Wisconsin In Flames! (Kind Of)

Wisconsin never struck me as rebellious.  You just don’t picture that state getting worked up over anything but their reputation for cheese.  Sure, it’s unfair, but tell me you didn’t think the same thing.

Now the Wisconsin State Capitol is flooded with 30,000 (100,000 by some accounts) hacked off state employees.  I feel for them as individuals.  Many entered their fields as dedicated professionals, not union thugs.  They were led to believe they could earn above-market wages and benefits forever.  They were told the state would take care of them.  The state lied.  The unions lied.  Many good people swallowed the whole scam hook, line, and sinker.  Now they will pay, protests notwithstanding.

Unions work by force.  Bad enough that private employers are coerced into negotiating with unions.  The relationship between employer and employee, like any other economic transaction, should be voluntary in all respects.  If unions offer something of value to an employer (say superior skills in its members) and the employer agrees to an exclusive arrangement, so be it.  They are each then bound by any contract signed off by both parties.  If not, no dice.

As it stands, public unions not only enjoy the advantage of this type of coercion, they do not have to address the issue of whether their demands make sense to the bottom line.  Even though private unions operate coercively and at an unfair advantage, they know that pushing too far will result in their employer going broke. It is in their self-interest to be somewhat reasonable.

Not so with public sector employees.  Taxpayers are on the hook for whatever they demand, bottom line be damned. Legislators kowtow to the unions because the unions help get them elected, taxpayers be damned.  Union members expect taxpayers to quietly acquiesce.  Now the tables are turning and citizens are saying no.  About time.

Where from here?  We all want security, no matter what.  We all want medical care, no matter what.  We all want everything the state promised us, no matter what.

We can’t have it.

It’s time to grow up, America.  This is not a real choice, just an apparent one.  Public sector unions, private unions, and big-government advocates can face the music or wait until the concert hall collapses.  I frankly don’t expect them to go home and learn economics or consider what will happen when their state really does go broke.  Look for more of what Wisconsin Democrats did today.  They left the state to deny the legislature a quorum.  With legislators acting like spoiled brats, what can we expect from everyone else?

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About Terry Noel

I am an Associate Professor of Management and Quantitative Methods at Illinois State University. My specialty is entrepreneurship.
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