In his 1952 book American Capitalism, James Kenneth Galbraith introduced the idea of countervailing powers.
- Using the required readings, supplementary readings, and individual research briefly discuss the rise and fall in private sector unions and compare it with the rise and current controversy over public unions.
- List three ways in which public unions contribute to the common good.
- List three ways in which public unions detract from the common good.
- Predict the future growth/decline and influence of public and private unions, giving reasons for your prediction.
- Select a special interest group and
First, please note that we do not have your readings and therefore cannot answer this question properly. It would be best if you try to relate your reading to this question.
The rise and fall of private sector unions has been somewhat different from the experience of the public sector unions. Private sector unions arose through a great deal of conflict in the late 1800s and into the 1900s. Public sector unions did not undergo the same kind of violent resistance since they were not trying to go against companies that had economic stakes in preventing them from arising. Public sector unions sort of piggybacked on the success of the private sector unions. Private sector unions have declined rapidly because of economic competition between companies. By contrast, the controversy over public sector unions is largely a political one. Many people simply feel that it is wrong for them to have what they perceive as cushy deals when private sector workers lack such deals.
We can argue that public unions contribute to the common good because they ensure that government workers will get good wages. We can say they are beneficial because they reduce income inequality in society. We can say that they are beneficial because they allow government jobs to have good pay and, thereby, to attract a better class of government workers.
We can argue that public unions detract from the public good because they make us pay higher taxes in order to pay the government workers their high salaries. We can say they hurt us by making it more attractive to go into government work than it is to go into the private sector, which is more productive and more important for our economic growth. We can say they make people hate the government because they are jealous of the wages and job security enjoyed by government workers.
I believe that it is likely that unions of all sorts will decline. In the private sector, they will decline as global competition makes it harder for companies to survive without cutting costs to the bone. In the public sector, they will decline because of rising anger among average Americans.