Will Wal-Mart Cause Woe for Hillary?

That's what this AP story (via the Wash Times) asks:

Mrs. Clinton served on Wal-Mart's board of directors for six years when her husband was governor of Arkansas. The Rose Law Firm, where she was a partner, handled many of the Arkansas-based company's legal affairs.

She had kind words for Wal-Mart as recently as 2004, when she told an audience at the convention of the National Retail Federation that her time on the board "was a great experience in every respect."

In 1986, Clinton became the first woman appointed to the Arkansas titan's board of trustees. More recently, she has turned down campaign contributions and ragged on the company's health-insurance benefits. And garnered anger from left-leaning critics:

"There's no evidence she did anything to improve the status of women or make it a very different place in ways Mrs. Clinton's Democratic base would care about," said Liza Featherstone, author of "Selling Women Short: The Landmark Battle for Workers' Rights at Wal-Mart."

More here.

Julian Sanchez stood up for low, low prices here.

A decade ago, the modern anti-big-box retailer movement was born and, like Walter Cronkite at every major moment in history, I Was There.

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  • ||

    I fukken love it when lefties get their panties in a bunch over Wally World. It's so...cute. The best part is that, for all their blathering, there's not really a damn thing they can do about it. As much as they hate Wal*Mart, as much as they would like to keep it out of their quaint little towns, the reality is more like that South Park episode---people will go to Wal*Mart.

    And now, we get to watch the spectacle of the left's newest hero getting grilled because she used to work for Wal*Mart. Delicious!

  • ||

    Though it would be funny, there will be no woe here. If the Dem primaries are in such a state that this sort of thing matters, they will lose in the general.

    "Selling Women Short: The Landmark Battle for Workers' Rights at Wal-Mart."

    You know, when you try to position every battle as one over civil rights, you start sounding like self mockery after a while.

  • ||

    "Worker's Rights": You have the right to work for whatever you have agreed upon, or you have the right to leave and get another job somewhere else.

  • ||

    Selling Women Short

    Guess again:
    World's Richest Women (2005, Forbes)
    Rank Name Net Worth($G) Source
    8 Walton, Alice L $20.5G Wal-Mart
    10 Walton, Helen R $20.4G Wal-Mart
    144 Kroenke, Ann Walton $2.8G Wal-Mart
    144 Laurie, Nancy Walton $2.8G Wal-Mart

    You know, when you try to position every battle as one over civil rights, you start sounding like self mockery after a while.
    Apparently it's a good way to sell a lot of crappy books.

  • ||

    Evan:

    You also have the right to receive the benefits and work structure both parties agreed on.

    "Employees from Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Washington, Illinois, Iowa, and West Virginia have sued Wal-Mart for underpaying its hourly workers. Employees from Missouri and Kansas have filed class-action suits alleging "acts of wage abuse." These acts include neglecting to pay workers overtime, preventing rest and lunch breaks, and forcing them to "work off the clock." "

    source: http://www.wal-martlitigation.com/currentd.htm

  • ||

    Mr. F. Le Mur,

    "Rank Name Net Worth($G) Source" What does the "G" stand for? Giga, as in billion?

  • ||

    Careful, Keith. You'll be kicked out of the libertarian club if you believe that corporations can and will do crappy things to people. You see, only the government can abuse power.

  • ||

    Evan, I am not so sanguine about WalMart's invulnerability. Can't politicians and "community activists" increase WalMart's costs by imposing targeted taxes and regulations, leading them to lose their price advantage? And all this propaganda we hear all day can't be helping the bottom line, either.

    Keith, when it comes to litigation, how does Wal-Mart compare to other large retailers? Is there evidence that WalMart treats employees worse than other chains?

  • ||

    Keith,

    "You also have the right to receive the benefits and work structure both parties agreed on.

    "Employees from Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Washington, Illinois, Iowa, and West Virginia have sued Wal-Mart for underpaying its hourly workers. Employees from Missouri and Kansas have filed class-action suits alleging "acts of wage abuse." These acts include neglecting to pay workers overtime, preventing rest and lunch breaks, and forcing them to "work off the clock." "

    First off, I'd like to know what this "wage abuse" constitutes. If it's paying the employees less than was agreed upon, then Wal*Mart should pay the price for breaking the employment contracts. However, if it's simply paying the employees less than they think they should be paid, then it's bunk. "Forcing" someone to work for free (off the clock) is an oxymoron; unless the workers are locked inside the store and forced to work at gunpoint, then nobody is really being forced to do anything. They can simply quit. However, if the company promised them pay, but then withheld payment after the fact, then the employer should be forced to compensate them.

    Why is this so hard? You're right: they do have the right to the benefits, wages, etc., that they agreed upon. I never said that they did not.

  • ||

    "What does the "G" stand for? Giga, as in billion?"

    Yer a kwik one... :P

    "You'll be kicked out of the libertarian club if you believe that corporations can and will do crappy things to people. You see, only the government can abuse power."

    It certainly does seem to be the prevailing mode of thought at this blog. To most here, criticism of corporations is tantamount to calling for that evil "government action" which we all know is inherently worse than any so-called "corporate abuses."

    Then someone will go on to say "Corporations are only bad when they're in cahoots with the state." Well, seriously, who do you think protects the corporations' "property rights? (a concept so near and dear to libertoids and fascists alike)" It ain't the Easter Bunny.

  • ||

    Mitch:

    "Can't politicians and "community activists" increase WalMart's costs by imposing targeted taxes and regulations, leading them to lose their price advantage? And all this propaganda we hear all day can't be helping the bottom line, either."

    Sure they can---but this is largely offset by the secret handouts and tax breaks that crooked pols give to crooked rent-seeking Wal*Mart.

    As for the negative propaganda, that shit only works on people who can actually afford to spend more or be inconvenienced. People who depend on Wal*Mart's low prices and convenience can't afford to shop elsewhere just to satisfy an ideological objection.

    Personally, I don't shop typically at Wal*Mart because I don't like it. I don't like the slovenly people who work and shop there; I don't like the dirty environment; I don't like the traffic; I don't like the lines. But I can afford to go elsewhere, and that's the point.

    In this culture, an abstract ideology can only change behaviors if it is incredibly strong (which the anti-wal*mart movement is decidedly NOT), or if it is pragmatically feasible. And most of the people who choose to brave the lines, the traffic, the disgusting atmosphere, the crowds, and the slow-witted employees probably can't afford to shop elsewhere because of an abstract ideology.

  • fyodor||

    Billy Occam,

    Maybe you're being silly, and maybe you mean what you say. In case it's the latter, allow me to explain. Primarily, it's not who does it, but what is being done.

    Therefore, a private corporation certainly can "do crappy things to people". For instance, if it hires a hit man off someone or break their legs. If it lobbies for taxpayer subsidies (though if it succeeds, the government bares even ultimate responsibility). If it truly does not pay someone for work performed at the rate agreed to.

    The basis of the disagreement between libertarians and the rest of the world on employment issues rests on our belief that no one has a right to a job.

    Regarding the allegation quoted by Keith, corporations may influence and urge its workers to work "off the clock," but in lieu of threatening them with something worse than firing, which would make them no worse off than if they hadn't been given the job in the first place, there is no "force" as we see it. We may disagree about that, but please understand it is not just because a corporation is doing it, but WHAT they are doing. Regarding overtime, that's a stickier situation. Libertarians don't believe that the law should restrict wage agreements. But obviously the law is the law, and one could assume that it should be taken into account when determining the nature of the employer/employee agreement. OTOH, if a worker works under such conditions for years before claiming back wages owed, I would question whether he changed the nature of the "implied contract" by continuing to work under such terms long after it became obvious those were indeed the terms being offered. And I know these workers don't face very happy choices if they're living paycheck to paycheck and don't have very good employment options. But that doesn't change the core issue that unless they were threatened with something worse than firing, like a threat to their life or limb or property, they were not forced to do anything.

    But you probably knew all that already. Satirical caricaturization can be fun, but if it's misleading, gotta take it to task.

  • ||

    "It certainly does seem to be the prevailing mode of thought at this blog. To most here, criticism of corporations is tantamount to calling for that evil "government action" which we all know is inherently worse than any so-called "corporate abuses."

    You obviously haven't been paying attention, Andy. Commenters here constantly criticize Wal*Mart, among other corporations.

    The problem is, it's seen as "tantamount" because it typically is. I have no problem whatsoever with criticizing corporations (see my last post!). I personally have a whole shitload of criticisms for various companies---and I vote with my dollars. But I would be willing to wager that the vast majority of published (web or otherwise) Wal*Mart criticisms from the anti-WM crowd are accompanied by calls for government action to "fix" these criticisms. This is why we're so weary of criticisms of "evil corporations"...because they're typically accompanied by demands of government action.

    "Then someone will go on to say "Corporations are only bad when they're in cahoots with the state." Well, seriously, who do you think protects the corporations' "property rights? (a concept so near and dear to libertoids and fascists alike)" It ain't the Easter Bunny"

    What in the hell is your point? You've built this immense strawman in which libertarians all think everything about the government is evil. Now you have the cojones to conflate a rent-seeking government with a property-rights-protecting government. Fool. Just because a government protects property rights does not mean that whatever else it does is also good. One can support government-protected property rights while still denouncing rent-seeking via public-private collusion.

    Your attempts at "logic" are rediculous.

  • ||

    Evan-IIRC, in some cases the employees were literally locked in the store.
    Also, when you work for $8/hr, just quitting is usually not an option. One takes a job like that because options are limited. If a person does leave, it usually takes time to find another job. With wages like that, it's difficult at best to save enough money to be able to endure a period out of work. The employer's interest is to get the most out an employee for the least amount of money. When the employees are disinclined to leave because the bills keep coming, there's a strong incentive to push the boundaries as far as possible. The employer has zero disincentive to treat people like crap when people are easily replaced.
    While Wal-Mart's employment practices may not be illegal, they are certainly distasteful.
    I'm constantly amazed that libertarians are perfectly willing to accept that the government will screw people (and rightly so) but when a corporation treats people like crap, they're less willing to acknoledge it. The obvious response is that coporations don't have tanks or a monopoly on force. That's certainly true, but it also ignores the reality that outright physical coercion is not the only way to obtain power, and that when a person or group achieves power, they will invariaby use it to their own ends. In the case of corporations, that often means treating lower-echelon workers like widgets to be used and disposed of.

  • ||

    Mitch,

    According to the source, the number of complaints are "far greater" than for Sears, Target or K-Mart. Still kind of a weaselly assertion. But I'm not sure how to cast your question. What do you think makes the best normalized metric:
    - #of class-action participants/#of stores
    - #of class ppt's/# of employees
    - #of class ppt's/$ revenue
    - $ of total potential claims/ (any of the above denominators)?

    Billy Occam,
    Hah! I love it when Wal-mart turns the monopsony screws on the suppliers (q.v. Rubbermaid, Haier) and innovates supply-chain processes and technologies, boosting their economy-of-scale multipliers, but I bug out when the monopsony screws get turned on individuals, or the innovation takes the form of new variants on pushing the letter and spirit of employment agreements.

    I'm pro Wal-mart: I buy bulk staples (particularly Barilla pasta, 0.84/lb), cleaning supplies, cat food and cat litter there. Cranberry juice: the Sam's Choice cranberry cocktail is equvalent in sweet-tart balance to Ocean Spray, without distracting off-flavors of apple or pear juice, the first store brand I've ever found where that's true, and $3.69 per gallon. I was a shareholder until the middle of last year, using the shares for writing covered calls. I look forward to the requisition of Wal-Mart RFID tags catapulting Texas Instruments over Intel.

    Do I get kicked out of the club?

  • Dan T.||

    First Evan says:

    "'Forcing' someone to work for free (off the clock) is an oxymoron; unless the workers are locked inside the store and forced to work at gunpoint, then nobody is really being forced to do anything. They can simply quit."

    Later he says:

    "But I can afford to go elsewhere, and that's the point."

    Remember, everybody can "simply quit" their jobs for only those who can afford it can "simply shop elsewhere"...

  • ||

    Andy,

    "To most here, criticism of corporations is tantamount to calling for that evil "government action"..."

    You're referring to Hit and Run? Is this your first time here?? I can't tell you how many times I have read the ubiquitous disclaimer 'though I criticize the corp, I am in NO WAY calling for gov't intervention..."

    You sound a lot like amazingdrx when he claims that everyone here is a bushbot.

  • ||

    Corporations may do some pretty bad things, but I have yet to see one send out a heavily-armed brute squad to execute a no-knock raid on some unsuspecting citizen at 4am.

  • ||

    "Do I get kicked out of the club? "

    Here we go again. Abandon your strawman, people!

  • ||

    Fyodor- I was being partially serious and partially satircal in my first post.
    I'm very familiar with the libertarian arguments; I've been a pretty serious libertarian for well over a decade, and can recite the arguments as well as anybody.
    I agree that no one has a right to a job. My point is that a lot of people in the libertarian movement are unwilling to admit that there is an incentive for corporations to exploit workers, and that they do so. I suspect it's the fear that if we admit that, it opens the door to more government programs, which usually just make things worse. But I'm not calling for that.
    I'm suggesting that we be willing to call a spade a spade, and an abusive company and abusive company. That does not mean that one rolls the tanks (or the ballot box, which is ultimately the same thing). It means that honesty demands that we acknowledge reality, and admit that abuses of power happen whenever and wherever power accumulates. Honesty also demands that we admit that a monopoly on physical coercion is not the only sort of power out there.

  • fyodor||

    Billy Occam,

    It may amaze you that people think differently than you, but I guess that's life, eh? Trying to understand our POV may help to make it less amazing. Maybe not, but you might want to give it a try. Certainly, if people really were locked in a store without prior knowledge, I would certainly see that as an actionable offense. But if someone who got locked overnight at Wal-Mart works a night shift and gets locked there again, I would say they consented to it the second time.

    Regarding: "when you work for $8/hr, just quitting is usually not an option. One takes a job like that because options are limited," we'll likely never agree on this. But understand that we understand that poor workers may often face difficult life choices. But they're still choices! If someone quits, they are no worse off than if they hadn't taken the job in the first place, right? That's why the threat of firing is not coercion. It's unfortunate that there are poor people in the world who face such difficult choices, but that's not Wal-Mart's fault. Wal-Mart is giving them jobs and helping them to be less poor. Not out of the goodness of their hearts, of course, but if that Wal-Mart job is all that's keeping these poor people from starving to death, then it's good that Wal-Mart is there to give them the job.

  • ||

    "...only sort of power out there."

    Right, there's emotional powers, psychological powers, magical powers...

  • Dan T.||

    First off, I'd like to know what this "wage abuse" constitutes. If it's paying the employees less than was agreed upon, then Wal*Mart should pay the price for breaking the employment contracts.

    Actually, a company should be able to legally break the employment contract because the worker should know that when he performs labor there's a chance he will not be paid for it. He's taking the risk, and it's unfair for the government to force Wal*Mart to redistribute their wealth. If the worker doesn't like not being paid, he can simply quit.

  • fyodor||

    Billy Occam,

    Well, a fool, in avoiding one extreme, will embrace (or perhaps in this case, seem to embrace) the opposite extreme.

    I believe you overstate your case, and in doing so ruin it. Let's take a reasonable look at what Wal-Mart has done in certain cases and we can decide whether we think they're actionable or not. Villifying Wal-Mart as a whole seems silly. Evan's posts show that he's aware that if they really did violate the terms of employment, they should be held accountable. Maybe we're not so unreasonable as you think. But maybe you're right that we can sometimes stand to pay more attention to corporate crime. But painting us into a corner so you can shame us all probably doesn't help. And firing or threatening to fire someone is NOT a form of coercion, even if it is indeed a use of power. We can debate that specifically, if you like.

  • ||

    Fyodor-I guess I'm not being clear.
    1) I am a libertarian. Have been for a long time.
    1a) I believe in the free market.
    1b) I oppose government meddling in employment contracts.
    1c) I do understand your ("your" being shorthand for libertarians) arguments. I've made them, and I accept most of them.

    -BUT-
    2) I acknowlege that corporations have some power over those they employ.
    3) I believe that anyone who obtains power and has an incentive to misuse it will do so.
    4) It is sometimes in the corporation's interest to screw lower-rung employees.
    5) 2, 3 and 4 lead me to suspect that corporations will be inclined to screw employees and will do so if given half a chance.
    6) When the coporation does so, it is shitty. Immoral. Ugly. Whatever word you like.
    7) That still does not mean I'm calling for government action.

    Hope that helps.

  • ||

    "...only sort of power out there."

    Right, there's emotional powers, psychological powers, magical powers...


    And the power to end an job that is the only thing allowing one to feed themselves. I'm assuming that you don't see a difference between that and magical powers.

  • ||

    Fyodor-Re: your 11:43 post. Perhaps my comments at 11:44 will make more clear what I am saying. And you're right-firing is not physical coercion. But it is a use of power. And that's what I'm talking about.

  • ||

    Evan,

    Billy Occam mentioned it, and it's among the allegations:

    http://www.philly.com/mld/philly/business/special_packages/cf_biz/13603591.htm

    Sorry that this one is a pay-archive article:
    http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F4091FFF3C5D0C7B8DDDA80894DC404482

  • ||

    "One can support government-protected property rights while still denouncing rent-seeking via public-private collusion. "

    The problem with talking about "property rights" is that property allocation is arbitrary and not always fair and the societal and personal effects of unfair property allocation are very real and tangible. Why should the whole Walton family be so fucking rich while John Q. McPoorAss is born without a pot in which to piss? I'm not saying the first Walton didn't work hard, but it's just not fair that his descendents should have it so much easier than the descendents of some fuck-up or just plain unlucky bastard. As I've said before, I'm not really calling for some massive Government Wealth Redistribution, I'm just saying that it's a flaw in the libertarian philosophy to not treat wealth as at least partially a function of luck (at least in most cases). Even when this is acknowledged, it's treated with a shrug of the shoulders and a refrain of "Life is unfair." I don't know what the solution is, but this problem has to be acknowledged to make libertarianism a truly just philosophy (not to mention be taken seriously by more people)

    Now before I'm denounced as a "communist" as I was on a post the other day, I'd like my points to be refuted. I apologize in advance to those who don't reflexively resort to ad hominem attacks.

  • fyodor||

    Billy Ocamm,

    We're leapfrogging here. I did not see your post of 11:33 when I wrote my post of 11:36. I'm guessing you didn't see my reply to your post of 11:33 which hit at 11:43 when you made your post of 11:34.

    I guess I'll wait a few minutes to reply to that because you may be making another post as I type this! :-)

  • ||

    Billy Occam:

    "Also, when you work for $8/hr, just quitting is usually not an option. One takes a job like that because options are limited."

    So, because your "options are limited", the government should force the employer to give the employees more than the employer feels they are worth? Ugh. I've not always had a great job. I've had plenty of shitty jobs, and I didn't grow up with any special opportunities (my family isn't wealthy, I had to make my own money). But even when I was sweating my ass off mowing lawns or stuffing envelopes in the musty basement of the Bursar's office, just to make enough money to get through school, I never had any feeling that I was "owed" anything more than my employer felt I was worth.

    Here's a question that I would like to be answered just once: what if Wal*Mart just decided to close up shop? Is there any law preventing them from simply going out of business?? Nope. Think of all the poor folks that would lose their job, and would have to go looking for a new job, maybe even at reduced wages. But would you surmise that companies should be prevented from going out of business, even if they're losing money?

    "I'm constantly amazed that libertarians are perfectly willing to accept that the government will screw people (and rightly so) but when a corporation treats people like crap, they're less willing to acknoledge it. The obvious response is that coporations don't have tanks or a monopoly on force."

    Yes, that is the obvious response---obvious because it's valid. I willfully (and constantly) acknowledge that Wal*Mart treats its employees worse than it should---but that's just my opinion, and it's all relative. Surely, if someone came here from cambodia and suddenly had the opportunity to work at Wal*Mart for its base wages, they'd be ecstatic! But regardless, the difference here is that the anti-corporate crowd does not seem to be able to acknowledge the fact that voicing their opinion/protesting is where it should stop.

    "That's certainly true, but it also ignores the reality that outright physical coercion is not the only way to obtain power, and that when a person or group achieves power, they will invariaby use it to their own ends. In the case of corporations, that often means treating lower-echelon workers like widgets to be used and disposed of."

    So? What is your point? None of this speaks to anything except the fact that Wal*Mart treats its employees poorly. Yet, thousands of people still want to work there. Quite amazing. What I'm confused about is, what is your point, really? DO you favor government intervention? Or do you favor peaceful criticism of the company? If it's the latter, then I don't disagree with you. I would posit that putting peaceful social pressure on a company in order to achieve a certain end is an integral part of the socio-capitalist structure.

    But, again, I fear that you folks are building this immense strawman argument in which Wal*Mart or other corporations somehow get a pass from libertarians on ethical issues simply because those same libertarians don't support government remedies to these ethical breaches---unfortunately, you're going to be very hard-pressed to find an example here. But good luck.

  • ||

    Fyodor- I was thinking the same thing about posting past each other.

  • Dan T.||

    And firing or threatening to fire someone is NOT a form of coercion, even if it is indeed a use of power. We can debate that specifically, if you like.

    I would like to explore this idea further. In my opinion it is, or least sometimes is.

    It's one thing to be fired for failure to perform your job. It's quite another to be fired unless you sleep with your boss (for example).

  • ||

    So, because your "options are limited", the government should force the employer to give the employees more than the employer feels they are worth?
    NO, GODAMNIT. Read my other posts. Stop arguing with the Billy Occam in your head.

  • fyodor||

    andy,

    Well y'know, luck happens. But again, you're misinterpreting what libertarianism is about. It's not about just desserts. That's for God and the artists and the priests and the philosophers to figure out. It's about rights. People who have inherited money have a right to it because it was willingly given to them. If that's "unfair" in some cosmic sense, well, y'know what they say about life. There will always be that kind of unfairness. We believe that trying to rid the world of it only creates more of it, at least if doing so is not based on a fair determination of enforcement of rights. If you can show where rights are not being determined or enforced fairly, we'll listen. But to complain that some people are born rich and others poor is like complaining that we cannot simply flap our arms and fly whereever we please. Except that it seems like we can do something about the former. But it's an illusion.

  • ||

    andy,

    I agree with your point about life being unfair with respect to wealth, but I think your point is irrelevant to how Wal*Mart treats its employees, the topic of this thread. Your point would be relevant to a discussion concerning the morality of various forms of taxation, e.g., taxation of income vs. taxation of wealth.

  • ||

    Billy,

    "And the power to end an job that is the only thing allowing one to feed themselves."

    Ah, but you commit a logical fallacy therein! The fact that said job exists in the first place is because said company offered it up in the first place.

    For example, let's say a bum is sitting on the street corner. He has no job. You walk up to him and offer him $50/month for washing your car. He accepts the offer. Does this now mean that you weild some sort of "power" over his life? Of course not. Is your car-washing gig "the only thing allowing him to feed himself"? No, of course not, because he was finding some way to do so before you voluntarily offered him a job. So this "power" you speak of is empty. It is logically fallacious. Unless you forcibly prevent him from doing anything else, you wield no real power.

  • fyodor||

    Dan T,

    One could look at breach of employment contract as a form of coercion. It's a bit of a stretch since the contract is "at will" (is that the correct term?) meaning it can be ended by either party at any time. But even if we grant that said contract (whether written or implied) can indeed be breached, what are the damages? Maybe if someone moved across the country to take a job only to find he or she is expected to perform "job duties" no reasonable person would expect to perform, that person likely has a right to have his or her moving expenses paid both ways, so (let's drop the artifice) she can get back to where she was. But if breach of employment contract doesn't really make you any worse off than you were before (unlike if I ship you a million tons of peanuts for a million dollars and then you refuse to pay), where are the damages?

  • ||

    It's about rights.

    1. When these rights tend to increase average utilitarian-style wellbeing over a large population, they are easy to like.

    2. When they don't, my feelings get more mix'd.

  • Dan T.||

    So this "power" you speak of is empty. It is logically fallacious.

    Except for the fact that it got your car washed.

  • ||

    Andy,

    I've been kicking around the idea that government should get out of the business of administering probate, and that all items that remain in an estate at the time of death simply escheat to the government -- effectively a 100% estate tax, though not in the same terminology. Married couples would have community property, so in the event one dies, it all reverts to the other; if someone wants to make a bequest to their erstwhile heirs, they'd darn well better do it while alive, and in actual fact give up control of their money or their business to the next generation. No more of these "living trust" contstructs.

    I haven't fully worked it out (for instance, accidental deaths with dependents involved), but maybe you'll enjoy thinking about it.

  • R C Dean||

    I love the cognitive dissonance here:

    One takes a job like that because options are limited.

    This is no more than a roundabout way of saying that Walmart gives its employees a job that is better than all the others available them.

    And for that, apparently, Walmart should be punished.

  • fyodor||

    Evan,

    I don't think you're entirely correct. You do have the power of whether to continue paying the bum. It's true that those who call the threat to fire a form of coercion are overstating their case (which is weak enough to begin with) because people do NOT automatically starve the second they lose their job, no matter how poor they are, and the vast majority will find a way to eat even if they never find another job. OTOH, your bum will not keep getting the $50 and whatever benefit he derives from money (which is clearly something other than avoiding starvation, but still, it's something!) if you decide not to pay him, so you do wield that power.

    But so what? The important point as I see it, is that if you decide to fire him for some capricious or nefarious reason, he's still NO WORSE OFF than if you had not offered him the job in the first place!! Well, except maybe that he'd gotten his hopes up, but obviously this is not the kind of "harm" the government should be trying to prevent.

  • ||

    andy,

    To most here, criticism of corporations is tantamount to calling for that evil "government action" which we all know is inherently worse than any so-called "corporate abuses."

    Though you're trying to do a thoreau, I'll be gracious nonetheless. Criticism of corporations is fine; expecting people here to defend regulations and laws which attack what we consider free enterprise is another thing altogether.

    So, saying that a person has the right to simply leave a shitty job is in no way defending a corporation which offers such a job. I know you, thoreau, jennifer, etc. have a hard time understanding this though.

  • fyodor||

    1. When these rights tend to increase average utilitarian-style wellbeing over a large population, they are easy to like.

    2. When they don't, my feelings get more mix'd.

    Well, uh, sure, agreed. But of course, that only begs the question: how does the enforcement of property rights (or other rights, if that's what you were talking about) ever decrease the wellbeing of a population?

  • ||

    Oh Boo Hoo! Boo Hoo! Nobody left me a jillion dollars! Somebody got more than me! Boo Hoo!

  • ||

    The Real Bill,

    OK, fair enough; in respect to this thread, I have to agree with Mr. Occam: While no one has a "right" to be employed, it can be argued that employers have an obligation, an ethical one more than legal, to not treat their employees like shit. And corporations that do need to be called out for it, although not necessarily legally sanctioned.

    Fyodor,

    "If you can show where rights are not being determined or enforced fairly, we'll listen."

    That's my point. Obviously if one fairly earns something one should be able to do with it as one pleases, including giving it to whomever one pleases. And if I steal something from you, it's not my right to give it to whomever I please. Obviously we'd all agree on this. Libertarianism's flaw is that it doesn't see stolen property (capital) that's been passed down through generations as stolen anymore. That's why it gives a free pass to people/corporations that, while currently playing by the rules with their capital, got that capital from ancestors who didn't necessarily play by the rules (ethical more than "legal")

  • ||

    This is no more than a roundabout way of saying that Walmart gives its employees a job that is better than all the others available them.

    The real question is: what types of jobs would be available to them if WalMart (or something like it) did not exist?

    That is subtly, but importantly, different than asking what alternative jobs are available in a universe dominated by WalMart.

  • ||

    Well, uh, sure, agreed. But of course, that only begs the question: how does the enforcement of property rights (or other rights, if that's what you were talking about) ever decrease the wellbeing of a population?

    Slavery is considered one such case. Monopoly another. Hopefully those are the only ones, but some people think that there's more.

    Full disclosure: following HnR has made more more comfortable with WalMart. I used to think a bit more like Occam than I do now. Still think I get where he is coming from, tho.

  • Timothy||

    And the power to end an job that is the only thing allowing one to feed themselves.

    And here we run up against a cold economic fact: what's the alternative and is working at Wal-Mart better than these people's next-best alternative (IE the opportunity cost)? If so, well, it's completely rational for them to take the job and it's not like they're worse off than they otherwise would've been. It's also not my fault they're basically useless, so I fail to see why I should sympathize with them or care about their success any more than I sympathize with Wal-Mart's sharholders.

    That said, if Wal-Mart has in fact locked employees in stores and not allowed them to leave, that's probably actionable. If they have withheld duly earned pay, that's definitely actionable. Corporations can, and I'm sure do, nasty things to people sometimes, but in a situation like this you have to ask if the employees would be better off without Wal-Mart, and if so why haven't they gone to work at Target?

  • ||

    Quick, someone, ANYONE - name the last war started by a corporation?

  • fyodor||

    effectively a 100% estate tax, though not in the same terminology.

    LOL!! Let's just not call it a tax!! And let's not care a whit what the owner of the assets wanted to be done with them in the event of his demise!!

    Well, you have a right to your opinion. We think this would be patently unfair to everyone who wants to leave something of value to others. So look, you've tried to reduce unfairness, but you've made life more unfair by taking away a basic right of ownership of property, to be able to say what can be done with it.

  • ||

    Fyodor, RC Dean (and maybe Evan too),

    In the event that a Walmart manager locks in a shift of employees and forces them to perform some discrete task off the clock, what would you call the appropriate response?

    Should the shift workers:
    1) call 911 (presuming cell phones or wall phones are available) and say they're being held against their will?
    2) Do the work, suffer through the rest of the evening, and figure out future options?
    2a) What should they plan to do next time?
    3) Walk away in the event, using fire escapes or breaking windows (if required), to leave the building.
    3a)Come back the next shift and steely-eye the management about whether or not they've been fired?
    4) sit down; refuse to work until they are clocked back in?

    If I were to work at Walmart, and I were locked in by a supervisor, you betcha I'd call 911, but then, I'm white, and I'd probably be that supervisor.

    3a and 4 will only be able to keep the management at the table if the workers can commit to each other that they will work together... that they can, dare I say it, bargain collectively.

    Is there a solution to Walmart abrogating employee work agreements that does not logically lead to incentivizing the workers to collective bargaining?

  • ||

    "I've been kicking around the idea that government should get out of the business of administering probate, and that all items that remain in an estate at the time of death simply escheat to the government -- effectively a 100% estate tax, though not in the same terminology."

    This may be one of the fairer solutions- there, of course, is no perfect solution. The question remains: what'll be done with the $$$ that is escheated to the guvmint?

    Hak,
    "So, saying that a person has the right to simply leave a shitty job is in no way defending a corporation which offers such a job.I know you, thoreau, jennifer, etc. have a hard time understanding this though."

    What have I said that makes you think I don't understand this principle? An invalid argument that because I've questioned certain tenets of libertarianism that I don't believe in any of them?

  • fyodor||

    Slavery is considered one such case

    Enforcing slavery as a property right ignores the rights of person made a slave. By ignoring that person's rights, recognizing slavery runs counter to libertarian principles.

    Did you really need that explained?

  • fyodor||

    Slavery is considered one such case

    Enforcing slavery as a property right ignores the rights of person made a slave. By ignoring that person's rights, recognizing slavery runs counter to libertarian principles.

    Did you really need that explained?

  • fyodor||

    Slavery is considered one such case

    Enforcing slavery as a property right ignores the rights of person made a slave. By ignoring that person's rights, recognizing slavery runs counter to libertarian principles.

    Did you really need that explained?

  • Timothy||

    So here's my problem with the principle of the 100% estate tax (well, in addition to the whole stealing from you even in death thing): It's practically impossible to come up with a reason why it's okay to bleed your wealth slowly over to your progeny as you age but NOT okay to invest it yourself and then leave it to them as you die. Or to give it to them immediately before you die. People with significant assets have more than enough resources to structure them to avoid taxation, I doubt that can be changed (but I also don't view avoiding or even out-right evading taxes through fraud as immoral), and I fail to see any distinction between setting up a big trust for your kid to be administered by said kid once he/she/it reaches the age of majority and leaving your kid a pile of money when you croak.

  • fyodor||

    keith,

    What they do about being locked in is ultimately their business. Like you, I'd probably call 911. Like you, I have greater life choices than most Wal-Mart workers. But the largest point here is that whatever they decide, it's THEIR CHOICE. If they continue to work for Wal-Mart under such conditions, they have willingly decided to do so.

  • ||

    Having a bit of difficulty with the posting button, Fyodor?

  • ||

    I fear that you folks are building this immense strawman argument in which Wal*Mart or other corporations somehow get a pass from libertarians on ethical issues simply because those same libertarians don't support government remedies to these ethical breaches---unfortunately, you're going to be very hard-pressed to find an example here.

    Let's assume for a moment that Wal-Mart does engage in unethical practices. How would you go about stopping it, without involving the government in some way? Because frankly, you're not going to get more than a tiny percentage of shoppers to give a crap about ethics when they can get a hair dryer for 10% cheaper than elsewhere.

  • ||

    Quick, someone, ANYONE - name the last war started by a corporation?

    That is not a fair question. We have no idea what was said at the secret meetings with Dick Cheney. Court said we have no right to this info.

    Side note to Fyodor: even if they had let the slaves own property, I don't think it would have made a difference. Certainly nothing about the status of being owned violates one's proprty rights. It may, on the other hand, hint at the existence of some rights that are not property rights.

  • ||

    Ironchef,

    Willing to accept ITT involvement in Chilean coup d'etats in the 1970's? Not quite a war, but still shady.

    http://foia.state.gov/Reports/ChurchReport.asp

    How about the United Fruit Company (Chiquita Brands) in Guatemala's civil war circa 1954?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_PBSUCCESS

  • fyodor||

    Timothy,

    Good point, that I was going to get to myself. Even aside from the unfairness of taking away from people the right to say where their money goes when they die, the 100% tax would probably do little to alleviate the unfairness it was designed to alleviate as there will always be loopholes and ways around it. It would probably hurt most the little guy it would be designed to help cause the little guy doesn't have the resources to figure out the loopholes. Oh, but it would sure help lawyers!!

  • ||

    Pragmatic Libertarian and keith,

    A corporation getting its cronies in the government to take some action might be a close analogy to a corporation starting a war, but it's not really the same as a corporation taking that action.

  • ||

    No, of course not, because he was finding some way to do so before you voluntarily offered him a job.

    i think this assumes a sort of static existence of the bum who was given the job - that being fired will just revert him back to his state of being pre-employment.

    more realistically, this person's life will have evolved with the acquisition of employment - say he bought a house, or had a child - and now losing a job could mean a foreclosure on his home, or a loss of health insurance for his family.

    so i don't think that an employer can merely return you to your previous state. chances are your tenure with them has developed certain dependencies and the ability to hurt you in these relationships is a power which the employer certainly wields. perhaps people should not let dependencies develop - but i have yet to meet a person who hasn't.

    on a side note - i've always thought that everyone has a right to a job - but that no one has an obligation to hire you.

  • ||

    A corporation getting its cronies in the government to take some action

    One might argue that the relationship btwn Dick Cheney and Halliburton was somewaht closer than mere cronies. Again, it is hard to tell bcs we are not privvy to the details.

  • ||

    While no one has a "right" to be employed, it can be argued that employers have an obligation, an ethical one more than legal, to not treat their employees like shit. And corporations that do need to be called out for it, although not necessarily legally sanctioned.

    Andy said it more succincly than I. And the above position is one that I doubt most here would disagree with. I must say, though, that I'm disgusted by the habit of attributing to posters (me, in this case) positions said poster never took, or would take. Libertarians usually think more carefully than that.

    Evan-you point about the bum is interesting, but does not change the fact that for the people working for Wal-Mart, the power to end that job matters. The fact is that people do work there who are exploited. Ask yourself why? Are they "worthless" as Timothy suggested? Stupid? Or does the weight of circumstance make it impractical to just quit? I'm suggesting the latter, and that the management takes advantage of the situation.
    That is not coercion.
    It is shitty.

    And, so we're painfully clear (since my previous posts were apparently less than crytiline)-I am not calling for government intervention. I am suggesting that intellectual honesty demands that we acknowledge that companies have an incentive to treat people like shit, and do so. To pretend otherwise just makes us look silly and out of touch with reality.

  • ||

    I consider myself a Libertarian, but when you see some of comments excusing a corporation's ability to abuse their workers and that the only recourse a worker should have is to quit that job, it makes me glad that we don't live in a Libertopia and that the wacko free market types are not in charge. IMO, what they consider Libertarianism is really closer to Fedualism, the wealthy are free to abuse and exploit everyone and if the serfs don't like their treatment then they can just do without food and housing while they search for a new master.

  • fyodor||

    your tenure with them has developed certain dependencies and the ability to hurt you in these relationships is a power which the employer certainly wields

    Oh, please. Actually I addressed this in my own response to Evan, but dismissed it as something no one would take seriously. Look, this is a purely psychological effect which differs vastly from one individual to another. I'm not saying it's not real per se, but as always, the big question is: so what? If such psychological effects are to be the provence of the government, then everything is, as there are potentially psychological effects on others in just about everything we do! If you don't mean this to imply government action but just criticism of Wal-Mart's corporate policy, the only thing I wanna say about that at the moment is: whatever.

  • ||

    But the largest point here is that whatever they decide, it's THEIR CHOICE

    If their choice is to come to a group consensus for that set of shift workers as to what agreement or concession from management they will require before they go back to work, then you would support it? Does that apply to other union or collective bargaining situations where the coercive power of the NLRB explicitly does not come into play?

  • fyodor||

    i've always thought that everyone has a right to a job - but that no one has an obligation to hire you.

    Well this is a purely semantic issue here, meaning it depends on how you want to put it.

    I'd put it this way. You have a right to any job that someone else wants to give you. You do not have a right to a job that no one wants to give you, and you do not have a right to retain a job that your employer no longer wants to keep you at, for any reason.

    Your phrasing correctly addresses the fact that it takes the cooperation of two to make a job (in this context of the word), and the two have the right to come to an agreement they choose, but EITHER has the right to end the agreement at any time (in lieu of a contract that stipulates a specified amount of time).

  • ||

    Hak: Most of the discussion here appears to be ships passing in the night. The interesting question to me is what the libertarian response is to (non-governmental) organized economic coercion that is arguably political, such as boycotts. Also, labor unions have not entered the discussion here, but the fact is that there has been all kinds of governmental intervention in that area, much of which is not favorable to union organization campaigns, particularly in the South. How would libertarians respond to legislation that would make labor union organization easier?

    By the way, have you had a chance to look at "Firepower" yet?

  • fyodor||

    If their choice is to come to a group consensus for that set of shift workers as to what agreement or concession from management they will require before they go back to work, then you would support it?

    It's none of my business!! It should NOT be up to me, or anyone else, to say whether they can or cannot do such a thing. Likewise, the law should not be used EITHER to prevent them from doing this OR to prevent the company from firing them for doing this.

  • ||

    How would libertarians respond to legislation that would make labor union organization easier?

    1. The pragmatic ones would look at whether life was better, on the average, in places with such laws than in places without such laws.

    2. the philosophical ones would say: "the law should not be used EITHER to prevent them from doing this OR to prevent the company from firing them for doing this."

  • ||

    Here is an interesting article about Wal*Mart and unions. The allegations that Wal*Mart plays dirty don't surprise me, although one can always say "prove it". My point is that the neat lines Fyodor wants to draw don't fit very well into the labor union issues.

  • R C Dean||

    That is subtly, but importantly, different than asking what alternative jobs are available in a universe dominated by WalMart.

    Is there a point to this wanking about alternative universes?

    In the event that a Walmart manager locks in a shift of employees and forces them to perform some discrete task off the clock, what would you call the appropriate response?

    Not sure why you asked me, but the appropriate response is determined by what you mean by "forced?"

    If you mean, forced at gunpoint, then calling 911 sounds about right. Or, if I happened to be carrying that day (cash register duty, perhaps), I might shoot the motherfucker. With a room full of friendly witnesses, I like my chances in court.

    If you mean, told they'd be fired unless they did it, I would say that a sit-down strike followed by a lawsuit sounds about right, since that ultimatum is a breach of Walmart's contract with its hourly employees.

    If their choice is to come to a group consensus for that set of shift workers as to what agreement or concession from management they will require before they go back to work, then you would support it?

    I'd support their right to put their proposal to management. And I'd support management's right to fire all their asses and hire replacements.

    a corporation's ability to abuse their workers and that the only recourse a worker should have is to quit that job

    Who said anything about 'only recourse'? Most of your libertarians would strongly support the worker's right to sue for breach of contract. If the "corporate abuse" that offends your refined sensibilities isn't a breach of contract, well . . . .

  • Timothy||

    Ron: I think unions have a history of engaging in just as many shady practices as corporations. However, I don't really have a problem with Unions on principle. If a bunch of folks want to get together and try to negotiate better terms on a voluntary basis, then, okay. I do, however, dilike closed shops, but if an employer voluntarily decides to have a closed shop, well, that's his/her/its business.

  • ||

    Oops. Here's the link (yeah, I know, consider the source, but who else is talking about this issue?)

    http://www.thenation.com/doc/20040628/featherstone

  • ||

    1. The pragmatic ones would look at whether life was better, on the average, in places with such laws than in places without such laws.

    How is this libertarian?

  • ||

    Timothy: So, how do you feel about the 20 states that have laws forbidding closed shops, regardless of what the parties negotiate? Good thing? How is governmental intervention in a private contract a good thing when the corporation benefits, but not when a union does?

  • ||

    Occam:

    "Evan-you point about the bum is interesting, but does not change the fact that for the people working for Wal-Mart, the power to end that job matters.

    Sure, it "matters". That wasn't my point. My point was more succinctly summed up by Fyodor: if WalMart hires and then fires someone (or they choose to quit), then they're no worse off than if WalMart had never been there in the first place. Starting from imaginary hypothetical point A (no jobs), then if WalMart offers 5000 jobs, then that is a net addition of 5000 opportunities to earn money. Yet, if WalMart suddenly closes and those 5000 workers are out of a job, they're still right back where they started (unless they've saved anything from their stint).

    "The fact is that people do work there who are exploited. Ask yourself why? Are they "worthless" as Timothy suggested? Stupid?"

    Again, what baseline are you using to consider them "exploited"? The absence of WalMart? Yes, it would be great if there were a WalMart-esque company of similar size and scope that treated their workers better---but just because WalMart doesn't live up to your (or my) ideals, doesn't mean anyone is being "exploited" (well, to be fair, every employee in the history of employment has been "exploited", which means, in its base definition, to be made productive use of.). But to be exploited unfairly, well, that requires a universal baseline of fair employment, and I posit that having a job is more "fair" than not having any job options at all. Yes, perhaps it's more "fair" to pay someone $12/hour than it is to pay them $7/hour---but just because they're not making $12 doesn't mean they're being unfairly exploited---and I don't know about you, but I'd rather make $7/hour than nothing at all. The entire argument that WalMart unfairly exploits its workers is based on the fallacious assumption that we have a "right" to a job.

    Anyway, maybe they are "stupid". Maybe they are "useless". There's surely a reason why they're stocking cat food at Walmart instead of trading stocks---just like there's surely a reason I'm a modestly successful architect and not a millionaire land baron. Maybe I'm too "stupid" or "useless" to be a millionaire land baron...or maybe, as you mentioned above, "the weight of circumstances make it impractical to just quit". But, surely, I don't assert that I'm being "exploited" because I'm not being paid more than I already am.

    "That is not coercion. It is shitty."

    Point taken. Lots of shitty shit goes on in this world. My property tax assessment just went up 30%. That's shitty. WalMart does shitty stuff. I never said they didn't.

    But what's your remedy, Biff? How would YOU suggest we deal with these shitty actions?

    "I am suggesting that intellectual honesty demands that we acknowledge that companies have an incentive to treat people like shit, and do so. To pretend otherwise just makes us look silly and out of touch with reality."

    Ah, intellectually honest. I see. This is why you're pining on? Of course, everyone everywhere that is interested in making money or doing well, or even having clothes on their backs, has an incentive to treat people like shit. The fact that I could rob someone on the street and suddenly become richer means that I have an incentive to treat someone like shit.

    The point you make is as poignent as stating that athletes have an incentive to win the game. We are all faced with thousands of dastardly incentives each day---and I never said that corporations were any different. I don't defend corporations on any grounds other than they actually own their own property, and it's wrong for anyone to force them to do anything else, unless it has externalized effects against the will of a third party. I don't defend their actions on ethical grounds...so I don't know what you're trying to prove, Billy.

  • Timothy||

    dislike

    I need to learn to spell.

  • Timothy||

    Ron: I don't think those laws should exist. If an employer feels it is in his/her/its best interest to have a closed shop then go ahead.

  • ||

    A follow-up for libertarians--why should laws of a state prohibit an employer from firing anyone who tries to organize a union? Shouldn't they have the right to hire anyone they please?

  • ||

    fyodor,
    the only thing I wanna say about that at the moment is: whatever.

    my comment was neither a call for government interference, nor a criticism of any wal-mart policy.

    i was addressing the notion that firing an employee only leaves them no worse off than if they had never been hired in the first place.

    i'm still not clear how a foreclosure on your home or the inability to provide medical insurance to your family is a mere psychological effect. they should tell the bank or the hospital that their inability to pay is all in their heads.

    also, yes my side note was semantic. that was all it was meant to be. i didn't think it would actually provoke a comment, but whatever.

  • ||

    I consider myself a Libertarian, but when you see some of comments excusing a corporation's ability to abuse their workers and that the only recourse a worker should have is to quit that job, it makes me glad that we don't live in a Libertopia and that the wacko free market types are not in charge. IMO, what they consider Libertarianism is really closer to Fedualism

    You apparently seek to slip the terms of debate, redefine concepts of "rights" and "abuse" and what a "free market" constitutes, all in order to make a point about us "wacko" libertarians, one of which you claim to be.
    Please stop calling yourself a libertarian. I know libertarians, I've worked with libertarians, and you sir are no libertarian.

  • ||

    Evan:

    To answer your hypothetical question about what would happen if Walmart suddenly shut down, I'd guess they'd be villified for being heartless bastards by the same people who currently villify them as heartless bastards for remaining open.

  • Timothy||

    Also, for the record, I did not say "worthless", I said "basically useless". They deserve the same rights and responsibilities under the law as anybody else, but they're not exactly top-of-the-labor-market sorts of folks. Hence, "basically useless" or only worth minimum wage.

  • ||

    "How is governmental intervention in a private contract a good thing when the corporation benefits, but not when a union does?"

    It's not a good thing. Forcing closed shops or prohibiting them are equally reprehensible from a political standpoint.

  • ||

    RC Dean,

    Thanks for your reply. I think I conflated the "Walmart should be punished" conclusion in your 12:11 post into a "so what would you do" question.

  • ||

    Ron:

    "A follow-up for libertarians--why should laws of a state prohibit an employer from firing anyone who tries to organize a union? Shouldn't they have the right to hire anyone they please?"

    Yes, they should have that right. The government should have no say in union/employer relations. Why is this so complicated, for you, Ron?

  • Timothy||

    A follow-up for libertarians--why should laws of a state prohibit an employer from firing anyone who tries to organize a union? Shouldn't they have the right to hire anyone they please?

    Ron: Those laws should also not exist.

  • ||

    On a related note: I've heard a rumor (albeit from a very unreliable source) that some Wal-Mart stores basically give prospective employees the option to get paid more and not receive benefits, or go on some sort of welfare plan, get paid very little by Wal-Mart, and receive benefits. This would obviously present problems from a libertarian standpoint, but is there any validity to it?

  • ||

    On the topic of the original post.

    Mrs. Clinton served on Wal-Mart's board of directors for six years when her husband was governor of Arkansas.

    I think we're all pretty much aware that Wal-Mart has been playing the political game for years in such a way that they only slightly resemble an actor in a free market.

    Or was Ms Clinton chosen for the Board because she's as expert about the retail biz as she is about trading cattle futures?

  • ||

    "A follow-up for libertarians--why should laws of a state prohibit an employer from firing anyone who tries to organize a union? Shouldn't they have the right to hire anyone they please?"

    Because unions paid politicians good money to get such laws passed in the first place. ;-)

  • ||

    Zach,

    Why would WalMart offering varying employment compensation options present any problems from a libertarian standpoint? (unless, of course, by "some sort of welfare plan" you meant state-sponsored welfare).

  • ||

    In Wal-Mart's poor employment practices perhaps can be found the seeds of its downfall. There are plenty of competitors out there, selling the same shit at the same prices, and you build a big-box store quickly and easily. But low employee morale leads to crappy stores and poor customer service, and that will ultimately make a difference.

  • ||

    1. The pragmatic ones would look at whether life was better, on the average, in places with such laws than in places without such laws.

    How is this libertarian?


    Some libertarians believe that markets should be regulated to make them behave as close as possible to ideal markets under the theory of capitalism. Theoretically, this means an infinitude of players on the supply side, each acting independently of everybody else, and an infinitude of players on the demand side, each acting independently of everyone else. There is a powerful argument that having this kind of markets (I'll call them Smithean markets) maximizes aggregate freedom, relative to, for example, a monopoly or a cartel.

    Unfortunately, regulating markets to achieve Smithean behavior requires gov't regulation. That is not philosophically neat, at least not for a libertarian. There are 2 common responses to this conundrum:

    1. The Philosophical Libertarian Way: believe that unregulated markets are the closest to Smithean markets we can get. Maybe say it is okay to legislate against absolute, 100% bulletproof monopolies, but short of this, deny that regulation of markets can ever be freedom enhancing. Focus hard on rights of individual corporations to consolidate, but vigorously ignore whether market power imbalances are the primary things guiding the invisible hand.

    2. The Pragmatic Libertarian Way: Look at the economic picture more broadly. If there can't be an infinitude of players on both the supply and demand side (as there never are), then at least try to make sure there is a multitude of independent players on both sides of every significan set of market transactions. Look at how the market is functioning and understand that doing regulation to increase the number or independence of the players may be helpful, even though some dread regulation is entailed. If you are not willing to break up the big businesses, then consider making it easier for individuals to consolidate so that market power due to concentration is at least balanced. Understand that the least regulated market is not always the free-est. Being willing to entertain the idea of regulations, and compare regulated and unregulated jurisdictions to determine which (if any) type of regulations tend to improve wellbeing of the average person by making the real world more like the world described in the writings of Adam Smith.

  • ||

    Evan, state-sponsored welfare is what I meant.

  • ||

    Dave W

    That is a bunch of crap.

    You may be pragmatic, but you sure as hell ain't no libertarian.

  • fyodor||

    1. The pragmatic ones would look at whether life was better, on the average, in places with such laws than in places without such laws.

    2. the philosophical ones would say: "the law should not be used EITHER to prevent them from doing this OR to prevent the company from firing them for doing this."

    Ha-ha, you're such a card. And HOW do YOU determine whether life would be improved by such a law??? Y'know, I'm not big into the "libertarian litmus test" thing, but I have no idea why you would even call yourself a libertarian if you don't consider libertarian principles good ones that generally act to IMPROVE things for people. I do, and that's why I don't need to look at each new hypothetical situation like a newborn infant looking at the world for the first time.

  • ||

    fyodor:

    Sounds more like a "pragmatic populist" to me.

  • fyodor||

    Dave W,

    I don't know what your fetish for libertarianism is. It's weird, some people just like the sound of the word and want to identify with it even if they're no more than 2% more "libertarian" than the populace at large and show no real appreciation for its principles. Dave W, you have every right to your opinion whatever label you place on it. We can argue the merits of your position versus the merits of mine or anyone else's. But your continuous effort to show libertarians what a good or better libertarian would really be like is most unattractive and distracting. And it's neurotic too. Why the hell should you give a shit? And I say this not without some guilt cause I remember you complimenting me. But this whole attempt to correct libertarians is just asinine and seems to reflect poor toilet training or something. Sorry, but that's how I see it.

  • ||

    I don't know what your fetish for libertarianism is.

    I want to get rid of Social Security and a cost equivalent portion of the military. As such, if I were ruler, I would cut the gov't budget more than most people who self-identify as libertarians. My libertarianism is philosophically less pure, but greater in courage and substance. I want to see as even a distribution of wealth, but I want this to arise, as I think it would, by operation of Smithean markets, rather than gov't redistribution of wealth. I am not as afraid of terrorists or foreign invasions as much as most ppl here.

    I do not believe in Dave W.

  • ||

    And the next person to write, "Sorry if this gets my libertarian card revoked, but ..." or "Hope I don't get kicked out of the libertarian club for this, but ..." will have his or her ass shaved with a razor made by disgruntled union workers.

  • ||

    It's weird, some people just like the sound of the word and want to identify with it even if they're no more than 2% more "libertarian" than the populace at large and show no real appreciation for its principles.

    That's not so scary to me as when people have such a desire to identify with a one-word political designation that they swallow the entire party line, if you will, without exception. I would rather have someone call themselves one thing and still vote as they feel is right, than vote a certain way in order to justify their self-imposed title.

  • ||

    And yes, your bleeding, freshly shaved fat ass WILL be kicked out of the club, and your card WILL be revoked.

  • ||

    I neither believe nor disbelieve in Dave W., because he exists outside the limits of science.

  • fyodor||

    zach,

    I'm sure there are plenty of worse things than either your gripe or mine, and there are lesser ones too. So what? Bottom line: make your case, and if it makes sense, I'll listen. Dave W's little game of trying to show us all how being a libertarian with exceptions--MANY exceptions--is somehow being a better libertarian is just getting old, that's all.

  • ||

    Further to previous: Is there a better label for that cluster of beliefs. Being (relatively) unafraid of terrorists seems like the opposite of populist, as does axing SS. Not wanting gov't redistribution of wealth seems the opposite of Democrat. Cutting the military seems the opposite of Republican. I could just call myself a crank, but the gov't trimming aspects of my personality makes me think that libertarian is the best label for me.

  • ||

    swallow the entire party line, if you will, without exception.

    Zach, you been playing with the paint thinner again? Mommy's VEWY upset.
    When did this ever occur? There's plenty of debate outside the "party line," you goofy clown-type person.
    Start with the mag's credo: "Free minds and free markets." All libertarians believe in those. The devil (and debate) is in the details.

  • ||

    Btw, I was thinking about your "too many gotcha's" comment when I set up the philosophical / pragmatic distinction today. I was not trying to be dismissive of philosophical libertarians. I just thought the discussion between Fyodor and Occam highlighted an important divide that I struggle with firmly in the context of my libertarian outlook. Both types I sketched are equally real and both types deserve respect.

  • ||

    "I want to see as even a distribution of wealth, but I want this to arise, as I think it would, by operation of Smithean markets, rather than gov't redistribution of wealth."

    I, for fail to see the virtue in an "even distribution of wealth". Providing that it could even be achieved, things would never stay that way,...unless, of course, you took away everyone's freedom of action and pursuit of happiness (liberty).

  • ||

    Evan: If employers can fire union organizers, there will be no unions, and there is no need for right to work laws.

  • ||

    I can honestly say I've never been to Wal*Mart and not because I've objected to going, but simply because there are none nearby. We have Meijer and Costco (rather than Sam's Club).

    I didn't even know what the Wal was 'till my lefty sister started hating them while at Colorado University (also Ward Churchill lover and pushed "From a Native Son" on me as well) and made me read "Why I hate Wall*Mart" by somebody.

    I feel like I'm missing out on some important cultural phenomenon by not having set foot in one of those places...for better or worse.

  • ||

    I, for ONE....(damn it)

  • ||

    Furthermore, when it comes to WalMart itself, I have moved from the "pragmatic" camp to the "philosophical" camp. I used to think that WalMart had market power in the unskilled employee market, but after reading HnR for a year I don't think that anymore.

    Although I am open to the possibility that the world would be better without WalMart, my opinion now is that they are generally okay in the grand scheme of things.

  • ||

    Jamie, I don't have any idea what you're getting at with all that paint thinner stuff, but then again I might apparently be high, so nevermind.

    Start with the mag's credo: "Free minds and free markets." All libertarians believe in those. The devil (and debate) is in the details.

    Yes. This is what I'm saying. However, certain details are apparently taboo, because the moment they're brought up, the fake-libertarian rhetoric starts and the real discussion is over. This is not a good thing. And here I am lamenting the fact that the real discussion was sidetracked, so I admittedly am part of the problem.
    _________________________________

    No one has heard anything on that rumor then?

  • ||

    Pragmatic: Part of the problem is that libertarians want to convince people that a world where Wal*Marts dominate the market is a good thing, or if it isn't, it's what the world deserves. The reason the latter argument is compelling is that people are voting with their $ by shopping there. It doesn't stop me, however, from thinking less of them for doing so.

  • ||

    Zach,

    Re: your rumor I thought I had recalled a very recent (within 1-2 months) Mickey Kaus or Will Saletan piece at Slate.com that mentioned that the outcome of Clintonian Welfare Reform was a lot more low-income people moving from all kinds of government assistance to a state of some gov't assistance, and minimum wage working for the likes of Wal-Mart. The point was that the super-progressives were bent out of shape because the people are now working and aren't doing as well as they would have liked, and the low-wage employers don't have to provide benefits. But since this scenario breaks the psychology of the welfare trap and gets people out in the workplace, the author wants the scenario to be seen as a good thing that progressives should embrace (so I think it's a Kaus piece).

    Unfortunately, I've been searching and I can't find it. But I think it fits what you're looking for.

  • ||

    My problem is that I don't think that a dominated market can fairly be called a "market" at all. It is a shame that no appropriate word exists to to describe such a thing.

  • ||

    It does seem to, but who knows. I would take the rumor much more seriously if I hadn't heard it from a friend of mine whose political beliefs can be summed up as "vote Republican if you're rich and Democrat if you're not".

  • ||

    zach

    There has been a lot of talk from the anti-WM crowd that Wal-Mart employees are more likely to qualify for Medicaid and Food Stamps because of the low wages.

    This is seen as part of Wal-Mart's business plan. ie they are relying on Medicaid rather than giving their employees company benefits and Food Stamps rather than paying adequate wages.

    Discuss the not-so-hidden flaw.

  • ||

    Isaac: Actually, the argument might have some force if Wal*Mart were causing people to move into a state to work, and they were then applying for Medicaid.

  • ||

    Ron,

    "Evan: If employers can fire union organizers, there will be no unions, and there is no need for right to work laws."

    There might not be "Unions" as we know them today, but surely there will be workers' organizations. There is never any need for "right to work" laws.

  • ||

    Evan- Your point about individuals having incentives to treat people poorly is correct. And when an individual acts like an asshole, he's generally treated as such. Corporations pose another problem, though. Like any collective entity, corporations tend to spread responsibility for less than ethical behavior so that no one individual feels as though they have done something wrong. That's one of many reasons that collective entities, be they a government, a corporation, or a lynch mob, are dangerous.

    You asked what I would do about it. (Who's Biff, BTW?) I don't really know. I also don't know how to stop tornadoes, but I recognize that they are a problem in this part of the world. Having a solution is not a prerequisite to pointing out an issue.

  • ||

    Evan: How, in an environment where employers can fire employees for belonging to a union, could "workers organizations" thrive without going underground and resorting to illegal forcible coercion like they did in the 1890's?

  • ||

    And the next person to write, "Sorry if this gets my libertarian card revoked, but ..." or "Hope I don't get kicked out of the libertarian club for this, but ..." will have his or her ass shaved with a razor made by disgruntled union workers.
    Then perhaps some members of this board should stop acting as though this were some sort of hyper-orthodox chuch in which the least deviation from doctrine is grounds for excommunication.

  • ||

    "That's one of many reasons that collective entities, be they a government, a corporation, or a lynch mob, are dangerous."

    So your point is that the bigger an "entity", the more dangerous they are? I would posit that the structure of the entity and the amount of power they wield has alot to do with how dangerous they are---and I would posit that those who get their way via violence or threats thereof (governments, lynch mobs, La Cosa Nostra, etc.) are much more dangerous than those entities who do not.

    ("Biff" was a reference to a Seinfeld ep where Jerry refers to George as 'Biff' a few times, which was in turn a reference to Death of a Salesman)

    "I also don't know how to stop tornadoes, but I recognize that they are a problem in this part of the world. Having a solution is not a prerequisite to pointing out an issue."

    Just asking. Never said you had to have a solution, just was wondering what, if anything, you were doing about it.

  • ||

    "Then perhaps some members of this board should stop acting as though this were some sort of hyper-orthodox chuch in which the least deviation from doctrine is grounds for excommunication."

    This is a red herring. In fact, I'd say that most of the people who comment here have a direct aversion to being lumped together as "one of those libertarians". I hear this same accusation quite often, yet, I never actually see any of this exclusionary behavior.

    Instead, I think it's an illusion. There are so many people who comment at this blog who have libertarian political leanings, and most of them are not shy about it. Therefore, when people show up who have differing political ideals, they feel as though they've entered into some club---but it actually has more to do with the quantity of the posts, and not the substance. For instance, go back through this thread and see if you can find any of this exclusionary, "NO GIRLS ALLOWED!"-type rhetoric. It's simply not there.

  • ||

    This is seen as part of Wal-Mart's business plan. ie they are relying on Medicaid rather than giving their employees company benefits and Food Stamps rather than paying adequate wages.

    This is probably the real-world version of the rumor I heard. Wal-Mart (maybe) offers employees the option of getting paid higher wages without benefits, or accepting lower wages with the benefits provided by taxpayers via Medicaid, food stamps and the like.

    Discuss the not-so-hidden flaw.

    What? It seems like a legitimate beef to me. I don't think these programs should exist for Wal-Mart to take advantage of in the first place; but the fact would remain (assuming the truth of all this, which I'm not) that they're taking advantage of them. There's a difference between just paying low wages, and actively entering into an arrangement with an employee to effectively rip off the public.

  • ||

    Ron,

    "How, in an environment where employers can fire employees for belonging to a union, could "workers organizations" thrive without going underground and resorting to illegal forcible coercion like they did in the 1890's?"

    Here's how: workers in unions get fired, which creates a glut of workers who are potentially highly productive and skilled, yet are out of work because of union membership. Sooner or later, there will be employers who cater to union or organization members---who will capitalize on all these productive members, and tap into their productivity.

  • ||

    Discuss the not-so-hidden flaw.

    The flaw in that argument is the failure to recognize that Wal-Mart pays at or above the prevailing wage scale. If, in fact, there are a large number of Wal-Mart employees who qualify for various state and federal welfare programs it is a reflection of how many people it employs, not its exploitative power. Without Wal-Mart said community would have even more people on welfare, with a lower standard of living because of a lack of downward pressure on regional prices. The expression "adequate wages" is meaningless.

  • fyodor||

    I second Evan. People make vague accusations about somebody supposedly doing that a lot more than it actually happens. And if it does happen, I think it would be a lot more meaningful to address the person doing it on the very thread he does it than make some generalized accusation when the guilty party is likely to not even be reading.

  • fyodor||

    I was seconding Evan's post of 3:29. (Not that I'm distancing myself from any other post of his...)

  • ||

    For instance, go back through this thread and see if you can find any of this exclusionary, "NO GIRLS ALLOWED!"-type rhetoric. It's simply not there.

    Please stop calling yourself a libertarian. I know libertarians, I've worked with libertarians, and you sir are no libertarian.
    You may be pragmatic, but you sure as hell ain't no libertarian.
    And yes, your bleeding, freshly shaved fat ass WILL be kicked out of the club, and your card WILL be revoked.

    Not that I believe Dave W. and Jamie Kelly fairly represent the posters of H&R in general.

  • ||

    Evan- Yes, groups that use violence are more dangerous. In fact, I don't recall suggesting that Wal-Mart was dangerous. I do recall saying that they seemed to treat their employees poorly, and that we ought to admit that. I also said, repeatedly, that corporations tend to do that.
    I'm not sure why those statements are controversial.
    Now, I did say a few things that are controversial. To wit: I suggested that people who have low-wage jobs are subject to abuses of power by employers. Somehow, that got twisted into a discussion about coercion. I never claimed the second. I'm sorry if I wasn't clear about this.
    I also suggested (by implication, not directly) that we as libertarians should be suspicous of corporations. Why? Because they tend to acrue power, and that tends to be dangerous. I did not call for government action. I'm merely saying that we should be aware of the tendency. That is a controversial statement.

    Now. For the fucking record. I believe in free minds and free markets. Unreservedly. I believe that the only acceptable role of government is to protect individual rights. I do not want to redistribute property. I do not want to abolish corporations. I wear a Che Guevera button on my jacket, but he's wearing Mickey Mouse ears, and I bought the thing from beurocrash. I oppose the drug war-vehemently. Need I go on?

    My object here is simply to spark discussion about the tendency of some to defend corporations no matter what they do, and to clarify the difference between "They have a right to do x" and "Doing X is ethically ok."

    At this point, we're all in danger of repeating ourselves ad nauseum, so unless some new arguments come up, I'm going to go get some work done.

  • ||

    Now. For the fucking record. I believe in free minds and free markets. Unreservedly. I believe that the only acceptable role of government is to protect individual rights. I do not want to redistribute property. I do not want to abolish corporations. I wear a Che Guevera button on my jacket, but he's wearing Mickey Mouse ears, and I bought the thing from beurocrash. I oppose the drug war-vehemently. Need I go on?

    See? Do you see what happens?

  • ||

    Evan: I've got to resist saying "highly productive and skilled workers don't need unions". Oops, too late...

    It is of course a question of supply and demand. Unions are only useful if the supply of workers exceeds the demand for them, otherwise, individual workers can get what they want. There is still in this country a greater supply of less skilled workers than there is demand, although I don't think that would necessarily be true if our immigration laws were effectively enforced, particularly regarding employer sanctions. Illegal immigration is likely the strongest factor in keeping lower-end wages down, not some box store cabal. So, how about we actually enforce the immigration laws? Is that libertarian or not? I have mixed thoughts on this. If we enforce, most of the dairy farms in my state (Vermont) are out of business, which they would be anyway but for the Dairy Compact. Should libertarians be nationalistic, or do free markets trump nationalism?

  • fyodor||

    zach,

    At the risk of saying, "yeah but that's different," yeah but that's different cause Dave W was not just expressing views contrary to libertarianism, which is perfectly valid, nor was he just doing so while claiming to be a libertarian, which is potentially annoying but no big deal, but rather Dave W was trying (and has done this repeatedly) to convince us that his "brand" of libertarianism is superior to our own! To address this at all necessitates discussing what libertarianism is actually about! That said, I would concur that such discussion should more rightly address the philosophy itself rather than one's supposed association with it. THAT said, your quote of Jamie Kelly's sounds rather tongue-in-cheek to me. With all due and more than due deference to Dave W, whom I count as a friend, he can be rather annoying, so I'm not surprised his posts would elicit such a personal attack. So yeah, that's different from something that would convince me that it's endemic on this thread to want to kick people out for not being libertarian enough. And still, I addressed what I thought was below par in Jamie Kelly's post rather than using it as an opportunity to implicitly attack all self-described libertarians here.

  • fyodor||

    Billy Occam,

    What do you mean by treating employees poorly and that they're subject to abuses of power? Some workers are going to get more renumeration than others, and that applies to anything and everything a worker might want from his job, so it includes working conditions as well as wage. Since we don't expect wages to be equal for all workers, we shouldn't expect working conditions to be, either. Is that "good" or "okay"? Well, on one hand I wish all sentient beings may be free of suffering. On the other, I know the world is full of suffering and inequality and that trying to rid the world of either rarely really improves things. And of course we should be suspicious of corporations, just as we should be suspicious of all strangers. Caveat emptor, after all. But again, considering that working conditions are part of renumeration and that low-skilled and unskilled workers are going to get less, what do you mean that Wal-Mart treats its workers poorly and subjects them to abuses of power?

  • ||

    Should libertarians be nationalistic, or do free markets trump nationalism?

    Speaking only for myself, I have to say that I am pretty anti-nationalist. But then my father was a World Federalist.

    I might have become one myself except that I looked around and came to the conclusion that the last thing the world needed was another layer of government.

  • ||

    Uh, Fyordor, didn't you mean to say remuneration rather than "renumeration"?

  • ||

    Fyodor (that is. sorry)

  • fyodor||

    jw,

    Apparently, you are quite correct.

    I submit I still know what I'm talking about even if I do get confused spelling words of more than four syllables!! :-)

  • ||

    Fyodor-I'm talking about things like unpaid overtime, locking workers in for the night, etc. etc. I don't recall mentioning wages at all.
    But since I'm criticizing Wal-Mart I'm a lefty.
    Since I'm a lefty, I must be bitching about wages.
    Is that about it?

  • fyodor||

    Bill Occam,

    I DID NOT CALL YOU A LEFTY, for chrissake!!! Will you get over your damn victim's complex???

    Regarding the two more specific issues you just brought up, I addressed them already earlier. To recap, either seems unfair on the surface, but if employees continue putting up with it after the pattern is clear, then it is their choice and part of their expected remuneration (got it right this time!). It's unfortunate that they're not as rich as others in our society, which is probably mainly because their skill sets are not as marketable, but that's life, not everyone's going to have equal ability to get the things they want out of life. But that's not Wal-Mart's fault.

    Now can you identify anything I am refusing to acknowledge? Or are you going to just continue to throw out unwarranted accusations, including that I'm accusing you of being a lefty???

  • ||

    Jw:
    What does the "G" stand for? Giga, as in billion?

    Yup. Thanks to "selling women short," Alice Walton is worth $20,500,000,000.00

  • R C Dean||

    Goddam. I've been selling women short my whole life, and I'm worth nowhere near that much.

  • ||

    Quick, someone, ANYONE - name the last war started by a corporation?
    It's prolly not the last one, but:
    "GM sparks price war"
    http://www.aiada.org/article.asp?id=52679

    "Walmart should be punished"
    Bailiff, whack Wal-Mart's pee-pee.

  • ||

    Jw:
    {What does the "G" stand for? Giga, as in billion?

    Yup. Thanks to "selling women short," Alice Walton is worth $20,500,000,000.00



    Comment by: Mr. F. Le Mur at March 14, 2006 09:46 AM }


    I remember when "G" stood for Grand, as in $1000. Damned inflation! :-)

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