Month: April 2016

The Great Progressive Stagnation vs. Dynamism

In the US, the decades after WWII were marked by high growth and technological innovation. Rebound from recessions was quick, and reforms like the deregulations of the Carter era (trucking, railroads, airlines, interest rates on savings, and the breakup of the AT&T monopoly on phone service) and the tax simplifications of the Reagan administration lifted growth. Waves of labor-saving innovations grew productivity — computers first eliminated most manual record-keeping, then automated processes and streamlined production and logistics.

But each successive wave of recovery growth from recession has been weaker. This graph from the Center for Economic Policy Research charts the recoveries from the recessions of 1981, 1990, 2001, and 2007.


Recession Rebounds Compared - US Census Data

Recession Rebounds Compared – US Census Data

The weak growth for the quarter puts this recovery even further behind any prior recovery at the same stage. After eight and a quarter years, the economy is only 10.1 percent larger than its pre-recession level of output. A more typical recovery would have seen at least twice as much growth.[1]

Economist Tyler Cowen has coined the term “The Great Stagnation” for this gradual decline in growth and economic dynamism. His book The Great Stagnation: How America Ate All The Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will (Eventually) Feel Better[2] was published in 2011, after the shaky recovery from the recession of 2007, but before we knew the stagnation would continue for many more years.

His major point was that the US post-WWII took advantage of one-time advantages and opportunities: most of the industrialized world had been crippled by war, and unskilled unionized workers could take advantage of their position to win seemingly stable, high-paying jobs while the technologies developed in the Depression and WWII decades were rapidly incorporated into production processes. When the rebuilt rest of the world began to catch up and compete directly, much of the easy profits for both US companies and workers were competed away, and technologies developed since have been adopted around the world quickly. The backlog of new technology waiting to be incorporated into production is gone, and meanwhile the overhead of law, regulation, and the web of intellectual property (patents, trademarks, and copyrights) has grown complex, to the point where innovation in products may be retarded by legal tangles.

Here’s the blurb for his book:

America is in disarray and our economy is failing us. We have been through the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, unemployment remains stubbornly high, and talk of a double-dip recession persists. Americans are not pulling the world economy out of its sluggish state — if anything we are looking to Asia to drive a recovery.Median wages have risen only slowly since the 1970s, and this multi-decade stagnation is not yet over. By contrast, the living standards of earlier generations would double every few decades. The Democratic Party seeks to expand government spending even when the middle class feels squeezed, the public sector doesn’t always perform well, and we have no good plan for paying for forthcoming entitlement spending. To the extent Republicans have a consistent platform, it consists of unrealistic claims about how tax cuts will raise revenue and stimulate economic growth. The Republicans, when they hold power, are often a bigger fiscal disaster than the Democrats. How did we get into this mess?Imagine a tropical island where the citrus and bananas hang from the trees. Low-hanging literal fruit — you don’t even have to cook the stuff.In a figurative sense, the American economy has enjoyed lots of low-hanging fruit since at least the seventeenth century: free land; immigrant labor; and powerful new technologies. Yet during the last forty years, that low-hanging fruit started disappearing and we started pretending it was still there. We have failed to recognize that we are at a technological plateau and the trees are barer than we would like to think. That’s it. That is what has gone wrong.The problem won’t be solved overnight, but there are reasons to be optimistic. We simply have to recognize the underlying causes of our past prosperity—low hanging fruit—and how we will come upon more of it.

Cruft (a term from MIT hackers for useless, complicated leftover materials that have accumulated) has grown around our laws and practices, with vested interests blocking change through legal means and bureaucracy. New technologies continue to change our lives and speed up work, with the internet and web starting in the late 1980s and mobile apps and smartphones now connecting people on the go. Yet productivity does not appear to be increasing, and while there is a lot of improvement in living standards that doesn’t show up in GDP (no one enjoyed waiting in teller lines at the bank, for example!), all of that freed-up time is going somewhere else, and most people’s working hours aren’t shrinking, and their incomes aren’t rising much.

Occasionally a sector will be disrupted (the current buzzword for innovation that suddenly makes a stable sector of the economy unstable) and the efforts of the rent-seeking status quo defenders become more obvious, as with Uber and other ride-sharing services, which had cut into the business of cab companies in many cities before the taxi industry roused itself to try to outlaw them. Few understood the taxi system as it had been, with its taxi commissions, high-priced medallion licensing, and cabbies forced to rent cabs from medallion holders who made the lion’s share of the money. The taxi medallion system started in New York City in 1937 as another attempt to limit competition during the New Deal and spread elsewhere in following decades, originally justified as necessary to keep gypsy cabs and jitneys — low-priced, unregulated, and occasionally dangerous — from serving the needs of the poor and incidentally crowding the streets of Manhattan, where a free market in taxi services would have resulted in a tragedy of the commons in the form of continuous gridlock. Taxi commissions supposedly protected the safety of passengers, but they also restricted the market for local transportation, raising the price and reducing service. Medium-sized cities, low-income and low-density suburban areas adopting taxi regulations tended to end up underserved. In most places the benefits of Uber-like services were so apparent so quickly that politicians were forced to bow to Uber’s fait accompli, and the prices of taxi medallions giving the owner the right to operate a city-approved taxi fell dramatically:

To own a cab in New York, you need a medallion—a metal shield displayed on the vehicle’s hood—and there are a fixed number issued by the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC). Until very recently, medallions were a good thing to have a lot of. In 1947, you could buy one for $2,500. In 2013, after a half-century of steady appreciation, including a near-exponential period in the 2000s, they were going for $1.32 million.

Then came Uber. Since the arrival of the car-by-app service… taxi ridership is down, daily receipts have declined, and drivers are idling—or going to work for Uber. Add it up, and desperate medallion sellers are trying to fob off their little tin ornaments for as little as $650,000.[3]

But that kind of disruption is rare and only happens when the public comes to understand the benefits of the innovative business before the vested interests can strangle it in the crib. More and more economic activities have come to be regulated and new entrants are kept out by the need for government approvals. Products and services from our most heavily-regulated industries — healthcare, education, energy utilities, cable and broadcast entertainment, housing, and finance — have seen outsized price increases without much increase in quality in recent decades, with government regulations either limiting competition or subsidizing consumption (or, as in the case of education and healthcare, both.) Routing around these government controls is starting to happen — household solar panels, Internet entertainment streaming, and homeschooling with online instruction from the likes of the Khan Academy[4] show what is possible when freed from monopoly providers. But breaking the grip of the vested interests in some of these sectors — like the NIMBY restrictions on new housing in the cities controlled by Progressive political machines, or the failed public K-12 schools in urban districts — will take more time and effort.

Virginia Postrel’s book, The Future and Its Enemies: The Growing Conflict Over Creativity, Enterprise, and Progress (1998)[5] set two opposing philosophies against each other: stasists, who prefer a regulated and controlled status quo offering predictability in a society mostly closed to new thinking, and dynamists, who accept instability, innovation, and change allowing higher growth and creative achievement. Her website has this blurb:

Postrel argues that these conflicting views of progress, rather than the traditional left and right, increasingly define our political and cultural debate. On one side, she identifies a collection of strange bedfellows: Pat Buchanan and Ralph Nader standing shoulder to shoulder against international trade; “right-wing” nativists and “left-wing” environmentalists opposing immigration; traditionalists and technocrats denouncing Wal-Mart, biotechnology, the Internet, and suburban “sprawl.” Some prefer a pre-industrial past, while others envision a bureaucratically engineered future, but all share a devotion to what she calls “stasis,” a controlled, uniform society that changes only with permission from some central authority.

On the other side is an emerging coalition in support of what Postrel calls “dynamism”: an open-ended society where creativity and enterprise, operating under predictable rules, generate progress in unpredictable ways. Dynamists are united not by a single political agenda but by an appreciation for such complex evolutionary processes as scientific inquiry, market competition, artistic development, and technological invention. Entrepreneurs and artists, scientists and legal theorists, cultural analysts and computer programmers, dynamists are, says Postrel, “the party of life.”[6]

Where are the jetpacks and the flying cars dreamed of in the 1960s? Disney’s Tomorrowland[7] suggested our shared pessimism had slowed progress and endangered the future, but it failed to address the source of the exhaustion and defeatism — the many regulations that now prevent an energetic entrepreneur from putting his or her new idea into practice in the world. People who tried to do something differently have found their way blocked, and their lives are often destroyed by vested interests using the legal system to delay their projects and drain them of energy and capital. Every effort to build something new becomes a political effort requiring that you not only interest customers, but pay off politicians and rent-seekers who see their interests threatened. The compliance overhead in growing from a small business to a large business is now so large that most people who might try are discouraged and stick with what already works for them. It’s far safer to work for a government or big corporation than to strike out on your own. The result for our economy is stagnation and declining growth.

The decline in new business formation and business dynamism from 1978 to 2011:[8]

Startups and Dynamism In Decline - US Census Data

Startups and Dynamism In Decline – US Census Data

It’s ironic that the free world outcompeted and ultimately broke the Communist central planning systems of the USSR and China, with both Russia and China now authoritarian mixed kleptocracies with at least some freedom for private industry, yet the US is now tied up by central-planning bureaucrats and regulations that are crippling growth and favoring larger corporations that support politicians through favor-trading and campaign contributions. Every small loss of economic freedom and increase in corruption has been accompanied by government-funded propaganda to explain how much it benefits The People. And The People have awakened to a hangover of enormous debts and poor job prospects, having been slipped a mickey of miseducation and dependency.

The French have a term to describe their tendency to let a centralizing state control business activity: dirigisme, “to direct.” Progressives have gradually molded the US population to more closely resemble the French in looking to the state to decide economic matters, and borrowed many of the ideas of the welfare state and public education from German models. The bureaucracies they spawned tend to grow, and those employed to write regulations will never run out of ideas for new and more detailed specifications of how everything should be done. Because Progressives believe wise rulers (themselves) can make better decisions on every choice less enlightened citizens might make — and it’s their duty to improve society by improving people, for their own good. As C. S. Lewis said:

My contention is that good men (not bad men) consistently acting upon that position would act as cruelly and unjustly as the greatest tyrants. They might in some respects act even worse. Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be ‘cured’ against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.[9]

While this book will touch on overregulation and bureaucracies, there are already quite a few studies and books on each of the affected industries — books on the failures of public education alone number in the hundreds. This book is primarily about labor regulations and their costly and productivity-draining intrusion into hiring and employment practices. Employer fears of exposure to lawsuits led to extensive delegation of control over hiring and firing decisions to HR departments. Government-enforced unions, Civil Service rules, and increasing efforts to require equality of outcome while denigrating excellence are reducing growth now and may doom us to a second-rate future as other countries not so crippled outcompete us. The US can return to a high-growth, lower-inequality path, but only if these sectors are unlocked and allowed to innovate in both process and personnel. Freedom to work and trade as we choose — and not as Washington dictates — will keep us free, and give our children the future we dreamed of.


[1] “Falling Investment and Rising Trade Deficit Lead to Weak First Quarter” – Dean Baker, Center for Economic and Policy Research, April 28, 2016
[2] The Great Stagnation: How America Ate All The Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will (Eventually) Feel Better, by Tyler Cowen. Dutton (January 25, 2011) http://amzn.to/1pTybdh
[3] “The Struggles of New York City’s Taxi King” — by Simon Van Zuylen-Wood, Bloomberg, Augist 27, 2015 http://www.bloomberg.com/features/2015-taxi-medallion-king/
[4] https://www.khanacademy.org/
[5] The Future and Its Enemies: The Growing Conflict Over Creativity, Enterprise, and Progress, Virginia Postrel, Simon and Schuster, 1998 http://amzn.to/1SFodo7
[6] From Virginia Postrel’s web site.
https://vpostrel.com/future-and-its-enemies
[7] https://substratewars.com/2015/10/30/tomorrowland-tragic-misfire/
[8] “The Rate of New Business Formation Has Fallen By Almost Half Since 1978: America’s declining ‘business dynamism’ has affected all 50 states and nearly every single metro area.” Richard Florida, Citylab, May 5, 2014
[9] From C.S. Lewis’s essay anthology “God in the Dock” (1948), viewed 4-28-2015 at http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304527504579170134126854254

If you have a good story or anecdote from your organization, please email it to jebkinnison@gmail.com. I can use a few good tales (anonymized, of course) to illustrate the problems.


Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples OrganizationsDeath by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.

 


More reading on other topics:

Jane Jacobs’ Monstrous Hybrids: Guardians vs Commerce
The Great Progressive Stagnation vs. Dynamism
Death by HR: How Affirmative Action is Crippling America
Death by HR: The End of Merit in Civil Service
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Public Employee Unions
Death by HR: History and Practice of Affirmative Action and the EEOC
Civil Service: Woodrow Wilson’s Progressive Dream
Bootleggers and Baptists
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Justice Dept. Extortion
Corrupt Feedback Loops, Goldman Sachs: More Justice Dept. Extortion
Death by HR: The Birth and Evolution of the HR Department
Death by HR: The Simple Model of Project Labor
Levellers and Redistributionists: The Feudal Underpinnings of Socialism
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
Trump World: Looking Backward
Minimum Wage: The Parable of the Ladder
Selective Outrage
Culture Wars: Co-Existence Through Limited Government
Social Justice Warriors, Jihadists, and Neo-Nazis: Constructed Identities
Tuitions Inflated, Product Degraded, Student Debts Unsustainable
The Morality of Glamour

On Affirmative Action and Social Policy:

Affirmative Action: Chinese, Indian-Origin Citizens in Malaysia Oppressed
Affirmative Action: Caste Reservation in India
Diversity Hires: Pressure on High Tech<a
Title IX Totalitarianism is Gender-Neutral
Public Schools in Poor Districts: For Control Not Education
Real-Life “Hunger Games”: Soft Oppression Destroys the Poor
The Social Decay of Black Neighborhoods (And Yours!)
Child Welfare Ideas: Every Child Gets a Government Guardian!
“Income Inequality” Propaganda is Just Disguised Materialism

The greatest hits from SubstrateWars.com (Science Fiction topics):

Fear is the Mindkiller
Mirror Neurons and Irene Gallo
YA Dystopias vs Heinlein et al: Social Justice Warriors Strike Again
Selective Outrage
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
“Tomorrowland”: Tragic Misfire
The Death of “Wired”: Hugo Awards Edition
Hugos, Sad Puppies 3, and Direct Knowledge
Selective Outrage and Angry Tribes
Men of Honor vs Victim Culture
SFF, Hugos, Curating the Best
“Why Aren’t There More Women Futurists?”
Science Fiction Fandom and SJW warfare

More reading on the military:

US Military: From No Standing Armies to Permanent Global Power
US Military: The Desegration Experience
The VA Scandals: Death by Bureaucracy

US Military: Political Interference in Rear Adm. Losey Case

Rear Admiral Losey - Political Casualty

Rear Admiral Losey – Political Casualty

We’ve looked at the dysfunction spreading through every government service as the combination of Civil Service and union protection with affirmative action hiring has lowered standards and reduced accountability, shielding the incompetent and criminal while negating the efforts of conscientious employees. Anyone who has spent time in the armed forces will happily tell stories of dysfunction and poor management, boondoggles and bureaucracy. Yet somehow the military branches of the US manage to stay on top of the world in effectiveness and innovation. Why?

One reason is funding. The US funds its defense forces better than most competitor nations, with all other developed countries spending far less as a share of GDP. Europeans and the Japanese spend far less because historically the US took responsibility for their defense during the Cold War and has continued to shield them at great expense. But that has meant the US maintenance of a global competence and a scale of infrastructure unmatched by rivals. Despite the many boondoggles in design and procurement of advanced weapons (e.g., the F-35, which we’ll look at later), Congress continues to fund new development.

Another reason for the continuing dominance of the US is the Guardian Syndrome esprit de corps, still effective despite the gradual imposition of civilian-style personnel policies. Soldiers still feel free to gripe and complain when they see incompetence, and incompetence is still more likely to lead to career-ending discipline than it might be in other government services — no “soldier’s union” will go to bat for the AWOL loser-du-jour. Servicemen and women would be offended by the idea that they should join a union and strike for easier working conditions and higher pay; honorable soldiers are disgusted by the idea of disobeying orders and manning picket lines to prevent other defenders of the country from doing their jobs. Being an accepted part of the corps and maintaining high standards for entry is a key part of a good soldier’s self-image, and will not be traded for a mess of pottage.

While the US military suffers from the problems of HR bureaucracies, it is protected to some extent by its traditions and values. And most competitor’s armed forces are much worse off, with the most threatening hosted by authoritarian civilian societies that fail to generate and reward innovation. The technological dominance of the US generates most of the world’s new technologies, and multiple academic and industrial labs research blue-sky ideas that eventually make their way into defense industries. The highest levels of the officer corps are still thoughtful, educated, and willing to go to bat for process innovations that anticipate future war-fighting needs.

Or at least they were. A series of wars fought by increasingly political rules of engagement, and the relentless pressure to make the armed forces over to reflect Progressive values of equality over performance, have been eating away at that traditional esprit de corps. The increasingly professional, disciplined military services have tamed the race and class barriers while the surrounding civil society has grown less disciplined and more self-indulgent. As Thomas E. Ricks wrote in his story “The Widening Gap Between Military and Society” in the July, 1997 Atlantic:

After following a platoon of Marine recruits through eleven weeks of boot-camp training on Parris Island in the spring of 1995, I was stunned to see, when they went home for postgraduation leave, how alienated they felt from their old lives. At various times each of these new Marines seemed to experience a moment of private loathing for public America. They were repulsed by the physical unfitness of civilians, by the uncouth behavior they witnessed, and by what they saw as pervasive selfishness and consumerism. Many found themselves avoiding old friends, and some experienced difficulty even in communicating with their families.

One typical member of Platoon 3086, Craig Hoover, reported that the Amtrak ride home to Kensington, Maryland, was “horrible.” The train was “filled with smoke,” he said. “People were drinking and their kids were running around aimlessly. You felt like smacking around some people.” (An article I published in The Wall Street Journal in July, 1995, mentioned many of the recruits quoted here.) Hoover also found the train ride a sad contrast to the relative racial harmony of Parris Island. “It felt kind of segregated by race and class—a poor white car, a poor black car, a middle-class white car, a middle-class black car.” Even McDonald’s—which had become a fantasy-like symbol to the recruits as they ate military rations, particularly during a week of training in the woods — proved to be a letdown. “You look around and notice that a lot of the civilians are overweight, and a little sloppy,” Hoover said….

Yet the member of Platoon 3086 perhaps most at odds with his former environment was Daniel Keane, whose background was probably the most privileged. The son of a Merrill Lynch & Co. executive, Keane seemed almost in pain when I interviewed him in the living room of his parents’ house, in Summit, New Jersey. When he first got home from Parris Island, he said about being with his family, “I didn’t know how to act. They said, ‘What do you want to do?’ I’d say, ‘I don’t know.’ I didn’t know how to carry on a conversation.”

He found his old peer group even more difficult. “All my friends are home from college now, drinking, acting stupid and loud,” the eighteen-year-old Marine said. He was particularly disappointed when two old friends refused to postpone smoking marijuana for a few minutes, until he was away from them. “They were getting ready to smoke their weed. I said, ‘Could you just hang on for a minute? Can’t you wait till you get to the party instead of smoking in the car?’ They said, ‘Then we’d have to give it out.'” So, he recalled, they lit up in front of their Marine friend. “I was pretty disappointed in them doing that. It made me want to be at SOI [the Marines’ School of Infantry].”

Like many other members of 3086, Keane felt as if he had joined a cult or religion. “People don’t understand,” he told me, “and I’m not going to waste my breath trying to explain when the only thing that really impresses them is how much beer you can chug down in thirty seconds.”[1]

Ricks is aiming to raise alarm about the alienation of the military subculture from the rest of society, mostly to suggest a whiff of fascism in the increasingly right-wing (in his view) tendencies of military personnel. But his spin on the story suggests the disdain of Progressive coastal elites and bien-pensant scribblers like him for any ideal of military standards and performance, or a tight-knit group that might value competence over equal outcomes. In the real world, armed forces that do not strive to be the best will lose, and losing means an end to the freedoms of the society they protect, and the loss of the protected environment that allowed the bien-pensants to develop their sense of entitlement to look down on others not so enlightened. Ricks continues:

American political and economic elites generally don’t understand the military. A comment published this spring in the Utne Reader—the Reader’s Digest of the New Age crowd—captured the disdain for today’s military. In an editorial introduction to an article the magazine stated that in light of the Tailhook and Aberdeen scandals, “it’s hard to imagine why any woman—or any man with a conscience—would want to join the military.”

Nor is such understanding deemed important, even in making national-security policy. Consider, for example, the conspicuous lack in the [Clinton] White House of staff members with military experience — in an Administration that has proved to be militarily activist. Even after bungling an inherited mission in Somalia and then using U.S. forces to feed Rwandan refugees, invade Haiti, and enforce a peace agreement in Bosnia, the Clinton Administration did not see fit to follow Pentagon suggestions that it appoint someone with a military background to a senior post on the National Security Council.

The disdain of Democratic administrations, especially, for military values has generated equal contempt from members of the Armed Forces who now see themselves as protecting a society that no longer values or understands them. While paying lip service to veterans and soldiers, politicians have started to treat them like another group of victims, extending welfare and condescension while staffing the VA with patronage hacks and incompetents.

This rising mutual contempt between the military and the coastal bien-pensants reflects the larger schism between the Red Tribe and Blue Tribe described in Scott Alexander’s famous essay. The Red Tribe (less urban, less coastal, more blue-collar and working-class, more Republican, more conservative) have more Jacksonian values and are closely associated with support for the military, while the Blue Tribe (urban, coastal, white-collar, wealthy, literate, and more Democratic) are contemptuous of military men and military values, with their aging leaders more likely to have been antiwar activists in the Vietnam era (e.g., Secretary of State John Kerry.)

There is a pattern of excellent officers being targeted for political reasons and retiring early, leaving a top brass of more politically-compliant and tactful survivors. Combined with resignations over illicit affairs and sexual harassment allegations, much of the thoughtful top talent of the armed forces has been lost.

One recent example of this is the highly public reprimand and planned retirement of Rear Admiral Brian Losey,[2] Commander of Naval Special Warfare forces — SEALs and the like. Adm. Losey had five personnel complaints against him, which were investigated by the Navy’s Inspector General (in itself career-damaging) and was ruled to have retaliated against subordinates who reported possible travel expense irregularities. Congressmen held up other appointments to block his promotion, and got their way when Navy Secretary Ray Mabus held the promotion for review (meaning it was denied.)[3] Adm. Losey correctly viewed this as a rebuke and plans to retire.

Adm. William McRaven (planner of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden) bravely wrote in defense of his colleague in the Tampa Tribune of April 24, 2016, a piece good enough to quote at length:

When I was a young boy my father, a veteran of World War II and Korea, schooled me on the downfall of Gen. Douglas MacArthur. MacArthur, he explained, had overstepped his authority and shown blatant disrespect for the civilian leadership of the country. President Harry Truman relieved him of his command, and MacArthur retired soon thereafter.

Civilian rule of the military was one of the most fundamental principles of the armed forces. To believe differently was dangerous, my father told me. Dad strongly supported Truman’s action, and he made me understand the value of the civil-military relationship — a lesson I never forgot.

But over the past decade I have seen a disturbing trend in how politicians abuse and denigrate military leadership, particularly the officer corps, to advance their political agendas. Although this is certainly not a new phenomenon, it seems to be growing in intensity. My concern is that if this trend of disrespect to the military continues it will undermine the strength of the officer corps to the point where good men and women will forgo service — or worse the ones serving will be reluctant to make hard decision for fear their actions, however justified, will be used against them in the political arena.

Take the recent case of Rear Adm. Brian Losey.

Adm. Losey is the commander of all Naval Special Warfare forces — the SEALs and Special Boat sailors. I have known Losey for more than 30 years. He is without a doubt one of the finest officers with whom I have ever served. Over the past 15 years no officer I know in the SEAL Teams has given more to this country than Brian. None. As a young officer he was constantly deployed away from his family. After 9/11, he was sent to Afghanistan in the early days to help fight the Taliban. From there, Losey participated in the final march to Baghdad and then stayed in country as a SEAL Task Unit Commander. Afterward he served as the deputy and then the commanding officer of SEAL Team Six during more tough fighting in Afghanistan.

Later he was posted to the White House in the Office of Combating Terrorism. He made rear admiral in 2009 while at the White House. He was subsequently sent back overseas to Djibouti, Africa, to do a 15-month month isolated tour as the commander of all U.S. forces in the Horn of Africa. As a result of that successful tour, he was given command of Special Operations Command, Africa (SOCAFRICA).

SOCAFRICA was a relatively new command, which had been established to address the growing threat in North Africa. Located in the beautiful Swabian city of Stuttgart, Germany, it was initially staffed with military and civilian personnel from another nearby special operations unit. Although most of the men and women were incredibly capable, hard-working staffers, there was a small core who had been living in Europe for years enjoying the comfortable lifestyle in Stuttgart.

Upon Losey’s arrival in Germany, the situation in North Africa changed dramatically, and the fledgling SOCAFRICA had to quickly get on wartime footing. Brian Losey did just that.

Losey is a no-nonsense officer who knows what it takes to get results. Combat is hard. Lives are at stake. Being genteel and considerate of everyone’s feelings are not the qualities that will engender success. But although Losey can be a tough taskmaster, he is a “by-the-book” officer. Unfortunately for Losey, along the way to strengthening the command there were those who fought the change and through a series of whistleblower complaints sought to seek his removal.

At the time, I was the commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa. I worked with Gen. Carter Ham, who commanded U.S. Africa Command and had operational control of Adm. Losey, to investigate the complaints.

The investigation we initiated determined that Losey’s leadership style, while brusque and demanding, did not warrant his removal. The Navy subsequently recommended Losey for two stars, and he was confirmed by the Senate in December 2011.

Although the Navy inspector general absolved Losey of any wrongdoing, his promotion was put on hold pending DOD inspector general resolution of the complaints. Nevertheless, the secretary of the Navy agreed to reassign Adm. Losey to the premier job in Naval Special Warfare — command of all the SEALs.

During the past three years as commander of Naval Special Warfare Command (WARCOM), his staff has consistently ranked WARCOM to be one of the best places to work in the Navy. He has passed all Navy IG inspections with flying colors, and the retention statics for his young officers and enlisted is exceptional.

However, in the course of those three years, the whistleblowers from Stuttgart continued to pursue Losey’s removal and resignation, routinely submitting new complaints to prolong the process and hold up his promotion.

A series of DOD inspector general investigations were reviewed by the Navy leadership and, once again, Adm. Losey was found not to have violated any law, rule or policy. In fact, it was clear to the Navy that the personnel action taken by Losey against the complainants was not reprisal. He was recommended again for promotion to two stars.

Despite the Navy’s multiple endorsements, certain members of Congress chose to use Losey’s case to pursue their own political agenda. They held hostage other Navy nominations until Losey’s promotion recommendation was rescinded. The ransom for their congressional support was Brian Losey’s career and, more importantly, his stellar reputation.

They portrayed Losey’s actions as a case of the big guy seeking retribution on the little guy-whistleblower. In fact, it was a case of a few guys fighting to maintain their comfortable life at a time when others were at war and needed their support.

However, in today’s environment, when a leader challenges a whistleblower, there is an automatic indictment of the leader’s character. Questioning the whistleblower makes you guilty until proven innocent. And it is clear in this case that certain members of Congress didn’t care about Losey’s innocence. Nor did they seem to care that he has sacrificed more for this country than most members on Capitol Hill — or that the emotional strain of this investigation was devastating to his family. It is clear that all these lawmakers cared about was political leverage.

The case of Brian Losey is a miscarriage of justice. But the greater concern for America is the continued attack on leadership in the military.

During my past several years in uniform, I watched in disbelief how lawmakers treated the chairman, the service chiefs, the combatant commanders and other senior officers during Congressional testimony. These officers were men of incredible integrity, and yet some lawmakers showed no respect for their decades of service. I saw the DOD Inspector General’s Office frequently act as judge and jury, apparently accountable to no one, dismissing the recommendations of the services and ruining officer’s careers. I watched time and again how political correctness and pressure from Capitol Hill undermined command authority and good order and discipline.

Although we in the military understand the absolute necessity to serve and respect our civilian leaders — and every good leader understands and appreciates the value of anonymous complaints to ferret out bad leadership — we also need civilians to understand that a strong military, particularly an all-volunteer one, needs the support of our civilian leaders, not the constant refrain of disrespect that seems so common in today’s political narrative.

Last month, after the decision to rescind Rear Adm. Brian Losey’s promotion recommendation became public, Losey addressed his junior officers. Instead of being angry and bitter over the outcome, Losey had nothing but praise for the Navy and the nation for which he has served so long. He encouraged the young officers not to get discouraged about the ruling against him, but to recognize that this is the greatest military in the world and we are fortunate to be part of it.

I would echo Losey’s sentiments. But to keep this the greatest military in the world, to preserve the strong civilian-military relations we have so long enjoyed, we must recognize that respect works both ways. Every time an individual lawmaker’s political agenda undermines the integrity of the men and women in the military, we weaken the fabric of the uniform.

In light of the challenging times in which we find ourselves, politically and strategically, we cannot afford to have a military that loses respect for its civilian leaders. My father was right. The strength of America always rests with our nation’s civilians. God forbid we should ever see it differently.

Those “certain members of Congress” were Senators John McCain (R) and Jack Reed (D), along with Ron Wyden (D) who held another appointment up to pressure the Navy Secretary. Adm. McRaven’s open letter doesn’t detail the case against Losey, but the pettiness of the complaints is made clear elsewhere:

The incident that led to the whistleblowing and the denial of the promotion began in July 2011 at the Norfolk Navy base travel office, Grassley said. “There was a minor dispute over who should pay for his daughter’s airline ticket to Germany. As a Coast Guard Academy cadet, she was not entitled to travel as a dependent at taxpayers’ expense,” he said.

“Although Adm. Losey, his wife, and staff allegedly ‘pestered’ the travel office to pay for the ticket, Adm. Losey eventually purchased it with his own money. Nonetheless, the incident triggered a Hotline complaint on July 13, 2011. Adm. Losey was informed of the complaint two months later. It was all downhill from there,” Grassley said.

“After learning of the anonymous Hotline tip, Adm. Losey was reportedly ‘livid.’ He saw it as an act of disloyalty and ‘a conspiracy to undermine his command.’ He reportedly developed a list of suspects and began a punitive hunt for moles,” the senator said.

“In his drive to root out the moles, he created a ‘toxic’ environment in his command. His seemingly reckless behavior and blatant disregard for the law and well-being of his subordinates led to his downfall,” Grassley said.

Losey also has his defenders in Congress. In a statement, Rep. Duncan Hunter, a California Republican and member of the House Armed Services Committee, said, “I think Losey is a stand-up guy, who was raked over the coals.

“We are intimately aware of whistleblowers in the military — in this case, it went too far in the other direction,” Hunter said. “I think Chuck Grassley was wrong about Losey and the fact that some disgruntled contractors can derail the career of such a strategic thinker and great tactician is wrong.”[4]

More clues to the political infighting which led to this embarrassing debacle come from a San Diego Union-Tribune story:

Meanwhile, a top defense official suggested that the Senate’s ire was aimed more at the Navy secretary. Mabus, as the longest-serving top Navy civilian leader since World War I, is unpopular in certain corners for actions ranging from advocating combat gender integration to supporting openly gay service members to making controversial decisions about ship programs….

There’s a well-known rift between Mabus and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a leading voice in Congress on defense issues and a frequent critic of Navy policies. McCain co-wrote a letter to Navy brass in January urging them to not promote Losey.

Some former SEAL officers who know Losey said his biggest management failure was that he let his temper run wild as he attained top leadership positions. Others point out that the SEAL culture is rough-and-tumble by tradition and by nature, reflecting an environment where people are assigned to do lethal work.

But despite his prestigious wartime record, Losey is being forced into a rare, inglorious exit for a high-ranking SEAL. He is the first Naval Special Warfare commander since at least 9/11 to not achieve a second star, according to people in the elite community.[5]

So Losey had a temper and treated some workers roughly, and his behavior was improper. Not many of the illustrious generals in American history books would pass this civilian-HR-style sensitivity screening, and it’s interesting that, for example, Hillary Clinton has never been held to such a high standard in her dealings with government employees. Rough men are being replaced by smooth political operators, and when the crunch comes, how will they do?

To score political points with their base, Democratic administrations have pressured the armed forces to reduce physical standards for women seeking combat roles. Women in the armed forces were not looking for special favors or hand-holding, but that’s what has happened as civilian politicians pressure top brass to give in on standards to achieve the headlines they want to see. To mollify critics, studies have been done to assess whether (at least some) women can meet standards required for ground combat roles — but when the studies are completed, the results are questioned if they don’t justify the political goal of opening all combat roles to women:

House lawmakers have requested a briefing by the Marine Corps on its recent study showing that female Marines were less capable than their male counterparts, as the Pentagon is preparing to open all combat jobs to women.

“We’re going to be looking into it in the Armed Services Committee,” said Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), a retired Air Force colonel and the first female to fly in combat.

“We will be gathering folks together who have been part of that study and having a briefing on it soon,” Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee, said Thursday.

The military services have until the end of September to submit any requests to Defense Secretary Ash Carter to keep a combat job closed to women, along with data supporting their requests.

A summary of a Marine Corps study, released last week, said females in an experimental mixed-gender unit were slower, shot less accurately and were injured more frequently than the males in the unit.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, who is also the service secretary for the Marine Corps, has blasted the study as biased. Participants of the study, including female Marines, fired back at the secretary, telling the Washington Post the secretary threw them “under the bus.”

McSally said lawmakers have not seen the full study, which has not been released yet, but that she has similar concerns to Mabus.

“I echo some concerns by the secretary of the Navy related to, ‘Do we take a bunch of combat trained men and a bunch of non-combat trained support women and put them together, and just wonder how they’re going to do?’ ” said McSally.

“You can study anything and get the results you might be looking for, or have some flawed assumptions in how you’re setting it up. And so we want to make sure we understand where the study was and what the results are from it, and then what to conclude from it,” she said.

McSally and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), an Army National Guard captain, on Thursday introduced a resolution congratulating the first two female graduates of the Army’s Ranger School.

The resolution is supported by all female members of the House Armed Services Committee, and a companion resolution has been introduced in the Senate by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and supported by every female senator.

While there’s still a minority who want to keep women out of combat roles completely, most resistance to the idea is against politicians who want to mandate inclusion of women who are clearly less capable even after extensive training. Ground combat is likely to be a shrinking role for human troops in the future, but is still seen as a qualifier for other roles, and females being completely blocked from combat is indeed unfair — but in the real world, the number of women who can qualify to join the top few percent of men in specialized units is very small. This is a fact of nature, body design, and hormonal makeup. Women should have their chance to be evaluated for combat roles, but the standards should not be lowered just to allow more women to serve, if that compromises fighting capability. And women are already doing a great job in many noncombat roles.

Some officers are going public to fight this pressure. From a NY Post editorial:

Gen. John Kelly, USMC, is retiring after more than four decades as an active-duty Marine. His “greatest fear,” he says, is that the vast “equal opportunity” pressure for women in combat roles will lead the Pentagon to water down standards.

Kelly is finishing up as head of US Southern Command after an exemplary career that included three tours in Iraq. He’s also the highest-ranking US officer to have lost a child in the nation’s post-9/11 wars: His son, 1st Lt. Robert Kelly, USMC, was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2010.

Why is he worried?

Well, Defense Secretary Ash Carter last month announced that women will soon be eligible for all combat positions. (They had been blocked from about 10 percent of those posts.)

Yes, Carter also warned that equal opportunity wouldn’t bring “equal participation by men and women in all specialties.”

The reasons are obvious: On average, the two sexes simply have different physical virtues. Men will dominate when it comes to upper-body strength, which is generally vital in combat roles. And Carter has vowed not to alter the high standards for those roles.

But Kelly doubts that will last: “Whether it’s 12 months from now, four years from now … the question will be asked whether we’ve [truly] let women into these other roles.” Ideologues who don’t see the results they want will ask, “Why aren’t [women] staying in those roles? Why aren’t they advancing as infantry people?”

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has already offered a taste of what’s ahead. He’s denied the Marine Corps’ request to continue sex-segregated boot camp and Officer Training School. Indeed, on ­Jan. 1, he gave the Corps just two weeks to come up with an integration plan.

On top of that, he’s ordered the Marines to adopt politically correct titles by changing every “man” label. That implies the Marines are about to lose every “rifleman” — when every Marine is a rifleman.

It’s impossible to think of a worse insult — or a greater sign that the ideologues will win in the not-so-distant future.

The Fire Department of New York has bitter experience with the same drill. The Post runs regular exposés of the efforts to bend (already lowered) FDNY standards with an eye to a “better” gender balance.

Look, we admire the heck out of a woman who keeps trying even after she’s failed a key FDNY physical test six times. But it’s shocking to see her become a firefighter without ever passing.[6]

Unfortunately, the Administration views all labor issues everywhere — private businesses, government, and military — as targets for its Progressive social engineering. Those who are closest to the management of teams are ignored while directives from Washington come down to sweep away evolved systems that worked. The goal is the remaking of the US into a socially just paradise, and military employment is to be exactly like any other employment, down to sexual harassment training and punishment for politically-incorrect thoughts.

The mutual incomprehension of military and civilian cultures grows more dangerous as politicians use their power to satisfy interest groups while undermining military effectiveness. The military has never questioned civilian control, and the occasional exceptions (like General McArthur) were shown the door without gaining much support. But the strains are growing. In an incendiary editorial, Ray Starmann, ex-Army Intelligence, writes:

The brass is more worried about their retirement checks than an institution that has been around since the Massachusetts boys went live in 1775. The current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, sits calmly on the bridge of the U.S. Army Titanic, sipping Pentagon coffee as the Army collides head on with an iceberg.

Under Dempsey, whom Senator John McCain called “An echo chamber of the Obama Administration,” the Army has become a repository for every crackpot feminist fantasy conceived in a Berkeley coffeehouse.

Two weeks ago, male Army ROTC cadets were ordered to parade around several college campuses in red high heels, in order to show their concern for sexual abuse. Current Army training involves classes that portray the Bible, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence as sexist documents…

Logic means nothing to the Obama administration. President Obama doesn’t understand that the Army exists to defend the nation. It’s not Valerie Jarrett’s pet social engineering project. As reports filter in that women are 0-26 at Marine Infantry Officers’ School, Dempsey has already stated that the standards need to be “reviewed.” In Pentagon double-speak, this means that the standards will be dropped…

Currently, there are a handful of women attending the hardest training the U.S. Army has to offer, Ranger School. This grueling 62 day course destroys men with the speed of a hotel power flush. Men who survive endless days of almost no sleep, limited food, parachute jumps with 100 pound packs and patrols through swamps, crawl out of Ranger School with 1,000 yard Guadalcanal stares. Have no doubt, there will be a female graduate of Ranger School this summer if she has to be carried around Fort Benning like a camouflage-clad character in “Weekend at Bernie’s.”

The warrior culture is slowly being strangled to death by political correctness. A few real leaders still survive, but they’re relics of a bygone era, who will be swept aside like chimney soot in the vast cultural revolution that has engulfed the Army. Anyone suspected of not complying with sexism training or whispering comments that are thought to be politically incorrect is purged with the speed and finality of a Soviet commissar’s rubber stamp. Under the Obama administration hundreds of high-ranking officers from every service have retired or have been forced to retire because they didn’t fit in with the current climate.

What kind of a military does political correctness produce? Look no farther than our half-hearted air campaign against ISIS and its kind and gentle spokesman, Rear Admiral Kirby. According to Kirby, the 25 daily sorties we’re flying against ISIS is really giving them hell. Shock and awe has metastasized into slap, scream and run.[7]

It’s certainly important that racism and misogyny are kept out of the armed forces, and that civilian and military cultures have appropriate respect for each other. But the current micromanagement from Washington is damaging military readiness and morale. It’s a good thing the US has a cushion of military dominance which makes others think twice about attacking us — or do we?

Washington (CNN 4-17-2016) A U.S. Air Force reconnaissance plane was barrel-rolled by a Russian jet over the Baltic Sea during a routine flight in international airspace, U.S. European Command said Saturday, but Russia disputed that account.

The incident Thursday occurred when a Russian jet “performed erratic and aggressive maneuvers” as it flew within 50 feet of the U.S. aircraft’s wing tip, Danny Hernandez, a spokesman for U.S. European Command, said in a response to a question from CNN… The RC-135 aircraft was “intercepted by a Russian SU-27 in an unsafe and unprofessional manner,” Hernandez said, adding that the U.S. plane never entered Russian territory…

The encounter comes just days after the U.S. Embassy in Moscow issued formal concerns with the Russian government over an incident last week in which Russian fighter jets flew close to the USS Donald Cook in the Baltic. One of the Russian jets flew within 30 feet of the Cook’s ship superstructure, according to a U.S. official.

Close encounters between Russian military aircraft and U.S. warships have become increasing common in recent months. In October, U.S. Navy jets intercepted two Russian Tu-142 aircraft that were flying near the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan in the Pacific Ocean.

In June, a Russian Su-24 jet flew within 500 meters (1,640 feet) of a U.S. guided-missile destroyer that was sailing in the Black Sea near Crimea.[8]

—

[PS: The Daily Beast has since done a much more detailed story (“Inside the Takedown of the Top Navy SEAL”, 05.12.16) on the Losey affair, which tends to confirm what I concluded: that Losey was a good officer hounded out by bureaucrats and politicians. Holding officers to civilian HR standards is damaging esprit de corps and readiness. Will it take a real attack on the mainland US to return the focus to military effectiveness?]

[1] “The Widening Gap Between Military and Society” – Thomas E. Ricks, The Atlantic, July, 1997
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1997/07/the-widening-gap-between-military-and-society/306158/
[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_L._Losey
[3] “Navy SEAL admiral’s promotion denied after review” – Meghann Myers, Navy Times, March 21, 2016
http://www.navytimes.com/story/military/2016/03/21/navy-seal-admirals-promotion-denied-after-review/82070288/
[4] “Despite McRaven Op-Ed, Senators Defend Opposing Losey’s Promotion” – by Richard Sisk at Military.com, April 28, 2016
http://www.military.com/daily-news/2016/04/28/despite-mcraven-op-ed-senators-defend-opposing-loseys-promotion.html
[5] “Navy SEAL admiral’s rare, public punishment:
Withdrawal of SEAL leader’s promotion is unusual step after prestigious career” – by Jeanette Steele, San Diego Union-Tribune, March 25, 2016
http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2016/mar/25/seal-admiral-losey-retirement/
[6] “The rape of the US Marine Corps: a lunatic drive for ‘fairness’” – NY Post Editorial Board January 16, 2016
http://nypost.com/2016/01/16/the-rape-of-the-us-marine-corps-a-lunatic-drive-for-fairness/
[7] “Political Correctness Has Destroyed The Army’s Readiness And Morale” – by Ray Starmann, Daily Caller, 05/11/2015 http://dailycaller.com/2015/05/11/political-correctness-has-destroyed-the-armys-readiness-and-morale/
[8] “Russia denies wrongdoing after jet barrel-rolls over U.S. aircraft” – By Sophie Tatum and Barbara Starr, CNN, April 17, 2016
http://www.cnn.com/2016/04/16/politics/russian-jet-barrel-rolled-us-aircraft/


Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples OrganizationsDeath by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.

 


More Reading on the Military:

US Military: From No Standing Armies to Permanent Global Power
Jane Jacobs’ Monstrous Hybrids: Guardians vs Commerce
US Military: The Desegration Experience

More reading on other topics:

Jane Jacobs’ Monstrous Hybrids: Guardians vs Commerce
The Great Progressive Stagnation vs. Dynamism
Death by HR: How Affirmative Action is Crippling America
Death by HR: The End of Merit in Civil Service
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Public Employee Unions
Death by HR: History and Practice of Affirmative Action and the EEOC
Civil Service: Woodrow Wilson’s Progressive Dream
Bootleggers and Baptists
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Justice Dept. Extortion
Corrupt Feedback Loops, Goldman Sachs: More Justice Dept. Extortion
Death by HR: The Birth and Evolution of the HR Department
Death by HR: The Simple Model of Project Labor
Levellers and Redistributionists: The Feudal Underpinnings of Socialism
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
Trump World: Looking Backward
Minimum Wage: The Parable of the Ladder
Selective Outrage
Culture Wars: Co-Existence Through Limited Government
Social Justice Warriors, Jihadists, and Neo-Nazis: Constructed Identities
Tuitions Inflated, Product Degraded, Student Debts Unsustainable
The Morality of Glamour

On Affirmative Action and Social Policy:

Affirmative Action: Chinese, Indian-Origin Citizens in Malaysia Oppressed
Affirmative Action: Caste Reservation in India
Diversity Hires: Pressure on High Tech<a
Title IX Totalitarianism is Gender-Neutral
Public Schools in Poor Districts: For Control Not Education
Real-Life “Hunger Games”: Soft Oppression Destroys the Poor
The Social Decay of Black Neighborhoods (And Yours!)
Child Welfare Ideas: Every Child Gets a Government Guardian!
“Income Inequality” Propaganda is Just Disguised Materialism

The greatest hits from SubstrateWars.com (Science Fiction topics):

Fear is the Mindkiller
Mirror Neurons and Irene Gallo
YA Dystopias vs Heinlein et al: Social Justice Warriors Strike Again
Selective Outrage
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
“Tomorrowland”: Tragic Misfire
The Death of “Wired”: Hugo Awards Edition
Hugos, Sad Puppies 3, and Direct Knowledge
Selective Outrage and Angry Tribes
Men of Honor vs Victim Culture
SFF, Hugos, Curating the Best
“Why Aren’t There More Women Futurists?”
Science Fiction Fandom and SJW warfare

US Military: The Desegration Experience

Truman Orders Armed Forces Desegregation

Truman Orders Armed Forces Desegregation

Fighting units of US military were integrated at the start; blacks and whites served together in the colonial forces, and black men were integrated in fighting units in the Continental Army and Navy during the Revolutionary War. This didn’t mean black men were considered equal in status or likely to end up as officers, but since the beginning the contribution of black men to the fighting forces was respected.

After the War of 1812, Army units were segregated, and during the Civil War more than 180,000 black men enlisted in the Union Army and 18,000 in the Navy. Black men fought in segregated units usually under white officers, while black men in the Navy served onboard ships in menial roles as stewards and the like. White officers doubted the abilities of black men in combat, accepting them mostly for servile roles.

Woodrow Wilson re-segregated not only the Civil Service, but the military. His decision to enter WWI led to labor shortages as drafted men were sent to Europe to fight, and black men moved to Northern cities in large numbers to take up the slack. The draft also extended to black men:

Through racially separate draft calls, the Army conscripted some 368,000 blacks, which was 13.08 percent of all those drafted. By the end of the war black draftees, prewar regulars and mobilized guardsmen combined to make up nearly eleven percent of the active Army’s total strength, some 404,000 officers and men. Black assignments reflected the opinion, expressed repeatedly in Army staff studies, that blacks in segregated units when properly led by whites could perform reasonably well. Also reflecting the consensus of white officers were the assignments given to African Americans. Most served in logistics units because of the belief that blacks could not meet the challenges of modern combined arms combat.

The four Regular black regiments did not deploy to France because they had become objects of mistrust. Posted outside Houston, soldiers from a battalion of the 24th Infantry became increasingly resentful of the city’s Jim Crow laws, the brutality of the local police, and racial insults. In July 1917 more than a hundred troops finally responded by taking arms and marching into the city. During a two-hour rampage, they killed sixteen whites and wounded twelve more. A similar episode involving men of another battalion from the regiment took place at about the same time in Waco, Texas. In that case, however, prompt action by the unit’s commanders kept a major confrontation from developing. The men involved in the incident at Waco were convicted of assault with intent to murder but received relatively light sentences. Those charged at Houston received harsh punishments. Out of sixty-four men, forty-two went to prison for life and thirteen were condemned to death. The convening authority had the executions carried out before the men had a chance to appeal their sentences.

A major reason for the collapse of discipline in these units was the loss of their veteran noncommissioned officers. With the black community clamoring for recognition and the Army drafting increasing numbers of black men, the service had established a training school to prepare black junior officers for the new black units. Many of these officer candidates came from the corps of noncommissioned officers in the Army’s black regiments. The battalion involved in the Houston riot had sent twenty-five noncommissioned officers to this program. Lacking the stabilizing influence of veteran sergeants and commanded by white officers who were either inexperienced in command or insensitive to black complaints, soldiers in this battalion gave in to their frustration and anger.[1]

In WWII, General Eisenhower in Europe found himself short of men and integrated some fighting units by necessity. Military thinkers were looking at integration as the future, unwilling to waste the potential of black men. To demonstrate the potential, a US Coast Guard ship was crewed with black men in roles they had previously been barred from, but still with white officers. From an account by the captain of the ship and promoter of the experiment, Commander Carlton Skinner:

The next element of my reflections, while in Greenland waters, started from a very small incident. Among his many other duties, the executive officer is responsible for the advancement of enlisted men in their ratings. The Northland was a small ship, with a crew of 125. An interested officer could know the entire crew. One of the steward’s mates, [a] Negro, was a skilled motor mechanic. He loved engines and he spent his spare hours in the engine room. He came to me and asked if he could be examined for the rating of Motor Machinist’s Mate 3d class. I asked the engineer officer about the man and was informed that other Chief Motor Machinist’s Mates spoke most favorably of the man’s skills. I had him examined and submitted his papers, which were of the highest caliber, to Coast Guard Headquarters. In good time, considering our remote duty, the response came back from Enlisted Personnel at headquarters that he could not be rated as a Motor Mechanic because he was a Negro and Negroes were only accepted in the Steward’s Branch. This struck me as both unfair and inefficient and therefore undesirable for a military service. I appealed the decision, through channels, and as a result Enlisted Personnel reversed itself and authorized his transfer to Motor Machinist’s Mate and rating in that branch (I believe he later made Chief and served honorably and effectively.) [Skinner is referring to CWO Oliver T. Henry, USCG (Ret.)]

The combination of this incident with my general views on the gravity of the world crisis led me to a consideration of the whole problem of naval use of manpower. Without having statistics on the assignment of naval personnel to different shipboard duties, it seemed clear to me that the steward and steward’s mate complement of both Coast Guard and Navy ships could not exceed two to three percent of the total seagoing personnel. The universal draft was then being applied as the source of all manpower for all the armed services. This meant that the Coast Guard and Navy would have to take 11 to 12 percent of Negroes in their new manpower (the generally accepted percentage of Negroes in the U. S. population). Over a period of time this would result in the 9 percent of recruits not available for sea duty being placed in shore installations. Soon Coast Guard and Navy shore installations would be disproportionately heavy with Negro personnel.[2]

Civil rights were in the air, and President Truman, though personally far from color blind, reported good experiences with black soldiers from his WWII service. Despite flak from Southern Democrats in his coalition, Truman signed Executive Order 9981 desegregating all US armed forces:

It is hereby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin. This policy shall be put into effect as rapidly as possible, having due regard to the time required to effectuate any necessary changes without impairing efficiency or morale.[3]

The actual process of integration took years, proceeding through Eisenhower’s administration. Truman’s Secretary of the Army from 1947, Kenneth Royall, was forced into retirement in 1949 after refusing to implement Truman’s order. Korean War battles led to manpower shortages at the front lines and black recruits were used to replace fallen whites in formerly segregated units, leading to de facto integration, and the Army officially changed its policy to conform to Truman’s order in 1951. Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense under President Kennedy, finally directed military authorities to also use their influence to sweep away remaining discrimination by private or off-base facilities used by soldiers and their families as well.

The Army, which had historically kept black soldiers out of forward combat roles, did the opposite under full integration; black men were over-represented in ground combat forces in the Vietnam War era. Racist officers and discrimination continued to exacerbate racial tension:

After Integration. In the more than fifty years since the end of racial segregation in the Army, African Americans have continued to serve with honor and distinction. During the ten years after integration the major issues surrounding blacks in the active Army were the difficulties they encountered off-post, especially in the South; the Army’s inability to attract and retain black career enlisted personnel in large numbers; and the disproportionately small number of black officers. By the mid-1960s continuing segregation within southern state National Guards and the small numbers of African Americans in others had become a major issue.

The abolition of the quota system within units not long before the commitment of ground combat forces to Vietnam resulted in black enlisted men being assigned combat arms specialties in significantly greater numbers than their share of the American population. The inferior education many blacks had received caused them to score low on assessment tests, qualifying them only for the combat arms. During the first year ground combat units fought in Vietnam this pattern led to African Americans taking a greater number of the casualties than their share of the American population. As the draft brought more whites into an expanded wartime Army, this disparity receded, but low assessment test scores still channeled a disproportionate share of black enlisted men into the combat arms.

During the later part of the Vietnam War racial tensions in civilian society combined with growing opposition to the war to create a major disruption of good order and discipline in the Army. Many younger African American soldiers developed a new emphasis on race, which was reflected in self-imposed separation, displays of racial pride and solidarity, and quick reactions to what these soldiers felt were racial slights or discrimination, whether by individuals or the Army. The most evident displays of this new consciousness were the numerous race riots that occurred in the Army during this period at home and abroad. The younger soldiers often dismissed black career soldiers as Uncle Toms who refused to challenge inequities within the Army. This perception, along with the erosion of the noncommissioned corps during the war, greatly impeded the ability of sergeants to maintain discipline.

The Defense Department responded to this crisis by placing greater emphasis on programs designed to root out discrimination and promote equal opportunity. The Army required minority representation on all officer selection boards, sought to commission more African Americans, and increased the number of blacks attending senior service colleges. A program to achieve a more equitable distribution of black soldiers in highly technical military occupational specialties was adopted. The Army also adopted a new Racial Awareness Program designed to improve interracial communication through a formal race relations course. The cornerstone of the program was the mandatory race relations seminar. Also included were such activities as Black History Week, the observance of significant calendar events, and unit race relations conferences. These actions, together with the end of the Vietnam War, brought a gradual end to open hostilities within the service.

The end of the war also brought the end of the draft and a return to an all-volunteer force. Army planners working on this transition assumed correctly that an all-volunteer force would result in a significant increase in the number of black enlisted soldiers as whites would no longer be motivated by the draft to enlist. The first eight years of the all-volunteer force saw a dramatic rise in the number of black enlisted soldiers in the active Army, reaching 33.2 percent in 1981. The reason for this increase was that the Army offered many African Americans better opportunities than they could find in civilian life. Also increasing the attractiveness of the service was the Army’s efforts to eliminate institutional racism. The service, however, continued to have difficulty in commissioning blacks; by 1981 they accounted for 7.8 percent of the officer corps. [4]

The Armed Forces desegregration efforts are now considered a great success story in having established equality of opportunity, though obviously not without problems along the way. Blacks and women have risen in the ranks and now fully integrate even the highest levels. Today’s efforts to integrate more women into the armed forces are a work in progress. At the cutting edge where physical abilities are critical, women are at a disadvantage as a group, and that’s where complete integration of women is faltering as civilian-style labor regulations and attitudes imposed by politicians from above come up against physical requirements for ground combat units.

The armed forces, as Guardian Syndrome organizations, value tradition and honor — but since their traditions include civilian control and dedication to upholding the Constitution, they have been able to overcome traditional and conservative attitudes among many officers to accomplish the task required of them. As a result, they won the loyalty of a large segment of the population that had been discriminated against in civilian life. Military necessity — the need to win given the limited resources available — overruled discriminatory attitudes and eventually forced recognition of the logic of treating every soldier as an individual, not a representative of their race or class. And that is the essence of Americanism.

[1] From the excellent chronology of Army experience with black and female soldiers, “The Army and Diversity,” http://www.history.army.mil/html/faq/diversity.html
[2] “U.S.S. Sea Cloud, IX-99, Racial Integration for Naval Efficiency,” Commander Carlton Skinner, USCGR (Ret.) http://www.uscg.mil/history/articles/Carlton_Skinner.asp
[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Executive_Order_9981
[4] “The Army and Diversity,” http://www.history.army.mil/html/faq/diversity.html

More reading on the military:

US Military: From No Standing Armies to Permanent Global Power
The VA Scandals: Death by Bureaucracy


Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples OrganizationsDeath by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.

 


More reading on other topics:

Jane Jacobs’ Monstrous Hybrids: Guardians vs Commerce
The Great Progressive Stagnation vs. Dynamism
Death by HR: How Affirmative Action is Crippling America
Death by HR: The End of Merit in Civil Service
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Public Employee Unions
Death by HR: History and Practice of Affirmative Action and the EEOC
Civil Service: Woodrow Wilson’s Progressive Dream
Bootleggers and Baptists
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Justice Dept. Extortion
Corrupt Feedback Loops, Goldman Sachs: More Justice Dept. Extortion
Death by HR: The Birth and Evolution of the HR Department
Death by HR: The Simple Model of Project Labor
Levellers and Redistributionists: The Feudal Underpinnings of Socialism
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
Trump World: Looking Backward
Minimum Wage: The Parable of the Ladder
Selective Outrage
Culture Wars: Co-Existence Through Limited Government
Social Justice Warriors, Jihadists, and Neo-Nazis: Constructed Identities
Tuitions Inflated, Product Degraded, Student Debts Unsustainable
The Morality of Glamour

On Affirmative Action and Social Policy:

Affirmative Action: Chinese, Indian-Origin Citizens in Malaysia Oppressed
Affirmative Action: Caste Reservation in India
Diversity Hires: Pressure on High Tech<a
Title IX Totalitarianism is Gender-Neutral
Public Schools in Poor Districts: For Control Not Education
Real-Life “Hunger Games”: Soft Oppression Destroys the Poor
The Social Decay of Black Neighborhoods (And Yours!)
Child Welfare Ideas: Every Child Gets a Government Guardian!
“Income Inequality” Propaganda is Just Disguised Materialism

The greatest hits from SubstrateWars.com (Science Fiction topics):

Fear is the Mindkiller
Mirror Neurons and Irene Gallo
YA Dystopias vs Heinlein et al: Social Justice Warriors Strike Again
Selective Outrage
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
“Tomorrowland”: Tragic Misfire
The Death of “Wired”: Hugo Awards Edition
Hugos, Sad Puppies 3, and Direct Knowledge
Selective Outrage and Angry Tribes
Men of Honor vs Victim Culture
SFF, Hugos, Curating the Best
“Why Aren’t There More Women Futurists?”
Science Fiction Fandom and SJW warfare

Jane Jacobs’ Monstrous Hybrids: Guardians vs Commerce

Jane Jacobs

Jane Jacobs


Jane Jacobs’ Systems of Survival: The Moral Foundations of Commerce and Politics identified two primary syndromes, the meme-complexes (reinforcing rule sets) prevalent in human society: the Guardian Syndrome of hierarchical, honor-based organizations like the military and government, and the Commercial Syndrome, practiced in trade, industry, and science.

These syndromes evolved with humanity, from hunter-gatherer warrior bands to feudal knights and modern armies, or from Phoenician traders to Venetian financiers and finally the corporations of today. The book is a fun and easy read, and I’d highly recommend it for the insight it gives to many modern political issues. Here are the moral rules for each syndrome:

Moral Precepts

Guardian Syndrome

Commerce Syndrome

  • Shun trading
  • Exert prowess
  • Be obedient and disciplined
  • Adhere to tradition
  • Respect hierarchy
  • Be loyal
  • Take vengeance
  • Deceive for the sake of the task
  • Make rich use of leisure
  • Be ostentatious
  • Dispense largesse
  • Be exclusive
  • Show fortitude
  • Be fatalistic
  • Treasure honor
  • Shun force
  • Compete
  • Be efficient
  • Be open to inventiveness and novelty
  • Use initiative and enterprise
  • Come to voluntary agreements
  • Respect contracts
  • Dissent for the sake of the task
  • Be industrious
  • Be thrifty
  • Invest for productive purposes
  • Collaborate easily with strangers and aliens
  • Promote comfort and convenience
  • Be optimistic
  • Be honest

For a roving band of warriors competing with enemies for territory, the Guardian Syndrome is appropriate. Governments, as the descendants of the ruling structures that evolved when those warrior bands settled in to defend and protect a civilian population, have many of the same features — a monopoly on the use of force, a need to defend against external enemies, and a requirement of secrecy and distrust of outsiders. But another part of their role is largesse — distributing the spoils of war and taxation, valuing courage, and defending the weak.

Commerce requires a different set of morals — valuing honesty and cooperation to achieve shared goals, trusting others more and valuing a reputation for fair dealing. The common commercial values allowed explorers traveling in lands far from home to trade with villagers despite a lack of common language and the obvious temptations of fraud and theft. Where the highest value of the Guardian class is winning with honor, the Commercial class aimed for mutual benefit and discovery of better products and ways of doing things.

The prosperity of the modern world developed out of runaway Commerce Syndrome successes, but the older, more feudal Guardian values are still important to proper functioning of states and their military and intelligence arms.

Each syndrome evolved to work well in its own sphere, and mixing them or involving one syndrome where the other should be used causes systemic corruption, as when Guardian-class government tries to direct all commerce (as in the dead USSR or today’s Venezuela), or commercial values intrude into governance (bribery of officials, “crony capitalist” use of government influence to protect and extend commercial monopolies.) Many of today’s issues come out of ‘monstrous hybrids,” in Jacobs’ term, which combine the two syndromes to create corrupt and dysfunctional organizations.

One example of a monstrous hybrid is the modern too-big-to-fail bank, so heavily regulated that its every move is controlled by government authorities while its managers are paid more in stock and bonuses than a thousand of its low-level workers. It has become nearly impossible to start a new bank, and the smaller ones are disappearing as compliance grows more difficult and expensive. Without fresh competition and at the mercy of politicians, banks now pay heavy tribute to politicians while getting major subsidies from the Federal Reserve in the form of no-interest loans. Their customers continue to pay more in charges while getting no interest on deposits.

Another example-in-the-making is the US military branches, long insulated from politics but now being pressured to adopt the values of civilian employers and the Civil Service. That will be the topic of my next few posts.

More reading on other topics:

The Great Progressive Stagnation vs. Dynamism
Death by HR: How Affirmative Action is Crippling America
Death by HR: The End of Merit in Civil Service
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Public Employee Unions
Death by HR: History and Practice of Affirmative Action and the EEOC
Civil Service: Woodrow Wilson’s Progressive Dream
Bootleggers and Baptists
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Justice Dept. Extortion
Corrupt Feedback Loops, Goldman Sachs: More Justice Dept. Extortion
Death by HR: The Birth and Evolution of the HR Department
Death by HR: The Simple Model of Project Labor
Levellers and Redistributionists: The Feudal Underpinnings of Socialism
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
Trump World: Looking Backward
Minimum Wage: The Parable of the Ladder
Selective Outrage
Culture Wars: Co-Existence Through Limited Government
Social Justice Warriors, Jihadists, and Neo-Nazis: Constructed Identities
Tuitions Inflated, Product Degraded, Student Debts Unsustainable
The Morality of Glamour

On Affirmative Action and Social Policy:

Affirmative Action: Chinese, Indian-Origin Citizens in Malaysia Oppressed
Affirmative Action: Caste Reservation in India
Diversity Hires: Pressure on High Tech<a
Title IX Totalitarianism is Gender-Neutral
Public Schools in Poor Districts: For Control Not Education
Real-Life “Hunger Games”: Soft Oppression Destroys the Poor
The Social Decay of Black Neighborhoods (And Yours!)
Child Welfare Ideas: Every Child Gets a Government Guardian!
“Income Inequality” Propaganda is Just Disguised Materialism

The greatest hits from SubstrateWars.com (Science Fiction topics):

Fear is the Mindkiller
Mirror Neurons and Irene Gallo
YA Dystopias vs Heinlein et al: Social Justice Warriors Strike Again
Selective Outrage
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
“Tomorrowland”: Tragic Misfire
The Death of “Wired”: Hugo Awards Edition
Hugos, Sad Puppies 3, and Direct Knowledge
Selective Outrage and Angry Tribes
Men of Honor vs Victim Culture
SFF, Hugos, Curating the Best
“Why Aren’t There More Women Futurists?”
Science Fiction Fandom and SJW warfare

More reading on the military:

US Military: From No Standing Armies to Permanent Global Power
US Military: The Desegration Experience
The VA Scandals: Death by Bureaucracy

US Military: From No Standing Armies to Permanent Global Power

US Army patrol in Iraq

US Army patrol in Iraq

Standing armies were viewed with great suspicion by the Founding Fathers, who knew their influence could result in unnecessary wars and the corruption of the Republic when military leaders pushed into civilian governance. The Roman and European experiences were viewed as cautionary tales to be avoided. Seeing the US as relatively free of enemy border states and insulated by oceans, Alexander Hamilton argued for a strong navy but no standing army which could more easily be misused internally. The Founding Fathers understood that the President, as Commander-in-Chief, would necessarily need relatively free rein in wartime, but feared expansion of the President’s power over civilian life if war was a regular occurrence. They hoped to retain a limited government and a free citizenry of gentleman farmers and merchants as long as possible, and feared the Federal government would grow too large if involved in extensive wars. But the blessings of US isolation should allow growth free of the wars and power struggles of old Europe. Or so they thought.

The first great total war in the US, the Civil War, pioneered some of the mechanized death that later horrified Europeans in World War I. Trench warfare, repeating rifles, aerial bombardment (from balloons), and submarines were first used, and the barbaric strategy of destruction of civilian property and industrial base refined by such luminaries as General Sherman in his March to the Sea:[1]

Sherman himself estimated that the campaign had inflicted $100 million (about $1.4 billion in 2010 dollars) in destruction, about one fifth of which “inured to our advantage” while the “remainder is simple waste and destruction.” The Army wrecked 300 miles (480 km) of railroad and numerous bridges and miles of telegraph lines. It seized 5,000 horses, 4,000 mules, and 13,000 head of cattle. It confiscated 9.5 million pounds of corn and 10.5 million pounds of fodder, and destroyed uncounted cotton gins and mills.

But the great armies of the Civil War were demobilized when it ended and the Army and its spending shrank back to the low levels of pre-Civil War days, though the size and scope of the federal government was permanently increased as a result of the war’s decisive establishment of the Federal government’s primacy over State autonomy.

President Wilson, after winning re-election during World War 1 in 1916 with the campaign slogan “He kept us out of war,” called for a declaration of war against Germany after US merchant ships were sunk by German submarines. Also contributing to US outrage was the Zimmerman Telegram,[2] an intercepted German invitation to Mexico to join the war on the German side, with the promise of return of former Mexican territory in the US West for their help. As a result public opinion shifted, and Congress declared war on Germany.

In hindsight, was US entry into World War I actually necessary for defense of the US? Probably not. The Mexican government evaluated the German offer and concluded that war against the US would be ruinous. American merchant shipping was supporting the British and allied forces, and while the German sinking of US ships in neutral waters was a violation of international law, having a legal casus belli alone would not previously have drawn the US into all-out war.

After the declaration of war, Wilson’s administration acted quickly. The Selective Service Act of 1917[3] was passed by Congress after only 73,000 men volunteered, and 2.8 million men were drafted to expand the Army from its pre-war 120,000 men. After the war, the armed forces again were downsized and the draft ended, yet the military remained larger than before the war as the US took on more overseas roles.

The pattern of reluctant involvement was repeated in the runup to US entry to World War II, with US neutrality weakened by support for Allied defense and finances via lend/lease in 1941 and full entry into the war after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1942. The US had started to build up its forces with the first peacetime draft in late 1940 and FDR needed to bring public opinion around toward joining the war on the Allied side. Japanese attacks in Hawaii and the far east led to the US and other Allies declaring war on Japan, and the players in the conflagration were set.

But one of the Allies in the war effort, the USSR, was becoming the primary danger to the West even as the Allies cooperated with the Soviets to defeat the Axis powers. WWII segued into the Cold War without a break, as the Soviets occupied the eastern half of Europe and set up puppet Communist states to form what came to be called the East Bloc. Meanwhile in China, the Communists under Mao evicted the Nationalist forces of Chiang Kai-Shek and took over complete control of mainland China. The US, as the unchallenged and undamaged great power left standing in the West, never fully demobilized, with the strategic game of containment of the Soviets already underway and the defense of Western Europe left largely to the US until Europe could be rebuilt.

The graph below[4] tells the tale of the upward ratchet of the size of peacetime forces as the US developed into a world power. After the peak of the Civil War and the similar peak for WWI, peacetime military forces had doubled in size relative to GDP from the 1880s low. After WWII, forces remained continuously higher as the Cold War required large occupying forces in Europe and the Far East. After smaller peaks for the Korean War and Vietnam, the draft was abandoned and a volunteer army (more expensive, but of higher quality) took over, and the advanced technology weaponry required to stay ahead of the rest of the world took up much more of the budget. The end of the Cold War, the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and the opening of China to capitalist trade and industry reduced the need for standby forces and the number of military personnel continued to decline slowly, with the less labor-intensive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan barely stopping the decline.

US Military Personnel and Spending

US Military Personnel and Spending – OMB



The Founders would have been interested in how decisions were made to go to war as the US became one of the world’s great powers. Isolationism and pure defense might have left the US without allies in a dangerous world full of enemy states — or peaceful and prosperous while other powers weakened themselves in destructive warfare. Philip K. Dick’s alternative history novel The Man in the High Castle[5] was set in a world where FDR had been assassinated before the war and isolationists successfully kept the US from joining the Allies — but after the Axis victory, a weakened US was defeated by the German nuclear bombing of Washington, DC, and occupied by Germany and Japan. Such a chilling scenario is implausible, but fear of defeat by an aggressive totalitarian state drove military spending for decades.

President Obama has mentioned the concept of the “war of necessity” vs the “war of choice” — after the book War of Necessity, War of Choice: A Memoir of Two Iraq Wars by George HW Bush advisor Richard Haass.[6] Exactly when US interests are threatened enough to justify a mass armed response is never easy to decide, and an increasingly globalized world makes threats by stateless groups in faraway failed states more credible, as in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. Defense from now on may require less conventional armed forces and more intelligence, rapid-response forces, and remote or automated weapons, with autonomous drones and fighting vehicles on the not-so-distant horizon.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sherman%27s_March_to_the_Sea
[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zimmermann_Telegram
[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selective_Service_Act_of_1917
[4] OMB numbers via https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:US_military_personnel_and_expenditures.png
[5] And there’s an excellent adaptation into a miniseries by Amazon Studios: see “The Man in the High Castle” – Pilot Episode.. The book is here.
[6] War of Necessity, War of Choice: A Memoir of Two Iraq Wars by Richard Haass.


Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples OrganizationsDeath by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.

 


More reading on the military:

US Military: The Desegration Experience
The VA Scandals: Death by Bureaucracy
More reading on other topics:

Jane Jacobs’ Monstrous Hybrids: Guardians vs Commerce
The Great Progressive Stagnation vs. Dynamism
Death by HR: How Affirmative Action is Crippling America
Death by HR: The End of Merit in Civil Service
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Public Employee Unions
Death by HR: History and Practice of Affirmative Action and the EEOC
Civil Service: Woodrow Wilson’s Progressive Dream
Bootleggers and Baptists
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Justice Dept. Extortion
Corrupt Feedback Loops, Goldman Sachs: More Justice Dept. Extortion
Death by HR: The Birth and Evolution of the HR Department
Death by HR: The Simple Model of Project Labor
Levellers and Redistributionists: The Feudal Underpinnings of Socialism
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
Trump World: Looking Backward
Minimum Wage: The Parable of the Ladder
Selective Outrage
Culture Wars: Co-Existence Through Limited Government
Social Justice Warriors, Jihadists, and Neo-Nazis: Constructed Identities
Tuitions Inflated, Product Degraded, Student Debts Unsustainable
The Morality of Glamour

On Affirmative Action and Social Policy:

Affirmative Action: Chinese, Indian-Origin Citizens in Malaysia Oppressed
Affirmative Action: Caste Reservation in India
Diversity Hires: Pressure on High Tech<a
Title IX Totalitarianism is Gender-Neutral
Public Schools in Poor Districts: For Control Not Education
Real-Life “Hunger Games”: Soft Oppression Destroys the Poor
The Social Decay of Black Neighborhoods (And Yours!)
Child Welfare Ideas: Every Child Gets a Government Guardian!
“Income Inequality” Propaganda is Just Disguised Materialism

The greatest hits from SubstrateWars.com (Science Fiction topics):

Fear is the Mindkiller
Mirror Neurons and Irene Gallo
YA Dystopias vs Heinlein et al: Social Justice Warriors Strike Again
Selective Outrage
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
“Tomorrowland”: Tragic Misfire
The Death of “Wired”: Hugo Awards Edition
Hugos, Sad Puppies 3, and Direct Knowledge
Selective Outrage and Angry Tribes
Men of Honor vs Victim Culture
SFF, Hugos, Curating the Best
“Why Aren’t There More Women Futurists?”
Science Fiction Fandom and SJW warfare

Scott Stantis - Chicago Tribune

Corrupt Feedback Loops: Public Employee Unions

Civil Service rules insulated government employees from political demands, but also made firing the incompetent more difficult. The final barrier to accountability was the addition of another layer of employee empowerment, the public employee union. Private-sector unions are not the enormous political force they once were, but public-sector unions have continued to grow until they now control one of the two US political parties and have driven many state and local governments to near-bankruptcy, with underfunded pension and medical coverage for retirees taking a larger and larger share of local government revenues.

How did we get here? The advent of industrialization and large workplaces encouraged formation of worker associations. Facing a powerful employer, workers that joined in a union could send a message about compensation or working conditions with less fear of individual reprisal. In the United States, the union movement coalesced in the late 1880s, about the same time Wilson and the Progressives were formulating their program to mold the citizenry through government directives and regulation.

Since unions threatened the interests of powerful industrialists and employers, conflict was inevitable. Violence broke out between management and labor forces, with contract security agents (“company men”) from Pinkerton infiltrating and fighting union members during extralegal labor actions. Unions were illegal in some places, and union tactics like picket lines enforced by union violence were met by violence from company goons.

In one incident, the Homestead Steel Strike of 1892, steelworkers union members fought Andrew Carnegie’s Homestead Steel company managed by Henry Clay Frick. Frick intended to break the strike and had hired an army of three hundred Pinkertons to help get strikebreakers into the Pittsburgh-area riverside plant, bypassing the strikers’ picket lines by boat. With both sides armed with guns and thousands of workers and local citizens joining the battle, fighting went on for days, killing nine strikers and seven Pinkertons. Martial law was declared and public opinion turned against the union, resulting in deunionization of most US steel plants.[1]

Union activity was seen as a threat to the social order and unions themselves were feared as introducing “socialist” ideas. Conspiracy to join together to raise pay had been illegal under English law, and US law had followed suit. Many typical union tactics — picket lines and harassment of workers and suppliers trying to get into plants, secondary boycotts, and sabotage of equipment — were illegal. Yet unions could perform a valuable function in communicating worker views to management, and many thoughtful employers were able to work with unions as an outlet for worker grievances.

The Depression and FDR’s New Deal administration brought much more government recognition and support for union activities. The new administration believed overproduction and low prices were the key reason for economic weakness, and so favored controls on agricultural and industrial production to reduce quantities and raise prices — so the administration also supported union activity restricting the entry of low-priced labor and increasing wages for union members. Much New Deal legislation protected and encouraged labor unions, and the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (the “Wagner Act”) guaranteed the right of workers to form unions and bargain collectively in the private sector. Nonunion industries were organized, strikes increased, and wages rose in those sectors. For those left out of unions, notably black men, prospects of employment were diminished, and the economic recovery as a whole is thought to have been delayed by the New Deal’s legalized cartels and restraints on competition.

Clarified rules and legalization of a constrained right to strike under the law defused most of the violence and disorder associated with union activity. Private-sector unions became another accepted part of the American scene, and the big labor union coalitions like the AFL-CIO joined in disavowing Communism to rid themselves of “un-American” associations.

The simplistic narrative of the noble union is usually set in a one-company town, say a coal mine, where workers have little choice of employer, while management is free to take advantage of their monopoly on local employment to gouge and mistreat workers. In a modern urbanized area, these conditions rarely occur, and workers have a choice of employers vying to hire them, which provides a competitive environment that tends to improve compensation and working conditions as productivity increases.

In reality, unions grew powerful where a choke point existed — where a large and expensive plant, fixed rails, or docks prevented re-routing the business activity elsewhere during a strike. Unions did best where workers were low-skilled and interchangeable, and where the workplace could not be moved and had a lot invested in it, or where a government monopoly existed, as in transit and garbage in many cities. Unions could raise worker compensation and write work rules tailored to union preferences in such situations, making the union job preferable to any competitive nonunionized work, with the union as a barrier to entry of new workers — those already in the union got more money and protection from competition who might be willing to take the job for less.

Unions in private industry with free trade and low barriers to entry tend to harm their hosts and eliminate themselves over time as their hosts are crippled by high costs and loss of flexibility. As a result, entire union-dominated US industries were either offshored or automated, and private-sector union employment as a percentage of total private employment has fallen from a peak of around 35% in the mid-1950s to 7% today.[2] Unions are no longer a significant drag on the private sector, and remaining private-sector unions are much more aware of their need to cooperate with company management to produce high-quality, competitive products in a globalized world.

But the dynamics of public sector unions are quite different, and their enormous growth from the mid-1960s until today means the majority of union members now work for government — 35% of government employees are now unionized,[3] and public employee unions are important members of the political coalitions that keep governments in power at all levels. While private-sector unions decline in influence, public-sector unions have never been more powerful. Federal Election Commission statistics show public employee union campaign and PAC contributions grew from $17 million in 1998 to $54 million in 2014, with the vast majority going to Democrats.[4] Public employee unions now dominate election spending for local issues like school board races, city councils, and state-level ballot initiatives affecting their interests. There’s no good source for data on total state and local campaign contributions, but the Federal election numbers show how unions distribute their contributions:

Table 1: Public Sector Unions: Top Contributors to Federal Candidates, Parties, and Outside Groups, 2014 Election Cycle. Source: Open Secrets.org Center for Responsive Politics

 

 

 

To Candidates and Parties

To Outside Spending Groups

Rank

Contributor

Total Contribs

Total

Dem%

Repub%

Total

1

National Education Assn

$24,961,199

$2,183,752

91.1%

8.8%

$22,787,447

2

American Fedn of St/Cnty/Munic Employees

$10,002,495

$2,288,816

99.2%

0.3%

$7,717,155

3

American Federation of Teachers

$4,797,032

$2,484,870

98.8%

0.8%

$2,312,162

4

American Federation of Govt Employees

$4,072,005

$1,019,250

94.3%

5.6%

$3,052,755

5

International Assn of Fire Fighters

$2,184,303

$1,948,946

84.4%

15.6%

$235,357

6

National Assn of Letter Carriers

$2,113,796

$1,688,360

94.9%

4.9%

$425,436

7

American Postal Workers Union

$1,007,341

$988,950

98.8%

1.2%

$18,391

8

National Rural Letter Carriers Assn

$735,500

$735,500

76.8%

23.0%

$0

9

National Treasury Employees Union

$681,550

$631,550

96.1%

3.9%

$50,000

10

National Active & Retired Federal Employees Assn

$441,000

$441,000

75.7%

24.3%

$0

When a private-sector union overplays its hand with a private industry, that industry declines and the goods or services it provides are either imported or are replaced by alternatives. Unfortunately government services are usually monopolies, so there’s no competitor or foreign supplier waiting to provide what they cannot. Public employee union power continues to grow as governments become more dysfunctional as a result.

Civil service employment almost never declines, and monopoly services like public schools, police, and transit are ideal for giving unions more negotiating power via strikes and slowdowns since no alternative service is available in the short term. Wages and benefits can go up consistently without harming the host government, at least up to the point where tax burdens are so high citizens start moving away to less taxed locales.

Public employee unions were not legal in most jurisdictions until the 1960s. Politicians recognized that many public services were too critical to the orderly functioning of cities to allow unions to strike. The Boston Police Strike of 1919 and the resulting outbreaks of looting and violence had turned the public against the idea:

In the Boston Police Strike, Boston police officers went on strike on September 9, 1919. They sought recognition for their trade union and improvements in wages and working conditions. Police Commissioner Edwin Upton Curtis denied that police officers had any right to form a union, much less one affiliated with a larger organization like the American Federation of Labor (AFL). Attempts at reconciliation between the Commissioner and the police officers, particularly on the part of Boston’s Mayor Andrew James Peters, failed.

During the strike, Boston experienced several nights of lawlessness, although property damage was not extensive. Several thousand members of the State Guard, supported by volunteers, restored order. Press reaction both locally and nationally described the strike as Bolshevik-inspired and directed at the destruction of civil society. The strikers were called “deserters” and “agents of Lenin.”

Samuel Gompers of the AFL recognized that the strike was damaging the cause of labor in the public mind and advised the strikers to return to work. Commissioner Curtis refused to re-hire the striking policemen. He was supported by Massachusetts Governor Calvin Coolidge, whose rebuke of Gompers earned him a national reputation. The strike proved a setback for labor unions, and the AFL discontinued its attempts to organize police officers for another two decades. Coolidge won the Republican nomination for vice-president of the U.S. in the 1920 presidential election.[5]

During the New Deal era, FDR famously rejected public employee collective bargaining and strikes while his administration paved the way for further unionization of private industry:

All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management. The very nature and purposes of government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with government employee organizations. The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress. Accordingly, administrative officials and employees alike are governed and guided, and in many instances restricted, by laws which establish policies, procedures, or rules in personnel matters. Particularly, I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place in the functions of any organization of government employees. Upon employees in the Federal service rests the obligation to serve the whole people, whose interests and welfare require orderliness and continuity in the conduct of government activities. This obligation is paramount. Since their own services have to do with the functioning of the Government, a strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government until their demands are satisfied. Such action, looking toward the paralysis of Government by those who have sworn to support it, is unthinkable and intolerable.[6]

Both the public and politicians remained opposed to public employee unions for decades after. In 1943, a New York Supreme Court judge held:

To tolerate or recognize any combination of civil service employees of the government as a labor organization or union is not only incompatible with the spirit of democracy, but inconsistent with every principle upon which our government is founded. Nothing is more dangerous to public welfare than to admit that hired servants of the State can dictate to the government the hours, the wages and conditions under which they will carry on essential services vital to the welfare, safety, and security of the citizen. To admit as true that government employees have power to halt or check the functions of government unless their demands are satisfied, is to transfer to them all legislative, executive and judicial power. Nothing would be more ridiculous[7].

The conflicts of interest inherent in giving public employee unions the legal power to organize, collect dues, and wield typical union strategies of withholding labor and attacking the employer (the government, and ultimately the citizenry) are obvious:

The very nature of many public services — such as policing the streets and putting out fires — gives government a monopoly or near monopoly; striking public employees could therefore hold the public hostage. As long-time New York Times labor reporter A. H. Raskin wrote in 1968: “The community cannot tolerate the notion that it is defenseless at the hands of organized workers to whom it has entrusted responsibility for essential services.”

A core problem with public sector unionism is that it creates a uniquely powerful interest group. In theory, bureaucrats are supposed to work for and be accountable to the elected representatives of the people. But suppose those bureaucrats organize into large, well-funded, powerful unions that can tip election results. With very few and very unique exceptions, no workplace in which the employees elect the supervisors functions well for long. [8]

Constitutionally, states were free to allow public employee unions, and the dam of opposition began to burst in the 1950s. In 1958, New York City Mayor Robert Wagner, Jr. issued an executive order authorizing unions and allowing exclusive representation, a concept borrowed from Federal law where employees could vote to authorize a single union to bargain collectively for the employees, even those who chose not to join — and those objectors still had to pay union dues, enshrining the system of enforced contributions that has served to grow public employee unions into political donation powerhouses. Unions had already become powerful enough in New York City politics to win this enforced monopoly, which further entrenched their power.[9] This also was roughly the peak of New York City’s postwar prosperity, and shortly thereafter it began to decline into the crime-infested, decaying New York City of the late 1970s as crime rose and government services faltered, driving prosperous residents to the suburbs.

In 1962, President Kennedy signed Executive Order 10988,[10] permitting collective bargaining for federal employees. This order authorized Federal employees to form unions but continued to disallow strikes; the order was intended to forestall imminent passage of a bill in Congress which would have gone further and allowed exclusive representation, so-called union shops. Military and intelligence agencies were wisely exempted.

Later orders and legislation legalized other typical features of private-sector unions like closed shops, paycheck withholding of dues for all non-management employees, and union work done on time paid for by taxpayers, called “official time”:

Unionized federal employees spent 2.48 million hours working for their labor unions while getting paid by taxpayers during 2013, and more than 360 workers who are on the federal payroll spent 100 percent of their time working for their union.

Under federal rules, employees who are members of a labor union are entitled to so-called “official time,” where they are dismissed from their duties as a government employee to engage in labor union organizing activities. A new report from the Government Accountability Office shows the use of official time has increased over the past several years as the size of the federal workforce has grown.

And it’s costing taxpayers plenty. According to the Office of Personnel Management, which tracks federal employees’ time, federal employees were paid more than $157 million during 2012 while doing work for labor unions.

The GAO says the price tag may be even higher, since some federal agencies are not adequately tracking their employees’ official time.

“Since agencies are most often managing the use of official time using an approach that has no specified number of hours, they could be at greater risk for abuse,” auditors warned in the report, released last week.[11]

Efforts to contract out services currently provided by public employees are effectively blocked by union power, with lawsuits and work actions typical when outsourcing is attempted. When AFSCME workers struck University of California campuses recently, one of their objectives was a contract preventing outsourcing of functions like janitorial and food services. The AFSCME spokesman commented, “We need to deal also with these staffing issues, because what good is a raise if you are permanently injured on the job or if you are out of a job because the UC decided to outsource it to some low-wage, inexperienced contractor?”[12]

Minimum wage laws (first implemented as Federal law in 1938) went well with union efforts to outlaw low-priced competitive labor, especially from newly-arrived Southern black men in Northern cities. (In this, unions played the Bootleggers in a Bootleggers and Baptists coalition to pass minimum wage laws.) By outlawing low-end, low-wage work, minimum wage laws help unionized businesses stay competitive. In the current Democratic push for much higher “living wage” minimum wages of $15/hour, both private and public-sector unions have actively campaigned for the increases since even though most of their members make much more than minimum wage, their wages will tend to be bumped up to some margin above the minimum wage, either by contract or future negotiation, and nonunion firms become less competitive when they are forced to use only higher-priced labor.

The rent-seeking nature of union demands for higher minimum wages was exposed when the same unions also sought carveouts that would allow businesses to pay below minimum wages to union workers under a negotiated contract.[13] This demonstrated that the wages of union members were not as important to union bosses as hobbling their nonunion competition; by offering employers a special deal, unions could organize even more workplaces and thereby obtain more members and more dues, allowing them to donate even more to the local politicians who had passed the minimum wage increase.

Attempts to streamline Federal agencies by contracting out some noncritical services have also been blocked by union actions:

Last May, nearly 250 workers [at the U.S. Department of Labor] received word that their jobs had been eliminated and would be outsourced through the Administrative Support Services Competition, a departmental bidding process, without an absolute guarantee that another job could be found for them within the department. Their union, American Federation of Government Employees Local 12, protested the decision, holding a rally by the Capitol Reflecting Pool in June and pointing out that most of these “non-inherently governmental” jobs (as the department’s human resources staff called them) were held by minorities and women.[14]

Of course the jobs that would have been sent out under contract might well have been filled by minorities and women also, but at much lower cost to taxpayers. Those minorities outside the union walls are just out of luck, since without the protection and sponsorship of the union and its contributions to political campaigns, they will remain jobless. The plantation system lives on, with dues collected by largely white Democratic power brokers.

Education researcher Terry Moe has written about the capture of elected local school boards by teacher’s unions, and the resulting inability of school boards to act in the best interests of students and their parents:

Since A Nation at Risk warned in 1983 of a “rising tide of mediocrity” in America’s schools, the nation has invested heavily in reform efforts to bring about significant improvement—generating countless changes to the laws, programs, structures, and curricula of public education, and spending untold billions of extra dollars.

All this activity might seem to be the sign of a wellfunctioning democracy. But pull away the curtain and the picture is not nearly so pretty: the reforms of the last few decades, despite all the fanfare, have been incremental and weak in practice. The nation is constantly busy with education reforms not because it is responsibly addressing social problems, but because it never actually solves them and they never go away— leading to continuing demands for more reforms. This is what keeps the “education reform era” alive and kicking: not democracy, not responsibility, but failure….

The teachers unions have been masters of the politics of blocking for the past quarter century. Major reform is threatening to their vested interests in the existing system, and they have used their formidable power — leveraged by checks and balances — to repel and weaken the efforts of reformers to bring real change. This is not the whole story of the modern reform era, needless to say. But it is at the heart of it….

The public school system emerged in roughly its present form about 100 years ago, and for most of its history was a union-free zone. Many teachers belonged to the NEA, which, even in the early 1900s, was the vanguard of the education establishment. But the NEA was a professional association controlled by administrators, and it was opposed to unions.

All this changed during the 1960s and 1970s, when most of the states (outside the South) adopted public-sector labor laws. These new legal frameworks fueled dramatic increases in public-sector union membership and collective bargaining. They also triggered a transformation of the NEA, which, in competing with the AFT to represent the nation’s teachers, turned itself into a union—and soon grew to be the biggest union of any type in the country. The portion of teachers covered by collective bargaining soared from near zero in 1960 to 65% in 1978, and the system then settled into a new steady state. Bargaining coverage has remained virtually unchanged among teachers ever since. Membership levels have consistently been much higher, at about 79% and stable.

By the early 1980s, the teachers unions reigned supreme as the most powerful force in American education: with millions of members, armies of political activists, enormous wealth for campaign contributions and lobbying, and more. The rise of union power transformed the world of American public education, creating what amounted to a new education system, one that has been in equilibrium now for roughly thirty years—and protected from change by the very union power that created it….

Collective bargaining is also profoundly important for another reason: it has enabled the unions to impose ineffective forms of organization on the schools, thus exacerbating the very problems the reform movement has been trying to correct. Among other things, local contract provisions tend to include: salary rules that pay teachers based on seniority and formal credits with no attention to performance; seniority rules for transfers and layoffs that allow senior teachers to lay claim to available jobs; onerous rules for evaluation and dismissal that virtually assure that all teachers will get satisfactory evaluations and no one will be dismissed for poor performance; and more.

These and countless other contract rules are designed to promote the job-related interests of teachers, but from the standpoint of effective organization they are simply perverse. Yet this is how America’s schools are actually organized. There is a disconnect between what the public schools are supposed to do and how they are organized to do it—and this disconnect is a built-in feature of the modern American school system, a reflection of its underlying structure of power. Why have the districts “agreed” to ineffective organization? Partly it’s because no district wants a fight, because most work rules don’t cost them anything; and because as monopolies they have had little incentive historically to insist on effective organization anyway. But there is also a crucial political reason: school board members are elected, and the teachers unions are typically the most powerful forces in those local elections. As a result, many board members are union allies, others are reliably sympathetic to collective bargaining, and the rest have reason to fear that, if they cross the unions, their jobs are at stake.[15]

The Wall Street Journal review of Government Against Itself: Public Union Power and Its Consequences by Daniel DiSalvo (who is quoted above as well) had this to say:

Pension and benefit obligations weigh down our cities. Trash disposal in Chicago costs $231 per ton, versus $74 in non-union Dallas. …Mr. DiSalvo [argues] that “unionization and collective bargaining in state and local government impose significant costs on society while providing few broadly shared benefits.” Still, the value in “Government Against Itself” lies not in the conclusion but in the lucid fashion in which his primer lays out facts and busts myths.

The facts: Public-sector unions are not underdogs. Since 2009, membership in unions such as the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the National Education Association has totaled more than the membership in traditional private-sector unions. The United Mine Workers, the union that resulted from the Harlan County conflict, counts under 50,000 active members, while the NEA boasts 2.5 million.

As Mr. DiSalvo shows, public-sector unions are also rich. Taken together, they spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually lobbying governments on behalf of their members. Our courts have ensured that funding for political activity will flow in the future by upholding rules that require payments from workers. Opponents of public-sector unions must content themselves with minor victories such as the recent Supreme Court opinion in Harris v. Quinn, which grants home-care workers, a narrow group, the right not to pay union dues….

The very timing of local elections, as Mr. DiSalvo demonstrates, has worked to the unions’ advantage. Towns hold elections in off years as well as presidential-election years. Turnout in off-year municipal elections runs about 36% lower. Unions, which can get out the vote, thus enjoy a disproportionate say in off years and schedule their referendums accordingly. But presidential years can yield results as well. When public-sector unions “pull out all the stops,” Mr. DiSalvo writes, “they almost always win.” By voting for Prop 98—powerfully pushed by the teachers’ union—Californians in 1988 guaranteed that four in 10 dollars of California’s general fund would henceforth be spent on K-12 education. This pattern of victory replicates itself across the states.

The trend is a shame and a drag on the economy. For the costs of public-sector unions are great. “The byproduct of political management of the economy is waste,” the author notes. Second, pension and benefit obligations weigh down our cities. Trash disposal in Chicago costs $231 per ton, versus $74 in non-union Dallas. Increasingly, such a burden is fatal. When Detroit declared bankruptcy in 2013, a full half of the city’s$18.2 billion long-term debt was owed for employee pensions and health benefits. Even before the next downturn, other cities and some states will find themselves faltering because of similarly massive obligations.[16]

While public employees are still forbidden to strike in 39 states[17] and many cities, strikes and illegal job actions still occur, and even where strikes are illegal, threats to monopoly public services are powerful inducements for governments to kick the can down the road and give in to labor demands:

When the government entity bargaining with government employees cannot afford the cost of the union demands, the government increases the fringe benefits, i.e. pensions, and pushes the costs off to the future. The heavily unionized government worker states, including California, Illinois, New Jersey and New York, have the largest unfunded pension and retiree health care liabilities. In Wisconsin, public employers from 2000 to 2009 contributed $12.6 billion to public employee pensions while the employees contributed only $55.4 million.

State Budget Solutions examined the Bureau of Labor Statistics Databases and found dramatic evidence of the increases in fringe benefits by state and local governments. The revelation that public employees receive pension and retirement benefits that were worth 337% more than private sector employees is shocking, and illustrates the lengths to which governments will go in bargaining.

Overall, state and local government employees receive total benefits worth 171% more than what public sector employees earn. On an hourly basis, state and local government employees earn an average of $40.28 per hour in total compensation, whereas private sector employees average only $27.75 per hour.

In Milwaukee the average teacher will earn this year $59,500 in salary and $41,591 in benefit for $101,091 in total compensation. The average Milwaukee teacher has a $23,820 health insurance plan with no premium. Contrast that with a private sector employee in Wisconsin, who has a $14,656 insurance plan with a 20% premium. Despite this, last July the teachers union sued when the Milwaukee Public Schools stopped giving free Viagra because it cost the district nearly $800,000 per year and district was facing a deficit. The union just dropped this lawsuit on March 7, 2011.

Just as public sector unions are not concerned with the bottom line, performance is also not valued as it would be in the private sector. For example, Milwaukee School teacher Megan Sampson was laid off less than one week after being named Outstanding First Year Teacher by the Wisconsin Council of Teachers. She was laid off because the collective bargaining agreement requires layoffs to be made based on seniority rather than merit.

Government unions don’t bargain with the taxpayers who pay the bills. When teachers go on strike, they pay no penalty when their absence forces schools to close. Adding insult to injury to taxpayers, their actions force parents to either take time off work or quickly find someone else to care for their children. Also, unlike private sector unions, a government union has a natural monopoly over government services. This monopoly gives government union leaders extraordinary power over elected officials.

Most government unions would not exist without forced union dues. One of the first things government union leaders bargain for is a “union security” clause, which forces all government employees in the unit to pay for union services as a condition of employment. If a government employee works in a state with a “union security” clause, the individual must pay tribute to the union or they will be fired.

The money the government unions collect in dues helps to elect politicians who support the unions’ objectives. Government unions play a major role in electing their management team! In essence, government unions have a seat on both sides of the bargaining table. The U.S. Supreme Court made it clear that there is no “right” to collective bargaining. Collective bargaining for government employees makes them “super citizens” and the rest of the taxpayers are relegated to second-class status.

Today, the number of unionized government workers surpasses the number of unionized private sector workers. As a result, national unions have become advocates for higher taxes and government expansion, despite the fact that many of their private sector members oppose these efforts.

In the last election at the national level, government unions spent more than $200 million to defeat Republican candidates. The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees — the main union of state government employees — spent over $90 million during the campaign, and it was the top donor to the Democrats’ efforts to win gubernatorial and state legislative races.

As a result, the Democratic Party is now heavily reliant on unions and forced political contributions from their members. Unions help elect Democrats who repay the unions with more pay and benefits, many of which are unfunded. In effect, government unions elect their “management,” who in turn can forcibly extract more money from taxpayers to increase wages and benefits. Government officials can promise pensions and retiree health care benefits that future taxpayers will have to fund. This, in turn, sucks jobs from the private sector by forcing businesses to pay higher taxes….[18]

Local and State government employee compensation

Local and State government employee compensation

Public vs Private-Sector compensation costs

Public vs Private-Sector compensation costs

The high direct costs of unionization hurt, but the inability of governments to implement changes to improve service quality hurts more. Incompetent or even criminal employees are protected (as we have seen in the VA and IRS scandals) and attempts to put services online are either absurdly expensive, complete failures, or both (as millions who waited for the Healthcare.gov web site to sign up for ACA health insurance can testify.)

At every level, government grows less competent and more expensive as a result of the rigidities imposed by Civil Service and union rules. As public-sector unions came to dominate the Democratic party, Republicans have made gains in state and local elections partly due to the public’s perception of corruption and special interests:

This leaves us with a superficially ironic situation. The Republican Party emerges as the organised champion of everyone who stands to lose in the fight over the fisc when public-sector unions win. The GOP’s base electoral incentive to hobble their rival’s main source of campaign cash and voter mobilisation leads it to function as a countervailing force against overpowered public-sector unions to the benefit of rich people, yes, but also to the benefit of less powerful and more needy constituencies within the Democratic coalition. A bit of public-employee union busting at the state and municipal level wouldn’t leave government workers vulnerable. There’s every reason to believe they’d continue to function as a powerful, pampered political faction. Pushback against public-sector unions would simply make the always-unfair fight over the fiscal commons slightly less unfair, and make fiscally prudent policy slightly less unlikely.[19]

Looming unfunded liabilities and fiscal issues are creating crisis conditions in several local US governments, notably in the bankruptcy of Detroit and problems in Illinois and its major city, Chicago. Puerto Rico has run out of time, and other states and cities have only a few years before they reach the same dead end. Efforts to reform pensions have largely been blocked by union lawsuits, and the downward spiral of higher taxes, fleeing taxpayers, and bankrupt governments is coming to more and more of the US.

Reform of the system is difficult — it is always easier to patch problems temporarily than to address the underlying structure of incentives that have caused them. But it will now be necessary to either reform public employee labor rules or let whole regions, and even the Federal government, slip into default and shut down some services entirely. The recent water contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan, is a harbinger of the type of regression to incompetence that is coming unless something is done.

The goal should be a single system that both protects employees from direct political retribution and allows managers to hire, fire, and rearrange workers as needed. Public-sector workers should lose their jobs at about the same rate as private-sector workers, and sinecures must be eliminated. And public-sector unions should not have their dues withheld from paychecks, or be allowed to contribute to election campaigns or lobbying efforts. Plato saw the corruption inherent in government employees dealing in property and business, and having tenured public servants is an invitation for them to act against the public interest to choose their own managers — which is how school boards became vehicles for protecting bad teachers and shutting out the interests of students and parents. “A tenure system increases [a] bureaucrat’s incentive to implement bad policies to replace a politician who does not share their preferences. Thus, tenure tends to make bureaucrat’s performance worse, and this tends to lower [total] welfare.”[20]

No one directly selling to a government body should be making campaign contributions to the politicians that run it, and retiring from public service to a high-salaried lobbying job should also be seen as the shameful double-dealing it is. Glenn Reynolds’ proposal of a Revolving Door Tax is one idea for shutting down this scam. The money that needs to be taken out of politics comes from public employees and corporate contractors to government, not contributions from private individuals and unregulated corporate sources.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homestead_Strike
[2] “Union Membership in U.S. Fell to a 70-Year Low Last Year,” by Steven Greenhouse, New York Times, Jan 21, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/22/business/22union.html
[3] http://www.bls.gov/news.release/union2.nr0.htm
[4] https://www.opensecrets.org/industries/contrib.php?cycle=2016&ind=P04
[5] “Boston Police Strike,” Wikipedia accessed 4-21-2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boston_Police_Strike
[6] “112 – Letter on the Resolution of Federation of Federal Employees Against Strikes in Federal Service,” Franklin D. Roosevelt, August 16, 1937. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=15445
[7] “The Trouble with Public Sector Unions.” Daniel DiSalvo, National Affairs No. 5, Fall 2010.
http://www.nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/the-trouble-with-public-sector-unions
[8] “The Trouble with Public Sector Unions.” Daniel DiSalvo, National Affairs No. 5, Fall 2010.
http://www.nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/the-trouble-with-public-sector-unions
[9] “Management’s View of the New York City Experience,” Anthony C. Russo, Proceedings of the Academy of Political Science, Vol. 30, No. 2, Unionization of Municipal Employees (Dec., 1970), pp. 81-93
http://www.jstor.org/stable/1173366?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
[10] “Executive Order 10988 – Employee-Management Cooperation in the Federal Service,” January 17, 1962.
http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=58926
[11] “Labor union work by federal employees on ‘official time’ costs taxpayers millions,” by Eric Boehm, Watchdog.org, November 24, 2014

Labor union work by federal employees on ‘official time’ costs taxpayers millions

[12] “UC Workers Union Plans to Strike Again,” AFSCME Local 3299 web site, February 19, 2014

UC Workers Union Plans to Strike Again

[13] “L.A. labor leaders seek minimum wage exemption for firms with union workers,” LA Times, May 27, 2015
http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-los-angeles-minimum-wage-unions-20150526-story.html
[14] “Pushing Back Against Privatization,” The American Prospect, August 1, 2007
http://prospect.org/article/pushing-back-against-privatization
[15] “Teachers Unions, Vested Interests, and America’s Schools,” Terry M. Moe
http://www.hillsdale.edu/file/outreach/free-market-forum/archives/2013/Terry-Moe.pdf
[16] “Public Unions vs. the Public,” Amity Shlaes. Wall Street Journal, Jan. 15, 2015. http://www.wsj.com/articles/book-review-goverment-against-itself-by-daniel-disalvo-1421366405
[17] “Why Public-Sector Strikes Are So Rare,” Governing, by Heather Corrington, Oct. 10, 2012
http://www.governing.com/topics/public-workforce/col-why-public-sector-strikes-are-rare.html
[18] “Differences between private sector unions and government unions,” State Budget Solutions, March 23, 2011
http://www.statebudgetsolutions.org/publications/detail/differences-between-private-sector-unions-and-government-unions
[19] “Budgets and bargaining power: Government workers don’t need unions,” The Economist,
Feb 7, 2011
http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2011/02/budgets_and_bargaining_power
[20] “Civil Service Reform,” Gergely Ujhelyi, Dept. of Economics, U Houston. Nov. 26, 2012
ftp://ftp.repec.org/opt/ReDIF/RePEc/hou/wpaper/201303216.pdf


Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples OrganizationsDeath by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.

 


More reading on other topics:

Jane Jacobs’ Monstrous Hybrids: Guardians vs Commerce
The Great Progressive Stagnation vs. Dynamism
Death by HR: How Affirmative Action is Crippling America
Death by HR: The End of Merit in Civil Service
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Public Employee Unions
Death by HR: History and Practice of Affirmative Action and the EEOC
Civil Service: Woodrow Wilson’s Progressive Dream
Bootleggers and Baptists
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Justice Dept. Extortion
Corrupt Feedback Loops, Goldman Sachs: More Justice Dept. Extortion
Death by HR: The Birth and Evolution of the HR Department
Death by HR: The Simple Model of Project Labor
Levellers and Redistributionists: The Feudal Underpinnings of Socialism
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
Trump World: Looking Backward
Minimum Wage: The Parable of the Ladder
Selective Outrage
Culture Wars: Co-Existence Through Limited Government
Social Justice Warriors, Jihadists, and Neo-Nazis: Constructed Identities
Tuitions Inflated, Product Degraded, Student Debts Unsustainable
The Morality of Glamour

On Affirmative Action and Social Policy:

Affirmative Action: Chinese, Indian-Origin Citizens in Malaysia Oppressed
Affirmative Action: Caste Reservation in India
Diversity Hires: Pressure on High Tech<a
Title IX Totalitarianism is Gender-Neutral
Public Schools in Poor Districts: For Control Not Education
Real-Life “Hunger Games”: Soft Oppression Destroys the Poor
The Social Decay of Black Neighborhoods (And Yours!)
Child Welfare Ideas: Every Child Gets a Government Guardian!
“Income Inequality” Propaganda is Just Disguised Materialism

The greatest hits from SubstrateWars.com (Science Fiction topics):

Fear is the Mindkiller
Mirror Neurons and Irene Gallo
YA Dystopias vs Heinlein et al: Social Justice Warriors Strike Again
Selective Outrage
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
“Tomorrowland”: Tragic Misfire
The Death of “Wired”: Hugo Awards Edition
Hugos, Sad Puppies 3, and Direct Knowledge
Selective Outrage and Angry Tribes
Men of Honor vs Victim Culture
SFF, Hugos, Curating the Best
“Why Aren’t There More Women Futurists?”
Science Fiction Fandom and SJW warfare

More reading on the military:

US Military: From No Standing Armies to Permanent Global Power
US Military: The Desegration Experience
The VA Scandals: Death by Bureaucracy

“This Book Saved My Life!”…” A Review of “Avoidant”

If you’ve read and liked any of my books, stop right now and go leave a review over at Amazon. It’s very important, since more reviews gets more exposure gets more sales… which garners more readers and more reviews. Amazon’s recent arbitrary removal of some reviews means each one is more important, and so I post them here when they appear to be sure a copy is kept.

The latest is for Avoidant: How to Love (or Leave) a Dismissive Partner, which is selling well and doing some good in the world:

5.0 out of 5 stars
It was the most painful and traumatic experience I ever had
By Jennifer
April 15, 2016
Format: Paperback|Verified Purchase

I agree with one of the other commenters…this book saved my life. I accidentally stumbled on “Fearful Avoidant” after months of research trying to understand why my man dumped me via text after a whirlwind romance. Of course, I had to find one of the guys that fits into the very rare 5% of Fearful Avoidant…It was the most painful and traumatic experience I ever had, but thanks to Jeb Kinnison, it makes perfect sense. In fact, having this understanding allows me better patience, understanding, and empathy, and my relationship has found a second chance with solid psychology behind it, no guessing, and no more taking anything personally!!! I was stuck on the belief that my man was simply a Passive Aggressive Narcissist, but thanks to this book, I realize that is not the case. He is a good man who craves a relationship with me yet is so afraid I’ll change for the worse or give up on him. Trust issues your avoidant has are NOT your fault; read this and stop blaming yourself!!

I’m grateful for Jeb Kinnison for writing this book and explaining in very clear, yet detailed terms, why avoidants act the way they do. This book turned out to be the only thing that gave me answers and ultimately true comfort. I really enjoyed how the author went into describing the many scenarios and/or conversations that are common with dating an avoidant. This book is very enlightening. Save yourself from heartache and pain, either by understanding your avoidant and trying to salvage the relationship – or – know what to look for early on so you no longer feel frustration in trying to get someone to commit. Everyone needs to read this book!!!