It will surprise no one that I’m not a fan of the 130 demands that unions handed to Gordon Brown last week. Most, if not all of them will hurt far more people than they help. Requiring the adult minimum wage for apprenticeships and 18 year olds, for example, will certainly not encourage companies to hire young folks (which probably explains why they also want some companies to be required to guarantee apprenticeships. Hooray for solving the bad results of one policy with another bad policy!). The fact that anyone seriously thinks that running train companies as not-for-profits will be better for customers is also mind-boggling.
The funniest item on the list, however, is definitely the call for tax deductions for union membership. That’s right- they basically handed the prime minister a list of expensive demands, and then said “oh, and our members want to pay less taxes, let someone else do it." Not that this is unusual for labour, but this just seems like a particularly flagrant declaration of that philosophy and demand for pork. Though Brown has rejected many of the propositions, it is likely that at least some will pass. As Auberon Herbert once asked, “how should it happen that the individual should be without rights, but the combination of individuals should possess unlimited rights?" Good question… how indeed?