Public Sector Unions — The New Tammany Hall

Yesterday, I described an analysis performed by Mackinac Center scholars finding a correlation between public sector unionism, faster government spending growth and weaker state employment growth.

The history and actual mechanism that brought about these sad outcomes were detailed last month in a Weekly Standard piece by professors Fred Siegel and Dan DiSalvo called, "The New Tammany Hall: Public sector unions have become a labor aristocracy — and they are bankrupting states and municipalities."

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Among other things, Siegel and DiSalvo note that government employee unions "have become so powerful as to threaten the Madisonian system set up to constrain any one faction from overwhelming the public interest." This is something I've described in speeches, citing a 1940 passage on Madisonian democracy by the eminent 20th century political scientist E.E. Schattschneider in his seminal work, "Party Government."

To assume that minorities will stop at nothing to get what they want assumes a degree of unanimity and concentration within these groups that does not often exist in real life. If every person were capable of having only one interest to the exclusion of all others it might be possible to form dangerous unions of monomaniacs who would go to great extremes to obtain their objectives. In fact, however, obsessions of this sort are too rare to be organized.

That was then, this is now. Siegel and DiSalvo relate the history of a phenomenon that some fear may have caused us to cross a tipping point for the health of our democracy: Government employees have now achieved a critical mass, which has allowed them to overcome limitations that previously prevented the complete political dominance of any particular interest — the keystone of the Madisonian system.

More from their piece:

(U)nlike private sector unions, those in the public sector can achieve influence on both sides of the bargaining table by making campaign contributions and organizing get-out-the-vote drives to elect politicians who then control the negotiations over their pay, benefits, and work rules. The result is a nefarious cycle: Politicians agree to generous government worker contracts; those workers then pay higher union dues a portion of which are funneled back into those same politicians' campaign war chests. It is a cycle that has driven California and New York to the edge of bankruptcy.

And Michigan as well.

H/T - Muskegon Pundit