Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Mark Twain and Unions

The riverboat pilot's union that Mark Twain describes in "Life on the Mississippi" added value to society. For a long time the union tried to push on a rope--they just demanded higher wages and bargained themselves out of jobs.

Eventually the union pilots began to record their observations on the latest developments with the ever-changing rivers--where a sandbar had formed, where a new wreck lay, where a new channel was cut. They dropped these written observations in locked boxes where the steamboats moored. Union pilots, therefore, were the best informed on the river.

When an insurance company was contracted to underwrite a steamboat cargo, it insisted on a well informed union pilot. That's when the pilot's union found success by providing valuable information in the market.

People are free under the Constitution to assemble and form whatever associations they want. People are free to resist forming associations, as well. Unions should be free to organize. Business should be free to just say no, if they want. Unions will be successful if they can add value.

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