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.
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.