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Left Goes Right?

February 28, 2011

When the hurrays for the Green Bay Packers were still echoed the land of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, the newly sworn-in Republican Governor, proposed a series of measures that included depriving most of the unions of their rights to bargain collectively on benefits and working conditions.  As the first state which recognized the unions as a legitimate representative of  state workers, Wisconsin has been dedicated to improving the state workers’ well being for more than 5 decades. However, the Democratic minority in the state legislature was unable to prevent passage of the bill on Feb 25th, 2011.  My concern is that: does the traditional “left” state’s turning “right” really preserve the public good?

According to Locke, the end of government is “the public good and preservation of property”. He claims that as long as the laws are legitimate and the rights of preserving private properties are not infringed, the citizens have the obligation to obey the laws and should show consent, at least tacit consent, to the state. Given the context, the representatives in the state legislature and the state government, including the state governor, were elected by the state residents, directly or indirectly. Therefore, those representatives are practicing the state power on behalf of the state citizens, at least the majority. Admittedly, the state residents have the rights to protest the proposal and passage of the bill, and they can claim for democracy or human rights which they believe are stripped from the bill. However, the state people have to admit that it was them who elected these representatives and thereby had to accept any consequences caused by the elections. If they currently are not satisfied with the bill, they could leave the state temporarily or wait for the next election to make some changes. From the government’s perspective, any measures contributing to the financial cut would play a positive role in the economic restoration of the state, which could help preserve the public good.

Moreover, in some disputes like this, there exist too many interests, many of them contradictory, that must be served and satisfied. As a consequence, the government has to make hard decisions, favoring some interests over others, which inevitably engender the discontent among particular interest groups.

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