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Trade Unions

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Democracy is morally prior to the economy. The structure of the economy is something a sovereign people may and should design and redesign to secure its common good – that is, the shared interest of each and every citizen in life, liberty and economic opportunity. This is the basic premise of the ‘Democratic Wealth’ series that I have the pleasure of editing. This is, however, by no means an uncontroversial premise.

Angry and extensive coverage has characterised last week’s Chicago teachers’ strike as a series of splits: children’s interests vs. teachers’ interests; ‘reform’ vs. ‘status-quo’; elites vs. the public. Whereas a majority of Chicagoans supported the strikers, much of the media coverage has been opposed. CNN’s coverage is a good example (seeNavarrette’s eye-popping statement that unions ‘protect teachers from public demands for…a better education for our children.’) The first two of these splits fit a long-standing trope in education policy from A Nation At Risk to No Child Left Behind. It is encapsulated in Terry Moe’s recent book ‘Special Interest’ amongst many others: the reformist demand for greater charter- or voucher-based choice and accountability, and opposition to teacher unions. But the most interesting split here is within the Democratic …