First off, I want to call your attention to the very substantial and fascinating contributions by the legendary TOM WEST in the thread to Carl’s post below. There’s a lot to learn about PROPERTY RIGHTS from Tom, and we’re honored to have an especially clear and incisive view of his understanding of American and natural law. We even acknowledge that there’s some truth to his criticism of POSTMODERN CONSERVATIVES, although not as much as he thinks. Some Straussians are wildmen who make spectacular and unverifiable claims, but Tom is not one of them.

Carl and Tom are having a friendly argument over UNIONS. Tom is more indulgent than some libertarians by saying the “collective action” (or strikes) by workers isn’t unconstitutional, but “union shops” (or routinized collective bargaining supported by the law) are. Carl wonders whether hostility to UNIONS as such is compatible with a sustainable public philosophy of liberty.

Now, you often hear from libertarians and Tea Partiers and such, especially here in the South, that the main problems plaguing America today are entitlements, unions, and the minimum wage. That is just not true. I, for one, am ambivalent about trade unions (versus especially public employee unions, which shouldn’t be allowed). It’s the trade union that got the industrial worker in many places, after all, a “family wage” with secure benefits. Unions, of course, were often given too much, and the result was that industrial sectors became uncompetitive and America lost all kinds of jobs. But unions or not, lots of those jobs would have been lost anyway.

I’m on board with “the global competitive marketplace” has made most unions unsustainable. But it’s hard to argue that the lives of ordinary American workers—especially their family lives—are improving as a result. And it’s that marketplace—combined with the collapse of other social safety nets (such as unions and families) and the birth dearth—that has made our entitlements unsustainable. But the withering away of welfare and social security can’t be regarded as simply or even mainly a new birth of freedom, and it’s not really evidence that the entitlements or unions that we have now are unconstitutional. So I have a LITTLE bit of Pat Deneen and Carey McWilliams in me, although it’s not like I spend time looking for the union label or anything.

All this, as Pete explains more eloquently and EMPIRICALLY than I do, has to be factored into a Republican policy for the middle class.

Articles by Peter Lawler

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