Notes on the state of things

Notes on the state of things

Dismissed-fired-resigned-moving on head basketball coach Kevin Stallings and Pitt reportedly are in a dispute about what he should be paid to take his involuntary hike.

Stallings’ contract supposedly calls for a $9.4 million payment should he have to, for lack of a better phrase, take his leave with his arm pinned behind his back.

But a report says Pitt only wants to pay him $4.8 million or so because of intemperate remarks he made to some fans during a game this season. Stallings says he was defending his players from hecklers.

Contracts are contracts, of course; the right of contract should be sacrosanct in our great Republic. After all, it is constitutionally protected.

That said, it’s more than a bit disconcerting to see such parting-gift numbers being bandied about. Especially considering Pitt, that quasi-public institution of higher education, always seem to be pleading poverty and seeking more public dollars and higher and higher tuition rates.

Oh, indeed, donors outside that dog-and-pony show regularly seem to cough up cash to help pay the salaries associated with these lucrative college coaching positions. “Boosters,” they are called.

But that doesn’t make these contracts any less eye-popping and reinforce the impression that these institutions of higher learning too often become fronts for institutions of higher compensation in pursuit of misguided priorities.

From the keyboard of rule of law nose-thumbers, The New York Times writes:

“Experts say the West Virginia teachers strike may foreshadow the future of organized labor, especially in the public sector, at a time when its power has been eroded in much of the country by anti-union legislation and by court challenges like the Janus case now before the (U.S.) Supreme Court, which threatens the financial viability of collective bargaining.”

That’s because, The Times continues, “The West Virginia teachers found ways to organize and act outside the usual parameters of traditional unionism.”

More than a wee bit of translation is required here.

Neighboring Mountain State teachers, who have no legal right to strike, staged a nine-day wildcat strike. State officials buckled to their lawlessness. And teachers will lose no income from their lawlessness.

But parents surely lost money, many of whom had to scramble to find daycare for their children, or might have to eat costs associated with spring break plans likely canceled.

And students? Lost instruction time, less preparation for upcoming state exams and, perhaps, poorer grades.

The implication (exhortation?) of The Times story is that rising legislative action in the respective states to limit the deleterious effects that organized labor continues to have should be countered with no less than a form of anarchy.

But as scholar Bryan Caplan once reminded:

“The probable result of any attempt to realize anarchist principles would be a brief period of revolutionary zeal, followed by chaos and social breakdown resulting from the impracticality of the revolutionary policies.”

This is to what the government in neighboring West Virginia has acquiesced. And it is a creeping crud has no place in sound public policy.

A correspondent, noting my regular use of the headline “Notes on the state of things” on commentaries featuring a number of shorter, seemingly unrelated topics (such as this commentary), opined that “Surely, you can find a more creative, artful headline better suited for your scholarly musings.”

Perhaps. But it does have a scholarly and historical foundation — a takeoff on Thomas Jefferson’s “Notes on the State of Virginia.”

That classic 1781 treatise (updated in 1782 and again in 1783) compiled all manner of data on the commonwealth and what he believed to be the nature of a good society.

“Notes on the state of things” topics, though varying, have the commonality of detailing with what is sound and appropriate policy and what is not. Inartful? Maybe. Apropos? Without a doubt.

Colin McNickle is a senior fellow and media specialist at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (