Vulgar Libertarianism Watch, Part 2
Dr. Madsen Pirie, in surveying the "Scorecard of Ideas," attempts to debunk critics of corporate globalization (which we know, of course, is equivalent to "free trade" in ASI-speak). Our Word has already given his efforts a good fisking in the post linked above, but I'd like to comment on a couple of items myself.
One anti-globalist assertion supposedly debunked by Dr. Pirie is that "The rich world is getting richer, the poor poorer." To disprove this claim, he refers to national income statistics. Unfortunately, such statistics are profoundly misleading. The monetization of activities formerly carried out in a traditional subsistence and barter economy results in skyrocketing nominal GDPs, even though such monetization usually results from the expropriation of formerly self-employed peasants and the use of the poll tax to coerce them into the wage labor market (as in British East Africa). For that matter, when the English rural labor force was dispossessed by the enclosure of commons and the abrogation of copyhold rights to the land, the "national income" no doubt went up considerably.
But best of all, in response to the claim that "Multinationals exploit people in poor countries," Dr. Pirie dusts off the "best available alternative" chestnut debunked in our post yesterday.
One person’s exploitation is another’s opportunity. Multinationals pay lower wages in developing countries than in rich ones: that’s why they go there. But their pay and conditions are reportedly better than those available elsewhere in poor countries, and so represent economic advancement. There are usually waiting lists to work for them.
But golly, the transnationals sure do seem to gravitate toward banana republics where the death squads torture and "disappear" labor organizers and peasant co-op leaders, or toward "workers' paradises" like China, where attempting to organize an independent union can get you a stint in a mental hospital. Wonder why that is? And the foreign policy of the U.S. government sure does seem to devote an awful lot of effort to making sure such anti-labor regimes stay in power. For example, the Suharto regime (which was put in power by a U.S.-sponsored coup, followed by the mass-murder of several hundred thousand leftists) treated independent labor organizing as a serious criminal offense. Even today, in the neoliberal Indonesian "democracy"(TM), they're barely legal. And Indonesia is a favorite haven for sweatshops. Again, wonder why that is?
A man who hands over his wallet to a mugger does so because he prefers it to the "next-best alternative." So what? As Benjamin Tucker pointed out over a century ago, the capitalists systematically manipulate the state to create a buyers' market for wages and limit the conditions under which workers can sell their labor, and then blithely answer all criticisms with the response that the workers "voluntarily agreed" to work on those terms.
Now, to solemnly tell these men who are thus prevented by law from getting the wages which their labor would command in a free market that they have a right to reject any price that may be offered for their labor is undoubtedly to speak a formal truth, but it is also to utter a commonplace and a cruel impertinence. "The Lesson of Homestead," Instead of a Book.
Note--I don't know how long the trackback to the ASI post will hold up, since they're notorious for sabotaging links from sites that disagree with them and deleting critical comments from their blog (as Ian Bertram of Pancromatica has found). Thin-skinned buggers, eh?