Libertarian Labor Unions?

GBurch1 (
Sun, 8 Mar 1998 08:58:09 EST

The recent discussion of IT workers and their economic value has led me once
again to wonder about extropian and libertarian views of "labor unions" in
general. Principles of individual autonomy, economic liberty and spontaneous
order should, it seems lead to the conclusion that workers should be free to
form associations designed to leverage their economic value. At the most
general level of abstraction, there is no good reason workers with a common
skill shouldn't be able to band together to increase their bargaining power.
On the other hand, I have a hard time seeing how collective labor bargaining
arrangements could survive in a competitive environment absent some state-
sanctioned legal monopoly power or the use of violence to block breaches by
labor-purchasers or defections of labor sellers, both antithetical to
libertarian and extropian principles.

One idea I have had is that "libertarian labor unions" could create value that
would deter breaches and defections by becoming certification agencies. A
union of skilled workers could back their contracts with labor-buyers with
certifications of skill of their member-workers. Labor buyers might well
prefer exclusive arrangements with such unions because it would externalize
the cost of training and certification and such certification would add value
to their own products and contracts. Of course, there would likely be
competition in many areas between multiple certification unions, but that
would be completely in keeping with libertarian and extropian ideals.

I'm curious what others here have thought about these ideas.

Greg Burch <>----<>
Attorney ::: Director, Extropy Institute ::: Wilderness Guide -or-
"Good ideas are not adopted automatically. They must
be driven into practice with courageous impatience."
-- Admiral Hyman G. Rickover