Monday, September 6, 2010

Competition in government?

Today is Labour Day (yes, with a "u" in Canada) a holiday that celebrates organized labour (that picture from a Labour Day Parade in Fort William ON, 1903). This morning The US Heritage Foundation blog suggested that today should be called Government Day. In the US this is the first time that public sector unionized government workers outnumber private sector unionized workers. Unions have become a casualty (or is it causality? both?) of the recession/depression. In Canada it's likely similar, but maybe we're not there quite yet, certainly the public sector is rife with unions and the various levels of government seem to be in cahoots with their unionized employees. That of course is the problem, the public sector unions virtually eliminate one of the key features of bargaining, that is, looking for less expensive help, union rules prohibit that. Some of you may say that is the point of unions, the workers are protected. Certainly thats true, but who protects the tax payers? Is it elected officials that represent taxpayer interest? Of course it should be, but look at the job they have done.
Public sector strikes are fairly common, but in the end government negotiators generally cave in with offers in excess of anything available in the private sector. A recent Toronto garbage strike ended with unions getting a much better deal than private contractors give their workers.
Public sector construction contracts regularly requires unionized workers to carry out any work. In the Toronto region, electricians doing public sector work get between $34 and $36 per hour. The average hourly rate for non-unionized electricians work is $26. Now multiply that percentage difference (38% more) by all the public construction projects and its easy to see why government costs continue to rise much faster than the rate of inflation and governments go into debt. The elected officials who are responsible rarely get blamed, and if they do, they don't get re-elected but the new officials aren't any different. There is no competitive other government to take over (most political party's once in power act the same as their predecessors), the business of government is monopoly with minimal change every four years or so.
So imagine if there were alternate, but competitive governments, in other places to live that actually offered a competitive price structure. Somewhere where freedom is valued and competition exists in everything. That's the idea behind the Seasteading Institute, explained in this short video for young people.

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