A World Without Bosses?

Ryan Avent asks :

Chris Hayes says he’d walk the picket line with the writers if they were striking here in Washington. Would he lock arms with the education unions, too? How ought liberals to reconcile the “good” behavior of unions with the “bad”? Unions are there, after all, to look out for themselves.

The answer to the first question is most likely, yes. I have a disposition towards solidarity, to side with labor in its fights because I think as a general rule, this leads to a better world: more justice, more accountability and even more prosperity. You can think of this is a kind of rule-utilitarianism. I generally think “tell the truth” is a good rule, too, because it tends to maximize utility in the long run, even if it doesn’t do that in discrete instances.

As for the teachers’ unions, every right-thinking person knows that teachers unions are bad entrenched interests, except for the fact the empirical evidence on the correlation between teacher unionization is completely muddied and inconclusive. In other words, we know unionization increases teacher pay and reduces class size, but we don’t know if unionization helps or harms student performance. Ezra’s written about the weird contempt for teachers’ unions before.

In terms of how to reconcile good behavior of the unions with the bad, I don’t really understand why that’s an issue. How do you reconcile the good behavior of lawyers with the bad? Or the good behavior of cops with the bad? Everyone agrees there are bad lawyers, bad cops and some bad unions, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have laywers, cops and unions, right?

Whenever people talk about bad experiences with unions I always ask if they’ve ever had a bad boss. Of course, everyone has, but no one thinks we should get rid of bosses.

Chris Hayes is the host of All In with Chris Hayes on MSNBC.


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