The Battle of Wisconsin

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The Battle of Wisconsin

by Walter Block

Recently by Walter Block: Public Sector Unions in Wisconsin

I. Introduction

Previously, I wrote this article about the brou-ha-ha concerning public sector unions in Wisconsin. The viewpoint I articulated then was that not one but both of these institutions, the public sector unions and the government of Wisconsin, were illegitimate, according the libertarian non-aggression principle (NAP). I have had literally dozens of letters mostly in support of my thesis, but quite a few, also, criticizing me. I would like to share a selection of each of these types of reactions with you (I only include the polite ones in the latter category, since I believe in the importance of civil discourse), along with my responses to them.

Why do I do this? Why don't I, instead, respond, only, to each individual letter writer? If I reacted to each letter, separately, then all such authors would see, only, my reaction to their one letter. I'd prefer to keep this public, so that our entire community can listen in on this dialogue. I do this for several reasons. One, were Murray Rothbard alive today, it is my expectation that he would have conducted matters in this manner. He wanted to build a movement, a cadre, and I can think of no better way to do that than by going public in this manner. I want to practice inclusiveness: by keeping all interested parties abreast of the thinking of people in our intellectual community. I can do no better than to emulate my mentor Murray in this regard. Second, each of the commentators on my previous analysis would likely be interested in the thoughts of the others, and my reactions to all of them.

I oppose all of organized labor, since it violates the NAP. Unions need not do so. Instead, they could limit themselves to a mass quit, which would be entirely compatible with the libertarian philosophy. But none of them keep a tight rein on themselves in any such manner. They either themselves beat up those who compete with them for jobs, or they hide behind labor legislation that compels employers to deal with them, "fairly," when the firms wish to have nothing to do with them at all. Businesses are prohibited from hiring "scabs" instead. Public sector unionism has one additional flaw over and above their private sector counterparts. The supposed justification for labor organizations that plague private concerns was that the capitalist was greedy, and would thus exploit the workers. The state had to step in to right this power imbalance. But the government, surely, at least in this left wing perspective, was the "good guy." How, then, justify striking against it? In this sixth grade civics course understanding of the economic world, the state is like the referee in sports. But no one hits a home run off the umpire for goodness sakes.

As a free market anarchist libertarian or an anarcho-capitalist, I of course oppose the state, and for the very same reason. It, too, engages in NAP violations. In fact, in the view of Rothbard (in For a New Liberty, p. 49): "if you wish to know how libertarians regard the State and any of its acts, simply think of the State as a criminal band, and all of the libertarian attitudes will logically fall into place." Yes, indeedy do. So, libertarians must oppose both sides in this Wisconsin labor dispute.

When I first heard of the labor struggle in Wisconsin, it was clear that the left supported the unions, and the right was on the side of Governor Scott Walker. I admit it; I confess; mea culpa: my first thought was that we libertarians must engage in product differentiation. If the Democrats are on one side, and the Republicans on the other, then both of them must be wrong, and, there must be a third side, the libertarian side. Of course, I don't make a fetish of this. There are indeed some issues on which we libertarians support the conservatives (don't ask, there must be some), and other were we take up with the liberals (don't ask, there must be some). But, here, in the Wisconsin labor case, happily for product differentiation, the libertarian may indeed disagree with both, and set off on our own path. Namely, opposition to both sides.

Why, then, in my previous writing did I come out in favor of organized labor? This was purely strategic. I wanted each of them to weaken the other. But my empirical judgment was that the Wisconsin government as stronger than the unions arrayed against it. My thought was that if the latter could somehow be strengthened relatively to the former, the battle would continue longer, to the detriment of both of these evil institutions.

With this introduction, I now list, and respond to, II. Positive reactions to my previous publication on this subject, and then III. negative reactions to my previous publication on this subject. With but a few exceptions, all of these rejoinders will be listed anonymously. I have very slightly copy-edited many of them for ease of exposition. Those listed with an "A" are letters on this topic; my reactions are denoted as "B."

II. Positive reactions

1A. "Barack, you are Mr. Union (in several unfortunate senses). So let's unionize all the deadliest parts of the US government: the Army, the CIA, the NSA, the Drone Corps, the FBI, and all the rest. We, and the world, need your killer ops gummed up." This one is from Lew Rockwell.

1B. I wish I had the wit or wisdom of Lew Rockwell. This is a magnificent extrapolation of my analysis. Yes, unions are the quintessential gummer-upper of modern society par excellence. Should we, as libertarians, not wish that the government of Wisconsin be gummed up? To ask this is to answer it. And what of the (in some cases) mass murdering elements of the Federal government? To not go along with this would be, in the words of Murray Rothbard, "monstrous." On the other hand, what about unionized "gumming up" public libraries, post offices, schools, streets, welfare offices, the Fed, parks, museums? This is a ticklish question. I would vote yes for virtually all of these. But, we have to watch out for the bureaucratic trick of shutting down the bathrooms, and only the bathrooms, when any cut is made to their budgets.

2A. "For what it is worth, as a Rockwell reader, I agree with you. I hope both sides lose. They both stink."

2B. Yes, indeed, both are bad guys. A pox on both their houses.

3A. "Gridlock is good!"

3B. Ceteris paribus, other things equal, yes, certainly, let's all get into the gridlock column. However, as I stated above, this is a complicated issue. We wouldn't want, say, someone to shut down the highways, the bridges, etc., so that innocent people could no longer get around, unless, of course, this was a necessary step in the direction of freedom. On this issue, I think, the Catholic Just War theory has a lot of wisdom to contribute.

4A. "Thanks for the article on the public unions and their respective state governments. As always you are good for a fresh take on things. It does sort of remind me of America taking sides in WWII. When Hitler and Stalin are killing each other, why pick sides? Just let them have at it."

4B. And, if one were slightly stronger than the other, and there were a button we could push to strengthen the weaker one so that long may battle reign to the more complete destruction of both, then, yes, we should push that button. But not because we favor the weaker of these two; because we want both to hurt the other. That is because both are vile.

5A. "Great piece! Tweeted to 2300+. You understand tactics and I fear many of your detractors do not. As I guy who has been small all his life I thoroughly understand how great it is when two bullies are fighting each other! When fighting each other they are leaving me alone, and with any luck may take one another out. Keep kicking butt and taking names for Liberty! Yours In Truth and Liberty!"

5B. Thanks for your support. I, too, was bullied when I was a kid. I grew up Jewish in a mainly Catholic neighborhood. I'll say no more about that. Maybe, in order to see this point clearly, you have to have been victimized by bullies? Nah.

6A. "I too have considered the Wisconsin fight nothing more than a squabble over plunder, but your article has made me think about it a little more. If the government wins its employee unions will simply rebuild when and if another ‘boom’ phase occurs. If the unions win then the institution of the state government of Wisconsin could be severely damaged. This will further expose the farce that voting has become. The politicians were elected to do something about the cost of government employees. If they fail more people will have the illusion broken. As the battle goes on and on it becomes clearer to more people that it’s just a bunch of parasites arguing over the spoils of taxation. But there is one thing that I didn’t see covered. When the institution of government fails, those it employs will be out of work. The government employee unions may lose even if they win."

6B. It is ever so with parasites. When they kill the host, they, too, die.

7A. "I just finished reading your column on Lew Rockwell re Wisconsin vs. Public Labor Unions. I am only an observer, living up in Ontario, Canada, but you have swayed me from being in favor of the state action to having a neutral position on the affair. If the state gets its way, what's in it for the common man (taxpayer)? Just because the government finds a way to squeeze the public unions does that mean they will return tax dollars back to taxpayers? Will they repeal laws in order to increase individual freedom?  Or will they start spending tax funds wisely? I think not. The state will continue to abuse the common man any way it can (as always). The problem with supporting the Wisconsin government in this kerfuffle is that it is only looking to exempt itself from the consequences of the plethora of rules and regulations that private individuals will still be bound to, regarding labor unions. After all, governments created the problem in the first place by creating laws that put union interests ahead of individual (private) interests. The state has now reaped some of the unintended consequences of their legislation and wants to change the rules, but only to benefit the state."

7B. I fully share your suspicions about the government acting in a freedom-oriented manner.

III. Negative reactions

1A. "It’s refreshing to see someone so committed to honesty you don’t hesitate to air your dirty laundry so to speak (criticisms). No one else seemed to address this aspect, so I thought I’d give it a shot and I sincerely hope you don’t feel I’m piling on. Here’s where I differ from your position: I’m not so sure the unions are the underdog and Scott Walker is the one in control. 99/100 out of times, these politicians kowtow to the unions, knowing that if they don’t the unions (and the media) will launch such an ugly offensive against them that they will be lucky not to be considered child molesters when all is said and done. Most Democrats get elected due to union support, both with donations and votes. This is one of those rare moments when a politician is opposing the unions, even though this stand will undoubtedly hurt him. I personally think we should be cheering this Scott Walker guy. He’s a dead man walking, but it seems like a courageous David vs. Goliath stand to me, something a Ron or Rand would do if in a similar position."

1B. Possibly, you are right: the unions are actually stronger than the government of the state of Wisconsin. This is an empirical question, not one of principle, my main concern. However, I still persist in my possibly erroneous viewpoint. If Scott Walker called out the Wisconsin state police, it is my expectation that they would obey him, and arrest the union leaders. I seriously doubt he would order them to shoot into the protesters crowd, and, that if he somehow did, they would obey him. So, in that very limited sense, the unions are stronger than the government. But, nevertheless, in any likely physical confrontation between the police and the unionist crowds, my bet is that the former would prevail.

2A. "… since both government and unions rely on force to get their way, I don’t see one as being any less evil than the otheru2014except unions rely on the guns of government, instead of having their own guns, to force employers to deal with them."

2B. Surely, there are gradations of guilt in the use of force. Mass murderers such as Stalin, Hitler, Truman (this last is not a typo) are certainly more guilty than a rapist, or someone who engages in assault and battery, yet both "rely on force to get their way." Of course, neither the government nor the unions of Wisconsin have engaged in murder. But, still, I think the former is guilty of a greater reliance on the use of initiatory violence. The latter does not tax as many people (compulsory union dues are a type of tax); it does not put people in jail for violating drug laws; it does not contribute soldiers from its National Guard who commit war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

3A. "I admire your writing, agree with pretty much everything you say, absolutely loved Defending the Undefendable and Privatization of Roads and Highways, and think you have one of the sharpest minds in the anti-state movement. Yet your take on the Wisconsin situation leaves me uncertain. I have two concerns, related to each other, that still linger after reading your articles.

"First, isn’t the state (though still entirely illegitimate) advocating, in this particular case, a reduction of its own size, through a decreased budget and decreased leverage for one of its parasites? If a gang decides to stop raping people (to only continue to kill, steal, and cripple), and one of its underbosses rises up in protest so as to change the mob policy back to including rape, would we really root for the smaller mob? More pertinently, what if Ron Paul became President and 434 Rand Pauls filled the rest of Congress, and they passed a budget that cut off funding to the military-industrial complex. Now Halliburton and their friends protest outside of Paul’s office, demanding more taxpayer's money. Do we support Halliburton because they are the “underdog,” (and the state is still illegitimate)?

"Second, I think your argument also rests on the premise that a battle between two illegitimate powers will weaken each, and I am hesitant to agree. If the unions, who we are supposed to root for, u2018win,' then they will receive more money and power. The state will grow as a result (doesn’t an increased budget pretty much epitomize the sort of state growth that we ought to oppose?). War, an ultimate example of conflict between illegitimate organizations, does not weaken the state; it is the health of the state. I would expect a more powerful state to emerge from this conflict, especially if the unions u2018win.'"

3B. Thanks for your kind compliments. You offer serious challenges to my thesis, and it is pleasure and an honor to try to defend my views against them. Yes, you are quite right. In this particular case, the state of Wisconsin is on the side of the libertarian angels. But, let us stipulate that it is much worse, overall, than the unions against which it contends. Suppose that the Blood and the Crips are two illegitimate organizations, in that they violate the NAP, but that the former are 10 times bigger than the latter, and 100 times as bad in terms of the severity of their rights violations. However, in this one particular altercation between them, the Blood is relatively in the right, and the Crips are on the wrong side of the issue. I don't see why we can't look at the macro aspects of the situation, instead of looking at the micro ones, as you are inclined to do (I think it best to keep in mind all aspects, though). I think you are looking at one tree, and I am looking at the forest, and I think that at least in this case we get a better and more accurate assessment of the situation from my vantage point than from yours. I simply love your scenario about all those Rand Pauls running around (It is not so outlandish; Ron has been very productive not only in politics, and it is my understanding that others of his libertarian oriented children, and possibly grandchildren, will soon be seeking elective office; dynasty, here we come.) However, I cannot see my way clear to interpreting Walker as a Paulian, even though, as you correctly say, in this one particular instance he may well be the a relative good guy. Thus, I think your analogy fails.

As to your second argument, I really don't want the unions to "win." I tried to make that clear in my initial publication in this vein, but evidently I failed. I only want organized labor in Wisconsin to be stronger, so that it can be a better gummer-upper of the state apparatus. I have a long paper trail on this. My anti-union credentials, if I say so myself, are impeccable. I devote almost 100 pages of this book to bashing unions. I stand second to none in my hatred of organized labor.

4A. "Greetings, I’m a social sciences education major at the University of Milwaukee, not exactly a friendly place for a young libertarian. I greatly respect your work and I think I’m starting to get my head around your recent controversial article about supporting the public employee unions. As far as gridlock goes, I’m all for it. But what about actual liberty increasing actions the State congress and Scott Walker intend to do? I didn’t vote in the recent elections but I was aware that both possible Republican candidates for governor planned on passing concealed carry laws (possibly “constitutional carry”?). Isn’t this gridlock detrimental to gun rights or do we have to make some sacrifice in the bigger scheme in the sense of ‘can’t have it all’"?

4B. If Ron Paul were governor of Wisconsin, I confess, I would have an entirely different take on this situation. Then, as you imply, we libertarians should all line up on the side of the state. I know that Murray is up there, somewhere. I hope and trust his eyesight is still good, and he doesn't interpret this last phrase of mine, "we libertarians should all line up on the side of the state," too critically. Somehow, I feel he'll know exactly where I'm coming from, and that I haven't completely lost my mind, or, horrors!, sold out. Speaking of Murray, he was often condemned, for shame, even by some libertarians, for the alliances he made. Sometimes he did so on the side of the left (Progressive Labor, no less), sometimes on the side of the right (Randians, National Review). Who knows, he might have erred on occasion for all I know. But, cooperating with, or rooting for, people who are not 100% libertarians is always a difficult empirical undertaking. This is not a matter of principle, or praxeology. Yes, if Governor Walker is also a supporter of Second Amendment rights, plus a hater of unions, he goes up another notch or two or three in the libertarian lexicon. But, he is still no Ron Paul. Nor, even, a Rand Paul, in my admittedly imperfect assessment of these sorts of things.

5A. "I’ve been reading the articles in LewRockwell.com by you, Lew Rockwell and Robert Wenzel on the fight in Wisconsin, and I have to say I just don’t get your argument. I really don’t. Of course, both unions and governments are detestable, and it would be great if they both weaken each other in a long drawn out battle. Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s going to happen, and in the end, one or other is going to win. So which is it? Do you secretly want the unions to win, or do you want them to lose? I hope they lose.

"The argument seems to be that whatever the outcome of this fight, there’ll always be the same amount of looting, so any booty that doesn’t go to the union will go to the governor, and his favored group, instead. Since the government is bigger, meaner, more evil, and the union is a thorn in its side, why not root for the union? But I don’t see it that way. If the union were a u2018private' union, outside the government itself, I think that argument might hold water. But it’s not. It’s part of the government. Therefore, it’s one faction of the government against another. And I think the governor is a reformer, kind of in the mold of Ron Paul. Well, not nearly as good as Ron Paul, but at least more like him than many politicians. Of course I don’t naturally sympathize with either Republicans or Democrats, I dislike them all, through and through, but it seems to me this governor is at least trying to reduce the overall amount of looting. Isn’t that better than not?

"Lew Rockwell suggests we should support the unions because they’ll be troublesome employees, they’ll "gum up the works," as he puts it. Well, that’s certainly true for the private sector, where a company can be forced out of business when it has a problematic union on its hands, but not so for the government. To the contrary the government never goes out of business, it just taxes more. Therefore, troublesome government employees, particularly those that get their own way, simply mean more trouble for the honest hard working citizen.

"Unfortunately, though, this isn’t a battle where the union and the government of Wisconsin both weaken each other. In a dragged out, knockout fight to the death, if the union wins, the administration isn’t going to go away. No, all that’s going to go away is the head of that institution, the governor. In reality then, it’s a fight between a union and one man. It’s not small bad union against big bad government. Its big bad government union against small bad governor. And if the union wins, and they get their own guy in there – one who’ll increase the mugging and looting so as to give them whatever they want – doesn’t that make the government – as opposed to the governor – stronger, bigger and more villainous? On the other hand, if the governor wins, at least you get rid of the union. That by itself is a good thing, but doesn’t that actually weaken the government in the long run? So this is the way I see it. If the union wins it means a stronger government union, and bigger government. If the governor wins, the government union ceases to exist, and you get weaker government. Yes, a pox on both their houses, but if I have to root for one over the other, I go for the latter, at least in this particular fight.

"To use the analogy of a Mafia gang: The governor, of course, is the mob boss. But he’s a slightly better mob boss, one who’s saying perhaps we shouldn’t shake down the neighborhood quite as much as we’ve been doing. And now all the wise guys – that’s the union – are raising a stink. Not only would they like to see more thuggery and more stealing, they’d also very much like to whack the guy and install a mob boss who’s more to their liking, one who’ll run a better racket, at least from their point of view. Of course, we, the citizenry, all want to see all the mobsters weakened, so if the fight lasts a good long time, that’s all to the good. But in the end, the Mafia isn’t going to disappear – sorry but it’s not – so you might as well root for the don rather than his wise guys.

5B. "Do (I) secretly want the unions to win, or do (I) want them to lose? I, too, hope the unions lose, but I also hope the government does too. "(T)here’ll always be the same amount of looting." That is a recipe for doing absolutely nothing. What is the evidence for this claim? I think it is demonstrably false. If by looting you mean government taxation and/or expenditure, then it has been rising. Well, what goes up can (possibly) come down. There is nothing inevitable in human action. Moreover, these unions are not at all "part of the government." Rather, they are a parasite on the state, gumming it up, making it less efficient. And, even if it were "one faction of the government against another," as you say, we could still root for one or the other. For example, most libertarians are decentralists: they favor the lower levels of government against the higher ones. In this instance the Wisconsin governor is on the side of the angels in that he opposes unions. But he is far from a Ron Paul libertarian on many other issues. His publicity page lists these "accomplishments" as county executive:

  • Milwaukee County Parks won the prestigious 2009 National Gold Medal for Excellence in the Park and Recreation Management Program
  • Eliminated the waiting list for long-term care for older adults through the Family Care program.
  • Milwaukee County’s Mitchell International Airport received the Transportation Safety Administration’s Partnership Award.
  • Invested over $199 million in renovations and improvements to General Mitchell International Airport

But, why didn't he privatize the Parks? Eliminate not the waiting list, but the Family Care program? Privatize the airport? Ok, ok, maybe he had no power to do any of this. But why now brag about these past failures?

Yes, Walker is "at least trying to reduce the overall amount of looting." That is good, of course. But he is in charge of a very big criminal organization, compared to the union, in my view. I agree, probably, at least in our lifetimes, "the Mafia isn’t going to disappear," but as libertarians our job is to maximize this probability. In my judgment, the best way to do this is to weaken the strongest part of this gang, and that is the government, not the union.

6A. "It is a foregone conclusion we MUST balance our state budget. The money has to come from somewhere. We can’t print fiat fractional reserve notes forever.  If the u2018civil servants' are not required to kick in, then the tax payers must make up the difference. That means increased taxes, at least for those who pay. Not considering the value of many government actions, any reduction in the number of workers, and or their level of compensation should be a positive development for a freedom minded libertarian. Walker is no libertarian. But he is closer to my beliefs and I have to realistically consider this is a battle that has to be fought inch by inch.  He is headed in the correct direction."

6B. Yes, certainly, in his opposition to those public sector unions, the Wisconsin governor is moving down the right path in trying to weaken them. But, they, for their part are equally if not more so doing the Lord's work in effectively gumming up an illicit institution. Why is it that my libertarian critics see the first point so clearly, and balk at the second one, which is also true?

7A. "I read your article with great interest but concluded that a significant argument was overlooked… Not all tapeworms are equal. Some are much harder to dislodge! Both government and unions have monopolistic power, however, with elections, an informed and active electorate has the ability to u2018throw the bums out.' But public sector unions are much more entrenched because they have gamed the system and conspired with the politicians to make up the rules. Union rules that coerce and confiscate dues from wages and require membership for gainful employment are how the tapeworm gets securely attached and becomes difficult to remove. Right to work states combat this via legislation which requires action by those elected to office. So removing the union tapeworm is a two-step process while removing the government tapeworm only requires one step. My Grandpa told me that when he was a boy he had a pot belly and skinny arms. An old timer told him, u2018Boy, you got tapeworms.' Then he gave him some chewing tobacco and told him to swallow just a little. My Grandpa said it made him sick as a dog but it did the job. As libertarians we need to hand out some chewing tobacco to rid our country of these tapeworms to minimize government and maximize individual freedom.

7B. Your Grand dad was a wise man. We do indeed need to get rid of (coercive) union tapeworms. But, if we want to attain liberty, we must also decrease the power of the government, right down to zero, ideally. Just because something can be done in "one step" does not necessarily mean that it is easier to do than something that takes two steps. Direct exchange takes only "one step." But, due to the double coincidence of wants obstacle studied by economists, the two-step process of indirect exchange is actually far more efficient.

8A. "I found your article very interesting, but I believe many are missing the key point of this battle. In my opinion the Governor is correct in pushing to limit the unions' collective bargaining capability to u2018salary only.' It is the u2018other benefits' that are killing the ability to balance the budget this year and in future years. Citizens need to pay for the government services as they use them. This is best done through salary. Negotiate the salary and pay for it out of the current budget. Do not negotiate a u2018lesser' salary and u2018sweeten the pot' with promises that future budgets must bear the burden (for example medical costs or pensions). In my opinion, that is what Gov. Walker is trying to accomplish. If the citizens of Wisconsin want more teachers or to increase the standard of living of the current teachers, they must accept a tax increase or reduce other budgetary items. Do not u2018kick the can' to future budgets for today’s services." 

8B. In the private market, it would be a matter of indifference to pay workers in the form of salary now, or deferred pensions, later. In the political sphere, you are quite correct; politicians sweep generous payouts under the rug in the form of spending that comes later, when a new administration must deal with them. But you and I draw different lessons from these facts. You, pay more now and less later. Me, end this entire vicious system root and brand, as soon as possible. Well, not that quickly. Keep it in power for a while, if it is undermining even more problematic actions of government. If not, then of course draw it to a close, and now.

9A. "I read your article on Public Sector unions and was actually dismayed.  Under libertarian law, one has the right of free association and also to refuse to sell one's labor.  I reject union's violence against u2018scabs' and their use of government to empower themselves at the expense of their competitors. If we had a situation where there was neither pro-union nor anti-union legislation, and a union was successfully able to negotiate a closed shop contract, while I would feel that they are being ultimately self destructive I would also have no grounds to object as a third party to their mutually agreed upon contract. People have a right to hurt themselves.  That is part of the libertarian support of drug relegalization.  It also applies when they make stupid economic decisions."

9B. I am dismayed at your dismay, since I agree with every word you write.

10A. "Your articles on the public employee unions have been engaging.  Thank you for weighing in on the subject. Personally, I come at this from a slightly different perspective. I think it should be made as difficult, annoying, enraging, and insufferable as it can be to be a public employee.  If that means banning bureaucrats from joining unions, so be it.  If it means closing all employee bathrooms on public property, fine.  If it means they are to be required to hang upside down from a tree branch while they do their job, perfect.  Perhaps then the rapacious and unproductive thief sector will finally decide that government work just ain’t worth it. Government employee unions should be broken and broken permanently, and with extreme prejudice. I wish all those Tea Party people would get on the stick and start protesting the government thug rallies in Wisconsin and elsewhere.  These u2018protests' are pure, unmitigated, evil covetousness on display and these people should be fired with no chance of ever getting on the public-sector gravy train ever again."

10B. I'm all with you when it comes to dealing harshly with snakes. But, not when they are biting really bad animals, those of even more danger to decent people.

11A. (This letter was not addressed to me, but I was copied on it) "I like the analogy of two thugs in the park, but the problem is both Scott and the unions usually fight together to loot the most money they can from the victim – us. 99.9% of the time, the Scotts of the world (Obama) are more than happy to team up with the unions and extract more money. The unions, in turn, give donations back to the government creeps – usually. However, in this case, Scott has decided that instead of mugging you, taking lots of money from you and splitting it 50/50, he wants to reduce the amount they loot from you. Scott is similar to a Ron Paul or a Rand Paul – someone who miraculously got into government and is trying to right some wrongs.

"Furthermore, Scott is not the stronger of the two. His position is much more precarious than the unions. The unions have their jobs guaranteed, and currently they have their unions protected by the government. Meanwhile, poor little Scott can be slandered, demonized and booted out at the next election. Scott is David and the unions are Goliath. In fact, the union monster is more like an army against one man, which includes the media, union members, and leftists in general all over the state. I think the breakdown is roughly 33% for and 66% against from the polls the media has been feeding us.

"This is an interesting exercise by Walter Block, and I’m curious to see how this debate will resolve itself in libertarian circles, but I’m far from convinced we should be giving support to the unions. I haven’t seen any truly good arguments to convince me that we as libertarians would benefit more by supporting the unions. When all is said and done, I think Scott is taking us more in the direction of libertarianism."

11B. "Poor little Scott" can call out the police. He has already attempted to arrest the recalcitrant Democratic state senators. The union does not have anything like that power. Has the "libertarian" Governor of Wisconsin come out against foreign imperialism? Against the Fed? Against the drug laws? I find no evidence of any of this. Thus, I don't see him as similar to Congressman Ron Paul, the next president of these here United States (sorry, I just couldn't resist saying that). Yes, Scott can be voted out at the next election, but the unionists can be jailed right now. Again, I'm only "pro union" in the sense that I welcome their gumming up an even more powerful and evil institution.

12A. "I just got through listening to your “Defending the Undefendable.” What a great book. Your discussion about the WI labor unions as being the lesser of two evils reminded me of your argument for the counterfeiters as heroes, since they are merely counterfeiting already counterfeited money. The labor unions are merely stealing back money that was stolen for themselves. Maybe it would be better to root for them. (:-) I was hoping the government would win in this case, however. I would like to see public labor unions smashed as a step in the right direction of landing fewer people in the public trough. But I must admit, you have really given me pause. Thanks for your contributions to Austrian Economics in general. I’m a recent convert and am listening and reading everything I can get my hands on. I hope this beats out mainstream economics some day soon. It deserves to."

12B. Thanks for your kind remarks. I am not rooting for unions per se. Perish the thought. I only favor them in their role of undermining an even more dangerous institution.

IV. Conclusion

Let me take one last swipe at this. Suppose the Governor Walker announced that he was cutting welfare payments by 50%. Would I support him on this? Yes. But, posit that as a result of his welfare reduction announcement, masses of welfare recipients picketed the state house, had sit ins at the various bureaus, made it all but impossible for the bureaucrats to do their job of ruining the economy. Would I support the outraged welfare recipients? You're darn tootin' I would. Would I root for them? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Does this mean I favor the welfare system? Of course not.

In my view, the quality of the responses, both those that support my analysis and especially, in some cases, those that oppose it, are of very high quality. If this is indicative of the talent of the people who tune in to LewRockwell.com, we as an Austro-libertarian movement are in very good shape indeed.

Dr. Block [send him mail] is a professor of economics at Loyola University New Orleans, and a senior fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He is the author of Defending the Undefendable and Labor Economics From A Free Market Perspective. His latest book is The Privatization of Roads and Highways.

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