The current debate going on in Wisconsin on a so-called “Right to Work” law (that bans agreements between companies and unions that all employees of the company need to join the union or pay a fee equivalent to membership dues) brought to the surface a great illustration of when first impressions can steer you wrong. I like bringing these examples up because I often discuss examples of when instinct is superior to conscious and focused information processing. I have covered the cognitive and neuropsychological reasons for this before (for example here).
I don’t want to bring up whether this is a good law or a bad law or whether unions are positive or negative for the economy or for society. These topics could be the subject of dozens of posts.
No, what I want to think about today is which side of this issue the small “l” libertarian should be on (for the uninitiated, small "l" means the philosophy, Big "L" means the political party). At first, it seems obvious. To have the liberty that libertarianism espouses, employees should have the right to join or not join the union. Case closed.
But think about it a little deeper. If a private entity (company) wants to make a private contract (closed shop agreement) with another private entity (union), then to have the government involved is anti-liberty. Libertarianism doesn’t advocate smart liberties or inclusive liberties; it advocates all liberties. Entities should be able to do whatever foolish thing they want as long as it doesn’t infringe on another entity’s liberty. The most important of these liberties is from government intervention. Exceptions should be as rare as possible, only what is necessary to maintain a society that provides a framework for liberty.
So for a pure libertarian, the State of Wisconsin should not pass any laws requiring closed shop agreements, prohibiting closed shop agreements, or even encouraging closed shop agreements (e.g. through tax incentives). None of these rises to the level of critical to maintain society. A closed shop agreement reduces the liberty of the potential anti-union employee to pursue a job at the company, but this is a much smaller violation, especially with the ability to pay the fee instead. Government intervention is philosophically much more severe.
So why do you think the Big “L” Libertarians are for Right to Work laws and against closed shop agreements? Most of them are big “R” Republicans. Unions donate money to left leaning candidates. Think there is a connection, or am I being too cynical?
Tell me what you think