Libertarian History/Philosophy

# How to Make Unions More Powerful, the Libertarian Way

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Unions, unions, everyone is a-talkin' about unions. Why? Who knows. Must be something in the news. At The Economist's web site, Will Wilkinson makes the case for how a more libertarian legal approach toward unions would in some respects give labor more power. He quotes extensively from left-libertarian leader Kevin Carson:

The right of workers to band together to improve their bargaining position relative to employers is a straightforward implication of freedom of association, and the sort of voluntary association that results is the beating heart of the classical liberal vision of civil society. I unreservedly endorse what I'll call the "unionism of free association". My difficulty in coming out wholeheartedly for private-sector unions as they now exist is that they are, by and large, creatures of objectionable statutes which have badly warped the labour-capital power dynamic that would exist under the unionism of free association…..

I believe it would be much more productive to focus on the ways in which the prevailing legal regime clearly handicaps labour relative to the power unions would have under conditions of free association. I heartily agree with Kevin Carson…when he argues that:

[T]he room for change lies mainly, not with adding further economic intervention to aid labor at the expense of capital, but rather with eliminating those policies which currently benefit capital at the expense of labor. The question is not what new laws would strengthen the bargaining power of labor, but which existing ones weaken it. …

The most obvious forms of state intervention that hobble labor are legislation like:

1) The provisions of Taft-Hartley which criminalize sympathy and boycott strikes;

2) The Railway Labor Relations Act and the "cooling off" provisions of Taft-Hartley, which enable the government to prevent a strike from spreading to common carriers and thus becoming a general strike; and

3) "Right-to-Work" (sic) laws, which restrict the freedom of contract by forbidding employers to enter into union shop contracts with a bargaining agent.

Further, we should examine the extent to which even ostensibly pro-labor laws, like the Wagner Act, have served in practice to weaken the bargaining power of labor. Before Wagner, what is today regarded as the conventional strike—an announced walkout associated with a formal ultimatum—was only one tactic among many used by unions.

Karl Smith at the "Modeled Behavior" blog also riffs off Wilkinson on Carson on unions, and sees in this an unbridgeable gap between libertarians and modern progressives despite Wilkinson's "liberaltarian" dreams:

The decline of economic populism in general and unionism in particular is the front line of the new war. Wisconsin its cause celebre.

This fault line strains a potential liberal-libertarian fusionism to its core. The health care debate could be dismissed as a battle between monopolistic health insurance companies and a monopolistic state for control of fundamentally dysfunctional industry….

Economic populism is precisely what libertarians hope to dissuade liberals of and to the extent public sector unions matter at all, its because they stand in the way [of] educational reform. Making public unions the heroes of a new populist revolution is not going to make any of this any easier.

After noting Wilkinson's call in support of "The right of workers to band together to improve their bargaining position," Smith throws this out there:

may the pharmaceutical companies enter into a collective bargaining agreement with the health insurers that the health insurers will cover only non-generics or they will not be sold any patented drugs at all?

What justification can there be for permitting labor to enter into such contracts but not business? I can't help but suspect that it is a sympathy for economic populism and the notion that what is bad for the business must be good for the worker.

We must not forget that these restrictions work by driving up the cost of hiring the least advantaged members of our society. A man who could be profitably employed before a collective bargaining agreement world may be forced into a lower paying occupation or even out of the labor force entirely in after collective bargaining.

I agree with Smith on the general point that the here-right-now angry fight over a dwindling pie of state resources is going to be very inimical to any cooperation, intellectual or actual, between libertarians and liberals/progressives–unless and until the latter agree that in an age where government can't afford to do all it has customarily been doing, that the main thing they are fighting for is actual social insurance of the sort that will keep people from destitution and starvation.

The Wisconsin fight seems to show far more pure love of defending to the death whatever piece of the pie anyone has sunk their teeth into, as long as we can posit that the "them" being starved to death by evil government are "us." And given the income differences between most public sector employees and the great populist masses, that's been annoyingly easy to do in the Wisconsin crisis.

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1. Citing Right-to-Work laws as anti-free association is ludicrous. Right-to-Work is about the freedom to not associate. Compulsory association is not free association.

1. No, there is an actual tension here. Under free association, businesses and unions could negotiate open or closed shop agreements to their taste. Right to Work laws abrogate that freedom of contract by forcing open shops on parties that may otherwise not agree to them.

OTOH, Right to Work laws do protect the (unenumerated) right not to join a guild as a condition of employment. But it seems somewhat arbitrary to protect that right and not to require citizenship, certification, or qualification as a condition of employment.

1. “Under free association, businesses and unions could negotiate open or closed shop agreements to their taste.”

I’m gonna argue here.
If, as an (free) employer, I want to employ only union workers, I can do so without calling my business a “closed shop”, correct?
What negotiation with a union would be required?

1. I assumed that a business wouldn’t want a closed shop, while the union would, and negotiation would ensue. But its certainly possible for a business to want a closed shop going in.

1. “But its certainly possible for a business to want a closed shop going in.”

And no coerced “negotiation” would be required; the employer would simply ask for union membership.
So I don’t see that case as any sort of “tension” to free association.

1. I’m sorry, I really don’t see what you’re getting at. Unions typically want closed shops, businesses typically prefer open shops. Businesses could conceivably prefer to leave their lights on all night or to use dollar bills as toilet paper, but I don’t see what that has to do with anything.

The tension I was referring to originally was that Right to Work laws are ostensibly designed to protect individual freedom not to associate with unions, but they in doing so they abrogate the rights to free association of corporate bodies like unions and businesses.

Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

1. So I’m not getting it:
“The tension I was referring to originally was that Right to Work laws are ostensibly designed to protect individual freedom not to associate with unions, but they in doing so they abrogate the rights to free association of corporate bodies like unions and businesses.”

Other than the “right” to call a business a “closed shop” (which is, I guess a sort-of 1stA right), I can’t see an abrogation. The Union and the Employer can negotiate, reach agreement, and the employer can then employ who the Employer wishes (in this case, Union members).
Sorry if I’m dense here, I’m just not seeing any limit to association.

1. I run a hot dog stand.

I would like to trade my money for other people’s labor.

I have two conditions for this exchange: Each of these people must work at my hot dog stand from the hours of 9 to 5. And each must be a dues-paying member of Hot Dog Sellers International.

Right-to-work laws do not allow me to implement the second condition.

So Hugh is correct, in this narrow sense.

However, given that in a real-life sense right-to-work laws are merely a response to freedom-abridging federal laws — and are intended to restore at least some liberty for individuals — I see them as an acceptable counterbalance.

Get rid of federal collective bargaining statutes, and then right-to-work laws can go too.

1. “Right-to-work laws do not allow me to implement the second condition.”

How do those laws prevent that second condition?

1. Because if my employee Jack opts out of the union, I may not sever Jack’s employment because of it.

2. “Because if my employee Jack opts out of the union, I may not sever Jack’s employment because of it.”

OK, to many dependent clauses inherent in that comment to get a response tonight.
Seems like the coercion is some sort of….well…….coercion of one party requiring………uh……coercion of…..uh.

3. Don’t get too worked up about it. Your basic instincts are correct: Right-to-work laws do loosen up one restriction of freedom (the worker’s freedom vis-a-vis union membership). But they do create another, albeit one that is basically academic.

2. I’m not sure your example is correct. RTW laws only prohibit AGREEMENTS between unions and employer. If the employer chooses to only employ union members without any agreement that’s his own business.

2. But its certainly possible for a business to want a closed shop going in.

No it is not possible.

Unless you live in a world where businesses unilaterally raise their cost of doing business. I’ve never seen it happen.

1. “No it is not possible.”

Actually it is, but again it would require the unions having to offer an extremely favorable well below market employment contract to the business, something unions simply don’t do.

At that point the business might accept, because acquiring the employees outside of the union contract would be more expensive than getting the ones from the union.

But as in the other cases mentioned, this theoretical example is not practical because the unions likely wouldn’t offer such a contract.

2. On the contrary.

From 1994 to 2000, I was a union factory worker in a largely non-union town.

The plant where I worked had opened in the early 1970s, and the management had informed the newly hired workers that they should decide as quickly as possible what union they’d like to affiliate with.

A union work force offered a number of benefits to that employer.

1) Very, very low turnover in a workforce with a lot of jobs that required significant training (some to do at all, most to do efficiently). Turnover at that factory, including people quitting, people being fired, and people retiring, ran 1-2% per year. Turnover at my previous non-union factory job had been in the low double digits.

2) An objective (contractual) disciplinary policy that left neither the workers nor the company (from either a production or litigation standpoint) at the mercy of lower/middle management mood swings.

3) Completely predictable labor costs. The contracts and wages/benefits were negotiated in three-year terms. The contract provided for “forced” overtime (I once worked 80 hours a week for six weeks in a row) to meet unexpected kick-ups in production.

Yeah, the workers got a good deal. Our wages were near the top of the area’s options.

What the company got was stability and predictability. Another company in the same line of business (food production) in the same area was non-union. Their wages closely tracked ours, but their turnover was awful.

When my company consolidated its production to one factory after NAFTA went into effect, it was the union factory in Missouri, not the non-union factories in Mexico and elsewhere, that got the nod. Missouri was more expensive but far less volatile.

1. “A union work force offered a number of benefits to that employer.”

IOWs, the union provided value to the employer, rather than simply sucking the largest possible short-term gain out of the employer.
A union to which I briefly belonged supposedly offered “training” to add value. Well, you had to qualify for that training, and no one with a face that wasn’t white ever qualified.
Job protection racket.

2. I’m not surprised to see a sensible comment on this from Knapp.

You know, even Hazlitt pointed out that unions could be a useful part of the price discovery mechanism for workers, when it came to finding the actual value of productivity-based wages and informing workers of them.

I recall, a few years ago, one of those comment threads at Mises.org where the usual suspects were saying that unions were useless because the market set wages based on productivity. Brad Spangler responded that the market sets the price of houses, as well–does that mean you should just take the first offer, and that it’s useless to dicker?

Also, it should be obvious to someone of common sense that, even if wages are set in the long run by productivity, there’s a hell of a lot of value in the short run to having the security and predictability of a contract against the whims of an employer who hasn’t read Hazlitt.

I seriously doubt that many of the libertarians who dogmatically dismiss unions as useless take a similar view of the uselessness of contractual security when it comes to other market relationships. After all, it’s in the landlord’s long-term interest not to have a reputation for evicting his tenants on a whim and taking their stuff, itsn’t it? So who needs a lease? Who needs a warranty on their car? Who needs an electrician or plumber who’s bonded?

I think there’s an unfortunate tendency for a certain class of libertarian to be all for a particular category of action in principle–until it’s applied in a way that benefits working people. Then it’s suddenly what Cartman calls “a bunch of goddamned tree-hugging hippie crap,” or “cosmotarian.”

1. “You know, even Hazlitt pointed out that unions could be a useful part of the price discovery mechanism for workers, when it came to finding the actual value of productivity-based wages and informing workers of them.”

Operative word is “could”. I’d say that reaction you don’t like is pretty much driven by practice.
*IF* unions acted in the manner Knapp mentions more often, maybe they wouldn’t draw the automatic criticism. Until they do, well….

2. I unreservedly endorse what I’ll call the “unionism of free association”.

Jesus H Christ on a pogo stick. What in the fuck is that even supposed to mean?

Does this have something to do with Robin Williams and SAG?

3. “The right of workers to band together to improve their bargaining position relative to employers is a straightforward implication of freedom of association”

As is the right of CEOs to band together to improve their companies’ bargaining position relative to consumers, yes? Does Kevin Carson also feel that should be legal?

1. Since Kevin Carson is an anarchist, what leads you to believe he would ban an voluntary association? Do you really not know? Is it the word “left”?

Also see Sheldon Richman’s, Wisconsin Labor Brouhaha

2. If anyone else is unfamiliar with Carson’s work, this will help…

3. The right of workers to band together to improve their bargaining position relative to employers is a straightforward implication of freedom of association.

Labor Unions are conspiracies to restrict trade that harms businesses and potential non unionized workers.

There is nothing voluntary about them.

1. I’m all for allowing the liberty of workers to form unions — provided we also protect the liberty of employers to refuse to bargain with unions and to fire employees who join unions. After all, what’s sauce for the labor goose is sauce for the management gander, right?

Of course, there is another alternative. Rather than operating as a “union”, workers could form a cooperative which will supply labor (like any other good or raw material) to a business. The workers do not work for the company at all — they work for the labor co-op, are paid by the labor co-op, and are hired/fired by the labor co-op. However, at the end of a contract, the labor co-op has no more expectation of continuing to act as the supplier of labor to the company than any other supplier has a legal right to continue supplying its raw materials to the company. If the company chooses to change suppliers — for whatever reason — it may do so without compulsion by force of law.

1. What you describe is an interesting labor association idea, but it’s not a union in any commonly understood usage.

The sole point of unionization is to restrain the supply of labor, creating an artificial shortage, causing the value of that labor to rise.

1. “The sole point of unionization is to restrain the supply of labor, creating an artificial shortage, causing the value of that labor to rise.”

AND with a legally-enforced privilege to do so.

2. You mean.. like.. a temp agency? Cause that sounds an aweful lot like what you’re describing.

1. *awful. ewww

4. Damn! is there no lefty agenda item the beltway cosmotarians can’t rationalize as libertarian?

Give ’em another 5 years and no doubt Obamacare will be libertarian as well.

1. “is there no lefty agenda item the beltway cosmotarians can’t rationalize as libertarian?”

Yeah. The ones they can’t get passed, which they then blame on libertarians. See: Tony’s twisted ‘definitions’.

2. Slap: When you say “beltway cosmotarians,” are you referring to Will Wilkinson, who lives in Iowa; to Kevin Carson, who lives in Arkansas; or to both?

I’m just trying to get a sense of how large you think the Washington Beltway is.

1. I understand perfectly well Wilkinson lives in Iowa (too close to me for my liking). But I’m using the term “beltway libertarian” in the same manner that one might refer to a “Chicago school economist”. That is to say, I’m using it to describe a mode of thought, not necessarily a geographical location.

2. Having lived there for a brief time, I can assure you that Iowa City is practically a Beltway exclave. Not quite as bad as Madison WI, but it’s up there.

3. It’s almost like libertarianism isn’t made of pot-smoking Republicans! What the hell, rite?

4. On the contrary, it seems to me that people like you have been rationalizing the corporatist banana republic policies of Dick Armey and Tom DeLay as “libertarian” for years. And when someone points out that sometimes such “libertarians” are really calling for violations of freedom of contract in the interest of the rich, you’re all “Buh-buh-but, you’re not a real libertarian ’cause you’re not a pot-smoking Republican like me!”

Or maybe you also think the “pot-smoking” part is “cosmotarian”?

1. 1. Your first mistake: I’m not a libertarian. Or a Republican. So I have no reason to be protecting the libertarian “brand”, or promote any libertarian purity tests.

However, I understand perfectly well what the commonly understood definition of “libertarian” is, in the same way I understand what the traditional definition of “communist” is. I distinguish between “cosmotarians” and “libertarians” for the simple reason that they are not the same thing, and attempting to consider them as such renders “libertarian” to be so vague a description as to be meaningless.

2. Pot smoking is pot smoking. It has no political significance whatever, except in the delusional minds of counter-culturalists who seem to think practicing an activity that’s been tried by over 100 million Americans somehow makes them a Special Snowflake.

2. 1. As far as I know, neither Armey or DeLay self-identify as libertarians. Wilkinson does.

2. Wilkinson is an intellectual, not a politician. If he was an actual politician who held office, I have no doubt he’d be incredibly popular amongst us ‘vulgar’ libertarians.

3. It’s nonsensical to spend all your time complaining about guys like Armey and DeLay in the current political climate. If there was a libertarian blog out there devoted to attacking Ron Paul on immigration, I’d question whether its real agenda was libertarian. Similarly, I question Kevin Carson’s agenda.

5. The Wisconsin fight seems to show far more pure love of defending to the death whatever piece of the pie anyone has sunk their teeth into

It seems even simpler than that to me: TEAM BLUE likes unions because unions fight against corporations, which TEAM RED likes. Therefore, to TEAM BLUE, unions are on their TEAM, and all TEAM members who tow the TEAM lion are to be defended to the death. Period, that’s it. Even though these are public sector unions and have nothing to do with corporations. Doesn’t matter. These are the TEAMs and that’s the fight.

6. In what universe has employee power increased–to the point of tyranny!–with respect to employers? I like the free assembly sentiment but it is clouded with the fantasy that government has given unions an unfair advantage. If it has it pales on comparison to the advantage going in the other direction.

1. Tony, you miss the point of unions.

It is not to provide union members bargaining power against their employers: It is to provide union members bargaining power against their prospective employee replacements.

1. Really, isn’t the first goal of ANY union to get away with as little work as possible for the most pay?

2. Tony|2.25.11 @ 9:19PM|#
“to the point of tyranny!”

Uh, asshole, are you familiar with the term “Poisoning the Well”?
You should get familiar with it before you embarrass yourself. Again.

1. You should really start a Fallacy Of The Day gig or something.
That would be pretty fun.

3. How about the Midwest turning into a waste land because unions drove all the jobs to other countries?

4. I like the free assembly sentiment but it is clouded with the fantasy that government has given unions an unfair advantage. If it has it pales on comparison to the advantage going in the other direction.

Re-read the post, this time for comprehension.

5. Sure, Tony.

Show me the employee who has to carry unemployment insurance, company compensation insurance, or can get sued when they quit for reasons unacceptable to the state.

What happens when an employee slacks off all day? Now, what would happen if an employer only paid somebody half their salary?

1. Yeah but what Tony refuses to believe is that mandated unemployment insurance, company compensation insurance, and on-staff legal counsel have any negative effect on an employee’s compensation.

7. Right to Work laws abrogate that freedom of contract by forcing open shops on parties that may otherwise not agree to them.

To be honest, I find this argument to be extremely unconvincing; the only halfway realistic scenario I can think of is a large corporation which would ostensibly benefit from uniform labor agreements in all facilities.

1. To the extent that a union provides training and certification of skills I could see a company requiring union membership. Something like the building trades would be a likely candidate for this.

2. Freedom of fucking contract. How hard is this to understand?

Right to work laws prevent an owner from agreeing to a closed shop contract. Period. End of story, its not that fucking hard to understand.

How any supposed libertarian can support right to work laws is beyond me.

1. RTW is the mongoose, NLRA is the snake. I don’t particularly like either of them, but I’d rather have both than just the snake.

8. Why didn’t the UAW buy up a controlling interest in GM and show us how it’s done? They could freely associate themselves right into oblivion.

1. They sort of did that. Except they didn’t buy it they got the government to take over and shaft the bondholders.

9. If this:

The most obvious forms of state intervention that hobble labor are legislation like:

1) The provisions of Taft-Hartley which criminalize sympathy and boycott strikes;

is a representative example of Carson’e thinking, I won’t waste my time.

Supporting the “right” of union goons to physically restrain and intimidate replacement workers, or intimidate suppliers in order to strangle an uncooperative business owner?

Fuck him.

1. “The most obvious forms of state intervention that hobble labor are legislation like:

1) The provisions of Taft-Hartley which criminalize sympathy and boycott strikes;

is a representative example of Carson’e thinking, I won’t waste my time.
Supporting the “right” of union goons to physically restrain and intimidate replacement workers, or intimidate suppliers in order to strangle an uncooperative business owner?”
……………….

Sorry, I don’t see ‘sympathy strikes’ as “union goons [..] physically restrain and intimidate replacement workers, or intimidate suppliers”.
I oppose union thuggery, but if a sympathetic union members want to strike a supplier, I can’t see a problem.

10. Speaking of “free association”…

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, described the school board’s move as an unprecedented power play.

“What’s going on here,” she said, “is somebody has an idea about wanting to arbitrarily and capriciously choose who they want teaching in schools next year.”

Die in a fire, Randi.

1. “What’s going on here,” she said, “is somebody has an idea about wanting to arbitrarily and capriciously choose who they want teaching in schools next year.”

Yep, that about sums it up! As your employer, I really want to choose in any manner I please to do exactly that.

11. 1) The provisions of Taft-Hartley which criminalize sympathy and boycott strikes

Wut?

I have no idea what a “boycott strike” is, but the nearest thing I can think of that T-H bans is a union’s agents forcing?the word in the law is forcing?its own non-striking members not to do work that their union has deemed beneficial to parties external to the labor agreement the member is bound by who are on the union’s bad side for whatever reason.

So what he wants is, e.g., if you’re in a caterer’s union and they’re in (even non-striking) sympathy with the Wisconsin orange shirts, and the little propane can in your warming tray says “Koch” on it, your union’s goons can force you not to use it.

Force.

You know, that libertarian thing. With the goons and the smashed skulls.

12. In a legal vacuum, Right to Work laws would be restrictive of contract rights. Not so much when you have NLRA lurking in the background forcing employers to negotiate with a particular union against their will.

It is interesting that NLRA — the coercive act at the heart of all labor disputes in the US — somehow escapes the notice of these pseudotarians.

1. No the NLRA is the “left” half of “left-libertarianism”. Being able to force employers to have a closed shop as “freedom of association” is the “libertarian” half.

The whole proposition is based on retaining coercive state labor laws where they benefit unions while doing away with the laws that benefit employers in the name of “liberty”.

Wilkinson is (and always was) a fucking leftard trying to put a “libertarian” spin on collectivism and state coercion.

1. This is typical Wilkinsonism. Howley used to employ a similar device.

For now I only want to say that I think there is indeed a plausible case for government stepping in to help strengthen workers’ bargaining power when inequalities in such power (often created by law and legislation) lead to a systemically unfair division of the gains from productive cooperation.

So, do circumstances merit a further statutory boost for private-sector unions? I don’t know.
See what the leftard douchebag does here?

2. As a political thinker, I’ve always thought Wilkinson would be most useful as an ingredient in a salad.

1. He’s white, you know.

1. What of it? It’s no secret that the biggest enemy of white people has always been other white people. Other racial issues are symptom of that reality, not the cause.

2. Guess I should have headed farther down the thread before posting my 11:01 above. Tulpa’s point is precisely the one I was making.

3. “It is interesting that NLRA — the coercive act at the heart of all labor disputes in the US — somehow escapes the notice of these pseudotarians.”

It might be interesting if it were true — but it isn’t.

Carson’s “Labor Struggle: A Free Market Model” [PDF], for example, is largely a critique of NLRA (“the Wagner Act”).

1. He does argue for its abolition. I got that from his blog last night. The last paragraph of the article you linked to is interesting. He quite explicitly calls for class warfare and says labor will “expose[] the filth of you cockroaches…”

I can theoretically see a consumer unable to buy bread if he has no union card under his form of non-government. It’s Chomsky’s fear of force and capital in the market system, potentially inverted.

2. Expanding on Rock Action’s quote of Carson’s article:

We’ll gladly forgo federal certification of unions, and legal protections against punitive firing of union organizers, if you’ll forgo the court injunctions and cooling-off periods and arbitration. We’ll leave you free to fire organizers at will, to bring back the yellow dog contract, if you leave us free to engage in sympathy and boycott strikes all the way up and down the production chain, to boycott retailers, and to strike against the hauling of scab cargo, etc., effectively turning every strike into a general strike. We give up Wagner (such as it is), and you give up Taft-Hartley and the Railway Labor Relations Act. Instead of hiding behind the skirts of state bureaucrats, we’ll embrace the potential of on-the-job direct action, and exploit all the possibilities of the Internet in exposing the filth of you
cockroaches to the light of day.
You people who have whined about “class warfare” for so long will get a taste of what class war is
really all about, when the other side starts fighting back for a change.

Well I give you points for being consistent (as long as you’re not including violence or property destruction in your definition of direct action) but I think it likely this is a battle you would lose. The Internet is a double-edged sword, as it allows producers to reach customers in ways unrestricted by geography, it won’t be as easy to make boycotts effective. Also, with cargo transport now effectively deregulated, the Teamsters will not be able to enforce boycotts by refusing to transport “scab cargo” as you propose (at least not without resorting to coercive methods).

1. I’d written about five posts, all of them way too long. That was for brevity. And fun. I’d put the whole quote in, too, and changed it to the post above.

As far as these tactics not working, you’re assuming our federal laws are still in place. I gathered, from his web site, that he’s an anarchist. I don’t think he’s arguing for federal regulations of cargo. I have to say that I don’t think he is, I’m not positive.

That’s why if he gets his way going after the suppliers, distributors, sellers, and consumers, one could theoretically see all the sellers in a restricted area voluntarily bargaining to the point where they agree to refuse any economic activity with a non-union member.

Which would be ironic, considering that the means through which we’re supposed to achieve the economic goals he supports is through “freedom” of association. In the admittedly theoretical situation above, it would be a de facto compulsion of association if one wanted to act as an economic agent in any meaningful sense. Which is exactly what Chomsky and company pointed out about the “freedom” to contract as a desired means to achieve the desired economic goals of the powerful class at the time. One had no “freedom” at all — one had to contract to participate as an economic agent in any meaningful sense.

1. “I don’t think he’s arguing for federal regulations of cargo. I have to say that I don’t think he is, I’m not positive.”

No, he isn’t calling for federal regulation of cargo.

He is, however, calling for an end of government-operated road systems through which taxpayers subsidize that “deregulated” trucking that costs a good deal more than rail if the corporate welfare stops.

1. That sounds about right. I didn’t want to put words in his mouth, but it’s what I figured. Anarchists aren’t going to want to have federal funding for roads, nor regulate the modes of transportation, nor regulate what goes along them.

So any attempt to dampen the effects of secondary boycotts or sympathy strikes won’t be achieved by other federal regulations, which is what I was addressing by way of Tulpa’s comment above.

2. “if you leave us free to engage in sympathy and boycott strikes all the way up and down the production chain, to boycott retailers, and to strike against the hauling of scab cargo, etc., effectively turning every strike into a general strike.”

I would gladly grant this (with Tulpa’s proviso “as long as you’re not including violence or property destruction in your definition of direct action”), with the 100% certainty that it wouldn’t work.
Success presumes the existence of the “New Soviet Man”; that human willing to forgo his own welfare to provide better welfare for others.
If there is anything of value in the concept of Libertarianism, it ain’t gonna happen.
If I’m wrong, I’ll be more than happy to deal with the evidence and change my views.

3. Kevin Carson didn’t write the sniveling statist POS article in The Economist. He may want to abolish all union labor law but that is not what Wilkinson discusses when he quotes Carson.

1. Exactly right. There are two different sources here, Wilkinson and Carson. Carson is operating in theory, Wilkinson takes that theory and argues for the strengthening of unions under the current laws, which is totally different. Carson’s an anarchist, Wilkinson’s position on this is just flat liberal.

2. And I’m not too sure, given Carson’s language about capital and banana tactics and whatnot, that Carson wouldn’t argue the same thing as Wilkinson. I didn’t want to give the guy a free pass – I think even his theoretical vision is slightly dystopic.

1. Actually, even Wilkinson notes that “actually existing unionism” needs to be denied the benefits of and/or freed from the shackles of Wagner/Taft-Hartley.

What would happen if the NLRA went away and union activity was subject only to rational law, e.g. assault, arson, etc. would still be treated as crimes?

One side of this argument seems to think that the unions would wither on the vine and die. The other seems (in my case more than seems) to think that unions would thrive, at least to the extent that large-scale, centralized industrial production remained the norm.

It would be interesting to find out, but history says that the powers that be thought the latter. The purpose of the NLRA was not to benefit the unions, it was to co-opt them into the managerial state that their gains were threatening.

1. But if I’m not mistaken, Wilkinson is still arguing for the plausibility of strengthening the labor unions, even everything else held constant.

See, a lot comments in this comments section have been spent wondering whether scrapping the fed. regulatory framework of forced recognition and bargaining is a good trade-off for decriminalizing the labor tactics Carson advocates. And here’s the rub: it sounds like Wilkinson would be open to keeping the forced bargaining and recognition while strengthening the role of the unions. Which is simply left, not libertarian.

I just re-read his column. He does hedge a lot, and I maybe put too great a weight on his hedging about the subject of recalibrating the capital/labor power structure as is. Maybe.

1. See my Wilkinson quotes edited for clarity above. The striked text is not “hedging”it’s obscurantist and disingenuous .

Quite painful to endure, but oh so revealing is this:
Goldberg destroys Wilkinson

2. “it sounds like Wilkinson would be open to keeping the forced bargaining and recognition while strengthening the role of the unions.”

I didn’t read it that way — but reading it that way isn’t unreasonable, either.

4. Bull fucking shit. I oppose the NLRA too.

1. NLRA is not going away, unfortunately. So opposing RTW effectively means you support having an unchecked NLRA.

1. I also vote for libertarians. What is fucking new?

13. Give up Will. Unions like cartels never hold themselves together without coercion. Humans are made by their creator quota cheaters and scabs.

1. Are you meaning to say, “Give up, Will” or “Give up Will”? Because I think most of us long ago did the latter.

1. Fire at Will!

2. The first. I haven’t even given up on Weigel yet.

1. Weigel never pretended to be a libertarian.

14. That jackass Wilkinson should just come out of the closet and admit that he’s a progressive.

1. You’re a regressive?

15. monopolistic health insurance companies

a) How many do there need to be before it’s not monopolistic anymore?

b) How did they become monopolistic in the first place?

1. umm, there are oligopolies in most states. still, it often goes unremarked that there are around 1600 health insurers in the united states. most are obviously very small and community based. many of them are in the midwest to cater to farmers. the medical loss ratio screws the little insurers. believe it or not simply having others in the industry seems to make a difference in competition (customer services, etc) even if the big ones have so much market capitalization.

They became “monopolistic” by the Blues initially negotiating state sponsored hospital discounts as well as enabling legislation for them to be exempt from regular state insurance laws requiring high reserves and were relieved from paying taxes. In 1994, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association changed to allow its licensees to be for-profit corporations, but some are still considered non-profit on the state level.

There was only really a “free market” for health insurance products in the early 1930s.

16. “angry fight over a dwindling pie of state resources”

If The FairTax was instituted our economy would be booming today so that possibly all the social costs could be affordable. And there’d be much less wasted money on lobbyist.

1. And ponies. Pretty, pretty ponies.

2. Yes, because as we all know, there’s no room in the Fair Tax for carving out exceptions for favored businesses and industries. \end{sarcasm}

17. If The FairTax was instituted our economy would be booming today so that possibly all the social costs could be affordable. And there’d be much less wasted money on lobbyist.

Yeah, right.

18. Fuck you Will Wilkinson! If NC wasn’t a Right to Work state, I’d be paying 10% of my pay check to a union that would be giving it away in political donations to the Democratic Party. Right to Work exists to keep people from being coerced into paying union dues as a condition of employment, not to keep at bay the stampede of employers (riiight) seeking closed shops.

19. By the way — how is an agreement between an employer and a union to require all workers to join as a condition of employment any more acceptable from a moral standpoint than an agreement between the employer and a local house of worship to require all employees to join that particular congregation and tithe to it as a condition of employment?

1. It’s not “any more” acceptable, or any less. I don’t see why a libertarian would have a problem with either scenario.

20. And as far as public employee unions are concerned, consider this — why should any taxpayer have his or her employment by the government conditioned upon his paying a kickback to a private organization? How does this differ in any meaningful sense from requiring that the employees of the government pay a portion of their salary into the campaign fund of the party in power as a condition of their continued employment? And are the two not substantially equivalent when the union is going to use a portion of those mandatory dues to engage in political campaigns for candidates of a favored party?

21. This are not simply mindprogrammed ordinary ork$(like acornorK$, aclu, sodomic education instead of God BY BHOVER+the AYER$of$aurgov, “THE INFILTRATED LOGISTIK FROM COMUNISM-COMUNITY ACTIVISTs, same logistics copied from castrogov (exple: hammas, UN$ADDAM, ayatoland, etc, all copy castrogov, their “best occidental system they preffer… as bho IS PREFFERED INSTEAD OF BUSH”, TEAPARTIES, SARAH PALIN, …WHY?… WHY WOULD IT BE???…. WHY IF… THEY WERE ELECTED AND ALL LIKE THEM OPPOSING&DENOUNCING; AS IT IS: TERROR LOGISTICS, by whom??… whom would it be helping the enemy IN TIMES OF WAR!!!???… PPSST: THE neolibtical$, the ussr (real UGLY… while “exisTED”) “FRIENDLYENEMY”, the only ones preffered by the real EMPIRE ussr, the DEMagogs in chief, the PROSTITUTE adventures with all ugly minds: nazionalsocialists, comunisticsocialists, gestapo,ss,,securitate,
grupodeapoyoalcomandante, accepted by cuba parties, goups, politicians… accepted by (the “bigones” becuse of deaths, and bho has the abortion century crimes in numbers, more than the “OLD” (inn)fidel, bho IS ACCEPTED AND PREFFERED INSTEAD OF BUSH BY…:
the “brothermuslimhood”…
bho is also accepted by the urukhigh$from ICENGOV… AN ARMY BROGHT FOR A SINGLE PURPOSE…: TO DESTROY THE WORLD OF MEN… they already “started”… on Winsconsin… THEY WILL BE HERE BY NIGHTFALL… from other states (maybe castrocoyotes marching&chancting; demanding the rights of the Americans bho HATES AS TEDPALPATINEKENNEDY DID) BAILEDOUT BY BHO.KOM… LOGISTICS… the same as THEBROTHERMUSLIMHOOD…ACORNORK$,ETC,
NEOLIBTICAL FINANTIAL/DEBT BUBBLE GLOBAL BOMBINGS… CASTROCOYOTE INVASION…
CASTROTEDPALPATINE KENNEDY ANAMONTES MIND ON TAXES AND >>> DEFENSE (GOV$UCKERLAWYER FOR THE ENEMY, FOREIGN OR DOMESTIC)… NANANA bho, what your acorn and gov inside the gov system thing still doing to my family, will be another MEGACRIME politicalba$e$cheap$ and govagenda re$urrection$cheap\$ on YOUR ACCOUNT WE BLOW OFF THE FACE OF THE EARTH… MY LORD… every frakin week, as we did last week…
cumbaya BattleStar Marklevin, CONGRATS FOR THIS SPECIFIC WEEK…
comming up: “I hear something… while I’m broke floating with “the solarwind… booom!! tooom!!, rythmic… our battlestars are “sharking” neolibtical bases&resurrection; ships…: obamacare to slavery, “vision” and intention on the enemy and the ally, etc…
yes, dade police came to my “slavery subjob”, melvin, now with a seem gaypolice new boss WHO LAUGHS ON ME FOR MY BACKINJURY (broken, that imbecile comment will be your ruin, bho…)… so…
“see” you…

22. I’m not surprised to see a sensible comment on this from Knapp.

That’s nice.

Based on my real-world experiences working with and around union members, I have found them, virtually without exception, to be worthless drunken thieving imbeciles, whose mission in life is to work less while stealing more, secure in the knowledge they can neither be dismissed nor disciplined.

SIUYA.

1. Of course, who needs arguments when you have anecdotes?

2. worthless drunken thieving imbeciles, whose mission in life is to work less while stealing more, secure in the knowledge they can neither be dismissed nor disciplined.

To be fair, most people would be like that if they could get away with it. Unions simply provide a limited version of a Ring of Gyges.

3. My experience agrees with yours. So fucking what? That doesnt change anything about rights to contract or association.

23. From teh almighty Wiki

Kevin Amos Carson, is an American social and political theorist and scholar of political economy writing in the mutualist and individualist anarchist traditions. Currently Research Associate at the Center for a Stateless Society

Carson describes his politics as on “the outer fringes of both free market libertarianism and socialism.” He has identified the work of Benjamin Tucker, Ralph Borsodi, Lewis Mumford and Ivan Illich as sources of inspiration for his approach to politics and economics.

I’m sure it all sounds very profound and erudite when you’re sitting crosslegged in the dirt at Burning Man.

Give me a fucking break.

1. in the mutualist and individualist anarchist traditions, crosslegged sits you

(very voluntarily, of course)

2. Ooooh!!! Outer fringes!

24. Of course, who needs arguments when you have anecdotes?

Strangely enough, you didn’t seem to feel it necessary to offer a similar response to Carson’s little minion’s “My union is the bestest ever!” fable.

1. Because it doesnt matter.

25. leave us free to engage in sympathy and boycott strikes all the way up and down the production chain, to boycott retailers, and to strike against the hauling of scab cargo, etc., effectively turning every strike into a general strike.

Nice.

Instead of creating something of value, you want to destroy what others have built, if they won’t pay your ransom.

Dogs.

In a manger.

26. effectively turning every strike into a general strike.

How does this happen, absent coercion?

If I own a factory which makes rubber o-rings, and an order comes in, I’m going to fill it. I have overhead to cover.

If the “shop steward” comes into my office, and tells me not to fill the order because the customer is on the union’s shit list, what do you think I’m going to say?

(Hint: not “Yes, Bwana.”)

I generally avoid the “Who’s a REAL libertarian?” game, but if this dipshit Carson is a “libertarian”, I’m a can of tomato soup.

1. Then everybody strikes. You can’t produce anymore because the workers are in solidarity. Nobody will work for you. If they do, they’re shunned in the community. Can you ship your stuff? Not if the transport unions won’t touch it. Not if the local conductors won’t. That’s the point. It’s pressure, pressure, pressure everywhere. It collapses the system. But it’s voluntary. I’ll give him that. It’s not that you have to like it, but it puts the power back in the hands of labor if enough people agree with the workers.

That’s why he’s willing to swap the protections of mandatory recognition and bargaining for the legality of secondary actions like secondary boycotts and secondary strikes. Right now, they’re illegal.

1. Rock Action |2.26.11 @ 9:22PM|#
“Then everybody strikes. You can’t produce anymore because the workers are in solidarity. Nobody will work for you. If they do, they’re shunned in the community. Can you ship your stuff? Not if the transport unions won’t touch it. Not if the local conductors won’t. That’s the point. It’s pressure, pressure, pressure everywhere. It collapses the system. But it’s voluntary. I’ll give him that.”

Repeat:
I would gladly grant this (with Tulpa’s proviso “as long as you’re not including violence or property destruction in your definition of direct action”), with the 100% certainty that it wouldn’t work.
Success presumes the existence of the “New Soviet Man”; that human willing to forgo his own welfare to provide better welfare for others.
If there is anything of value in the concept of Libertarianism, it ain’t gonna happen.
If I’m wrong, I’ll be more than happy to deal with the evidence and change my views.

1. No, I agree. I don’t think the whole system will blow up. But the intention is to put a whole lot of pressure on the system, and I actually think it would. People are mighty agitated these days on both sides of the political spectrum.

And nobody’s going to become isolated overnight if this were to happen. As it is, he’s engaging in a theoretical exercise — can you imagine the howls from the left and the unions if the NLRA were revoked? — and I’m pointing out that theoretically, this could also happen, which is ironic.

2. Well, then you certainly woul dhave no problem with all the local employers deciding that they won’t employ any union member. You know — that whoe solidarity thing and all. Especially if they start refusing to do business with anyone who does negotiate with the union.

Just imagine the problem for unionized companies if all of a sudden the local banks refused to allow them to open accounts, local businesses refused to allow them to purchase supplies for their office, the local power company shut off the electricity…

Oh, wait, that would be immoral and coercive and therefore needs to be banned by the government, right? Well, then, how can you object to preventing the same sort of boycotts by labor?

1. “Just imagine the problem for unionized companies if all of a sudden the local banks refused to allow them to open accounts, local businesses refused to allow them to purchase supplies for their office, the local power company shut off the electricity…”

That won’t happen either; it would require the “New Soviet Man” to run the businesses that denied those transactions.
If the concept of libertarianism has validity:
It.
Won’t.
Fly.
If not, Chony et all are right, and I’m wrong. In which case, I will apologize and change my views.

2. I wasn’t taking a position. I was explaining the tactic.

And I think your logic is a little…tricky. If I had no problem with the banks and utilities companies doing that, I’d have no problem with labor doing that. You’re saying if I would step in and stop the banks, I shouldn’t get in the way of labor’s free association.

No free association for the banks, but free association for labor?

Under this standard, labor would have a right to associate with whomever. So would banks. Same with power companies. That means cutting off power is okay. That means general strikes are okay. That means no loans for whatever reason are okay. That means boycotts are okay. See where the freedom of association theoretical takes you?

3. Oh, I think you think I’m a lefty. Sorry. I misread you. In a post above, I pointed out how stepping in and interfering with “freedom of contract” is similar to stepping in this “freedom of association” instance. We’re on the same page.

1. Rock Action |2.26.11 @ 10:47PM|#
“Oh, I think you think I’m a lefty.”

The point is simply “free association” as defined by unions requires the “New Soviet Man”.
*IF* union “A” presumes that *by persuasion* (not thuggery) the members of unions B, C D…. will join in, why, let ’em try.
General strikes work in Paris, since everyone in Paris can’t exist without public union workers. Paris is pretty, and pretty sleazy in another context.

1. That was for Rhymes With Right. He/she thought I was advocating for these strikes and imputed that I would then prevent private businesses from discriminating against unions. Which I wouldn’t, if I supported pure free association.

2. Whats with the New Soviet Man bullshit?

No one cares whether it would work or not, it only matters that the have the right to do it.

1. “No one cares whether it would work or not, it only matters that the have the right to do it.”

And you would deny that?

1. I would deny no rights.

Getting rid of right to work gives rights to employers while taking away nothing from employees.

27. Rock Action |2.26.11 @ 10:01PM|#
“No, I agree. I don’t think the whole system will blow up. But the intention is to put a whole lot of pressure on the system, and I actually think it would. People are mighty agitated these days on both sides of the political spectrum.”

Then the way to find out is to call the bluff.
The US spent millions of (1950) dollars supporting ‘moderate’ (read “socialist”) European governments after WWII, fearing the countries might have become communist. Bad mistake.
Let ’em. If the libertarian concept means anything, the collapse of communism was inevitable, which it seems it was.
If union “A” says ‘we’re going to shut down the country’, let ’em try.
But, per Tulpa, NO thuggery.

1. Well, Carson’s plan probably would help reduce income inequality.

1. What’s the “plan”?

28. Dear God, Kevin Carson and Will Wilkinson together in one article?

I think I’m gonna to hurl.

29. Well, Carson’s plan probably would help reduce income inequality.

An International Brotherhood of poverty and squalor.

Yay!

30. If union “A” says ‘we’re going to shut down the country’, let ’em try.
But, per Tulpa, NO thuggery.

Go back to my example from last night; if the union wants to urge its members not to buy the finished products which incorporate my o-rings, I have no problem with that. If the union calls a strike at my factory, specifically to prevent me from supplying my product to some third party, in essence promising to bankrupt me if I don’t participate in their boycott, what can that possibly be, if not thuggery?

It’s nothing but gangsterism and extortion.

1. “If the union calls a strike at my factory, specifically to prevent me from supplying my product to some third party, in essence promising to bankrupt me if I don’t participate in their boycott, what can that possibly be, if not thuggery?”

It would be a choice made by certain parties not to do business with you for reasons of their choosing.

1. It depends on how the union reacts to P Brooks’ attempts to bring other workers into his factory to resume production.

History tells us that they won’t limit themselves to persuasion and silver-tongued oratory.

1. “History tells us that they won’t limit themselves to persuasion and silver-tongued oratory.”
Separate issue; one that involves force.

31. No one cares whether it would work or not, it only matters that the have the right to do it.

And do I also have the right to fire everybody who refuses to show up for work, and replace them? Or would that be oppressing the proletariat?

1. Of course you have the right to fire them. Unless you signed a contract that states otherwise.

32. It would be a choice made by certain parties not to do business with you for reasons of their choosing.

That would be true if they came to me as individuals and said, “I cannot in good conscience work for you any longer, you baby-eating monocled fiend. Find somebody else to do your dirty work.” Going on strike and willfully preventing the factory from being able to carry on production (what the fuck do you think a “strike” is, anyway?) is thuggery.

33. “Going on strike and willfully preventing the factory from being able to carry on production (what the fuck do you think a “strike” is, anyway?) is thuggery.”

If me and my buddies decide we don’t want to work for you for any reason we choose, we get to make that choice.
Not buying it; no force involved.

1. An integral part of a strike is preventing “scabs” from entering the job site.

1. Tulpa|2.27.11 @ 12:14PM|#
“An integral part of a strike is preventing “scabs” from entering the job site.”
Separate issue, one that involves force.

1. It may technically be a separate issue, but in reality they always occur together. It’s like trying to separate bestiality porn from teddy bear abuse.

1. Tulpa|2.27.11 @ 3:05PM|#
“It may technically be a separate issue, but in reality they always occur together.”

And I won’t waste time arguing with anyone who ‘presumes’ conditions other than stated.

2. Luka? Is that you?

34. If me and my buddies decide we don’t want to work for you for any reason we choose, we get to make that choice.

If you make that decision and go away, that is 100% correct, and I support your right to do so. If you show up on the sidewalk outside my factory every day waving signs, chanting slogans, blocking access and threatening my replacement workers, it’s thuggery.

Period; the end.

Here’s another meaningless personal anecdote for you: I have been a “scab” worker, and I’m here to tell you, the LAST THING IN THE WORLD the Teamsters are in favor of is “freedom of association”.

1. “If you show up on the sidewalk outside my factory every day waving signs, chanting slogans,”
Nope, no force, public land.

“blocking access and threatening my replacement workers, it’s thuggery.”
Yes, force; thuggery.

“the LAST THING IN THE WORLD the Teamsters are in favor of is “freedom of association”.”
Agreed. In no way am I defending unions as currently favored by law.

35. Here’s a thought experiment for you:

Should the garbagemen be allowed to strike in “solidarity” with the teachers’ union because a teacher has been let go?

Why is irrelevant; it could be because enrollment (for whatever reason) has declined and there is no legitimate need for that additional body, or it could be because that teacher has been caught assfucking the star quarterback in the boys’ locker room.

How high will the garbage get?

What if the cops, rather than succumbing to the “blue flue” en masse, begin enforcing the speed limit to the tenth of a MPH in order to put the screws to the unruly taxpayers?

Whee!

36. “Should the garbagemen be allowed to strike in “solidarity” with the teachers’ union because a teacher has been let go?”

No, and the “why” isn’t irrelevant. Trash collection is a government monopoly.

1. In most places it actually isn’t.

1. What are the numbers? There are basically 4 situations, 2 of which are government monopoly:

1. Government workers pick up trash.
2. Government hires a private company to pick up trash (my situation).
3. HoA hires a private company to pick up trash (my situation in old home).
4. Individual purchases trash service (my parents situation).

Oh, and #5: drive to the dump (my sister’s situation)

The first two are government monopolies. I dont know the breakdown, but I would guess #2 is the largest. And, at least within urban areas, #1 and #2 are a large majority.

2. Tulpa|2.27.11 @ 3:03PM|#
“In most places it actually isn’t.”

In that case, yes, they can go on sympathy strike and the competition can pick up the trash.
I’ve never lived where trash collection *wasn’t* either a government function or a government-protected monopoly.

37. Think of all the secondary victims of a general strike: innocent little sick children with no medicine, because the truckers have all parked their rigs in solidarity with that poor teacher. Wouldn’t it be morally justified for the Pinkertons to wade into the truckers’ lounge at the truck stops and bust a few heads? Of course it would.

For the children. The poor feeble helpless sickly little children dying for lack of medicine!

1. Well, if it’s ‘for teh chilluns!’