Saturday, February 19, 2011

Pass the Sand

A public sector executive was telling me how much he appreciated the close relationship that his management team enjoyed with the union. I could understand his relief that not every day was a battle.

At the same time, of course, a danger lurks behind the smiles. What if the close relationship creates an unspoken understanding where pay increases and perks that should be resisted are embraced in the name of peace? Management and labor may sing "Kumbaya" while picking the taxpayer's (or shareholder's) pocket. A general rule: Whenever there is a coalition for comfort, you can reasonably expect that other concerns, such as excellence and fiscal responsibility, will be much lower priorities.

I had the same reaction when a close friend was enthusiastically recounting the good old days of nonpartisanship in our local politics. The example that he cited had turned out very well indeed. The overall interests of the state were, by most measurements, advanced. Both parties behaved well. Little imagination, however, was needed to see how those quiet agreements could drain the conflict and dissent that are necessary if issues are to be seriously examined. Lubrication is needed for the wheels of organizations to turn, but there are moments when sand provides the traction for serious progress.


Kurt Harden said...

I find the timing of calls for "bipartisanship" and "harmony" to be an important thing to notice.

Michael Wade said...


I know what you mean. It is also revealing how much of the anti-war movement has suddenly disappeared.