Regulatory Capture, Trade Unions and Child Abuse

27 May 2021

by Donald S. Siegel and Robert M. Sauer

In his seminal article in 1971 on the economic theory of regulation, the Nobel Laureate George Stigler of the University of Chicago argued that government agencies were often “captured” by the industries they were designed to regulate. Before Stigler, the common view was that noble regulators worked assiduously to correct “market failures”, in order to promote the public interest. Stigler argued that if regulators have other goals in mind besides promoting the public interest (e.g., covering up their own government failure or enhancing their power, prestige, budget and future income) they will eventually represent the interests of the industry they are charged to regulate.

This cynical behaviour of regulators is referred to as “regulatory capture”. It is what leads to a “revolving door” between defence contractors and the Ministry of Defence, pharmaceutical companies and the MHRA, and large energy firms and the Environment Agency. When there is regulatory capture, the interests of firms become more important than the public interest, which results in a net loss to society. 

Traditionally, capture theory applies mainly to private sector interests, i.e., firms and industries. However, capture theory can be equally applied to public sector unions. In the U.S., it was recently discovered that the American Federation of Teachers and the CDC have colluded on school closures and other restrictions since the beginning of the pandemic. We know this has also occurred in the U.K., where Boris Johnson now appears to be defying intense trade union pressure to keep masks on secondary school children. Trade unions are insisting that face masks must continue to be worn until at least the end of the summer term.

What motivates local and national politicians to collude with public sector unions to prolong lockdowns and continue the confinement and deformity of the nation’s children? First, trade unions constitute major voting blocs. Second, it is important that politicians keep their trade union friends for political cover. Remember that expert committees, most notably SAGE, have misled the government with their pseudo-scientific ‘non-pharmaceutical interventions’, so elected officials are now presiding over the single greatest government failure of all time.

Not only is SAGE a primary cause for COVID-19 policy travesty, credit must also be given to the trade unions for exerting undue influence on politicians charged with deciding how and when to ‘reopen’ schools. Recall that when our state-run Covid religion was established in March 2020, a totalitarian/Orwellian taxonomy of “essential” and “nonessential” workers and industries was developed. Teachers were deemed “essential” workers. Unlike many “nonessential” workers, teachers received full pay during quarantines and lockdowns, with virtually no job losses in the sector, while children remained at home to learn online, often with inferior Internet connections and overwhelmed parents to supervise them.

Unlike almost all other “essential” workers, most teachers have not physically reported to work since March 2020. Also, in some cases, teachers were vaccinated before many others in their age groups. The forced masking of students as young as four for six hours a day is designed to protect teachers, not students.

It has never been clearer that teacher unions are aiming to prolong the pandemic party for teachers while paying no heed to the physical and psychological damage to the nation’s children. Of course, it is not surprising that union leaders are behaving this way. Albert Shanker, an icon of the American labour movement and a former president of the United Federation of Teachers and American Federation of Teachers, once said, “When school children start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of school children.”

We can no longer pretend that public health experts and teacher unions have the public interest in mind. Their claim to follow “the Science” has been revealed as fallacious, since they are actually following political science. Since March 2020, we have all been human subjects in a grand social science experiment, which has been conducted without informed consent. As social scientists, when we conduct an experiment, we are required by law to obtain the informed consent of each of our human subjects. That is, we are required to explain to each subject, in great detail, precisely what we are trying to accomplish in our project, as well as its duration, cost, and risks. All of these protocols have not been followed. We also have to abide by an ethical code, which says that there should be no psychological or physical harm to the subject.

There is no doubt that the unprecedented and deviant experiment forced upon the nation’s children has inflicted significant harm on its human subjects. Thus, while some might say that it is wrong to demonise public health officials and teacher unions, we say that their actions, especially as they relate to children, have been demonic. Regulatory capture by teacher unions is a scandal of epic proportions.

For these reasons, we call on parents to reject all new guidelines and any semblance of the “new normal” at schools. We should no longer allow our children to be unwitting subjects in this deviant and unethical grand social experiment. Trade-union-enabled child abuse and its ongoing destruction of normal childhood development must end now. The next time your child is forced to wear a face mask for seven hours a day and prevented from interacting with her playmates, you should call social services on that teacher or school official. Trade unions are guilty of child abuse.

Donald S. Siegel is Foundation Professor of Public Policy and Management at Arizona State University
Robert M. Sauer is Professor of Economics at Royal Holloway College