Madison Protests Show State Monopolies Are Unaffordable

Your Whiskey editor may spend all of his time bouncing between Baltimore and New York, but he is too close to Madison, Wisconsin, for comfort.

A very dear friend hails from Madison. Both her sister and brother-in-law still live in the Madison suburbs and work for the state. Both belong to the union and both have joined the protests.

One of her brothers also lives in suburban Madison. He was visiting her at her apartment in Brooklyn. “That Scott Walker [Governor of Wisconsin] is a scumbag,” he said to me with an expectation of agreement. Your editor stared blankly.

“He wants these people living at slave wages,” the brother continued. “To show you what kind of jerk he is: He also wants to cut a state insurance program for young mothers. Those people are just going to keep having babies anyway, so you got to help them.”

“I know how you probably feel about those protesters,” my dear friend admitted later. “But these state employees really are people who really ought to be paid well. They do important work.”

They would get paid properly according to their skill level and the market demand for their work, I thought. I began to say it, but then changed the topic.

“February is the worst month,” I said instead. “A few nice days that are like spring, alternated with days of vicious cold or absurd amounts of snow. And just when we’ve all had enough of winter.

“It’s like courting a beautiful but cruel woman…the kind who shows just enough favors to make it hurt when she hides them.”

Your editor had to hush up on the subject of Wisconsin, unions and markets for the sake of peace. He’s under no such restrictions here.

Robert Wenzel over at Economic Policy Journal says this about protest from Cairo to Madison:

When you hear talk that education and healthcare need to be returned to the free markets and that charity should be conducted by private sector charity organizations, you will know that the battle is for liberty. Right now, the battle is for who gets to control the shrinking, because of the recession, plunder.

There’s no way I can cheer for a bunch of government workers protesting against some of their perks being taken away. I’d like to see their jobs ended. But I can’t cheer on a Governor who doesn’t show the slightest clue that he understands that public education makes education a bureaucratic monstrosity that turns curious by nature children into bored stiffs (some of whom end up being treated for something called ADD, when the real disease that they have is GCE — government controlled education).

But, of course, current upheaval in the world is not now limited to Wisconsin.

The world is exploding with protests, riots and in some cases revolutions. Behind this disruption of the status quo is the reaction against government attempts to force people against the natural order. In Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and the like, it is pure revolt against totalitarian control. In Greece, Ireland and Wisconsin it is protests against the fact that governments can’t do the impossible, i.e. pay out more plunder than they take in (in one form or another). In Greece, Ireland and Wisconsin, the protesters clearly want the impossible. They want the plunder that isn’t there.

But at the core, the fundamental problem with all these upheavals is there is no indication that the people in any of these situations understand what makes for a growing prosperous society. In Greece, Ireland and Wisconsin, the protesters are clearly self-centered, who have no clue that they would live in a much better society if the governments simply ended their positions and stopped taxing the people. This would result in the people hiring the government employees in the private sector, where the incentives would result in a growing society.

Linda Schrock Taylor is a retired special education teacher and outspoken constitutionalist. She pulls no punches when she writes:

Intelligence…I mean a lack of intelligence…plays a very large role in unions and demonstrations. How else can uneducated, ineffective, unread teachers remain employed in a nation of crashing standards? Unions fight accountability. Most individuals choosing “teaching” as a career in this modern era – of non-readers; poorly educated; non-thinking; illogical high school graduates – have SAT scores that rank third (3rd!) from the bottom of the list of professions. Public school administrators score second (2nd) from the bottom. Try to sleep at night with those figures – and the consequences of them – rushing around in your head.

What is to be done? The question is on the mind of every rational, thinking, want-the-best-for-children individual. As far as I am concerned, we need to close all departments of education; withdraw all public financing; and let the public school system collapse. We need not fear such a process anymore than we fear tearing down a dangerous building in order to replace it with a safer and more efficient one. Americans, functioning within their communites are very resourceful and will devise better and more affordable ways to educate the local children. Education only becomes so complex and problematic when it is turned over to bureaucracies and politicians. Cut them out of the picture. Ignore them if they take to the streets to tantrum. There are other choices we can make. Furthermore, we should make them as soon as possible.

Please keep in mind that we’re not making the state government the heroes here. But we can’t help but nod approvingly when Wisconsin’s governor admits that government can’t afford to keep things going the way they have been.

The burden is on the taxpayer. The public carries the cost of government employees. They’ve always been told that it’s worth it. But if it were worth it, then there would be no need for protests. There’d be no need for what Taylor describes as tantrum throwing.

But those controlling the purse strings still don’t want to turn that purse over to the market. They still want their near monopoly on market goods like education.

Meanwhile the taxpayer is held hostage. They’re getting goods of lower quality and paying top dollar for it. And they’re told that there is no other way. The same economic laws that brings computers and cell phones to science fiction heights of wonder for lower and lower prices are suspended when it comes to education…or so we are led to believe.

The governments may be fighting their unionized employees a lot more because subsidizing monopoly and questionable quality is becoming increasingly unaffordable. Only the federal government can monetize their debts and kick the can a little further down the road with inflation. State and local governments can only watch helplessly as expenses climb higher than revenues year after year.

The pay, benefits and promises to public employees are proving unsustainable. Should we be worried? Would it really be so bad to see the guarantees of government employment no longer guaranteed? Can we have the market take a crack at providing more of the things are tax dollars have come to pay for?

“People don’t want choice,” my good friend claimed. “They want certain things simply to be taken care of.” Some people may indeed feel this way, but some people also feel it’s a good idea to turn control of the money supply over to a central governing body. Some people feeling that way doesn’t make it so.

Gary Gibson
Managing Editor, Whiskey & Gunpowder

February 23, 2011

The Daily Reckoning