Conflicts of interest

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Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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19 Responses

  1. Avatar Freddie says:

    Whenever I want unbiased reflection on unions, I head straight for Mickey Kaus.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

      Heh. I thought of you when I wrote this, Freddie.Report

    • This seems pretty straightforward conflict of interest/self-dealing problems, though, doesn’t it? The union profits most when GM and/or Chrysler do well, and least when Ford does well, which would be fine except for the fact that the union’s monopoly over Ford’s labor ensures that it can manipulate how well Ford does in relation to GM and Chrysler.Report

  2. Avatar greginak says:

    Well one snarky and true response would be that the gov should just stop picking favorites and just build roads (since that is not in any way picking a favorite).

    I’m curious how this works in other countries where unions/labor have a voice/part ownership in the company. Anybody have knowledge on this?????

    More snark: Gee I guess The American People will be the poor suffering losers when everybody(almost) suffers from the scourge of having health insurance.

    I think it would be great to break the excessive power of many special interests (whatever the hell they are) but that is a bit of different subject from whether we let the auto industries keep dying or die real fast, or how to fix health insurance.Report

  3. Avatar North says:

    Snarking and snitting aside, this isn’t a good situation. I am not saying that all unions are evil or something but this particular arrangement doesn’t look kocher. You don’t have to be a right winger to see something wrong with this mess.Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      Well I’m unclear on why there should be parity in the contract between the three automakers. And if Ford is in the best shape why should workers have to make the same concessions as at the companies that are in worse shape?Report

      • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

        How do you suppose companies should operate, greginak? If three local restaurants in town are all competing, and two are doing badly because they provide crappy service and crappy food, and so outside chains are beating them up in sales, but that third local place is doing great, then should the local city council go in and give the crappy restaurants a bunch of money so that – despite their crappy service and crappy food – they can still compete with the third place that actually did its job? Is that good for people at the third restaurant or for people who pay taxes or for people who dine at these restaurants? Who are the winners in this situation? And now imagine that there is a food-service-workers-union which is spread across all three restaurants, only the two crappy ones are owned partly by this union. Do you start to see how this severely distorts the playing field? How the owners of the two crappy restaurants are mandating that the good restaurant actually pay higher operating costs while at the same time the crappy restaurants receive government help?

        Does this make any sense at all???Report

        • Avatar greginak says:

          I’m not actually sure about this situation although I can see the conflict of interest angle. I believe it is a good thing for workers to own a stake in the places they work. Certainly Google and Microsoft employees who own stock are happy with that, although they don’t have the sort of voice a union does.

          In general I just don’t see anyway the government/people isn’t involved with picking winners at some, even subtle level. Any law or regulation can be seen as picking a winner or tilting the scales.

          Oh I should have added that considering my general level of respect of mickey kaus I have been wondering if there is more to this story. Kaus’ assertions that this was revenge at Ford don’t move me all that much.

          So I get the conflict of interest, but I still think it is easy to say let them all fail or market forces or creative destruction, or whatever other popular phrases but doesn’t touch the human cost of letting them fall. I am no fan of the car companies but letting them fall would have been a disaster for many people and served as another anchor on the economy. This may be bad but not bailing them out would have been worse.Report

          • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

            I’m not actually sure about this situation although I can see the conflict of interest angle. I believe it is a good thing for workers to own a stake in the places they work. Certainly Google and Microsoft employees who own stock are happy with that, although they don’t have the sort of voice a union does.

            It’s a very good thing to have worker-ownership if that’s the model you’re going for. But it’s weird to have the union own part of a competitor. That’s the difference. If there was a programmer’s union that covered Microsoft and Google, for instance, and the union was part-owner of Google, and could dictate terms for workers at Microsoft, that would be a conflict of interest. If workers at either of those companies simply owned stock in the company, that would not be a conflict of interest.Report

          • Avatar North says:

            This isn’t a question of bailout/not bail out. It’s a question of whether it’s a good idea to give UAW the inclination and ability to cause another car company to fail and require a bailout (or require us to eat the disruption if it isn’t bailed out).Report

      • Avatar North says:

        To put it simply, Greg, unions are supposed to represent the interests of the workers in the company first and then the interests of the company itself second (because lets face it, no company, no union or workers). The UAW, now the owner of Fords’ competitors, is now serving the interests of three entities; the employees the company and now the company’s competitors and it’s fair to question what order it’s serving them in. It is not fair to the employees of Ford and it’s not fair to Ford itself for this situation to stand. It’s also corrosive to the union. I mean if we want to see unionism prosper in this country it would behoove us to encourage them to not behave like rent seeking oligarchs.

        “And if Ford is in the best shape why should workers have to make the same concessions as at the companies that are in worse shape?”
        Can we please please please not forget that the only reason GM and Chrysler even exist now is that we bailed them out at great public expense? (Yes yes we bailed out Wall street too and that mess makes me start wanting to yell “Hang em all” like Bob Cheeks after two many glasses of sherry) And also that it is not Ford that drove the other two out of business.Report

    • Avatar Bob Cheeks says:

      North, dude, you mean BO and the commie-dems f*ucked up? NOOOOOOOO! Hey, it’s just a little socialism, I mean you guys are whining like my union bros will have to give a pic of BO the one hand salute while shouting, “yooo, yooo, yoooo!” North, the gummint is our friend, its teats feed us, its free oil warms us….”love me, love me, love me, I’m a liburallllllll!”Report

      • Avatar North says:

        Odd, cheeks, maybe senility is consuming me in my venerable 30 years of age but as I recall this disaster occurred while Bush was at the wheel.Report

      • Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

        Go get ’em, Bob Cheeks!

        It’s not like Bush gave the automakers $17.4 billion and left it up to Obama to figure out how the deal would work.Report

  4. Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

    Intentions aside, this seems pretty antithetical to capitalism and fairness and how we ought to be running our economy.

    Maybe I’m living in a different country than you are, but I’ve never seen a politician do something that didn’t help one group of people over another. The version of Capitalism that has been practiced in America for decades has nothing to do with fairness or how we should be running our economy.

    In the scheme of things, the auto companies got a few tens of billions of dollars. The financial industry got almost a thousand billion. As long as we’re talking about “fairness” and “how we should be running our economy”, let’s include the broader concept of “Too Big to Fail” and not just focus on the unions.

    And, if we’re really going to have this discussion, then we need to set the wayback machine to before the bailouts happened and talk about what “should have been done”.

    [snark]
    For me, I would have allowed the financial world collapse completely, recruited like-minded young American patriots, hidden in the wilderness, and performed guerilla strikes against the occupying Soviet army. Wolverines!!!!11!1!
    [/snark]Report

    • Avatar North says:

      Yes John, the financial sector got more and there’re elements of that mess that reeks to high heaven too. But just because that’s a sty doesn’t excuse the mess with the unions. To paraphrase Freddie just because it’s immoral and stupid there doesn’t make it any less immoral and stupid here. And worse, here in the auto industry we’re essentially setting up a situation where the last surviving car manufacturer is being set up to fail. Is that what we want? Really? Really??!?Report

      • Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

        Your comment seems to assume that I do not think the auto bailout was a bad idea and/or that I am excusing the mess with the unions. I do think the auto bailout was a bad idea and I am not excusing the mess with the unions.

        What I am saying is that discussions of the auto bailout eventually center on the concept of “Too Big to Fail”. So, let’s cut to the chase: Let’s talk about “Too Big to Fail” and “what should have been done” so that we didn’t have this mess with the unions.

        Please don’t put words in my mouth than then attack me with hyperbole.Report

    • Avatar Dave says:

      [snark]
      For me, I would have allowed the financial world collapse completely, recruited like-minded young American patriots, hidden in the wilderness, and performed guerilla strikes against the occupying Soviet army. Wolverines!!!!11!1!
      [/snark]

      By all means, go right ahead:

      Report