The main problem with Scott Walker’s assault on public-sector unions in Wisconsin is not that it’s unwarranted, but that it’s disingenuous. He says he needs to roll back collective-bargaining rights to close the projected budget deficit, but this is untrue. It’s wrong on his own analysis, for heaven’s sake. As widely reported, the unions have agreed (under pressure) to the cuts in pay and benefits he was seeking. The case for reducing the unions’ power has little or nothing to do with mending Wisconsin’s short-term budget.
But it might have something to do with democratic accountability. What Walker is attempting is indeed a power grab, as Paul Krugman says. The question is whether it might be time for elected officials to grab back a little of the power they have surrendered over the years to public-sector unions.
Anne Applebaum argues in a very nice article for Slate that this is not 1989 for the Arabs but 1848. I stand corrected.
Though inspired very generally by the ideas of liberal nationalism and democracy, the mostly middle-class demonstrators of 1848 had, like their Arab contemporaries, very different goals in different countries. In Hungary, they demanded independence from Habsburg Austria. In what is now Germany, they aimed to unify the German-speaking peoples into a single state. In France, they wanted to overthrow the monarchy (again). In some countries, revolution led to pitched battles between different ethnic groups. Others were brought to a halt by outside intervention.
In fact, most of the 1848 rebellions failed… Historian A.J.P. Taylor once called 1848 a moment when “history reached a turning point and failed to turn.”
And yet—in the longer run, the ideas discussed in 1848 did seep into the culture… In 1849, many of the revolutions of 1848 might have seemed disastrous, but looking back from 1899 or 1919, they seemed like the beginning of a successful change.