The View From 1776

The Neo-Marxian Political Class

Apparatchiks in the public bureaucracy are the largest and fastest-growing sector in the nation’s workforce and the only ones who can be totally indifferent to productivity.  That may have something to do with the taxes we pay.

We are back to Marx’s labor theory of value: the value of a good or service is no more than the hours of labor involved in its production.  The slower a public employee works, theoretically, the greater the value of his services to the people.  A corollary is the more public employees, the more labor time expended, thus the greater the value to the working public.

Recent decades have brought us a surge in membership and influence of public employees (including teachers) unions.  In the past, government employees were protected from firing by Civil Service regulations.  In return for job security in the ups and downs of the economy, public employees were generally forbidden by law to strike.  Political clout of the unions has reversed that.

Liberal-progressives have long championed labor unions as effective weapons in socialistic redistribution of income. 

This was the reason for the New Deal’s Wagner Labor Act and for FDR’s love affair with unions heavily influenced by the Socialist and Communist Parties, like the Reuthers’ United Auto Workers and Sidney Hillman’s Amalgamated Clothing Workers.  Needless to say, FDR was not oblivious to the effect on voters in the unions.

This was the subtext for Al Gore’s ‘reinventing government’ during the Clinton administration and for Gore’s assertion that environmentalism was good for the economy, because it created new bureaucratic jobs.

This was the idea behind Michael Harrington’s 1960s pitch for ending poverty by putting more people on the public payroll.  Harrington was then head of the American Socialist Party, and his “The Other America” was required reading for the Kennedy administration’s New Frontiersmen.

His 1968 “Toward a Democratic Left: A Radical Program for a New Majority” expressed the sense of LBJ’s Great Society paradigm.  ?Even in a society based on private economic power, the Government can be an agency of social, rather than corporate, purpose?This does not require a fundamental transformation of the system.  It does, however, mean that the society will democratically plan ?uneconomic? allocations of significant resources.?Under such conditions it would be possible to realize full ? and meaningful ? employment for all those ready and able to work.  Going beyond the quantities of the the New Deal, the economy could be stimulated by promoting the affluence of the public sector rather than by tax cuts, and in the process millions of creative jobs can be designed to better the nation?s education, health, leisure, and the like.  Within twenty years such a policy of social investments should end all poverty, eradicate the slums and erode the economic basis of racism.  And those people who are unable to work could be provided with a guaranteed annual income instead of shoddy, uncoordinated and inadequate welfare payments.??The very character of modern technology, [Harvard economist] Galbraith says, renders the old market mechanisms obsolete.  In these circumstances planning is obligatory.  The state must manage the economy in order to guarantee sufficient purchasing power to buy the products of the industrial system.?

Now, nearly forty years later, the public employees’ and teachers’ unions hold the balance of political power in the nation.  Bill Quick in Daily Pundit, JANUARY 14, 2006, Welcome to the Party, writes: “More than 21 million people are employed by government at all levels in the US, by far the single biggest classification of employment in this country. Government workers comprise about 15 percent of the total work force, and exert a significant effect on the political culture of the nation as a whole. The reason for this is simple: Government workers neither produce nor consume in any sense relevant to classical notions of capitalism. Every penny they “earn” is taken from the pockets of those who actually produce things.”

(My thanks to Maggie’s Farm for bringing this posting to my attention.)

The negative effects of the union stranglehold on government were discussed at length in Labor Unions: Socialism’s Shock Troops, where I wrote:

“It?s not the improved lives of union members, however, that is the evil necessarily associated with unionism.? It?s both the fact that improvement of union member status is a transfer payment from non-union employees and consumers that impels inflation, and that government regulatory involvement is essential to the process of union extortion…..

“Politically and economically, the New Deal?s answer [to the Depression] was mass organization of labor, which would both get out the voters for liberal-socialism, bringing traditionalist Congressmen to heel, and would be powerful enough, with Federal backing, to force big business to its financial knees.

“President Roosevelt therefore made labor unions central to the New Deal.? John T. Flynn, an economist and syndicated columnist at the time, described it this way in ?The Roosevelt Myth:?

?There were men around the President at this time who saw the tremendous possibilities of organizing labor as a political force.? They knew the history of the labor movement in England, which had grown so great that it completely wiped out the old Liberal party as a political force.? They believed that something like that could be done in America and they wanted the President to use his vast powers and great funds to encourage the formation of labor into a great political force.? To do this it was necessary to enlarge the field of labor organization.?

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