THE HUMBLE LIBERTARIAN

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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Would Woody Guthrie Walk With Wisconsin?

Have you ever convinced yourself you've developed an airtight libertarian case against a particular social or economic issue?

You talk it over and over with your extremely homogeneous group of friends until you're convinced you've discovered the exact line of reasoning that will convince everyone in the world you're right?

After much preparation, I felt ready to calmly and tactfully discuss the Wisconsin Union fight with my friend - who happens to be a high school teacher in Wisconsin. As I slowly and gently brought up the topic, he quickly countered with, "If you're not in the union, your opinion is irrelevant."

Now this is troubling logic. Taken at face value, this means that economists can't have thoughtful opinions on politics without being congressman. That teachers can't have thoughtful opinions on war without being soldiers.

You get the point. And so did he. In all honesty, he just didn't want to hear the talking points. He knows them. But in his head, he knows he's a good teacher. He doesn't feel overpaid. And that's the end of the argument to him. With no real market forces in that industry, it's hard to make a "value" argument. And looking back, I'm glad I didn't get a chance to deliver mine.

Because Mark Hemingway, writer for the Washington Examiner, gave a much better one in the latest issue of Reason.

"When I'm listening to Woody Guthrie, Billy Bragg, or whoever, I'll cop to finding the romantic portraits of unions vs. the corporate sound machine somewhat seductive," Hemingway says. But he doesn't believe those stirring images stand up to today's political reality: "I don't think Woody Guthrie would have written any songs about the SEIU racking up over $100 million in debt and writing eight-figure checks to the Democratic Party while their workers' pension plans circles the drain."


Eric Olsen,
Regular Columnist, THL
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