Neoliberalism, My Way

Related Post Roulette

61 Responses

  1. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    I think there are generally good reasons for the leftward tilt in Latin American history even if I don’t agree with all or most of it because I am not a Fanonist and am much more of a mixed-market social democratic wishy-washy kind of guy over an outright Marxist.

    That being said, Latin America suffered greatly because of direct interference by U.S. Companies and the Government whenever they elected capitalist critics and socialists directly and we deserve distrust for these actions. Helping Pinochet’s coup comes to mind.

    I am primarily a supporter of rule of law and supporting democratic elections than any first principals regarding capitalism with reason and limits. So if the people want to elect socialist governments, they should be allowed to elect socialist governments without interference or tsk tsk from the corporations.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Frankly I don’t see how our generally inexcusable meddling in Latin America fits under the blanket of any form of liberalism. It was more jingoist than anything.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to North says:

        During the Cold War, people would argue that imperialism in the name of anti-Communism was no vice.

        Not sure what the 19th century Americans argued but it was probably something about white men and burdens.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to North says:

        I concur Lee, but that doesn’t make it liberal or neoliberal, just anti-communist (at best).Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to North says:

        Yeah, North, the more I think about it, the more I think our Latin America policy cannot really be considered “neoliberal.” I think the Latin Americanists I’m thinking of (in general) equate “neoliberalism” with pro-corporationism, whereas I don’t. (I didn’t say “pro-corporatist” because corporatism can have different meanings.)Report

    • Avatar James K in reply to Saul Degraw says:


      One of the problems with “neoliberal” is that is has widely different meanings in different circles. The left in most parts of the world outside the US use it to mean the sort of free-market policies that became popular under Reagan and Thatcher. That will be how it is being used in Latin America. What doean’t haelp is that there are a some on the left who just use it as a catch-all term for things they don’t like (much the way “socialist” is used by some on the right).Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to James K says:


        I pretty much agree. My main concern is to try to distinguish whatever it is I believe from libertarianism, because while I have a lot of respect for libertarianism, I can’t go the whole ten yards to embrace it and identify with it. So I’ve chosen “neoliberalism.” That’s partly because it mixes the US and non-US contexts of “liberal” as “welfare-statist” and “liberal” as “19th century liberal.”

        In other words, I agree with you that it’s often used to refer to Reagan/Thatcher-esque policies. The way leftists use the term also seems to fit with the “markets as foreign policy” critique of US diplomacy offered by William Appleman Williams and Walter LaFeber, although I don’t think they actually use the word “neoliberlism.”Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I support expanding welfare supports, such as food stamps, and reducing the constraints put on receiving or using those supports. In other words, no more drug tests for welfare recipients and fewer restrictions on what people can buy with food stamps.

    My first thought when I hear about this sort of thing is to think about the political feasibility of it. The thought process behind drug tests for welfare recipients goes something like “I had to take a drug test to work my ass off all day. Shouldn’t you have to take one to sit on your goddamn couch all day?”

    Whether or not you agree with that thought process, I’m wondering at how you’d address that particular concern because, believe it or not, it’s pretty popular.

    Similarly, there is an idea out there that food stamps shouldn’t be used for, say, cigarettes. Do you agree that food stamps shouldn’t be used for cigarettes? Even if you don’t agree that they shouldn’t, do you understand why some folks might think that they shouldn’t be allowed to be used for such?

    In that vein, we’re stuck dealing with whether food stamps should be allowed to be used for, oh, Doritos and High Fructose Corn Syrup beverages. How do you address the argument that “we’re trying to help people be healthy, not help them eat junk food”?

    Or is the argument merely that food stamps should be allowed to purchase brand-name mac and cheese in addition to store-brand mac and cheese?Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Jaybird says:

      “I had to take a drug test to work my ass off all day. Shouldn’t you have to take one to sit on your goddamn couch all day?”

      My response – I sit on my ass all day working, and I honestly can not remember the last time I peed in a cup for a drug screening. The only folks who should be regularly screened are those whose duties require stone cold soberness or for whom the fed has decided to be meddlesome because of the contract they are working under can not be sullied by the presence of evil drugs.

      If that person over there is sitting on their ass doing nothing dangerous, I give a crap what they are smoking.

      As for food stamps – if you can’t eat it, you shouldn’t be able to use them to buy it with ONE exception – diapers by moms with young children. So smokes, no. Soda & chips, sure.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        I was shocked when my wife had to take a drug test to work as an electrical engineer for a major semiconductor firm. At the time, I was on my second job that required a security clearance with some pretty solid background checks under my belt and had never had to take one. I’m not sure how well I’d tolerate the suggestion.

        It’s not as offensive as “give me your Facebook password,” but seriously, you’re either suspicious enough that I’m on drugs that you probably shouldn’t hire me or you’re confident enough to hire me and maybe you can see if I have issues getting to work sober before making me pee in a cup.Report

      • I’ve mentioned this before, but AFAIK my company still tests *all* applicants prior to hire.

        After that, they reserve the right to test, either randomly or for cause; but in practice have never (AFAIK) done so at any point, and I’m coming up on twenty years with them.

        I am told (take with a grain of salt) that testing all applicants prior to hire helps reduce the company’s insurance rates (and lets them tout their ‘drug-free employer’ status); I am also told (ibid) that they are exceedingly unlikely to ever test randomly (or even for cause), because that potentially opens them up to accusations of discrimination (“Oh, it’s ‘random’, huh? Why *me* twice in 2 months, and not *him*?”)Report

      • I sit on my ass all day working, and I honestly can not remember the last time I peed in a cup for a drug screening.

        This may be a regional thing. I live in Colorado and I’ve had to take a drug test for every single job I’ve ever had, going back to the restaurant. When I applied to Blockbuster, I had to take a *HAIR* test. It doesn’t matter if I worked at a place that required a clearance or didn’t require one: every single one of them made me pee in a cup (with the exception of one place that didn’t, but made me sign something that said that they could make me take such a test at will).

        I don’t know which of our two experiences is more representative of the workforce these days… do we have numbers on this?

        If your experience is more representative of the interesting sample of the country, I will agree that the argument that “I had to take one!” holds little enough merit to withdraw the question.

        Soda & chips, sure.

        I imagine that this will get both the moralistic righties upset at the idea of government monies going towards “steak and lobster” as well as the moralistic lefties upset at the idea of “childhood obesity”. If I recall correctly, food stamps for soda pop was a sticking point all the way back in the Johnson era. I don’t know that we, as a society, have changed all that much. I can easily see a huge chunk saying that more restrictions for food stamps are better than fewer.

        Maybe I’m wrong on that.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        I am 100% anti-drug war and about 95% anti-all legal drug and alcohol prohibitions. It is your body and you can do with it what you want as long as you don’t hurt others.

        That being said, I don’t have a problem with companies drug testing at the hiring stage. If I were an employer, I would not care at all about employees’ casual drug use. It would be nice, however to have a way to screen out anyone with serious substance abuse problems.* Also, I have serious doubts about anyone who cannot cut it out a few months to look for a job (unless of course you are looking for a job where drug use is obviously permissible). As an analogy, even if I ran a business casual work environment, I would still expect a candidate to show up in a suit (again, depending on the industry).

        *If one of my current employees developed a substance abuse problem, I would do what I could to help them get better. I wouldn’t be interested in taking on new cases, though.Report

      • @j-r – all that is about where I’m at.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        We just seem to be spending a lot of effort screening for the rare bird candidate who manages to get through the interview process and the reference checks but who also has enough of a drug problem that it will affect his work (here, but not at the last job and not during the application process). And it will affect his work in such a way that we won’t notice it and fire him before it does real damage to the company. My limited experience with substance abuse affecting the job is that it shows up in real measurable work habits clearly enough that a separate “pee in a cup” step is unnecessary.

        Blanket screening might make sense when you’re hiring somebody at McDonald’s where the application process is, “Do you have a pulse?” and it’s almost nobody has useufl references to check, but for a professional position with years of track record that will be checked, it seems like a really weird thing to do.

        Then again, the work I did required a lifestyle polygraph screening and no drug test. I suppose that means that they’re confident enough in their background checks (and their magical truth dowsing box) that they don’t need the test.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        Hey, if I can get the Nanny’s and the Moralistic Brigade to both put their panties in a twist over piddly crap, I consider it a good day.Report

      • I wonder if the drug testing is driven more by liability insurance companies that offer a discount on premium to employers if they (employers) require the tests. At least that’s my guess, but I don’t really know.

        Like Jaybird, I used to live in Colorado. I was never tested for any of the fast food or grocery store jobs I applied for. I was tested for one of my bank teller job, but not my telephone CSR job. I was also tested for Target.Report

      • Avatar kenB in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        I work at a small company that sells products and services to big companies. In the last year or two, we’ve had more than one client insist that we follow their employee screening requirements, including drug testing. Fortunately the boss has so far refused that one — he’s no fan of drug use, but he sees it as a completely unnecessary invasion of privacy. But I don’t know how much longer we can escape it (most likely scenario is that a state that one of our clients is in decides to require it of all their vendors).Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        I was shocked when my wife had to take a drug test to work as an electrical engineer for a major semiconductor firm.

        Did it involve working with dangerous amounts of electricity?Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        Almost unmeasurably small amounts, actually. How she managed to shock me, I don’t even know.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        How she managed to shock me, I don’t even know.

        This is the neoliberalism thread. Take your Marxism over to Healthy Commotion.Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumbers in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        @glyph 10/14/14 1:37 pm

        I am told (take with a grain of salt) that testing all applicants prior to hire helps reduce the company’s insurance rates (and lets them tout their ‘drug-free employer’ status)

        I think this is legit.

        As to whether they reduce rates enough to cover the cost of the screening, I don’t know.

        Just like how states who spend money drug testing welfare applicants spend more on the screening than what they save on rooting out drug-taking recipients.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Jaybird says:

      To answer your points. There is a lot of bad ideas that are popular. The “War on ISIS” is popular right now. It’ll stay popular until it ain’t- whether it’s a good policy or not (I fear not) it’ll remain so whatever its popularity.

      Foodstamps are for food. I don’t see how cigarettes fit under the category of food. Whatever one may think of doritos or brand name mac ‘n cheese they are food. So you should be able to use foodstamps on em.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to North says:

        Yea, my libertarian streak (it’s white) is showing again. I’d rather we put more efforts into letting food stamps be used at farmers markets and costcos, rather than put limits on what people can get.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to North says:

        Oh, are we just saying that it doesn’t matter that a good idea is unpopular because it remains a good idea? Hey, fair enough. I’m a big fan of that.Report

    • Avatar kenB in reply to Jaybird says:

      Re the food stamps, I’m curious — why is “we don’t trust you with straight cash, so we’re going to allow this financial support to be used only for food” an acceptable amount of paternalism, but “we don’t trust you to make wise food decisions, so we’re going to allow this financial support to be used only for reasonably healthy food” unacceptable? Is it just a gut feeling or can you articulate a principle behind it?Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to kenB says:


        Good question. For starters, I like in principle the idea of a basic income guarantee, so in that sense, I would prefer outright cash outlays. And one reason I support food stamps is because it’s a next better thing, a way to ensure access to one thing we have deemed necessary.

        My own gut feeling is that more choices is better than fewer, and there’s something about declining to impede others’ choices more than necessary. I’d posit a “dignity principle.” If we give charity, we should give it in a way that respects and retains as much of the dignity of the other person as possible. Otherwise it’s not charity, it’s at least partially something else.

        On second thought, I’m not sure if that counts as a principle, because you could say, “well, they have the choice not to receive food stamps,” and I’m not sure how I’d answer your point, other than to say it’s better to have that choice than none at all, but that kind of supports, rather than detracts from, your point. I’m also not sure how I’d answer a corollary: something with conditions is better than nothing without conditions.

        I guess a fallback is that when the state gives it away, it should do so in a manner that is less intrusive than what we’d allow a private charity. But that’s kind of ad hoc, and I’ll need to chew on it before insisting I’ve found the right answer.Report

      • Avatar kenB in reply to kenB says:

        Thanks for the response. I forgot to mention that I think there’s a reasonable argument for restrictions that’s motivated by concern for the recipients rather than by control over one’s own gift — some not-insignificant percentage of recipients of government assistance would, if not otherwise constrained, spend too much money on unnecessary or even damaging things and end up hardly better off, or perhaps even worse off, than they would have been without the assistance.

        I do see the argument for dignity, but while some folks would be better off with fewer constraints and more responsibility, others would do better with more paternalism.Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to kenB says:

        I do think my “personal autonomy” and “”more choices is usually better” biases make paternalism very suspect (for me). But I can’t deny that it can be a good thing, and perhaps it would be bad to jettison it entirely. I do suspect that when some paternalist measure is justified, it is justified not only as paternalist, but also as something else. Unfortunately, I can’t think of any examples offhand.Report

      • Avatar Matty in reply to kenB says:

        While poor people obviously can and do make bad choices I am not persuaded a distant bureaucracy knows their interests better than they do. Telling someone that the only way you will help her is food when she knows her children need new shoes does not strike me as either compassionate or smart.Report

    • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Jaybird says:

      Whether or not you agree with that thought process, I’m wondering at how you’d address that particular concern because, believe it or not, it’s pretty popular.

      Similarly, there is an idea out there that food stamps shouldn’t be used for, say, cigarettes. Do you agree that food stamps shouldn’t be used for cigarettes? Even if you don’t agree that they shouldn’t, do you understand why some folks might think that they shouldn’t be allowed to be used for such?

      On that first paragraph (about the “I had to take a drug test in order to work so why can’t they…”), my answer is I don’t know how I’d address it. One answer is that I think employers ought to bear the burden of proving a drug test is necessary and otherwise being forbidden from requiring the test. (Yes, I know this puts me on the “let’s pass a law against employer practices” side of the aisle for once.) But if we accept that employers do require the test and can (for now) legally require it, the only argument I’d use is that employers are private actors and the state is the state and shouldn’t be allowed to pry into our personal lives any more than necessary. That might win over some, but probably too few, of the phenomenon you describe.

      As for your two questions, my answer is yes (#1) and yes (#2). For yes (#1), I agree with North: cigarettes aren’t food. (And yes, legislatures can always redefine the meaning of food but it seems to meet at least a common-sense definition of food to say that it doesn’t include cigarettes.)

      For yes (#2), that’s a real phenomenon. If the only way we can get any public provision of food stamps is to require the stamps be used only for certain healthy staples, then I’ll probably have to cede the point to realities on the ground. But my preference is to support nudging in the direction of more choices than fewer. And maybe there’s some middle ground.Report

  3. Avatar greginak says:

    Lots of stuff i agree with here. Let me know where to send my money for your PAC.

    You say you’re principles contradict each other. Right on. I know my principles conflict at times and i would wonder about someone whose claims all their principles perfectly align without conflict. That sounds way to convenient. It is in the areas where our own principles grind together that we find what we stand for and, most importantly, deal with the really tough issues.Report

    • Thanks, @greginak , but there’s also a danger in holding contradictory principles, in that I decide one way on one day and on one issue, and another on another day and another issue. And at what point does it just become my whim? I guess a way to avoid that is to rank those principles, so that one is more important than the others. Kind of hard to do in practice sometimes.Report

  4. Avatar Citizen says:

    If Neoliberalism is a solution to the rent seeking side affects found in capitalism, wouldn’t there be a better solution to prevent it directly than to make other institutions to prevent them?

    In the age we are in, I would propose liberalism gives traction to socialism. Historically socialism is repeatedly found wanting.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Citizen says:

      I’m guessing this is a criticism coming from libertarianism? Is that the better solution?Report

      • Avatar Citizen in reply to North says:

        I would say libertarianism would be less likely to vector into socialism, but at present, the rudder is pushing that direction also.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to North says:

        I’m not sure how much sense it makes to talk about which ideological regimes vector into other ideological regimes. There is a whole lot of endogeneity and omitted variable bias that it is almost impossible to correct for (love to hear from the practitioners if I am wrong on this).

        Here is what I mean. There is a reason why Russia went from authoritarian monarchism to authoritarian socialism to a its present version of authoritarian democracy. Would Russian democracy look different if the country had a history of political and economic liberalism like what England had? Of course, but it didn’t, so all you are doing is begging the question of what is wrong with Russian democracy.

        Shorter version: any society whose citizens are capable of competent self-rule are unlikely to veer into the sort socialism that you fear; this is because they start at libertarianism, but because they are capable of competent self-rule in the first place.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to North says:

        shorter: Beer fixes everything. Except Russia.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to North says:

        I’m fascinated Citizen; how do you feel neoliberalism points us towards government ownership/control of industry? Could you lay out for me how the Democratic party is currently careening in that direction? I find this interesting especially since the socialists and marxists on the leftward fringe are tearing their hair out over how the mainstream left has dumped socialism and marxism and has moved right in the last 25 some years.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to North says:

        Well, Will would put it that the government makes laws to make the corps do as it wants.
        sometimes that’s even the case.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to North says:

        There seems to be different ideas of what self-rule means. To some people, self-rule is basically representative democracy. Sovereignty rests in the citizens, the citizens elect leaders to different government positions and the decisions made by government are according to the electoral majority or whatever compromises are hashed out on the issues of the day. There is usual some mechanism to prevent the majority from hurting non-majorities too much.

        Others have a more mystical idea about self-rule that seems to resemble something out of the Book of Judges. Everybody does what he or she thinks is best to extent possible and any attempt to impose conditions from the majority on a dissenter represent a violation of self-rule.Report

      • Avatar Citizen in reply to North says:

        @ North
        I would say the left fringe is correct if they are saying corporate trojan horse policy wrapped in socialist good intentions has been the agenda. Now if they actually believed the result would have ended up anything other than gamed, thats a different matter.

        Probably the one area I would take democrats (or republicans) to task for is pushing a minimum wage increase. We could open the can of worms about globalization and IMF instituting alot of Neo policy, but I would rather not.
        Just two generations ago, mom and pops could operate at 40% profit margin, unpack why that is not a reality today and you can actually see the policies of the last 25 years have slanted. Where is the decentralization?

        Also the typical solutions to big corporations behaving badly has been to throw big government at it.

        @ Lee
        Awhile ago there were a few people that walked into a desert and turned it into fertile fields. I would like to hear what self rule is to those folks. The leader they have today is pushing policy/propaganda that would fit in the Stallin regime. If that is the price to combat mysticism I would say its a foolish gamble.Report

    • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Citizen says:


      Like North, I’d probably need you to flesh that out a bit to understand what you’re getting at.

      I will say, that I don’t think my brand of neoliberalism really does away with all rent-seeking. I would hope that it could check the most extreme forms of rent seeking, but I’ll admit that the ACA, to name one example, is a rent seeker’s paradise (cue in an idea for another weird Al song). I happen to believe that the good outweighs the bad, though.Report

      • Avatar Citizen in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        @ Gabriel
        As much as I would be critical of Neoliberalism, I often side with you and Norths comments. As strange as it may sound, I think you are both better principled than the idealogy your holding to.Report

  5. Avatar North says:

    I’m flattered at the callout and applaud your effort. I generally agree with what you’ve written so far, good job!Report

  6. Avatar James Hanley says:

    For the record, I nabbed the term marginal libertarianism from James K.

    I like your number 8. It resolves the free rider problem, but still incentivizes the union to satisfy its members, and doesn’t force anyone to contribute if they object to it. It still forces them to contribute to something, so there’s still some degree of coercion, but if they can direct it to any non-profit they please (The Juvenile Firearms Foundation, perhaps), it’s minimal.Report

    • Thanks, @james-hanley . I should’ve given the shout out to James K., too, but I hadn’t realized he used the term too/first.

      I’m not sure exactly how a “conscience exemption” works in practice, but in theory I’d want people to be able to give to almost anything, or at least almost any non-profit–including the Juvenile Firearms Foundation or an antiunion organization–provided that the donation not be a back-alley way to repay oneself.

      In practice, I imagine that if the exemption were ever to be put in place in a widespread manner, there would probably be a list of mutually agreed upon charities to which to donate.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to James Hanley says:

      I’m not sure I understand the free rider problem. Why can’t unions negotiate for their members, and only for their members? Is there some regulation that requires the unions to negotiate for all employees regardless of membership, or is the idea that simply having the union negotiate wages for its members somehow makes it easier for non-members to negotiate higher wages?

      Personally, of course, I don’t see the free-rider problem as a problem at all—the government shouldn’t be in the business of making it easier to form cartels.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Certain corporations feel empowering unions to be in their self-interest.Report

      • Avatar James K in reply to Brandon Berg says:


        What you describe is how it works in New Zealand. Union membership is voluntary but the union only negotiates on behalf of its membership, and will only represent its members in other forms of labour dispute. There are a couple of other differences as well, like only union members can strike.

        This seems to be an entirely adequate solution to nay free-rider issues.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        This was thing I never got. My wife is a professional at her company, but is not covered by the professional unions. Of course, it’s her job classification that isn’t covered, not her alone. but still, if some employees can be free-agents, and others not, I fail to see why it has to be all or nothing in the US, except for the reason that this is what the Unions lobbied for & got.Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to Brandon Berg says:


        Probably because most union jobs tend to come with the salary attached to the job, not the person. So if you’re a welder, you get welder pay for your experience and seniority. Which was negotiated by the union before you were hired on. Or perhaps while you worked there.

        Because company’s know the quickest way to get you to quit is to pay someone else more for the same job, so you get the same raises.

        So why join the union? You get the major perks — pay and benefits — and don’t owe the dues. Which works out just like opting out of vaccination in the long run. If *enough* people are in the union, the union has the ability to negotiate on a better foot (if never quite equal to management). However, too few….that leverage collapses. Free riders end the system.

        Now, if we were a culture with fairly high union membership and a less adversarial management/employee relationship (I’m thinking like Germany), it wouldn’t matter as much. If at all.

        Unions are pretty much dead anyways in the US, so it’s all kind of moot.Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumbers in reply to Brandon Berg says:


        So why join the union?

        Well, I will use public school teachers in New Jersey as an example.

        They are not required to join a union. However, those who don’t join are required to pay an “agency fee” in order to cover various union expenses. This is 85% of what the union dues are. Because independence only saves 15%, the vast majority of teachers join.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        I’m not sure I understand the free rider problem. Why can’t unions negotiate for their members, and only for their members?

        In places where unions are allowed to negotiate freely, there usually *aren’t* any free riders, because the contract that the union and company agree to doesn’t let the company hire any non-union members. (Why would the union let them do that?)

        The problem is, supposedly, some workers morally object to what the union does, despite this not really making much sense. (And even if it did make sense…it doesn’t. I mean, people morally object to what companies do all the time, and they have a choice…either work for them, or don’t. If it’s a union shop, that should be extended to what the union does, also.)

        Of course, the thing that’s really baffling here is that we have ‘unions dues’ at all. Why can’t the company just pay the union, directly? I mean, that’s what’s really going on in closed shops.Report

    • Avatar DavidTC in reply to James Hanley says:

      I’m not sure what people think the union might be doing with their dues they don’t approve of.

      Union dues can’t be used for politicking.Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to DavidTC says:

        Someone might not particularly favor the union, or might believe that in their bargaining unit, the types of concessions the union is advocating for can be harmful to the organization they work in or to that particular person’s interests. Higher wages, for example, might theoretically bankrupt the organization. Or less dramatically, higher wages might make it harder for that organization to keep on junior staff who don’t have the seniority that unions do best at protecting.

        Unions are not always responsive to the members of their bargaining unit, and those members might sometimes have conflicting interests. I realize the goal of some of labor law is to ensure that such conflicts either don’t happen or are minimized, but they can exist. I’m thinking, in particular, of university faculty unions that represent tenure-track and non-tenure-track employees, some in the latter group having to answer to some in the former group who exercise a quasi-supervisory role. By “quasi-supervisory” I mean they don’t count as supervisor for the sake of how the bargaining unit is defined, but they still exercise something like a supervisory role in terms of being able to discipline or to recommend for renewal of non-tenure-track contracts.

        Now, that person does get the benefit of union representation if his/her job isn’t cut, and higher wages aren’t the only reason unions exist. They can help to protect against arbitrary treatment, and even the existence of the union can be a real benefit in that sense, because employers might think twice before fishing with their workers. I’m intrigued by the New Zealand system, but I’d need to learn more, and my default bias is still to endorse compulsory agency fees, but again, with the conscience exemption.

        And as far as I know, you’re right when it comes to politicking. Unions can’t use dues money for politicking. But unions sometimes endorse candidates. And while the union may not be using dues money to do so, endorsements create a situation in which someone is required to pay money to an organization that represents political views which that someone might disagree with.Report

  7. Avatar J.hemenway says:

    I found OT when searching for a chili recipe (guess that makes me a fascist) and haven’t stopped reading since…

    Having just read James Hanley’s Free On-Line American Government Text, Chapter 1…

    collective action problem and welfare

    Would welfare be a collective action problem as it is a “safety net for all if needed”? If so, does it not create some interesting new twists on the problem in the tree climber/ ladder holder example? The assumed preferred position is in the tree is where the leaves are plentiful. The benefit is surviving the fall from the tree. And the ladder is the opportunity to get back in the tree having survived the fall.

    1) What happens when some decide the net makes a comfortable hammock or at the very least, enough. If you fell out of the tree and were saved by the net, but there were no ladder or the first rung were too high to easily grasp, and all of your needs are still being met, where is the incentive to work your way back up? Especially if you keep falling. I know this is somewhat covered in the “free ride” paragraph though I think it is a ladder problem (gap between aid and self sufficiency) more than fully a lack of desire for betterment.

    2) Does not the increase in the size of the group disassociate the the benefit from the contributor thus affecting the prisoners dilemma? Further, what about the use of a middleman, ie politician, who is the benefactor of the benefactor? Are they not keeping just enough in the tree to shake the leaves down for the supporters of the program and thus the supporter of the politician easing access to the program? The contributor having more investment in the system can see where the efforts go but the benefactor gives appreciation to the program/politician and not the actual contributor. In fact the benefactor can become resentful of the contributor in this scenario simply for having more and not seeing how to get there themselves.

    3) I know the lack of appreciation from the benefactor creates resentment from the contributor,and would work itself out in the symbiotic relationship in the original arrangement of tree climber/ ladder holder, but would the contributor remove their own net to end the drain on the system in this scenario? Is this not why many call for work requirements and time restrictions on many welfare services?

    If the purpose of welfare is for the betterment of society as a whole, is the current system the correct solution? What can we do to fix the ladder? And is the middleman/ politician cutting off the rungs of the ladder and blaming the ones left in the tree while making it harder to stay in the tree?Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to J.hemenway says:

      Would welfare be a collective action problem as it is a “safety net for all if needed”?

      Possibly. That’s one argument, anyway.

      But something is only a collective action problem if the folks involved want the outcome. Some people say they don’t want welfare. The cynic might suspect that most of them would find they really do want it if they were in the position of needing it.

      Also, a collective action problem exists when there’s a collective benefit–one that everyone receives, whether or not they contributed (that’s how the free rider problem comes into play–some try to get the benefit without contributing, and that’s what creates a collective action problem; if everyone tries to free ride, there’s not enough contributions to achieve the benefit). So in that respect, whether social welfare is a collective action problem probably depends on the design of the program–the more inclusive it is, the more of a collective action problem it is.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to J.hemenway says:

      Welcome by the way. That chili piece just keeps paying dividends.Report

  8. Avatar J.hemenway says:

    forgot to check the notification box…Report