You are speaking of the unions as some benevolent entities that operate solely to ensure honesty and pride are rewarded with good pay. The simple fact is that you earn a living wage because there is a market demand for pipefitters, not because of the artificial overhead added by the union. The unions were necessary in the era before the multitude of government regulations put in place to govern laborer safety and well-being. Now that the laws largely support the laborers, the unions have become parasitic, looking only to increase ranks to increase dues, and to stifle any competitive newcomers to their territory.
Your honest and proud philosophy should speak for itself, and if you are a skilled laborer in a skill that serves a market need, you shouldn't need a union to earn your keep.
I'm not sure about your claim that there are fewer RVs on the road; I'd be interested to see some sources. I am aware that RV sales have taken quite a hit over the past couple years, even before the major downturn last fall, but overall campground occupancy rates haven't been much affected (see RV Business Indicators1-20-09). People are still camping, although they tend to take shorter trips closer to home, etc. Actually, MORE people are turning to camping because it is cheaper than many other vacation options.
I also see the difference between someone spending a few hours late at night parked at a Wally-world and someone setting up their awning and firing up the grill. Most people would feel that the latter is ridiculous. And it is unlikely that anyone is taking their family vacation in a parking lot.
The problem is simply that campgrounds are being undercut on a large scale by a company that has the reach to promote something even without having "official promotional material". Google "RV Walmart" and you will see the number of other sources promoting the practice of hopping from Walmart to Walmart for "free camping" without Big W Corporate having to even bother. The response is to try and hamper the practice. It might not be the right response. I am merely providing the counter-argument, and maintain that this is certainly not a simple "can't compete with free" situation.
Sorry Mike, but you missed the mark this time. I agree with most of what is said on this site, but either you haven't been given the whole story, or you are missing some important distinctions that make this more than a "compete against free" situation.
The issue, which has been fought in several states before with varying results, is not that Walmart is allowing RVers to park in their lot overnight. It is that they promote their program as "camping," and they do so without conforming to the numerous regulations that the campgrounds are required by law to conform to. The number one example is access to waste facilities. Campgrounds are required to be able to facilitate a certain amount of waste based on the number of sites they offer, which is a major overhead cost, especially for seasonal campgrounds that need to winterize their entire water network. If Walmart were made to abide by the same legislation as a campground, they would conceivably need to offer facilities proportional to the number of parking spots they have available, and they would quickly see that it probably wasn't economically feasible for them to continue promoting "camping" in their lots.
Because they are somehow exempt from the rules that campgrounds need to follow, they are being given an unfair market advantage, which they can exploit by offering as a free service because they have essentially no additional regulatory overhead. I figure someone who constantly preaches the power of markets to balance themselves can see how this sets up an environment that the campground owners are justifiably opposed to.
All that said, it is unfortunate that the response from campers and most press coverage ultimately views the campground owners negatively on this issue. They get painted as money-grubbing grinches who are trying to avoid "competing" with free, rather than (more often than not) small businesses trying to make sure the "Big Guys" have to play by the same rules.
Living in Mass, I've looked into this over the past week. On paper some of the arguments FOR these trackers sound pretty good. It would enable a variable tax structure, which they are calling a "congestion tax," ie. you pay more to drive on certain roads or at certain times. And there is some talk of the rate varying with the weight of the vehicle, the reasoning being large trucks cause much more wear on roads than compact cars, which is certainly with merit. They want to eliminate the costs of the existing tolls (mentioned by Xiera above) as well.
As I said, this all sounds great, but none of it comes close to justifying the cons. The proposal to monitor these chips is to install devices on street signs statewide. So now you have are replacing a large toll infrastructure with an even larger and more cumbersome "tracker" infrastructure, along with all the personnel to maintain the devices. You add more complexity to the tax structure by introducing potentially drastic fluctuations in the "mileage rate". And to take the cake, you legislate a huge breach of privacy into every vehicle that drives through the state (they intend to charge out-of-state commuters as well, although I'm not sure how that will be monitored).
The current proposal on the table will increase the gasoline tax significantly before instituting this tracker mess by 2014. The first part is perfect. Raise the tax on the fuel, you are directly taxing the mileage as well as incentivising better driving practices and better vehicle choices. To complain that the tax income will fall as more people use public transit or smaller fuel efficient cars is ridiculous; those roads will last longer with fewer, tinier vehicles racing up and down them, so they shouldn't cost as much to maintain. And even if somehow the entire consumer fleet switches off of gasoline in the future (which is hugely desirable), you will still have "fuel" to tax, whether it is hydrogen, LNG, or even metered electricity. Let's worry about THAT issue when we get there, and worry about greening the transportation system first.
Thanks to Mike for posting my story. It is always good to provide new examples of the multitude of possible business models that spring up around free goods.
I wrote a little more on the band's experiment here, for those interested.