On Twitter, Jessica David reminds us that today in 1766 Rhode Island led the nation in declaring independence. Obviously, independence wasn’t the immediate consequence of that declaration; such things take time.
That makes me wonder. What would people consider to be the date on which Rhode Island declared its turn away from representative democracy and back toward governance by the powerful? There are a lot of possibilities, and in the absence of an actual declaration, such things are incremental.
A leading contender, I’d think, would have to be the date on which the state officially declared the possibility of public-sector unionization. Other possibilities, like implementing an income tax, for example, corroded our ability to live independently of the government, but public-sector unionization allowed for an organized force to counter the will of the people. Worse, that organized force (ultimately funded by the people) is able to organize not only for its side of the negotiating table, but also to affect elections — thereby not only electing the people with whom they’d be negotiating, but also giving them a role in the broader political landscape, affecting every aspect of our lives.
Writing specifically about police unions, Ross Douthat mentions an example in California in which “the correctional officers union first lobbied for a prison-building spree and then, well-entrenched, exercised veto power over criminal justice reform.” But the public policy problem goes much deeper, with unions able to affect any public policy that might conceivably serve them (from abortion to welfare to war) and also to use their members’ money to advocate for positions that leadership wants for ideological reasons (like same-sex marriage).
I’m open to suggestions, though, that other landmarks might have represented a more significant or fundamental “declaration of dependence.”