Strikes by teachers. Strikes by actors. Strike, strike, strike.
With strikes and union activism everywhere, politicians meddling in sport, and morons like Bernard Hickey imploring us to embrace the economic mercantilism of Fortress New Zealand, you could be forgiven for thinking Rob Muldoon was alive, well, and flourishing in places other than just the virtual “other-world” of Twitter.
In Muldoon’s day, it would have been striking boilermakers and Cook Strait stewards. Strikes by actors are a new, and much more media-friendly thing. But their basic premises are still the same:
- the erroneous idea that workers own their job;
- the advancement of one group of workers at the expense of all others;
- the placing of the union’s interests above even that of its members…
Let’s consider these in turn.
Employees own their labour services, but they don't own their jobs. They’re certainly entitled to withdraw their services, but nothing in justice gives them the right to exclude others from replacing them. There is no right, in justice, that gives one group of employees the right to exclude others—especially not by force.
The extent to which industrial unions have been granted legal powers to forcibly exclude others from replacing their services, however—to run pickets shutting down companies and film projects by forcibly excluding supplies, customers and replacement labour—is the extent to which governments have given unions power beyond right to damage the welfare of everyone, including their own members.
William Thompson, a colleague of Robert Owen and a founder of so-called “scientific socialism” observed that the union’s “excluding system depended on mere force and would not allow other workers to come into the market at any price…”
It matters not [he said in1827] whether that force…be the gift of law or whether it be assumed by the tradesmen in spite of the law: it is equally mere force.
Gains [of the unionised few] were always at the expense of the equal right
of the industrious to acquire skill and to exchange their labour where and how
No wonder unions like the Australian Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) have launched a naked power grab using the power beyond right that legal favour grants them, to use that power and and expand it across the Tasman—oblivious to the damage they will deliver to the whole NZ film industry and everyone in it, including the actors they’re courting, especially if Jackson’s new film The Hobbit heads to Eastern Europe as he says it might.
No wonder unions like the Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) want to use the power beyond right to grandstand on a party political issue—using children and their own unionised members as their political pawns.
The teachers union and the actors union have different aims. In the case of the teachers union, what they’re after is 4% and a chance to bash Anne Tolley. In the case of the actors union, an Australian union seeking access here, what they’re after is power and publicity. In neither case are the welfare either of actors or teachers (or students) their primary concern.
At a time when jobs are scarce, money is short and everyone is having to tighten their belt, what both should get is what their premises deserve.
Because as economist William Hutt argued, the extent to which these unions and every other are successful in their successful in their demands and destructive in their means of achieving them, they harm every other group in society.
UPDATE: At least NZ’s unionists aren’t throwing molotov cocktails. In Europe, however…
Union-backed workers rocked Europe this week with intermittently violent protests in Greece, Ireland, Belgium, Poland, Portugal and others. In Spain, a nationwide strike disrupted air travel, regional shipping and municipal services. Doctors at state-run hospitals walked off the job in Greece and subway lines shut down. Supermarkets reported shortages of basic goods.
To call many of the increasingly regular demonstrations protests is generous. In Dublin, the gates to Ireland’s parliament were blocked yesterday by a demonstrator in a cement truck. In Barcelona, police cars were torched. And in Athens, a mob opposing cuts to government spending firebombed a bank in May, killing three people, including a pregnant woman.
What makes these frightening scenes so unnerving is that they’re not occurring in third-world dictatorships, but in advanced economies within many of Europe’s largest cities. We’re used to seeing violent street clashes in Lebanon. But Belgium?
The conflicts are the inevitable consequences of entitlement spending and a society geared towards the “common good," not individual rights. Turns out the much-heralded “safety net” isn’t safe at all: When bureaucrats decide how long you work, what type of benefits you receive and which industries or sectors receive privileged treatment, the economy quickly turns into mob rule.
Read more: “Mobs in Europe, Records in Brazil”