Follow-Up: Vulgar Liberalism Watch
Rad Geek links to some good recent stuff by Roderick Long and Brad Spangler, as well as this great post at No Treason, by frequent Mutualist Blog commenter Joshua Holmes, on libertarian attitudes toward labor unions.
What do libertarians have against labour unions? This question struck me the other day (because it was better than studying for Business Associations) and I wondered why libertarians have so much bile for labour unions.
As an example of the genre, he cites George Reisman, one of the more viscerally vulgar libertarian writers at Mises.Org. Holmes, in considering the possible reason for so much anti-union bile, includes these standout comments:
Reason 1: Unions wouldn’t exist in a free market.
Answer 1: Why wouldn’t they? Perhaps they would actually be the dominant system for large-scale production enterprises. [Indeed; no particular reason that labor wouldn't be the firm and hire capital, instead of the other way around. KC]
Answer 2: Neither would the water department. How much bile do you have against public water?
Reason 2: Unions get government protection.
Answer: Sure, who doesn’t? The corporations whose products libertarians enjoy and often lionise enjoy government protection themselves. Direct subsidies, research grants, uneven tax laws, transport subsidies, bureaucratic regulation, etc. all contribute to the success of numerous corporations. Libertarians seem less bothered by this than with (admittedly unjust) laws such as the prohibition on firing striking workers.
Reason 3: Unions attempt to raise wages above the market rate.
Answer 1: In other words, unions attempt to get more for workers. So what?
Answer 2: The market rate, if I understand it, is what buyers and sellers are willing to bear. There is no objectively correct wage for labour - it is the result of the interplay of market actors. Workers will, of course, push for higher wages, just as management will push for higher profits....
Freeman also links to a post by Spangler in support of the NYC transit strike.
So there's a wealth of examples out there, if you look for them, showing that libertarians are not monolithically anti-union, and some of us free marketers are even pretty union-friendly. In fact, you don't even have to look for them. As I indicated in the original post, I practically rubbed philgoblue's and eugene's noses in such examples; and, gentlemen, if either of you is reading this, consider your noses duly rubbed once again.
So what's the deal? Confronted with such examples, why do so many liberals continue to cling so desperately to their false stereotype of libertarianism? The examples they cite of labor exploitation, pollution and other corporate malfeasance have about as much to do with genuine free markets as with Pinochet's Chile. In fact, they seem to be gleefully taking vulgar libertarian apologists for Pinochet at their word in their definition of libertarianism. Are they really unaware that anti-corporate, pro-union free market libertarians exist, and that there's a fairly substantial community of us? Surely philgoblue can't plead sincere ignorance, after he's been practically clubbed over the head with links proving just that. Are they really unaware of the extent to which corporate power benefits from state intervention, and the present system deviates from a free market? I fear the truth, rather, is that they deliberately reject evidence contrary to their crude black-and-white stereotype, and consciously embrace the most vulgar of vulgar libertarian ideas on "free markets," because they don't want to know the truth. It would make it a lot harder to hold on to their instinctive aesthetic revulsion against free markets, and their illusion that paternalistic, technocratic corporatism exists to benefit "the little guy." Simply put, it's more comfortable to be ignorant, and they'll fight to the death to keep from learning anything.
I say it once more: When somebody confronts you with evidence that your caricature of them is wrong, and you then calmly repeat that caricature without batting an eye, you're no longer ignorant. You're a liar.