Will the United Autoworkers Union Elect a Socialist to Be Its Next President?

Meet Will Lehman, who is running for president of the United Autoworkers Union (UAW).

According to his campaign website, this is how Lehman describes himself and his philosophy: “I am a socialist. Socialism means putting the world’s productive forces under the democratic control of the working class and distributing resources, not to enrich a handful of billionaires, but to meet the needs of the whole human race. Socialism is based on the understanding that all workers, in every country, share the same interests in opposition to the ruling class that profits off our labor.”

During a recent debate, Lehman also dropped this nugget: “What we need is a planned economy, and we need worker control of that economy.”

Is it just me, or does Lehman sound like he is stuck in a time warp from the late nineteenth century, when Marxism was all the rage, the bourgeoise was on its heels, and automobiles were a plaything only the super wealthy could afford? It also makes me wonder if he is aware that the Soviet Union fell more than 30 years ago, and the fact that all socialist regimes to date have devolved into murderous, poverty-ridden nightmares, where a “handful of billionaires” live in the lap of luxury while the masses starve and long for a smidgen of freedom?

Like most socialists, Lehman has it all backwards. Socialism is based on the notion that all economic transactions are zero-sum. There is a winner and a loser.

However, that is not necessarily true in the micro or macro sense. If capitalism has taught us anything over the past two centuries, it is that transactions, when conducted in a free-market economy, are actually win-win. This is because capitalism, unlike socialism, is predicated on the idea that voluntary transactions are by nature mutually beneficial.

When Lehman mentions that socialism is better than capitalism because it accounts for “distributing resources …. to meet the needs of the whole human race” he is also displaying his stunning naiveté. Socialism looks at the world’s resources (or products and services produced in a modern economy) as finite, which must be allocated among the people by an all-knowing group of “planners.” Yet, as history shows, this model is doomed to fail because it views the economy as a limited pie that must be controlled and distributed by those at the top, instead of a pie that can grow through innovation, making everyone more well-off as it becomes bigger.

Over the past few decades, the UAW’s membership has declined from 1.5 million to 300,000. If Lehman becomes president of the UAW, you can expect membership to shrink even more, automation to increase, automobile costs to rise, auto companies to engage in more off-shoring, and domestic automobile production to continue to decline. In other words, maybe the UAW should not elect a crazy socialist and should give someone a shot who could reinvigorate a dying union with a little commonsense and a few free-market policies to spur growth.

PHOTO: United Auto Workers Local 450. Photo by U.S. Department of Agriculture. Public Domain Mark 1.0.