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The Liberal Culture of Compulsion Social Security Isn't Broken

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Deflating Those Liberal Myths

by Christopher Chantrill
March 09, 2011 at 12:48 pm


OUR MEDIA chaps like to be first with the new cultural trend, the latest hot thing that young things are getting hot over. But they have another important role, and that is publicizing the Roadrunner moment—when Wile E. Coyote realizes that there’s nothing between him and the ground 2,000 feet below.

The Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan is good at Roadrunner observances, and she nailed another one last Saturday by puncturing the liberal myth about unions. Public-sector unions, she wrote, are friendly in the way that the “selfish, bullying union chief Johnny Friendly” in On the Waterfront is friendly.

Allow me to translate. Peggy is telling her liberal friends that the gig is up on the myth of labor unions as the friends of the little guy. So another liberal myth hits the dirt.

For over a century our liberal friends have insisted that labor unions are right there on the front lines fighting for the rights of workers. But this is baloney. Labor unions have always fought for some workers against other workers. When they were medieval guilds unions were fighting for the city artisans against cheap labor from the countryside. If you were a peasant, you could forget about getting work in the city, thanks to the city guilds. When they staged their first successful strikes by shutting down the railroad, the railroad unions were fighting for the well-paid railroad workers against the ordinary working stiff. In the 1930s unions were fighting for the Davis-Bacon Act to keep low-paid Negro labor out of the urban North and they were fighting for well-paid auto workers against people who might, some day, be able to afford an automobile. When labor unions fight against child labor they are helping keep capable teenagers locked up in K-12 government child custodial facilities (where children are expected to work for nothing) so they can’t compete for jobs with union members. When labor unions are agitating for minimum wages they are trying to force low-paid, entry-level workers out of the job market.

Now we have well-paid government-employee union members stiffing the ordinary taxpayer, and it looks like it’s all over for Wile E. Coyote in the Looney Tunes favorite “Roadrunner and the Union Brothers.”

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have a problem with unions. There are a ton of people that don’t get the capitalist offering. They come to the city and figure that political power is the coin of the city, just like it was back on the farm, where you needed a powerful patron to survive. It takes a generation for most people to twig to the truth, that capitalism is a system that rewards the chap, and he’s usually a middle-class nobody, that comes up with some new, improved product that consumers want to buy. Call it hitting the innovation jackpot. Plus, capitalism rewards the guys that work for the guy that hit the innovation jackpot. Until people figure this out, the safest place for them is a labor union or a political machine.

So much for the labor-union myth. But what about all those other pernicious liberal myths that serve no social purpose but serve, as the postmodernists so cleverly put it, as narratives to justify liberal political power?

There’s the narrative about FDR getting the United States out of the Great Depression. He did it so well that liberals are determined to use the same methods to get out of the Great Recession, even if it means burying every Democratic voter in money.

There’s the narrative about government education. Since the United States has had about 90 percent literacy for 200 years, with and without government schools, it’s hard to see the benefit, except the advantage of teachers paying union dues to their unions and the unions spending the money on politicians.

There’s the idea that without economic and social legislation, we’d all be working in sweat-shops. It’s odd how that worked out. Today the poor are protected from evil exploiters, the children of the rich gladly work 80 hour weeks as associates in law firms.

Frankly, I’m past being angered by these dying liberal myths: I’m just tired of them. I’d rather talk about good improving conservative myths, like the idea that the United States is the last best hope of mankind on earth. Or try this one on for size. Somewhere out there in America there’s a conservative black kid that’s going to grow up to be president. (You think America is ready to vote for a black conservative president?)

Some day, of course, today’s conservative myths will go the way of the deflating liberal myths that justify the rule of the today’s Ruling Class. But not yet.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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Ludwig von Mises, Human Action


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presented by Christopher Chantrill

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