me want to call them "thugs." My mayor called them that.
Mike Bloomberg said union leaders were acting "thuggishly."
you want a raise. Your boss offers you less than you think you're
worth, so you tell him you won't work unless he makes a better
offer. He responds that if you stop working, he'll force you to
pay him thousands of dollars -- and maybe he'll send you to prison.
thug, you or your boss?
-- in the transit workers' case, the government -- is the thug.
is conceited. It thinks it's special. It makes laws to protect
itself from the unions of its employees. The federal government
and most states pass laws that forbid strikes. The transit workers
were threatened with fines of two days' pay for each day on strike,
their union with a fine of $1 million per day, and its president
with jail time. This was wrong.
of capitalism is that deals must always be win-win, or they don't
happen. You work for an employer if you think you're better off
working for him than not doing so; he employs you if he thinks
you're worth what you demand.
is simply an organized refusal to work for less than the strikers
think they're worth. The principle is the same whether one individual
or a union walks off the job: It's the principle of self-ownership,
the underlying principle of the whole capitalist system, the principle
that we are all free individuals dealing voluntarily to mutual
advantage. As John Locke taught in the "Second Treatise of
Government," "every Man has a Property in his own Person.
This no Body has any Right to but himself. The Labour of his Body,
and the Work of his Hands, we may say, are properly his."
just as workers have a right to strike, employers -- morally,
at least -- have a right to fire them. Under President Reagan,
the federal government dismissed striking air-traffic controllers
and let eager new employees take the jobs. That might have been
a good response to New York's transit strike. Bus drivers must
be easier to replace than air-traffic controllers. But replacing
the strikers wasn't even discussed. And neither was an even more
radical solution: firing both the workers and the public management,
or in other words, privatization.
that mass transit must be a government function: Who would build
the subways? But did you know that private companies built many
of New York's subways and ran them until government forcibly took
them over? The private sector would do it better.
enterprise ran a city's buses, there would be many different bus
companies, with many different contracts with their workers. If
one bus company's workers walked out, trains and other bus lines
would still be available. This would make a strike much less harmful
to the public, but more dangerous to the company, which could
find itself out of business. Some London subway-station workers
just celebrated the new year with a 24-hour strike; London bus
service, operated by private companies, was not interrupted. Too
bad New York government, instead of privatizing the bus lines
it runs, is taking over the lines operated by private companies.
York transit strike illustrated two of the dangers of an overgrown
government. When you let government monopolize something, you
invite stifling disruption when government fails, and you invite
it to try to force people to work -- and call them thugs for acting
on their freedom.