On my ambivalence toward unions

September 24, 2012

One of many nail “bombs”, allegedly left by Philadelphia Construction Union workers to sabotage deliveries to a non-union Post Brothers construction site.

My support for unions ends where their anti-competitive activities begin.

I often claim to champion the rights of the individual against leviathan aggregations of power. So a friend of mine was taken aback when I expressed an ambivalence, if not an aversion, to labor unions. Our first conversation on the matter ended abruptly, but we have recently revisited the issue. Here are my thoughts.

For this blog’s purpose, I won’t challenge the workers’ claimed right to keep their jobs while forming unions, even though I do consider that technically to be a violation of free association. Technically, employment at will should mean that either the manager or the worker can break off the work arrangement at any time for any reason. Technically, contracts containing anti-union “yellow dog” provisions ought to be enforced when signed by informed, consenting adults. However, I do recognize, and I’m sympathetic to, the disparity in bargaining power between workers and managers. Therefore, I’ll tolerate this minor deviation from principle and avoid balancing the fate of the great masses of working people on mere moral-philosophical technicalities. After all, the existence of unions is not what concerns me most. I’m more concerned with what unions do after they’ve formed.  Read the rest of this entry »


Does capitalism exploit workers? ‘Swag man wit a do’ tells it straight up

July 22, 2012

I caught this video coming down my facebook feed. My good friend Ian from YAL at UVA had reposted it from LearnLiberty.org. It is called Does Capitalism Exploit Workers:

This great video reminds me of my early podcasting days, when I first tuned in to the Ludwig von Mises Institute while cleaning horse stalls at a local stable in the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia. The lecture I recall specifically was Tom DiLorenzo‘s Labor Market Superstitions, from 2006. Tom explains how employers across the labor market bid up wages until those wages approach value of the labor:

I was further charmed by the response video to Does Capitalism Exploit Workers, which was posted by a gentleman who refers to himself as ‘Swag Man Wit A Do’, if I’ve understood him correctly. Swag man implores us to “put some knowledge in our brains” by watching the video above:

He has a whole channel of similarly witty videos. What are you waiting for? Subscribe to both LearnLiberty and Swag man today!


Links for July 19, 2010: To Stimulate or Not To Stimulate; What Police Can Do; much, much more….

July 18, 2010

    Paul Krugman: Boost aggregate demand! Muahahaha!!!

  1. It’s good to hear Krugman speak and respond to questions. The thrust of this discussion is that the opposition to the stimulus is a visceral reaction, not an intelligent one. Although some guests early on questioned the empirical efficacy of the stimulus, we did really not hear from any Thomas E. Woodses or any Peter Schiffs who maintained, in quite an intellectual fashion, that the stimulus is simply bad economic policy. Krugman remarks toward the end that he doesn’t see stimulus jobs as “makework” jobs. I do not understand how this position can be honestly defended alongside the position that we now need government to “boost aggregate demand”, i.e. create demand where none existed before. What is the purpose of the stimulus if it is not to “make work”? If these were not “makework” jobs, we would do them anyway. We would not need an economic crisis as a pretense for passing $700 billion spending bills. For a response to the assertion that Roosevelt’s slashing of the deficits caused a recession in 1937, see this. For a response to the assertion that World War II spending lifted the U.S. economy out of the depression, listen here, starting at 32:17.  Read the rest of this entry »


Links for February 26, 2010: Consumer Advocacy Group Sues FDA Over the Right to Sell Raw Milk, Marx’s Capital gets lamer, others…

March 2, 2010

Raw Milk: The Assassin of Youth (Photo: Chedid)

  1. Grist | Farmer-consumer group challenges FDA authority to ban interstate raw-milk sales

    Commerce Clause challenge FAIL! These people are wasting their time. Don’t they know that the Supreme Court has essentially interpreted the Commerce Clause as a grant of general authority to regulate everything everywhere? The milk does not even need to cross state lines for the FDA to have authority to regulate and control it.

  2. World Socialist Party (US) | Socialist Guide to Marx’s Capital (3. Labor Theory of Value)

    Describing Marx’s labor theory of value begins to appear as the sprawling of a web of lies. “It is an easy thing to tell a lie,’ wrote Thomas Paine, “but it is more difficult to support a lie after it is told.” Whenever Marx is confronted with a completely disarming counter-example to his already jury-rigged theory, his solution is to invent a new term of art to describe the phenomenon, which he then “goes on to examine” in a future chapter or volume of exponentially increasing body of “work”. Here, the author of this article sua sponte offers the example of the celebrity autograph, which is often exchanged on the market at a high price, even though a negligible amount of labor went into its production. Marx’s solution, apparently, is to invent a new term of art, formal commodity, and then explain the relevance of formal commodities away through impressive feats of mental contortionism. When the dust settles, we see no explanation as to why autographs are often expensive. Read the rest of this entry »


links for 2010-02-16

February 17, 2010
  1. World Socialist Party (US) | Labor Theory of Value

    Looking for a simple, concise explanation of the theory, I find instead this litany of apologetics. Written almost entirely on the defensive, the article explains nothing about the Labor Theory of Value except why Marx scoffed at requests to explain it: — “if one wanted to ‘explain’ from the outset all phenomena that apparently contradict the law, one would have to provide the science before the science” (Collected Works vol. 43, p. 68). I don’t know if that explanation satisfies you, but I find it wanting. I think, ultimately, Marx uses the word “VALUE” as a term of art that means simply that part of an item’s existence attributable to the labor required to produce it. So, if I spent 50 man-hours making 50,000 turd sandwiches, Marx would “VALUE” those turd sandwiches at the going rate for 50 man-hours of labor. Sure, the labor theory of value makes sense in THAT context, but what about real life, in which we don’t always have the luxury of defining words as we please?

    Update: It has come to my attention after listening to a lecture on the opening chapter of Marx’s Capital that Marx believed that useless items had no value. He actually employed three terms of art, and what he saw as the relationships between them, to describe what a layman would call “value”. The terms are: use value, exchange value, and value. An explanation of this in the linked article would have been helpful.

  2. reason.tv | Don’t Get Hurt

    Fear of addiction and other harms resulting from prescription pain-killers is overblown, argues Ted Balaker at Reason. Read the rest of this entry »


links for 2010-02-07

February 8, 2010
  1. Stop the Drug War (DRCNet) | Obama's Drug War Budget Destroys the Myth of Change

    Strong rebuke for the White House's 2010 drug war budget.

  2. Mises Economics Blog | "Who dat" owns the term "Super Bowl"? – Douglas French

    Commenting on the trademark infringement involving the term "Super Bowl".

  3. Mises Institute | Wage Earners and Employers – Ludwig von Mises

    More reason not to fear the Citizens United case: "It is a myth that there prevails a conflict between the interests of the corporations and firms and those of the people employed by them. In fact, good profits and high real wages go hand in hand." —Still, though, I'm hearing from many different sources that the court brought up the First Amendment issue "sua sponte". If this is true, as it is looking more likely to be, I would consider that to be 'judicial activism'. I will have to update my prior posts where I denied the claim…. Read the rest of this entry »


links for 2010-02-02

February 3, 2010
  1. National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation | Federal Labor Board Rejects Frivolous Teamster Union Charges Against National Right to Work Foundation

    Workers do not all speak with one voice.

  2. Huffington Post | Bacteria Linked To Feces Found In Nearly Half Of Fast Food Soda Fountains

    News Flash! This just in! Didn't think the air you breathe could get any grosser? Well it can. Whenever you smell a fart, that's, like, butt-air going up your nose. Think about that. I'm never breathing again.

  3. Daily Reckoning | Stimulus in a Real Depression

    Another argument against stimulus. Read the rest of this entry »