The perfect as the enemy of the good
And with this Daily Article from Mises.org, the remaining Lew Rockwell-sponsored site leaves the blogroll:
One area where many otherwise-correct free-market thinkers and libertarians stumble is in the area of right-to-work laws, now gaining considerable popularity across the nation. These laws come in a variety of forms, but in most cases a state that adopts right-to-work laws makes it illegal for employers to require union membership as a condition of employment. So far, twenty-four states have adopted these laws and the state legislature in Missouri has plans to make that state a right-to-work state sometime early next year.Libertarians - boldly answering the question nobody asked. Indeed, with that starting point (people are free to contract, period!), one may ask whether it is right to prohibit trade in slave-manufactured goods in order to counteract laws granting chattel rights in human beings? The libertarian, hogtied in his logic trap, can only answer one way: no, no and a thousand times no!
Right-to-work laws are attractive to some because they help undercut the monopoly powers granted to labor unions by government. They also appeal to the more pragmatic minded because of the distinct improvements in economic growth. A recent study by the National Institute of Labor Relations Research found that, over a ten year period, states with right-to-work laws experience significant growth in manufacturing output and GDP compared to non-right-to-work states. This is, of course, the result we would expect from diminishing the power of government-created monopolies such as those granted to labor unions.
But utilitarian concerns aside, free-market advocates must ask whether these laws are the right way to reduce government power, and whether they satisfy the moral and ethical criteria at the root of free-market and libertarian thought. Is it right to restrict the freedom to contract in order to counteract existing restrictions on that same freedom?
The author acknowledges, as he must, that unions operate ab initio from a government-granted privilege: if employees can form a collective bargaining unit, the employer cannot refuse to bargain with them. Since there will always be more people looking for jobs than people with jobs to give, it's pretty easy to predict that in an unhampered market, unions simply would not exist in their current form. They'd be specialized guilds, company unions or labor pools.
Right-to-work takes the government's thumb off the scale--if you don't want to join the collective, you don't have to as a condition of employment. In other words, it's a law that rolls back the interventions of another law. And consequently, unions are pretty scarce in right-to-work states.
I'm not necessarily anti-union; I've encountered some top-notch union labor. I've also seen the scum of the earth hanging around union locals. And, I've seen plenty of stupid, greedy, shortsighted employers.
The bottom line is the world is just too complicated and has too many novel situations and too many wildly differing viewpoints for some Grand Unified Theory of Everything to apply every single time. For that matter, how does a libertarian regime stay libertarian? Does it have to pass a law outlawing people getting together and passing laws? Why isn't a law just a covenant that a group of people agreed would run with the land instead of everybody drafting contracts with everybody else? What sort of long-term investment is even possible in such a situation? Wouldn't the libertarians still find themselves marking out borders and patrolling them with machine guns to keep the non-libertarians from stealing their stuff?
Lew could have garnered a lot more influence and respect for his Mises Institute just sticking with praxeology. But apparently this crew just can't help themselves, so they lurch into political debate for which they are not at all equipped, even as they hilariously and scrupulously avoid any meritorious debate on genetics, race, community, human sexuality or culture.
There is one area where Mises.org's frantic clampdown on discussion--as where the topic at hand might venture too near the Southern Poverty Law Center's list of Unthinkables--has never taken place: abortion is the one controversial topic that the site's sponsors have always made sure gets a full, comprehensive and open airing.
Some possible substitutes for Mises.org could be Cafe Hayek, Wolf Street, Robert Murphy's blog or David Stockman's Contra Corner.