A lot of the discussion of the Wisconsin union brouhaha is boring (even my own). Karl Smith’s recollection of growing up in a union household is different, as it contains the revelation that not everyone conceives of their position as dictated by “Who? Whom?” considerations. Unions have become one of the least popular appendages of the left, associated with corruption and self-interest. It occurred to me that unions are explicitly supposed to be looking after the interests of their (non-universal) membership, and that is a major reason why they have become a good target. The whole point of a union is also supposed to be that its solidarity gives it strength, and strength is not too popular. It is okay to have explicitly self-interested politically active groups, but only for victims, and they are supposed to win concessions out of our sympathy for them. Unions have long had some sympathy appeal, but they are primarily about achieving power themselves, an aim I respect as a cynic. That was more popular in an age of heroes of accomplishment rather than heroes of suffering. Opponents of unions (particularly teacher’s unions) have had success at even persuading some progressives by framing an opposition between the powerful politically connected union and their sympathetic victims: poorly educated (“left behind”) inner-city kids. One way of phrasing this shift is “Bring on the Victims! Condemn the Fighters!” (indirect hat-tip to an anonymous UR commenter).

I’ve linked before to Jeet Heer on how conservatives and liberals changed position on the Arab-Israeli conflict as the latter went from weakness to strength. There are still influential folks like Marty Peretz and Alan Dershowitz who are strongly pro-Zionist, but they seem like old fuddy-duddies out of step with the hip young “juiceboxers“. A common argument of the critics is to compare the bodycounts on either side, which is sufficient to convince me that Israel is strong enough not to be in great danger (at least until the demographic balance tips). But I think the implicit argument is supposed to be a proof of maliciousness. I, on the other hand, think everybody wants to kick their opponents’ asses and so these relative bodycounts just show who is more competent* at it, and the relatively functional nature of Israeli society causes me to respect them more (though I should note I similarly respect the pacifist Amish). This kind of basic attitude indicates that even if circumstances led me to adopt policy positions associated with the left, I would be a righty at the core. Breeding frailty sounds self-defeating to me, and Donner-party conservatism oddly enough strikes me as progressive. Rather than a “nightmare“, Chinese history sounds to me adaptive and a hardscrapple future sounds better than a singleton. Part of that is also because of the importance of paranoia at the root of my ideology. So rather than focus on the weak as morally superior, I focus on the strongest as the greatest threat and look around for the next strongest alternative centers of power, possibly in the form of a counter-balancing coalition. In the realm of foreign policy, I oppose the hegemony and intervention of my own government because I oppose those things in general (and my taxes pay for it). As far as hegemons go though, the U.S isn’t that bad and in the event of war its opponents would be better off abjectly surrendering.

*Since the original went dead and I had to update (after doing a search for something I only dimly remembered), I figure it’s worth saving the title of Timur Kuran’s “Explaining the Economic Trajectories of Civilizations: Musings on the Systemic Approach”, so I can find it again next time.