Right-to-Work is the Right to Pursue of Happiness

Right-to-Work is the Right to Pursue of Happiness
December 18, 2012

Steve Stanek

Steve Stanek (sstanek@heartland.org) is a research fellow at The Heartland Institute and managing... (read full bio)

I could cite a boatload of figures showing states with "right-to-work" laws have been better economic performers than those where people can be forced into labor unions as a condition of employment. Opponents of right-to-work laws no doubt could cite figures showing the opposite.

But liars can figure and figures can lie, so let's not do that. Let's instead talk about us.

I mean us as individuals, as persons with our own thoughts, feelings, tastes, wants, likes and dislikes; persons who "are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Thomas Jefferson wrote those words in the Declaration of Independence.

Life. Liberty. Pursuit of happiness.

We have a right to our lives. Yours for yourself, mine for myself. There are probably things we both like and other things we both dislike, things we both want and other things neither of us wants. But in most areas of life we are different, unique. So for life to have meaning to us, it must consist of our own choices.

Liberty enables us to act on our likes, dislikes, wants and interests. This is how some people become musicians and others auto mechanics, some carpenters and others accountants, some cooks and others dentists. It's what lets some people read mysteries and others histories, some join bowling leagues and others Bible study groups, some play softball and others basketball.

Life and liberty make the pursuit of happiness possible. Without liberty your life is not yours. It is mine if I have power over you, even if I indirectly apply that power by voting into government the lawmakers who enact laws and regulations forcing you to act in ways you want but I don't. My life is yours if you put into office people who do the same to me. The more laws and regulations that are enacted to force us to act in certain ways, the less liberty we have, and the less we can pursue things that make us happy.

Which brings us to right to work. Nothing in right-to-work legislation stops anyone from joining a union. But it does end the practice of forcing people to join unions if they don't want to. It ends the practice of allowing unions to forcibly take money from persons who may object to how their money is used. It makes joining and paying dues to unions voluntary.

To be voluntary means there is liberty. And with liberty we are free to pursue happiness. If an individual would be happy to be a dues-paying member of a union, that person may become one. One who would be happy not to be a union member, may keep his or her money and stay out of the union.

I sometimes hear people say they've never seen the country so divided as it is today. I think it's because government has become so big and intrusive. There are more laws and regulations than ever. This means less liberty, which means less ability to pursue happiness, which makes for a lot of unhappy and angry people.

Right-to-work legislation gives people more liberty, and therefore more ability to pursue happiness, by making our associations voluntary instead of forced. For that reason alone it should be supported.

[First published in the Detroit News.]

Steve Stanek

Steve Stanek (sstanek@heartland.org) is a research fellow at The Heartland Institute and managing... (read full bio)