Thinking For The Individual

Formerly known as 'Thinking For The People', this site offers some reflections on the state of British society and her people from the perspective of a libertarian Conservative with a passionate belief in the pillars of freedom and responsibility.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Trade Union Reform (With A Difference)

In the last few weeks, I've offered a vision for 'true' democracy, sounded the rallying cry for the defeat of the Fabian philosophy and proposed suggestions to amend the government's plans for a scheme of national road pricing. Now I'm going to push the boundaries of my ideas even further, by proposing a radical reform of the structure of trade unions.

Nowadays, a Tory without the heart and stomach of a lion would baulk at the idea of taking on the unions once again. They would expect huge strikes and demonstrations, and even if the politicians won, most of them would be rendered evil throughout the country. But I propose union reform with a difference: reforms which will be good for the unions, and which will cement their place as an insurmountable facet of a civil society.

Is it really possible? Provided both the politicians and the growingly elitist union establishment have the bottle to go for it, then it can be done. Let me explain how.

The crux of my idea is that the trade unions should become friendly societies, like the kind that were commonplace in the Victorian era. These were essentially a form of welfare - that much-loved 'safety net' - which preceded the Welfare State. People would join a small friendly society and pay a small amount of their income into the society on a regular basis, so that whenever one of its members became unemployed or suffered illness, the society would assist in paying the cost. As they were intimate groups with close contact between the members, they became a better means of pursuing social and moral betterment than State dependence, as most friendly societies also sought to ensure their members were good citizens, leading decent, honest lives, within the law and away from danger. Friendly societies were a key part (some say symptom, some say cause) of the Victorian emphasis on self-reliance and personal betterment. Yet they have declined, ever since the Welfare State crippled philanthropy and self-help, not only under Clement Attlee in the forties but by Churchill and Lloyd George decades before.

The trade unions, I feel, are better placed than any other institution in Britain, to offer the kind of social change that friendly societies helped to bring in the Victorian age. Under the O'Brien Plan for the unions, national unions would be 'banned'. Instead, the would be required to operate on a county or municipal scale. By that, I mean the National Union of Mineworkers would become the West Yorkshire Union of Mineworkers or the Ebbw Vale Union of Mineworkers. Obviously, they would have to operate on a large enough to scale to be able to seek redress of grievance in case of employment disputes. The last thing I want is to emasculate the unions, like many of my political persuasion. Rather, I seek to give them power.

The unions would then provide welfare in place of the State, just like the great friendly societies.

Yes, my scheme has its impracticalities. Nowadays, in the age of the free market, people move around for work and do not necessarily settle in one area long enough to keep their livelihoods there. What's more, it may be economically unfeasible for unions to provide that kind of welfare. Imagine if some kind of Birmingham Union of Automobile Manufacturers were faced with providing support to the masses of workers made redundant by the collapse of Rover. The union would be faced with economic disaster (and would probably need the government to bail it out!).

Nonetheless, I do feel that reforms which take welfare out of the hands of the State and into those of small communities and charities is what we should aspire to in the new century.

The trade unions could be pioneers. I bet you never thought you'd hear a Tory say that!


At 4:57 pm, Blogger Serf said...

The Trade Unions would hate your idea. They want to play politics not work for the good of their members.

I guess if they hate it though, that has to be a good thing :)

At 2:05 pm, Blogger James Fletcher Baxter said...

"...the creative process is a choicemaking process."

The missing element in every human 'solution' is an
accurate definition of the creature. The way we define
'human' determines our view of self, others, relationships,
institutions, life, and future. Important? Only the Creator
who made us in His own image is qualified to define us
accurately. Choose wisely...there are results.

Human is earth's Choicemaker. Psalm 25:12 He is by nature
and nature's God a creature of Choice - and of Criteria.
Psalm 119:30,173 His unique and definitive characteristic
is, and of Right ought to be, the natural foundation of his
environments, institutions, and respectful relations to his
fellow-man. Thus, he is oriented to a Freedom whose roots
are in the Order of the universe.

The arts and the sciences of man, as with his habits,
customs, and traditions, are the creative harvest of
his perceptive and selective powers. Creativity, the
creative process, is a choice-making process. His
articles, constructs, and commodities, however marvelous
to behold, deserve neither awe nor idolatry, for man, not
his contrivance, is earth's own highest expression of the
creative process.

Man is earth's Choicemaker. The sublime and significant
act of choosing is, itself, the Archimedean fulcrum upon
which man levers and redirects the forces of cause and
effect to an elected level of quality and diversity.
Further, it orients him toward a natural environmental
opportunity, freedom, and bestows earth's title, The
Choicemaker, on his singular and plural brow.


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