Ed Driscoll

Euro-Industrial Disease

“The British Disease, Coming Soon to a Bureaucracy Near You,” Roger Kimball warns:

You’ve seen New Jersey Governor Chris Christie confront the teachers’ union. You’ve seen him confront the police union. Unless you happen to belong to one of those unions — and possibly even if you do belong to one of them — you have probably cheered Christie’s honest, no-nonsense approach to the fiscal emergency brought on by out-of-control public sector unions.

You cheered him, figured he was winning, and turned the channel.

No so fast. We’ll see what happens with unionized state and municipal workers in New Jersey. Christie just might make a difference, and bully for him if he does.

But what about the larger problem of federal unionized employees? How are we doing there? As you may have noticed, Barack Obama is no Chris Christie when it comes to dealing with unions (or anything else, for that matter). Instead of confronting them, he coddles them — and why not? They are his most reliable constituency, indispensable to the livelihood of the contemporary Democratic Party. He takes care of them, and they “encourage” their members to vote for him and other Democratic candidates. It’s a time-tested formula.

Consider, to take but one example,  Executive Order 13522, which Barack Obama signed in December 2009. The stated purpose of “Creating Labor-Management Forums to Improve Delivery of Government Services” is “to establish a cooperative and productive form of labor-management relations throughout the executive branch.”

But, as an editorial in the Washington Examiner points out,  this anodyne bureaucratese conceals a worrisome power-grab by — or, more accurately, a power-gift to — the unions. It provides for what the Examiner’s editorialist calls an injection of “a massive dose of the British disease into the daily operation of the federal government.”

Remember Britain in the late 1970s? There were labor strikes, shutdowns, slowdowns everywhere. “Company owners and managers,” the Examiner reminds us, “had to secure prior approval from union bosses before carrying out even the most routine workplace tasks. As a result, productivity plummeted, and exports of once-popular British products like cars and motorcycles dropped sharply or disappeared entirely. Economic growth stagnated, investors fled overseas, and the country’s standard of living declined.”

The British Disease sounds a lot like the Greek Disease:

Sitting in his office, Mr. Politopoulos took a long pull from a glass of his premium Vergina wheat beer and said it was absurd that he had to lobby Greek politicians to repeal a 19th-century law so that he could deliver the exports that Greece urgently needed. And, he said, his predicament was even worse than that: it was emblematic of the web of restrictions, monopolies and other distortions that have made many Greek companies uncompetitive, and pushed the country close to bankruptcy.

See also: California.