In a previous blog post, I brought up the point that contradictions cannot exist, then I brought up a way in which I thought a group of particular people were making two contradictory arguments. I wish to continue this series by bringing up another area where I think that some people are making inconsistent arguments.
Recently, there has been a lot of discussions with regards to public sector unions. Individuals that would generally call themselves liberals have been concerned about the recent talk within many state governments of requiring concessions from many public sector unions in order to balance their budgets. Of course, supporters of unions have been arguing that these are attacks on unions specifically, with the ultimate hopes of eliminating public sector unions. Before proceeding, I think it is important to look at unions more closely.
Historically, the unionization of the workforce has been advocated with the grounds that firms have bargaining power over individuals and may be able to extract economic rents from workers in the form of lower wages. Unions, the supporters argue, equalize worker bargaining power, leading to higher wages for workers. So that begs the question, are public workers being exploited by their employer? Before I answer this question, I will bring up another point.
Generally, supporters of unions tend to be Democrats politically. If you doubt this, keep in mind that public sector unions are some of the Democrats largest political supporters. As a general rule, individuals that lean left tend to support an active government involvement in many of the economic sectors of our lives. They support re-distributive policies. More importantly, for this argument, they tend to support government action in ensuring our food is safe, our schools are run well, the goods we purchase are safe and many other areas. the primary argument for these actions are that government is not motivated by greed, and is concerned with the public welfare, because the government is "us."
However, the contradictions between the two topics I talked about cannot be more obvious to me. In one breath the union supporters argue that public sector workers need unions to ensure that they are not taken advantage of from the government. In the other breath the supporters generally argue that government involvement in our lives are necessary to ensure that we are kept safe. Which is it? Is the government taking advantage of individuals, or is it protecting them? If it is a force of good, why do the public workers need unions? If it is a force that takes advantage of individuals, how can we expect the government to protect us?
I think that supporters of unions would make many arguments for why there are differences. Perhaps governments are good at protecting citizens, but bad at protecting workers. However, I don't see how one is likely to occur, while the other is not. It seems to me that supporters of public sector unions, who also support an activist government policy, are living in a contradiction in their way of thinking.