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Some British advice to America’s public sector trade unions

Which they probably won’t now take, but later they may get the point.

I recall how, some time in the early 1980s, I had a run-in with a British Post Office worker.

I had this package which I wanted the Post Office to, you know, post to someone. So I wrapped it up and took it to the Post Office.

But it turned out that it was just that little bit too big for the hole that this Post Office worker wanted to put it into.

“Look”, he said, as if instructing a small and inattentive boy. “It’s too big to go in,” said he. “Can’t you see that?” He had a point, sort of. It really wasn’t hard to see, now. Big package. Slightly smaller hole. As we would say now: simples. And yes indeed, I could see that now. But when I was wrapping up the package at the bookshop I was then working in, I had no idea about the hole I would later have to stuff the package into. I felt like hitting the Post Office worker with the package, or at the very least explaining all this, in an angry tone.

But, wisely, I did not do this. Instead, all forced charm and bogus ingratiation, I acknowledged the abjectness of my obviously foolish miscalculation, and apologised deeply. What had I been thinking? Then, I tried to persuade him to think of some other procedure to enable the Post Office to post my package, and eventually, after some further instruction of me concerning my sloppy and foolish ways, he did agree to accept the package, despite its obvious failure to fit into his hole. He took the package and disappeared in a self-important manner to some room in the back of the Post Office. I went back to my bookshop, muttering curses to myself and speculating about the hole I would really have liked to shove my package into.

Some little while later, I observed, on the television, some Post Office workers who were engaged in a fight of some kind against our then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. Mrs Thatcher wanted to do something or other to the Post Office that the Post Office workers were angry about. It would cause chaos, they said, and make the Post Office worse, they said, and more expensive, as it quite possibly would, and quite possibly did. But because these Post Office workers were dealing, not with defenceless little me, but with Margaret Thatcher on the rampage, they were the ones now on the defensive. She wasn’t trying to persuade them of anything. She was simply telling them. They were trying to persuade her to do things differently.

To this end, the Post Office workers were appealing for public support.

They thought they would get it, effortlessly. From the way they were talking on the television, you would think that The Public were about to rise up in a great tidal wave and overwhelm the Prime Minister with their hatred of her (then as now quite widespread) and their love for the workers of the Post Office and their admiration for their extreme wisdom and obligingness.

But The Public all did as I did. We just sat there, saying: “You bastards may well be right that Maggie T’s plan will harm the Post Office, but her plan does at least have one huge plus. You hate it! It will make you suffer! You think we will help you stop it. Dream on, you tyrannical, supercilious bastards.” The great public silence that greeted the Post Office workers, instead of the great wave of support that they had been counting on, must have shocked them deeply. Important silences, huge non-events, are not usually front page news. But I noticed, and others surely did too. I wondered what Mr Your-Package-Is-Too-Big My-Hole-Is-Too-Small was thinking and feeling about it all. I hoped he was suffering.

Those Post Office workers had totally misunderstood that package-in-the-hole moment that I had had with one of them, and millions upon millions of other moments like it, stretching back through the decades. They, the Postal Workers, imagined that at the end of such moments, The Public walked away full of love and gratitude for the Postal Workers. But actually, we walked away full of pent-up rage. We had had to force ourselves to fake love and gratitude, and hated the Postal Workers all the more because of this. They had believed our performances. They really thought that we really were full of love and gratitude for them. Big mistake. Huge mistake.

Come the day when the tables were turned by a politician who was aggregating all our rage into a force majeure moment which left them trying to persuade her to do what they wanted, they were helpless.

All of which was brought on by this Instapundit posting about how angry the American Public now feels about American public sector workers of various kinds.

I now feel much better. Also, I wonder if blogs will make a difference to this kind of thing. Will blogs, and especially blog comments, tell America’s public sector trade unionists to back off gracefully, the way no blogger or blog-commenter could tell our unions circa 1984? They surely will. They surely are. But will they listen? Will they get it? It will be interesting to see.

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44 comments to Some British advice to America’s public sector trade unions

  • Eric

    But will they listen? Will they get it?

    Not in a million years. If (and this is a big if) they come to understand the public doesn’t love or respect them very much the response will be “How can I find small enough words to make you understand how stupid you are?” No amount of evidence to the contrary will ever shake their faith in their own indispensability.

  • Good post. This…

    “Important silences, huge non-events, are not usually front page news.”

    … reminds me of a similar remark Nietzsche once made:

    “The world revolves, not around the inventors of new noises, but around the inventors of new values; it revolves inaudibly.”

  • The problem is that you can get away with this sort of behaviour for an awfully long time. And you have no idea when your time is going to be up. Just ask Hosni Mubarak. So, the temptation is to keep going.

    Indeed, the Royal Mail still hasn’t been privatised and there’s no reason to think that your drama (or something similar) isn’t still being replayed up and down the land on a daily basis.

  • The problem is that you can get away with this sort of behaviour for an awfully long time. And you have no idea when your time is going to be up. Just ask Hosni Mubarak. So, the temptation is to keep going.

    Indeed, the Royal Mail still hasn’t been privatised and there’s no reason to think that your drama (or something similar) isn’t still being replayed up and down the land on a daily basis.

  • The problem is that you can get away with this sort of behaviour for an awfully long time. And you have no idea when your time is going to be up. Just ask Hosni Mubarak. So, the temptation is to keep going.

    Indeed, the Royal Mail still hasn’t been privatised and there’s no reason to think that your drama (or something similar) isn’t still being replayed up and down the land on a daily basis.

  • Am I alone in being amused that Brian’s package was “too large to fit in his hole?”

    Right I’ll get my coat!

  • Bod

    Fnarrrr, fnarrrr Nick.

    You’re in the wrong blog!

  • The more I see, the more I tend to think that these organisations simply cannot be reformed. Privatisation helps a little, but ghastly bureaucratic cultures with employees with dreadful senses of entitlement still persist. (See British Airways, British Gas, British Telecom, etc). In any event, private companies in heavily protected and regulated environments behave the same way. (See retail banks, American telephone companies, etc).

    There are only two things that can be done. Firstly, competition should be allowed and encouraged, not so much because it will force existing organisations to become better (they are more likely to remain what they are until they go bankrupt, although allowing competition will bring forward this happy day) but in order to give customers alternatives to use. (Another happy outcome can then be that the competitors outcompete the incumbent to such an extent that it becomes irrelevant). The other thing is that such organisations should simply be closed, and the assets sold off. Advocates of privatisation sometimes suggest that large organisations should be broken up into a few pieces that can then compete with one another, but this tends not to work either. What is required is total dismemberment, but politicians and bureaucrats usually find this impossible to contemplate.

    With the Royal Mail, I don’t think we are doing too badly on the allow competition and watch the incumbent become irrelevant stakes. If the Royal Mail ceased to exist tomorrow, I cannot imagine I would notice much. I haven’t sent a letter in years, and for packages and parcels there are plenty of alternative companies.

  • And yes, I know Brian’s post wasn’t really about the Post Office, but I just wanted to write about its possible dismemberment in order to bring out a warm inner glow.

  • So in the UK you had Maggie Thatcher the Iron Lady.

    In Wisconsin they have Scott Walker The Iron Cheesehead.

  • “Am I alone in being amused that Brian’s package was “too large to fit in his hole?”

    No, but you’re the only one with the erm, “decency” to draw attention to it Nick!

  • Dom

    “I acknowledged the abjectness of my obviously foolish miscalculation, and apologised deeply.”

    Is that the British version of “going postal” then?

  • Radex

    I was posting stuff in the early 1980s too but I don’t remember any problems in those days with trying to post stuff into holes. That problem came later, in the last decade, IIRC, when Royal Mail management introduced the current weight and shape pricing policy, unique among European and American postal services. That policy was opposed by the Trade Unions.
    Brian’s taking against the postal union because one member did not treat him with the dignity to which he clearly felt entitled is a pretty good example of what Pareto called ‘non-logical reasoning’.

  • Radex

    Are you serious? Maybe you aren’t.

    But if you are, you are seriously missing the point. Maybe I was being “illogical”, and got angry for no good reason that would satisfy you. The point is: I was angry, and this Post Office person didn’t realise it, and this little drama was being multiplied all across the public sector.

    As for whether or not there was a hole, I distinctly remember a hole, into whichever posting box I was supposed to put my package.

    Calling customers illogical is classic public sector monopoly behaviour. In a free market, I could take my illogicality elsewhere.

    I also feel rather illogical these days about Tesco’s obsession with me doing my own checking out, and denying me any help from a human. I’m sure they have their reasons, but I hate it. I want someone else who is used to the system to do it for me, and I don’t mind a bit of a wait.

    The crucial difference is: I can walk a little further to Sainsbury’s, where they still have lots of humans doing the checking out. And, in Tesco’s, when I do grumble illogically about self checking out, they don’t give me patronising little lectures like the one you’ve just given me, and then imagine I’m happy merely because I don’t want to starve. They sympathise, and help me.

    Because if they didn’t they’d be out of business.

    And if Pareto doesn’t understand this, I’d like to shove my package up his hole also.

  • And if Pareto doesn’t understand this, I’d like to shove my package up his hole also.

    The problem with Pareto is that it WOULD fit

    (Apologies for the statistical joke about Pareto Fit Analysis, I’ll get my coat).

  • RAB

    Ah yes the Post Office, just like all other Nationalised industries, run for the convenience of the staff, not the customers.

    Don’t you just love it when you go to your front door and find a card from your postman saying…

    Tried to deliver a package, but you were out. Your package can be collected from our Depot (usually miles away) between the twighlight hours of 6am to 11am…

    You know the bastards are lying. They never had your package with them in the first place, and they had filled in the card before they started their round.

    And you know the bastards are lying of course, because you have been in all day and nobody has rung the doorbell.

    Quick anecdote?

    A friend of mine was a bit of a Dipso, and was well workshy. He tried many jobs but ended up a postman cos he kept getting fired from everything else.

    When he didn’t feel like going in, he went to his Doctor’s and got a sick note for a bad back (easy to fake). The Post Office were happy not to see him for months, but his doctor got wise to him one time and signed him off.

    So he turned up to work on the Monday morning, only to find a picket line. They were out on strike and he didn’t even know about it! So he ever so reluctantly had to go home again. Funny old world isn’t it? 🙂

  • Paul Marks

    There is not just “public sector” greed and lazyness (by the way – “lazyness” is often not the worst thing in certain lines of government employment) at work – there is also a political angle.

    Historically American unions have been run by left of centre people – no great shock there.

    However, they have tended to be MODERATE left of centre people

    Even the union people who used violence tended to be doing it for money or better working conditions – not for some great ideological agenda.

    And that was even true in the “public sector” which started (in most States) to get unionized in the 1960s (for example California did not grant widespread “colective bargaining” till “Governor Moonbeam”, Jerry Brown, made that terrible blunder in the 1970s).

    The unions were after money and benefits – period. A protection racket – not a political crusade.

    But that just is not true anymore – there is another factor now.

    The screams of “paranoia” will ring out – but it has to be said.

    With the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989 the rules that the moderate left used to keep the far left under control in American unions were relaxed (indeed mostly abolished).

    All sorts of far left creatures now have influential positions in certain unions (such as the SEIU) and in the AFL/CIO organization.

    This has a practical effect.

    In the old days one could say the following:

    “Look your members will lose out if you carry on this action – so knock it off” and (perhaps with the help of a personal bribe) the union boss would call off the trouble.

    These days a lot of the disruption is for “the cause” – the union bosses do not care if their members lose out (they are just cannon fodder to them) and whilst they certainly are as personally corrupt as the old union bosses (in that they put their hands in the union accounts for personal gain and so on) one can not “pay them off” like in the old days.

    Because they will just take the bribe – and then carry on with the campaign (what are you going to do – go to the police and say “I bribed this union boss and then he just carried on…..”).

    The evidence is very extensive – documents, witness statements, recordings (audio and visual) of top union bosses talking the languge of the universities.

    Talking about bringing down “capitalism”and so on.

    These people are commited to the Obama agenda – even if it means bankrupt States and their members out of work.

    Indeed they think that lots of people out of work is a GOOD THING – as it means a great mob to organize (to turn against “the rich” and so on).

    They really are that bad.

    Things are serious now – one can not “make a deal” with the union bosses. One must defeat them – of be defeated by them.

    A fight to the finish.

    By the way – these people may be doing less harm on strike than they do at work.

    Look at the antics of the far left teachers, and so on, in Wisconsin. Complaining about how a limit on collective bargaining will leave them open to arbitrary employers…. (forget that they have had Civil Service protection in Wisconsin for a century – long before there was any collective bargaining).

    Sure they are using some children as cannon fodder in their demonstrations.

    But at least they are not presently in the classroom brainwashing all the children.

  • Brian:

    It’s not just the Royal Mail; I have a funny but depressing story about the postal service here in the US that I think I’ve told before.

    It was back in 1999, and I had written an actual letter to send by airmail to Radio Slovakia International. On the envelope, I had as the last two lines, “Bratislava, Slovak Republic”.

    A few days later I get the letter back from the USPS with a stamped note on it telling me I needed to write the name of the country in English. “Slovak Republic” looked perfectly English to me, but I added a slash and the word “Slovakia” to the name of the country.

    I took the letter in to the post office, and the dolt at the counter (certainly not the same one who would have stamped the letter the first time) told me, “Mail service to that country is stopped because of the war.” Slovakia, of course, isn’t in the former Yugoslavia, and I don’t think mail service to Slovenia was stopped in 1999.

    It turned out, of course, that I was right and the postal workers were wrong, and the letter got delivered. But it was just one more abject lesson for me in how everything in so-called “public service” is done for the benefit of the government sector workers and not the people they’re supposed to serve.

  • Subotai Bahadur

    I know that our Political Class, and their minions haven’t got a clue. There are two things that are bringing it to a climax, and both are beyond them. First there is the fact that we are in what is functionally a depression, and there is no more money that can be extorted. For an increasing number of people, every dollar in increased taxes is a dollar taken out of their kids’ mouths. If you are a government employee with a job that will not go away and gold plated benefits, you cannot understand it. And I speak as a retired Peace Officer. Fortunately, we funded [unlike in Wisconsin and most “blue” states where government employees have the state pay full cost of the pension] our pension plans appropriately. Members of my old Department pay 10% of their wages into retirement, the state pays 5.5%; and we are actuarally sound. But I know how staff weenies think, and to be honest most government employees are staff weenies shuffling paper.

    The second thing is that the Left and the Political Class of both parties have lost control of the Narrative. There are alternate news sources, and they are more detailed and current than anything that the MSM puts out.

    In Texas a decade ago, Democrat legislators pulled the same thing as in Wisconsin. They ran across the state line to prevent a quorum on something that they did not like. The MSM portrayed them as martyrs, and there was not a widespread alternative. Today, not only do we see what is happening; we see the scantily clad waitresses at the “resort” they ran away to, we see TEA Party members flushing them out and them fleeing to Chicago where the most crooked political machine in the country is sheltering them. We see the demonstrators trashing the Capitol grounds and intimidating and threatening the people within [They had to evacuate the Capitol early yesterday because they could not guarantee the safety of the legislators, and legislators’ families are being threatened in their homes.]. We are seeing and hearing the most disgusting things from the Union demonstrators, including from the Teacher’s Union, and wondering if we want them around our children. And we are watching the Democrats importing thugs paid by the Democratic National Committee to threaten the government of the state of Wisconsin. They are doing an excellent job of painting themselves as wanna-be storm troopers. And as criminals who do not respect either the law or the people.

    Your average working man cannot just not show up to work and keep their job. The teachers in 15 City School Districts just called in sick and closed the schools. The Districts, as they have a legal right to do under the contract, have ordered all teachers who called in sick to present an excuse from a doctor. Today, bloggers videoed and interviewed people from the Unions passing out forged doctor’s excuses en-masse.

    They no longer can cover up their contempt for the people, and for the rules the rest of us have to live under.

    Governor Walker campaigned on and promised to do just what he has done. In a state that has been Democrat for decades, in November the people gave not only the Governorship to the Republicans, but also control of both houses of the legislature. The Democrats are using an arcane quirk in their law [fiscal matters requiring a larger quorum than all other matters] to try to overturn the results of the election. They may win, they may lose. However, we now know that if they lose, they will almost surely resort to lawbreaking on a wider scale. Expect violence as they attempt to hold on to their privileged position.

    Subotai Bahadur

  • veryretired

    While I appreciate the various anecdotes about the post office et al, this situation is not about efficiency or courtesy or any of that.

    The issue is politics, and political power and influence, no more, no less.

    The public employee unions are manpower and funding sources for the democratic party at all levels, from city and county right up through the states and federal governments.

    For many, many years, the more liberal, democratic states have had a strong symbiotic relationship with teacher and other public employee unions. The pols gave them lucrative contracts and benefits, and the unions supplied the pols with mountains of cash and divisions of foot soldiers for their campaigns.

    The election last November was much more significant at the state and local levels than it was at the national level. Although having the House with a republican majority is a big deal, the story that got lost somewhat was that many state legislatures changed to republican majorities also, along with republican governors.

    Wisconsin is very much a long time blue state, with a very liberal past. Now the voters have given control to a fiscally conservative, “tea party” group, and they have no inclination to continue the sweetheart deals that the public unions have enjoyed for decades.

    When you listen to or read all the rhetoric, remember that this is nothing more than a well entrenched political group trying to maintain its influence when its traditional allies have been voted out, and its traditional enemies are now in power.

    The best description I have seen of the situation is that Wisconsin is the Spanish Civil War of the upcoming, much wider, conflict.

    We are entering a period of extreme political, and thus social, turbulence. My guess is that the next 10 or 20 years will make the ’60’s look tame, and will be very similar to the upheavals last seen during the 1930’s.

    We live in interesting times…

  • Laird

    Veryretired raises an excellent point. Wisconsin is the original home of AFSCME (the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the largest of the public employee unions), and historically is solidly liberal. The fact that such a state would not only elect a Republican governor but also put solid Republican majorities into both houses[1], and even have Republicans making up fully half of its Congressional delegation[2], is simply astounding. That alone tells you much about the political mood in this country.

    I haven’t seen much mention of this in the national news, but there are substantial counter-demonstrations taking place in support of the Governor’s plan. Every report I’ve seen describes these people as Tea Party supporters (here’s an example), and I have no reason to doubt that. The union members and their supporters are the noisiest and get the most press, but there is substantial opposition to them. And these demonstrations have been going on for five days now! Except for the lack of violence[3], this could be Cairo.

    Unfortunately, if this conflict spreads to other states, as Veryretired predicts, I fear that the completely peaceful nature of these protests will end. I have little doubt that union supporters in, say, California would be far less reticent to resort to violence. Then the times will get very interesting indeed. “Turbulent” will be an understatement.

    [1] Indeed, in the state Senate Republicans outnumber Democrats by an astounding 19-14. The only reason the Democrats’ out-of-state “work stoppage” has been successful is that the need 20 members to form a quorum. If they could get a quorum there is no doubt that the Governor’s plan would pass.

    [2] One of its two Senators and three of its six Congressmen are Republicans.

    [3] No physical violence, no wanton property destruction, no arrests. By itself that would be shocking until one remembers that this is well-mannered Wisconsin we’re talking about. I mean, they’re almost Canadians! If there are any union “thugs” in Wisconsin they would have to be imported.

  • Laird

    The Smitebot has once again arisin from his slumbers and devoured my humble offering. Clearly, he is subtle and quick to anger.

    On his brow this mark I saw —
    ‘I AM GOD, AND KING, AND LAW!’

  • veryretired

    You seem to be under the strange impression that my posting was not about politics.

  • DocGonz

    Frank had it in 1979.. (Link)

  • and I don’t think mail service to Slovenia was stopped in 1999.

    Given that the Slovenian war of Independence lasted only ten days, and it took place in 1991, this does seem unlikely, yes. I confess that I personally encountered people who still believed that there was a country called Czechoslovakia (and sometimes claimed to have been there) for some years after it ceased to exist, so perhaps that was the problem.

    Similarly, perhaps, I recall someone telling me in the mid 1990s that if you wanted to send mail to Estonia, it was very important to follow “Estonia” with “Finland” in the address. That way the letter would first get sent to Helsinki, where the people would understand where and what Estonia was, and would know to put it on a ferry to Tallin. If you did not do this, the best case was that the letter would go to Moscow, and would then take months to get to Tallin. More likely, though, it would simply never arrive.

  • Well to put it mildly my local Royal Mail postal service is run by the most idle, venal, corrupt, useless, workshy, surly, vile, inefficient dog’s cock sucking misanthropic cunts I have ever had the gross misfortune to meet.

    And that rarely.

    “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”

    – Yeah right!

    I live at the top of a small hill. The fuckers can’t be arsed to walk up that with a package and if they get it in my hole the appalling cunts will mangle it on general fucking principles. I have never, ever had any problems with courier services. RAB succinctly sums up what they are like. That is exactly my experience.

    The last time I asked the locl post-aster to “lock in the back” for something well over due the surly twat bugler looked so aggrieved I thought I’d developed tourette’s and had asked to sodomise his children with a traffic cone. Of course, “it wasn’t there”. If it wasn’t for the armour glass he would actually have been proctologically inconvenienced with an item of street furniture. Not that I want to hammer it home. Though I fucking well would have done. Whilst shrieking vilest curses from the Book of Deuteronomy.

    I have no idea what the mardy cunt did during his desultory “look” but I’d be surprised if it was more to the point than wanking into a jiffy bag over an advert for Tena Lady in The People’s Friend.

    This is I think not really a political issue in a wider sense. It reminds me of Sov Era customer service in Eastern Europe. The only collection of twats I have met in recent times to compare are the truly unbelievable cunts that (still nationalised) Polish Railways employ. Oh, and the TSA, obviously. It’s monopolies really. They can get away with anything.

    So I think Paul is wrong. This is just unionised wankerdom of the form we thought Maggie had nixxed. This is BL work to rule or the antics that finished most of the Shipyards. A classic example here was a ship that was being built on the Tyne in the ’70s. It had wood panelling on rooms onboard. This meant drilling through wood and into the steel. Simple. Not with demarcation. Can’t touch wood said the ship builders, can’t touch steel said the carpenters. The had to have one of each to fit the panels.

    They did because they could get away with it. Simple as that and because they thought the gravy train would keep on rolling. Well, I hope the fuckers are proud because that sort of idiocy put their members on the dole and killed an industry. South Koreans boasting this weird skill to be able drill through more than one substance at go! They must be supermen!

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Brian, just for your information, Radex is almost certainly a troll, judging by his/her recent cretinous postings that are so evidently nuts as to be not worth the trouble. Ignore.

    Interesting point about the self-checkouts at Tescos. I prefer Sainsbury’s ones as they seem to be more reliable and easy to use.

  • veryretired

    My impression was that you were referring to the pent up hostility of the general public towards the officiousness and poor practice of public employees, and that this situation is commonplace, and might be a contributing factor in the evolving situation in Wisconsin.

    My comment about anecdotes was because the thread seemed to become a series of stories about similar experiences, which, while valid as pertinent examples, is not the underlying issue.

    My point was to make clear the political alignments involved, which are much more important, both locally and nationally, than any feelings of dissatisfaction with teachers or other public employees, although such feeling obviously do exist.

    The reason that obama felt it necessary to involve himself in the dispute is because the union side is a very significant constituency of the democratic party.

    As I said, the republicans have no interest in or incentive to be congenial to this very opposition group. The budgetary abyss they are facing gives the governor and legislators of the tea party persuasion a legitimate reason to attack this hostile group.

    The news reports are pathetically uninformative as to these very well known alignments if one is an outsider, as most British and Euros are.

    I thought your point was valid, but needed explication in terms of the various political players in the mix. I enjoy you contributions to this site, which I visit every day, even if I don’t comment very often.

    This same confrontation will be repeated in several other, bigger, more economically precarious states over the next few years. Wisconsin is the dress rehearsal.

    I expect the rhetoric, and possible violence, will only get more heated as these other states, and finally the federal government, are forced by circumstances and future elections to confront these problems.

  • Chuck6134

    I know that my fellow blue collar workers at the distribution warehouse for a VERY large corporation are less than impressed with the union whining over Gov Walker’s attempts to rein in their bennies and have them rejoin the real world.

    That’s blue collar with more than a few Obama supporters especially among the non whites. You don’t hear any shouts of support but mutters of why are you so special…

    We’ll see if this is a Dem/union overreach…I sure hope so given the stakes.

  • Where, oh where, is Lysander Spooner when we need him?

  • I can assure you they won’t get it. They live and work in an echo chamber.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. We’ve all had ’em.

  • I was posting stuff in the early 1980s too but I don’t remember any problems in those days with trying to post stuff into holes. That problem came later, in the last decade, IIRC, when Royal Mail management introduced the current weight and shape pricing policy, unique among European and American postal services. That policy was opposed by the Trade Unions.
    Brian’s taking against the postal union because one member did not treat him with the dignity to which he clearly felt entitled is a pretty good example of what Pareto called ‘non-logical reasoning’.

    Erm… regardless of who instituted the policy, Brian was the customer, and he was treated as if he was the problem. And that’s the point that insulated, protected organizations’ workers just don’t get.

  • Paul Marks

    I am not wrong Nick.

    Did you miss the point about recordings of the union bosses (and their allies) speaking?

    If someone says they are the enemy – they are the enemy. Sorry but I do not give someone the benefit of the doubt AFTER they have confessed (even if they have not confessed to me personally – and do not know that I am listening).

    Why would they pretend to be Cong if they were not?

    By the way, there were plenty of Marxists in the British trade unions also – they were just not as well educated as this bunch tend to be.

    When I typed “speaking the language of the universities” that is exactly what I meant. Their guilt is obvious when they speak, or write a plan (the technical langauge used is straight from the Frankfurt School).

    As for Wisconsin – first collective bargaining State (according to the Financial Times – 1959).

    Sure greed is at work – but most union members do NOT want to risk being thrown out of work.

    The union bosses KNOW that if the benefits (health and pensions) are not put up in price (i.e. that employees have to pay more for them from their pay – although nothing like what they would have to pay if they worked for a living, i.e. had “private sector” jobs) then vast numbers of their members are going to be fired.

    They know that vast numbers of their own members are going to be made unemployed if this plan does not get passed.

    Yet they are fighting tooth and nail to prevent it being passed.

    I repeat – the union bosses are not stupid, they know the consequences.

    And that (mass unemployment) is exactly what they want. They would like to see it in the “private sector” also.

    They are already ready to “organize the unemployed” for the cause.

    How do I know?

    Because they have said so. They do not even bother to hide their plans very well.

    As for Britain.

    The uselss waste of skin James Prior (“Employment Secretary”) did bugger all about Union power in the early years of the Thatcher government – so wages did not fall (in the face of a terrible slump), therefore unemployment exploded.

    But that was not “Jim” Prior’s intention (he was just, as stated above, a useless waste of skin).

    The people organizing the campaign in Wisconsin – mass unemployment is their INTENTION they have planned for it.

    It is the same in America generally.

    Laird and VeryRetired (and so on) are correct.

    The socialists know that this is their chance – their great chance to create chaos, bring down “the system” and create their heart’s desire (Fabian Window – the stained glass one) on the ashes of “capitalism”.

    They also know that if they fail over the next few years they may not get another chance.

    In short – victory is possible. The defeat of the left.

    But only if the foes of the left keep their nerve – and understand the enemy for what it is.

    To understand that such things as the “mainstream media” and the “education system” are not people one can “make a deal with”, but are ruthless enemies who will stop at nothing, is a bitter truth.

    But it is also a liberating truth – for once one sees the true face of the enemy (behind the careing mask) one sees more than the horror.

    There is also fear in them – they know they can be defeated, if they are unmasked.

  • MattP

    Veryretired, you are correct about the importance of the political alignments involved.

    Frankly, the first public employees to become unionized with collective bargaining rights were New York city sanitation workers. And the mayor agreed to this because he realized that there were so many sanitation workers that by agreeing to their demands he’d be buying the votes of a substantial bloc of constituents.

    Now the public unions are running amok, to the detriment of everyone else. California is a classic case; it’s best described as an asylum run entirely for the benefit of its keepers. Literally. The major force behind California’s “three-strikes” law was the correction officers’ union. It’s guaranteed job security. Plus the more people thrown in prison, the more members they’ll gain, and the more money and clout they’ll have.

    Politicians readily agree to this sort of thing, as the amount of money the unions spend on their campaigns gives them job security. Now they buy off each other. And they don’t care about how much money is involved as none of it’s theirs.

    So you’re right; the republicans have no reason to be accommodating to the public employees as this is an unholy alliance doesn’t involve them but the democrats.

    But Brian has a point about why these public employees aren’t getting the public’s support. These teachers are out there shouting that they’re doing this “for the children.” Everybody with kids in public schools and who cares about their education (and admittedly too many lazy, uninvolved parents don’t really) is sick and tired of the substandard education their kids are getting. These teachers obviously don’t care about the children, but only themselves. And the arrogance and obvious sense of entitlement on display is disgusting.

    I think that’s why the video of those doctors, most of whom are employeed by another publicly funded entitity, the University of Wisconsin, passing out fake sick notes so those public school teachers can keep their jobs and otherwise avoid sanctions resonates with so many people. We are witnessing people publicly entering into no less than a conspiracy to defraud the school system and the taxpayers who pay the bills. Moreover, it is open, brazen lawlessness. They obviously think they will get away with it and thus don’t care who knows about it.

    It is typical of the massive contempt these people feasting at the public trough have for the taxpayers.

    So while, yes, the political ties these public unions have with one party and one party only explains why the republicans aren’t going to play ball. But it doesn’t explain why the public is largely cheering the republicans on and giving the unions the backs of their hands.

  • veryretired

    MattP,

    Thank you for your response. I think it is important to remember that the tea party repubs in the legislature, and the governor, were elected last November based on a very clearly expressed platform which proposed to do just what they are doing.

    I noticed a comment at another site the other day which mentioned that the margin of victory in Wisconsin—6%— was the same as obama’s alleged mandate to pass huge new government programs.

    Walker et al’s response to the dems and unions should be the same as their dear leader’s response when challenged about his agenda, “We won.”

    This confrontation is the opening phase of a nation-wide debate, and conflict, over the status of public employees, their unions, and the enormous unfunded liabilities that have been generated in many states, and the federal government.

    The public response is a permutation of the tea party movement’s broad appeal to middle class people who are not comfortable with the endless demands of collectivists for ever more expensive and expansive state programs and expenditures.

    As I have said before, I think the future will very likely be tumultuous, not only in the US, but around the world, as more and more people are both energized and enabled to question, and challenge, the political, social, and economic truisms of the past few generations.

  • Laird

    Quite so, Veryretired.

    Rise like Lions after slumber
    In unvanquishable number —
    Shake your chains to earth like dew
    Which in sleep had fallen on you —
    Ye are many — they are few.

  • Beautiful – keep it up, Laird.

  • mehere

    This is a bit late, and a bit pointless now, but my example of the inefficient Post Office was that they looked after the phones in the ‘seventies. Getting one took weeks of waiting in case they decided to call, unannounced, to install the thing.

    It was your lucky day if you were in when they called. If you were out, you went to the bottom of the list.

    This then was a public service, expressly for the benefit of the public. But I was a member of the public and I was completely unimportant. The telephone installation people existed for themselves, and having drawn their wages from the public purse were happy to leave it at that. I would imagine the words “customer service” was about as far removed from their thinking as it was possible to get.

  • Laird

    Alisa, I love that poem. It should be better known.

    The old laws of England — they
    Whose reverend heads with age are gray,
    Children of a wiser day;
    And whose solemn voice must be
    Thine own echo — Liberty !

  • Yes, I looked it up and read the whole thing. Amazing. Thanks to you I am beginning to familiarize myself with English poetry – it’s been mostly prose for me all these years…Keep them coming.

  • Laird

    Alisa, I’m far from an expert on poetry; my knowledge is extremely spotty. I’ll keep doing my best, but I would wager that there are far better sources here on SI. (All those people with Classics educations!)

  • You just couldn’t resist that one, could you:-)

  • Paul Marks

    Alisa has pointed out to me that this is the Shelly poem.

    It is a fine poem – but Shelly may not have meant it quite the way you think. Still it is great poem – and it can be interpreted in a good way (no matter what the poet may have meant).

    No matter – as the man says in “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”, when faced with a boring (and useless) truth and wonderful legend – “print the legend”.

    Although (given the subsidies that the Senator gets for the new State) perhaps printing the legend was not so good.

  • Just ran into this. I know Brian’s original point wasn’t really about the post service, but still.