September 27, 2006

Hands Off My Dues...

Okay. Sometime soon, the Supreme Court will decide on whether public employee unions can always spend worker dues on political causes without permission. Some people say it's unfair for unions to spend money on causes its members don't believe in, and the state should be able to stop the practice. These people often just happen to be right-wingers hoping to dry up a major source of funding for the Democratic Party. Shocking, I know. Then again, it might be a good thing for labor if unions were forced to be more responsive to their members. What do I know?

But if more democracy is good for unions, surely it ought to be good for everyone else too. Why not require that all corporations get permission from their employees before spending money on, say, lobbyists? After all, every dollar spent cozying up to Senator Tax Loophole is a dollar not spent on wages. It's a "due," in other words. There's no difference. And surely the shareholders should also have a say in any and all corporate political giving, no? Permission slips all around.

Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if labor unions would perform better with more accountability in certain respects. (In a more benign world, it might even be worth experimenting with entirely voluntary union dues, as in some European unions—except that this isn't a more benign world.) Either way, though, research suggests that more "democratic" corporations perform better. No doubt the wisdom of the crowds can help corporations meddle more "intelligently" in the political world too. I mean, so long as we have to have meddling. I'm maybe 40 percent serious.
-- Brad Plumer 12:18 AM || ||