Big Labor and Libertarianism


Mark of New Jersey

Mark is a Founding Editor of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the predecessor of Ordinary Times.

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30 Responses

  1. Avatar Travis says:

    “Indeed, it is not unusual to find movement liberals/progressives on the diametrically opposite side of an issue as the police or prison guards’ unions – and specifically on issues where the movement liberals/progressives are firmly on the side of limited government.”


    The U.S. now has a prison-industrial complex that is beginning to approach the power of the military-industrial complex. Both institutions are pernicious threats to freedom and destructive of liberty.

    The California Democratic Party is contemptibly in thrall to the prison guards’ union. To wit, the party leadership declined to endorse an initiative legalizing marijuana, despite vocal support from virtually the entire liberal community.Report

  2. Avatar Trumwill says:

    Regarding prison unions, the problem for the liberaltarian coalition is not what movement liberals/progressives want. There is a lot of common ground there. The problem is that the road to election for Democrats (the more liberal of the two electable parties) goes through said unions (and often involves distancing themselves from anything that appears to be soft on crime).

    The same applies the other way around, too. A whole lot of movement conservatives would really, really prefer a more libertarian economic policy. The problem is that they politically can’t do it due to other segments of the population they need to win and to govern.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

      @Trumwill, this is exactly what I’m trying – so far unsuccessfully – to say. It’s not about what liberal wonks or progressive idealists want – it’s about the electability of Democrats who rely heavily on union support. That – in a nutshell.Report

      • @E.D. Kain, But the point is that the same applies in the other direction. There’s no reason that unions should prove a bigger hurdle on the Left than any number of core constituencies on the Right.Report

        • Avatar Trumwill says:

          @Mark Thompson, I think both bars are insurmountable and I’m not sure how much it matters as to which is more impossible. It kind of falls into the category of 2×0 and 4×0 both equal 0.Report

          • Avatar Trumwill says:

            Not to be too nihilistic. I left the libertarian fold a long time ago, but I do wish that they had more pull than they do (particularly on criminal justice issues). I just think that the effort needs to be expended to gain more popular support so that they’re harder to ignore. Then they get drafted into whomever needs them more and is willing to risk alienating their opposing group. Or they become a relevant swing bloc.Report

            • Avatar Michael Drew says:

              @Trumwill, It seems to me the chances that a group whose ideology demands this level of rigor just to determine what it (rightly) thinks has no chance of ever being a remotely relevant, or indeed even cohesive, political bloc. People vote their interests. Lots of people describe themselves as “libertarian” on certain questions, but by no means will a significant number ever invest this level of intellectual energy trying to figure out the intellectually thorough way to cast their vote as a committed libertarian. Some will, but most even of those who call themselves libertarians will figure out where their interests lie, call that libertarian if they feel they need to, and vote accordingly. At least that’s my experience.Report

  3. Avatar North says:

    Good lord, I get sick and am out of it for a few days and all hell breaks loose here.
    I’m delighted, though, to see that hippie punching has entered the league’s lexicon.Report

  4. Avatar Koz says:

    “Lest we forget, unions are ultimately voluntary associations….”

    But only in a right-to-work state. And of course, in the political fights determining whether a state is right-to-work, the unions fight as hard as they can for a closed shop.

    Therefore, to whatever extent unions are voluntary association, occurs against the will of the unions.Report

    • Even in a state without “right to work,” there is no one forcing you to work for an employer with a union contract. Or are you now a subscriber to the “leftist” narrative about “wage slaves”?

      Do private organizations have the right to enter into exclusive contracts with other private organizations? How is a closed-shop agreement materially any different from, say, an agreement with a temp agency that you will rely solely on that temp agency for your labor force, with the temp agency providing that labor force at a particular rate?Report

      • Avatar MadRocketScientist says:

        @Mark Thompson, Because in a non-Right to work state, a closed shop is mandated by law, not corporate policy.Report

        • @MadRocketScientist, I don’t believe that’s accurate. Taft-Hartley explicitly outlawed closed-shop agreements entirely (my reference above to “closed-shop” should really be to “union shop”), and gave the states the right to prohibit union shop agreements. That prohibition on union shop agreements is considered a “right to work” law.Report

          • Avatar MadRocketScientist says:

            @Mark Thompson, Unless I am somehow misreading the rules around here, I have no option but to join the Union at my company. In a non-Right to Work state, a company may not be unionized, but if that company has a Union, and your job falls under the union, you have no choice but to join if you want the job. In a Right-to-Work state, I can join the union, or not, at any given company.

            Both situations are technically “voluntary”, but only one is truly voluntary.Report

            • Avatar JosephFM says:


              How is that different from any other company policy that requires you to comply with it for a job, like a uniform (which can be a big deal at minimum wage, where your uniform may cost several days’ pay)?Report

            • Avatar MadRocketScientist says:

              A uniform requirement is a whole lot different. A uniform does not limit your ability to negotiate with your employer for pay or benefits, a uniform does not negotiate on your behalf (whether you want it to or not), a uniform does not require a monthly payment, a uniform does spend your dues on political actions you may or may not agree with, and, most importantly, a uniform does not require you to walk out on your job and recieve a mere pittance in pay just because the uniform says so (even if you think the uniform is being a colossal dumbass about minor issues).Report

      • Avatar Koz says:


        “Even in a state without “right to work,” there is no one forcing you to work for an employer with a union contract.”

        Except that the unions would organize that employer if they could.

        “Do private organizations have the right to enter into exclusive contracts with other private organizations?”

        They should, but that’s not at all the relationship between a unions and management in America. Unions are recognized by the government, not the employers. And when recognition is granted by the government, all work related negotiation must go through the union at the expense of the employees directly.

        The larger point is still pretty clear for me. Whatever extent unions are voluntary association, occurs against the will of the unions. Do you disagree?Report

        • Avatar Travis says:

          @Koz, corporations are recognized by the government too.Report

          • Avatar Koz says:

            No they’re not. At least they weren’t recognized in the same way until the Obama health care bill passed. I’m sure you’d know it (and probably not be very happy) if the Reagan Administration said you have to buy TVs from GE.Report

            • Avatar Travis says:

              @Koz, they’re not? Really?

              Then what’s all this stuff about corporations registering with the government, and then having the same rights as you or I, even though they’re not human beings but giant piles of cash?

              Corporate personhood is one of the most pervasive, powerful and wrongheaded legal doctrines since “separate but equal.”Report

            • Avatar Koz says:

              Ok, but that’s a separate issue. Government plainly does not recognize corporations in the same way it recognizes unions. The voluntariness of associations with corporations really is voluntary whereas with unions it’s not.Report

            • @Koz, One can choose to work for a company with a union or one can choose to work for a company without a union. That’s pretty voluntary to me.

              That a union might like to organize that latter company is pretty irrelevant, or at least not much more relevant than the fact that a competitor company might like to attempt a takeover of the employee’s company.Report

            • Avatar Koz says:

              It’s relevant just to the extent I mentioned before, no more and no less. Whatever extent unions are voluntary association, occurs against the will of the unions.

              To be fair, voluntariness is not the only thing in the world and for the moment private sector unions are not that big a deal. Either they function more or less as value-adding guilds or they bankrupt the host corporation out of business.Report

            • Avatar JosephFM says:


              Corporations would not exist without governments to grant them limited liability. They are, as any anarchist will tell you, “creatures of the state”.Report

            • Avatar Koz says:

              Well yes, but like I wrote before that’s a separate issue to the voluntariness thing.Report

            • @Koz, “Well yes, but like I wrote before that’s a separate issue to the voluntariness thing.”

              Tell that to the creditors and others harmed by limited liability.Report

        • Avatar Travis says:

          @Koz, or are only the rich and powerful worthy of government recognition?Report