Q & A

After writing recently about the debate taking place in our country on whether the law should continue to favor labor unions, I’ve been asked what I think kids should learn from it.  Well, employees have always had a Constitutional right to associate with one another freely and make demands on their employers, backed up ultimately by their ability to quit en masse, but over a period of decades, our law has evolved to strengthen union members’ hands against employers, including some state governments, even further.  How?  By tying employers’ hands in response to union members’ demands, prohibiting employers, for example, from permanently replacing union members who walk out en masse until the employers have jumped through months, sometimes years, of legal hoops like “bargaining in good faith” (read:  giving workers at least some of what they demand, reasonable or not; just check out the demands of NFL players – yes, NFL players – currently threatening a strike!), participating in mediation with a “neutral” authority, getting permission from the “neutral” authority, etc.  Essentially, the legal pendulum has swung decidedly in unions’ favor, and I think Americans are signaling their readiness for it to swing back in the other direction.  So, I think the biggest lesson for tomorrow’s employees is to take advantage of the educational opportunities available to them in this country – stay in school, learn as much as you can, and develop the highest level of skill that you can.  Why?  Because if there are enough other people willing and able to do what you do that your employer could lose you and all your coworkers at any moment and quickly find qualified replacements for the same or less pay, then there’s a value problem on your end.  For example, if you’re able-minded and able-bodied, yet you allow yourself to reach adulthood without developing skills more valuable than the ability to operate a broom, then no, I think you shouldn’t plan on being able to get together with 10,000 other broom operators, demand $50 an hour, and actually expect to get it.  Sweeping just isn’t worth that, relative to other jobs.  You may have gotten it in the past, but now, we can’t afford it anymore – governments can’t, and neither can private employers whose global competitors, operating free of such artificially-inflated labor costs, can make and sell the same products and provide the same services at lower prices.  Bottom line for the kids:  Make yourself valuable, as an individual, by acquiring unique knowledge and skills – if you make yourself difficult for an employer to replace, then you won’t have to worry about whether the law will still be there to do it for you.  (By the way, if anyone’s looking for a sweeping job currently, they need you in, of all places, the Wisconsin State Capitol, where it’s estimated to cost hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars to clean up and fix damage after weeks of protests there by…union members.  Don’t expect $50 an hour though.)

And, after writing recently about the respective inclinations of human beings and of dogs to help their own in need, I’ve been asked what I think of pundits and politicians demanding that the U.S. establish a “no-fly” zone over Libya to prevent the Libyan dictator from bombing his own people.  While I understand the moral implication – the obligation to help innocent people in dire need – in cases like this, I always ask, “Did the American men and women who signed up to risk their lives defending us probably have this in mind when they volunteered?”  If the answer is “no,” then I’d have a hard time asking them to do it.  But in this case, I don’t think it’s necessary to get to that point.  If there’s a moral obligation for observers to intervene in the carnage in Libya, it seems to me that there are capable observers far closer than we are.  This is Libya we’re talking about, a country with aging Soviet-era military hardware.  It seems to me that establishing a no-fly zone over Libya is an undertaking that one, or some, of Libya’s regional neighbors, maybe even France, could be expected to handle without us.

Finally, you may have seen coverage last week of a New York woman with a bachelor’s degree in psychology who’s advertising counseling sessions during which she’ll strip naked.  I’ve been asked how she can do that without getting in trouble.  Well, she’s not a licensed psychotherapist, so she can’t be penalized for not following the professional-conduct regulations governing licensees, and she apparently isn’t using words like “psychology,” and “psychotherapy” to advertise what she does (she says she’s just a “therapist”), so she probably can’t be penalized for practicing psychotherapy without a license either.  If it turns out that she’s misleading the public to think that she’s licensed, then she may end up in trouble for fraudulent misrepresentation.  Likewise, if it turns out that zoning regulations prohibit the presence of erotic businesses in her area, she may end up in trouble for that.  In the meantime, it looks like these pseudo-psycho-strip “therapy” sessions will go on, so New Yorkers beware – if you think you might have a genuine psychological or relationship problem, this woman’s “service” is not psychotherapy with a licensed psychologist!

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