Brave New World

BRAVE NEW WORLD….Mickey Kaus offers up the following political analysis of the card check legislation that recently passed the House:

Voters–even many socially liberal peacenik voters–traditionally worry that if Dems gain full power they will a) serve their special interests and b) cripple American capitalism in a fit of leftish nostalgia. This bill legitimately triggers both fears.

Jeez. Making it modestly easier for unions to organize will cripple American capitalism? Who knew that paying janitors ten bucks an hour would doom our way of life?

In any case, the underlying question, I think, is whether you believe that workers have too little bargaining power these days, thus leading to stagnant median wages. Mark Thoma thinks so, and asks:

Is a return to unions the best solution to the market power imbalance? Should we return to the past, or should we try to use the changing political landscape as an opportunity to build better institutions for both workers and firms, institutions that offer workers the same degree of bargaining power that unions provide, and the the same degree of income, health, and retirement security, but do so more efficiently? We already know how unions work, pretty much, but can we do better?

Well, that’s the question, isn’t it? If you don’t care about boosting stagnant wages, then the whole question is moot. Of course you’ll be opposed to unions. But if you do care about boosting stagnant wages, then either you support unions as the best answer we currently have, imperfect though they may be, or else you need to propose an alternative.

Unfortunately, that’s where everything stops dead. The alternatives on offer are usually either pie in the sky (tighter labor markets! night classes!) or transparent conservative shilling (voucher schools! lower capital gains taxes!). In the past three decades, the only thing that’s succeeded in raising median male wages even a little bit was the late-90s dotcom boom, and I don’t think that’s something we can count on replicating. I’m mightily interested in feasible real-world proposals for “better institutions…that offer workers the same degree of bargaining power that unions provide,” but what are they?