Gore Vidal once observed that the four loveliest words in the English language are “I told you so.” Unlike Vidal, attorney and bestselling author Philip K. Howard takes no pleasure in delivering a well-deserved comeuppance to government employees’ labor unions. Early on, readers are reminded that even liberal icons like George Meany and Franklin Roosevelt considered public-sector unionism inimical to good government.

The author’s timing is impeccable. Coming on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic and a societal reckoning over police misconduct, Not Accountable examines consequences of public-sector unionism that are too complex or boring for most voters to follow in ordinary times. Rules that protect incompetent workers, red tape that stifles managerial discretion, pension benefits that lead to deficits—all reside beyond the public’s radar, in what the political scientists refer to as voters’ “electoral blind spot.”

In the summer of 2020, however, Americans who had never thought much about police unions soon connected the wider problem of excessive force to obscure labor contracts and job protections that would be considered outrageous in any other workplace. A similar dynamic unfolded in the context of education. Millions of parents who had no idea that their public schools engage in collective bargaining were treated to a crash course

Subscribe for access This article is reserved for subscribers.