Monthly Archives: February 2009

Fairweather Liberty

I had a disappointing discussion a few weeks back with a colleague. My friend is a smart young man, earnest and sincere, but all too representative of today’s brand of thinking when it comes to issues of liberty and public policy.

The topic was smoke-free bars in the City of St. Louis. I hate smoking, for the record. I think smokers have a nasty history of being thoughtless in the pursuit of their habit. I am surprised at how offensive I find the smell. Long gone, the stink of cigarettes linger in public spaces where smokers have traveled. The curbs are clotted with filthy little butts. I see nothing whatsoever to recommend smoking…except that it is perfectly legal.

In discussing the liberty aspects of a bar owner choosing whether or not to offer a smoke-free environment, my friend noted that he was surprised that the free market failed to provide more smoke-free environments. He planned to vote in favor of a smoking ban because he liked bars but hated smoke.

First, free markets are not a guarantee that we will eventually get what we want, but that in generally, the free market will provide enough of something to meet demand at a given price, all things being equal. As smoking has become less popular, I don’t think we will get a wide variety of smoke-free bars to choose from, but rather enough to meet demand. Eventually. All things being equal.

The statist is an impatient creature. Once they settle into their heads they wish something, they will get it however they feel they can. Smoking ban fans are certainly well-meaning, and the “work environment” arguments about employees who work in bars and their exposure to smoke have a solid point not easily defeated. Still, my friend was simply voting in favor of a ban because he wanted more smoke-free bars.

It disturbs me when an American will go to the government to demand of a property owner a thing that the owner is not willing to provide. My friend is not being denied a smoke-free bar based on race, color, creed or religion. He is being denied because the bar owner thinks there are more customers to be had by allowing smoking in his bar. While there is a principled argument on health to make about a smoking ban, simply voting for the ban for my own preference of environment is simply participating in mob rule.

Nobody has the guts to just ban cigarettes. If they are so damn dangerous, then just ban the stupid things. The thing is, they are not dangerous enough to ban in the mind of the public, so nanny-state do-gooders get together and nibble at the edges. This is bad enough, but to join in in a form of soft tyranny for no other reason than to expand your selection of watering hole is downright un-American. We are either free men, or we are slaves to the mob. Unfortunately this sort of me-centric thinking is very common today, and I don’t see it changing anytime soon.

Obama to 84% Of Americans – Drop Dead

WASHINGTON, Feb. 6 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) today denounced an Executive Order signed by President Obama that repeals Executive Order 13202, that prohibited federal agencies and recipients of federal funding from requiring contractors to sign union-only project labor agreements (PLAs) as a condition of performing work on federal and federally funded construction projects.

It will be interesting to learn how this particular little gift to the American people will play out.  If I recall correctly, most givernment project typically require a “prevailing wage” be paid.  If in a given region your typical concrete guy makes $28.00 per hour plus benefits, the prevailing wage requirements require that anyone performing a contract would pay some percentage of the prevailing wage.  While this does keep non-union contractors from deeply undercutting union contractors, at least it introduces some competition into a labor pool.  Prevailing wages are calculated from non-union workers as well as union workers.

Now a government project can demand not that prevailing wages be paid, but that only union members be offered jobs.  Nice work.  If a fancy project in President Obama’s native Chicago begins, the local political thugs can see to it that only their union pals need bother applying for the job.

Only 16% of Americans work in a union.  Millions of employees will get sent the bill for this pork-laden stimulus package – The Milwaukee School District will receive 84 million of our hard-earned dollars to build new schools even though 15 buildings are already vacant.  In return, the overwheliming majority of them will not be allowed to work on the projects if the project managers elect to require union-only labor to perform them.

OK class, what happens when you increase demand and reduce supply – in this case labor? That is correct, you have wage inflation.  Of course wage inflation will only affect the union labor force.  Non-union labor will be frozen out of many projects.  Prevailing wages will probably go up, however, so now the price tage of other projects will rise.

Couple this with Obama’s pomise to sign legislation eliminating secret ballots in union elections and you can see who his administration thinks about first.  Good deal for the 16% of Americans who are union, but I guess the rest of us can just suck it up andcut the checks.

How People Who Love The Environment Celebrate

I attended the Promise Keepers “Stand In The Gap” (or as I like to call it, the Million Mostly White Men March) back in the mid-nineties. Even though we were “Christianists” and voted overwhelmingly Republican, I distinctly recall spending a solid hour along with tens of thousands of other men PICKING UP THE &^%$#*&% TRASH.

Unlike hippies, we spend less time talking about how we love the environment and more time actually doing something about it.