Walker, Wisconsin Ranger

Scott Walker just became only the third governor ever to face recall and the first to retain his office in the face of one. As voting percentages go, he thrashed his opponent Tom Barrett, whom he also beat in the original election. Massive protests, infantile behavior by legislators, and incessant whining were simply not enough to sway voters to retain what has become an unmanageable and dangerous public union dynamic.

Unions are, in my view, an aberration in economics. Beginning with laws drafted over one hundred years ago, the US has seen the rise of thickly-muscled labor. Unions gain value for themselves by forcing employers to deal with them, not by bringing value to the table. Were that the case, laws requiring employers to deal with unions would be unnecessary. Companies would love to sign a labor contract voluntarily with any organized group that could consistently supply superior employees. As it is, they never get the chance, instead being forced to kowtow to the thug with the biggest muscles.

Such laws in the private sector are bad enough, but union tactics in the public sector lend new meaning to thuggery. Let’s think it through. A company has an incentive to push back against union demands because it has to pay for any concessions. A union will always demand above-market wages and benefits, otherwise it would be superfluous. A company wants to pay as little as employees will accept. At least this process retains some elements of the free market. At some point, it is simply not profitable to pay what is demanded, which means that the union can push only as far as economic reality allows. The employer is limited in the same way. It can only drop wages and benefits so low if it wants to even have employees.

Public sector union bargaining is one group (unions) negotiating with a group that wants the same thing (politicians). Both want more money from you and me. Unions support politicians, whom they then lobby to tax people more, so that they can…re-elect those same people. At one time, the whole concept of public sector unions was anathema in American politics–for the reason just stated.

Walker’s victory is a lethal blow to the premise that there is something right and good about public employees and legislators conspiring to juice the taxpayer. No sane person can fail to see where this leads. Actually, where it has already led–an utterly unsustainable set of state budgets teetering on the edge of insolvency.

Whither now? Well, Ranger Scott has shown us that white hats are still in style. If he has the grace of a fictional cowboy hero, he will find ways to mend fences while making it clear that trespassing ain’t a-gonna be allowed ’round here no more. Go git ’em, Scott. We’ll back ya.

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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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