Re: Libertarian Labor Unions?

John E Westerlage (
Sun, 8 Mar 1998 09:57:33 -0600

On Sun, 8 Mar 1998 08:58:09 EST GBurch1 <> writes:

>> . . .

>>On the other hand, I have a hard time seeing how collective labor
>>arrangements could survive in a competitive environment

There would be no guarantee of their survival in a free society. If
(as you mention later in your post) is not brought to both management
and their own membership, they would merely wither away.

>>absent some state-sanctioned legal monopoly power or the use of
>>to block breaches by labor-purchasers

If labor-purchasers have violated a contract with the union that contract
should be enforceable in a court. But legal monopoly power or violence
may not be, of course, in a free society, a resort.

>>or defections of labor sellers,

Surely you don't mean by this that an individual labor seller may not
withdraw from his membership in the union. However, if the union as
a whole "defects" from honoring its contract with management, that
again should be enforceable in court.

>>both antithetical to libertarian and extropian principles.

>> . . .

>>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 have thought much about unions in a certification posture, but have
been more influenced by the Underwriters Laboratories model. An
independent certification body is inherently less prone, though certainly
not immune, to any conflict of interest.

However, I can envision an instance where a union whose membership
is dwindling may certify incompetent people in order to secure
immediate benefit. While that is both fraud and, in an economic sense,
short sighted (because when found out it will accelerate the downward
trend of that certifying body), it will undoubtedly occur.

With an independent certification body, again such as UL, there is far
less likelihood that a particular laborer will have the financial
to tempt the certification body into violating its own integrity with an
improper certification.

Such a certification body might issue a printed directory of people who
have passed certain standardized, and rigorous, examinations of
competence at various levels of skills in various trades, with reviews,
or re-examinations, required at appropriate intervals in order to
demonstrate continued competency and maintain the certification.

Such a directory could be updated, in printed form and/or electronically,

frequently, with additions, as new candidates demonstrate proficiency, or

deletions, as previously certified people are determined to no longer be
capable of exercising their former proficiency (though this latter would
likely generate much employment for labor attorneys).

Nothing about any of this would be involuntary, nor would any state
involvement be required (which, I suppose, is redundant).

The tradesman, if he chooses, could refrain from becoming certified;
although he might be economically harmed by this decision, it would
be his own decision. On the other hand, if he makes the (probably)
small expenditure required for certification, he could greatly enhance
his future income (dare I mention that this certification would also be
a source of pride to its owner?).

Businesses could refrain from subscribing to the certification body's
directories at their own risk. But if they bought the directories, labor

buyers would be well served since they would stand a much better
chance of getting that for which they are paying.

Traditional labor unions might well be hurt if labor sellers and labor
buyers no longer found a use for their services, but that is saying
that they no longer have any value and should fold up. Still, if labor
buyers and sellers found a use for these old organizations, then why
would anyone want them to fold up? Should anyone other than the
labor buyers and sellers even be involved in this question?


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