The Iniquity of the British Trade Union Movement (Ron Olden)


Ronald Olden

I’m not sure whether it’s correct that Statism is ‘not the only mechanism by which leftist seek to advance their ideology‘. I think it is. They dress it all up as something else but ‘Statism’ is what they mean. The only question lies, in what is and what isn’t, a ‘State. Wherever the Left fail to take control of the National State, they seek to subvert it with one of their own. Thus Arthur Scargill in 1984 deemed it was acceptable to place mobs outside Coke Depots stopping coal and coke moving. He regarded his authority as superior to the law of the UK State. He was challenging the UK State with his own alternative ‘State’ and shock troops.

These variations on the ‘State’ which leftists promote, are supposed to be more ‘democratic’. They are however still expected to wield exclusive power in their sphere of influence. The great favourite for this alternative social order is ‘workers’ control’. What the Left means is Trade Union control. Employee ‘Democracy’ etc is always couched in terms which really mean the Trade Union taking control of the activities of the company without actually investing in it. The Trade Union concerned invests its own cash reserves where it can make the most profit elsewhere.

Thus we hear that this or that company is making vast profits, or some contractor is making profits out of the NHS. But we never hear of the Trade Union going to a bank and attempting to borrow the money at rock bottom interest rates to buy the company and sharing the profits out amongst its members, or bidding for the NHS contract itself. I put a Comment on a ‘SAVE OUR NHS’ Page recently in response to one which claimed the cleaning contractor was profiting at the expense of the NHS and refusing to pay the ‘Living Wage’. Needless to say they were ‘fighting and campaigning’ (by which they meant going on Demos, sending each other ‘Tweets’, putting Posts of Facebook, and periodically refusing to clean the hospital), in the hope of overthrow this stain on society. I suggested an alternative more effective solution. The Trade Union should bid for the contract, and share the profits out amongst the workers, or rebate it back to the Hospital. Little capital is required to perform a hospital cleaning contract, and the Trade Union had its’ own members available as employees. My comment was deleted in less than five minutes, and I was banned from the Page.

I’m not sure if the Left are even in ‘revolt against nature’. Their activities are no more than the latest manifestation of man’s naturally motivation to dominate other men. Many Trade Union activists see Trade Unions as the instrument they themselves employ to dominate others (for our own good of course).  In other contexts the instrument pf control is organised Religion, or ‘community organisations’ of various descriptions. The common feature is always controlling people under the guise of doing something for them.

It’s inevitable that Libertarians have little to say beyond the limitations of the use of force in society, Beyond that specific philosophy, Libertarianism ceases to have any direct relevance. ‘Hacking at the robust trunk of ‘Statism” is exactly what Libertarians should be doing. Not least because we can show that Statism fails, even, to solve the challenges which it identifies as greater evils than itself.

I’m not sure either, that all Libertarians have failed to root ‘Libertarianism’ in a conservative foundation. I regard my own Libertarianism as primarily rooted in a conservative foundation. I  accept an element of Statism. Community legitimacy has to vest somewhere.

Something I find horrifying however is the way in which some people who hang around on the fringes of ‘Libertarianism’ are the most Statist people of all. But they want to use the State to promote their own particular prejudices. Thus I’ve read people advocate immigration controls as a means to preserve ‘cultural identity’. You even see ‘Libertarians’ (sic) complaining about the sale to foreigners of what they call ‘National Assets’. The assets concerned however, turn out to be private assets or assets owned by the State. What these so called ‘Libertarians’ are really complaining about is that the ownership of the assets has either fallen out of the hands of the State, or out of the hands of some private individual they identify with, and into the hands of a foreign private individual whom they don’t.

You even hear some  ‘Libertarians; (sic) complaining about ‘Gay Marriage’. The conditions for legal recognition of ‘marriage’ are the preserve the State, and these people like the idea of controlling who can and cannot participate in it.

Distributism  is a much more attractive proposition than Socialism or Capitalism, but it is still nevertheless an ideology which  requires positive action to achieve it and to create the legal environment in which it can prosper. Such positive action will have to be promoted by the State and underpinned by laws enforced by the State, otherwise Human Nature will prevail and some power centre or other, driven by the most activist individuals will will dominate. That unfortunately is the ‘Natural Law.

So ‘Libertarians’ can only point out the limitations of what can be achieved, or what it is proper to attempt to achieve by coercion. And where coercion is necessary, Libertarians can emphasise the importance of achieving the objectives with as light and indirect a touch as possible.

Market solutions, are both light and indirect and are nearly always the most effective solutions. But markets still have to be regulated to ensure that no individual or group gets the upper hand or that the markets do not produce a perverse outcome. By way of an example, in the hope of mitigating the harm they cause to the environment we have, until recently, endured a decade of campaigns and pontification to persuade us to reduce plastic carrier bag use. Some wanted a complete ban on he use of plastic carrier bags.

The State has finally introduced the blindingly obvious market solution which was available all along. They have required the shops to charge 5p for the bag. Result? Bag use has dropped by 80%. The stated objective has been achieved, with little or no cost to anyone, shops’ bag costs have dropped, and the proceeds of the bag sales go to local charities.

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2 comments

  • | “Thus Arthur Scargill in 1984 deemed it was acceptable to place mobs outside Coke Depots stopping coal and coke moving. He regarded his authority as superior to the law of the UK State.”

    I would say that this falls under the umbrella of “other means,” I mentioned in my article. True that it bears resemblance to State action in its use of organized violence, but it lacks the other hallmarks: taxation, the usurpation of the legal system, and other community institutions, etc. But I take your point about it being in some sense akin to State action. However, there are other methods used by he left, which are not Statist. Propaganda in all forms of media, activism of various sorts, etc. They are not above persuasion. In fact, they can’t rely solely on the State without some kind of justificatory edifice. Part of my argument is that raw libertarianism is too limited in scope to offer a thorough and sufficient response to this edifice of theirs.

    | “I suggested an alternative more effective solution. The Trade Union should bid for the contract, and share the profits out amongst the workers, or rebate it back to the Hospital.”

    Brilliant. If you haven’t already hashed that out somewhere, you should do so. I think it would be well worth the effort to give that form of alternative exposure to a wider audience. As it relates to my essay, I take your point to be that the left is not interested in means other than the State to achieve its ends and that it will dismiss such solutions out of hand for that reason. You may be right in this case, although I would rather say here that they dismissed your solution not because it assigned no role to the State, but because you suggested that they act within the constraints of the market and thereby expose their Trade Union to dirty capitalist influences, from which they believe they’ve insulated themselves. That and you made them look stupid – suffering from a severe messianic complex, leftists tend to have terribly bloated and sensitive egos. I could be wrong of course. It is a perceptive point that you make here and I’ll have to reflect on it further.

    | “I’m not sure if the Left are even in ‘revolt against nature’.” … “The common feature is always controlling people under the guise of doing something for them.”

    I would argue that that is, in fact, a revolt against nature. This is a resort to coercive or intentionally deceptive means to alter the natural course of society’s development – whatever the primary goal of such action might be.

    | “It’s inevitable that Libertarians have little to say beyond the limitations of the use of force in society, Beyond that specific philosophy, Libertarianism ceases to have any direct relevance. ‘Hacking at the robust trunk of ‘Statism” is exactly what Libertarians should be doing. Not least because we can show that Statism fails, even, to solve the challenges which it identifies as greater evils than itself.”

    I am in agreement with you here. Reviewing my essay, it seems that I could have been clearer than I was in this regard. I did not mean to imply that libertarians should cease what they are doing. My argument is that we need to broaden our response. The left, as I mentioned, is waging a multi-front battle and we are meeting them on only one of those fronts – where the State is directly concerned. Libertarianism in and of itself is too narrow in scope, which is why I suggest that the libertarian message is best framed within a wider conservatism. In that way our conservatism can confront the socio-cultural ideology of leftism and our libertarianism can continue its fight against State action. Libertarianism and conservatism are natural allies, or two parts of the same whole, in my view.

    | “I’m not sure either, that all Libertarians have failed to root ‘Libertarianism’ in a conservative foundation. I regard my own Libertarianism as primarily rooted in a conservative foundation.”

    I hadn’t intended to imply this. Again I should have been clearer in my essay. I am aware that there are many libertarians who also consider themselves to be conservatives. I certainly do not claim to be the only one or even amongst the first. What I meant is that the movement, taken as a whole, has not really embraced its links with conservatism. Some, like Rothbard if I am not mistaken in this, even identified libertarianism as a leftist movement – this despite writing so favorably of Natural Law, the Roman Catholic Church, and coining (as far as I know) a phrase (“revolt against nature”) to describe the left’s egalitarianism, and which I used in my essay to describe the essence of the entire leftist ideology. There was another post by Martland last week about Left, Right, and where libertarianism fits in that was quite good in addressing this issue and where he pointed out in one of the comments that calling yourself leftist and being leftist are not one in the same thing. This is not just semantics. As Sun-Tzu said, know yourself and know your enemy and you will be victorious in many battles. I argue in my essay that libertarianism is inherently conservative in nature, and that libertarians would benefit from reflecting on this point. It may change the way they frame their arguments and thereby make the entire movement more effective.

    | “[Distributism is] an ideology which requires positive action to achieve it and to create the legal environment in which it can prosper. Such positive action will have to be promoted by the State and underpinned by laws enforced by the State, otherwise Human Nature will prevail and some power centre or other.”

    A few interesting points here. I tentatively disagree that the State would automatically be necessary to usher in distributism. Especially if it really were to be examined under a libertarian lens and had the incompatible bits stripped out. However, you touch on something that I think will be the focus of my next post when you point out that ‘some power center or other’ will spring up if we leave a vacuum. I am in agreement with you on this point and find this to be one of those things that we, as libertarians, have not adequately addressed. It is important that we do a better job of this and you are right in singling it out as a weakness in my essay. I don’t make any effort there to actually connect the dots between stated goal and the attainment of that goal – this needs to be hashed out and I will endeavor to do so in another essay.

  • Some good points made here, by both Ronald Olden and Tormod. Trade unions (and similar organizations – think Greenpeace for example) like to agitate about problems. They never seek to solve these problems. Everything they do is political rather than economic.

    But I must take issue with Ronald on one thing. Imposing a tax on carrier bags isn’t a market solution. It’s just a tax. The enviros couldn’t get away with banning carrier bags altogether; so they settled for a tax, and one designed to “remind us of our iniquity” every time we pay it.

    The right solution to this problem – if it was ever a real problem, which I doubt – would have been to provide bins at the supermarkets for these bags. And to return the contents of the bins to the bag manufacturers for disposal, at their own cost.

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