Monday, February 25, 2013

Union power: The Wings of an Eagle Attached to a Pigeon head

In view of the debilitating strikes that are continuously surging in Greece at this critical moment that the Samaras Government is attempting to pull Greece out of the crisis and put an end to the great sufferings of the people, I'm republishing this essay that was written twelve years ago.

By Con George-Kotzabasis 

The following article was written on April 2000. It’s republished here on this blog as I think it’s still relevant as unions continue to have a strong grip on the Labor Party. And with a possible impending recession in the US that would inevitably effect the Australian economy, a Rudd victory in the coming election will bring the unions exercising their pernicious behind the times influence on the front benches of a Labor government. And hence exacerbate the peril of the economy of the country in conditions of recession. Lest we forget, it was in the UK in the mid-sixties under Labor governments that ‘trade-union-led “wage push” was the driving force behind inflation and subsequent breakdown of Keynesian policy’. Richard Kahn, one of the closest disciples of Keynes, when he was asked about this breakdown of Keynesian policy, he answered, ‘we never thought the leaders of the trade unions could behave so stupidly’. This stupidity was coined at the time in the term of stagflation, the proud creation of the unions. And this doltishness of the unions is alive and well in our times as it’s still fuelled by the false Marxist doctrine of class struggle. This is the danger that trade unions could inflict to the Australian economy under a Rudd government. As for Rudd’s “education revolution” by providing students with laptops, the mountain has brought forth a mouse. Australia is already among the top nations that provides computers to its students. But on the quintessence of education revolution which has to deal with its human capital, i.e., its teachers, who have to be selected on merit and ability and on their teaching methods, two burning issues on which the education unions will not budge, Rudd remains silent. He also claims that his government will be a government of “fresh ideas and new leadership”. But after his lustful embrace of me tooism of some major liberal policies during the electoral campaign, Rudd pellucidly reveals that his government will not be a government of “new leadership” but a government of mimicry. For John Howard there is still a good chance that the minders of Kevin Rudd, couple days before the real poll, will be telling him that the only bad news is that there is no good news. 

The ascendancy of the Labor Party to the treasury benches in Victoria, has churned in its wake a billow of waves of industrial action by an amalgam of union power that threatens to shipwreck the economic vibrancy of the state. The outcome of such fatuous action by the unions will be to induce a flight of investment capital from Victoria to other states, as current and would-be employers of this state would feel too insecure to invest in an environment of industrial turmoil. This is especially so when the Labor government and its leader Steve Bracks are perceived to be irresolute and too weak-kneed to control and rein in this outdated aggression and belligerence of the unions against employers.

The excessive and irrational demands of the unions for a thirty-six hour working week and a 24 percent increase in wages, which if they were successful in obtaining initially in the construction industry and their inevitable flow into some other industries, would have the ineluctable result of throwing thousands of workers among the ranks of the unemployed. This would be a tragic repetition of what happened in the metal industry in the late 80s as a result of excessive union claims, under the then Federal Secretary of the Metal Trades Union, George Campbell—a political stallion of the Left and presently a Labor Senator who is going to be replaced by another stalwart left-winger Doug Cameron who has indisputable credentials of being in the past a real "communist under the bed”—whom the Treasurer Paul Keating accused of having a necklace of 100,000 dismissed metal workers around his neck.

It’s obvious that the unions are afflicted by an innate inability to learn from their past sloppy errors. And like a recurring malady they are bound to contaminate the economy of the country with the calamitous mistakes of the past. The consequences of a repeated mistake, however, are more tragic than the consequences of an initial one and therefore carry a greater responsibility. An action that is performed for the first time is experimental in regard to its consequences, as no one, without the gifts of Tiresias, can predict or foresee whether its results will be benign or malign.  (Not that the unions could be excused for their first error. There was ample evidence of a global scale at the time, and enough forewarnings by eminent economists, that excessive union claims within the confines of global competition would inexorably lead to the flight of capital from regions these claims were impacting upon, and hence to unemployment.) But an action that is repeated deliberately and wantonly in spite of knowledge of its harmful effects in the past is intellectually malevolent and morally culpable.

Whose Culpability is Greater the Union’s or the Government’s?

Two questions therefore arise. Is the intelligence of unions commensurate with their powers? Or is it the case that union power is more like the wings of an eagle attached to a pigeon head? If the answer to the second question is affirmative, then one further question is posed, i.e., why then was the political wing of the Labor Party, which is now in government and having the expertise of knowing better about the dire economic effects of industrial unrest to the country nonetheless was unwilling to intervene promptly and decisively to block the irrational and pernicious claims of its industrial wing, which as a government of all Victorians—Premier Brack’s slogan—was committed in doing? Furthermore, why was the government’s immediate reaction to blame the Federal government’s industrial legislation for the ongoing industrial unrest instead of doing something that would have stifled the industrial dispute in its initial stages, for which it had prior knowledge, and using the subterfuge of an excuse that it was constrained by the legislation and could do nothing effective toward its resolution? Both the deputy leader of the government John Twaites and the Minister of Industrial Relations Monica Gould, used this feeble argument, when in fact with the return of the Premier from Davos  the latter forced the union involved in the dispute of the Yallourn power station to return back to work by imposing hefty fines upon its members, hence demonstrating that the government had the power to do something effective to resolve the dispute? Wasn’t it rather, the attempt to shift the blame to the federal legislation, a poor ruse, indeed, a camouflage, to cover its lack of will to intervene timely and decisively and derail the union from its “crashing” course? Yet, the belated action was effective, even if it was done halfheartedly. But what other alternative the government had, at the end of its honeymoon with the electorate, other than to send the stalled fire engines out to extinguish the full blown fire, if it was not to be seen, and impugned, in the electorates eyes, as politically effete and incompetent?
This is a basic characteristic, however, and an irreversible syndrome of Labor governments. To intervene in industrial disputes only when political necessity dictates, i.e., only when these disputes have reached a high point with the potential of harming the economy, and hence would be politically damaging. For organizational and ideological reasons Labor governments are not prone to intervene in the wrangles of their comrade-in-arms with employers, but do so only as a last resort.

This general inaction of Labor governments in industrial disputes is a result first, of a common ideology shared with the unions whose core emanates from the principles of socialism, and secondly, from its constitutional organizational structures that tie the political and industrial wings of the Party into a powerful body and into a compact of consensus that determines the functions of each wing. In conference after conference of the Party, the common and often repeated refrain is that Labor occupies the treasury benches only for the purpose of implementing policies which are discussed and ratified in state and federal conferences in whose conception the unions and its sundry representatives, mainly academics, have a major input. The union’s dominance is illustrated not only in the generation and formation of policies (Its architects generally are academics from the Left, whose intellectual frustration is at a boiling point because their ideas and policies cannot pass muster among other academic luminaries, but who do find a paradisiacal outlet for their “time-stopped” ideas, as well as an adulatory audience among their comrades in the unions, who normally cannot separate the wheat from the chaff of these ideas), but also on the conference floor as sixty percent of its delegates must be union representatives according to the Party’s constitution.

The larger and, especially, the more militant unions have such a firm grip in the election of delegates to Party forums, that even ministers and would-be premiers often cannot be elected to these meetings. Many ministers , therefore, who are unable to be elected to conferences on their own authority, resort to “begging” less militant unions to be placed in their delegations as constitutionally the unions have the authority to do so. Hence only as supplicants to the unions are ministers able to participate in conferences. For example, Jim Kennan, the Attorney General in the Cain Government, for many years was a delegate of the Clothing Trades Union. Likewise too, Steven Bracks, the current premier, was a delegate of the same union, who had taken Kennan’s place with the latter’s departure from politics. Other ministers who are not as fortunate to be union delegates attend conferences as visitors and observers without the right to move, or vote for, resolutions of the conference. Hence, ministers and many of their advisers are left out from the formulation and ratification of the Party’s policies. Such is the power and influence of unions in the organizational procedures of the Party, that often they cal “lock-out” important ministers who are not close to their ideological positions, from the highest policymaking bodies of the Party.

Moreover, the grip of the unions is extended to the pre-selection procedures of the candidates of the Party as well as in the choosing and changes of the parliamentary leadership, both in the state and federal domains. Who can forget for instance the telephone call that Paul Keating made, during his challenge of Bob Hawke, to Wally Curren, secretary of the Meat Workers Union asking him for his support in the coming challenge to Hawke for the leadership of the government? And Curren obliging, by forcing those MP’s from Victoria who owed their position in parliament to his patronage, to vote for Keating? This irritated Bob Hawke so much asking who Wally Curren was pretending thus ironically that he himself who had ousted and replaced Bill Hayden with union support was not cognizant of the influence trade union leaders have in pre-selections. As for the branches of the Party they play a superficial role in the pre-selection of candidates as they too in turn are influenced in their decisions by the organizational power of the unions.

Labor Politicians at the Mercy of Unions

Being therefore at the mercy of unions for their parliamentary positions and for the buttering of their bread, labor politicians, with some exceptions, are cast as toadies of the unions. Only the Federal Executive of the Party can intervene can intervene and save a ministerial or a backbencher’s scalp from the tomahawk of the unions. This occurred when John Halpenny, the Secretary of the Trades Hall Council in Victoria. were placed in the number one position on the senate ticket, with massive union support, in the 1988 federal election, relegating the leader of the Senate, John Button, to the second position. And in the election following the one in 1988, some of the left-wing unions were deliberating whether or not to place Gareth Evans, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, in the second position on the senate ticket. Only some sober heads at the last moment saved the glitterati Minister from the rusty and blood-stained tomahawk of the unions and from posthumous obloquy. (But the power of the Federal Executive is limited, as is illustrated in the present coming election of 2007 in the seat of Coreo, where the current seating member, Gavin O’Connor, is replaced by an assistant secretary of the ACTU (Australian Council of Trade Unions), against the wishes of the Executive.)

It’s for all the above reasons, this congeniality of interests between Labor governments and unions that prevents the former from acting timely and decisively in industrial disputes. And even when they do as a last resort they cannot be impartial in their involvement. The Brack government being captive to the unions has to cater to the latter’s voracious appetite on a number of issues: On the restoration of common law damages for injured workers, which has already being done by passing the relevant legislation in parliament, on the restitution of industrial policy back to the State Government, so the latter can abolish the industrial contracts of the Federal Government, whose aim is to eliminate union dominance in industry negotiations, and to replace them with collective bargaining, hence restoring union coercion and thuggery during negotiations with employers. On these issues and on many others, the Labor government is hamstrung by union power. Whether the former will be able to deliver on these issues will depend on the political climate of the day and on the degree of resonance such a delivery will have upon the electorate.

Steve Brack’s therefore, like a trapeze artist, has to walk on a tight rope whose one end is held by the unions and the other by the community, and perform his balancing act. While gratifying the union claims, with potentially destructive consequences to the economy of the State, at the same time he has to keep its economic robustness, inherited from his liberal predecessor, Jeff Kennet, intact, hence erasing any fears or consternations the community might have about the new industrial course of his government.

It’s with this purpose in mind to win the confidence of Victorians and of some na├»ve employers that Steve Bracks lately set up a new stage with an old play. His government lacking any originality or lateral thinking in policymaking ransacked the ram shackled spider web storehouse of past Labor policies to bring out the nostrums of “old age”. The summit of “Growing Victoria Together”, chaired by that scion of Labor power, Bob Hawke, was such a nostrum. Imbibing a strong dose of self-deception, Bracks was hopeful that by attracting some old and new celebrities from the industrial club and from business to the summit the public would be hoodwinked and believe that something substantial would come from the coupling of these celebrities. What in fact happened, was that each spokesperson of this divided house of unions and employers, voiced plaintively their complaints and grievances against each other with the result that they were not able to reach an agreement as to how and by what prudent set of actions, they would carry out the growth of Victoria. The rhetorical statement at the end of the summit, spun by the golden threads of the cerebral and literary qualities of Bob Hawke and his wife, respectively, could hardly hide the practical hollowness of the summit. What the latter did was to set up a number of committees to look at a number of issues.  Such as education and training, investment in training, industrial relations, health and wellbeing indicators to measure performance in meeting social goals, infrastructure, the impact of payroll tax on job and wealth creation , and the audit of government services in country communities. It also set up an advisory body to strengthen community input, oblivious of the fact, that while the latter is important it is not a substitute for political leadership. Forgetful also of the fact that the achievement of this laudable “prospectus”, is absolutely dependent on calm industrial relations. And therefore cannot be achieved while the agitated firebrand steam of the unions continues unabated.

Hence, the mountain (the summit) has brought forth a mouse which is at the mercy of the cat’s paws, the unions. Furthermore, as so many of the issues are to be shoved to committees, whose members are deeply divided on the central issue of industrial relations, they are inevitably going to be dealt with in a banal hackneyed manner, since their members will be unable to reach a mutual agreement on the key issue of industrial relations. Hence the summit’s “debris-deliberations” will be proven to be a barren exercise.

The Bracks’ government by its farcical and enervating stand toward the unions and by its populist stand toward the public threatens to throw Victoria into the doldrums as well as empty the coffers of the treasury. This is not a government of substance but a government of images—the images of a dead past. But funeral rites for dead images can be very expensive to the general community, both in terms of tax increases and unemployment.

I rest on my oars: your turn now

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Breaking up of European Union a Blessing in Disguise

By Con George-Kotzabasis

The legal order rests on a decision not on a norm…The exception could not be subsumed under legal concepts and all order was based on the sovereign’s decision. Norms only applied in a normal situation. Carl Schmitt

The ancient Greeks had an aphorism: uthen kakon amiyes kalon, there is nothing bad without some good in it. The possible breaking up of the European Union (EU), its Balkanization, in the aftermath of its ominous economic crisis and the questionable future existence of its common currency, the euro, may be a blessing in disguise: it might bring in its wake the ‘defeat’ of its implacable internal enemy who in the form of a Trojan horse is threatening Europe not only with suicide bombers but also, most portentously, with Islamization.

The economic historian Niall Ferguson cogently argues that “the sovereign debt crisis that is unfolding…is a fiscal crisis of the western world.” Banks and financial institutions are exposed to the sovereign-debt of Greece, Ireland, Portugal, and Spain and to a cascade of government deficits, 14.3 per cent of GDP in Ireland, 12.6 per cent in the UK, 11.2 per cent in Spain, and 9.4 per cent in Portugal, respectively. And all this ill-advised government spending in the past is punching the euro against the ropes. Moreover, concern about the solvency of European nations could lead to an implosion of the euro. And the EU indebtedness could be similar to the sub prime mortgage crisis of the U.S. that almost led to the financial collapse of the latter. Also, the two speed economies on the belt ways of Europe have contracted employment in Greece and Spain while increasing it in France and Germany. European governments therefore are seeking different solutions to this problematic economic crisis that is gravely threatening the downgrading of their peoples standard of living and their general well being.

Germany, the powerhouse of the EU, is seeking a “deeper political and economic integration,” in its enamored quest to build a European super state. But Great Britain—which never abandoned its own national currency, the pound sterling—will vehemently oppose the transfer of any new fiscal powers to the inamorata of Germany, the EU headquarters in Brussels. That alone could trigger a severe split within the EU encouraging other countries to revert to national currencies than give up even more sovereignty to the Brussels bureaucracy. In Italy, Berlusconi’s anti-European coalition partners are considering a contingency plan to pull out of the Euro zone and re-establish their own currency, the lira. “Nor would it be a real solution for the EU to amend its basic treaties to create a permanent stabilization mechanism for sovereign-debt crisis. It would be a self-fulfilling prophesy, virtually guaranteeing that it will be used repeatedly,” to quote John Bolton, the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. The economic imbalances within Europe have become too great, particularly regarding productivity differences. In order to correct them, including the scourge of over-indebtedness, some countries would need to devalue their own currencies.

But such solution is not available for countries that substituted their own currency with the euro; therefore these countries will be overcast by the bleak clouds of economic austerity imposed by the savants of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as the only feasible solution to drag these countries out of their economic woes. But as we have seen in Greece, Ireland, and Spain these clouds will bring a torrent fraught with danger, demonstrations that will not only exacerbate the economic crisis but will also foster political instability that could seriously fracture the democratic structure of these countries and bring to the political proscenium of Europe ‘uber-nationalist’ authoritarian governments. And paradoxically, the democratic ethos of the demonstrators that led them to the streets to defend their living standards and freedom from the embrace of the gaunt figure of austerity could give birth to the unwanted child of authoritarian government. European cosmopolitanism or rather multiculturalism will be forcefully replaced with virulent nationalism, since this is the corollary, and indeed the unconscious desire, of the mass demonstrations and the unseen force that could change dramatically the political landscape of Europe.

The first incipient signs of such change on the political configuration of Europe are already becoming visible. In France, President Sarkozy is forcefully expelling the gypsies and is calling Muslim prayers “in the street unacceptable,” following his predecessor Chirac who banned the burka from public places; while support for Marine Le Pen of the National Front has risen to 33 per cent in recent weeks reflecting a trend all over Europe of anti-migrant sentiments and economic fears. In Germany, Chancellor Merkel has called multiculturalism kaput, and politicians of the right are calling for a stop to migration particularly from Muslim countries. In Italy, Silvio Berlusconi is sharing power with the anti-migrant Northern League. And in the Netherlands, anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders popularity is sky rocketing and whichever parties end up in government will have no choice but to adapt their policies to those of Wilders or risk losing voters.

The Danger of Europe’s Islamization

All the above indicates that the European masses under the economic pressure of the fiscal crisis are circling the wagons not only to defend their standard of living but also their national heritage from the incursions of intransigent Muslim migrants to change the culture and mores of their countries. And it is not the first time in history that an economic calamity has given birth to extreme nationalism. What is unique in the present situation in Europe is that it is actually threatened both economically and nationally by a twin menace of austerity and sharia law. So there is no need of contriving an imaginary enemy, a scapegoat, as the Nazis did with the Jews. Thus, the economic doldrums have a great potential to give rise to the drum beats of belligerence against European Muslims who will be seen more and more as the internal implacable enemy, especially when its holy warriors in the wild chase of the seventy-two virgins will continue their serial murdering activity of detonating bombs in the cities of the Western ‘infidel’ world.

That this Muslim inundation of Europe is empirically-grounded and not fictional is exemplified by the demographics of individual countries of the European continent. In Germany, Britain, Greece, and Switzerland 5 per cent of their population are Muslim; in Austria, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and in Sweden, is 10 per cent; in Denmark, Luxemburg, Norway, Serbia, Slovenia, and Spain, is 4 per cent; and in Italy, 2 per cent. With a Muslim birthrate that is almost thrice as large as that of indigenous Europeans and with a total number of Muslims in the European Union in 2007 of 16 million, it is estimated that by 2015 this number will double.

This is the ‘unassimilated bomb’ that harebrained and un- imaginative politicians by their past immigration policies have planted under the foundations of European culture and civilization that cannot and will not be defused presently by conventional political nostrums contrived by ordinary politicians. (Only Enoch Powel, the British politician par excellence, had the insight to cast his eloquent thunderbolts many years ago against governments that had espoused these totally wrong policies of immigration and would predict Cassandra like, as he did in his “rivers of blood” speech in 1968, the consequences of these fallacious policies.) The call is for extraordinary nationalist politicians of the caliber of Bismarck and Cavour to tap this coming nationalist fervor of Europeans and unite it against the internal Muslim foe.

There are no easy solutions to the problem as most European Muslims are citizens of the countries they are living in. It cannot be solved, because of the economic crisis, by monetary blandishments, i.e., by paying Muslim families a sum of money to return permanently to the countries of their origin. Nor can it be solved by legislative measures of expulsion under the present respective Democratic constitutions of European countries since Muslims are citizens of the latter and Democratic nations cannot expel their own citizens. It can be partially resolved by a stringent legislative enactment that applies to the social security payments of families; by restricting child endowment remittances up to the limit of four children and hence bring the birthrate of Muslims to that of indigenous Europeans. Families or ‘apparently’ single mothers who break that limit will lose their right to claim remuneration for children above that number. I say ‘apparently’, guardedly, because many Muslim men who are polygamous are using fraudulently the ‘single mother’ as a technique to enlarge their social security payments. Such enactment will be a levy on polygamy and will affect mainly Muslims who use a religious precept to ‘pickpocket’ the pockets of taxpayers. Thus, European governments by putting a hefty ‘price tag’ on cum while not resolving the problem they might lessen it.

The Necessity of Hard Policies to Prevent Europe’s Islamization

It must be obvious to all governments with welfare services by now, especially Europe’s, that Muslim migrants who comprise a major part of the unemployed of their countries and are economically and socially dependent on welfare payments deliberately employ child bearing as a means to increase the amount of money they receive from the public treasury. Thus child bearing has become for them a ‘surrogate’ for real employment and an income by other means. In such a situation government policies that seek to get people off welfare dependency are bound to fail since the incentive of finding employment and increasing their income has become inutile as already the ‘lucrative production’ of babies has already fulfilled this goal of higher income for the unemployed Muslims. Hence, the first generation of Muslim migrants have accomplished by Allah’s will to live in relative comfort in comparison to their original domicile not by the sweat of labor but by the sweat of the seraglio. No wonder that Muslims feel superior as a result of their religion toward kafirs since they were able to transfigure the European infidels into milking cows, whose hard work and taxes keep many Muslims off the production lines and ‘on’ their kept Muslimas.

European governments perforce have to put an end to this ‘stipend of Allah’ for libidinous and profligate procreation that is given to Muslims, which not only disincentivizes them from finding employment, but also holds them back from assimilating into their new habitat and to European mores. Governments therefore have to place the Muslim birthrate onto a Procrustean bed and cut it to the size and contemporary norm of Europe’s native population. Moreover they have to suspend permanently all government grants for the building and maintenance of Mosques and Islamic schools unless the latter have a clear and absolute secular curriculum for their pupils. They also have to make illegal forced marriages and make it a criminal act for parents who carry it out and hence thwart this imported primitive and barbaric practice of honor killing in civilized Europe. Also, they have to banish the wearing of the burka and the hijab in all public places which not only discriminate between the chastity of European and Muslim women, as the symbolic value of wearing them is that Muslim women are purportedly sexually purer than indigenous European women, but which also could be used as a cover by suicide bombers in their murderous attacks on European cities. Lastly, and this doesn’t exclude other measures, Muslims who are citizens of European nations would forfeit their citizenship if they hold dual citizenship or if they were involved even lightly, either in deed or ideologically, in promoting and funding jihad against the ‘infidels’, and which in effect in both cases would make them liable for deportation.

The above harsh measures will make a lot of Muslims most unhappy to continue living in European countries since they will feel rejected and unwelcome by the majority of the respective populations of those countries, and by being no longer able to practice some of their reverent traditions and ideological beliefs, these two factors might induce some of them to repatriate back to their own countries. However, the implementation of these harsh policies will entail a radical transformation of the ‘praxiology’ of European governments and a new ‘virtu’, to use Machiavelli’s term, for their politicians. In such critical conditions of jus vitae ac necis, a verdict on life and death for Europe, politicians in power will have to govern by the rules of Carl Schmitt’s “state of exception.” They will have to rule by decision based on the desires of the majority of the electorate that will be explicitly expressed through a plebiscite. It will thus be government by plebiscite and rule by decree exercised by authoritarian regimes. In such an emergency state inevitably certain venerable democratic principles will be suspended, as it happened in the American Civil War when President Lincoln suspended habeas corpus. And as Carl Schmitt impeccably argued, “Every norm presupposes a normal situation, and no norm can be entirely valid in an abnormal situation.” And for internal peace the state “is compelled in critical situations to decide also upon the domestic enemy.” These most wise quotes encapsulate the tragic events that issued from the disintegration of the Weimar Republic when its mediocre and timorous politicians refused to take the harsh measures that could have saved it. And it would be most imprudent for contemporary European politicians who face a formidable, duplicitous, faceless internal and external enemy not to become wise by the dangers suffered by others, to paraphrase Niccolo Machiavelli.

Thus the denouement of the economic crisis in the European Union threatening it with dismemberment may give rise to a savior who will salvage it from its ultimate catastrophe, the Islamization of Europe.

I rest on my oars: your turn now