In terms of how to reconcile good behavior of the unions with the bad, I don't really understand why that's an issue. How do you reconcile the good behavior of lawyers with the bad? Or the good behavior of cops with the bad? Everyone agrees there are bad lawyers, bad cops and some bad unions, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't have laywers, cops and unions, right?Ezra Klein agrees:
For all the times someone asks if you can still support unions even though X union did Y thing, you never hear anyone ask whether corporations should, in principle, still exist even though Enron really sucked. But that's just part and parcel of the argument about the UAW, the teacher's unions, and so forth, which are much less about the unions and the systems involved than they are about the legitimacy of organized workers in the first place.Ah, but here's the thing. It's easy to support corporations in principle because they're the building blocks of market capitalism, and there's a tremendous amount of evidence that market capitalism produces spectacular economic growth. Within the mainstream of the economics profession there are lots of arguments on the fringes about regulation and network effects and institutions and so forth, but no one denies that, fundamentally, market capitalism is the only feasible way to run a modern economy.
Unions have no such luck. Support for unions is spotty among economists, and the academic research about their benefits is mixed. So while throwing out the laissez faire baby with the Enron bathwater is, literally, unthinkable, unions have to earn their keep on a case-by-case basis, so to speak. There's really no way around that.