Phi Beta Cons

Re: Rabid Culture Warriors

I was quite surprised to find myself among Perlstein’s targets in that New Republic piece. Specifically, he went after my book, Free Choice for Workers, which he evidently regards as a “conservative” book because he saw blurbs by the likes of William F. Buckley Jr. and former senator Jesse Helms.
After slapping on the “conservative” label, Perlstein delivers what he regards as a killing blow: “Somehow, the conservatives have even pulled off making Wal-Mart sound like the little guy.”
There are several problems here.
First, I never mention Wal-Mart or any other big business favorably. One of the points I make is that Big Business has often been acquiescent or even complicit in Big Labor’s efforts to coerce workers.
Second, if Perlstein had bothered to read the book, he’d have found out that the nucleus of the right to work movement in the early 50s was a group of disgruntled railroad workers who were union members, but did not like it when union membership was made a requirement for keeping their jobs.
Moreover, most of the stories I tell are of “little guys” such as construction workers and waitresses who didn’t do exactly as union bosses told them to and suffered for it.
It’s interesting that Perlstein evidently dismisses opposition to the laws that sanction compulsory unionism as a worthless “conservative” issue. Why is it that left-interventionists turn a blind eye to union coercion? I think it’s because unions are good at uttering stock egalitarian phrases that warm leftist hearts and, more importantly, that they send lots of money and manpower to help elect leftist politicians. That earns Big Labor a free pass on its modus operandi of forcing itself on many people who would rather say “no thanks.”
Perlstein’s tiny little point seems to be that conservatives like to play the martyr. So do liberals. No group does it better than the unions, which treat any proposal to reduce their extraordinary legal privileges as a chance to scream that the sky is falling.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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