Elections have consequences, we say. But exactly what consequences? To listen to the right’s increasingly radical agenda, from repealing birthright citizenship to dictating spending cuts based exclusively on hot-button social issues, you’d think no Democrat had ever won elected office, or none ever would again. Can a “historic” midterm election wipe away a decidedly more historic presidential election, even as it becomes increasingly clear that Republicans have failed to win the public’s trust, and that Democrats will retain the White House in 2012?
The Wall Street Journal thinks so, as they take aim unions, not specifically, but generally, characterizing them as a restraint on trade tantamount to a monopoly. This conclusion, while not without some superficial appeal, Congress expressly rejected in the Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914, a gloss on the earlier Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, not as a concession to the power of the unions — which, remember, had almost no power, after 1890! — but as a recognition of the real goal of the Sherman Act. Antitrust law clearly concerns itself not with the general problem of aggregate action, but aggregate action as it impacts customers and capitalist theory by undermining the proper functioning of the free market. Union activity does not come within that prohibition or that theory, rightly understood.
But let’s step back and appreciate the, for lack of a better word, balls on Murdoch’s Journal (mixed, as always, with hilarious hackery). They’re not hitting back at Wisconsin unions, or the Wisconsin problem, or public employee unions, or even unions generally (I revise my above commentary). They’re striking at the core of collective bargaining theory. Absent the Clayton Act’s exemption, collective bargaining — boycotts, picketing, strikes — becomes illegal. Modern conservatism would consign us again to the abyss of pre-1900 “free markets,” robber barons, Hessian strikebreakers, filled milk, all in the name of some warped conception of liberty. And this continues unless we stop it in 2012.
Grim omens aside, enjoy this Simpsons clip of Burns-brand strikebreakers (hulu).