Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

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December 17, 2012

When thuggery is OK

It was an ugly spectacle in Lansing, Mich., the other day. A Republican lawmaker predicted blood on the streets. Profanity-spewing Chamber of Commerce goons went after union demonstrators. Anarcho-capitalists tried to push their way into a state building protected by the police.

The events chagrined editorialists around the country, and Sunday show producers scrambled to book the most excruciatingly thoughtful guests they could find to hold forth about the importance of civility in politics.

Of course, none of these things actually happened. The inflammatory rhetoric and small-time thuggery in Michigan were all the work of the left in response to a new right-to-work law and will surely go all but unnoticed by the people who always tsk-tsk about "the tone" of political debate.

Civility is one of the most absurdly abused of our political values. It is always centrally important to our functioning as a democracy - right up until the time someone proposes crossing the unions. Then, it goes from "Can't we all get along?" to "Nothing to see here." Then, out come the Hitler signs, the accusations of dictatorship, the sit-ins, the threats and even the fists, and all anyone can think to say is, "Isn't it a shame someone had to go and get the unions angry?"

State Rep. Douglas Geiss achieved his 15 minutes of notoriety by taking to the floor of the Michigan Legislature to warn "there will be blood" in response to the right-to-work law. He couched his prediction in terms of past corporate-union conflicts. But why would Michigan companies want to beat anyone up over a right-to-work law? Come to think of it, why would anyone consider a law allowing people hired at a unionized shop to decide freely whether or not to join a union an incitement to violence? No one is forced to join the Rotary Club, yet Rotarians still go about their business peaceably.

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