Saturday, January 24, 2015

Rand Paul vs Walter Block on 'Right-to-Work'

Rand Paul is out with a tweet this morning cheering on right-to-work laws:

But should a libertarian also hold such a position?

In a December, 2012 essay Prof. Walter Block said, "No." You can read his perspective here: Right To Work Laws: A Libertarian Analysis.



  1. I’m compelled to comment on Block’s article whose subject is near & dear. Now take a deep breath as might hurt a little, so get those sticks & stones ready. C’est la vie.

    One would think that such a highly acclaimed proponent of the Libertarian philosophy would indeed have plenty of room in a 2000 word dissertation to really address the subject and get to the heart of the matter. Dr. Block reveals many salient points, but misses the main point like a Nolan Ryan fastball. Here is the 'heart of the matter':

    It doesn’t matter whether you think unions are good or bad,
    it doesn’t matter whether you think unions are necessary or not,
    it doesn’t matter whether you think unions “help” workers or not, and,
    it doesn’t matter whether you think unions causes higher prices or not.

    What does matter is that Unions — as they stand today — are unconstitutional, illegal, and immoral — period.

    It’s time to quit paying attention to the irrelevant & stop gawking at things like “cause & effect” — these are mere distractions that prevent the possibility of real solutions to real problems. We need to stop promoting false band-aid like solutions like “Right to Work” laws, as these DO NOT address the real problems. The crux of the matter is this: unions derive their power through government, of course, and to dis-empower them you must overturn the law that gives them that power. And the law that did that was the “National Labor Relations Act of 1935″, aka the Wagner Act. The repeal of this disastrous law is, in fact, essential, and is the only “real” solution to a real man-made problem.

    For those still interested, I suggest you follow these links:…al-rent-seeking

  2. Walter Block's case against Right to Work seems fairly weak... but don't take my word for it. Ron Paul is a supporter of state and federal Right to Work:

    Here is Congressman Paul's Statement...

    Many observers were surprised when Michigan, historically a stronghold of union power, became the nation’s 24th “Right to Work” state. The backlash from November’s unsuccessful attempt to pass a referendum forbidding the state from adopting a right to work law was a major factor in Michigan’s rejection of compulsory unionism. The need for drastic action to improve Michigan’s economy, which is suffering from years of big government policies, also influenced many Michigan legislators to support right to work.

    Let us be clear: right to work laws simply prohibit coercion. They prevent states from forcing employers to operate as closed union shops, and thus they prevent unions from forcing individuals to join. In many cases right to work laws are the only remedy to federal laws which empower union bosses to impose union dues as a condition of employment.

    Right to work laws do not prevent unions from bargaining collectively with employers, and they do not prevent individuals from forming or joining unions if they believe it will benefit them. Despite all the hype, right to work laws merely enforce the fundamental right to control one’s own labor.

    States with right to work laws enjoy greater economic growth and a higher standard of living than states without such laws. According to the National Institute for Labor Relations Research, from 2001-2011 employment in right to work states grew by 2.4%, while employment in union states fell by 3.4%! During the same period wages rose by 12.5% in right to work states, while rising by a mere 3.1% in union states. Clearly, “Right to Work” is good for business and labor.

    Workers are best served when union leaders have to earn their membership and dues by demonstrating the benefits they provide. Instead, unions use government influence and political patronage. The result is bad laws that force workers to subsidize unions and well-paid union bosses.

    Of course government should not regulate internal union affairs, or interfere in labor disputes for the benefit of employers. Government should never forbid private-sector workers from striking. Employees should be free to join unions or not, and employers should be able to bargain with unions or not. Labor, like all goods and services, is best allocated by market forces rather than the heavy, restrictive hand of government. Voluntarism works.

    Federal laws forcing employees to pay union dues as a condition of getting or keeping a job are blatantly unconstitutional. Furthermore, Congress does not have the moral authority to grant a private third party the right to interfere in private employment arrangements. No wonder polls report that 80 percent of the American people believe compulsory union laws need to be changed.

    Unions’ dirty little secret is that real wages cannot rise unless productivity rises. American workers cannot improve their standard of living simply by bullying employers with union tactics. Instead, employers, employees, and unions must recognize that only market mechanisms can signal employment needs and wage levels in any industry. Profits or losses from capital investment are not illusions that can be overcome by laws or regulations; they are real-world signals that directly affect wages and employment opportunities. Union advocates can choose to ignore reality, but they cannot overcome the basic laws of economics.

    As always, the principle of liberty will provide the most prosperous society possible. Right to work laws are a positive step toward economic liberty.

  3. Anon-

    "What does matter is that Unions — as they stand today — are unconstitutional, illegal, and immoral — period."

    Block addresses the issue of morality in the article quite clearly. He argues that from the libertarian perspective (via the NAP), that the "mass quit" is justifiable. On the contrary, disallowing the firm's hiring of "scabs" either through the union violence, or by agents of the State enforcing a law is not compatible with libertarianism (of course!). Also, if the union decides to trespass, they have violated the firm's property rights- another unjustifiable act.

    Also, he addresses illegality by asking what kind of "law" would be justifiable to regulate the work agreement between the worker and the firm, concluding that the firm should sort it out voluntarily for itself. If a firm would like to be 100% union, so be it! Or, if they would like no union employees or anywhere in between, that's fine, too! Likewise, some workers desire to be union, and others do not.

    The question of unconstitutionality was not addressed, but I am guessing this issue did not occur to him as relevant. Block is not a constitutionalist, he is a libertarian.

    1. As private organizations, i don't believe the constitution applies to unions. Maybe he meant that the constitution does not allow the federal government to protect unions by forcing employers to bargain with them.