Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


What's Rights?

Former public-sector Union boss Andy Stern complains of "a 15-state Republican campaign to strip workers of their rights."

Interesting language.  The rights in question are not natural rights.  The right of workers in general, and of workers in our government to form unions, and to negotiate collectively is not something men deserve because they are men.  It is a right in the very old fashioned sense. It is a right that the government of Wisconsin granted to many government employees many years ago.  Hence, taking that right away is only in a limited sense an assault on rights.  It t not a fundamental rights or a human right.

I suspect that many on the Left don't see it that way. My understanding of their position is that rights are not from nature.  On the contrary, rights are created in History.  Hence once a right is acquired, it is to be understood as a permanent acquisition, for History is a tale of progress.  To deny that, is to deny Truth, as the Left sees it.  Hence the charge, by Jonathan Chait and others of "Republican Nihilism."  To disbelive in History is, from the Left's perspective, nihilism.

The joker here is that History is having the last laugh.  The Left's idea of what is possible in the world of human events is crumbling before out eyes. As a rule, they prefer to shoot the messenger.  As Horace famously said, "you can drive nature out with a pitchfork, but she always returns."

Categories > Progressivism

Discussions - 13 Comments

Sid Milkis and Shep Melnick write about this accretion of rights as "programmatic rights." FDR formally lays these out in his Second Bill of Rights address, or 1944 SOTU. Democratic party strategy has been to make these rights, among those you list, effective constitutional bills. The purpose of the bureaucracy is to enact programs that make these rights real.

The "rights of workers" are neither natural nor historical rights.

They are contract rights subject to constant renegotiation and change. After all, no one other than employees of the state has these "rights."

If the state has usurped the right of both sides to negotiate by imposing a statutory duty on one side or another, that duty may be altered by subsequent statute.

If certain member groups of the body politic wish to make these rights somehow "constitutional," a procedure exists. Amend the constitution, whether state or national. Otherwise negotiate, do not remove oneself from the table.

Good post

Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights identifies the ability to organize trade unions as a fundamental human right.

The Supreme Court of Canada agreed in 2007.

It is persuasive to some, but certainly not binding. It is persuasive in the sense that it shows itself to be workable, and claims: "Collective bargaining permits workers to achieve a form of workplace democracy and to ensure the rule of law in the workplace. Workers gain a voice to influence the establishment of rules that control a major aspect of their lives". Facilities Subsector Bargaining Association v. British Columbia.

I think I would want collective barganing, but it depends on how the alternative is structured. You are still going to have a certain legal framework around contracts. In fact there is no contract without law.

Canada is a decent, humane relatively free country, that isn't butchering its currency and dehumanizing its workforce on the alter of the one true God: productivity.

I am writting this more as a joke, I think China really is worshiping productivity more consistently.

Also I am really somewhat indifferent to terms like "history" or "nature", they are both I am rather certain indifferent to me.

"Liberal democracy" if we can grant the term isn't a ridiculous one, encompasses at the very least Canada, Australia, Europe and the United States. A wide variety of laws approaches and policies.

I am not exactly sure what workers get being pegged to a flat rate and rick-rolled by the Phillips Curve, of course putting gov. workers in the same position as the rest of americans might be a key step towards changing views on the deficit.

In any case the actual details of the law matter more than the surface hype about history or nature.

@ Spot Cash, sure but contract rights, are the most valuable. These are rights that set up the framework under which you consent. Contract rights set up "usage of trade", which I suggest the discussion about Natural Rights vs. History really is. Technically all this is really banter about contracts. Republicans have made an offer, put forward a bill, and democrats have decided to walk away from the table. This is about offer and acceptance and what happens if you don't accept.

Democrats in Wisconsin are doing what I think the tea party would want conservatives to do to progressive bills. Utilize more backbone in realizing that you don't have to quickly accept every bill.

Both Government and Contract law are about compromise, or essentially negotiating offers and counteroffers until acceptance is reached, but neither by definition is about any principle that is not open to negotiation.

If democrats or proggressives call something a right, they simply mean it is outside the realm of contract law and not subject to negotiation, this is very difficult to maintain. As Washington said: "Few men have virtue to withstand the highest bidder."(Happy Birthday to him by the way.)

But look there is no way I am giving up contract law/rights as unimportant. The way I see it all of our most interesting issues are wrapped up in it. Pretty much everything that can be bought and sold, and disagreements over what can't be and why.

Interesting to see someone who claims not to care about nature come rather close to giving the classic argument that the right of individuls to make contracts is a natural right, for no one may be bound without his own consent.

"The Left's idea of what is possible in the world of human events is crumbling before out [sic] eyes."

The Left's idea that it is possible for people to work together to improve their lot?

Too bad, it sounds better than the Right's "Don't bother trying; things will get worse because humans are imperfect. You're on your own. Shut up, go to church, and take what you're given from your corporate overlords."

"You can drive nature out with a pitchfork, but she always returns."

Well, that's ambiguous. I'd respond that it's also entirely natural for people to identify this situation (see link below) - as currently underway in WI and OH - for the steaming pile that it is, and fight back. We can skip the language of "rights."

But it is interesting to see the right-wing giving a big slap in the face to the police and firefighters in such a short period of time. (Recall that you were on the wrong side of the First Responders bill to give aid to those who were there to help on 9/11). It's not a constituency that I would think the right would be so cavalier about throwing under the bus.

John, the Left has often sought to use the crazed pronouncements of far-Left governments to shame the U.S. into dumb policies. We on the Right care not a fig about what Canada or International treaties have to say about workers' rights -- we trust our own sense of these things and will act accordingly.

Unions have a place, but NOT in the public sector...ever. It is lunacy for a people to allow their own representative government to mug them (routinely) in this fashion. Public service is a privilege, not a right.

As for private sector unions, they were more important in the past in terms of improving working conditions and achieving fair wages. Today, I think they are simply labor monopolies that gum up the works and make us less competitive. I would not take away their rights to bargain or to strike, but employers should also have the right to fire them en mass and ban picket lines (essentially, a form of coercion).

Its high time we started looking at connections between these unions and islamofascist organizations like hammas. Then we can treat these protests like the acts of terrorism that they are.

Still waiting on your comments on the civility of the left during the protests in WI. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

Police and firefighters are specifically exempted from Gov. Walker's bill. Some off-duty cops et al. have demonstrated in Madison out of union-solidarity feeling, which is of course their right, but the fact remains: They are left out of the bill.

As for Richard Adam's mention of "what's possible in human events," I think he means in this case the constant upward ratcheting of bennies to public-employee unions that is driving many states toward the edge of a fiscal cliff. The piling-up of "unfunded liabilities" at current rates is unsustainable and has to stop.

Quorum-busting such as we are now seeing in WI is typically a last-ditch, weak-hand play and seldom works in the end. Meanwhile, it's making Dems look bad--witness how the Obama White House is now trying to walk back its own involvement in the WI events--and shining a bright light on the nexus between public unions and the Democratic Party, as detailed here by Stephen Malanga:

I for one welcome this high-intensity public exposure. The more people focus on the ways in and the degree to which public unions and Democratic politicos collude to jack up our taxes, the better. It will help Republicans plus the occasional Democratic politician (such as Gov. Andrew Cuomo currently in NY) who tries to do something to rein in an overweening special-interest group that is at the heart of excessive tax-and-spend policies in state after state.

You lose elections, and you and your government worker constituencies may have to accept some deals your side doesn't like. That's the way it works. This isn't Greece.

Or, "union-activist" home stalkers and awol Senators (not mention the at least symbolically capitol-occupying protestors) are the VOTERS to be deprived of their rights to have their elected representatives represent them?

Democrats, be for democracy already!

And let the decent ones among you, and/or the ones who expect us to bother to listen you when you talk gravely and earnestly about "deliberation" and civility and the dangers of extremism, let's hear you LOUDLY denounce the perhaps HUNDREDS of signs in those protests that blatantly spit upon the slightest pretense of civility towards us, and let's hear it NOW, when for once it might matter. The way you tolerate your bigots is so disgusting.

And STOP resorting to this baby-food "rights-talk" with every other damn issue under the sun...

Now it appears that the quorum-busting flight tactic has spread to Democratic state legislators in Indiana:

Mitch Daniels is voting "present" (not surprising).

The key thing is how all this plays with independents. My hunch remains: Not favorably. If polling data comes in to confirm decisively that fleeing the state is turning off the "I"s and the weakly affiliated, I suspect we'll see the Dems start backtracking.

Just an update on how voters are likin' the quorum-bustin' Dems. Answer: Not much!

Even 44% of DEMOCRATS disapprove of the "run & hide in Rockford" game, fercryinoutloud.

Here's some guy named Ronald Reagan (who apparently got his big start in a union called the Screen Actors Guild), speaking of "the basic right" of a country's people to "form trade unions and to strike" - a right which was apparently important for other countries to recognize back in the day:

Apparently, the guy was a real radical - he moved up the union "thug" chain of command because of his performance during the "often-violent Conference of Studio Unions (CSU) strikes" ('46-'47) and then served on the board or as prez during THREE SAG strikes. Lazy Hollywood actors going on strike, trying to get more money!!

Leave a Comment

* denotes a required field

No TrackBacks
TrackBack URL:

Warning: include(/srv/users/prod-php-nltashbrook/apps/prod-php-nltashbrook/public/sd/nlt-blog/_includes/promo-main.php): failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /srv/users/prod-php-nltashbrook/apps/prod-php-nltashbrook/public/2011/02/whats-rights.php on line 812

Warning: include(): Failed opening '/srv/users/prod-php-nltashbrook/apps/prod-php-nltashbrook/public/sd/nlt-blog/_includes/promo-main.php' for inclusion (include_path='.:/opt/sp/php7.2/lib/php') in /srv/users/prod-php-nltashbrook/apps/prod-php-nltashbrook/public/2011/02/whats-rights.php on line 812