The Boundaries of Libertarianism: What’s Wrong with One-World Government?

I may have written this before. I don’t remember, and don’t feel like looking it up.

As a (moderate) libertarian, I like exploring the boundaries of libertarianism. How far can it go before it stops being defensible, and how far can other ideas push back before they irreconcilably violate our basic libertarian ideals? In doing so, I don’t necessarily espouse the ideas I am exploring, and not necessarily claiming any certainty about my analysis. I’m just exploring. Exploring heresies, perhaps.*

So my question today is, what’s wrong with one-world government? I don’t think it’s necessary to justify the claim that libertarians tend to be opposed to world government. They’re generally opposed to government itself, after all, and to the extent they see it as necessary, they normally want to limit its scope and extent. One world government seems to go far beyond the scope and extent acceptable to libertarians.

But let’s turn the libertarian argument for free trade around on this argument. Libertarians will argue that national borders are just as artificial as the borders between, say, California and Oregon. If we don’t feel the need to restrict trade between those two states, why should we restrict it between Canada and the U.S.? Well if we accept the legitimacy of a government that contains within it both California and Oregon, why not a government that contains within it both Canada and the U.S.?**

What would be the fundamental conceptual difference between a U.S.A. without Ontario, Saskatchewan, etc., and one with them? If Nova Scotia broke away from Canada to join the U.S., either as a separate state or part of Maine, it would be a noteworthy political event, but wouldn’t change our essential concept of the United States. We wouldn’t panic that our government had become suddenly terribly overpowering. If after Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Isle and New Brunswick joined, would it change us any more fundamentally than statehood for Alaska and Hawaii did?***

Indeed under the Articles of Confederation, Canada had a standing invitation to join our “firm league of friendship.” Had they done so, then been part of the negotiations over, and signatories to, the Constitution, would our political system, our constitutional structure, have been fundamentally different? Would it have resulted in a more powerful, stonger, dominating and unaccountable government? It’s hard, for me at least, to imagine how.

So why would a North American union necessarily signify something more terrible to libertarians than the United States already does? Canada is also a federal country, so there’s little reason to worry that federalism per se would disappear. If it did, I would oppose the union. And if we did a straightforward union of the two countries, instead of the piecemeal approach suggested above, we would have to make a decision about whether to adopt their parliamentary system or our congressional system. But if the basic political structure of federalism, the bill of rights, an independent judiciary, and public sovereignty continued, that issue would be mere detail. Our essential rights and liberties would be no more constrained. Indeed they would be expanded to the extent that we would have greater freedom of movement and choice of where to live and work. Vancouver is one of North America’s most beautiful cities–is it really a libertarian argument that I should be constrained from moving there?

Mexico would, obviously, be more difficult to join with, for cultural, linguistic, and economic reasons. But their political structure is not so vastly different. They’re also a federal country, with a congress and a president, an (at least nominally) independent judiciary, and their constitution has a bill of rights. So let’s assume there’s some quibbling about details, but those basic political features remain in place, from the Yukon to the Yucatan. What would be so terrible about our current system just covering more states in more territories?

If we oppose that concept, shouldn’t we be arguing for breaking up the United States into smaller countries? On what basis could anyone argue that the current size of the United State is just right, and shouldn’t be any larger or smaller? (Well, I suppose we could add Puerto Rico, but the U.S. Virgin Islands? No, that would be too big. Or, Well, if we just eliminated Maine, then we’d be the perfect size.)

The key is not the extent of territory covered by the government, but the type of government that covers that territory. And it’s become increasingly clear that more extensive government need not be more powerful and controlling government. I think libertarians should cheer the European Union. Despite its distressing bureaucracy and tendency to micro-regulation, it has opened up a broader range of movement for its people, greater economic freedom in general through expanded trade and ability to go wherever you want in order to look for work.**** As the case of Turkey demonstrates, the EU puts a strong emphasis on maintaining a secular state that protects rights.***** On top of all that, just by creating further limitations on the likelihood of renewed intra-European war the EU enhances liberty. As James Madison wrote in 1795;

Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes … known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.… No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.

But within the EU another phenomenon has become apparent, which is a creeping federalism. It’s not just that Britain still gets to be Britain, but that Britain can more safely allow Scotland its own parliament, without having to panic that it might break away completely. Catalonia, which has long sought independence from Spain, was granted a greater degree of autonomy in 2006. Catalonians probably now consider themselves more free than before they became part of the E.U.

In many ways, the E.U. is going through a slow-motion process of becoming a federal state along the lines of the U.S. And the federal aspect of it is in large part because it’s all voluntary. That’s something I noticed once when I did a survey of federal countries–many, perhaps most, of them had come together voluntarily. Any of the U.S. states could have opted out of the Constitution. In fact the Constitution was ratified, effective, the first Presidential election had been held, and the First Congress was in session before either Rhode Island or North Carolina finally consented to join in. Germany was rather more of a militaristic conjoining, but there had been a growing enthusiasm among Germans to join their principalities into a unified nation–that enthusiasm made unnecessary a full-scale military forcing of unification, and enabled them to allow enough autonomy to be federalist. Trying to override all local autonomy probably would have resulted in much greater resistance to unification. The ultimate example is Switzerland, whose cantons joined over a period of about two centuries.

Let’s grant that libertarians should oppose a one world government brought about by force. You know, the type of one world government the U.S. is currently trying to impose, on a de facto, if not de jure, level. But if the U.S., Canada and Mexico voluntarily created a North American Union along the lines I suggested above, and after whatever necessary time elapsed, a Central American Union and a South American Union developed, and then after whatever necessary time elapsed, those three voluntarily created a Western Hemispheric Union, again with a bill of rights, federalism, independent judiciary, etc., and then ultimately the Western Hemispheric Union joined with the European Union, the African Union, the Pan-Asian Union, and the Oceanic Union, again with those basic political requirements I’ve been insisting upon… at that point, on what grounds would libertarians critique the concept of world government? If anything, wouldn’t it increase our liberty?

Let me note that there is nothing new or unique about my argument. It was first made, so far as I know, by James Madison in Federalist 10, in response to anti-federalists who argued that the federal government proposed by the Constitution threatened people’s liberties,****** and that only small political units could protect liberty.

The other point of difference [between a republic and a democracy] is, the greater number of citizens and extent of territory which may be brought within the compass of republican than of democratic government; and it is this circumstance principally which renders factious combinations less to be dreaded in the former than in the latter. The smaller the society, the fewer probably will be the distinct parties and interests composing it; the fewer the distinct parties and interests, the more frequently will a majority be found of the same party; and the smaller the number of individuals composing a majority, and the smaller the compass within which they are placed, the more easily will they concert and execute their plans of oppression. Extend the sphere, and you take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens; or if such a common motive exists, it will be more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength, and to act in unison with each other. …

Hence, it clearly appears, that the same advantage which a republic has over a democracy, in controlling the effects of faction, is enjoyed by a large over a small republic, — is enjoyed by the Union over the States composing it.

It may indeed be that a republic can be too large to be functional. But of course neither Madison nor anyone of his era, even Hamilton the visionary, could have foreseen an American republic of over 300 million people (1/3 of the total world population in their day!), comprising 50 states, and extending not just sea to shining sea, but halfway around the world to Hawaii. If size is a limiting factor at some point, we have no means of knowing a priori where that limit is, and it is variable according to technology, which expands the geographic area over which we can effectively communicate and coordinate. If anything is a true limiting factor today, it is simply the anti-republican and anti-liberty character of so many states today. There could currently be no agreement between them. But the technology to communicate and coordinate is worldwide and instantaneous today; how much more so will it be when (if) enough states are willing to coordinate into a global republic?

Of course that’s not what we libertarians normally assume will happen. We assume a militaristic dictatorial one-world government. But on what grounds? Why? Consider just how hard it would be to militarily control the world. The U.S., while accounting for nearly half the world’s military spending, struggles to subdue just two not-wholly-developed countries. The odds of a military union able to control the whole of the world seems less probable than a voluntary republican union.

Anyway, libertarians are supposed to be optimistic about mankind, or so I thought. From Popper to Hayek to Postrel, we are reminded that we should have faith in humans to work together creatively to solve problems. Why do we not have faith that humans could–some day–voluntarily come together; at least as voluntarily as the United States came together, which is to say, with majority support albeit not unanimously?

I see no grounds on which we could object to a global republic that would not also require us to condemn the American republic. And if Madison is right, are we not compelled to encourage the extension of our republic to its ultimate possible extent?


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*I should note that I don’t spend much time reading libertarian political theory. I’ve never read Boaz’s book, or anything of that sort, and while i occasionally get tipped off to an interesting article in Reason, I don’t read Cato stuff regularly. So it’s quite possible that others are tackling the questions I tackle, or have relevant arguments either supporting or rebutting my explorations. I’d be delighted to have readers bring those to my attention, if you think there’s something I’ve missed that I really should consider.

**If you are a hard-core libertarian who rejects the legitimacy of all government, period, and think the U.S. government is illegitimate, the government of California is illegitimate, and the government of Los Angeles is illegitimate, then obviously this logic won’t work for you.

***I think the acquisition of Hawaii fundamentally changed us, as it signified how we’d abandoned our traditions and become imperial. But after having Hawaii as our possession for a century, granting it statehood did not constitute any further fundamental change.

****With some temporary restrictions on residents of some new member states, to prevent them from all flooding west. But the restrictions are explicitly intended to be temporary.

*****Let me note that I think reports of the impending demise of the EU are absolute bunk. It’s exciting for the media and pundits to blow every setback as a potentially mortal blow to the EU, but I’ve yet to see anyone make a persuasive case that states are suddenly going to start pulling out.

******For those who may not be aware, the Articles of Confederation did not create a true U.S. government, but at best a pseudo-government. The Continental Congress had no direct authority over the states; it had no power to tax; it had no authority to coin money; it had no executive to enforce any laws it might try to make; while it had authority to raise an army it had no authority to prevent the several states from having their own armies, as several did; and while it could . It was more of a coordinating body than a government. If the fundamental characteristic of a government is the authority to make and enforce law, it just doesn’t qualify.

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About J@m3z Aitch

J@m3z Aitch is a two-bit college professor who'd rather be canoeing.
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42 Responses to The Boundaries of Libertarianism: What’s Wrong with One-World Government?

  1. D.A. Ridgely says:

    Assuming some minimal government is a necessity, which I do, there is no per se reason why the right sort of minimal government should not be universal in its scope.

    There are, however, prudential reasons why it still may not be such a good idea. First, decentralized government is inherently weaker and less dangerous than centralized government. The human condition being what it is, any government will attempt to increase its power and control and the most dangerous government to do so would be a centralized government. Secondly, since even miniarchist libertarians can’t seem to agree on the precise nature of the minimal state they want (or, for that matter, on anything else), the empirical value in having multiple variations to observe shouldn’t be discounted. (This is the primary and perhaps only reason I continue to support federalism in some sense.)

  2. James K says:

    Yeah, I agree with DAR. Also, if a world government goes bad you have nowhere to run.

  3. James Hanley says:

    DAR and JamesK,

    I think you’re confusing “decentralized” with “multiple competing governments.” They’re not the same thing. Compare a decentralized global republic, as I’ve described, vs. 100+ centralized national governments. Let’s use the EU as an example again: Is it more frightening than the same set of states were when wholly independent? Would the U.S. be freer if we had 50 national governments?

    And while the fear of government going bad, leaving us nowhere to run, is real, decentralized governments are less likely to go bad than centralized ones. So isn’t it possible, perhaps probable, that a single decentralized government would be a better safeguard against tyranny anywhere in the world than a large number of centralized national governments? (Of course those aren’t necessarily the only two options, but they’re the two that stand in sharpest contrast–the ends of the continuum.)

  4. D.A. Ridgely says:

    Ah, well, I may not be adequately conversant with the proper terminology, but I think I had in mind something more along the line of multiple peacefully co-existing governments.

    I think the jury is still out on whether a unified Europe is or will become more or less frightening. For that matter, since I think federalism is effectively dead, I’d pretty much say the same thing about the U.S.

  5. ppnl says:

    I think it’s worth remembering that the reason for adopting our current federal constitution was to strengthen the federal government. It was intended to counterbalance the growth of local “factions and majorities”. Tyranny starts small and grows.

    Anyone advocating decentralized government needs to carefully consider the possibility that what they are advocating is feudalism. Of course anyone advocating an all powerful central government should also think about what they are advocating.

    I think the growth of importance of the federal government in the US is driven more by technology than by any shift in ideology. I have travel farther to work than many people traveled in their life at the founding of this nation. I have traveled more miles in a single weeks vacation than all but a small fraction traveled in their entire lives back in 1776. This profoundly changes what “local” means. I have consumed food and products from every corner of the world. All of this has caused an explosion of the number externalities. The very planet is overheating because of the summed effects of all our actions.

    One world government? In a sense we already have one as coherent as The American government of the 1800s. As technological, economical and population growth continues the number of ways we affect and are affected by each other will continue to explode.

    Local? The very word is becoming a meaningless impossibility.

  6. James K says:

    I’m actually much less of a federalist than most libertarians (that may come from living in a country with only 4 million people). Decentralisation only helps to an extent (after all, who cares whether you are tyrannised by your neighbour or a distant emperor, tyranny is tyranny). I think there are countervailing forces at work: smaller governments are more prone to corruption and stupidity, but if governments are too large diseconomies of scale sets in, and there’s too little Tiebout Competition to keep governments honest.

    As such, I’d advise against corner solutions here. I also don’t know whether the current level of government centralisation is optimal. Maybe governments are too large, maybe they are too small, I don’t know how I’d go a bout working out which is true. What I will say is that if it were easier to start up a new government, I’d be more relaxed about the average government being larger.

  7. mark boggs says:

    But what about the fervor for immigration laws? You’re not considering rendering that impotent, are you? What will the politicians do with themselves…seek meaningful and responsible solutions to problems.

  8. Very interesting James. I was just talking to a dude last night about all this in regards the the Civil War and secession. Economics is not the primary concern to me it is the political theory of the government that the borderline symbolizes. Border lines often, or if we believe in true consent should always, represent an indentity.

    I did a lesson one day in my World History class where I showed them makes of Europe for 500 years and they could see that growth of nation-states symbolized by more lines on the map. They could also see times of reorganized royal control by lines being erased.

    If we look at the period from 1793 to 1815 we see a great tilt toward more liberal forms of government but then all that progress lost in the Congress of Vienna. I can say nothing good about that Congress. The process started again in 1848 with a new set of Revolutions only for the gains to be lost again.

    A unified Europe has never worked out too well in history as far as promoting the liberties of the people. Look at the way they met to divide up Africa.(The name of the Congress escapes me right now) In fact, many of the borders that have been drawn unvolutarily were drawn to weaken tribal or ethnic groups in order to divide and conquer them. Look at Rwanda years later when the two groups that were seperated by the size of the noses but otherwise shared a common indentity tried to exterminate each other.

    Look at how the drew that border between India and Pakistan and the slaughter that caused. Not mention that the Afghan and Pak border seperates the largest ethnic group that does not draw a border around itself in the world. Right near the pass along the Silk Road! As Europe and China begin to trade again those trade routes that were determined 100 percent because geography does not allow any other route are all going to come alive again. This could be excelerated by the bullet trains that China is building. You can already go over the Tibetan plateau. I think some of them are quicker than flying.

    So you bring up some outstanding questions and ones that I have been thinking about for a long while since I lived in Tibet and starting thinking about what borders represent. Hunington gets into this whole theme when he speaks of tribalism and globalism tearing apart the nation-state. I see that as a problem for those that were created by people at their own voliton to protect a shared identity. Those that were artificially created to for outsiders to plunder resources need to be re-thought. Most do not realize there is a huge difference.

    As for the US, I think Montequieu was right about small republics and that we would be better off splitting into smaller units. In fact, I think it will happen as regional identities push for it.

    Federalist 51 is just as alive today and it was then. Brilliant argument by Madison based on years of study.

  9. D.A. Ridgely says:

    “Anyone advocating decentralized government needs to carefully consider the possibility that what they are advocating is feudalism.”

    I occasionally hear this sort of remark, usually from someone with a left leaning perspective, and I wonder what in the world they mean or think they mean.

    One can make a case, I suppose, for some occasional, isolated modern instances of social and economic structures that resembled feudalism, e.g., coal mining company towns. Even then, however, there were critical differences such as the free alienability of land (that is, the difficulty aside, the coal miner could actually quit and move elsewhere).

    I suspect what Mr. Hanley is more worried about is the prospect of rivalrous miniarchies along the lines of Italian city-states. As long as there were open borders (that is, individuals were free to move from one to the other), it’s unclear to me that this would be in any sense a bad thing. The occasional poisoning of a prince, aside, that is. *grin*

  10. Heidegger says:

    Federalism is dead? The United States is dead? Why would any sane human being want to enter this moribund nation if she’s lying on her deathbed? How do North Korea and Cuba deal with the throngs of utopian idealists eager to enter their shores? One world government=one world collective fascist tyranny.

  11. James Hanley says:

    ppnl,

    I think you have a good point about technology. I don’t agree with you about decentralization equaling feudalism.

    But mostly I’m delighted you came to our blog. Thanks for the visit, and I hope you come back regularly.

  12. Kolohe says:

    “And while the fear of government going bad, leaving us nowhere to run, is real, decentralized governments are less likely to go bad than centralized ones.”

    The problem is there are no good guarantees that decentralized governments will stay that way, and plenty of historical empirical evidence that the reverse will happen. *

    There is great use in having two first world independent countries in North America, in that they have the ability to keep each other ‘honest’, even if overly centralized.

    *And in all cases that I can think of the top of my head, when and if ‘decentralization’ – as distinct from separatist revolution, violent or velvet – -occurs, it is an indication of a terminal rot in the system.

  13. James Hanley says:

    James K,

    I mostly agree with you last comment above, except that I would guess I put a stronger emphasis on Tiebout competition and diseconomies of scale than you. I also put strong emphasis on finding solutions at the stakeholder level, and neither above nor below that. And while I absolutely agree that local governments can easily become corrupt, there’s nothing in the argument that suggests that needs to be acceptable. A federalist system distributes authority over particular issues, and authority to restrict and punish local corruption is clearly a legitimate higher-level authority.

    Let me re-emphasize that I am not arguing for one-world government. A world of republican governments with unrestricted immigration would probably be my ideal. My inquiry was directed more to the question of “what if a set of such governments began combining–would it necessarily be the evil that libertarians usually assume?”

  14. “A world of republican governments with unrestricted immigration would probably be my ideal”

    This would be the multi-national corporatist dream of an un-ending supply of cheap labor to undercut the workers everywhere.

  15. D.A. Ridgely says:

    “This would be the multi-national corporatist dream of an un-ending supply of cheap labor to undercut the workers everywhere.”

    Whereas the alternative is an artificial restriction on the labor supply resulting in higher production costs which must be borne by the corporation’s customers and shareholders.

    If it’s okay to seek workers from, say, the next town or the next state, why isn’t it okay to seek them from another nation? And aren’t American workers who have used government enforced collective bargaining to raise labor costs to, say, twice what they would be abroad, in effect stealing from both customers and investors?

  16. They can only sell it for what it is worth.(Market is them market right) Lower labor costs increase profits. Higher labor costs decrease profits. Not to mention that often times when you use the cheaper labor you get what you pay for and the quality of service goes down. Try to make a phone call to a company now and you will take 10 times as long because it is contracted out to India or somewhere and you cannot understand a word the person says and have to keep asking them what they said.

    I have seen personally the shit that passes for craftmanship in Construction now. Wait til all these buildings start coming apart in a few years long before they are supposed to.

    Not to mention what happens to your society that is built on a set of ideals is invaded by people that have no knowledge at all about those ideals and could care less. I have worked with numerous immigrants. Truly nice people that I wish no harm at all. Almost all of them but when you get to know them you find out that many could care less about this country and are just here to make money to send it home. Some even hate this country. Of course, there are those that do love it and are grateful to be here and learn as much as they can about are ideals as well. But not as many as people think.

    Now one might be able to make the case for high skilled labor in shortage areas. I think that is a different story.

    But, a national identity means something and should.

  17. I am not a that familar with economics other than the half dozen classes I took on it in college. However, it seems to me that if companies can raise prices when labor costs rise then why can’t they raise them for any other arbitrary reason? Meaning as I stated earlier that something is gone sell for what the market allows it to sell for. If your costs go up you lose profit. If this is true, and it seems logical to me if you believe in the market, then all this shit above higher labor costs being pushed onto the consumer is bullshit.

    If so then the poor share holders just have to suck it up and deal with the 10 million instead of the 12. Not to mention the fact that a well paid worker is usually a happy worker and a happy worker usually produces more.

  18. “And aren’t American workers who have used government enforced collective bargaining to raise labor costs to, say, twice what they would be abroad, in effect stealing from both customers and investors”

    It is enforced on both sides to try and make bargaining fair. I think things went too far the other way for a long time leading up to the eighties but it has gone just as far the other way now. What is wrong with allowing people to vote whether they want to unite themselves in to negotiate the best deal or not?

    I was discussing this with James as well and I just have to wonder why when the corporation negotiates the best terms for themselves and their share-holders it is good business. When the workers do it is stealing? Seems absurd to me. In its simplest form all a union is, is two or more workers uniting together to get the best deal. If it is ok for a business to do it then it should be okay for a worker to do it. After all capitalism is all about everyone getting the best deal they can. Right?

  19. James Hanley says:

    King,

    They can’t raise prices for arbitrary reasons because another firm could underprice them. If they all have to pay the same labor costs, there’s no room for another firm to undercut them.

    Funny, though, how you note that “they can only sell it for what it is worth,” but then assume that labor ought to sold for more than it’s worth.

  20. “If it’s okay to seek workers from, say, the next town or the next state, why isn’t it okay to seek them from another nation?”

    From a simple economic point of view it depends who you ask. I am sure the corporations would say nothing. This is because they tend to strengthen the bargaining power of the company. I am sure the workers would say everything. The main one of which is that they tend to weaken bargaining power for the workers here. Again everyone is trying to get the best deal they can.

    From the perspective of the immigrant I would say he should not do anything to someone that he does not want done to him. If companies are allowed to shift people all over the place to purposefully lower wages then in the end he loses too in the long run.

  21. D.A. Ridgely says:

    It’s wrong for business to use the power of government to coerce workers, too.

    I agree there may be or may have been a case for correcting the imbalances resulting from historical abuses perpetrated by collusive management and government, but the best practice is for the state to play nearly no role at all short of, e.g., enforcing valid contracts.

    There’s nothing wrong with allowing people to unite freely and negotiate collectively. But there is something wrong with the state requiring that businesses negotiate with such unions (as opposed, say, to simply firing them all and hiring new workers), requiring employees to pay union dues against their will, etc..

  22. ” but then assume that labor ought to sold for more than it’s worth.”

    Who says it is more than it is worth?

    “If they all have to pay the same labor costs, there’s no room for another firm to undercut them.”

    So they get pissed if someone undercuts them but they do not care if someone undercuts the worker? All labor costs are not going to be the same. That sounds like communism to me.

  23. I think it is okay to do anything that increases bargaining power within reason. Let’s not forget that the government steps in all the time on the side of business if the Teamsters or Machinists go out on strike because it can shut down the whole country. As far as the dude that wants all the benefits but does not want to pay his share I have no use for him. Lets not forget either that the government makes the union negotiate for him too. I say let them not pay and they have to negotiate their own deal with the company. How many would not pay then? Very few and that shows they are freeloaders. Where is the justice in that?

    I would also say that the Wagner and Taft-Hartley helped businesses more than it hurt them because it put and end to a lot of the long and violent strikes. Let’s not forget either that strikes were illegal in certain circumstances and places too. If they government would have gotten out of the way with that then much of it would have be resolved.

    My point is that you cannot have the multi-nationals manipulating things for their benefit and then gettind mad if workers to balance by attempting to get government right some of the wrongs.

    As am with you the least government interference the better but lets not be foolish about it. Cheap foreign labor is the enemy of every worker. I think in many ways it is the enemy of the consumer too in that the shit we buy now breaks in two days. Look at anything made by cheap labor in China. I already stated what has happened to construction.

  24. I might add that I think it is ok for the business guy to do the same when creating leverage as well. Within reason that is. Nothing wrong with a tough negotiation.

  25. James,

    I do not want to get off on the whole union thing again and distract from this outstanding post. I may disagree with you on a few things here but I can recognize the great value of this thought experiment. I think you laid out the issues well.

    Instead of all the bullshit we here in regards to states rights, federalism, nullification and all that nowadays based on partisan quabbles this intellectually challenging frame of discussion is a breath of fresh air.

  26. My typos are getting bad lately. I usually do not care because I treat comment sections as a conversation and do not worry that much about spelling but I am gonna have to start proofing this stuff a least a little bit. Sorry.

  27. D.A. Ridgely says:

    Labor costs more than its worth if its price isn’t determined by purely market forces.

    I have no idea what “increases bargaining power within reason” means because there is no measure of what is within reason. Increasing my bargaining power by holding a gun to your head or threatening you with jail or heavy fines, however, is not within reason.

    I understand the antipathy toward the employee free rider. So let him bargain on his own. Maybe he’ll get less money and maybe (because maybe management recognizes that he’s more productive than the average union employee) he’ll get more. Fair enough?

    Government wouldn’t need to intervene in threatened strikes (and, perhaps except during times of active war) shouldn’t. Of course, as I said earlier, the management shouldn’t be prohibited from firing and replacing all striking employees, either. Threats that a strike would “shut down the nation” are, with very few if any exceptions, absurd or would be in a genuinely free labor market.

  28. “Labor costs more than its worth if its price isn’t determined by purely market forces.”

    Negotiation is part of market forces. What is within reason would take the next 5 years to hash out. I am not sure I know enough about labor law and economics to even discuss it with you in a meaningful way. But simply, I think it means not allowing unfair imbalances on either side. The less government the better but often business is the ones that bring the govt. into it in the first place.

    In regards to the go going it alone in negotiations statistics say he is going to get a worse deal. I do agree with you that union workers got lazy as hell in the last 25 years. They should be ashamed. It used to mean something to be in the union and they set out to make sure that they proved they were worth more because of their level of craftsmanship.

    “Government wouldn’t need to intervene in threatened strikes (and, perhaps except during times of active war) shouldn’t. Of course, as I said earlier, the management shouldn’t be prohibited from firing and replacing all striking employees, either”

    If you are a corporatist you better hope that the dudes like Hoffa and my grandfather that did in actuality have the lever to shut it all down to a grinding halt did not come to the rescue of the poor bastard that got fired for daring to strike. That power goes both ways. Give me the power to shut it down back and I will give you the power to fire them all you want.

    I used to work in Construction where there was one elevator for everyone to take materials up. They contractor would delay everyone else to get their stuff up there and then bitch if people were late getting stuff done because they were held up by the elevator situation. If you bitched they made it worse on you.

    That is until one day the head electrician came in and they fucked with him. He was about to round up all his guys and just shut all the power down and walk off. He was the only dude who knew enough to work the main generator and had to been there at certain times for people to even be able to work.

    Needless to say the elevator situtation got much better for everyone soon thereafter. Government screws the workers just as bad as management if not worse. If we are going to take it out of the equation then take it all out is all I am saying and it seems you agree.

    Believe me I know that unions got way off track with the whole political thing. It is biting them in ass now in that they should have been more worried about representing their members than messing with politicians. I hate to say it but my grandfather was a chief culprit in that.

    Anyway, good discussion.

  29. D.A. Ridgely says:

    Who is to decide what an unfair balance is if there are no third party forces, especially the state, giving one side or the other an advantage?

    It doesn’t matter whether the employee who doesn’t want to pay union dues gets more or less, it only matters that he isn’t forced to join the union or pay the dues. In any case, the mere presence of government aided unions skews whatever statistics there may be.

    I have no idea what a corporatist is, but whether Hoffa or any other labor leader and his unions can significantly disrupt, let alone halt the rest of the economy once again goes back to what steps (short of violence) businesses are permitted to take in such cases.

    I don’t mean to be rude, but anecdotes make bad data.

  30. James Hanley says:

    King,

    You weren’t talking about negotiation, you were talking about government preventing people from moving from country to country for jobs. Those aren’t the same thing at all. You think all laborers would like government to restrict such movement? I can only assume you haven’t talked to many immigrants recently. Given where you live, I’m not sure how you manage to avoid doing so.

    Really, it pisses me off when people complain that free flow of labor, whether it’s via outsourcing or in-migration, is only to the benefit of corporations. It not only allows me to buy goods for less of my own hard-earned money,* but it improves the lives of millions, perhaps tens of millions, of workers around the world. What your argument really boils down to is, a) labor should have a right to force me to pay extra, above market rates, for the product of their labor, and b) American labor should have greater rights to jobs and wages than labor in other countries.

    How either of those positions is morally justified is beyond me, but then I don’t really deal with moral arguments. Perhaps our resident philosopher can help out with that, but he seems disinclined to support your side of the argument, either.

    ___________________
    *Which is above market rates because we have a union, so we’re forcing students and their parents to pay more of their hard-earned money in order to buy our product!

  31. Heidegger says:

    My God, James did you ever nail this one!

    “Really, it pisses me off when people complain that free flow of labor, whether it’s via outsourcing or in-migration, is only to the benefit of corporations. It not only allows me to buy goods for less of my own hard-earned money,* but it improves the lives of millions, perhaps tens of millions, of workers around the world. What your argument really boils down to is, a) labor should have a right to force me to pay extra, above market rates, for the product of their labor, and b) American labor should have greater rights to jobs and wages than labor in other countries.

    Very, very good. What do you think the cost of a 42” flat screen TV manufactured by union employees would cost? Not $464 like I just saw in today’s paper. We’re not dealing with some kind of Upton Sinclair reality in the workplace–the unions have come close to totally decimating the car industry. They have brought complete ruin t0 the teacher’s union–when you have a 75% dropout rate in low income communities, that spells ruin.

  32. James K says:

    James Hanley:
    I don’t put a big an emphasis on Tiebout competition because I believe contestability (i.e. entry and exit) is the driving force of competition, and since entry and exit of governments is light to non-existent, I believe Tiebout competition is moribund.

    KOI:

    I do agree with you that union workers got lazy as hell in the last 25 years. They should be ashamed. It used to mean something to be in the union and they set out to make sure that they proved they were worth more because of their level of craftsmanship.

    You give a group of people power to block any competition for their labour, and wonder that the quality of their labour declined? I’d be surprised if it didn’t happen.

  33. “You weren’t talking about negotiation, you were talking about government preventing people from moving from country to country for jobs. Those aren’t the same thing at all.”

    I realize we got off from the original discussion.

    You still have not proven to me that higher wages make higher prices. If something is going to sell at market value no matter what because that is what people are going to pay for it then labor costs are irrelevant. It just eats away profit.

    As far as raising the tide of others around the world or those who come here to work illegally I wonder how they would feel if someone undercut them? You see it here. A group comes and gets used to the better standard of living and demands more and then the next group comes in and undercuts them.

    I would also add that if you made more you could purchase more. I wonder how you would feel if some professors came from overseas and offered to work for less than you to take your job how you would feel about it. We would get lower tuition right? Not really, they schools would just make more money. Your salary, or those who work above you not sure which one is perhaps the biggest source of inflation in the country. I think tuition costs have gone up 400 percent over 10 years or something like that. That makes the housing bubble look small. I say get what you can get fine. Professors should be paid well. I would kill to have the education you have and admire what kind of man you must be to have gotten it. I am sure you sacrified a lot to get there too. But, you have to apply this to yourself too.

    I would also add that the reason unions and immigration ties together is that illegal immigration of low skill workers undercuts the bargaining power of the workers here. I have already commented about the quality of work going down in some cases. Let’s consider this if we are looking out for the consumer, China now makes most of the toys that come here. They are made cheaper but do not cost and less and break in two weeks. How does that benefit the customer. I paid a little less for a Chinese mp3 player a few years back and it basically melted within a month.

    Another factor is the fact that American ideals about liberty produced a climate for entreprenuership to flourish, if Jack Goldstone is right and you can read it for yourself at Cato Unbound, and make this nation what it is economically. This did not happen by accident. When people come here and do not understand those ideals it undermines them and soon the places they live here start to look like the places they left from there.

    Again this does not always happen and there are many illegals that come here, buy into what America was built on, and assimilate right in. But not as many as there used to be. I have taught their children urban and rural and many of them when honest hate this country because they feel we have exploited them. Though there is some truth to that claim in some regards it undermines the whole operation.

    I am not even going to get into the problems in the schools with kids that refuse to learn English. More money is spent not leaving them behind than on anything else besides Special Education.

    So is a whole generation of kids that have been held up because we do not want to leave kids behind that surpassed the education level of their parents in 7th grade and are convinced at home that anymore is a waste of time worth all this. Where are the benefits to the future consumer that has to deal with half educated kids. I have seen it first hand. The better students sit there bored while the teacher is explaining the same thing 50 times to kids who do not care.

  34. “You give a group of people power to block any competition for their labour, and wonder that the quality of their labour declined? I’d be surprised if it didn’t happen”

    People are perfectly free to, and do, work for non-union companies. How is anyone blocking competition? The non-union guys does not want the illegal undercutting his leverage either.

    I understand and agree that things got out of whack with the auto-workers. But blaming the concept of unionization for the sins of one branch is like blaming all Muslims for 911. Not to mention that government bailouts and subsidies over the years caused most of the wage inflation. Just like University officials today make more because of the government loans.

  35. D.A.,

    I use corporatist in the sense that Ron Paul does. It is a neo-merchantalist that masquerades as a captialist. I think the biggest problem I see besised the de-industrialization that was somewhat inevitable is the end of a Mom and Pop store where people cared about what they did and were paid pretty well.

    I know you hate stories instead of data but I was talking to a pizza guy the other day who told me that he gets paid well for what he does. He laughs at the people that come from Pizza Hut and other corps because they have no idea how to make it right. How is it working for the consumer in the pizza market? We get a shit pizza for 5 dollars made by someone getting minimum wage. They do not care I have worked with them. Not to mention it is only 5 dollars because you used to get two cups of cheese and now you get one.

    This nightmare that produces ketchup on cardboard has replaced the Mom and Pop places that pays well and produces quality Pizza in most places. In other words, there is no more small business anymore. The engine that built this nation.

  36. Anna says:

    KOI – Lack of data is one thing but choosing a particularly weak example doesn’t help your case. I honestly can’t think of a city I’ve lived or visited where there weren’t a number of non-chain and chain pizza choices. An associate of mine owns and manages a Dominos franchise. They may have had the cheapest priced pizza but they were loosing customers because the quality of the pizza was crap. Consumers were choosing other places to eat. Dominos increased their quality because the consumers forced them to do so and are winning back costumers. Is it as good as our local family pizza place? Not by a long shot. They do well because there is a market of folks that like and are willing to pay more for their pizza. The family pizza place is in no fear of loosing their clientele. As long as people are happy with the price and quality they will do just fine. Now if a family owned business is charging twice as much as the Dominos pizza but it doesn’t taste that much better or doesn’t convince customers that it is worth the price and do not succeed, how is that hurting the consumer? You know someone who makes good money making pizza well but complains about Pizza Hut. If consumers like Pizza Hut than evidently they are satisfying their customers regardless of what your friend says. Who are you and he to judge what other people find palatable at a particular price? If anything pizza places are a good indicator of both large corporations and small business collectively meeting the desires of the people.

  37. James K says:

    New Zealand is what you would call a “right to work” country, every employee has a right to either join a union, or negotiate with their employer individually (usually us non-union workers just get offered the same terms as there are in the collective employment contract for that employer), and our trade and immigration policies are much more open than the US, in fact we have very few tariffs left at all.

    And yet we have more small business, and we even have a chain that produces good pizza.

    Dare I suggest that the reason crappy pizza chains prevail is that most consumers have a less refined taste than you and are willing to pay little money for “ketchup on cardboard”?

  38. James Hanley says:

    King,

    Anna is right. Any reasonably sized place has local franchises. In our community we have several local pizza franchises (in addition to Pizza Hut, Dominos, Papa Johns and Little Ceasars), several local Mexican franchises, several local Chinese franchises, at least one local steakhouse franchise, and most recently–hallelujah–a local Middle Eastern franchise. And my town only has 20,000 people.

    And she’s right that it’s the consumers that drive the mix of stores. You seem to suffer from the common myth that big businesses can somehow force mom and pops out of business against the consumers’ will. But if people are more willing to pay less for a lousy pizza than more for a good pizza, that’s their choice, so they’re not being harmed. Value and taste are subjective. If consumers were really suffering, not in the sense of being sick, but really unhappy with the taste of, Pizza Hut, they’d stop going there. Big firms do go out of business when they fail to satisfy their customers. Our town used to have a Fazoli’s, cheap but crappy Italian food: it went out of business, and now the spot is occupied by a thriving local steakhouse. Our town used to have a Long John Silver’s (to my tastes, the worst fast food franchise ever), but it went out of business.

    And it’s also a myth that mom and pops usually pay more. Some do, most don’t. They already tend to have higher costs because they can’t get their ingredients in bulk and they have to pay for their own advertising because they can’t rely on the parent corporation to do that. Even if they have a better product (and they don’t always–mom and pops can suck as bad as any corporate food), there’s a limit to how much more people will be willing to pay for it, so they have to keep their costs down somewhere. Since wages account for the majority of their costs, that’s where they normally have to keep a tight rein. I worked at a mom and pop building supply in grad school. The world’s largest family-owned, single store, building supply company. People loved them because they were local and had better service than the cross town Home Depot (they heavily drilled us on service, service, service, as our key to beating the Home Despot). But they didn’t pay as well as Home Depot, and I knew a couple people who left to go work at the competitor because it paid more. Not a lot, but enough to draw away a few employees.

  39. ppnl says:

    James Hanley:

    I didn’t say a decentralized government was equal to feudalism. Jesus christ dude! I said you needed to be careful.

    The United States constitution was enacted because the previous constitution created a weak dysfunctional central government with no real power. As a result the states were passing trade tariffs on each other.

    The major responsibility of a central government should be to place limits on local governments. To do that it needs to be strong but with clearly enumerated responsibilities. The constitution does not do a very good job of clearly enumerating those responsibilities. But still given the massive social and technological changes I think we have done pretty well.

  40. James K says:

    ppnl:

    The major responsibility of a central government should be to place limits on local governments. To do that it needs to be strong but with clearly enumerated responsibilities.

    You’ve captured a subtlety that is often overlooked in debates of the size of government. When speaking of the strength of government there is breadth (what the government has influence over) and depth (how much it can control the thing sit has influence over). I think what libertarians generally care about is shrinking the breadth of government, not it’s depth.

    The constitution does not do a very good job of clearly enumerating those responsibilities. But still given the massive social and technological changes I think we have done pretty well.

    Not to mention that they were starting from scratch. It wouldn’t be that hard to do better than the US Constitution, but only by building on the Founding Fathers’ mistakes, naturally they couldn’t benefit from their own experience.

  41. reddwarf2300282 says:

    Do you want cheap and quality products and services? What do we need to get them? Answer is very simple. We need competition. If there is monopoly prices will be high and quality poor. The same is true for law making. That is also a service. If you reduce competition among states, you are reducing competition among organizations, which produce laws. Result will be very costly and poor laws. Therefore one world government will not be free, decentralized, minimal libertarian state but exact opposite of that. Dictatorship state of an unprecedented kind!

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