A Crisis in the GOP Leadership

February 24, 2011

For immediate release (511 words)

“The road to hell is paved with Republicans.” — anonymous

Are Indiana Republicans missing a historical turn? Do they fully understand what happened Nov. 2 ?

According to the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, a leading Senate Republican believes his party could have repealed Indiana’s collective-bargaining law this session but “wanted to let teachers know they are valued and give them a sense of security.”

Do school patrons stuck with mediocre schools feel valued? How’s their sense of security? What about those Hoosier teachers who want to be free of union rules? Or the best teachers, whose salaries are capped by lowest-common-denominator contracts?

The one thing the governor made perfectly clear this week is that he is not eager to change any of this. He has dreams of the White House; he is practicing the politics of convenience in limiting collective bargaining “solely” to compensation. He calls it reform.

And he not only didn’t lift a finger for right-to-work legislation he muddied it to the point that the Senate Pro Tem had to promise to form a committee to study it.

Think about that: Republicans having to study the merits of a free market.

Is this what the Indiana GOP considers getting tough with a special interest that has a stranglehold on the state economy through mandatory membership and dues? Or on the public-sector side, one that for 30 years has perverted our educational mission from the teaching of young students to the hiring of adult cronies?

This is not moderation or bipartisanship, writes the political scientist James Ceaser in a widely discussed article in the Claremont Review of Books. Rather, it is an attempt by a political class to paper over its self-indulgence.

“If Republicans are to remain true to the verdict of 2010, the message of this election cannot be containment; it must be rollback,” insists Ceaser.

So, is Indiana rolling anything back?

There has been a decade of indifference by the Republican leadership to the need for a right-to-work law here. As Rep. Jerry Torr ably explained in his presentation to the House, Indiana is the only state surrounded by mandatory unionism. A right-to-work law would attract an inordinate number of jobs, investment and industries from our less economically savvy neighbors.

Ultimately, though, it is an issue of the right to private property (one’s labor). It is an issue about which we expect the GOP suits at the Statehouse to be conversant, not still studying.

For the right of private property is a triumph of Western Civilization, not just for those with property but especially for those who would work to earn property. Our founders designed a marvelous system that guarantees social and economic  justice by establishing individual responsibility.

Unlike the feel-good social “rights” of the 1960s and 1970s or the labor laws of the 1930s, property rights are the real deal — a wall against kings, despots and, yes, wooden-headed Republican leaders. Here is Tom Bethell writing about a time without such rights:

“The weak were at the mercy of the strong, and there were many disputes that had to be arbitrated by the sovereign. If not at the mercy of their neighbors, most people were at the mercy of the magistrate. At best, justice was an occasional and haphazard thing, but the complexity and onerousness of administering justice in a society where free-riding is not discouraged by private property defeats the good intentions of the most benign authority.”

Hoosiers will need to get used to that last. The past week demonstrated it is business as usual at the Statehouse.

Craig Ladwig is editor of The Indiana Policy Review. A version of this essay appears in the current issue of its quarterly journal (click on cover art in right column).



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