The classical liberal sees government as a real necessity that is nonetheless a risk to freedom. History informs us of the dangers the government poses to the preservation of freedom. Government has a tendency to grow, so maintaining a limited, prudent government requires constant vigilance to protect citizens from the possible excesses of their activities. The classic liberal also accepts that while many of the current tasks entrusted to government can be taken over by the private sector, there are potential efficiencies if the public sector provides some basic services – think sewers, safety, a legal system and other things, the government should theoretically be able to do reasonably well.
The government offices are staffed with people who are neither angels nor demons. Politicians and the public sector workers they oversee are ordinary people who share the interests and prejudices of citizens. We must severely restrict the scope of government and constant scrutiny to confirm that the public sector is providing adequate services. Ultimately, citizens must act through political means when borders are crossed and changes need to be made. When the state cannot do the things it is authorized to do, or when government officials place their own interests well above those of the citizens they serve, citizens must act within institutional constraints to protect freedom.
That brings us to the last 12 months. There is a growing need to curb the political excesses of the public sector, both in areas of long history such as police reform and in more recent, alarming abuses of union formation, such as the increasing investment activism of public sector pension funds.
Obviously, many freedom defenders have had concerns about the vast public health powers that the government now wields with little nuance or skill. However, there was also an increasingly noticeable pattern among certain public sector workers and their union representatives of pursuing apparently selfish goals that had devastating consequences for society during this pandemic. While we were right to praise “first responders” and health workers during this crisis, we seem to have forgotten that the police and their unions have been one of the main catalysts of the unrest and now considerable divisions in American society over the nature of law enforcement in Minnesota , Wisconsin and elsewhere. Even the US Capitol Police Department failed to perform its primary task of maintaining order and security for Congress at a critical moment in our political life.
The controversy over police actions this summer sparked widespread protests, corporate violence and civil unrest. Many people in the media, entertainment, and sports became professional virtue signs shouting slogans, wearing t-shirts, and breaking public health rules to urge changes in American policing. Many of our left opinion leaders assured us that, despite the apparent contradictions in their statements about the public health rules and support for these mass gatherings, it took the protests and the looting and destruction of private property to pressure our politicians to buckle at the request of the public for serious police reform. What happened? The power of the police unions has not even bowed, let alone broken.
In Minnesota, lawmakers met in secret this summer to pass a very weak reform that essentially promised to end the use of chokeholds and “warrior training” for police officers. This came after the first public attempts to pass a bill went nowhere. The will to oppose police unions and embrace more serious issues such as qualified immunity for civil servants has faded since the protests ended and the pressure eased. Unraveling qualified immunity for government officials still seems entrenched and will likely require both judicial and legislative action for serious change to occur. Minnesota saw new calls for reform after a police officer wrongly shot an unarmed African American in January. In Wisconsin, the state’s largest police union has avoided the need for secret negotiations and merely presented its legislature with its own reform plan. In particular, the reform lacks real changes in the punishment of civil servants or the termination of qualified immunity.
And the police are not alone in their selfish acts. Many teacher unions in major cities like New York, Washington, and Chicago, to name a few, have refused to return to teaching full-time in person, although science continues to show that schools, especially those with younger students, are not places of super- Spreader events and children are not a significant risk to older members of extended families. In Chicago, despite embarrassing public appeals from the city’s mayor, the Chicago teachers’ union is openly opposing attempts to reopen schools for this semester. The teachers’ unions in New York and Washington DC, with the indifference of the Biden administration, have made extravagant demands that include massive staffing expansions and hundreds of billions of dollars in additional spending to mitigate risks that do not arise. t exist. These new expenditures will increase the size of the unions and their financial strength in future household battles as the children they are supposed to serve fall further behind in their learning. In fact, many public schools across the country remain closed, while many private and public schools in more conservative areas have safely opened for personal tuition.
Both groups have received some, but certainly not enough, public attention to openly oppose the public’s wishes – demands on teachers to actually return to teaching are growing in volume. Unfortunately, the Democrats who run the big blue cities, which face the most aggressive union tactics, are reluctant to take on organized labor who strongly support the mayors and state lawmakers in these states.
As early as 1937, a well-known politician publicly argued against the idea that government employees should organize themselves in trade unions and have the right to negotiate with the government. That politician was Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
A less obvious and extremely costly campaign by public sector workers is underway to transform our investment industry and potentially the personal investment, retirement accounts, and financial security of millions of Americans. You may not know the acronym CalPERS, but it stands for California’s Public Employee Pension Scheme. And it’s the largest retirement plan in the United States, with assets estimated at over $ 440 billion. It invests the pension funds for all public sector employees from the state of California. The New York State Common Retirement Fund is the third largest retirement fund in America and has a little less than $ 200 billion to invest.
Both funds have decided to openly support politicized investment agendas related to greenhouse gas emissions. Whether or not managers of public companies or retail fund managers agree or disagree with these guidelines does not matter, as the size of these large public pension funds gives them considerable weight and power.
Currently, the funds in California and New York have decided to invest only in companies that do not produce carbon energy, such as coal, or that have committed to “green” energy policies. It has been estimated that these measures have cost beneficiaries in California at least $ 3 billion. However, if a political bailout is always available, how much is a few billion dollars to save polar bears and owls? In addition, CalPERS investigated the possibility of only investing in companies that pay their employees “fairly” due to the pay gap between CEOs and low-paid employees.
Now you might be saying to yourself, but aren’t there big private pension funds to offset the potential power of public sector plans which appear to be spinning to impose a left-wing private sector political agenda that will cost investors billions? Well, the second largest retirement fund in America is CalSTRS – the California Teachers Retirement System. CalSTRS encompasses both university faculties and teachers, many of whom are protesting against school reopening or advocating changing the name of a public school named after Abraham Lincoln in San Francisco for being seen as offensive to people of color. In fact, all ten of America’s largest pension funds are public sector employee pensions with the potential to unleash forces to advance political agendas entirely at odds with the interests of individual investors. It’s not just that large sections of the public sector are refusing to reform their policies or even do their jobs. Now their investment managers want to tell companies how to do business without seriously considering profitability.
As early as 1937, a well-known politician publicly argued against the idea that government employees should organize themselves in trade unions and have the right to negotiate with the government. That politician was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who argued that collective bargaining for public sector employees is unwise because the government sets their wages, and as government officials, public sector employees have a responsibility to the public, not to themselves. I write not often the phrase “and obviously FDR was right”, but I like to include it in this article. We should especially remember today the cautious warnings from the FDR, as the risks it identified went well beyond the limited concerns it had about collective bargaining. Public employees appear to be totally out of the public service sector, and their organized political and economic power is wielded in ways that are directly contrary to the interests of millions of private individuals. When the public sector is telling individuals how to invest and live without bothering to do their important jobs in a sensible way, it is time to revive the words of the FDR and fight this coup head-on.