Wisconsin update – Supreme Court overturns collective bargaining ruling

POSTED BY ORHAN

(updated below)

From the Wisconsin State Journal: Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi overstepped her authority when she voided Gov. Scott Walker’s measure limiting public sector collective bargaining, the state Supreme Court ruled today in a 4-3 decision.

The conservative majority said Sumi “usurped the legislative power which the Wisconsin constitution grants exclusively to the Legislature” by voiding the law. Sumi ruled the state’s open meetings law was violated when Republicans met and amended the bill in March, allowing the Republican-controlled Senate to bypass a Democratic boycott.

Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson dissented, writing that the authors of the court’s order, along with concurring Justice David Prosser — lacked “a reasoned, transparent analysis” and incorporate “numerous errors of law and fact.”

“Only with a reasoned, accurate analysis can a court assure the litigants and the public that a decision is made on the basis of facts and law,” Abrahamson wrote, “free from a judge’s personal ideology and free from external pressure by the executive or legislative branches, by partisan political parties, by public opinion or by special interest groups.”

The State Department of Administration “is reviewing the Supreme Court’s order and will begin implementing (the law) when appropriate.”

Bottom line: Prosser voted exactly as expected, and if Kloppenburg had beaten him in the State Supreme Court race, the Republicans would be singing a different tune tonight.

UPDATE:

Also from the Wisconsin State Journal: One day after the state Supreme Court cleared the way for Gov. Scott Walker’s controversial bill limiting collective bargaining to become law, several labor organizations filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday in an effort to prevent some of its provisions from taking effect in federal court.

The lawsuit was brought by the Wisconsin Education Association Council, Wisconsin State Employees Union, Wisconsin Council of County and Municipal Employees, AFSCME District Council 48 representing Milwaukee County municipal employees, AFT-Wisconsin, SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin and the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO.

The groups are challenging the constitutionality of the bill they say would destroy collective bargaining rights for all but a select group of public sector workers deemed “public safety” employees, including certain firefighters and law enforcement officers.

Walker responded to the suit saying, “I think overwhelmingly the people of the state feel the legal action is done and it’s time to move forward.”

44 responses to “Wisconsin update – Supreme Court overturns collective bargaining ruling

  1. Either way, justice is done.

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  2. If Scott Walker spoke truly that “Wisconsin is now open for business”, the unfettered free market, no longer encumbered by the onerous and market-distorting weight of the public unions, will now be allowed to function as intended and thousands of corporations will flock to Wisconsin, ushering in a golden age of capitalist growth equal, at a bare minimum, to the economic miracles observed in the “right to work” states of the Deep South.

    Like

    • Since 1990, the 22 right to work states representing about 40% of the population created 60% of US jobs.

      Unions are an anachronism that have run their course. Labor is a commodity and companies will go to where labor is cheapest and most productive. Companies also need stability for financial planning. Unions can be detrimental to that. Just ask Boeing after it lost $1 billion dollars because of a union strike.

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      • Yes, labor unions are now an anachronism, the same way the rule of law is now an anachronism. And for the same reason: government policy. We are NOT helpless in the face of relocation, off-shoring, and outsourcing by American corporations. The government does have options; it just needs the political will to implement them. Here’s a list of possible actions to take against businesses that threaten to move their enterprises elsewhere, compiled by Rick Wolff:

        1. Inform businesses that the US government will shift its purchases to other enterprises.
        2. Inform them that top officials will tour the US to urge citizens to follow the government’s example and shift their purchases as well.
        3. Inform them that the government will proceed to finance and organize state-operated companies to compete directly with threatening businesses.
        4. Immediately and strictly enforce all applicable rules governing health and safety conditions for workers, environmental protection laws, equal employment and advancement opportunity, etc.
        5. Present and promote passage of new laws governing enterprise relocation (giving local, regional, and national authorities veto power over corporate relocation decisions).
        6. Purchase energy and pharmaceutical outputs in bulk for mass resale to the US public, passing on all the savings from bulk purchases.
        7. Seize assets of enterprises that seek to evade or frustrate increased taxes or reduced subsidies.

        According to Wolff, “Laws enabling such actions either already exist in the US or could be enacted. In other countries today, existing models of such laws have performed well, often for many years. These could be used and adjusted for US conditions.”

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        • Sounds like policies from the Soviet Union to me and we all know how well they worked.

          The result will be that investors pull capital out of US companies and invest them in more competitive Chinese ones. The capital will flow just like gravity.

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          • You’re just restating the threat of corporate flight by transferring it to the “investors”.

            Investors invest all over the world: Germany for example. If your point was valid, German companies would already be broke. But in general they, and their workers, are doing better than we are, even though US companies are more “competitive”.

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          • You are confusing Germany’s relatively robust economy with it’s support of labor unions. The reason Germany Is doing well is because it had limited exposure to the debt crisis as home ownership is lower in Germany.

            Secondly, Germany is the exception that proves the rule. What about France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Greece. All are highly unionized. I believe Spain has unemployment rates approaching 20%.

            The right may have some controversial ideas, but recognizing the economic inefficiency of unions is not one of them.
            The only way out of this is by providing significant tax incentives for businesses to hire. Congress passed a bonus depreciation bill on capital equipment before the recovery began. As a result, capital expenditures have increased by 26% while hiring has increased by only 2%.

            Corporations respond to incentives, but are hampered by union thuggery.

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  3. The problem is others states are now following Wiscoinsin’s lead….

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  4. other states….

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  5. And Prosner thing is a dead horse…The Dem’s couldn’t get the votes….
    The people of Wisconsin get what they voted for….

    We’ll see what happens with all the recalls in a month…..
    Can the Dem’s unseat the GOPer’s in the Wisc state Senate?
    or…..
    Does Scott Walker keep his majority nad have clear saling to continue?
    It’s up to Democratic and Union voters who aren’t doing too good…..

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  6. Pingback: Wisconsin update – Supreme Court overturns collective bargaining ruling… - Politicaldog101.Com

  7. ojmo ,

    ” Right, we’re now implementing all the economic policies that were just proven false by the global financial crisis…”

    So what caused the Global Financial Crisis , in your opinion ?

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    • Deregulation of financial markets was the cause of the crisis; and by the time the “innovation” known as credit default swaps came along, they were not regulated at all. Without the massively leveraged debt held in credit default swaps at the time real estate prices started to drop, the system would not have failed.

      Deregulation is one part of the “standard” neoliberal policy package of the past 30 years, aka The Washington Consensus, which consists more or less of these basic elements:

      1. Tax cuts
      2. Cuts in social services
      3. Privatization
      4. Deregulation

      The first 3 items relate more directly to the Walker plan; the 4 together are more or less identical to the elements of any Republican “plan” for economic recovery.

      Like

  8. It seems that the Ohio version will forego the courts to go straight to the voters in November. Then again, our governor has issues with implementing voter decisions.

    Like

  9. Oh the price the evil Rethugs in Wisconsin will be paying for their blatent attempts to feed their corporate masters. Unions are the only thing that keeps the American worker from being owned by the company store. To the person who thinks that most jobs are generated by the right-to-work states: and they have the lowest wages, lowest benefits as well. I wish upon all you stooges that you work at slave wages in your dream to be corporate fodder.

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  10. ojmo ,

    ” Deregulation of financial markets was the cause of the crisis; and by the time the “innovation” known as credit default swaps came along, they were not regulated at all. ”

    That is a fascinating financial analysis . Now give me your opinion on the last 29 months of the Obama Administration and specifically why they have failed to meet the economic numbers which they predicted .

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  11. I don’t care how many jobs the free market creates if all we get are crappy low-wage jobs, which is what would happen if the unions went away. I would rather be on unemployment than work my ass off for wages that are too low.

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    • Crappy low-wage jobs are all we’ll be lucky to get if the right gets its way. The plan is for everybody in the country to work for 10 bucks an hour, and be damned grateful for it.

      Like

  12. Eurobrat ,

    ” I would rather be on unemployment than work my ass off for wages that are too low. ”

    That says a lot about you and unfortunately America , too.

    Like

  13. @Sean: Response to your last upstream comment:

    [You are confusing Germany’s relatively robust economy with it’s support of labor unions.]

    Confusion’s on your part, Sean. My original statement was about some ways people and governments could avoid being held hostage by corporations threatening to relocate, i.e., corporate thuggery, to borrow your phrase. You asserted a direct relationship between attempts to control corporations and investors pulling capital out of US companies, to which I offered a counterexample. Now you’re arguing that I asserted a connection between “Germany’s relatively robust economy” and “its support of labor unions”, which I never did; what I asserted is that there is no connection between Germany’s “less competitive” economic environment and any phantom “pull out of capital by investors”.

    [The reason Germany Is doing well is because it had limited exposure to the debt crisis as home ownership is lower in Germany.]

    Irrelevant; also false. Germany is not doing well because of “limited exposure to the debt crisis”; it was doing quite well before there was any crisis at all; Germany is doing relatively well, period. (“Relatively” because it has been impacted by the global crisis.)

    [Secondly, Germany is the exception that proves the rule. What about France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Greece. All are highly unionized. I believe Spain has unemployment rates approaching 20%.]

    “Germany is the exception that proves the rule” is also false: there are other countries with strong labor unions that are doing about as well as Germany: Holland, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, to name a few. These are also all counterexamples to the countries named in rest of the paragraph. I don’t know if you’re actually trying to causally connect degree of unionization with degree of crisis, but I imagine that would be a tough one to prove.

    [The right may have some controversial ideas, but recognizing the economic inefficiency of unions is not one of them.]

    No argument.

    [The only way out of this is by providing significant tax incentives for businesses to hire.]

    The only way? Because Walker did exactly that long before this whole collective bargaining brouhaha started. Right after taking office, he called a special session of the legislature and signed two business tax breaks: Assembly Bill 3 (tax deductions/credits for relocated businesses), and Assembly Bill 7 (tax exclusion for new employees). So if this is only way out, why are we (or Wisconsin, at least) still in? Let me guess: the tax incentives are not “significant” enough.

    [Congress passed a bonus depreciation bill on capital equipment before the recovery began. As a result, capital expenditures have increased by 26% while hiring has increased by only 2%.]

    So companies are expanding (but expanding!) by buying equipment instead of hiring workers? Sounds pretty thin; maybe.

    [Corporations respond to incentives, but are hampered by union thuggery.]

    No comment.

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    • Ojmo,

      My mistake on assuming you were trying to tie Germany’s economic success with its labor unions.

      Now back to the US — the fact is that states with high unionization percentages are associated with lower relative economic performance (Correlation does not imply causation of course, but there is definitely something to it).

      See here for some exhaustive data on the topic: http://reflectionsofarationalrepublican.com/2011/02/20/rallying-against-the-red-menace/

      Here is an example of union overreach that signifies why unions are an anacronism and are overstepping their bounds: http://reflectionsofarationalrepublican.com/2011/06/04/big-labor-puts-politics-ahead-of-jobs/

      And finally, here is a simple analogy that puts unions into perspective: http://reflectionsofarationalrepublican.com/2011/06/15/household-unions-you-move-we-sue/

      Anyway, I am enjoying this thread! 😉

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      • [Correlation does not imply causation of course, but there is definitely something to it]

        Yeah? So what’s to it?

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        • States with higher unionization rates also tend to have higher unemployment rates, tax rates, and state debt per capita.

          The logic is as follows. If wage rates are higher, businesses can afford to hire fewer people. On the public side, public unions use mandatory member dues to fund politicians who will raise public salaries (which is why prison guards make an average of $100k per year and some lifeguards make $200k in California).

          Because pay raises are politically unpopular, politicians appease unions by increasing benefits (free healthcare for life, etc.). These unfunded mandates add up, resulting in higher tax rates and debt loads.

          The end result Is a less efficient economy in these states. Or so the argument goes…

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          • [If wage rates are higher, businesses can afford to hire fewer people.]

            If wage rates are higher, businesses will sell more products to consumers, increasing profits & allowing them to hire more people.

            [politicians appease unions by increasing benefits (free healthcare for life, etc.]

            Union benefits are negotiated, not imposed by politicians.

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          • If wage rates are higher, businesses will sell more products to consumers, increasing profits & allowing them to hire more people.

            Consumers have choices. If the price of a ticket to a theater showing the Nut Cracker gets to be too pricy due to union stage hands, union directors and union dancers/actors, fewer consumers will go see the show.

            Union benefits are negotiated, not imposed by politicians.

            Unions elect politicians who will negotiate favorably to the union. Unions do NOT elect politicians who tell them to go take a hike.

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          • Ojmo,

            Public sector unions do negotiate for their wages, but they have the power to withdraw campaign contributions if they don’t like the result. No rational Democratic politician would bite the hand that feeds. For instance, AFSME, the public sector union, was the single largest donor to the Democratic party in 2008.

            As such, incentives are skewed.

            Your logic on wage rates is also a bit flawed. When you hire fewer, higher cost workers, you can either make fewer products or hire more workers and pass the cost onto consumers. Either way, prices go up, which seems to be a contributor to why the cost of living in heavily unionized states like NY and CA is so high.

            The data says what the data says. Perhaps you have an alternative theory for why higher unemployent, debt per capita, and higher tax rates are positively correlated with high unionization rates?

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            • [Public sector unions do negotiate for their wages, but they have the power to withdraw campaign contributions if they don’t like the result.]

              So does any other constituency – such as business interests and their lobbyists.

              [No rational Democratic politician would bite the hand that feeds.]

              Neither would any Republican. You’re only stating the obvious – that politicians play to their constituencies.

              [As such, incentives are skewed.]

              Obvious also. And also applying to any constituency.

              [the cost of living in heavily unionized states like NY and CA is so high]

              And wages are higher too.

              [Perhaps you have an alternative theory for why higher unemployent, debt per capita, and higher tax rates are positively correlated with high unionization rates?]

              You keep returning to this. I know you put some pretty spreadsheets up on your blog, and they are very nice, but like you said, correlation does not imply causation.

              Like

  14. So much to say….

    First – The State’s open meetings law was not violated. That law specifically mentions that it does NOT supersede rules of the governing body. And in this case, the rules stipulate that the meeting only has to be posted on the bulletin board. However, the body DID send an e-mail notification that provided less than 2 hours notification.

    In this case, the county judge was a liberal who simply felt that “the people” didn’t have knowledge as to what was going on. As if.

    Second – The liberal supreme court justice lost the election. The entire town of whatever got skipped due to an Excel mistake.

    Third – The deep south states are finally catching up with the northern states. For much of it’s history, the south has been an agrarian economy while the north has been one of industry. It’s no wonder the south is poorer. We are now seeing what happens when states are job friendly.

    Yes, labor unions are now an anachronism, the same way the rule of law is now an anachronism.

    ojmo, The point of law is to protect individual liberty. Labor unions don’t do that. They restrict that liberty. Try becoming a teacher without being forced to join a union. Try hauling freight in New York city without joining a union.

    As for law being anachronism, you are simply being silly. No one disputes that we are a nation of laws. We simply disagree that because you get enough populists [of either party by the way – see Gay Marriage] and pass a law that it makes it right.

    Here’s a list of possible actions to take against businesses that threaten to move their enterprises elsewhere

    The second any one of those “ideas” is even discussed, corporations will simply move. For example, can you imagine being told by Dick Cheney that you moving from Podunk, IA to Bumfrack, MS is not in the best interest of the economy in the midwest? You’d go NUTS!

    So would I.

    I can’t imagine forcing a corporation to ask permission to move. I ask you, by what reasoning do you come to the conclusion that this is sound principle?

    The problem is others states are now following Wiscoinsin’s lead….

    It’s over. Unions have lost their power now and this is the 04:00 death throws. Even Maassechusates has passed laws more strict than Wisconsin.

    the economic policies that were just proven false by the global financial crisis…

    The global financial crisis was caused by government intervention. And this failing, by the way, was the doing of both the R’s and the D’s.

    Unions are the only thing that keeps the American worker from being owned by the company store.

    I am a worker in a massive American corporation. I’m not unionized and I am not owned by the company store.

    I would rather be on unemployment than work my ass off for wages that are too low.

    I notice how you make the case between:

    A: Someone paying you not to work.

    and

    B: Someone paying you more than you’re worth.

    No where do you include in your calculus you working hard because that’s what responsible men do. I wonder if you can begin to fathom how weary I am of supporting you.

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    • pino, just a quickie here. You say “The point of law is to protect individual liberty”:

      The point of law is to protect the public, not the individual. To protect the security and stability of the commons. Which will certainly benefit the individual, but it’s now what confers liberty upon any individual.

      Now the Bill of Rights WAS largely designed to protect individual liberty. But that comes as an amendment to pre-existing law, most of which had been in place long before the American Revolution. First came the law, followed by an expansion of rights.

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      • The point of law is to protect the public, not the individual.

        Good morning Moe,

        I disagree. [i know i know, shocking, right? 😉 ]

        The rights that flow to us that we consider inalienable, are those individual rights I’m talking of.

        You and I each have the right of life, of our property and of our pursuit [note that we may never achieve it] of happiness. In the defense of those rights, our society agrees that we may take action against another individual. If someone threatens us, we may strike back. If they attempt to rob us, we may beat with a pool cue.

        And because we as people re social animals, we strive to live in groups. And we recognize that we ALL don’t wanna go about the business of having to care for our own rights all the time, so we construct the means whereby a government can do that for us.

        If there is a “public right” it has its beginning in “individual rights”.

        If you care to, and with as open a mind as you can possibly muster, I urge you to read the first 15-20 pages of :

        The Law

        Frederic Bastiat

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        • Hey pino – like I really need ot add to my reading list 🙂

          You make a philosopher’s case which has merit as such, but it’s an argument only – liberty and law are not at all the same. Law is the rules we agree to obey so we can live together – AND they have remedies inherent (punishment).

          But having such laws in no way guarantees individual liberty.

          Like

    • Pino, you don’t have to be weary of supporting me because you don’t. I have been employed for a long time. That is exactly where my comment is coming from, because I am growing weary of a society which undervalues its workers. I’m not talking about getting paid more than what I’m worth. My co-workers and I, as well as most other Americans I know, do work their asses off and they get paid LESS than what they’re worth.

      Like

  15. Ojmo,

    Wages may be higher for low skilled laborers, but a dollar gets you a lot less in California or New York than other areas of the country. Furthermore, jobs are leaving California. Excessive regulation and higher labor costs ate definitely having an impact.

    I am open to an alternative explanation for this high correlation. I just don’t think there is one. Occam’s razor suggests that the likeliest explanation for something is likeliest the simplest explanation.

    The weight of the data is overwhelming.

    I am willing to listen to other theories if the data supports them. Until then, I think the laws of economists and empirical data point to union’s being a drag on the economy.

    There are few things as black and white in politics as this one (which is why I’ve been so persistent ;-)).

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    • Well, Sean, you are persistent, I’ll grant you that 🙂

      BTW didn’t you hear? Occam’s razor has lost some of its edge lately.

      Anyway, supporting collective bargaining rights for public unions is, at best, tangential to them being an impediment to market efficiency. There are many laws in our society that do that, for example environmental laws, child labor laws, minimum wage laws, the 40-hour work week, protectionist tariffs, even laws a good conservative would be horrified to contemplate being eradicated, such as patent and copyright laws.

      There will always be bottlenecks to efficiency. After all, why shouldn’t human beings be bought and sold? Isn’t a prohibition on such activity an impediment to the free market? Isn’t it more efficient to own someone, and give them the bare minimum required to sustain life, than to rent them, and be forced to compete with others for their labor? If efficiency is the sole criterion for the economic decisions we make as a society, the answer is obvious.

      Progressives want to see a more equitable society, and are willing to sacrifice some economic efficiency to obtain that goal. And, whatever their goals, so are conservatives, whether they’ve ever thought about it or not. Progressives and conservatives may have different values, but we all have values that go beyond market efficiency.

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      • “Progressives and conservatives may have different values, but we all have values that go beyond market efficiency.”
        I would agree with this notion. Most of our disagreements are a matter of degree than anything else.

        That said, lumping opposition to collective bargaining rights with supporting slavery (or at least implying it), seems a bit extreme (I don’t think you intended that, but I wanted to address it just in case). If the other 87% of Americans also had the right to bargain collectively, denying such a “right” might have more resonance with me.

        That said, having millions of unemployed, low skilled workers on the street is a massive public policy problem. Given the number of people who stopped looking for jobs, the effective unemployment rate is roughly between 15-20%.

        In the last five years, some of my former colleagues focused on bringing down unemployment rates (i.e., from 90% down to 70%) in Iraq to help reduce violence (it did). I worry that if the United States starts going in the other direction, we might have an increase in more incidents of violence and increased social instability.

        Obviously, I don’t think unions are the answer (I think they are part of the problem), but both sides need to figure out a solution to reduce this chronic unemployment before its decends into instability.

        One way would be to simplify the corporate tax code and lower the corporate tax rate. Simplify it, but also cut down on loopholes that provide economic incentives for US corporations to send jobs overseas. Right now, the US has, I believe, the second highest corporate tax rate in the world.

        The government should also provide more tax incentives for businesses to increase hiring.

        These two solutions alone won’t solve the problem, but they may mitigate it. I am also willing to consider solutions from the left so long as they focus on driving economic growth rather than transferring wealth.

        The situation needs a bipartisan solution and I fear that unless both sides work together, things will get worse before they get better.

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        • The purpose of the slavery example was to clarify the point that no matter how strongly one believes in the free market, there are (hopefully) limits to what one will countenance in the name of market efficiency.

          And yes, it would be ideal if both sides could hammer out a solution together; unfortunately with the degree of partisan politics in Washington today, I don’t think there’s much hope on that score.

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          • “The purpose of the slavery example was to clarify the point that no matter how strongly one believes in the free market, there are (hopefully) limits to what one will countenance in the name of market efficiency.”

            I figured as much.

            “And yes, it would be ideal if both sides could hammer out a solution together; unfortunately with the degree of partisan politics in Washington today, I don’t think there’s much hope on that score.”

            You have my full agreement here. The fact that we lost both a Republican and Democratic Congressman in the last six months to “sexting” scandals is a perfect illustration of your point.

            Absurd…;-)

            Like

  16. Ms . Holland ,

    ” The point of law is to protect the public, not the individual. To protect the security and stability of the commons. ”

    I find that to be an amazing statement . I understand your context , but it is a gross over generalization .

    ” Now the Bill of Rights WAS largely designed to protect individual liberty. But that comes as an amendment to pre-existing law, most of which had been in place long
    before the American Revolution. First came the law, followed by an expansion of rights. ”

    The Bill of Rights are laws . Which came first is not relevant to this discussion . Besides you did have prior laws against murder and theft which were to protect the individual .

    Like

  17. Pingback: Wisconsinites Lose Collective Bargaining Case - Lez Get Real

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