Pat earns the Comment of the Day by refocusing my attention on an issue I had been planning to examine in detail, only to be distracted by the swirl of current events. The issue is the ethics of public unions, a controversy in sharp focus during Governor Scott Walker’s overhaul of public employee pensions and collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin. Thanks, Pat, for both your thoughtful comment and for getting me back to this important matter. You’ll have my response soon.
Here is Pat’s commentary on “Ethics Carnage in Wisconsin: the Ethics Grades So Far”:
“No one need be a member of the union of concerned scientists to figure out the problem of collectivism in government. If Congress (or the Union) together decided to vote themselves $1,000,000 salaries per year (or exorbitant pensions for life), they could do it. That is the problem of collectivism and it is the problem of democracy – that can defeat the purpose of the freedom of elections. Ordinary taxpayers can be defeated by their own democracy in that regard, and it is no better than having a dictator under tyranny.
“The function of having free elections is to avoid that tyranny, i.e., by electing persons to office temporarily, not to be saddled with them for life (which is what congressional pensions produce). By most ethical standards, it would be congressional embezzlement by the nature of the authority to grant itself those pensions. The same would be true if Congress worked in conjunction with government employees to help them get reelected in order to perpetuate elective office for incumbents so that it can be effectively, for life.
“Both methods defeat the purpose of freedom of elections that is built into the congressional constitutional scheme that separates the elective office from the appointed and the government employee. Government pensions meant for government employees alone has been unethically and grossly inflated and granted to Congress and appointees in a blatant self-serving reward that defeats the purpose of having elections. Terms limits is the only method that can control that abuse of power.
“If government unions demands are too high, they may also need term limits to prevent arbitrary tapping into the proceeds of the taxpayer’s treasury, and thereby limiting what can be paid, and what can be taxed for.
“Public finance can defeat the purpose of democracy without such protections, and it is a necessary feature of all democracies to prevent the power of authority to abuse the power of the people, or there will be only wage slavery by government taxation.
“By tradition before government exploitation, government pensions were granted only to government employees – distinct from those elected – because they were employees. Elected persons are only temporary employees, and meant to be only temporary employees, and therefore not entitled to pensions. But that tradition has been grossly abused by self-serving elected employees to become privileged as elected and privileged as employees where it was designed to be one “or” the other, not one “and” the other.”