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Anatomy of a Rationalization
No one likes to be wrong. Admitting that your perception of reality was less than accurate requires a certain degree of moral fortitude. As such, it can be easier for a person of reasonable intelligence to rage against facts and evidence and avoid cognitive dissonance at any cost. Enter Matthew Yglesias.
As an executive editor of Vox, it is Matt’s job to make young liberals feel good about themselves by writing articles that reassure them of their moral superiority in all matters. That can be a challenge when the holy institutions of the left, such as unions, are refusing to play by the rules. The City of Los Angeles recently raised the minimum wage within their city limits to $15 an hour. With the holy grail of a living wage accomplished, there should be nothing but joy and celebration in the land of Care-a-lot. Alas, it isn’t so.
Labor leaders, who were among the strongest supporters of the citywide minimum wage increase approved last week by the Los Angeles City Council, are advocating last-minute changes to the law that could create an exemption for companies with unionized workforces.
Reactions to this development, as you would expect, varied by political affiliation. Right-wingers endured several minutes of uncontrollable laughter before composing themselves. Progressives expressed shocked outrage on social media, and searched vainly for answers. Aren’t unions the good guys? Aren’t minimum wage increases a good thing? How could the square peg of the actual behavior of unions be made to fit into the round hold of their presumed virtue?
Fear not my liberal friends, for Matt Yglesias specializes in forcing square facts into round perceptions of reality. Within a few hours, our hero posted an article that deserves a vaunted place in the rationalization hall of fame. It is a work of art, worthy of a detailed deconstruction.
The push for the exemption will very possibly collapse amid public backlash, and it could undermine the larger Fight for $15 movement, which is heavily backed, funded, and organized by labor unions.
But even though it sounds somewhat absurd to American ears, if you look at something like a world map of minimum wages you can see the logic of it.
Like Shakespeare, every word Yglesias uses is chosen with great care. None can be removed without damaging the larger masterpiece. Union demands for a special exemptions may seem unreasonable, but that is only because our feeble American brains cannot fully comprehend the awesomeness of organized labor. If only we were more like Europe, we would see the logic of it.
Specifically if you glance up at Northern Europe, you’ll see that some of the most famously economically progressive countries in the world have no statutory minimum wage. That’s not because they practice neoliberal-style infinitely flexible labor markets. It’s because they have extremely strong cultures of collective bargaining.
The idea is that this kind of collaborative wage setting achieves the flexibility goals of a low minimum wage and the fairness goals of a high one.
Unions don’t need to obey minimum wage laws, because the process of collective bargaining insures that everyone is compensated fairly. You may be worried that the fact unions in Los Angeles are unable to negotiate wages at least as high as what the left has deemed the minimum acceptable amount will cause Yglesias to doubt the effectiveness of collective bargaining to achieve the same goals as regulations. Let me assure you that he is unfazed.
The dissonance in the American case is that while we have long had labor unions, they are very much a niche force in the private sector economy. They’re not nearly strong enough to replace labor market regulation, which is precisely why unions are often political advocates for regulation to complement their bargaining work.
You read that correctly. This is an argument in favor of regulatory capture. Is this a great piece of liberal writing, or the greatest piece of liberal writing?
…there is some opportunism present. But the basic notion is that a work agreement reached through a collective bargaining process should be judged presumptively fair and non-exploitative in a way that isn’t true for individual bargaining alone.
You may think you did a fine job negotiating your compensation with your employer, but that relationship is guilty of exploitation until proven innocent. No one person could weigh their skills, opportunities, and life style in order to judge for themselves what is fair. You are allowed a government overlord, or a union overlord. Choose.
While extolling the virtues of European cultures of collective bargaining, Yglesias forgets to mention how much higher American median wages and standards of living are when compared to Europe. In the opinion of this humble commentator, such fundamentally important points would have only detracted from the beauty of his great work.
In a mere 400 words, Yglesias has turned a moment of cognitive dissonance into gentle reassurance for the progressive mind. I marvel at his ability to dodge intellectual consistency. I can only hope to one day be capable of such mental gymnastics.Published in General
Whew. Yglesias saved several hundred thousand Hillary votes right there. The voters may not understand what he said, but he made it OK to continue to vote for her.
Excellent. I actually barked with laughter, and now my dog is very confused.
Wow, just read the Yglesias article. It’s like the old Communist Party which when the party line abruptly changed would publish something patiently explaining to the bewildered faithful how nothing had really changed and they were being totally consistent.
I’ll bet many of his readers were surprised that so many European social democracies do not have minimum wages. Folks like Yglesias will only inform their readers of facts like this when absolutely forced to in order to preserve the party line. Wonder when Yglesias will inform his readers that almost every European country has abortion laws similar to those of the loathsome state of Texas?
Frank, that was awesome.
Wow. Just wow.
Here’s the real question – do you think Yglesias actually believes his own BS, or is he knowingly (and cynically) propagandizing?
Having read some of his stuff I’m not sure he can tell the difference any longer.
Though it’s only a throw away joke, I want to point out that the liberal utopia looks a whole lot like the Care Bear home world of Care-a-lot. Except there would be a lot more promiscuous sex…
I’m pretty sure he buys it.
I don’t think Yglesias has suddenly discovered he was wrong or is being intellectually inconsistent. Rather, I think this was all part of the master plan from day 1, and he is simply using Jonathan Gruber-style tactics to roll it out.
Look at the actual politics here: the private sector unions were the main force behind the $15 minimum wage campaign, yet they are also the drivers behind this last-minute appeal. I find it highly unlikely that the unions are so stupid as to have lobbied heavily in favor of something without recognizing they would later want an exemption.
Instead, look at what the combination of the minimum wage + exemption does – it puts a gun to the heads of big employers: either let us organize your workplace, or prepare to pay a boatload more in wages. Of course this bait-and-switch was planned by the unions from the beginning, because it gives them a plausible path toward regaining footholds in many big companies.
And as a good liberal, Yglesias recognizes that strong unions are much more effective than single laws at “empowering” the worker class. Yet he also knows that his readers are not bright enough to understand such complexity. So he goes along with the bait-and-switch.
Shorter Yglesias – four legs good, two legs bad.
Matt should Google and read some of the stories about the Pinkerton tactics Tier I UAW workers are using to break the negotiating strength of the Tier II workers hired in recent years.
Does it make me a RINO to think that I could carry off that jacket?
It’s not about empowerment, or the workers. It’s about collecting Union Dues to be able to donate to Democrat candidates for office.
These are not mutually exclusive propositions.
So, if I’m happy with what I make and my company is happy with what they pay me, somehow that is not “fair”? Fair to whom?
It’s not fair to those who are of less value to the company but still want to make as much as you do.
Flexibility goals + fairness goals. Is that code-speak for exploitation of the working class while being fair to it?
Isn’t the Rationalization Hall of Fame located in that beautiful little Potemkin Village.
No, it makes you delusional to think that anyone could.
Yglesias can only speak in a self-created vacuum. He was on a regular Hugh Hewitt segment for a while, but when Hugh would point out his ever-present logical inconsistencies, Matt would go into meltdown. Of course, Hewitt would interview him with all the gentleness of an asbestos plaintiff’s lawyer cross examining Johns-Manville.
Neither. It’s a great piece of
progressiveleftist writing. Nothing remotely liberal about it.
It’s not about logic — it’s all about the feels. Didn’t you know?
If he’s like the liberals I know, he totally buys it. His very psyche depends on that miss-mash of a thought-process to be right. He cannot question it, or he might cease to exist.
This applies on the other end of the income scale as well. The government knows best and shall decide what a good CEO is worth. The board and the stockholders be [CoC]ed.
In theory, no. In practice, yes, they are.
Oh, Bravo! Such artistry, such technique! The Julio Iglesias of progressivist punditry.
That captures it most succinctly.
They are more equal than us.
To be a person of the left is to be a liar, and every intelligent leftist knows it. Of course it is part of a plan. Vox, nee Journolist, is a very interesting little organization if one pays attention.
And that brings us full circle.
I look forward to Yglesias explaining the “flexibility goals” of ObamaCare, such as letting employers decide whether they want to offer group insurance plans that cover the cost of contraceptives.
I was going to say, “Thanks, Frank. You read him so I don’t have to,” but you quoted him so much I had to.
You’d deny yourself the glory of reading this master piece?
Great post Frank. When is Yglesias or anyone at Vox going to point out the astronomical unemployment rates and crushing national debt in many European countries?
Nah…I’d go with my pink Tyrwhitt shirt, black slacks and my Ferragamo slip-ons.
I’d look like a boss.