So I recently finished rereading Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (yes I am very weird in my choices of pleasure reading, but I have come to accept that about myself…and quite frankly it is an excellent read that everyone should consider). Now there has always been a strain of historians and political theorists who like to make comparisons between the US and Ancient Rome. And rereading Gibbon some parallels did come to mind.
One of Gibbon’s chief arguments is that Rome fell because of the decay of personal and civic virtue of its populace. In Gibbons argument this led to corruption at all levels, but most evidently in the army. The argument goes something like this: Rome was made great by its armies. Young men of Rome, back in the good ol’ days of the Republic would join the army and distinguish themselves. They joined the army not to personally ransack every future province they came across but the glory and defense of their mother city. This is the mentality that allowed them to recover after the disastrous Battle of Cannae where Hannibal almost crushed Rome once and for all, and for better or worse it is what created a relatively stable empire from the end of the Civil Wars to the death of Commodus. And while the fall of the legions began early on in the Empire it took a long time for the cracks to become noticeable. And the worst of the worst was the part of the army known as Praetorian Guard was the quickest to become corrupt and being willing to exploit their power for personal benefit (Or as the one of my favorite podcasts put it “The praetorians thought they were at the center of the universe.”)
Why do I bring this up? Well if it was the legions of Rome that made Rome great and then held it hostage until they destroyed Rome. So what the does this have to do with America? Well if one of America’s chief strengths was as an industrial nation (and I would like to emphasize was, we really need to move onto the idea that what now makes this country first is our ability to innovate and manage, not just make stuff) then the American worker was key in creating the prestige and power of America. And it is this same class of the populace who has adopted the mantel of modern Praetorian Guard willing to sell us all out for a short lived pay increase.
How have they become the worm in the apple that is rotting this country from the inside? One word: Unions. Teachers Unions, Auto workers Unions, Public Employee Unions…you name it, Unions are a problem. Yes, unions may have been formed back when employers were exploiting people, but that is not quite the case now–now it is the union that is exploiting the worker, and the country along with them.
How do they ruin America? Well let’s look at them. As the recent film Waiting for Superman has shown the Teachers Union is a problem. And I don’t mean it’s a problem like that fly that keeps buzzing around your head and needs to go away is a problem–think more of a dragon burring and destroying the entire countryside and needs to have a sword driven right into its heart kind of problem. The teachers union in America exists for one purpose and one purpose alone, to keep incompetent people who could never survive in the private sector living off of the government dole at absurdly high salaries. They exist to keep useless excuses for human beings in the classroom (not to mention get rid of teachers who don’t march lockstep to their policies) but also work against the best interests of students at every turn. Anti-performance-based-pay. Anti-charter. Anti-voucher. Anti-education. They would rather bleed the taxpayer dead long before they give a rat’s ass about the education of any child. They support training and “teacher-education” that doesn’t help anyone learn how to be a teacher keeping those who can get union benefits dependent on the union to stay teachers, or go near broke trying to keep up with the stupid new classes that are passed by union bought legislators. (In the issue of full disclosure, I’m a teacher, and have seen what the unions do to this profession. Ethically, I’m fine with lining the heads of all the teachers unions against a wall, and well…you know where that image is going.)
And it’s not just the teachers unions, although they are at the front of my list of people to be tried and executed for gross treason against this nation. Why is it again that American auto companies needed bailouts and foreign car companies didn’t? Oh that’s right, the truly obscene wages that union autoworkers make. For unskilled, uneducated labor that I could train a chimp to do, these morons are paid more in a year than I as a teacher probably make in two.
And do we need to get onto the government unions. With their high pay scale for interfering with our lives, and their insane pensions that are literally driving states into bankruptcy.
Obscene wages, low work level, near impossible to fire. This does not for a good economy make.
There was a day when unions were needed as a counterbalance against exploitation. But now it is those very unions that are exploiting the workers (through high dues) and the country as a whole (through buying politicians to make laws that favor them at any and all costs).
I’m not saying getting rid of the unions, if you did you would quickly see the abuses go back to the other side, but the closed shop laws that make the unions a power unto themselves need to be revoked. In most states workers are forced to join unions whether they want to or not. Now if you don’t have to convince people to join, what is the likelihood that you will look out for their best interests after a business goes union—well even a layman’s knowledge of history, psychology, and economics says that it’s roughly about zero. Just as when the Roman legions had no loyalty to Rome, when unions have no reason to fight for the loyalty of their members, and when employees have no reason to put in good work because they’re protected by union thugs, things start to fall apart.
But there is a simple fix to this. Open shop laws. Employees can choose to be in a union or not. They can stop being in a union after joining, it’s up to them. This makes it in the best interest of the employer to offer a job environment that doesn’t make people want to go to unions, it makes unions have to constantly fight to keep their members, and it makes employees accountable for their work and pay. Everyone makes out better…well except maybe the administration of the unions which will no longer be able to become rich off exploiting workers and businesses—and of course those politicians will be getting fewer payoffs (but I won’t be shedding a single tear there).
Of course one of the other reasons for the decline and fall for Rome was the cult of personality around narcissistic emperors like Caligula who would rather glorify themselves than worry about the problems of their nation….but we don’t have that problem here in America….oh, wait….