As CNNMoney reports, states around the country, faced with the challenging of “clos[ing] massive budget gaps,” are resorting to increasingly severe proposals. In Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker lodged a plan to saddle government workers with significantly higher payments toward their healthcare and pension plans; further, in an even more tendentious submission, his proposal would “limit or end public workers’ collective bargaining ability, effectively neutering the unions.”
In the political phraseology of the United States, bogged down in the vacuous false choice of Republican versus Democrat, proponents of the “free market” are allegedly not supposed to concern themselves with scoundrels like government workers’ unions. They are rather to be regarded as the enemy, as conducting an incessant attack on taxpayers in order that they might get something for nothing.
But the anti-union turgidity of the Republican variant of the “free market” obscures the actual — as against the imagined — effects of the state’s pervasive interventions in the economy. When the state creates monopoly or oligopoly conditions, limiting competition to favor political and corporate elites, it also creates monopsony or oligopsony conditions for its own purchase of labor. In the same way that the state’s restrictions on the services that it and its cartels sell drive up the cost of those services, its strangulation of the number of buyers of labor allows those buyers to hire workers for pennies on the dollar.
Workmen who would enjoy a surfeit of employment options in a freed market — who might work out of their homes or in any number of small operations — are forced into the few big organizations, whether corporate or government, that comprise our statist economy. Because, as Kevin Carson has argued, “comfortable poverty becomes impossible” within state capitalism, workers are driven like steers into a tapered off range of employment opportunities.
Voltairine de Cleyre, describing the ideal program of the free market anarchists of the nineteenth century, hypothesized that, “government privilege being taken away,” “bosses would be hunting men rather than men bosses.” To take away what few bargaining chips yet remain for labor, which is already gathered in state-regulated unions that are little informed by real, rank-and-file workers, is the ultimate indignity.
Even the existing “collective bargaining” in the present system is illusory, consisting of a small group of delegates coming to the table to negotiate on behalf of a huge, disenfranchised mass. Regulation of unions has enabled the state to prescribe the parameters within which labor and capital reach their agreements. Just as the welfare state is — contrary to its humanitarian promotion — a means of modulating the viciousness of state capitalism, so today’s unions are designed to prevent any real labor movement.
If a few elites can sit down and decide how much it will take to propitiate the creators of value, then they can sidestep ugly strikes and uprisings. Now that state budgets are finding themselves in messy predicaments, the political class supposes that working people might not notice when they’re hitched to a bit more weight.
Well, the workers of Wisconsin have noticed. In what Murray Rothbard called “our era of the neo-fascist corporate state,” there are many benefits to be derived from statist monopolization of certain services. Whatever those are, though, they’re not extended the great majority of ordinary people on the state’s payroll.
It’s not your average teacher or administrative assistant that reaps the rewards of price-boosting monopoly, but the rarified class of elites who take a little slice every time the typical consumer or worker gets shorted. Those consumers and workers are the victims of this state-commanded system, not leeches who take government jobs for a free ride.