Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts. Founded by Mark Kleiman (1951-2019)
Don’t Like Public Employee Unions? Here’s the Best Way to Rein Them In
Want to control public sector unions? Fine: increase the power of private sector unions.
ThisÂ has really got to beÂ chutzpah for the ages.Â Robert Barro develops rational expectations economics, which fails to predict anything and helps to create a globalÂ financial crisis.Â Then, ignoring his own role in the matter, he says that it will have the “positive consequence” of undermining public employee unions, who did absolutelyÂ nothing to cause the crisis.Â The inability to feel shame has long been an asset in politics; now, apparently, it is an asset among Chicago-school economists as well.
In any event, if you really concerned that public employee unions will demand too much of the public fisc — a fear that in light of, say, Texas’ fiscal troubles, seems overdone at best — then there may be a better way to do it: increase the power of unions.Â Yes, you heard that right.
Suppose that teachers’ unions resist reform and thereby help degrade the quality of childrens’ education, a not-unreasonable scenario.Â The problem is often that parents are unorganized and cannot compete.Â But were they organized into unions, it is the members of those unions who would be in a position to complain and sit on recalcitrant teachers’ organizations.Â “Hey, buddy, those are my members’ kids that you are screwing here.”Â
Is this scenario realistic?Â I don’t know.Â MyÂ understanding is that it works something like this in Germany, although my knowledge is very much out of date on the question. Â It would depend here upon the creation of the sorts of peak institutions that have gone out of fashion in American political economy since the 1970’s.Â Even then, it’s possible that labor leaders would simply be focused on their own parochial issues and oblivious to larger ones.Â But this is far from necessarily true: with all of their flaws, public sector unions have fought for a lot of progressive legislation that does not necessarily affect their bottom line.Â The ACA was a good example.
At the very least, it’s certainly just as realistic as the confident assertions of right-wing pundits that public sector unions are busting budgets (which they are not) or get their members gold-plated salaries and benefits (which they do not).Â By the standards of current political discourse, we might as well consider it proved.
Author: Jonathan Zasloff
Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees.
Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses.
Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.
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