Letter to the Editor in the Economist

Letter to the Editor in the Economist

Unionised Government Workers
December 30, 2009
Originally published in The Economist

SIR – Public-sector unions have entrenched
their privileges through a combination of political dynamics that have
proven extremely difficult to overcome. For example, the ability of
taxpayers to move away from jurisdictions where they consider the pay
of public employees to be excessive is severely circumscribed by the
costs of moving itself.

The benefits enjoyed by unionised
government workers give those workers a very strong incentive to work
to influence the political process. By contrast, the taxpayers who must
bear the costs of those benefits do not have a comparable incentive for
political involvement, because those costs are widely diffuse and
therefore are not as visible. Such an arrangement can only last so long
before it runs headlong into economic reality, as the 2008 bankruptcy
of Vallejo, in California, made clear.

Don Bellante
University of South Florida
Tampa

David Denholm
Public Service Research Foundation
Vienna, Virginia

Ivan Osorio
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Washington, DC