Unemployment can be a dreadful condition. The inability to find a needed job is a heart-rending experience for anyone. For those with young children to feed and clothe, it is a terrifying predicament. It gnaws at and destroys the spirit and self-confidence of even the strongest souls. With nerves on edge, family harmony too often flies out the window.
It would seem we are fast losing the freedom for which our Founding Fathers pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor. As Dr. Carson writes: “The thrust of the American Revolution was in the direction of removing special privileges and legal supports from groups and organizations.” For decades now the courts have supported Congressional grants of “special privileges and legal supports” on a wholesale basis. As Carson writes, this has been “a fundamental departure from the principles of good government,” not to mention the principles of sound economics.
Our government has permitted, encouraged and even underwritten the power of labor unions to coerce all other elements of our society to bend to their will. This small book tells much of the story of how this came about. In doing so, it exposes many of the errors in the popular fallacies, the acceptance of which has permitted labor unions to attain their present position of power. This story is one with which every American should be familiar.
The book is not without its faults and contradictions. Some are only the result of an unfortunate choice of words. For example, lawlessness is referred to as the “state of nature.” Or, “An ancient union complaint could certainly be disposed of if governments neither recognized, gave status to, taxed, or otherwise noticed private organizations, except as they might disturb the peace.” That would mean no legal recognition or taxation of corporations or any other private organizations. In effect, it would repeal the First Amendment. For no press or religious organizations would have any status or right to be recognized in court. Or when Carson writes, “Congress is empowered to make laws regulating commerce.” The Constitution carefully limited that power to “interstate commerce,” and that is what it meant until the Supreme Court, in 1937, ignored the key word “interstate” in a 5 to 4 decision which upheld the National Labor Relations Act, popularly known as the Wagner Act.
There are some unfortunate contradictions in the book, as when we read, “Let me confess at the outset that I do not know what labor unions are.” Then the author proceeds in chapter after chapter to tell what they are and what they do. At another point we read, “Violence is not essential to unionism.” That is true, of course, if they operate within the rules and ethics of a free society. However, the thesis of this book is that labor unions are organized against society in general and against other workers in particular. As the author describes so well, they have for years pursued their policies by resorting to violence and coercion. For decades now the government has given its support to their anti- social actions—actions that impede not only full employment and prosperity but also the legitimate activities of many governmental entities.
Criticism might be made of such statements about labor unions as, “They are not economic organizations,” and “Nor is the labor union primarily a political organization.” If economics is the science of human actions to attain selected goals, then attaining union goals by boycotts, strikes and stopping others from working are certainly economic actions. This book presents many incidents illustrating how labor unions have used both economic and political means to attain their present position of power.
Perhaps this reviewer’s greatest disagreement is with the author’s assertion that “Labor unions are religious, or religion-like organizations and, as I say, once this is grasped they come into focus. Their immediate goals are ethical in character; their ultimate goals are religious. Their economic claims are ethical in character.” The latter might be so if they sought their legitimate ends by ethical means. However, there is nothing ethical or religious about the use of coercion, be it legal or illegal.
As for labor unions being religious, many economically ignorant labor union members and Congressmen undoubtedly swallow the propaganda and follow the wishes of the union bosses with a “religious” faith and fervor. We may live “in the age of the divine right of majorities,” as the author rightly states, but the fact that labor unions are “supported by compulsory tithes and taxes” does not make them religious or “established churches.”
Religion pertains to the supernatural—metaphysics. Except for the fact that reason tells us there must have been a Creator, religions deal with matters which cannot be logically proved or disproved.
Religions are concerned with the irrational aspects of human life. Consequently, honest people, who are both sane and intelligent, can and do differ on religious matters. The aims and actions of labor unions are certainly neither heavenly nor irrational. They are earthy and concrete. Labor unions seek more for their members. There is nothing wrong with that objective if they pursued it by ethical means—by voluntary agreements for the mutual benefit of all parties. However, as Dr. Carson has so vividly pointed out, our present problems have arisen from the use of violence, coercion and special privileges which are neither ethical nor particularly metaphysical.
The mass media, which are largely manned and edited by labor union members, constantly present a one-sided favorable picture of union policies, privileges and activities. The public needs to know more about the antisocial effects of the prerogatives exercised by labor unions. This book strips away much of the veneer that covers the unfortunate deification of labor union activities, activities which, if committed by individuals or other organizations, would be properly labeled as crimes. We need more books which, like this one, expose the root cause of mass unemployment, a major blight not only on economic peace and prosperity but also on the pursuit of human happiness.