(The Return of) Ignatz, by Sam Heldman

Thursday, October 10, 2002

Since becoming fixated on this blog world, I have realized how much I wish that I knew something about economics. Fortunately, I have (among others) Max Sawicky to teach me. He's got a great post today about the earnings of dockworkers, and the spin that we often hear (from those who would undermine their concerted efforts) that they're making gobs of money.

Because I'm no economist but simply a student of honest and dishonest forms of argument, I've been marvelling at this spin, too. The fantastic thing about it, I think, is that this cry ("Those guys are earning $100,000 or more per year! That's highway robbery!") comes, by and large, from those who tend to believe -- in most other contexts -- in less- rather than more-regulated markets. So, I would ask the people raising that stink, "So you have a better way, than by means of collective bargaining, to determine how much those people 'ought' to be earning? What is it, pray tell? And wouldn't you think that people doing very difficult work that is so vital to the nation that a ten-day stoppage imperils us all (we're told), and who are so nearly-irreplaceable (or at least in such short supply) that the talk a few weeks ago was that the military would have to be trained to take their jobs if they walked out, because nobody else could do it -- wouldn't you think that people fitting that description 'should' make a darn good living, whatever 'should' might mean in this context?" Maybe those people would answer that these guys are getting more than a "correctly functioning" market would give them, because they are organized into a union. If that's their best answer -- that, by virtue of collective bargaining, employees have more negotiating power than they "should" -- I can only say "ha ha ha" in order to keep myself from saying something worse.

posted by sam 2:01 PM 0 comments


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