Unions are Inherently UnAmerican — Teachers Union Rips Off Members
Warner Todd Huston | February 11, 2009
Liberty and Ty…
Mark R. Levin
-By Warner Todd Huston
Imagine a fast food place that makes you buy a cheeseburger when you want a chicken sandwich. Oh, they don’t mind if you buy the chicken sandwich, too, mind you, but you are forced to purchase a cheeseburger every time you walk through the doors whether you want it or not. Seems a bit like a rip off, not to mention unAmerican, to force you to buy something you don’t want, doesn’t it? Well, this is unionism. Only unions prevent you from even having a job in your chosen profession in the first place to have the cash to buy your chicken sandwich unless you follow their rules. That’s forced labor for other’s benefit.
We used to call that a form of enslavement… now it’s called union membership.
Case in point, teachers unions and teacher’s support for California’s Proposition 8 – the sanctity of marriage law now embroiling California in such turmoil.
During this debate over the definition of marriage in the Golden State, the California Teachers Association (CTA) has wasted $1.25 million of its member’s dues money to advocate for gay marriage and to destroy Prop 8.
Recently, the Prop 8 supporters lost a fight in the Courts to keep the names of donors to the effort secret. Gay advocates rejoiced, that the horrible people that would donate money to the gay marriage ban would be “outed” for all to see.
It turns out, though, that records are showing that individual teachers have donated more money to support the gay marriage ban than to support the defeat of the proposition. NPR Reports:
Teachers, aides and counselors in California public school systems gave about $2 to support the marriage ban for every $1 they gave to oppose it. The educators gave some $450,000 in individual contributions to advocates supporting the ban and about $210,000 to those opposing it, according to the NPR analysis.
So here we see teachers giving at a two to one ratio to support the idea that gays should not be legally allowed to claim marriage under the law. Yet, the union has wasted $1.25 million of those same teachers dues money to aid gays in this fight. By their donations, teachers are repudiating the very organization that claims to represent them.
This is staggering.
What this shows is that the union is not representing the majority of its own members. The CTA is advocating the exact opposite of what its members want. Realize that the union is lavishly wasting the dues money of its own membership on things that same membership seems to oppose. Also realize that these members do not have the option of telling the union that they do not want to have their money wasted on efforts they oppose. Members are forced to sit silent as their money is forcibly spent against their wishes.
How American in spirit is an organization that takes away all choice and freedom from the individual? Where is that American spirit of liberty and personal freedom when a group that holds power over an individual citizen’s job dictates so much of his life, forces him to pay their way in life, and takes away the fruits of his own labor to support their pet causes and ideals?
America's Fear of Communism in 1920 Becomes a Threat to Rights
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THE MAKING OF A NATION – a program in Special English by the Voice of America.
Americans have always valued their right to free speech, a free press, and freedom of religion. The Bill of Rights protects these and other individual rights.
However, there have been several brief periods in American history when the government violated some of these rights.
In the 1700s, for example, President John Adams supported laws to stop Thomas Jefferson and the Democratic Party from criticizing the government.
During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln took strong actions to prevent newspapers from printing military news. And during the 1950s, Senator Joseph McCarthy unfairly accused a number of innocent people of being communists and traitors.
Some of the most serious government attacks on personal rights took place in 1919 and 1920. A number of government officials took strong, and sometimes unlawful, actions against labor leaders, foreigners, and others.These actions took place because of American fears about the threat of communism. Those fears were tied closely to the growth of the organized labor movement during World War One. There were a number of strikes during the war. More and more often, workers were willing to risk their jobs and join together to try to improve working conditions.
President Woodrow Wilson had long supported organized labor. And he tried to get workers and business owners to negotiate peacefully.
But official support for organized labor ended when strikes closed factories that were important to the national war effort. President Wilson and his advisers felt workers should put the national interest before their private interest. They told workers to wait until after the war to demand more pay and better working conditions.In general, American workers did wait. But when the war finally ended in 1918, American workers began to strike in large numbers for higher pay. As many as two million workers went on strike in 1919. There were strikes by house builders, meat cutters, and train operators. And there were strikes in the shipyards, the shoe factories, and the telephone companies.
Most striking workers wanted the traditional goals of labor unions: more pay and shorter working hours. But a growing number of them also began to demand major changes in the economic system itself. They called for government control of certain private industries.
Railroad workers, for example, wanted the national government to take permanent control of running the trains. Coal miners, too, demanded government control of their industry. And even in the conservative grain-farming states, two hundred thousand farmers joined a group that called for major economic changes.All these protests came as a shock to traditional Americans who considered their country to be the home of free business. They saw little need for labor unions. And, they feared that the growing wave of strikes meant the United States faced the same revolution that had just taken place in Russia. After all, Lenin himself had warned that the Bolshevik Revolution would spread to workers in other countries.
Several events in 1919 only increased this fear of violent revolution. A bomb exploded in the home of a senator from the southeastern state of Georgia. And someone even exploded a bomb in front of the home of Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, the nation's chief law officer.
However, the most frightening event was a strike by police in Boston, Massachusetts.
The policemen demanded higher wages. But the police chief refused to negotiate with them. As a result, the policemen went on strike. When they did, thieves began to break into unprotected homes and shops. Massachusetts Governor Calvin Coolidge finally had to call out state troops to protect the people. His action defeated the strike. Most of the policemen lost their jobs.All this was too much for many Americans. They began to accuse labor unions and others of planning a revolution. And they launched a forceful campaign to protect the country from these suspected extremists. Leaders of this campaign accused thousands of people of being communists, or "Reds." The campaign became known as the "Red Scare. "
Of course, most people were honestly afraid of revolution. They did not trust the many foreigners who were active in unions. And they were tired of change and social unrest after the bloody world war.
A number of these Americans in different cities began to take violent actions against people and groups that they suspected of being communist extremists.
In New York, a crowd of men in military uniforms attacked the office of a socialist newspaper. They beat the people working there and destroyed the equipment. In the western city of Centralia, Washington, four people were killed in a violent fight between union members and their opponents.
Public feeling was against the labor unions and political leftists. Many people considered anyone with leftist views to be a revolutionary trying to overthrow democracy. Many state and local governments passed laws making it a crime to belong to organizations that supported revolution. Twenty-eight states passed laws making it a crime to wave red flags.People also demanded action from the national government. President Wilson was sick and unable to see the situation clearly. He cared about little except his dream of the United States joining the new League of Nations.
But Attorney General Palmer heard the calls for action. Palmer hoped to be elected president the next year. He decided to take strong actions to gain the attention of voters.
One of Palmer's first actions as Attorney General was to prevent coal miners from going on strike. Next, he ordered a series of raids to arrest leftist leaders. A number of these arrested people were innocent of any crime. But officials kept many of them in jail, without charges, for weeks.
Palmer expelled from the country a number of foreigners suspected of revolutionary activity. He told reporters that communists were criminals who planned to overthrow everything that was good in life.Feelings of fear and suspicion extended to other parts of American life. Many persons and groups were accused of supporting communism. Such famous Americans as actor Charlie Chaplin, educator John Dewey, and law professor Felix Frankfurter were among those accused.
The Red Scare caused many innocent people to be afraid to express their ideas. They feared they might be accused of being a communist.
But as quickly as the Red Scare swept across the country so, too, did it end in 1920. In just a few months, people began to lose trust in Attorney General Palmer. They became tired of his extreme actions. Republican leader Charles Evans Hughes and other leading Americans called for the Justice Department to obey the law in arresting and charging people.By the summer of 1920, the Red Scare was over. Even a large bomb explosion in New York in September did not change the opinion of most Americans that the nation should return to free speech and the rule of law.
The Red Scare did not last long. But it was an important event. It showed that many Americans after World War One were tired of social changes. They wanted peace and business growth.
Of course, the traditional way for Americans to show their feelings is through elections. And this growing conservatism of the nation showed itself clearly in the presidential election of 1920. That election will be the subject of our next program.
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Ayn Rand vs Karl Marx: Nobody Wins
I tried to read The Fountainhead. I really did. But after ten or fifteen pages, I gave up. The text was so poorly written, so comically absurd yet mind-numbingly dull at the same time that I had to put it down. In my snobbery, when I see a smart friend’s profile on Facebook which lists one of Ayn Rand’s books as their favourites, I feel a sense of tremendous disappointment, the way I used to feel when I saw similarly smart people list The Da Vinci Code. Except The Da Vinci Code, however stupid, is a quick, entertaining read, and doesn’t turn its readers into sensational a******* (also, Dan Brown may be a bad writer, but he never really hurt anyone except the Catholic Church, and they had it coming). I could get through The Da Vinci Code. I doubt I’ll ever be able to stomach Atlas Shrugged.
Of course, you don’t need me to tell you about how bad Ayn Rand’s books are, or how stupid her philosophy of Objectivism is, or how much harm its adherents (converts?) have done to the American economy. I’ve addressed that a little bit here, and so has Wiz here, and so did GQ‘s Andrew Corsello in a hilarious hit piece titled “The B**** is Back.” Corsello compares reading Rand (pictured left) at age 19 to “devouring a family-size bag of Cheetos in a single sitting. During: irresistible, bracing, the thing at hand imparting vitality, fertility, potency. After: bleccchh.” I never got to the irresistible part, but the urge to vomit came soon enough.
I think Rand’s work can best be summarized with an old intellectual putdown my father taught me: “Ayn Rand’s writing is both interesting and original. Unfortunately, what is interesting is not original, and what is original is not interesting.” I’d add that it’s also inaccurate and harmful and even downright pernicious, but that’s enough for now.
Perhaps the best short takedown of Rand can be found in The Nation, by Corey Robin. But if you’re looking for something a little longer, but don’t have the stomach for Rand herself, try this superb intellectual biography, Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right, by Jennifer Burns.
In Burns’ book, we learn about the crazy cult of Objectivism, which Rand ran like an authoritarian tyrant. To call it quasi-religious might be a bit mild. As Burns writes on page 203:
Although Objectivism appeared a way to escape religion, it was more often a substitute, offering a similar regimentation and moralism without the sense of conformity. Rand’s ideas allowed students to reject traditional religion without feeling lost in a nihilistic, meaningless universe.
And yet three pages earlier, Burns compared the adoption of Objectivism to a similar religious experience.
In many ways the overwhelming impact of Rand’s ideas mimicked Marxism’s influence. Arthur Koestler’s memory of conversion to Communism echoes the sentiments expressed by Rand’s readers: “The new light seems to pour from all directions across the skull; the whole universe falls into pattern like the stray pieces of a jigsaw puzzle assembled by magic at one stroke. There is now an answer to every question; doubts and conflicts are a matter of the tortured past.” Only a small portion of Rand’s readers became as feverishly devoted to her ideas as Koestler did to Marxism, but the basic dynamic was similar. A twenty-four-year-old woman told Rand, “you have combined all my stray thoughts into an orderly, workable pattern–this alone is worth many years of my life.” Rand’s perspective could bring refreshing clarity to the unfocused, replacing doubt and uncertainty with passion and conviction.
It’s no accident that Burns used the word “conversion” to describe Koestler’s Marxist turn, nor that Koestler the himself used religious, even miraculous language to recount how he saw the “light” of scientific socialism. Objectivism, like Marxism, and most religious doctrines, are absolutist and all-encompassing philosophies.
When I first seriously studied Marx (pictured left) in the Dawson College Liberal Arts program (with Nemo among my classmates), our wonderful professor David Mulhall frequently used term “millenarian” to describe Marxist thought. To Mulhall, and of course he was not the first to say this, Marxism was a fundamentally messianic faith, with its belief in the withering away of the state and an eventual Communist utopia, despite the mask of materialism. That description stuck with me.
When I studied Marxism as an undergraduate, I did so in the context of European intellectual history, with the brilliant Peter Gordon. With Gordon’s guidance, I came to understand Marx primarily as a “Left Hegelian,” someone who did not merely stand “Hegel on his head,” as Marx’s own cliche would have you, but in fact simply adapted Hegel to a more practical, materialist framework. Hegel’s messianic “world spirit” became Marx’s messianic working class, both operating in dialectical fashion.
When I finally studied Marx as a graduate student, in a History of the Left class (along with Wiz) taught by the excellent professors Molly Nolan and Linda Gordon (no relation to Peter, as far as I know), I had had enough. As a moderate social democrat and strong supporter of the welfare state, I was the class fascist, by far the most conservative, and probably the most vocal participant. This was certainly a strange scenario as a Canadian among mostly American students. I won’t lie: I relished the role. More important, I learned a great deal in these class discussions.
Of course, the stakes were pretty low. As my free market friend Josh once quipped: “the only place you’ll find real Marxists is in the humanities departments of universities, which is a good thing, because they can’t hurt anyone there.” This remark isn’t all that different from an observation made by the late Irving Kristol in his 1979 essay “The Adversary Culture of Intellectuals.” Kristol wrote, “if you want to meet active socialists intellectuals, you can go to Oxford or Berkeley or Paris or Rome. There is no point in going to Moscow or Peking or Belgrade or Bucharest or Havana.” Much as I loathe Kristol, he, and Josh (who I quite like) may be on to something. As the semester went on, much as I enjoyed it, I became exasperated.
You see, I felt that the class, like much of academia, venerated (and venerates) Marx in a way that is totally inappropriate, and frankly ahistorical. This will offend some readers (and possibly writers) of this blog, but when I hear obviously Marxist academics make obviously Marxist arguments, my eyes secretly glaze over (or perhaps not so secretly, if my subtlety is wearing thin) much in the same way they would if I had to listen to a Creationist defend the Biblical account on the universe’s origins, or an Intelligent Design advocate attempt to mesh Darwin with God’s divine plan. It’s like that feeling you get when you meet very smart and devoutly religious people and you think to yourself “how do intelligent people believe this nonsense?”
And yet many smart people did and do in fact, “believe this nonsense.” As the late Tony Judt wrote of the Trotsykite Marxist Isaac Deutscher.
I remember being spellbound by the fantasy history of the Soviet Union woven in his Trevelyan Lectures at Cambridge by the elderly Trotskyist Isaac Deutscher (published in 1967 under the title The Unfinished Revolution: Russia 1917–1967). The form so elegantly transcended the content that we accepted the latter on trust: detoxification took a while. Sheer rhetorical facility, whatever its appeal, need not denote originality and depth of content.
This is not to say that Marx is entirely devoid of “originality and depth of content.” I don’t really think Marx is nonsense. The funny thing is, I love Marx. I really do. I think his writing was and is sensationally inspirational. Politically, I think his vision is impractical but nonetheless alluring, his goals noble and moral. I even think that his observations about working class life in the 19th century, with the industrial revolution reaching full steam, was incredibly astute.
But there’s the rub. As a historian, I can’t help think we’d be better off looking at Marx in his context. Yes, his description of worker alienation, and commodity fetishization can still ring true, in certain very specific circumstances, like in the developing world today. But on the whole, one cannot escape the fact, and yes it is a fact, that Marx got a whole lot wrong. He thought nationalism was a weak force, but in fact it was (and is) a very strong one. More important, he never recognized the power of a middle way, of strong welfare states offering a restraint on, rather than the destruction of, the market economy . He never imagined the compelling appeal of unions, like those of Samuel Gompers, that offered “bread and butter” benefits to dignify workers within a capitalist framework (minus Gompers’ racism and sexism).
More important, Marx didn’t realize that most workers wanted to cease being workers, or at least, ensure that their children would not have to work like they did. Indeed, the story of eastern European Jews in America serves as a spectacular refutation of Marxism. Many came with dedication to socialism in hand, or more likely one that they learned on the job. They were active in left wing politics on New York’s Lower East Side and elsewhere. They worked in sweat shops, and lived in dilapidated tenement apartments. But eventually, they sent their kids to public school, and their kids became doctors and lawyers and entered the middle class. They mostly (though not all) remained on the left, but typically the mainstream left, of the Democratic Party. Their class consciousness was no more, if it ever really existed.
There’s no way Marx could have anticipated any of this, let alone i-phones and the Internet and a million other kinds of technological, scientific and philosophical and historical developments that have laid waste to his theory. Which is why, as I said earlier, we should understand Marx in context. And the same goes for Rand. Incidentally, that’s precisely what Burns does: her Rand responded to her upbringing as a middle-class Jew in Russia and then the Soviet Union, her disillusionment with the New Deal, and her distaste for the Judeo-Christian religiosity of mainstream conservatives, and role as a fierce Cold Warrior. But she too, like Marx, could not anticipate history.
As I’ve written here before, one of the biggest problems with Marxism, as the great philosopher Sir Karl Popper (pictured below) elucidated many years ago, was it’s utter imperviousness to “falsifiability.” As Popper wrote, “the criterion of the scientific status of a theory is its falsifiability, or refutability, or testability.” Marx’s socialism, like Freud’s psychoanalysis, could not be scientific, because they couldn’t really be proven or disproven. As I wrote then:
[Popper] criticized Freudian psychoanalysis and Marxian economics on the ground that they were not falsifiable. Their advocates found evidence in every result, even ones that seemed to blatantly contradict these “theories.” The Marxist revolution never happened, so Marxists tweaked the theory, rather than abandon it. They forced a strange fit of theory and fact, rather than simply form a new theory. Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, on the other hand, is a valid theory, because it is testable, the results came in, proving it right. If different results has come in, the theory would have been proven wrong.
I think the same of course, can be said about those who remain faithful to Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, or who remain staunch believers in free market capitalism, even after the recent troubles of the American economy. Whatever the facts, they will find some way to make them fit the theory.
One of the biggest problems I have with Rand and Marx is this implicit (and sometimes explicit) claim to inevitability. I don’t think anything is inevitable. I know that many, perhaps most Marxists, abandoned inevitability by the 1930s, including, Sidney Hook, who attempted to meld Marxism with John Dewey’s pragmatism in his 1934 essay “Communism Without Dogmas.” I would argue that by abandoning inevitability, these “Marxists” had actually abandoned Marxism entirely, and tweaked it save the theory, as Popper’s critique noted.
Because, annoyingly for them, history got in the way. As I just said, I don’t think anything is inevitable, and I don’t think that Marx is to be blamed for the gulag. Nonetheless, with all the horrors of the 20th century, from Stalin’s Soviet Union to Mao’s China and many others in the name of some kind of scientific socialism, Marxists, if not Marx, have a lot to answer for.
So too do the Randians today, some of whom, simply ignore her militant atheism (as Burns recounts, she once told William F. Buckley that he was “too intelligent to believe in God”). More significantly, many of Rand’s adherents ignore her inability to deal with historical reality and economic facts.
But I think the basic similarity between Rand and Marx comes in their misjudgment of human nature. Rand, as a hyper-individualist, had absolutely no sense of the joys of human love and companionship (hence her unfulfilling marital life, substance abuse, and chronic depression), the warmth of community, and most famously, the dignity of altruism. Indeed, she despised fellow libertarians Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman because they argued that libertarianism was actually good from a utilitarian standpoint, that Adam Smith’s invisible hand would bring the greatest good to the greatest number. Rand didn’t care about that. She thought altruism was wrong, plain and simple. People should act selfishly and only selfishly, no matter what happened to anyone else. Not only did she think Christianity led to socialism, or at that it basically was socialism, she believed that self-sacrificial altruism, the very essence of Christianity (Jesus didn’t die for his own sins, but for yours), was immoral.
Rand seems to advocate the basic philosophical principle of psychological egoism, without any awareness of its simplicity and flaws. Psychological egoists say: “people are selfish because they always do what they want,” without taking into account that what people want differs greatly. Some people want to work in soup kitchens, others want to be investment bankers, still others want to be axe murderers. Each are doing what they want, but we can evaluate their desires as having different moral standings.
Marx went the other way. First, his community is too large: he has no use for ethno-cultural particularism, gender solidarity, or anything that moves beyond class. Second, his philosophy does not understand the thoroughly strongly individualistic aspect of human nature. Sure, Sidney Hook (pictured below) tried to argue against that proposition
Communism is hostile to individualism, as a social theory, and not individuality, as a social value. It seeks to provide the material guarantee of security without which the free development of individuality or personality is an empty or impossible ideal. But the free development of personality remains its ideal; difference uniqueness, independence, and creative originality are intrinsic values to be fostered and strengthened; and indeed one of the strongest arguments against capitalism is that it prevents these values from flourishing for all but a few.
I’m not sure this distinction is true in theory, as Marx has no use for individual expression that derived from national or ethno-cultural traditions. In practice, it has meant even less. Experiments in socialism have often bred uniformity, with Mao’s cultural revolution perhaps the most egregious example, and the limits placed on Soviet art a close second. I think one can argue that strong welfare states in a capitalist context allow for a good amount of “material security” along with the “free development of personality.”
Furthermore, Marx and Marxists discount the importance of individualism, not just individuality, to human beings, who often do place their first loyalties to themselves and to their families, well above class and community. Indeed, this little ditty my father taught me may provide more insight into class relations and human nature than anything Marx or Engels or other Marxists theorists ever wrote:
The working class, can kiss my a**, I’ve got the foreman’s job at last.
Again, I do think much of Marx is valuable, and inspirational, orders of magnitude more than Rand. But like Rand, historically it doesn’t hold up, and politically it seems to contradict human nature as I understand it. Which is why, much as I think pragmatism is a silly philosophy with which to pursue scholarship (I believe in objectivity, but not Objectivism), I think it’s useful, or dare I say, pragmatic, when it comes to politics. It allows for the flexibility to change your opinion, to make compromises, to account for new evidence and realities. Of course, not all compromises are good, and principles are important too, which is why I support a progressive, principled pragmatism.
I think one can do this and remain on the left. One can remain committed to left-wing policies and politics without adhering to any sort of Marxism. Tony Judt will be remembered as a leading advocate of social democracy. Yet some on the left often forget that he cut his teeth as a STAUNCHLY ANTI-MARXIST thinker, criticizing French Communists who ignored, downplayed, or apologized for Stalin’s crimes.
My point here is not to venerate pragmatism or Tony Judt’s political views, both of which have their flaws. My point is simply to say that one can uphold progressive politics and fight the legacy of Ayn Rand without succumbing to the philosophy of her much smarter, much more moral but similarly dogmatic and messianic alter ego, Karl Marx.
Written by weiner
February 6, 2011 at 15:02
Posted in Ayn Rand, capitalism, economics, History & Historians, ideology, Marxism, philosophy, politics, pragmatism, The Left, The Right, theory.
GOD BLESS AND IN GOD WE TRUST..!