On the one hand, we have the near-fascistic government that thinks that it can bully a segment of the population into cowering submission, which wants the public to think that it represents law and order.
On the other hand, we have a manipulative public sector union that wants to protect its members’ iron rice bowls all the while wanting the public to think that it is the champion of the working class.
Once again, and lamentably so, economics has been trumped by politics.
For its part, the government does not appear to wish to work with unions to solve labor issues or to restructure the economy into a “creative economy,” whatever that means. For all intents and purposes, the government appears to want to dictate terms and for the union to simply follow orders.
As for the unions, they do not appear to wish to work with the government either. They have little desire for reforms out of fear of losing their protected jobs and (relatively) cushy wages and benefits. Additionally, we have a growing number of university students who seem to think that siding with the unions is somehow in their own self-interest. Never mind the fact that one of the functions of unions is to protect existing members from having to compete with younger workers.
For good or for ill, this is now a battle that each side feels that it must win. However, all of the combatants have very similar goals that only differ in extent and intent.
|The same goal|
As much as the government may want to establish a KORAIL subsidiary, it does not, in fact, have any desire or incentive to privatize KORAIL. Even if there are genuine free market capitalists (or at least fiscal hawks) within the government, all incumbents have one desire and one desire only – to be reelected (unless constitutionally prohibited). As aloof as Saenuri lawmakers may appear to be, they have very little incentive to stand for principles when standing for principles will get them booted from their seats of power.
The business executives of KORAIL do not wish to see their business privatized either. What they want is to establish a KORAIL subsidiary to run high-speed train services so that they and their shareholders can pocket the profits that they might earn through the subsidiary all the while still being subsidized by the government in order to keep its main business kept afloat by the taxpayers. They want to have their cake and eat it, too.
The union members of KORAIL are the most dead set against privatization for the most obvious reasons. Whenever a publicly-run business becomes privatized, in order to boost profitability and efficiency, labor, being the easiest cost to cut, becomes the first to be sent to the chopping block. The university students are in agreement with the unions.
I am an advocate of laissez-faire capitalism. I haven’t a dog in this fight. As far as I am concerned, they are all wrong.
As unpleasant as choosing the lesser of two evils is, however, sometimes a choice has to be made. As unpleasant as it may be to choose between two evils, if that objection were to be accepted literally, people would have no choice whatsoever but to become pacifists – a moral position that can only encourage evil, rather than punish it.
One way or another, the public has to make a choice; and the public ought to side with the unions over the government.
I did not choose to support the unions because of some kind of sympathy I might have for them. I have very little patience for many of the unions’ causes. However, I have chosen to support the unions, and encourage others to do so as well, for two reasons.
Firstly, it is because the government is far more powerful than the unions. The government has more journalists, intellectuals, pundits, corporate leaders, and (most importantly) guns than the unions. Secondly, it is because the government can (and has) cause much more harm to the economy, as well as to human rights, than the unions ever could.
However, that does not mean that a victory for the unions will translate to anything good for the people. As already mentioned in my previous post, the unions’ interests is not, in fact, the same as that of the public’s. I am supporting the unions only because I want the unions and the government to expend every bit of political capital (as well as actual capital) each side might possess in order to fight each other long enough until both sides are exposed to the public for what they really are – entrenched political organizations that are fighting over the public’s money.
The fact is that the public sector unions are the Little Brother to the government’s Big Brother. However, right now, there has been a falling out between the thugs and they have chosen to engage in combat.
As for the government, despite its insistence, it is not fighting to improve economic liberties or market efficiency. The government’s battle with the public sector unions should be a fight over fiscal responsibility. It is not. It is merely a battle over who gets to control the loot that we call tax revenues.
There are other (supposed) capitalists in the mainstream media who are anti-union but their anti-union stance is translated to being pro-government. That is either a mistake on the part of genuine capitalists who have not thought their positions through thoroughly or they are, in fact, nothing more than government mouthpieces.
The AYAR students, for their part, fall into one of several different categories.
- They feel that the “system” that they were preparing to become a part of their whole lives has abandoned them, and are now fighting with the unions to preserve the status quo, all the while knowing that the status quo has been broken for decades.
- They genuinely, and naively, believe that their self-interests and the unions’ interests are one and the same. If so, their teachers and professors are to blame for having crippled their minds with such debilitating nonsense.
- They are angry and anxious about the future but because they are unsure of what is actually wrong, they have laid the blame on the most convenient targets – the government and the corporations. Though governments and corporations certainly do share a lot of the blame, there is more of it to go around, but it is much easier to damn others and the “scourge of capitalism” than it is to question one’s own ethics, morality, and culture.
- They might genuinely know not what they do. Despite their claims otherwise, they might not possess all the information that they need to make an educated decision. If this is the case, it would appear that, without intending to or even seeming to fully understand the consequences or even the reasons behind their actions, the students have made the best choice possible under the circumstances by throwing their weight behind the unions.
If their siding with the union was the result of dumb luck, for their sake, I hope that the students learn more about economics and economic realities before wading into economic discussions in the future. Barring that, I hope that dumb luck continues to favor them that they may continue to make sound decisions.
However, the AYAR Movement, despite its seemingly educated background, is nothing more than just another mob. And all mobs are passionately unthinking and full of obnoxious self-righteousness regardless of whose side they are on. As such, I will not place too much hope on them. Doing so will lead to one disappointment after another.
So, though I have decided to throw my support behind the unions, and, again, I encourage others to do so as well, I do so with great disgust.
To paraphrase Shakespeare, may there be a plague on both their houses.
UPDATE: The unions just agreed to end their strike after the ruling and opposition parties promised to form a parliamentary subcommittee aimed at ensuring no privatization of rail services.
So, never mind. Government - 1, Unions and Students - 0, The Public - -1. Oh, joy.