATCO declared an illegal strike.


And do you think it's odd too that people who hate government are often the ones that seek to be in it? That, for instance, John Bolten hated the UN while he was the US ambassador to it?
5.16.2007 11:41am
dll111:
sorry, "John Bolton"
5.16.2007 11:43am
Lonely Capitalist (mail):
the right to form unions and collectively bargain without fear of being fired for excersing those rights.

Why should unions have more rights that employers? If workers want to unionize, fine. If companies want to fire them for it, fine. Why can't we just have a free market? Unions are just parasites getting rich off the workers like the bosses. The differnce is the bosses provide something useful to society. Unions just siphon off profits for their own benefit.

Any government beenfits to unions are just thuggery to steal profits. Like the mob. If you don't have the power in a free market, giving you the power through force of the police state is immoral.
5.16.2007 12:02pm
Felix Sulla (mail):
rarango: You definitely understood most of my point, and I take your expansion on it as fair. I was also making the point that his beatification by the right and his at least partial demonization by the left makes most discussion of him at this time either tiresome or else fantastically lopsided. I dislike cults of personality of either left or right wing figures, both because of the often (but not always, see the Soviets) unintentional evil they work, and because they end up distorting the truth of the figure even in the long term. Things are suppressed or altered in the course of the apotheosis of the figure which make it difficult even for remote history to judge the figure accurately. Which is all a very long way of saying that too many people want to either put him up on a pedestal or else tear him off of it, and in the end we all probably lose any sight of who or what he really was.

By the by, getting back to the diaries, I would be interested to know if Reagan ever actually contemplated that these would be released for public consumption (and therefore wrote them with an eye to such). I find that very likely, since his stated goal was to help himself remember things which he might forget down the road. In other words, even if not intended for publication per se, they were Reagan's attempt to "write the history" as he would have it written.
5.16.2007 12:09pm
Paul Karl Lukacs (mail) (www):
When I read the diary entries, I heard them in Reagan's voice.
5.16.2007 12:38pm
Bretzky (mail):
Felix Sulla:


I would be interested to know if Reagan ever actually contemplated that these would be released for public consumption (and therefore wrote them with an eye to such). I find that very likely, since his stated goal was to help himself remember things which he might forget down the road. In other words, even if not intended for publication per se, they were Reagan's attempt to "write the history" as he would have it written.


I think it goes without saying that any prominent figure who keeps a journal, diary, etc., knows that it is going to be made available to the public at some time. That's undoubtedly the reason why Jefferson burned most of his correspondence with his wife and daughter before he died. It's also why I am reluctant to trust first-person accounts of important events without multiple views to balance it against or without some way to gain independent verification.

To quote House, "People lie."
5.16.2007 12:40pm
rarango (mail):
Felix, to your larger pointabout the apeothsis and corresponding demonization I would say "Well said" and an excellent observation.

Somehow I suspect that a public figure of that stature fully understands his every word will become a matter of public record. Human nature being what it is, I would suspect they reflect things as much as he would have liked them to be rather than how they were. :)
5.16.2007 12:42pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Lonely Capitalist:

You're missing the point. You and I could debate all day why the U.S. (and every other industrialized democracy) has provided workers with the legal right to organize unions and bargain collectively without being fired for doing so. And I'll guess we wouldn't convince each other as to whether it was a good idea.

But that wasn't my point. My point was simply that Reagan really was (like you) generally anti-union. And that this fit oddly with his support for the Solidarity union -- since (I'm assuming until somebody shows me otherwise) the Solidarity union wanted the same sorts of rights people like you object to U.S. unions having.
5.16.2007 12:43pm
liberty (mail) (www):
"what makes you think Solidarity wasn't asking for those rights?"

They may have been, but if your goal is to make things *more free* than what Solidarity wanted was certainly *more free* than what existed in that country, so supporting them makes sense.
5.16.2007 12:45pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Liberty:

OK, but why do you think that things folks on your side keep describing as "anti-market" or "special privileges" make things "more free"?
5.16.2007 12:50pm
Felix Sulla (mail):
Bretzky and rarango: I agree wholeheartedly. In fact I go so far as to suggest that almost anyone, historical personage or otherwise, who writes a diary (or for that matter any kind of autobiography or classical apology) does so precisely to get that word in, and will most times take steps to make sure it does not survive if this is not the case. The very publication of the diary is the best evidence that it was meant to see the light of day. Which is not to say they lie throughout, or even pervasively. But you have to be aware that the probability that the occasional telling lie or omission is in there. (Even Dr. House usually needs to listen to things the patient says at some point before the end of the show. ;-)
5.16.2007 12:55pm
Randy R. (mail):
Lonely Capitalist: I'm sure you were just as upset about the Chrysler bail out in the 80s, and the bailout of the savings and loan industry in the late 80s. No doubt you are upset about the huge agricultural subsidies that are showered upon large conglomerates. Let's not even talk about the sugar companies!

To paraphrase: Why can't we just have a free market? At least some corporations are just parasites getting rich off the workers.

I couldn't agree more....

Regarding Felix's remarks: I also agree. Saint Ronald actually did things that were not conservative (he agreed to raise taxes when the deficit ballooned). But he did a lot of good things, too. However, all this whitewashing of his intentions and actions (he loved unions, or he really wanted to stop AIDS before it got out of hand) doesn't serve him or history very well.
5.16.2007 12:59pm
AJW:
rarango: Tip O'Neill didn't call Reagan an "amiable dunce." Clark Clifford did.
5.16.2007 1:00pm
Felix Sulla (mail):
Randy R.: Not that it's precisely on point, but anytime someone starts talking about how unions (or whatever) are getting rich by stealing profits, I think (amongst other things) of this cartoon:

http://www.angryflower.com/atlass.gif

;-)
5.16.2007 1:07pm
Montie (mail):

And the power of corporations, which are another special interest group that often has more power than a democratically elected gov't, doesn't get you antsy?

And if you don't think they have quite a power in Washington, well, I would be aghast.


Let's be clear. There is a distinction between the following:

1) Special interest groups such as unions and corporations working within the political process.

2) Special interest groups such as unions (or any other group) using methods such as strikes (or other methods) to achieve ends that they could not achieve within the political process.

Under Communism, Solidarity had no ability to work within the political process to achieve their ends. In the U.S. and other democracies, unions (especially public service unions) have great deal of power within the political process.

Therein lies my concern with unions in Europe. Even though they are able to get great deal of what they want from the government through the political process, they are all too willing to go outside the political process when they want more.
5.16.2007 1:17pm
liberty (mail) (www):

OK, but why do you think that things folks on your side keep describing as "anti-market" or "special privileges" make things "more free"?


umm.. because it is. Things that restrain what you do make you less free. This is true whether you are restrained in your speech or your ability to hire and fire or your ability to pay a certain wage to your employees, or your ability to practice your religion or your ability to work where you want or purchase things that you want, etc.

Any agreement between consenting adults - whether it is a contract to hire or a choice to have sex - that is restricted by government is a reduction in our freedom.
5.16.2007 1:41pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
When I read the diary entries, I heard them in Reagan's voice.

They have medication to fix that.
5.16.2007 1:41pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Any agreement between consenting adults - whether it is a contract to hire or a choice to have sex - that is restricted by government is a reduction in our freedom.

Sure, so long as you stipulate that "freedom" is not an absolute good. (And what about selling oneself into slavery?)
5.16.2007 1:43pm
liberty (mail) (www):

Lonely Capitalist: I'm sure you were just as upset about the Chrysler bail out in the 80s, and the bailout of the savings and loan industry in the late 80s. No doubt you are upset about the huge agricultural subsidies that are showered upon large conglomerates. Let's not even talk about the sugar companies!


I don't know about that lonely capitalist but I certainly am upset about it!! Anyone who cares about the free market is just as much against corporate bail outs and subsidies as they are about government granted power to unions.
5.16.2007 1:44pm
Lonely Capitalist (mail):
Yes of course bailouts are bad.

Sure, so long as you stipulate that "freedom" is not an absolute good. (And what about selling oneself into slavery?)

The problem is, who decides what is good. Of course the perect government would be one with me as absolute ruler, but that being not possible what is the best system to decide what is right?

Most systems are arbitrary. You can have a range from keeping women covered in sacks like the Muslims to letting them walking around naked like in Europe. In America we limit it to bikinis.

I vote for absulute freedom. If some idiot wants to sell himself into slavery, it's probably better for him and for us.
5.16.2007 2:18pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Liberty:

Respectfully, I don't think you understood my last post. I wasn't trying to argue with you about whether laws like the NLRA giving workers and their unions various rights makes a country more or less free. We obviously disagree about that and we obviously aren't going to convince each other.

My point was that for anti-union folks like you and, more to the point, Reagan, it's odd to extol the virtues of unions in one society but not in another.
5.16.2007 2:59pm
rarango (mail):
AJW: I stand corrected; thanks. Clark Clifford will be forgotten even faster than Tip O'Neil.
5.16.2007 3:11pm
liberty (mail) (www):

My point was that for anti-union folks like you and, more to the point, Reagan, it's odd to extol the virtues of unions in one society but not in another.


Why? In one society the union might be a group of folk coming together voluntarily in order to fight against a government monopoly and demand rights from the government, while in the other it might a group which has government backing and which is supressing other private (non-government entities).

Just because they are both labeled as unions doesn't make them anything alike - neither in power nor role.
5.16.2007 3:21pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Liberty:

I think we're at least on the same page about what we're debating now.

So you're OK with unions vs. government employers, but not unions vs. private employers?
5.16.2007 3:29pm
Alan Aipperspach (mail):
Randy R. says "Incidently, I knew some people in the airline industry in the 80s, and they had some scary stories about the inexperience of the air traffic controllers who replaced the Patco employees. That we didn't have major crashes is a true miracle. Men were rushed through training, they accepted just about anyone who came through the door, they had terribly long hours without breaks becasuse of the shortages, and so on."
My father was an air traffic controller supervisor who retired just before the strike and was asked to return for the duration of the strike. He told me that before the strike many of the controllers were telling him that they knew striking was illegal, but that the government would never fire them. He told them they were wrong, but they ignored him and went on strike anyway. He told me that he had several Airforce enlisted controllers work for him during the strike and that they were very capable and impressed him greatly. Being retired Army myself, I have no trouble believing him. There was much more than "luck" involved with why there were no crashes during the strike!
5.16.2007 3:37pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Although I've suggested that Reagan's attitude toward unions should be evaluated by far more than just the PATCO incident, I'll say two more things about PATCO in response to Alan A.'s post. First, it wasn't necessarily clear that the PATCO workers would be fired. The law allowed that, but arguably didn't require it. Strikes by public sector workers in the U.S. are often illegal, but often don't result in the employees being fired. The PATCO workers took a big risk and lost, but it wasn't crazy to imagine a scenario in which they struck but weren't fired. Let me stress here, I am not endorsing the PATCO strike.

Secondly, the air traffic controllers eventually formed another union, which exists today. And unionized air traffic controllers in the past decade or so have done an excellent job, most notably on 9/11.
5.16.2007 3:45pm
David Drake (mail):
As a Republican, I am way more upset about the Chrysler bailout (a sore point rubbed in by yesterday's WSJ article on the acquisition of Chrysler) than I am about the U.S. labor laws. I am opposed to business and agricultural subsidies, tariffs, tax "loopholes, etc." I believe that only the executives of the affected businesses and politicians like these things.

Unions have done a lot of good in this country. They may have outlived their usefulness, and a unionized government work force is NOT a good idea (e.g. PATCO) but
they have (or at least had) a big place in the private sector. The alternative in the 30s was something way worse than unions.

As pointed out in some of the first posts, the AFL was an important opponent of communism as well as fascism and a big and early backer of Solidarity.

As for the S &L fiasco, that really wasn't a bailout as much as a forced takeover caused by Congress's and the Federal Home Loan Bank Board and FSLIC regulatory "reforms" in the early 1980s permitting, inter alia S &Ls in the early 1980s to pay market rates of interest and to hold assets other than home mortgages. These laws and regulations led directly to the failures of so many S &Ls, beginning in 1984. The S &L crisis was "made in Washington" and it was appropriate, IMO, for the taxpayers, rather than the savers, to bear the burden of it. Anyway, how many S &L's do you see around today?
5.16.2007 4:28pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
Richard Aubrey: That's because you prefer the democratically elected government to a minority special interest group. See, it's easier to get power in a strategically-placed special interest group than to win elections.

Was this a belated memorial for Jerry Falwell?
5.16.2007 4:38pm
liberty (mail) (www):

So you're OK with unions vs. government employers, but not unions vs. private employers?


I'm ok with unions versus anyone, what i'm not ok with is special regulations granting special rights to unions or preventing private entities from exercising their own rights.
5.16.2007 4:40pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Liberty:

Except one man's "special regulations granting special rights" is another man's "what every industrial democracy has decided should be a legal right" and/or isn't that different from the "special rights" that corporations or other entities get.

Anyway, I think we understand each other, and I'm beginning to feel a bit guilty for making this thread so much about unions. So I'll just add my appreciation for David Drake's balanced post (although we don't agree on unions of government employees, apparently).
5.16.2007 4:48pm
Randy R. (mail):
" Anyway, how many S &L's do you see around today?" Not many.

How many S&L Presidents and Officers were penalized at all? Not many.

How many gov't officials responsible for oversight were punished? Not many.

Regarding unions, I was a union steward for AFGE, Local 12 for many years, which covered the US Dept of Labor. The irony is that Labor has some of the worst labor relations in the federal gov't! Our union was needed -- I can't tell you how many people were demoted, not given a promotion or outright fired for objectionable reasons. I won't go into details here, and yes, I know, some people DO deserve to be fired or not promoted. But the problem was a bloated middle management sector that had little to do except mess with people's work. Woe to anyone who actually was smarter than their boss (which wasn't difficult!) Often, the union was the only thing protecting their jobs.

And no, we didn't have the right to strike or slow down production. And with the NLRB and federal judges mostly anti-union, we couldn't look to the courts for fair treatment either.

This matters littlee to the average taxpayer, I understand. But what you SHOULD be up in arms about is the bloated middle management bureaucracy, whereby people are promoted into it not because they are qualified, but because someone higher up wants a grade increase. (The more managers you have under you, the greater your pay). And they want sychophants, not real workers.

I could go on and on. But the public employee unions are not the problem. It's the management.
5.16.2007 4:49pm
Perseus (mail):
And do you think it's odd too that people who hate government are often the ones that seek to be in it? That, for instance, John Bolten hated the UN while he was the US ambassador to it?

No, I don't think that it would be odd to seek appointment to an office in an organization that one would rather see abolished in order to minimize the damage caused by the organization. But it would indeed be odd for someone like Reagan to have the members elect him SAG president six times if he really "hated" his union (unless the star of "Bedtime for Bonzo" was such a great actor that he could fool his fellow actors that easily). Similarly, Bolten probably would not have become a UN ambassador had it been up to the other members of the UN to decide.
5.16.2007 4:51pm
Randy R. (mail):
I should also point out that George Will has applauded unions for raising the standard of living of America's worker bees, and that helped to create the big middle class that spends money on things, which in turn helps create more of a middle class.
5.16.2007 4:51pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Randy R. says "Incidently, I knew some people in the airline industry in the 80s, and they had some scary stories about the inexperience of the air traffic controllers who replaced the Patco employees. That we didn't have major crashes is a true miracle. Men were rushed through training, they accepted just about anyone who came through the door, they had terribly long hours without breaks becasuse of the shortages, and so on."
I see. So when confronted with the fact that there were no bad consequences, rather than thinking that a politician you dislike made a good decision, you'll cite hearsay arguments by interested parties as a reason to attribute the lack of bad consequences to a "miracle."
5.16.2007 4:55pm
liberty (mail) (www):

Except one man's "special regulations granting special rights" is another man's "what every industrial democracy has decided should be a legal right" and/or isn't that different from the "special rights" that corporations or other entities get.


But taking away rights is taking away rights no matter how you slice it. It isn't OK to take away the natural right to hire and fire in your own business as you see fit, simply because unions demand a "right" to use government strong arm to prevent firms from firing union employees (rather than using their bargaining power! Isn't the whole point of uniting to create that baragaining power!)

And I am against such "rights" that businesses want too. Businesses have no right to use government to avoid laws that we all must face, they have no right to subsidies, etc.
5.16.2007 5:04pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Liberty:

Again, I don't think this thread should devolve into a debate about whether the NLRA should have been passed. So I'll just say again that your alleged "natural right" [to fire because of union affiliation] has been rejected by every industrial democracy. In contrast, human rights organizations routinely consider the right to form unions and bargain collectively (without being fired for so doing) to be a fundamental human right. And the countries that deny such rights are invariably nasty dictatorships of the far left or far right.
5.16.2007 5:19pm
Lonely Capitalist (mail):
that your alleged "natural right" [to fire because of union affiliation] has been rejected by every industrial democracy.

Just because a natural right has been taken away by 51% of the people in most democracies does not negate its rightness. The problem with democracies is that majorities can trample minorities when it is to their profit. Natural rights transcend democratic thuggery.
5.16.2007 6:03pm
liberty (mail) (www):
You are right that this is off topic. I must say though that it is bizarre to think that one could have a right to "not be fired" rather than a right to make choices freely, like to hire and fire. Which seems more like a natural freedom: a) to be able to set up a stand to sell clothing and hire and fire your friends freely to help you or b) to form a group with your friends and then have government step in and tell one of your other friends that he can't in fact fire you because you and the other friends are a protected group because you organized?

Yes, its your right to organize- it is a natural right as much as to start your company. But, no, its not a right that government protect you from getting fired. If everyone at the firm joins the union, the owner will have to lose ALL his employees if he fires people for joining the union -- thats the point of unionizing - power in numbers. When unions are protected by these laws, they just morph into monsters that take down companies left and right (like the airlines and the auto industry) and it hurts everyone-- but regardless of the economic consequence, the rights question is much more fundamental.

I have a right to hire my friends and fire them, for any reason.

I have a right to collude with my friends, either in agreeing on what conditions we will demand of our employer or on what price we will sell our product at.

I have a right to innovate and compete and take down the companies that are currently successful -- without worrying that my innovations will be considered anti-competitive.

That is my take.
5.16.2007 6:04pm
Randy R. (mail):
David: "So when confronted with the fact that there were no bad consequences, rather than thinking that a politician you dislike made a good decision, you'll cite hearsay arguments by interested parties as a reason to attribute the lack of bad consequences to a "miracle."

That's a strange argument. So we can ignore safety laws and as long as no disaster occurs, then what's the problem? I'm just very surprised that anyone would defend the decision to put people's lives in jeopardy. That no disaster occured is a good thing, of course, and I'm not wishing that a disaster would happen. But the fact is that there are often the badly named 'near-misses' (they should be near-hits).

The people I knew were NOT air traffic controllers who were fired -- they were pilots and flight attendents, who rightly *should* be concerned with airline safety.
5.16.2007 7:10pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Liberty and Lonely Capitalist:

We're not getting anywhere. Feel free to think that the labor laws of all modern industrialized nations are "bizzare," but don't think it's just 51% of the people that support them.
5.16.2007 7:52pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Oops, "bizarre," not "bizzare."
5.16.2007 7:53pm
mariner (mail):
Those of you who claim Reagan did little or nothing to help Solidarity might be interested in what Lech Walesa wrote after Reagan died.

Or not (which is really what I suspect).
5.16.2007 9:55pm
Truth Seeker:
Feel free to think that the labor laws of all modern industrialized nations are "bizzare," but don't think it's just 51% of the people that support them.

Well, yeah, in some countries maybe 90% of the people are getting more than they deserve because they voted to take it away from someone else and give it to themselves. Being a majority does not make theft moral.
5.16.2007 11:38pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
I've never been impressed by the argument that we should do something because all other countries (or industrialized countries, or civilized countries) do it. As I wrote five years ago, if we followed the world consensus, we'd have gun control, a national airline (ugh!), a national railroad (for freight as well as passengers), a nation police force (we're only half-way there), a federal cabinet with Secretaries of Sports, Tourism, and Culture, and a lot of other things we don't need. Unfortunately, the comments to my post were lost in a software change, so I can't list the other examples of American exceptionalism my commenters provided.
5.17.2007 1:04am
JosephSlater (mail):
Dr. Weevil:

The fact that other countries have certain laws is not dispositive that such laws are good. But I was reacting to the claim that basic labor laws are "bizarre." Granted, I mispelled that word the first time, but I still think it undercuts the claim that a legal rule is "bizarre" or violates some obvious "natural right" if every single modern industrial democracy has adopted it, through democratic means, especially where such rules continue to be -- with the exception of a handful of cranky libertarians in the U.S. -- largely uncontroversial.

Truth Seeker:

In democracies, legal policies about employment supported by 90%+ of the people become law, whether you think they are "moral" or not. If it makes you feel better, there are some laws that have been enacted that I think are immoral, but that's democracy for you.
5.17.2007 11:09am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Ship erect.
Ref Falwell. Among others. Although, to be fair, his movement was designed to get people to vote a certain way. In other words, to participate in the political process. Liberal Protestant churches had been doing so for at least a decade--that I saw myself, possibly longer--by the time Falwell got traction.

But the more precise issue is unions striking to influence the political process from outside the political process. IOW, you can shut down, say, deliveries of fresh produce to Paris and get a quick government cave without a single legislative movement.
5.17.2007 1:23pm
JosephSlater (mail):
OK, if other people want to play re unions, I'll play too.

Richard A.:

Capital/businesses can still "influence the political process from outside the political process" as well, by threatening to move their businesses to different cities, states, or countries, thus getting quick government "caves" on tax breaks, "business-friendly environment" issues, etc. And in recent decades, I can think of a lot more examples of that sort of thing in the U.S. than of union protests getting quick government caves, even in Europe. Also, for unions to be successful with this sort of thing, they have to have a decent amount of popular support, which isn't true in the business/capital strike context.
5.17.2007 2:42pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Slater. I wasn't into union vs. business. I was pointing out, generously, I thought, that the bullcrap inclusion of every well-bred person's bete noir--Falwell--as a knee jerk snark was not on point. Wrong, incorrect, and stupid. Generous once. Not twice.

As to the corporations threatening to leave...I guess the city council would be the ones lowering the taxes, so perhaps that is a legislative issue. As opposed to some bureaucrat caving on hours or wages in order to get the brie flowing again.
5.17.2007 2:54pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Richard A.:

I haven't said anything about Falwell, so I'll leave that issue to you and whomever else wants to talk about him.

You did, however, mention unions, which I was discussing. Your most recent post indicates that we agree that both businesses and unions can, in some situations, successfully put pressure on politicians, and it's probably best to leave it at that.
5.17.2007 6:25pm