Commentary (The Times)

Trade unions: "Trade union privileges" (Hayek letter) ["The trade unions, being politically sacrosanct, have been allowed to destroy the British economy"]

Document type: Press
Source: The Times , 2 August 1977, p11
Editorial comments:
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 301
Themes: Conservatism, Labour Party & socialism, Law & order, Liberal & Social Democratic Parties, Trade union law reform

Trade union privileges

From Professor F. A. Hayek, FBA

Sir, It is precisely because I have lived since before the trade unions were granted special legal privileges and. much of the time in England, and because I am now living in a country in which the closed shop is constitutionally inadmissible that I have come to the conclusions which Mr Peter Wallington finds incredible (July 27).

What is at issue is not union membership but compulsory union membership and not the right to strike but the right to compel others to strike. There is no need for any other explanation of why the British economy is decaying and the German highly prosperous.

The trade unions, being politically sacrosanct, have been allowed to destroy the British economy, and since even somebody as sympathetic to labour as Lady Wootton has told us that "it is in fact the business of a union to be anti-social", it is high time that somebody had the courage to eradicate that cancer of the British economy.

That in its present structure the British economy is not viable should be clear for all to see. There is no reason to despair and accept it as an incurable deadly disease and there is little else than the elimination of these special privileges which Britain needs to be prosperous again. But one must indeed emancipate oneself from the prejudices which have governed "the unfolding saga of industrial relations in Britain over the past six years" and look at the long-run causes of the decline of the British economy if one is to understand how it can be helped to recover.

Yours faithfully,
Obergurgl, Tyrol, July 28.