no third solution

Blogging about liberty, anarchy, economics and politics

Useless Labor (pun intended?)

November 23rd, 2005

Bastiat once said, “To compel men to dig wells by forbidding them to take water from the river is to increase their useless labor, but not their wealth.”

It’s often been argued that Unions retard efficiency and impede competitive progress. The Detroit Free Press gives some anecdotal evidence, here. In 1984, General Motors agreed to terms and conditions that cost the corporation in the neighborhood of $800M per year, to pay employees who aren’t working.

Under the program, initially agreed to with the UAW in contract negotiations in 1984, the three Detroit automakers pay hourly workers full wages and benefits even when a plant has closed or production stops. The companies agreed to the program so the UAW wouldn’t fight new measures to increase plant efficiency.

The Union would fight plans to increase plant efficiency?

It’s oft overlooked – Union supporters argue that the “rich are getting richer at the expense of the poor line workers,” that “jobs will be lost if we increase this plant’s efficiency.” Et Cetera, ad nauseaum. In arguing thusly, they place their needs over the needs of, and at the expense of those for whom they provide. And it is inherently self-contradictory to hold that “it’s OK for me to profit at the expense of others, but it is not OK for others to profit at my expense.”

I’ll leave with another quote from Bastiat: “Every injustice is profitable for someone … to express alarm over the dislocation that ending an injustice occasions the person who is profiting from it is as much as to say that an injustice, solely because it has existed for a moment, ought to endure forever.”

Bastiat quotes are taken from EconLib.org

no third solution

Blogging about liberty, anarchy, economics and politics