kurt's nightmare

Generally, I post once a week. Topics are randomly selected and depend mostly upon whether it's baseball season or not. Other topics will include sex, politics, old girlfriends, music, and whatever else pops into my little brain. If you'd like to read, or ignore, my blog about China: http://meidabizi.blogspot.com/

Location: Dayton, OH, Heard & McDonald Islands

I'm an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Dayton. I represent no one but myself, and barely do that. I'm here mostly by accident.

Friday, December 12, 2008


As I watch the bail-0ut debate over Ford, GM, and Chrysler (particularly the last two), the various news (and lack thereof) about the specifics of the TARP, mostly I just have a sneaking suspicion that a number of corporations are using the current financial crisis to dump payroll. I expect them also to use it as leverage to screw around with health-care plans and pensions, to introduce, wherever possible, two-level wage schemes, and, of course, to bust a (relatively) strong union.

I think everyone should have access to health care. I think everyone should have the opportunity to join a union, that workers should have some degree of leverage comparable to that of management, and that rather than workers being told that tenure is a quaint doctrine held onto by bitter and obsolete professors, everyone should get some degree of job security when he or she has shown sufficient ability at doing a given job.

Health care, a voice in determining one's working conditions, and job security. Ha ha ha!

That's why they call me "Dr. Pollyanna."


Blogger Bazarov said...

"A cynic is what an idealist calls a realist." Sir Humphrey--Yes, (Prime) Minister

All those things you think everyone should have are readily available in other countries--civilized countries. If the list had included cheap gas, booze, and ready access to firearms, well then I'd say you're at the right place; but if it's all those other things you're after, I'd suggest trying somewhere else.

8:41 AM  
Blogger bmackintosh said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2:58 PM  
Blogger bmackintosh said...

Unions in the manufacturing sector of the U.S. economy is increasingly becoming obsolete.

I say that because nothing drives a corporation to off-shore their production like a Union-represented domestic labor force.

The consumer drives this, and he has demonstrated that he is unwilling to vote with his (or her) dollars for the some of principles you have posted.

Examples: Walmart, Japanese cars, Hyundai etc.

Also, union represented facilities are much less flexible in terms of coordination with suppliers, forcing the Big Three to build plants elsewhere.

Check out Ford's new Brazilian plant.

They can build multiple platforms, and can have their subcontractors manufacturing in the same plant, something verboten by the UAW, thus the plant is built off-shore.

To guarantee the principles you outlined, you have to limit the powers of the consumer (tariffs regulation, taxes etc.). That bastard (the consumer) will always go for maximum value regardless of their values, politics, religion, family, etc.

People like us who might buy fair trade, local, or domestically produced product due to our values are in the extreme minority.

Supporting liberalized Unionization laws without limiting the consumer will only shut down those facilities.

3:01 PM  
Blogger kmosser said...

Well, Brent ol' boy, I wasnt' talking exclusively about manufacturing. There is a point to the idea that most of the unions, in that sector and others, have "International" in their titles, whether it's window-dressing or not. And, by the way, Wal-Mart workers in Europe are unionized. Hmmm.

Maybe the point is to discover ways of development, here and elsewhere, where the situtation doesn't arise, or can be eliminated, making workers race each other to the bottom.

I said I was Dr. Pollyanna, you know.

4:26 PM  
Blogger bmackintosh said...

Kurt O'Lad, that International title unfortunately doesn't apply to most of the Asian manufacturers that are taking our jobs.

I didn't see a single Walmart in Germany. Maybe with a union they can't run out the locals, and make waste to downtown shopping.

8:04 AM  
Blogger Bazarov said...

This question will undoubtedly expose my economic idiocy, but my curiousity outweighs, as it usually does, my fear of committing a gaucherie--academic or otherwise.
Why are unions good but cartels bad?

8:36 AM  
Blogger kmosser said...

Brent, WalMart tried Germany (1997-2006), and gave up. But there might be more to Europe than Deutschland, in spite of what the Germans sometimes indicate.

A Cartel, on my understanding, functions as a monopoly. A Union is trying to compete with management. The difference is leverage: one has all of it while in the workplace, there is some degree of power distribution.

Of course Asian workers "take" "our" jobs. The point is--idealistically enough--is to organize workers internationally, demonstrating to them that there is another way than racing other workers to the bottom, a race which benefits those who own--uh oh--the means of production.

8:40 AM  
Blogger bmackintosh said...

Yes I am aware of Walmart's attempt at Germany (they hated the greeters). Germany is the only country I have seen in Europe, that's why I singled them out. Can't very well point out Iceland, without being there.

My point is that Americans will support a venomous company like Walmart, knowing that they have a very negative impact on our communities on many levels, but yet still shop there due to price. Something has to be done about this dynamic to make a broad unionization effort viable.

International unions will only work in Western style democracies. Japan I exclude because of cultural differences. Attempts at bringing an international brotherhood to China will only fill their prisons. I'll say the same of Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Uruguay etc.

I am not against unions, just blind support of them without considerations of the current "global economy" and "consumer-is-God" mentality.

10:01 AM  
Blogger Bazarov said...


Sorry...my knee-jerk reaction to whenever I see marxist lingo.

Thanks for the answer, though I'm not sure I get it yet.

I can't ever see myself joining a union. I think it has something to do with seeing so many people on the same page. Even if I were to agree with everything a large group was doing, I think I'd have to take an opposing stand out of principle. Whether it be goose-stepping, the daily droning of morning mantras in schoolrooms, or watching Surivor, I have a tendency of getting anxious and worried whenever I see synchronized behavior. N. Korea excels at this, but I don't live there and never will, so I don't worry too much about it. But when I see large portions of our population here all get the same ideas at the same time (in marvelous synchronicity with talking heads) and branding themselves with the same tattoos to show their individuality, well, you get the idea.

Can't unions at one point get a monopoly on labor? That's what I was getting at. I reckon that throughout history this hasn't been a problem whereas cartels or king sponsored companies have been. But is there no fear that a union may act against its own best interest?

10:09 AM  
Blogger kmosser said...

I hardly would suggest unions are a panacea. They've certainly got their history of problems, including corruption and connections with organized crime.

There are also factors of what kind of work is involved. But in many workplaces, if you don't have an opportunity to organize (and one answer to Brent might consider the possibility of actually enforcing the Wagner Act, just, you know, cuz it's the law and stuff), it's the individual worker vs. management.

Let's assume that worker has a legitimate complaint: forced overtime, dangerous working conditions, etc.. One worker vs. management isn't a very even match; 1,000 workers vs. management is a whole lot more fair.

Funny that the worry is that unions might "monopolize" labor, when the real threat is that management is able to do what it wishes with impunity. I'd worry about labor being too strong at the time when it looks like it might be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.

10:16 AM  
Blogger Bazarov said...

I'm just playing the CEO's advocate. I'm not taking any sides per se. I just have an aversion to organizations, unions included, and was wondering why one was good, union, and another bad, cartel.
If I were to take a side, I'd have to admit that until I hear the sound of $200 silk ties fluttering in the wind followed by uneventful thuds, executive types aren't getting much sympathy from me. Hell, even if we had a whole slew of self-defenestrations I doubt they'd gain much sympathy from me. Where are the suit traders when you need 'em?


11:17 AM  
Blogger bmackintosh said...

You lost me on the Wagner Act. I am familiar with the labor laws since I have employees and must post such laws on the wall of my warehouse.

The Wagner Act will not keep Americans from buying products made in totalitarian countries at prices that undercut domestic producers that are represented by Unions.

Can't enforce the Wagner Act in China.

12:17 PM  
Blogger kmosser said...

The comparison between a cartel and a union, as if they are identical, is sort of like saying that the Ethiopians and the Italians were engaged in a fair fight in the 1930s.
Since the assumption is flawed, the results from that assumption aren't so hot. If you want to show how a cartel and a union are the same, you'll have to show what leverage the opponents of each have.

As far as the Wagner Act, it's true we can't enforce it--the right of workers to organize--in China. We can't enforce a lot of things, but that doesn't make it right or just.

If the conclusion one should then draws is that, well, sure, things suck, but we can't do anything about 'em, then there isn't much hope for progress. And, if we've seen anything over the millenia, there has been something that might be called "progress." Doesn't mean it's easy, but doesn't mean we have to accept the status quo.

4:08 PM  
Blogger kmosser said...

For the outlines of the Wagner Act:

4:10 PM  
Blogger Bazarov said...


(all one link, it wouldn't work completed for some reason; I think it got cut short, like the one you added, Kurt)

That probably has a lot to do with my wariness towards unions, over 80%! I remember hearing stories about my great-grandfather going down to the docks to beat the shit out of scabs and how my dad couldn't get his diploma until he had paid his student union fees. You had no choice but to join one, and when part of the union fees went to the Social Democrats, a political party, it makes you wonder. I realize it's different here, but Unions can monopolize things. Like I've heard it said, "It's just another way for humans to screw other humans." I guess a lot of it boils down to how you like taking it.
As far as the picture goes, I do think a bit about what it would be like to be visited, or to find an intelligent species. Would anyone think they'd be broken up along various political and religious lines? I tend to think they'd all be of one organization, one government, and I have a hard time picturing humans not being under a world government five hundred years from now should we still be around then. We have anarchy right now. I'm guessing most nations wouldn't be against a world government as long as it was modelled after their own type and they were in charge.
I do agree progress has been made throughout history, and that we shouldn't become complacent, but I do think there is a limit to how much you can ask of each generation. Sometimes you just have to wait for people to die for change, and the ever increasing life-spans of humans, particularly those with power, is probably going to slow down progress even more. It's something to bet drinks on at least.

9:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You cant be serious to run that same tired FauxNews arguement about Japanese dont have Unions and that is why Americans buy Toyotas over American cars. What about the great american mpg ratings???

If Detroit can put out a car that gets 50-75 miles to the gallon it would out sell ANY competition. But there it some unwritten law that Detroit keeps mileage at a 19-22 mpg??? And they brag and beat their chest when a car gets 23 mpg. Detroit boardrooms have the collect brainpower of an artichoke.

And while I'm at it I just have 2 words to say Electric Car.

Energy independence - why that's crazy talk we have to buy Saudi oil for the next 70 years till it runs out. PERIOD end of discussion.


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