Wisconsin is showing the nasty, brutish, Hobbesian side of democracy. Remember the reactionary, new-civility crap that bandied about after the Arizona shooting? Teachers (and/or their supporters) directly compared Governor Walker to Hitler and Mubarak, or openly advocating his death. All this because someone thinks teachers should pay 5% of their retirement? On the other hand I don’t mean to defend Governor Walker, who’s used a sledgehammer in place of a scalpel. It’s funny, in a rubber-necking shadenfruede sense, to see the media praise AWOL Democrats in Wisconsin, and deride “obstructionist” U.S. Republican Senators. So instead of diving in, I’ll just dip a toe. Fortunately, Roger Pilon over at Cato has the most concise, and incisive, take on the whole mess that I’ve seen so far. Let’s occupy both sides of this discussion, Roger:
In November the government-union cabal that has driven Wisconsin, like other states, to the brink of bankruptcy was thrown out of office in a landslide election. So what are the union thugs now occupying the capitol and the state’s Democratic senators who’ve fled the state complaining about? The lack of democracy. That so many are “teachers,” waving signs likening Gov. Walker to Hitler and Stalin, gives rise only to sympathy for the children of Wisconsin.
In fact, if ever there were an argument for separating school and state, it’s unfolding today in Madison. Private schools in the state are functioning quite normally through this Athens-like spectacle, because they operate under normal market conditions, where parents, administrators, and teachers decide personnel matters through voluntary agreements. By contrast, as the Cato Institute’s Chris Edwards has shown through numerous studies, because public-sector unions occupy, effectively, both sides of the bargaining table, their pay and benefits over the years have far outstripped those of private-sector workers who pay those benefits.
Well the taxpayers spoke in November. The unions’ beef is with them. Deal with it.
Step back from the breathless hateful hyperbole. We all want quality education for our kids. Unions aren’t some magic panacea that make teachers more effective. They’re also not evil monsters. They’re a mechanism for balancing costs of a public service with the results achieved. In Wisconsin, and most other states, those costs have spiked dramatically, without any relation to the broader fiscal picture, and without any real variation in educational outcomes. Something has to change.