Rideau's Second-Hand Critique of Contract Feudalism
François-René Rideau presents a second-hand critique of my "Contract Feudalism" pamphlet:
So the socialist story goes, employees are being exploited by employers because they have to work or starve. Yeah right. Paul Marks properly debunks this rhetoric, as defended by incoherent "anarchist" Kevin Carson....
I call it second-hand because Rideau seems to have based it entirely on Marks' critique, without ever having read my pamphlet. Although he fails to provide a link to my pamphlet, so that the reader may independently compare what I actually said with Marks' and Rideau's characterization, he helpfully provides a link to Marks' critique. And the response I left in the comments below Rideau's blog post has disappeared. Perhaps he's taken lessons from the Adam Smith Institute on how to avoid backtalk or independent scrutiny.
I do little topical blogging these days, and had my original comment at Mr. Rideau's blog remained up it likely would never have been seen outside that venue. But in the face of his cowardly aversion to criticism, I feel compelled to address his criticism in a venue which he does not control.
But let's examine what the socialist theory predicts. According to Lassalle's "iron law of wages", employers pay the minimum needed for survival and workers never rise above the limit of starvation -- and thus socialists claim that only the government-mandated minimum wage helps the poor workers. OK. Then how come some wage earners earn more, sometimes much more, than this decreed minimum wage? Weird isn't it? If government is the only cause for employee wealth, why would any employer ever bother to pay anyone more than the minimum? If there are other forces at play, what are they?
The socialist argument is only a one-sided consideration of the competition between employees that keeps their salary low. But they forget to consider that competition between employers keeps the salaries high. The balance between the two is called the market price.
The question of just how free competition between employers actually is, is precisely the point at issue in the individualist anarchist critique of employment relations--a point I explicitly raised in my pamphlet. Had Mr. Rideau read it, and not just Mr. Marks' critique, his commentary might be a little less, um, incoherent.
The socialist "solution" is to reduce the competition between employers through regulations, taxes, confiscations and state monopolies. And the inevitable outcome is that actual wages lower through this combined reduced competition and overall destruction.
This is the state socialist solution. I challenge Mr. Rideau to find any such proposed "solution" in my pamphlet. The solution proposed by Tucker and other American individualist anarchists, whose claim to the "socialist" label is as good as anybody else's, was to open up employers and suppliers of capital to the same degree of competition as everyone else. And that is exactly what I proposed in my pamphlet.
But let's take competition between employers seriously. If a given worker chooses an employer over another one, clearly, it is because this employer offers him the best deal the worker can find. The deal may suck badly -- it is the best.
Ah, the best available alternative defense of bad working conditions! That brings back memories; it was the subject of my inaugural Vulgar Libertarianism Watch piece. As I suggested then, the validity of the defense depends on just why the other alternatives are all so bad in the first place. Tucker argued, and I concur, that the reason lies in the fact that the state is largely controlled by owners of the means of production, and the laws are designed to limit competition between employers, and between suppliers of capital. Hence the job market is characterized mainly by workers competing for jobs, rather than jobs competing for workers, and the unequal exchange in this buyer's market for labor results in labor accepting less than its full product as a wage.
Will killing or robbing the employer help the poor? Replacing him with a socialist bureaucrat in the name of the worker will certainly help the ruling socialist bureaucrat who becomes the new employer, now with a state monopoly. As for the worker, he still has an employer, under another name. But now it's a monopoly employer who owes his title to force rather than persuasion, an employer who faces no competition. One that claims to be a friend, but destroys the former best friend and the freedom of choosing this friend (for competition between employers is nothing else but freedom for employees to choose between employers).
Again, Rideau puts the state socialist "solution" in my mouth with no evidence whatsoever. I challenge him to show where I have advocated state ownership of the means of production, or replacing employment by the private corporation with employment by the state. The only cases in which I have advocated seizure of the means of production by workers are those in which that notorious "socialist" Murray Rothbard advocated it (in "Confiscation and the Homestead Principle"): that is, in the case of enterprises which get the majority of their profits from state intervention, and can therefore justly be treated as branches of the state. And even in those cases I advocated, not nationalization, but the direct homesteading of plants by the labor force, and their conversion to producer cooperatives competing in an unregulated market.
Rideau makes it pretty clear elsewhere that his conception of socialism is somewhat--again--incoherent. Despite his identification of socialism with state ownership and central planning, in the post quoted above, in an earlier post he managed to dismiss as "socialistic" such manifestations of revealed preference as cooperatives, kibbutzim, and intentional communities:
Socialists, go live in your phalanstères, your kibbutzim, your cooperatives, your autarkic or trading "intentional communities", and leave others in peace -- or be crushed as the mass criminals you are, have always been, and will be again every time you are let loose.
That last bit is telling. Elsewhere in the same post, he advocates the mass slaughter of socialists, not only when they control the state, but when they "plot" to engage in political action (the qualifier "particularly" in the quote below suggests that such mass slaughter might be justified in other circumstances, as well):
Socialists are the enemies of those they claim to save as well as against those they explicitly target. They are criminals against mankind. A good socialist is a dead socialist. A very dead socialist.
Oh, in a free society, people are free to say whatever they want. Socialist liars will be free to spread their absurd religion. Their predicament will be met with laughter. The laughter of free men who will kill the bastards the second they are caught plotting to implement their crazy utopias by force -- and particularly so by public force.
Maybe he was inspired by George Reisman's lionization of Pinochet.