Saturday, February 19, 2011

by the way

Incidentally, this is the moment for libertarians to demonstrate their independence and their principles. I am constantly told by libertarian friends that Cato and the Reason Institute are not, in fact, under the thumb of the Koch brothers, even though they are so incredibly dependent on Koch money. I am also constantly told by my libertarian friends that the ideology is not, in fact, wholly devoted towards the interests of the richest and most powerful against those of the poorest and least powerful.

Well, this is an absolutely perfect opportunity to demonstrate those ideas. The issues at stake here are libertarian issues. What the governor of Wisconsin is trying to destroy are the elementary rights of free association, free assembly, and control over one's own bargaining power. These are absolutely, non-negotiably first principle American, civil, and human rights. Defend them now and send a message that libertarianism is not in the pocket of the Koch brothers and the GOP. What's more, the larger issue of pensions involves essential property rights. A pension represents fairly negotiated, previously earned compensation. It is not a bonus, an extra, or a gift. It is not obtained through the largess of the employer but through the fair, just, and mutually agreed bargaining of the employee and the employer. To raid pensions, public or otherwise, is no different at all from stealing money from the bank account of an employee after you've paid him or her. Those who defend property rights have an obligation to defend pensions.

I believe in the integrity of many individual libertarians but am quite cynical about libertarianism as an entity and surely about the institutions of libertarianism. Prove me wrong. Here's the perfect issue that we've be waiting for, an economic issue where libertarians can side with the less powerful, the less moneyed, and the workers against the more powerful, the richer, and the corporate interests.


Will Wilson said...

This seems a bit silly. For starters, government workers in Wisconsin are currently forced to donate a portion of their incomes to political activity that they may disagree with. The state literally deducts the sum from their paycheck and hands it over to the unions.

For another, people in Wisconsin who want a government job and want to be a part of a union (and wouldn't you, given that they're already deducting from your salary?) have only one option. If my union is screwing me over, I can't start a competing union because there is only one authorized entity that can negotiate with my employer on my behalf. Does that sound like freedom of association to you?

What you want is not collective bargaining, it's a state-imposed monopoly collective bargaining agent. That's abhorrent on all sorts of grounds, the public choice nightmare inherent in the creation of a permanent constituency of individuals who benefit from government expansion being just one of them.

I'd also be careful identifying your own labour sympathies too closely with the current demands of the state workers. Many of these folks make a hell of a lot more than most Americans, and in terms of political power (both lobbying strength and magnitude of campaign contributions) they are among the strongest in the country.

So I suspect that even from a hard-left point of view, the choice of who to side with is not as blindingly obvious as you make it out to be.

Eric Dondero said...

The problem is the Kochs only fund a small portion of the libertarian movement. They haven't donated to the Libertarian Party since the early 1980s. And they've never donated to the Republican Liberty Caucus.

Interestingly, libertarian Republicans were deeply involved in getting Walker elected. Yet, there's a total media blackout on that. Better to go after the big bad Kochs.

Eric Dondero, Publisher

Oh, and btw, 99% of us Libertarian activists are poor schmucks who don't get a nickel from the Kochs. But you never hear about that.

Will Wilson said...

Yes, and I honestly don't understand how the Koch brothers turned into giant bogeymen for the left. You know that the amount of money they spend is utterly dwarfed by the amount spent by... say... AFSCME, right?

But whatever dude, I'll bear your dire warnings in mind the next time I'm reading Radley Balko's evil Koch-funded oil-company-profit-boosting investigative reporting on police brutality.

Freddie said...

On what the Kochs fund, I am proceeding correctly, you incorrectly. I am indicating an individual issue where the Kochs have donated an incredible amount of resources, and I am responding to it.

As for money going to political causes, you really don't think that corporate interests are capturing more profits from workers than they otherwise would in a better labor market? Say, the kind of labor market established by powerful unions? And do you really not believe that corporate interests are using that capture income for political purposes contrary to the interests of those workers?

As for the larger issues here, the right and the neoliberals have steadily and deliberately undermined the ability of ordinary Americans to make more money. Period. The ability of Americans to improve the material conditions of their lives has been totally undercut by more and more resources flowing to those at the top. So: what are you going to do about it?

As for more general questions about my political beliefs, read this. There is literally not one word that I disagree with, besides my lack of belief in God.

Freddie said...

By the way-- you'll note that neither of you have actually attempted to disagree with the fundamental liberties involved in collective bargaining.

This country used to laugh at authoritarian states like South Africa when the banned unions.

Will Wilson said...

Freddie, you aren't replying to my points. I'm not super emotionally involved in this, so whatever, but if you want to know why I'm helping out Gov. Walker, it's all there in my first comment.

Freddie said...

You aren't replying to my points: do you believe in the right to freely assemble? To freely associate? To control your own labor power? Those are foundational American rights. Do you support them?

Mysterious Man from the shadows said...

I don't support the governor of Wisconsin's plan. I don't even have enough information to determine what stance to take here, except a general intuition which tells me that whatever the Tea-Party backed people want to do is probably a bad idea.

But I don't really follow how you have concluded Libertarians should be against their plan. It seems to me that the Governor's plan is a perfectly Libertarian plan, and its flaws are the flaws of the Libertarian philosophy itself, Koch brothers or no.

You write: "The governor of Wisconsin is trying to destroy...and control over one's own bargaining power."

I don't understand that. He is not trying to destroy the bargaining power of the individual, only the collective bargaining power.

Now, you might say the individual's power is not adequate, and that therefore collective power is necessary to ensure workers a fair deal. Well, that might well be true, but there is nothing remotely libertarian about that fact.

There might be, as you say, some economic issue where Libertarians can "side with the less powerful", but this seems like it isn't it at all.

Freddie said...

If every individual member of the union controls his or her own labor power, then together, they are bargaining with their individual right to choose.

Myles SG said...

Well, as a classical liberal, I wholly support free association, and am concerned with only two things when it comes to union legislation: that 1) unions not be allowed to make political donations unless the membership has either a) approved political donations in a organization-wide vote or b) has individually indicated approval.

2) that there be no closed shops.

Insofar as the issue doesn't concern either of the two above, I approve of free association to the full extent of their power. My support is, however, somewhat tempered if the Wisconsin public unions enforce closed shop.

Anonymous said...

As for money going to political causes, you really don't think that corporate interests are capturing more profits from workers than they otherwise would in a better labor market?

What? The basic principle here is that unions are basically a representative agent for its members in the workplace. The union might do other things, but this is the most basic.

Insofar as political contributions go, what is needed is simply for its members to unequivocally state that they do authorize this representative agent not only to act for them in the workplace, but also in politics.

This isn't about how well the corporations or whatever are doing; this is simply the basics of autonomy and delegation.

Freddie said...

Closed shop has pretty much been illegal since 1947.

Myles SG said...

OK the 6:24 PM Anonymous post was mine. Forgot to sign it.

The thing is, I obviously support collective bargaining (for benefits, etc. as well as for wages). So to the extent that Wisconsins are advocating collective bargaining rights I support them in their actions, and to the extent the Wisconsin governor is removing collective bargaining rights I oppose him.

That being said, it's pretty much impossible to full-throatedly get behind public-sector unions, because they are political actors and will have to be partially judged as political actors. I can actually support 100% union coverage so long as what some call paycheque protection is enacted (and no, this isn't some strategem to dismantle the power of the unions, I just think there's a basic agency problem here that is actually quite important. The idea of your employment representative being empowered to act for you, unless so authorized, in political advocacy is antithetical to the very idea of human autonomy.)

Handle said...

It's time to face facts; the public sector unions are done in every cash-strapped state that isn't entirely owned by the Democrats that are under their thumb.

It doesn't matter why, or whether that's a good or bad thing - it's just happening and we just have to deal with that. It's PATCO v. Reagan, and since there's no more money, the unions will lose. There are literally millions in the Reserve Army of Unemployed who would be HAPPY to take their jobs for a fraction of their pay and benefits. They will strike, get fired, and be easily replaced. That's what happens when wages are well above the clearing level.

If you can see that end-state clearly, then what's the point of whining about it? Might as well preemptively cozy up to the winners in that power struggle hoping to ingratiate yourselves. All your friends at the Atlantic already have - Ha!

Adam said...


To Will you said "You aren't replying to my points: do you believe in the right to freely assemble? To freely associate? To control your own labor power?"

But Will did reply to this. In short: what WI is going to lose isn't "the right to freely assemble". He said that collective bargaining does not supply government employees with the right to free assembly because it forces them to donate to a political organization and provides them with a state imposed monopoly collective bargaining agent. Is his characterization incorrect? Or does it not matter? In any case it seems he's provided you with an argument that you haven't addresses.

KatyDid said...

It’s always seemed to me that the “libertarian” encompasses two very different movements, and tossing them under one title has ripped the movement and philosophy in two.

On one hand, you have anarcho-capitalism, which to me is the idea that we should replace governmental overlords with corporate/financial ones.

On the other hand, you have a group of people who reject corporate/financial overlords, too, and recognize that simply because someone isn’t collecting a government paycheck doesn’t mean they avoid the title of “tyrant.”

The failure of these groups to distinguish themselves from one another means you end up having Dick Armey, Newt Gingrich, Robert Anton Wilson, Objectivists, anarchists, etc., all claiming the same tag…. Very uncomfortably.

Anyway… Thanks for this. I appreciate the definition you’re espousing here.

Matt B said...

Myles- the unions have agreed to the financial concessions. Walker has not budged on the bargaining.

Anonymous said...

Heh. Looks like the libertarian contingent still performs **exactly** as expected. Will Wilson: Simply AWESOME duckspeak, brother!! That line about the effrontery of state workers making more than, say, Wal-Mart shelf stockers **never** gets old!!!

So, fuck the libertarian cant. That state employees are protesting is distinctly tertiary, here. This Wisconsin action is entirely about breaking the (now almost entirely atrophied) tradition of ordinary people banding together for their common welfare. The big mistake of the public employee unions is that they let it come to this, that decades ago they didn't do more to help organize their private sector brothers and sisters. Now we're left with last-ditch actions.

There is, of course, a reason why Republicans (who, let's be honest here, REALLY ARE functionally equivalent to libertarians) harp on public employee benefits. It's really true that these employees enjoy benefits and protections better than most workers, now. Funny how we **never** hear Republicans/libertarians argue for **better** working conditions in the private sector. Instead, it's always the appeal to resentment. Of course it's pure coincidence that this aligns perfectly with the interests and desires of the owning class.

By the way, I thought the
libertarian man-children were going to colonize New Hampshire by now, set up their 17th Century utopia there. Whatever happened to that scheme? Not enough corporate subsidies, I imagine. Still, I thought you ubermenschen had a little more gumption...

Anonymous said...

Freddie said...
Closed shop has pretty much been illegal since 1947.

Union shops are legal. The difference being that you don't have to be a member of a union to be hired, but once you are hired, you're forced to join.

The distinction for this discussion is minimal.