HB V

is older than it's ever been and now it's even older

6/04/2001

Now I’m getting somewhere


This site is now more or less done and ready in the CSS world. I anticipate a few bugs to pop up here and there, so if any of you are having troubles, please email me posthaste. Especially if you have a weird browser. It’s been fairly well geeked out in IE 5.5 and 6. In addition to those thanked last time, I also want to give a big, hearty thanks to Anil, who looked at the code with a fine-toothed comb and came up with the fixes I needed. Anil rules. Now go see his web site.


Dominating news from our area of the world recently has been the story of a Nursing strike that has hit two of what originally was to have been around a dozen hospitals. I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the worth/morality of such strikes – if it had been all the hospitals originally targeted, the whole of Twin Cities health care would likely have been in serious jeopardy, even taking into account the arrival of replacement nurses to fill the gap. In such a case, what duty do the nurses have to maintain the health of their patients?

On one hand, you have the argument that “There is no right to strike against the public safety, anytime.” These famous words were spoken by then-governor of Massachusetts Calvin Coolidge, who was later president and still the leading recipient of the term “taciturn” in the American pantheon of presidents (along with “laconic” and “frugal.” Check the fun fact in this link for an amusing anecdote to share with your friends). Coolidge was condemning the strike by Boston police, which caused a good amount of chaos in the city. Coolidge unleashed the National Guard on the picket lines, and generally crushed the strike. Six decades later, long after Coolidge had begun to symbolize the worst of the neglect and greed of the Roaring Twenties, Ronald Reagan used the same words to condemn and begin strikebreaking procedures against the Air Traffic Controller strike of 1981 (the story linked is terribly partisan towards our Great Communicator, and gives this incident indirect credit for winning the Cold War). If Air Traffic Controlling is key to the public safety, then so must the nurses be, and if the argument follows that there is no right to strike against the public safety, then nurses shouldn’t strike, either.

On the other hand, the strike or threat of a strike is many times the only leverage that workers have. To explain, I’ll have to get back into my personal philosophy. As you can deduce from reading previous entries, I believe generally that we should have the freedom to do what we want. This means that an ideal country would include a relatively unfettered market to operate in for the sale of goods, services, and labor. Where I deviate both from libertarians and from liberals is the nature of government intervention. I believe that government shouldn’t intervene in the market unless there is a case of market failure. As cited before, an example is that of the negative externality impacting the environment, or in English, the hidden costs of pollution. This is a market failure, because the market fails to account for the cost to the environment of the cost of cleanup and general damage to the environment. How do you value a mountain that doesn’t exist anymore because a mining company removed it and dumped the rubble in a valley? Thus, the government should intervene on behalf of the environment.

Labor conflict is not a market failure. Labor conflict is the inevitable result of a heirarchical relationship between the money that runs business and the people that run business. Marx may not have had a very good prescriptive basis for running a government, but he had one thing right – capitalism works because of the owners of the means of production are getting more out of the labor of their workers than what they pay them. I make no normative claims in this statement – it’s just true. The strike works as a concept because the labor is needed.

The government shouldn’t be involved in labor disputes, except to ameliorate dangers to public health that arise. My conclusion is that responsibility towards those that need health care must necessarily be on the operators of the hospitals, not the nurses. If nurses believe they can maximize their rights or compensation by a strike, so be it. They should have the right to do so. As for striking against the public safety, it is the necessity of such workers that makes the threat of a strike so chilling. On the other hand, such necessary workers should be valued highly anyway. I doubt the sorts of people that go into nursing would make a decision to strike lightly.

Ephemera

Back when I was a frosh in college, rooming with Dave Noyes (Dave: write me), we used to play a lot of Mad Libs. It was pretty fun, actually, because we would get together in our rooms, perhaps imbibing, and then we’d do a book or two. Maggie would usually get pressed into service reading them, because she had the best voice for reading them and also got the most shocked by obscene words that inevitably surfaced when a big group of leather-clad punks (and us) would show up to party. Now, thanks to the beauty of the internet (and PCJM) I present: Elibs, the online Mad Libs. Enjoy.


The update to the Everquest Baseball scandal I blogged a couple of weeks ago can be found here. Scroll down to the bottom, or do a “find in page” for “Cyber.”

Did you know that obituary writers have their own conventions? I didn’t. I do know that when I read obituaries, I involuntarily imagine major details of the lives of the people profiled and it makes me sad for their families. I also imagine the lives of roadkill when I see carcasses by the side of the road. Sometimes I think I have too much empathy.

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