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The Mission of Government Labor Unions

When Rhode Island’s government-sector labor unions — organizations that engage in politics to elect people who will negotiate employees’ contracts with kid gloves so that more taxpayer dollars can be funneled to the unions and then back into politics — came out against a constitutional convention in Rhode Island, many observers thought it might be out of concern that a surprise wave of good-government interest in the Ocean State would usher in policies that make it harder for their racket to continue.  Now, an activist group has emerged, funded almost exclusively with government-sector labor money (which is to say, with taxpayer money), and its emphasis does not fit those observers’ assumption at all:

The group has warned that such a gathering will open the door to actions that could impede women’s rights, gay rights, civil rights and rights for minorities and immigrants.

In brief: social issues, not labor issues.  The organization’s Web site lists more labor unions and also a broader array of groups, but they have a particular bent, such as the Economic Progress Institute (aka the Poverty Institute), Humanists of RI, Jobs with Justice, RI NOW, RI Pride, RI Progressive Democrats, and the Secular Coalition for Rhode Island.

It’s possible that the unions are carrying the financial weight of this organization because they don’t want a convention based on their own self interest and just feel that trumpeting the social-issues angle will stoke the public’s fears more effectively.  If that’s the case, then Rhode Islanders should question whether it’s appropriate for the labor organizations representing taxpayers’ employees to be using their money to carry far-left free riders.  Even the most strident believer in the right of workers to organize can admit that the process shouldn’t distort our system of government on so many issues that have nothing to do with contracts and working conditions.

After years of observation, however, I’d suggest that the real lesson is that labor services are just the way in which the unions raise money for themselves.  Their real mission is far-left progressive politics.  If that’s the case, union members should ask themselves whether they really to gain such tremendous benefits that it’s worth so much destruction of our rights and our society.

Profit as Theft from the Collective

Disdain for “for profit” companies is an indication that progressives believe all property actually belongs to the government, and taking extra is a type of theft.

Steve Ahlquist, the Oppressors’ Heir

In attacking Rhode Islanders for Immigration Law Enforcement, Steve Ahlquist gives reason to believe he’d have been a different kind of oppressor in a different time.

10 News Conference Wingmen, Episode 36 (Hobby Lobby, Freedom, & Health Care)

Justin and Bob Plain discuss the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision and the underlying issues of freedom and health care.

Hobby Lobby and the Lack of Church-State Separation

With progressives across the country in a delusional tizzy over the implications of the Supreme Court’s ruling that the federal government (through administrative action) can’t force a company to provide abortifacients (i.e., drugs that kill early-stage human beings in the womb), Jennifer Roback Morse takes a step back and looks at the context in the United States’ current practice of “separation of church and state” (italics in original):

Only after the program was over, did the pattern become fully clear to me: the caller (and the State) will allow the Church to be independent of the State, but only for things they think don’t matter.

We the State, allow you the Church, to have jurisdiction over who gets to receive Communion and Christian burial. That is because we consider those things unimportant.

But we the State, intend to have full authority over everything we consider important, like property settlements and child custody. And, as a matter of fact, if there is anything else we come to believe is important, we will take jurisdiction over that too.

And so here we are, with a relatively favorable ruling from the Supreme Court on the Hobby Lobby case. The Supreme Court has restrained the Administration from imposing upon the Mennonite Hahn family, owners of Conestoga Wood, or the Evangelical Green family, owners of Hobby Lobby, in as catastrophic way as they might have. But the State has certainly not given up its authority over religious institutions and religious people, when they deem the subject matter sufficiently important.

We don’t have separation of church and state, in the United States.  We have a thumb on the scale on behalf of statists and the non-religious, who often look to the government as a moral arbiter.  The government is their mechanism for avoiding the necessity of persuading their neighbors to a different position, which can be hard work.  (One suspects the anti-religion statists think it’s impossible work, inasmuch as they see religious people as constitutionally irrational.)

It’s all legerdemain.  As with progressives’ selective adulation of science, they present their opponents’ morality as derived from subjective, superstitious sources, while their morality derives from simple truths about the universe.

To the extent that they succeed in their use of the government toward (what they see as) moral ends, it’s nothing other than an establishment of religion.

Electing Cianci to Capitalize on the Image of Corruption

On his own blog, frequent commenter Dan has the novel idea that Providence should elect Buddy Cianci as mayor again in order “to follow the uber-successful sex-tape stars of reality television by leveraging its source of embarrassment into a cause celebre and tourism boon.”  I’d be interested in details about how a city could monetize such a thing… at least if the broader society is the reference point, not just insiders and a filmmaker or two.

It’s the basis for Dan’s suggestion, though, that merits serious conversation:

Reputations are fragile things, to the extent where a single bad act can overshadow a lifetime of otherwise laudable behavior. Like the perpetually struggling economies of former Soviet-bloc states, Providence has, for all practical purposes, passed the point of no return. It has missed the mark so consistently and in so many respects, that it could take generations to fill in the hole it has dug before building something positive in the space would even be possible. In the face of such an intractable position, the only rational course of action is to keep digging in the hope of striking oil.

As I’ve been saying, the possibility of a Cianci comeback is nothing so much as an indictment of Rhode Island’s political class and broader civic society, and their inability to produce leaders who don’t make voters feel as if they’re rolling the dice.  Partly, that’s a consequence of the speed at which politicians feel like they should climb the ladder:  From the current mayor of Providence, Angel Taveras, to every Republican candidate for Congress, Rhode Islanders run for the highest office that doesn’t threaten laughter, not the one in which they have the most knowledge and likelihood of accomplishing good things.

Perhaps more, however, it’s yet another indication of the state’s decline.  Most of the people who would run for office with the intention of setting things right have given up.  Either they leave, or they calculate that they’re better off staying out of the political fight.

In that regard, members of the local establishment and media who lament Cianci’s history of corruption should look in the mirror.  The state wouldn’t be in this condition if they weren’t in on it.

Staley and Hayden’s Representation

In their passing, Harry Staley and Robert Hayden leave behind an explanation and an example for civic participation.

Humanities and the Decline of the West

An example at Providence College illustrates how radical politics are stripping the humanities of both their practical and moral utility, and undermining Western civilization along the way.

UPDATED: Losing Iraq and Progressive Assumptions

It might not be much less tenuous than a mere metaphor, but I can’t help but see recent events in Iraq as a lesson in one of the fundamental assumptions behind progressivism. Glenn Reynolds writes that President Obama “didn’t lose Iraq, he gave it away,” and then quotes this, from The Hill:

The White House on Wednesday expressed concerns that Islamic militants had regained a foothold in Iraq after an al Qaeda-affiliated group seized control of a second major city. …

Earnest said the U.S. was “deeply concerned” the instability could create a humanitarian crisis, with reports saying Iraqi security forces had fled both cities and thousands of refugees were seeking shelter.

To the extent that Nobel Peace Prize winning Obama actually cares at all about humanitarian crises around the world, it seems likely that he considered Iraq to have reached a stage in its development and thought that, if it didn’t march toward Western-style governance, at least it would hold steady at the level of civic enlightenment that it had achieved under American tutelage.  Unfortunately, the world doesn’t work that way.  Regression is possible — maybe even probable, where a society’s supports have been eroded.

In Iraq, the supports were easy to see, mainly consisting of the presence of U.S. military forces, but the principle appears wherever progressives have placed their destructive hands.  One can see it in the apparent belief that business-type people will continue to produce no matter the taxes  and regulations that government imposes… because that’s just what business-type people do.

One can also see it in social policy, where the only explanation for progressive policies (if they aren’t simply evil) is that their advocates don’t realize that a community doesn’t advance in a constant, progressive evolution, but rather each individual must develop into each advancing stage from the raw stuff of human nature.  The human race doesn’t achieve the stage of liberté, egalité, fraternité like it reached the stage of opposable thumbs.  We need the supports of traditions and institutions that shape the individual according to lessons learned from the past.

Update (11:27 a.m., 6/12/14):

Here’s Vice President Biden in 2010, as if to illustrate the point.

Self-Improvement for the Entitled

The latest atrocity committed by a maladjusted loser raises questions about the entitlement state and the questions that we’re teaching kids not to ask.

UPDATED: East Greenwich Doesn’t Get That Clearing a Bar Isn’t Barring People

Emails an out-of-state friend, when he came across this story, “What is going on up there in the Ocean State?”

Honors Night at Cole Middle School is no more.

Parents got an email from Principal Alexis Meyer over the weekend saying some members of the school community “have long expressed concerns related to the exclusive nature of Honors Night.” The email goes on to say students will be recognized in other ways.

One student whom ABC6 goes on to quote illustrates the truth that too many people are apparently unable to understand, these days:  It’s not “exclusive” in the sense that it bars anybody from every participating.  Rather, it sets a bar, and students who want to be included can work toward the achievement, at which point, attendance will really mean something.

Something tells me this isn’t a good omen for the East Greenwich school district.


UPDATE (5/20/14 3:54 p.m.):

Well, that was fast.  John DeLuca tweets: “just found out from @MikeLaCrosse that EG School Administrators r reversing the decision on honors night. Will be held in June.”

I guess the people of East Greenwich also didn’t think it was a good omen for their much-lauded school district.

Changing Central Falls… for Whom?

Yesterday brought another article (Zachary Malinowski in the Providence Journal) about the “innovative ideas” finding purchase with the “very young government” (as in officials’ ages) of Central Falls.  This time, it’s a “Comprehensive Master Plan” developed by students at the Rhode Island School of Design and Brown University.

RISD landscape architecture professor Elizabeth Dean Hermann says the administration of Central Falls is mainly “learning through doing” and is very open to the suggestions of college students.  That should make one wonder what sort of urban area young folks at high-end colleges would design.

What’s their point of reference?  The people who actually live in Central Falls — with their own cultural habits, their own living circumstances, and their own income levels?  Or is the redesign going to be based on things that college students and some other young adults who find themselves in control of a city would think are cool?

I’ve wondered this before.  What I find interesting in this latest episode is that it comes with artists’ sketches.  Notice anything about the folks enjoying the “beautification” of Central Falls.

Catholic School Parents Demand Banning of Disliked Worldview: Catholicism

The secular and radical movement of separatists and censors has spread even to the point of demanding banishment of Catholic priests from Catholic schools, if they fail to conform to the demands of popular culture.

10 News Conference Wingmen, Episode 26 (Pay by Gender)

Justin and Bob Plain talk about the pay differential between men and women.

If Only We Had Some Social Institution

George Radanovich in today’Providence Journal:

The fact is, growth of government and the degradation of our culture are intertwined. We cannot reduce the welfare state without rebuilding the family and we cannot rebuild the family without reducing the ranks of fatherless children in our society.

History has proven that government is utterly incapable of reducing the ranks of the fatherless child. But, with its persuasive power, the private sector is.

If only there were a social institution that required very little action from government, except not to contradict it or make it impossible, and that helped create a social expectation that men would stay with the women with whom they had created, or with whom they might, create children.  That might really help to reduce the total amount of hardship and misery in the world.

Just imagine.

10 News Conference Wingmen, Episode 25 (Spotlight on Spending)

Friday’s discussion on Wingmen was about the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s Spotlight on Spending report.

Picking Nits in Outrageous Underwear Spending

It appears that members of the Rhode Island media are digging into a report that found $225 million in cuts to the next state budget and focusing on two passing examples of past spending that aren’t even included in that total.

Why the Boots Are Walking

A New York Post editorial from a couple of weeks ago, about the problem of departing residents that New York state shares with Rhode Island, puts the problem well:

It’s not just taxes prompting migration to their shores, though certainly the lack of an income tax in either the Lone Star or Sunshine state has to be a large part of the attraction. These growing states are also creating jobs, and generally offer a lower cost of living. And as a general rule, human beings do not move away from opportunity.

“As a general rule, human beings do not move away from opportunity.”

The General Assembly can pour more money into failing public schools. It can layer on workforce training program after workforce training program. But even if every program does for its beneficiaries what it’s supposed to do, if there is no opportunity in Rhode Island, they will take their taxpayer-funded skill sets elsewhere.

The reality is that government officials like these programs because they give them something to do. They collect the taxes to pay for it all and keep control over how the programs operate, what they supply, and to whom they supply it.

Rhode Island is leading the region in blindly ignoring the unmistakable reality that it needs to rethink its priorities. We have to start trusting people to make their own way, rather than trusting politicians and special interests to allow some spare feed to scatter on the ground around them.

Living Through an Echo of History

I have a somewhat miraculous view of literature. It seems more often than not to be the case that when I reach into the many boxes of books that I’ve inherited and pick out something to read, almost at random, it has a direct relevance to things I’d already been thinking about.

This time, it’s Erich Fromm’s Escape from Freedom (1941). Fewer than 100 pages in, I’ve already got notes for myriad essays scribbled in the margins, but the following quotation, I just had to share. It’s actually something Fromm quotes from Jacob Salwyn Schapiro’s doctoral dissertation Social reform and the Reformation (1909).

The time period described is the later part of the Middle Ages, as medieval society gave way:

Notwithstanding these evidences of prosperity, the condition of the peasantry was rapidly deteriorating. At the beginning of the sixteenth century very few indeed were independent proprietors of the land they cultivated, with representation in the local diets, which in the Middle Ages was a sign of class independence and equality. The vast majority were Hoerige, a class personally free but whose land was subject to dues, the individuals being liable to services according to agreement … It was the Hoerige who were the backbone of all the agrarian uprisings. This middle-class peasant, living in a semi-independent community near the estate of the lord, became aware that the increase of dues and services was transforming him into a state of practical serfdom, and the village common into a part of the lord’s manor.

Frankly, I don’t think I’ve read a better description of what’s happening right now in any modern punditry. All that’s required is to update the language and replace “Hoerige” with “productive class” and the lord with the government.