THINK TANK ROUND-UP: POTENTIALLY DESTABILIZATING EDITION.

TTR knows that unions don't cause companies to fail, that conservatives love deregulation, dictators hate recessions and that Columbia Colombia has a spotty human rights record. Now, you can know those things, too:

  • Union myth-busters. An instructive report published by the Economic Policy Institute counters the conservatives who blame organized labor for over-burdening American business. The theory of union-induced failure is primarily grounded in the presumption that organized labor artificially raises costs above market-determined rates, thus hindering a firm's ability to compete with non-union shops at home and abroad. EPI shows that unionization does not correlate to a firm's chances of failing. As the percentage of employees who vote for a union grows larger than 50 percent (the magic number needed for representation), the likelihood of the firm's failure begins to decrease ever so slightly. This raises an important point about the under appreciated benefits of collective bargaining, discussed by our very own Mark Schmitt last week. A union's power lies not only in its ability to squeeze out benefits for its members, but also in its capacity for organizing collective concessions if a company's health is at risk (as we saw recently with the UAW). After all, if the firm fails, the union and its members suffer as well. -- JL
  • The best of the worst. The free-marketeers at the Heartland Institute, known for its global warming skepticism, published a report card on state insurance laws that bestows the highest marks to states with the least regulated insurance industries. It gives each state a score in each of nine categories and picks five states for more in-depth case studies, two with "A" grades, two "D's" and one "F." The study's primary target is states whose laws affect insurance rates; the authors claim that government interference with the price mechanism leads to "wealth redistribution"; they would rather limit the state's role to rooting out fraud. Perhaps not coincidentally, all but one of the chief insurance regulators in the five states with "A" grades are Republican appointees (the exception being Illinois' Insurance Commissioner, appointed by none other than impeached ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich). -- MK
  • "The Logic of Authoritarian Bargains." Brutal repression will only get a tyrant so far. A heavy hand can embitter the populace and lead to insurrection. What is a prudent dictator to do? According to a recent study by the Brookings Institute, in addition to terror tactics, tyrannical regimes rely on an ‘‘authoritarian bargain’’, an implicit redistribution deal "whereby citizens relinquish political influence in exchange for public spending." Another successful tactic is partial political liberalization, allowing opposition groups to be partially incorporated into the political apparatus in an attempt to de-fang them. Of particular interest is the study's report that "recessions or financial crises" put dictatorships in an uncomfortable, and potentially destabilizing, position. If a regime performs poorly in the economic arena the authoritarian bargain they have implicitly struck with the populace will deteriorate, leaving them vulnerable to supporter defection, increased political opposition, and rising individual support for "revolutionary action." -- JB
  • Think for yourself. In case you were gunning for congress to ratify the Colombia Free Trade Agreement, take a look at this Human Rights First report on Colombia's prosecution of human rights defenders. The report examines 32 recent investigations of nonviolent human rights promoters, urging Colombia, the U.S., and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to turn this injustice around. Prosecutions against human rights defenders "follow a clear pattern," HRF says. "The prosecution usually relies on innuendo and the assertion that the defender is covertly involved with the FARC [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia]." This stigma can sentence a human rights defender to death. FTA aside, if you can't stomach 63 pages outlining human rights affronts, a two-minute video summary, put to flute music, accompanies the report.-- CP

-- TAP Staff

Previous Round-Ups:
3/17/09
3/10/09

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