Defining the Benefits of Unions Down


Mickey Kaus from his new home at Daily Caller thinks he sees the progressive left retreating in their defense of unions, or at least retreating in what they claim is so great about them:

Isn't it odd that the defense of unionism on the left by Paul Krugman and Mother JonesKevin Drum focuses almost exclusively on labor's role as "countervailing" political power to business–especially its role in supporting the Democratic party with money and manpower? Time was pro-labor economists argued mainly about the actual effect of unions within individual firms and industries–they raised wages, we were told, not only redistributing profits but providing workers with a "voice" that even resulted in increased productivity. You don't hear these arguments that much anymore. After the collapse of two of the three big UAW auto firms–beaten in the market by non-union American factories run by Honda, Hyundai and Toyota–the idea the unions actually help employers compete has apparently become too implausiblefor Drum and Krugman to advance with a straight face.

All that bolding is Kaus'.

Kaus then opines that if all unions are good for is being a countervailing power, then, well, their days even as the banner-waving cause of progressives are or should be numbered:

That's the tricky thing about the "countervailing power" argument. If unions are valuable not because of what they actually do in the economy but because, in their extracurricular activities, they can support the left against "the influence of business interests and the rich," as enhanced by Citizens United–and if the unions are manifestly withering and failing to perform that function, then erstwhile left wing labor supporters are perfectly justified in abandoning unionism to the ashheap of history while they look or other, newer ways of accomplishing the "countervailing" purpose unions once served.

What might that newer way be? You're reading it! Not Reason, but ye olde Internet and its new fangled wave of ways to beg farther, wider, and more effectively than any beggar has e'er before begged.

Reason interviewed Kaus in our August-September 2010 issue. Nick Gillespie sang a not-so-sad song of the death of unions earlier today.

Kaus on Reason.tv talking about how unions killed the Democratic Party with Gillespie: