Over in The Guardian Ellie Mae O'Hagan has a piece telling us all that we don't really understand how wonderful unions are. We can argue about her specific examples but that's not our point here. Which is to point out that yes, unions really are pretty wonderful things. Although not for the reasons usually given. Unions are the result of the freedom of association. This is a freedom as essential to any civilised society as the freedom of speech and, if we add the rule of law the three are the cornerstone of any decent society. Rather more important that representative democracy in fact.
But of course the existence of unions is not the only thing that freedom of association allows. That also allows the London Library, the Women's Institute, the RNLI and RSPCA, companies, co ops, the Kennel Club, Arsenal Football Club and yes, even, sadly, the Simon Cowell Fan Club.
It's said that the French had to ask permission of Paris for any organisation that contained more than 25 French men well up into the 1950s. Apart from our own diversion into repression of unions before 1824 we've not done that at all. To our great benefit of course.
The existence of unions is thus to be applauded: not because the existence of unions is in itself a wondrous thing but because it's a symbol, and a symptom, of that larger freedom that we all enjoy, that freedom of association.
There is only one thing that we might want to change though. We might want to remove any legal privileges that unions have over other forms of voluntary association, like, you know, the London Library, the Women's Institute, the RNLI and RSPCA, companies, co ops, the Kennel Club, Arsenal Football Club and yes, even, sadly, the Simon Cowell Fan Club.