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12:05 AM Mon, Nov. 19th

Letter: The Snake Bites It's Own Tail

How can anyone in the U.S. be against the uprisings in the Middle East and possibly elsewhere? They are all people's revolutions against dictatorial regimes. They all want some degree of self-rule and an end to violence and they all (some more than others) provide a large portion of the oil we need on a daily basis. So we have to support their revolutions for democracy without damaging our main sources of oil. Talk about a rock and a hard place.

All of a sudden and for the immediate future it seems as if having a Kenyan black Muslim for President could be very useful. Now having satisfied that small but vocal portion of our numbers we can get down to the reality that having a President with one foot in the Muslim and African world is a definite asset, maybe even a blessing.

Barack Hussein Obama's voice will be very large in one-on-one dealings with the future leaders of the new nations of Islam that will arise out of these revolutions. The timing couldn't be more fortunate given that any short-circuit of their oil to our shores could bring us to our knees at a time when we're just beginning to get up off them.

On the other hand, what better time for political revolutions then when there is an economic revolution going on? In the long run, the more people who believe in and live under the rule of law as established by a government chosen by the people, the wealthier we all will become. Vice versa too.

Isn't a free-market capitalist democracy what we all really want? If we all become wealthier doesn't that mean we can get more of what we want? Capitalism naturally leads to democracy and vice versa here too. In time it will become a truism. For the rich to enrich themselves, the engines of the economy must be fed and that's the people. People buying and selling, making and using, working and consuming, are the economic engine of an economy generating wealth. A rising boat floats all tides.

In an ideal free-market capitalist democracy, everyone is working in full swing making a good living, enjoying the good life. A free-market capitalist democracy can either afford fully-funded retirement and health care to all those below a certain level or may find ways that even the least of us can earn a decent living in some manner. Leave no one behind is a good rule in war and in peace, especially economic peace.

Taking this down a side aisle, there is a large debate going on regarding public workers labor organizations - unions by any other name. By way of disclaimer, I started out my working life as a Teamster out of Local 631. Being a union member was an enjoyable profession in that I could work or not work whenever I chose, and I chose not to more often than not sometimes. But when I chose to work, which usually coincided with the need to make some money, I could just sign the daily work list and be working at a top paying job in a matter of days.

But I never quite fit the union attitude. I was always uncomfortable with dragging a job out, or standing around waiting to be told what to do. I wanted to get it done and get the hell out of there. I was good at that. I've almost always been able to figure out how to do any job more efficiently, and efficiency combined with speed is not the union way. What was I trying to do? I was asked by some "brothers" if I was "trying to put other brother's out of work?"

My reply would have been that his employment was his own business, not mine, had it not been for the fact that it would have likely gotten my ass kicked. That's an entrepreneur's attitude, not a member of a union brotherhood. I believe the railroad had a nice term for it: featherbedding. I learned early on that I'd have the best employer and best employee if I worked for myself, and that's always worked for me.

I believe in the old shibboleth that at one time unions were needed to break the back of the industrial titans who had become abusers of the people. And it's true. Once the industrial age really got going, the business titans were ruthless with their employees and treated them like slaves most of the time. The unions emancipated them and helped employees be treated and paid better. Okay, that's a legitimate goal when an asset is being abused.

But we're beyond that now. Unions also smother ingenuity, innovation, creativity, competition. They create bureaucracies that tend to be slow moving, CYA, pass the buck organizations that naturally devolve into a self-perpetuating union mentality where mediocre is not only acceptable but the goal while earning some of the highest wages and best guarantees in the market place.

Unfortunately, that attitude to one degree or another infects a major portion of our work force. Some 20% of our work force works for government in one form or another. (Sigh of relief. I remember seeing a headline in the L.A. Examiner from back in the seventies that said 46% of the work force worked for the government.)

That's a lot of votes and also a problem to the economy in that it represents a lot of tax money in salaries and benefits, including hefty health and retirement goodies. Government at all levels - federal, state, local, military - is filled with employees who want nothing more than to put in their thirty as easily as possible, retire and go fishing. The attitude is don't rock the boat. Follow the rules because that eliminates personal initiative and responsibility.

That's the definition of a bureaucracy and it applies to government as well as industry. General Motors is an excellent example of a unionized industrial bureaucracy that had a monstrous appetite well beyond the real value of the products and services they offered.

You can no more unionize a real democracy than you can unionize the stars. Unions and democracy are virtually antithetical. Unions are a socialist tool even. Power to the people is a good cry as long as the individual people maintain a right to exercise that power as they see fit rather than having to follow someone else's point of view or lose your right to work.

Remember the arrows slung at the unionizers in the twenties and thirties? Communist! Marxist!! They were slurs to fight over back then and fight they did, the unionizers and the industrialist's thugs and police. Thankfully, their tactics have changed even if their intent still remains the same.

Ach! Let me accrue work and income based on the merits of my performance. Let me compete in the marketplace unfettered. Sure, I'm willing to pay a percentage to provide a safety net for those who can't compete at my level. That may be condescending but it is also philanthropic and charitable to those less endowed.

People like Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Ted Turner and thousands others who give freely and even excessively of their wealth in order to further educate and enrich society around the world have the right idea. Every mind that is encouraged, educated and enabled will grow up to produce wealth for themselves and society. Each individual will add their production and consumption to the sum total generally referred to as the GDP.

Some argue, why take from the rich because they earned it? My reply is that society is the field upon which the rich plied their skills that made them wealthy. There's a player's fee, if you will, to purchase the right to join in the sport and become wealthy. It's just a percentage of your wealth that's being asked for a player's fee which goes back into maintaining the environment wherein it is possible to become rich beyond your wildest dreams.

Ed Tomchin

Golden Valley