Washington's Parasite Economy

Life is good in the capital of crony capitalism.

Editor's Note: This column is reprinted with permission of the Washington Examiner. Click here to read it at that site.

In the wake of Apple CEO Steve Jobs's death—and in the midst of the ongoing "Occupy Wall Street" protests—came an ominous report from Bloomberg News last week:

"Beltway Earnings Make U.S. Capital Richer Than Silicon Valley." According to the latest Census figures, Washington, D.C. is now the wealthiest metropolitan area in the United States.

That's good news for local property values, but I can't say it fills me with hometown pride. After all, Silicon Valley's wealth was earned—just rewards voluntarily given for producing innovations that have dramatically improved our lives.

In contrast, D.C.'s prosperity reflects a parasite economy that battens on wealth created by others. We live in a vast, metastasizing tick of a city, swollen on the lifeblood it drains from the body politic. This is one race the home team deserved to lose.

As former Slate reporter Jack Shafer once put it, "Washington doesn't make anything except scandals." But its "regulatory powers, its executive orders, its judicial decisions, its ability to conjure money out of thin air, and its budget-making authority," give D.C. the ability to dictate "who can do business and how."

This city's wealth is largely based on what public choice economists call "rent-seeking," using the political process to rig the game in one's favor—through subsidies, tariffs, regulatory advantages, and other benefits unavailable via free and fair competition.

"The rent-seeking is too damn high!" economist Alex Tabarrok quipped upon reading the Bloomberg report. True enough: spending on lobbyists set another record last year, at $3.5 billion, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Other factors that allowed Washington to edge out San Jose, according to Bloomberg, include "federal employees whose compensation averages more than $126,000," the burgeoning Military/Homeland-Security Industrial Complex, "the nation's greatest concentration of lawyers," and a glut of federal dollars that's kept regional unemployment three points lower than the national average.

Indeed, as The Wall Street Journal reported last year, the District and neighboring congressional districts in Maryland and Virginia soaked up over $3.7 billion of President Obama's stimulus package—almost $2,000 per resident, "nearly three times the national average."

To the extent the "Occupy" protests aimed at Wall Street and K Street have a common theme, it's concern about economic inequality. Given the Occupiers' complaints about "Crony Capitalism," though, this doesn't look like simple leftist resentment of the productive. But this "We are the 99 percent" business is far too pat.

As my former colleague Will Wilkinson argued in a 2009 Cato Institute Study entitled “Thinking Clearly about Economic Inequality," "at best, income inequality is a distraction." Wealth disparities are not, by themselves, some sort of automatic indicator of injustice.

Unequal wealth can be a just result of free and fair exchange, where talented Americans reap rewards from providing goods and services their fellow citizens greatly value—as in the case of Steve Jobs—in which case, there's no injustice to remedy.

Or it can be the result of "predation by political elites," in which case, it's the predation that should be tackled directly, Wilkinson argues, so "the fire is the problem, not the alarm."

That the hometown of the political class has passed the home of the creative class in wealth and influence is genuine cause for alarm. Washington, D.C. is the capital of Crony Capitalism—and it's only growing richer. That inequality is worth worrying about.

Gene Healy is a vice president at the Cato Institute and author of The Cult of the Presidency: America's Dangerous Devotion to Executive Power (Cato 2008). He is a columnist at the Washington Examiner, where a version of this article originally appeared. Click here to read it at that site.

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  • Suki||

    One amazing thing about Apple, they made it big without getting their computers on every government desk like IBM/Microsoft did.

    Apple is the most beloved computing platform of #Occupy and Rush Limbaugh.

  • #||

    they did get them on almost all government classrooms though

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Shit, when I was in high school, we got Tandy TRS-80s. With the black-and-white monitors and the cassette-tape program input, yo.

    We wuz stylin' in 1980...

  • mad libertarian guy||

    I'd argue that their cornering of the education market is vastly overblown. Never once did I or anyone else I know use a school provided Apple computer.

  • ||

    It was all we had.

    I set up the first Apple Macintosh in the school district back in 1984-85.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    I'd argue that their cornering of the education market is vastly overblown. Never once did I or anyone else I know use a school provided Apple computer.

  • 0x90||

    And never once did I, or anyone else I know, encounter a school, public or private, K-12, which used anything other than Apple. I wonder how difficult it would be to get the hard data on this.

  • 0x90||

    Does a school desk qualify as a government desk?

  • Suki||

    Oops, forgot about that. Yes, it counts and accounts for these children in grown bodies making racket occupying things. They never grew out of grade school or Apple.

  • ||

    Why are you fools yammering on and on about computers when this story ISN'T about Steve Jobs OR his products? And it isn't even about the wealth of the D.C area!
    Perhaps you're just bored little boys satisfied to merely banter with one another about trivialities.
    Well, Heads up children!
    What side of the debate and action will YOU be on when the OWS rioting and ugliness,( falsely based upon their trumped-up and alleged hatred of "Crony Capitalism") continues to spread and gets REALLY nasty and dangerous; due to the endless source of dollars from "Crony Capitalism's" king-of-funding George Soros ?
    At the direction of George Soros and Obama, these OWS miscreants and "useful idiots" gives Obama precisely the mechanism, the tool, the contrived "situations" he wants and needs, to declare Marshall Law in this country !
    Perhaps then, he can use such civil disobedience to suspend the 2012 elections. That grand slam coup would most assuredly piss-off allot of people, but it would help Obama get re-elected. Is that what you want?
    Think it will never happen?
    Tell me who YOU think would put a stop to it? Our do-nothing, in-full-denial Congress? The Courts? The Department of Justice?
    If all of this WASN'T such a likely scenario, I'd just shake my head at you youngsters for being the boys that you present yourselves to be in this forum.
    However, that is not the case; bad things are afoot and are heading your way quickly. I suspect that you will learn this soon enough when you might find yourselves conscripted into some bogus governmental "citizens militia" to quell the rioting.
    Use your gifts for greater things.

  • ||

    Who is Marshall Law?

    And, if Obama suspends the elections, how does he also win them?

  • Old Mexican||

    Unequal wealth can be a just result of free and fair exchange, where talented Americans reap rewards from providing goods and services their fellow citizens greatly value—as in the case of Steve Jobs—in which case, there's no injustice to remedy.


    Says you - who are these successful people to make the mediocre feel bad about themselves? Just ask the king of mediocrity himself: Tony.

  • Joe||

    It can also be the result people blowing their money on expensive, but ultimately worthless crap. Nobody ever seems to consider Max Weber's ethic of deferred gratification. People who save their money then spend it on stuff that helps them to retain their wealth (in that thing) end up rich because they invest education, real estate, stocks, or even just stuff with resale value. Not to mention capital investments that actually help you to produce things faster and cheaper. There are plenty of people enjoying prosperity on modest incomes. They just prefer a secure future over the latest iPhone.

  • MNG||

    I'm a pretty liberal guy (from what folks here say I'm Karl Marx, but they're wrong on quite a bit), but I'd readily admit that some inequality is not only not wrong, it should be encouraged. Freedom will result in some inequality, and more than that inequality is just when a person works harder than another (as one example). I think it is a caricature that most liberals want some kind of full equality.

    Having said that what I and most liberals I know think is that a lot of inequality can be unjust. For example blacks have consistently been 3 times more likely than whites to live under the poverty line. Surely this has something to do with the lingering effects of past or current practices and government actions. The alternative, that blacks just wake up and make poor/lazy decisions at 3 times the rate of whites is hard to buy.

  • ||

    Having said that what I and most liberals I know think is that a lot of inequality can be unjust.

    Whether its unjust or not depends on why the inequality exists.

    Which, in turn, drives what should be done, if anything, to remedy the inequality.

    So, to your example, why do you think blacks are more likely to be poor, and what should be done about it?

  • MNG||

    I think it is pretty clear that more blacks are poor because of the "lingering effects" of mass discrimination, both private and public, but largely fostered and bolstered by public acts.

    What to do about it? That's a tough one. Let's say where you and I would differ is that my answer will not be "nothing" or rather "nothing that might be in the slightest way coercive."

    I'm against affirmative action. I've given as much money and time fighting that as anyone here I'd bet. I'm against it because it is such a crude, blunt instrument; Bill Cosby gets the same help as a homeless black man. What I would back are some regulations and programs, rather modest actually, that would provide protection and assistance to folks based on need and help give the tools to overcome poverty.

  • reason readin female||

    I won't completely dismiss your "lingering effects" argument, but I do question whether it's really more about a generational thing at this point. If you grow up surrounded by people who don't work and hustle either the government or other people for sustenance, then you will see this as normal behavior. How do you convince someone otherwise?

    Also a huge part of the problem for non-asian minorities is our public school system. Especially boys.

    And of course: the WOD.

  • rather||

    "I'm against it because it is such a crude, blunt instrument" It is not the scalpel but the surgeons lack of talent.

    Regrettably, good intentions are destroyed by greed and the university abuse of scholarships is the classic

    http://rctlfy.wordpress.com/20.....ould-stfu/

  • ||

    What I would back are some regulations and programs, rather modest actually, that would provide protection and assistance to folks based on need and help give the tools to overcome poverty.

    We have had these programs in spades since the Great Society and on a scale that could not be remotely characterized as "modest". What specifically can you point to that you would consider a successful outcome from any of them?

    And how do you decide what folks get rewarded with these regulations and programs? And how do you decide what folks are punished by them? And when do you end them? And how do you justify them within the Constitutional guarantee of equal protection?

  • MNG||

    pareto

    The poverty rate in 1959 was twice what it is now for blacks, I've posted this many times before (it's a census link, don't have time to look it up but its in the reason archives numerous times). So there is that.

    "And how do you decide what folks get rewarded with these regulations and programs?" By need.

    "And how do you decide what folks are punished by them?" Those with plenty.

    "And when do you end them?" When things seem considerably better.

    "And how do you justify them within the Constitutional guarantee of equal protection?" By thinking that equal protection means not treating all alike but treating like cases alike, and making the programs take only need, not race into account.

  • ||

    "And how do you decide what folks are punished by them?" Those with plenty.

    Regardless of their complicity (or lack of it) in the conditions that lead to inequality?

    That's where we part ways, MNG.

    And I think it indicates that you aren't particularly concerned with why inequality exists, but only with levelling it out, regardless of the fact that levelling will punish the innocent (those who have "plenty" regardless of why) and reward the guilty (those who are poor by their own hand).

  • ||

    http://www.leftbusinessobserve.....ncpov.html

    The poverty rate in 1959 was twice what it is now for blacks

    That is true. But it is also deceiving and does nothing to prove your point. Take a look at the by race poverty statistics at the above link. The black poverty rate dropped dramatically in the 1960s but has remained virtually unchanged since the late 1960s.

    The EEOC and personal liability for discrimination and pretty much the entire civil rights legal industry was not created until the early 1970s. Affirmative action wasn't created until then as well.

    None of those programs have done anything to reduce black poverty.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    None of those programs have done anything to reduce black poverty.

    My wife is black. Her Dad never took handouts, or got on the dole, or entered any government programs. He moved out of South Central LA in the early '80's to Redondo Beach. He was a blue collar guy who got a decent job. My wife (an accountant), and my bro-in-law (a Silicone Valley entrepreneur) are college graduates, who never participated in any gov't programs and are successful and self-sufficient. 90% of the rest of the family is dependent on gov't welfare, housing, etc. That side of the family is a fucking mess. Yet they always call my father-in-law when they need more money.

    It may sound trite, but the best way to lead a successful life is to get an education, and get a good job.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Derrrr.... Silicon Valley. I must have been thinking about this silicone valley?!?

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: EDG reppin' LBC,

    It may sound trite, but the best way to lead a successful life is to get an education, and get a good job.


    And also not making excuses for oneself - something else that should be remembered and taught to our kids, EDC.

  • ||

    Poppycock, blacks are still behind because the schools they attend insist on keeping them behind. They are taught that they need not bother trying to succeed because the man will always be there to knock them back down the ladder.

  • Maxxx||

    Yes, but that is a reflection of the larger dysfunctional culture of those areas.

    For example, look at what happened to a genuine reformer in DC last year.

  • ||

    Not to mention that they tend to live in post-industrial cities. The jobs left, but the union controlled regulations and political machines are still there.

    Not to mention, that the drug war gives 1 out of 4 black men a criminal record.

  • Suki||

    Isn't a lack of a criminal record frowned upon as "acting White?"

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: MNG,

    I think it is pretty clear that more blacks are poor because of the "lingering effects" of mass discrimination


    This has been shown by Walter Williams and other economists to be a bogus argument. Many blacks are still poor because of their dependency of government assistance.

    In the last quarter of the 19th Century, Chinese immigrants to the US were probably the most abused and discriminated against people in the country, besides blacks and native Americans. Yet the Chinese enjoy levels of prosperity many times higher than blacks or native Americans. The ONLY BIG DIFFERENCE between these ethnic groups is the fact that blacks and native Americans receive direct assistance from the government. Better yet, native Americans that are NOT under government assistance have a much higher level of personal prosperity than either blacks or othr native Americans.

    Again, it is a bogus argument.

    I'm against affirmative action. I've given as much money and time fighting that as anyone here I'd bet. I'm against it because it is such a crude, blunt instrument; Bill Cosby gets the same help as a homeless black man. What I would back are some regulations and programs, rather modest actually, that would provide protection and assistance to folks based on need and help give the tools to overcome poverty.


    I'm against Affirmative Action because the program rests on a false and incidious premise: that blacks or other ehtnic groups are inherently disadvantaged, thus requiring assistance from el hombre blanco.

  • Maxxx||

    The ONLY BIG DIFFERENCE between these ethnic groups is the fact that blacks and native Americans receive direct assistance from the government.

    You are underestimating the reality and effects of culture on individuals. Slavery and then Jim Crow produced a culture that emphasized living for the moment whereas Confucian societies have always emphasized education and long term familial success.

  • Maxxx||

    And the welfare state incentivizes and reinforces anti-family and anti-entrepreneur tendencies.

  • Wayne||

    I'm against affirmative action. I've given as much money and time fighting that as anyone here I'd bet. I'm against it because it is such a crude, blunt instrument; Bill Cosby gets the same help as a homeless black man. What I would back are some regulations and programs, rather modest actually, that would provide protection and assistance to folks based on need and help give the tools to overcome poverty.

    I actually agree with you on this point. Assistance based on need, not color. There are plenty of poor white people, for example. They are the ones who are truly victimized by affirmative action.

  • Don't hate me||

    It is a tough nut to crack for sure. The point is that it COULD be that they are 3 times lazier. I am not saying that is the case, but politicians use correlation to flatter the poor to get their votes without truly determining the cause.

    If I were to guess, I would say it is a combination of culture, inheritance, enabling, location, opportunity, role-models, and racism, among other things, with racism rating low (as evidenced by non-black minorities that are successful, as in upwardly mobile, since a lot of minority groups are new here and therefore start out low on the economic totem pole).

  • Eleanor Roosevelt||

    from what folks here say I'm Karl Marx, but they're wrong on quite a bit

    You wouldn't worry so much about what other people thought if you realized how seldom they do.

  • Gimlet||

    "The alternative, that blacks just wake up and make poor/lazy decisions at 3 times the rate of whites is hard to buy."

    And yet, there it is.

  • rather||

    Guns kill more black people, than whites, but less that Asians.
    Therefore guns are racist to blacks, hate whites at a lesser rate, but can take it or leave it with Asians

    And yet, there it is

  • T||

    Guns don't do shit. People pull triggers. Drill down and you'll find black on black crime is a big issue.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: T,

    Don't feed the disgusting troll.

  • T||

    I know, OM. I had a moment of weakness.

  • rather||

    T, the point is not about guns; it is a parable on morality.

    Old Mexican, you disappoint me; please never reply to any of my posts
    Thank you

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: rather,

    Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you,
    Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you,
    Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you,
    Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you,
    Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you.

    There, satisfied?

    By the way, your parable on morality stinks.

  • ||

    The most significant factors in wealth building are simple: Getting an education and getting married before having children. Note that one can self-educate such as reading books on computers and plumbing and then taking the state test. This is commonly what working class whites do.

    Also keep in mind that most affirmative action recipients have ancestors who never encountered American racism: Asian immigrants, black immigrants, Hispanic immigrants, and wealthy white women whose clothing buttons on the opposite side of mens because servants dressed them.

  • ||

    The parasite thrives!

  • ||

    There could also be other reasons, like the high earning tech people fleeing the People's Republic of Kalifornia. Its still a shame that Washington is even in the running though.

  • Kristen||

    My property value has declined significantly in the last 10 years, within 8 miles of downtown DC. So *ppppffftt* on you!

  • anonymous commenter some guy||

    That's because you live in the closest thing Fairfax Co. has to a ghetto.

  • Kristen||

    Well, sure, but I also lived in Mt Pleasant in DC, and property values there were through the roof! I guess Huntington doesn't have the sex appeal to rich hipsters that Mt Pleasant/Columbia Heights has.

  • Appalachian Australian||

    B-b-but Huntington has rail transit. I thought that was all that was needed to revitalise a neighbourhood?

  • anonymous commenter some guy||

    Ok, I thought you lived down closer to Ft. Belvoir or Hybla Valley or something. I'm truly surprised that Huntington values have dropped. There's some nice neighborhoods up there and you have easy access to... everything.

  • Kristen||

    There aren't really any nice nieghborhoods in Huntington - lots of old duplexes/chevy homes and, like my place, old condos. There are two shady, rotting strip malls and a (really fucking awesome) auto mechanic. The Telegraph interchange has screwed things up a lot, but there should have been much more explosive development long before then anyways.

    It pisses me off to look over at Eisenhower Ave from my balcony at all their shiny new buildings and AMC IMAX thee-ayter.

  • Suki||

  • Kristen||

    Ahhhh, yes. He is exactly that (my politician; my man in Washington). James Pee Moron, the child-beating, bribe-taking wonder!

  • NoVAHockey||

    you too? the Dems in VA-8 should be embarrassed. there are plenty of democrats. pick one that doesn't beat kids.

  • ||

    He beat up an 8 year old for threatening to steal his car. Jesus even a wise guy wouldn't do that.

  • T||

    I dunno, John. Some of those 8 year olds are pretty wily. You have to teach them a lesson now and then.

  • Doctor Whom||

    Can't he just give the magic money tree another shake and pay off all of our mortgages?

    And yes, I'm another one of his constituents.

  • Kristen||

    Also, Hybla Valley and Beacon Hill are much more "up-and-coming" than Huntington, and they don't even have a Metro stop!

  • ||

    I'm not going to go look for it, but apparently those "Do No Evil" guys have been spending a lot on lobbying, lately.

    To be fair, I think it's more self-defense than an active attempt at regulatory capture.

  • anonymous commenter some guy||

    That was my take on it. They saw what happened to folks like Microsoft and Intel and decided to be less naive. They're probably damned either way. The only way to protect yourself against regulatory capture is to be the one instigating it.

  • James Taggart||

    Exactly!

  • ||

    If you don't have a seat at the table, then you're on the menu. If you don't understand that, you will never win the crony capitalism game. Unfortunately, that's rapidly becoming the only game in town.

  • James Taggart||

    Unfortunately, that's rapidly becoming the only game in town.

    I'll make sure of it.

  • Komarovsky||

    You understand perfectly.

  • Sparky||

    OT: Charges against DC lemonade sellers dropped.
    http://www.foxnews.com/politic.....latestnews

  • Appalachian Australian||

    OT, hoping to hear MNG's remarks.

    Last night a "No on issue 2" sign magically appeared on my business's front lawn (no on issue 2 is basically a pro-public employee union vote). I uprooted the sign.

    About 30 seconds later, when my back was turned, another "No on issue 2" sign appeared, sponsored by a different PAC.

    My business aims to be politically neutral in its face to the public. I don't want customers, vendors, investors, etc. scared off with pro- or anti-union signage. Is that too much to ask?

  • Warty||

    What are the polls like on issue 2? All I see lately are anti ads with sad firefighters and sad grandmas and all that shit. I have no idea what's in the language of the issue, but it must be good if the unions are fighting it that hard.

  • Warty||

    Ah, here. Another reason to leave this disaster of a state when I can.

    Ohio voters by 57 percent to 32 percent support the repeal of the law, which forbids government workers from going on strike, according to the poll, conducted by Quinnipiac University. In a late September Quinnipiac poll, the margin was 51 percent to 38 percent.
  • AlmightyJB||

    I wonder about the wording on that issue. I've talked to people that thought Issue 2 was a bill to repeal Senate bill 5 and not to confirm it. They think they are supposed to vote opposite of what they are intending. Obviously they should be able to figure it out by all of the mailers.

  • Warty||

    And why would you want to hear MNG's opinion? You already know what it is.

  • MNG||

    Only if he thought I'd approve of it. Being for collective bargaining doesn't mean I approve of everything unions do. I've said it a million times but my view of unions is the same as my view of corporations, they do good and bad. Leftists that think all corporations are evil will get plenty of debate from me, but of course so will goofballs who think all unions are evil. Because of the latter instances people here who think that think I defend all unions.

    What's described here is trespassing. It's wrong.

  • anon||

    Unions attain everything they get from coercion. Hardly the landmark of a free society.

    What's wrong with men independently contracting their own pay and work conditions based on their own merit?

  • MNG||

    "everything they get from coercion"

    That's just nuts. How would you like to even begin to argue such a nutty, absolutist position?

    This is EXACTLY what I'm talking about. My position is "unions are not guilty of every sin in the world" and about half of the regulars who post here (though I've long guessed that Pip/cynical/WTF/anon/and some others are the same right-wing goofball) hold "unions are always evil." We debate and people see some kind of equivalency of stridency in that. WTF?

  • Appalachian Australian||

    MNG, I don't think unions are universally evil; I just think public-sector unions are insidious.

    It places our police forces and firefighters at odds with their employer, that is, the public.

  • MNG||

    The problem is that the government isn't quite the public all the time, I shouldn't have to do much to convince a libertarian of this! Governments can be heavy-handed tyrants, and this is also true when the government is an employer. I don't think governments should have some special protections from their employees organizing.

  • ||

    I don't think governments should have some special protections from their employees organizing.

    Which is odd, because the traditional justification for unions is to protect the working man from the predatory capitalists.

    That justification doesn't work for pubsec unions. So why can't pubsec employees rely on the same protections against a predatory government that the rest of us have: the ballot box?

  • ||

    Sure you say not everything the union does is right. But then you will never admit that a specific something a union does is wrong or if you do you immediately go into some spiel about how the other side is worse and this doesn't matter.

    So your position is nothing but lip service. You will always admit unions can be wrong in the abstract. But you never admit they are wrong in the specific.

  • MNG||

    If these unions planted these signs in his property without any permission then that is flat out trespassing and wrong.

    And so are you.

  • ||

    That was big of you MNG. Can you please admit that maybe it was a bad idea for the public employee unions to buy off politicians and bankrupt the states of New York, California, Rhode Island, and Illinois among others now?

  • MNG||

    Unions in many states have pushed for horrible deals for the taxpayers. I've long said that. I think the remedy for that is to simply push for better deals, like Cuomo did in NY, rather than ending collective bargaining, but I've always agreed they push for bad deals and need to be stood up to.

    I'm not in a union, and I'm a taxpayer. I don't want to pay any more money than I have to because my pol can't stand up to the union.

  • Maxxx||

    I've long said that. I think the remedy for that is to simply push for better deals

    The problem with that theory in CA is that the unions are the largest contributor by orders of magnitude to politicians in local elections. And those elections are non partisan so union money is the pretty much the only way that anyone can get elected to school boards, city councils, commissions etc. which negotiate the union contracts.

  • anon||

    Unions can -only- obtain power by coercion. The only method at their disposal to extract any benefit from any corporation is by threatening to halt production or obstruct production.

    Until you can prove this incorrect, you're arguing that coercion is lawful and just against other groups of people. Such hypocrisy is laughable at best.

  • ||

    that is not true in a right to work state anon. As long as it is right to work, unions have to compete for members by providing a service. And strikes are not coercion anymore than the threat of quitting your job is.

    Unions are not all bad. They only get bad when they get in bed with government and start getting special privileges like the right to force people to join if they want to work.

  • anon||

    One person threatening to quit a job over some unsatisfactory condition can hardly be termed coercion.

    Unions abuse the power of our laws to force employers into positions the employers would never be submitted to otherwise. They steal the power of government to impose fines/etc. on their employers at every chance they get simply to obtain whatever it is they desire at the moment, regardless of the position it puts the company in.

    How can this NOT be considered coercion?

  • MNG||

    If you want to argue that the NLRB coerces people I will not argue with you there. But you said "Unions can -only- obtain power by coercion." and then pointed to halting and obstructing production. But halting production could, and before the NLRB (and after) often just meant not working under certain conditions. If you want to argue that is coercion be my guest.

  • anon||

    Halting production - and preventing others from coming in and taking the job they've voluntarily vacated - is what makes the union coercive.

  • Another Phil||

    I'm no fan of unions, but you keep moving the goalposts. You didn't mention preventing others from coming in and taking the jobs in your original post.

  • Zeb||

    But that doesn't make unions inherently coercive. If they just refuse to work, they are not being coercive and it seems to me that that is the basic power that unions have.

    The big problem I have with pub sec unions is that the legislature should be the only ones determining how much money gets spent, not the unions or the people negotiating with unions.

  • MNG||

    That's not quite how unions even in non-right to work states work John. The "person has to join the union" thing comes from the CBA the union signs with the employer. Surely an employer should be free to agree with a union that only union members will be employed?

    Now, to show how honest I am, I am going to help your argument. The coercion under the NLRB is at the "front end" of this. The NLRB protects the union during organizing from retaliation by the employer and compels the employer to "bargain in good faith" (though they are not compelled to accede to any demand).

  • ||

    But the Union using the employer to force people to join is not fair to the workers. It eliminates any reason for the Union to care about any individual worker. No one should ever be forced to join a union to keep their job and no one should ever have union dues forcibly removed from their checks.

    It is lack of right to work that has been at the root of most of the union corruption and theft that has gone on over the years. How do you think the Teamsters were able to get in bed with the mafia and loot their pension funds? Because their members had to join and pay dues if they expected to work. If there had been right to work, their members could have just left when the corruption started. But as it was, they were trapped.

  • ||

    And strikes are not coercion anymore than the threat of quitting your job is.

    In theory, yes. In practice, picket lines and other strike tactics are, at a minimum, a threat of violence which all too often boils over into actual violence.

  • MNG||

    What are you getting at? One way unions bargain, before and after NLRA, is simply to refuse to work under certain conditions. Do you think that is "coercion?"

  • anon||

    When the government steps in to fine the employer for not adhering to the unions' demands, then yes, it is coercion.

  • ||

    Only if they can get away with telling people who will work under those conditions they can't. That is coercion.

  • ||

    They don't just simply refuse to work. They attempt to barricade the employer's business and prevent other people from working there as well. That's what a picket line is, MNG.

    And that's the best case scenario. Ask anyone who's been involved in a full-on strike, and they will tell you that actual violence and property destruction are pretty routine.

  • ||

    Sure RC. they are assholes a lot of the time. But what are you going to do become Cuba and ban unions? We still do have a right to free association. And most picket lines are bluff anyway. The coal mines found scabs back when the two sides were killing each other. Sorry but I am not buying that a picket line is violence. If you are too afraid to cross it, you must not want the job very badly.

    Don't let unions force people to join. Don't let them use dues for political activities. And punish the hell out of any Union Goon who commits any acts of violence.

    Other than that, that is about all you can or should do.

  • cynical||

    Halting is coercive per se, until the government forces employers to negotiate -- but that alone would be coercive, so it seems pointless to look at the halting at all.

  • cynical||

    *not coercive

  • MNG||

    Unions and their members have often been guilty of stupid and immoral acts John, I'll readily admit that. For example, go back to the first day the protests in WI were reported here, I condemned them and said the union was crazy and wrong for not accepting cuts in these bad times. Unions have pushed for deals that have ruined the companies they work for. They have often resorted to violence. They have fought some basic humane governmental reforms, at times they were quite racist and sexist.

    Just because I don't jump on every anti-union bandwagon you post from Drudge doesn't mean I always defend unions.

  • ||

    Fair enough. And I do not think unions are all bad. They only get bad when they get special privileges via the force of law.

  • ||

    Fair enough. And I do not think unions are all bad. They only get bad when they get special privileges via the force of law.

  • anon||

    Then essentially what you're saying is that a group of employees demanding certain compensations from their employers (or quitting their job) is how a union should operate, and I agree because that's basically a contract solely between the worker and the company. But when you let the government start imposing fines along arbitrary "union" demands is when it crosses the line into basically a mob robbing "the man."

  • ||

    Anon, as I said, unions only go off the rails when they get in bed with government. If a group of employees can organize and get an employer to give a larger share of his earnings to keep them, then good for them. I have no sympathy for the employer. He is clearly trying to under pay his labor or he would able to hire someone else.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: MNG,

    That's just nuts. How would you like to even begin to argue such a nutty, absolutist position?


    An argment can be made that the viability of unions depend on aggression, based on economic analysis.

    First, why would workers unionize? In order to obtain a higher remuneration. How? By collectively bargain for it. Does this raise the cost of labor? It would. Would the employer accept labor at a higher cost? Not in the presence of competing labor. How does the union compete? It would either have to lower the cost of labor or stop competing parties from bidding. What would unions decide? If they decided to compete and bid lower, they would stop having a sense for their existence.

    So what't their logical choice? Stop other parties from bidding - hence: Violence, aggression, threats, and the use of public force. This has been the historical path followed by unions of all stripes.

    The argument is not nutty at all. Aggression, violence and violation of property rights comform the only logical course for unions.

  • anon||

    Exactly why I've stated that the only power unions have is that of coercion.

  • MNG||

    I think this is mistaken OM. Just like business enterprises can better bargain when they pool their money into corporations and take advantage of economies of scale benefits or by specializing in something another party needs to make money but is not readily available elsewhere, unions can do the same.

    Look at pro sports as an example of the latter. It's not the government that's forcing the owners to deal with the unions for the most part.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: MNG,

    I think this is mistaken OM. Just like business enterprises can better bargain when they pool their money into corporations and take advantage of economies of scale[...]


    While this is true, the difference is that corporations do not raise the cost of doing business for their suppliers, quite the contrary. This is not the same with labor or trade unions.

    Look at pro sports as an example of the latter. It's not the government that's forcing the owners to deal with the unions for the most part.


    But the government has involved itself between player unions and team owners, MNG. So this is not a correct argument. Besides this, the pool of sport players is so small it makes sense for them to unionize, whereas the pool of regular workers is so large the unions HAVE to resort to violence and aggression in order to restrict bidding.

    You forgot to mention such unions like the Screenwriter's Guild, which limits the entry to many competing writers into Hollywood. Don't tell me that benefits all writers.

  • Old Mexican||

    Another thing: There are no laws (so far) that make people deal with corporations only - maybe with the exception of licensing laws and IP - whereas there are plenty laws that make employers deal with unions whenever these appear on the scene, regardless of competitive bidding by non-unionized labor.

  • cynical||

    I'm all pro-legalization and shit, but you need to stop smoking -- it sounds like that shit is making you paranoid.

  • Old Mexican||

    Who are you talking to?

  • cynical||

    MNG - I'm annoyed at being included in his crazy right wing enemies list.

  • Appalachian Australian||

    And that's precisely the problem. I don't want to get into a fistfight with someone who sees me uprooting a sign. Nor do I want to have to call the (unionised) police to deal with a fistfight or trespassing, especially over an issue that local police are overwhelming in favour of voting no on.

    I can say that my resolve to never hire employees (let alone unionised ones) just got a lot stronger.

  • MNG||

    If the police would not help you because they are unionized then that is horrible, I can't condemn that strongly enough.

    But further, if these people would not just not do this if asked then they are horrible people, union or not.

  • Appalachian Australian||

    I'm sure they would help if called, but believe me, the last thing I want as a member of a visible local business is a reputation as an "pro-SB-5/Issue-2" guy. I definitely do not want a reputation with the local PD as an anti-police-union business owner.

    The issue is extremely divisive here, to the level of Prop. 8 in California.

    What I have a problem with is a union (AFL-CIO) and a PAC (WeAreOhio) that instigates its supporters to trespass to place signs to vote on a ballot measure that will directly affect public sector workers, including police. There's an obvious conflict of interest for a small, non-union business owner who doesn't want his business papered with pro-public-sector-union signs.

  • ||

    Simple solution: Call the PAC in question. Tell them you charge $1,000 per day for all political signs posted on your property and ask them where you send the bill.

    The sign will be gone quickly. (Or you will have a nice little income from your property until voting day.)

  • ||

    Better: send the PAC an email stating that you charge rent of $1,000 per day, per sign.

    State that failure to remove the sign by the end of business will be deemed acceptance of this rate, as will any attempt to place a sign in the future.

    That way, you've got a paper trail to show the nice judge when you have to sue them. And, you want to be sure to state your rate is per sign, so they don't carpet your lawn with their garbage.

  • ||

    Oh, and one more thing: Be sure to take a time-and-date stamped picture, every day, of any signs that are on your property.

    To show the nice judge.

  • Appalachian Australian||

    That assumes I want to spend my time litigating in court. I'd rather spend my time operating my business, not trying to sue Joe Unionised Plumber for papering the county with signs like he's been ordered to.

  • ||

    You're not suing Joe Plumber. You're suing Union Parasite PAC.

    If it even comes to that. Who knows? They might take the signs away.

    But, if they're going to put signs on your lawn regardless, you might as well give yourself a shot at getting paid for it.

  • Appalachian Australian||

    PACs will disclaim all responsibility. "We have no idea how that sign got there." Responsibility lies with the person who placed the sign.

    I worked at a PAC and for a political party as a somewhat misguided adolescent, so I know exactly how the passing-the-buck game goes there.

  • ||

    Donate money to the opposition cause? Post a sign disclaiming the sign?

  • Appalachian Australian||

    (1) Already done

    (2) I can't post signs without first applying for a permit from the township. Political signs are exempt from zoning, but I don't want political speech taking place at my business, period.

  • ||

    Disclaiming political speech seems like political speech to me.

  • ||

    PACs will disclaim all responsibility. "We have no idea how that sign got there." Responsibility lies with the person who placed the sign.

    That person, when placing the PAC's sign, is acting on behalf of the PAC and is an agent of the PAC. Its up to the PAC to control their agents and accept responsibility for what they do.

    I get that this is all way too much trouble for what its worth, AA. I'm just saying that if you want to bump uglies with these scum, then I think you can give them a pretty good headache.

  • Suki||

    You need to invest in a shotgun.

  • Appalachian Australian||

    Firing a shotgun at a plastic campaign sign seems like overkill.

    Leaving it up riddled with shot might deter future sign-placers, though.

  • Suki||

    Firing it while someone is placing the sign might keep them and others away.

  • cynical||

    Christ, another Ohioan.

  • Appalachian Australian||

    Actually Californian - my business is just in Ohio since I was unable to find a way to turn a profit if I executed our business plan in Ohio.

    I'm getting pretty sick of the travel back and forth, although having warm weekends will be nice once snow starts hitting the ground.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Sorry, AA, but you don't have property rights; ergo, you don't have the right to rip those signs out of your own front yard.

    /snark

  • Vaguely Beige Woo-Woo Man||

    PRIVation PROPERTY = you must keepum signs in "your" yard, White Interloper.

    [insert link to study by some professor three people have ever heard of]

  • mustard||

    If it weren't for rich white men, I'd be hustlin' handjobs down at the Y.

  • Tony||

    Got change for a fiver?

  • Anonymous Coward||

    That the hometown of the political class has passed the home of the creative class in wealth and influence is genuine cause for alarm.

    Repeat the mantra after me:

    Government is a noble and holy calling.

  • ||

    Cronyism is the most insidious form of corruption.

    I mentioned this in another comment, but worth commenting again about what just happened in a federal court in Texas. A Dallas business owner was involved in a civil dispute and paid millions of dollars to lawyers, and when he objected to additional fees after settling the case, they had a “friendly” judge seize all of his possessions, without any notice or hearing, and essentially ordered him under “house arrest” as an involuntary servant to the lawyers. The business owner has been under this "servant" order for 10 months and is prohibited from owning any possessions, prohibited from working, etc..

    ...and some quotes from the judge:

    THE COURT: "I'm telling you don't scr-w with me. You are a fool, a fool, a fool, a fool to scr-w with a federal judge, and if you don't understand that, I can make you understand it. I have the force of the Navy, Army, Marines and Navy behind me."

    THE COURT: "You realize that order is an order of the Court. So any failure to comply with that order is contempt, punishable by lots of dollars, punishable by possible jail, death"

    http://www.lawinjustice.com has an explanation of this case.

  • ||

    Wow. No one should be allowed to be judge for more than ten years. It goes to their heads.

  • Lord Humungus||

    I would be tempted to go all 'James Caan' in a situation like that:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LVMufSipGNg

    (from the movie Thief, after being told he is owned by the mob)

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    In contrast, D.C.'s prosperity reflects a parasite economy that battens on wealth created by others.

    As an attorney working for a large, international law firm (including offices in D.C. and Virginia suburbs) representing Fortune 500 clients in regulatory matters, I resemble that remark.

  • NoVAHockey||

    just say what I do as a registered lobbyist: i just petition the government for a redress of grievances. In my office, it's Festivus every day.

  • anonymous commenter some guy||

    When the revolution starts, keep your head down. Say you're an unpaid intern or something.

  • anonymous commenter some guy||

    Stupid squirrels. That was directed at BSR.

  • ||

    Prostitute.

  • ||

    That's what he should claim to be, I mean.

  • Tim||

    There are some things a prostitute won't do for money.

  • ||

    Well, it would be a lie. Lawyers are good at that.

  • GOB Bluth||

    Illusions, Michael.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    Seems appropriate to leave this article here.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/je.....enklatura/

  • Sidd Finch||

    @DadBoner is on a roll, you guys:

    If you don't have a job, maybe you should try "Occupying" an Arby's restroom with a mop. White hippies just want everything handed to 'em.

    The whole Occupy Wall Street thing just looks like an excuse to hang out & complain all day. My USA was built on hard work, you guys.

    When they decide to take the McRib away again, those Wall Street hippies should do something worthwhile and Occupy McDonald's Headquarters.

    Don't know why Mickey D's ever has to "bring back" the McRib. A bold taste sensation like that shouldn't ever be going anywhere.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Sidd Finch,

    If you don't have a job, maybe you should try "Occupying" an Arby's restroom with a mop.


    Oh, you're so cruel, Finch!

  • Liberal Douchebags||

    RAAAAACIIIIST!!!!!!ONE!!WON!1!

  • ||

    And where does Gene Healy live and work??

  • cynical||

    That's good news for local property values, but I can't say it fills me with hometown pride.

    Washington, or so it would seem.

  • ||

    Tom Woods has a good, short piece on NPR (not on the radio, but on the web site) about the Vatican's take on the economic crisis and the nature of our economic system. Some comments are good. Others are knee-jerk leftist drivel.

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