Will Wilkinson discusses the differences between private sector unions (good) and public sector unions (bad) in the wake of the Wisconsin recall elections:
I’ve argued elsewhere that public- and private-sector unions are quite different beasts and that public-sector unions cannot be justified on liberal-democratic grounds while private-sector unions are not only unobjectionable, but desirable. I’ve argued that it’s not only possible but reasonable to support private-sector unions as a safeguard against economic exploitation and oppose public-sector unions as an instrument of political exploitation, but I don’t think I’ve said enough about why private-sector unions are a good idea.
Competition essentially keeps private sector unions relevant and reduces the worst excesses of unions:
Competitive globalized markets for labor and capital make the worst excesses of unions infeasible. That outsourcing and capital flight would prevent a reinvigorated American private-sector labor movement from becoming as a powerful force for a more social-democratic politics is a fact progressives have a hard time accepting, but for me that fact is more feature than bug.
…It’s pretty clear that global market forces function worldwide to keep unions’ worst anti-competitive instincts in check.