Guns to heads (was: Re: Transhumanist Declaration)

Damien Broderick (
Sun, 12 Apr 1998 11:24:09 +0000

At 12:42 AM 4/11/98 -0400, Mike Lorrey replied:

>unskilled labor will always be the cheapest to be had. Unions and immigration
>rules seek to artificially restrict the supply of manual labor, which is why
>unions always support immigration restrictions.
>If your union there is anything like the Teamsters here, I can understand why
>the owners are using security to keep former employees off their property.
>they have successfully ended the artificial labor supply restrictions they
>suffering under is actually good for the economy in general, no matter how
>short term difficulty the workers may face.

<interesting arguments on the benefits of sacking people snipped>

In the current Australian case, it isn't that simple. We're not talking
about unskilled people being replaced by machines to do the hod-carrying.
Stevedoring is already a fairly skilled business. For what it's worth,
here are some comments from an article in The Australian, our major Murdoch
newspaper (quoted without permission of the writer, Mike Steketee):

`The Government has enforced the principle that union membership should not
be a requirement for working on the wharves... a significant
cost... security guards and savage dogs dragging employees from their
workplaces in the middle of the night.

`This was heavy-handed action, accompanied by a sneaky shuffle... of
corporate assets to try to escape liability [of breach of Act] which
prohibits the dismissal of employees because they are union members. Its
success in terms of public acceptance relies on Australians being persuaded
by the demonisation of the wharfies in which the Government has engaged.

`In truth... they have accepted change, including a more than halving of
their numbers as a result of reforms - achieved by negotiation...

`So what mortal sin have the wharfies committed to warrant their wholesale
sacking? It boils down to an hourly container movement rate perhaps 25 per
cent below world's best practice (bulk cargo rates are already at the
international benchmark, though that did not stop Patrick employees in
these areas getting the sack as well). This is an improvement worth
having, but does it require such brutal action?'

Mike Lorrey might be correct that this is mercantilism rather than
capitalism. I can't say, not being a theologian. But it sounds to me
rather like guns against heads in one of the advanced non-communist nations
of the First World. (Do note that I am not saying anything about the
merits of stevedores as wonderful caring human beings, nor trying to deny
their own record of thuggish intimidation, theft, industrial sabotage. etc.
I am simply responding to the claim that capital operates differently from
socialist state enforcement.)

Damien Broderick