The following is adapted from a speech delivered on February 15, 2012.
MANY SCHOLARS ARE better versed on the history of public employee unions than I am, but there is one credential I can claim that they cannot: I am a taxpayer in the People’s Republic of New Jerseystan. That makes me an authority on how public sector unions—especially at the state and local level—are thwarting economic growth, strangling the middle class, and generally hijacking the democratic process to serve their own ends rather than the public.
Now in my experience, when one says the words “New Jersey,” people for some reason think it is a laugh line. Perhaps you know us from The Sopranos or Jersey Shore. You might think that such a state has nothing to teach you. If so, you would be very wrong. New Jersey offers something that can profit the entire nation: We are the perfect bad example.
As conservatives, of course, we believe in virtue. We like to point to policies and practices that work—low taxes and light regulation for the economy, a strong national defense to keep us safe from foreign attack, and social policies that favor community over government. These are all valuable. But the bad example has its honored place as well: It’s how we illustrate our warnings.