Well… last week I wrote about the fiasco called Jan 6th. Most of you gave me some serious attaboys! Some of you were less than pleased with me “supporting the insurrectionists”… sigh. Well, this blog is sure to piss off a bunch of people too!
Let’s start out with a scene from a John Wayne movie:
“I’ve been punched many a time in my life, but never for hiring anybody!”
“Ah, I don’t know what to say… I never begged before… it turned my stomach, I suppose I should have been grateful you gave me the job.”
“Gave?!? Boy, you got it all wrong… I don’t give jobs, I hire men!”
“You intend to give this man a full day’s work, don’t you boy?”
“You mean you are still going to hire me, Mr. McLintock?? Well, yes sir! I will certainly deliver a full day’s work!”
“And for that I’ll pay you a full day’s wage. You won’t give me anything and I won’t give you anything… we both hold up our heads.”
That little scene was from the John Wayne movie, McLintock!, released in 1963. That little dialogue is incredibly important… incredibly valuable… and completely contrary to our current economic paradigm. The fact that it seems old and antiquated is disheartening. The fact that it seems alien to our current employee / employer relationship… not just here, but internationally as well, might, ironically, be the single greatest psychological health issue facing us.
During my years of college in San Francisco, I often hung out with Social Leftists, Authoritarian Collectivists, and I even dated a couple of Communists (that was an interesting experience). What they all seemed to have in common was a belief that workers in the marketplace were marginalized. They did not enjoy the bargaining power of the companies they worked for. Without someone advocating on their behalf with the coercive force controls of government behind them, they are bound to be exploited.
I have always rejected this idea. I think it is immoral and dehumanizing. It also has the potential to sow the seeds of political fragmentation.
First off, let’s talk about the actual role of government when it comes to regulation of the marketplace. The government does, in fact, have a role. Even a Classical Liberal like myself recognizes that. It needs to provide the physical capital and regulate money supply. It needs to provide proper weights and measures. It needs to protect the commons. It needs to allow for the potential break-up of monopolies when those monopolies create anticompetitive environments. That is, frankly, about it. (Though, to be sure, when it comes to the break-up of monopolies, the government has done a spectacularly bad job of it. More to the point, when a political party in power benefits from the concentration in the marketplace among a small number of participants, it displays little zeal in actually doing anything about it… see the current administration and “Big Tech”.)
But labor is unique.
Labor is a factor of production. It is a commodity. Unlike its three other sisters: land, capital and entrepreneurship, this is the single factor of production that absolutely, positively NEVER is discounted.
Think about that for a second. In a falling market, capital can be discounted, land can be acquired more cheaply, even the entrepreneur will be willing to sacrifice her own savings… labor, however… by law, remains at the same price tag. And as we have seen in both the state and federal arena, actually increased.
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This protection of labor has incipient problems.
First off, it creates, by definition, a concept of “superiority”. The business owner is the boss…the king… the wizard who lives behind the curtain. The owners exist for a singular reason… exploitation, be it exploitation of the worker or exploitation of the customer or client.
What labor (specifically the individual employee) fails to realize is that they are a business owner themself.
Their labor is the product they provide.
Some have invested heavily in the development of their labor and thus are able to participate in a smaller market of competitors. As such, they are able to demand a greater price for their product.
Others are not as fortunate, and must compete with a greater number, thus lowering their value. Both, however, are subject to macro-market fluctuations. When the entire labor force is reduced for any reason, from war to disease, or industries suffer market disruptions and release their labor force back into the marketplace, the relative value of the labor itself fluctuates. To put it bluntly… when there are many who will do your job, you will get paid less… when there are few who will do your job, you will be paid more.
Now, the owner of the employing business has customers and clients. They must provide the best possible service or product to continue the revenue stream. They may or may not “like” their individual customers. That part is irrelevant. They will do what is necessary to provide good friendly service, or suffer the financial consequences of lost business.
The labor working in the business has a single customer: the owner of the business.
That is it.
Their singular job is to provide value that maintains and even enhances the entrepreneur’s business. Like the company that provides paper and postal stamps, the workers at the company are individual vendors providing labor.
Here is the kicker… the boss isn’t “better” than them, nor are the workers “better” than the boss.
Maybe even the terms “boss” and “worker” are decidedly outdated. Perhaps we should be thinking in terms of client and vendor. Clients have a certain expectation of value as they deal with their vendor. The vendor does not want to lose the client and, thus, will seek to meet or exceed the client’s expectations. A “boss” denotes power. If you are not a “boss”, then what are you? Well, my little friend… nothing more than an employee.
When I go to Home Depot I do not believe, nor should I believe, that Home Depot, as an entity, has any legal right to demand my money. I reserve the right to actually not buy anything. I reserve the right to, frankly, leave Home Depot and buy my hardware at Lowe’s. But Home Depot, under the current mindset, “works for me”. There is fundamentally no difference between the economic relationship that exists between Home Depot when I buy electrical wire and any other vendor supporting my business… that includes labor.
What level of marginalization has taken place in our country as children grow up seeking or expecting to be “given” or “find” a job. How demoralizing is it when someone sees inadequacies and lack of service in the marketplace and does not seek to individually rectify it. How many opportunities have been lost because people think of themselves not as business owners and independent vendors of labor but, rather, employees… and, more importantly, employees who must be given unique protection by the State.
The 13th Amendment called the imposition of slavery illegal. Make no mistake… our mindset and those who would seek to control the marketplace of labor, have ignored the fundamental basis of humanism and individualism inherent in the Constitution.