Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Liberty for Some, Slavery for Others: Libertarians and the Taft-Hartley Act

Deceased Senator Robert Taft from Ohio, the Republican who opposed the Vietnam War is a libertarian icon. Ron Paul, Lew Rockwell, Thomas Woods, and all the other “revolutionary” right-wingers who love “liberty” seem foam at the mouth with love at the face of this man. He is a “champion of libery” in their eyes. He is the idol of their obscure brand of far right-wing ideology.

The most famous piece of legislation Robert Taft played a role in establishing was the “Taft-Hartley Act.” The “Taft-Hartley” law is in no conceivable way a “libertarian” law. It greatly restricts the freedom of individuals, and strengthens the involvement of the government into economics and finance of individuals. It involves a large amount of economic and physical coercion, as well as countless additional bureaucratic limits on personal free association.

Where are the libertarians on “Taft-Hartley?” Does this not say something about the class base of their ideology?

“Freedom of Contract”

One of the major provisions of the Taft-Hartley Law is the requirement of union elections to be monitored and administered by the National Labor Relations Board, a wing of the federal government.

Prior to the passage of the law, as long as 60% of workers, knowing full well what they were doing and in no being coerced, signed a contract agreeing that they wished for the union to represent them, and a judge made sure that the signatures were legitimate and not coercive, the workers could be represented by the union as they had agreed when signing the legal contract.

It seems very simple. If a workers wants to join an association and let it represent them they can sign a contract, and it is settled. This seems as “libertarian” and as “liaise faire” as ever.

But this was altered by the Taft-Hartley Law. The Taft-Hartley Law contrarily requires a government agency to administer and oversee the signing of this contract between workers and an association that wishes to represent them. A government bureaucracy is then required to set up exactly the manner in which a contract is to be signed. This can take up to two years, and allows numerous acts of government intervention usually on the part of the employer to prevent the workers from signing a contract.

Where is the freedom of contract?

If the government were to have a two year investigation before one bought a house, a car, hired an employee, or other things, the libertarians would scream about “statism” and “collectivism” and roar in defense of “individual rights.” Yet, on Taft-Hartley they are silent, despite that it single out a specific form of contract and requires a government stamp of approval on it before it can be legally recognized.

“Forced Labor”

Libertarian propagandists like Glenn Beck are currently screaming in outrage at Obama’s possible plans to create a jobs program or to encourage young people to volunteer. Images of Soviet Work Camps and Hitler Youth Camp-outs are projected on their screens when they discuss his plans to expand the peace corps and provide economic incentives to volunteer one’s labor. “Forced Labor” is the Libertarian rant against these programs that attempt to lower unemployment and solve economic woes.

Interestingly though, the Taft-Hartley Law has a special provision in it called a “cooling off period.” This allows the government to order striking workers back to work for a six month “cooling off period.”

What is a strike? It is refusal to work for an employer until terms are met.

So, by instituting a “cooling off period”, the government is forcing workers who do not wish to come to work, to work against their will. How can this be anything other than “forced labor?”

The theory of the “free market” means that if I do not wish to show up for work, the state will not force me, however my employer has the right to fire me for it. The employer is one “agent” and the worker another in a contract of employment. The state has no role. You do the work, you get paid. You don’t, you get fired. No government involvement, right?

Yet, Taft-Hartley allows the Federal Government to come to your home and force you to come to work for six-months against your will. Is this not a violation of “civil liberties?” Is this not “state intervention” in horrific ways?

Taft-Hartley allows for jackbooted thugs to bust your door open, and drag you from your home to work because the President, not even a majority of congress, wills it. Taft-Hartley allows you to be jailed because you did not go work for a private employer, and the President alone, thinks you should. Is this not a violation of civil liberties? Is this in any way compatible with Libertarian ideology?

“Freedom of Association”

Following “Taft-Hartley” were a whole slew of other anti-labor laws, one of which made it illegal for Communists and felons to hold office in trade unions. These laws were not only supported, by championed by the “defender of freedom” Senator Robert Taft.

Trade Unions, a non-governmental association of workers, is regulated by the state and told it cannot elect leaders it wishes. The government has the right to tell trade unions that they are not allowed to elect leaders because they have a criminal record, or are members of a certain political party.

Is this “Freedom of Association”? What if the government passed a law requiring the John Birch Society to get government approval of those who hold office within its ranks? What if the government required the Constitution Party to follow a set of limits as to who could be its state organizers?

This, of course, would be denounced by these “advocates of liberty” as a violation of their “free association” rights. Ironically though, Libertarians do not oppose Taft-Hartley and idealize the man who championed other right-wing legislation specifically infringing on the “freedom of association” rights of industrial workers.

Libertarian Hypocrisy – It’s About Class!

Senator Taft is upheld as a hero of the right-wing. Never has Ron Paul raised the overturning of Taft-Hartley in his program for “revolution.” Never has Thomas Woods devoted a chapter in his revisionist history textbooks to exposing the “totalitarianism” of his favorite Senator, Robert Taft.

Contrarily, Libertarians love Taft-Hartley because it weakens the strength of workers to resist corporate power. Libertarianism, specifically the Paleo-conservative branch thereof is in total support of total corporate freedom. Their platforms include the abolition of income based taxation, the workplace health and safety legislation, minimum wages, Civil Rights Legislation, financial aid to college students, and every other program to help workers.

To the Libertarian, any assistance to workers is a violation of the “rights” of the capitalists to suck as much profit from the workers as possible. Libertarianism is the naked ideology of profit worship. They are not concerned with the rights of workers, they are concerned with the rights of the rich. Taft-Hartley is a clear example of this.

If Libertarian really cared about individual rights for “Free Association”, “Freedom of Contract” and prevention of “Forced Labor” they would be leading the demand for the Employee Free Choice Act to pass. Contrarily, they are opposing it. The movement to pass EFCA is based not among Libertarian demagogues, but among Communists and Socialists, those who care for individual human rights, not the rights of “callous cash payment” so sacred to those who reign atop the prison planet of imperialist capitalism.


Clay Barham said...

I love roots. Seeing the beginning of something that becomes a conflict helps me understand the whole tree, so to speak. For example, Obama said the interests of the community are more important than are individual interests. That is a root! That tells us individual interests conflict with community interests in some way. Now, we know community has no brain or heart, so someone must decide what is in the interest of community. In our case, that would be elite like Obama, Pelosi and Reid, and their immediate helpers. Then, the opposite is individual freedom to make decisions, which worked well in America resulting in a free market. But, that means too many uninformed, unintelligent individuals. Those in the ranks of the elite few who expect to rule look on the many in community as stupid, unable to foresee future events and solve problems at hand. They feel their calling is to make sure individuals do not decide what it right or wrong for them, their families and communities closest to them. Whenever you see one of those elite being interviewed and worshipped by interviewers, you hear them make statements that sound arrogant and demeaning to the average man and woman. In addition, you see the same arrogance in media and academia, which is where the elite in government come from. The private sector is made up more of non-elite and small business folks, who are seen as having no intelligence. Hear what they say, then measure it against this root. Claysamerica.com

Anonymous said...

My knowledge on the history of labor law is limited to a couple shorts books, so I can't respond with much clarity on the issue at hand, just the points the writer makes.

The government has little right to intervene into strikes. They have no authority to force one to go back to work nor do they have the authority to do anything if the employer fires those on strike. They both need each other to get by so they both have incentive to get back on good terms and start making money again.

The government has no right to bar communists and likely even felons from holding office in unions. Justification of this likely means the government is encroaching on such private unions independence to sink or swim on their own, or getting in bed with them. Both of which are wrong.

Libertarianism is not about class. Everything is about class with you Marxists. I'm not obsessed with class warfare. I turned 18 and had little more than a 13 year old pick up truck and a drive to succeed. I've lived a harder life than most Americans, certainly compared to my fellow young Americans.

"Their platforms include the abolition of income based taxation, the workplace health and safety legislation, minimum wages, Civil Rights Legislation, financial aid to college students, and every other program to help workers."

I think most of those things hurt workers. Their intention is to help but create a whole slew of unintended consequences that often outweigh conceivable benefits. Some of those things are okay in moderation with civil rights being the exception that is fully required (though I probably define it differently than you), but none of those others are a godsend. The minimum wage and such taxes are not good for people seeking to make it to the top through serving their fellow man with a product or service that their customers reward them with. The minimum wage chops off the first rung of the ladder for example. The minimum wage directly hurts them from getting work experience.

I have not read it yet, but I hear University of Chicago Professor Richard Epstein has a fine book out titled "The Case Against the Employee Free Choice Act." Check it out.

Anonymous said...

Addressing only the most egregious of the author's mischaracterizations, Taft-Hartley does not permit "jack-booted thugs" to "drag you to work" in lieu of a strike. An employee is ALWAYS free to quit if he/she doesn't wish to obey a return-to-work order. And, he/she cannot be fired for striking. In short, T-H is a compromise. As an employee, you get the right to strike without being fired. On the other hand, that right comes with some strings attached. Incidentally, while I won't belabor the point by correcting all of the inaccuracies in the author's description of the "cooling-off" period, it's worthy of note that the President's power in this regard can be exercised against labor (in the case of a strike) OR management (in the case of a lockout). As an interesting case in point, President Bush ordered longshoremen employers to end a lockout of their employees in 2002.