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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/14510/joseph-labadie-an-american-original/

Joseph Labadie: An American Original

November 5, 2010 by

Though he devoted much of his life to writing, editing, publishing, and political activism, it isn’t really for any of these activities that Jo Labadie should be remembered fondly by libertarians in the 21st century. FULL ARTICLE by Jeff Riggenbach

{ 7 comments }

Ben Ranson November 5, 2010 at 4:18 pm

Interesting essay. Not controversial, but worthwhile to read.

Kevin Carson November 6, 2010 at 12:58 am

“If Labadie had had a firmer grasp of economics, he would have seen the long-term futility of such activism; he would have seen that unions can never improve working conditions or wages beyond the level the market would attain anyway.”

Here’s what Brad Spangler wrote in response to that argument in an earlier thread:

Negotiation of terms is part of the transaction process and, hence, the market.

Are you implying that sellers ought only passively accept or decline deals and never assertively negotiate with a potential buyer, merely so long as more than one potential buyer exists?

And…

1) If so, do you apply that dictum universally, or just in the case of labor deals?

2) If so, AND if you limit that view solely to the labor market, then I must ask what (in economic terms) is so special about labor?

If so, AND if you apply it universally, then I must say you’re really doing yourself a disservice when it comes to selling a home or car.
http://blog.mises.org/7391/hollywoods-workers-and-peasants/

One might argue with just as much validity that Wal-Mart’s attempts to use its oligopsony power to force lower prices on suppliers are doomed to futility, because they couldn’t achieve prices any lower than what “the market” would produce. I don’t see how it makes sense to treat the bargaining activities of a large number of market actors as something distinct from “the market.”

Kevin Carson November 6, 2010 at 1:00 am

Oops. My attempted block quote formatting failed. The material from “Negotiation of terms…” to “…selling a home or car.” is a block quote from Spangler.

Fallon November 6, 2010 at 6:52 am

Interesting point, Kevin. I wonder if Mr. Riggenbach meant union of the coercive kind, one that would enforce a closed shop and bar ‘scab’ labor. In this sense, Mr. R could be echoing Mises and Hutt in their admonishments that these kinds of unions cannot raise wages for all workers but, rather, only for their members at the forced expense of everyone outside the union– especially fellow wage earners .

P.M.Lawrence November 6, 2010 at 7:16 am

Now, union activism may seem an odd sort of project for any sort of libertarian to choose to undertake. If Labadie had had a firmer grasp of economics, he would have seen the long-term futility of such activism; he would have seen that unions can never improve working conditions or wages beyond the level the market would attain anyway.

That simply isn’t true of a rigged market, or for particular groups within an unrigged one which they then manage to rig in their favour – and, of course, the first case can make it worth unionising once others have unionised and caused the second case (which isn’t only caused that way).

Kevin Carson November 6, 2010 at 12:11 pm

Fallon: Well, I think Jeff recognizes that Labadie wasn’t a proponent of coercive unionism. It’s interesting that Hazlitt made essentially the same argument as Rothbard and Mises that wages were determined by productivity — but he acknowledged that unions might play a role in the discovery process by which that value was established.

BTW, there’s the entirely separate issue (which P. M. Lawrence brings up) of whether conditions at the turn of the century actually constituted a free market, and whether the gains from union activity might have come out of employer monopsony rents.

Fallon November 6, 2010 at 3:28 pm

And by value of productivity you mean that which may be ascertained by recourse to economic calculation? In other words, I am asserting that a price must be fetched for a product/service in the market prior to evaluation.

I am under the impresssion that late 19th century America was characterized by increasing wages, productivity and competition in spite of efforts by large interests like Morgan and Rockefeller to shield themselves from competition through politics and cartelization. Further, the emergence of massive political machine corruption, anti-market moralizing elitism, unionism, and technocratic thought (efficiency, rule by experts, etc) were further factors making for a mixed picture indeed.

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