People are always shocked to hear that I support trade unions (conceptually that is). If you haven’t picked up on it by now, I’m right-wing, in fact, incredibly right-wing and since right wingers, usually, are infected with the horrible “I oppose current thing” mind-virus, it may be a shock that I support something that’s usually left wing. Now, I am not for unions as they currently stand under the NLRA: A monopolistic, democracy-influenced monstrosity that posits that it is the “exclusive representatives of all the employees” and, in some states, can demand the pay of other workers if you don’t live in a “right-to-work” state. However, those complaints aside, I am for unions.
However, why am I for unions? Well, it comes down to the Darwinistic nature of markets, the concept of the power market, and how that concept fits in with greater society. Now that’s quite an extrapolation, so let’s get moving.
Darwinism is a new idea, but is just the scientific name for the concept of “might makes right”. Now, might makes right is a very frowned upon in the contemporary egalitarian and, frankly, over-sympathetic era. Social Darwinism is a dirty word, the thought of a winner triumphing over a loser makes people seethe, and, generally, it’s just anti-democratic (and therefore bad). However, might makes right isn’t a moral prescription on how to run the world, but an acknowledgment of the practical. So long as you don’t care about the practical, you can live in a world where might makes right is just categorically wrong (but this doesn’t say anything about your survivability).
But, we’re ahead of ourselves, let’s talk about what “might” actually is. Most people first think of the meathead thugs who can beat the shit out of you for your cash as the might, but, are those people really the ones with a right to dictate society? Upon closer inspection, obviously not. If they were then Detroit would be the capital of the free world, be named “New Harlem”, and low-life street gangs would be the police of such a place. That’s not our reality, instead, Detroit, at least what is left of it, is a laughable hellhole teeming with criminals who can barely take care of themselves.
In contrast, might is a much more sophisticated thing: It’s actual power, a combination of hard power and soft power. A man can beat you up, but you have more power than him if you pull a gun on him, and that man has much more power if he has a street gang to back him and execute revenge later. You have more power if you have the law enforcement, or other security detail, on your side to protect you that’s superior to his street gang. This acceleration of power can go up infinitely. Now, not everything is violence, at a certain point violence just becomes pointlessly excessive. This is where your soft power comes in: If you’re the manager of a massive farming empire, and you were attacked by the de facto ruling, gang-like owners of a city, then you could easily cut off the city from food and cripple it as a display of power. This involved no violence, but still was a exercise of power, in fact, an exercise of power that triumphs over all the others that have been discussed.
Power, ultimately, is the tool you need to get something done. More powerful men can get more done. Lets suppose a frail IT guy with high pay and stock in some decent start ups is warring with a manual laborer. The manual laborer makes around minimum wage, but is built like a titan. Who would win? Clearly, it’s the IT guy. The IT guy, so long as he works in the shadows and carries a gun on him, can push the manual laborer around through his influence and wealth. He can ensure he doesn’t get a job, slander him, or even just hire a man to kill him. The Laborer may be able to wring the neck of the IT guy, but he’d have to go through an army of security to get a good chance at it and then hope the IT guy, or his personal security, doesn’t just mag dump him after being attacked.
Now some mega-copers may whine about how it wasn’t a fair fight, and they’d be right, but the fairness of the fight doesn’t matter in reality. Unfair fights, even dishonorable fights, don’t matter when it comes down to reality. The lion doesn’t need permission from the gazelle to slaughter him in any way he pleases, he just does it. There’s no laws of physics that dictate that, if you war with someone, you have to do it on an equal playing field. If there was, then the world would look much different.
Now, that that’s all explained, I’d like to see a successful movement ignore the practicality of these facts and survive. People too pious to acknowledge the practical will have a rock caved into their head, metaphorically or physically, eventually. This problem is especially the case among those who are vying for power. If you’re too pious, you can make any amount of reaching for power morally reprehensible.
Markets as a civil form of Darwinism
Darwinism and other might makes right systems are often violent. A lion kills its prey and eats it; an empire wars with a lesser nation to establish dominance. This is because violence is a very ultimate expression of power: if you cave someone’s head in with a rock, they can’t do anything anymore. You can plunder whatever you like so long as there are no defenders and, that plunder, will leave you materially better off.
However, violence is not a good thing for settled societies, especially violence internal to the tribe. Most people are adverse to death and killing these days because it makes life harder for everyone. It’s not easy to get running water in your town if everyone is trying to shoot each other. Just see the infrastructure in war zones as evidence. So, we invented the state to have ultimate authority on violence and to prevent violence from creeping in. Despite this new adversity to violence, there is much reason to have winners and losers in our world. We haven’t hit post-scarcity for material goods yet and, it doesn’t seem that we’ll be doing so any time in the near future. Thus, markets come in to fill in that hole that violence left behind by letting groups compete for non-violence related power, in the case of economic markets: economic power.
Markets, primarily economic markets, are a form of civil sparring between groups, usually for more positive ends than violence. People are trying to gain an upper hand in the game of selling things so that they can be the lion rather than the gazelle. This leads to a Darwinistic pressure that creates individuals, and usually companies, that are good at surviving due to their superiority in making profit.
This group dynamic is not unlike the original dynamic that spawned states in the first place. The forces of market economics are very destructive at times. People starve, losers seethe, winners tend to win more. That’s the nature of any system working under a form of Darwinism. However, maybe this system isn’t the best and, just like how we ended Darwinistic violence by inventing the state, we can end Darwinistic markets by inventing something else.
Thankfully, humanity has thought of a solution! Our red-flagged friends, at least the more realistic ones and not those nutjobs, do offer us a solution in the form of centralized state planning. Why not just let the state, our friendly monopoly on violence that has already established itself, manage our economy and distribute everything “each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”. Now, that’s a great idea! It’s a clever use of the power we have and should give everyone what they need to be happy! I’m sure that this system could eliminate the competitive desires of our peoples, bring about general equality to all, and finally put humanity into a state of general peace that it always desired! Workers of the world unite! Hallelujah we found a solutio-
Oh no, The Ukrainians are starving… and so are the Chinese too…
Well maybe we can turn it around with some reforms, perhaps if we nudge this or fix tha-
Oh… The Russians are now capitalist and so are the Chinese…. Maybe we went a bit too far with those reforms and… oh who am I kidding, that didn’t work at all!
Well, that didn’t go too well. Maybe that’s what humanity gets for attempting to play God and manage things without the natural Darwinistic drive nature provides, but let’s not get too esoteric before the flagellants start marching the street, whipping themselves in repentance for the sins of Communism.
Central planning is obviously ineffective when looking back. There’s just too much for one group to do and manage. Hell, even our inter-dependent, capitalist society can barely manage itself given its size. However, more fundamentally than that, even in a socialist society, the iron law of oligarchy reigns supreme, that is, communists have their own red bourgeoisie who desire power and, once they get that power, they’ll execute upon it.
That seems to be something we all forgot, the market, primarily, is not a tool of resource distribution, it’s a tool of civil Darwinism. People want to win, they want to make sure that their side stay safe and ideally reproduces. Socialists forget that tribe is important when dealing with humans, despite often using this tactic to gain power. If you can’t construct an “Us vs Them” situation, then there is zero reason to confederate. Why would two communists work with each other if those communists have something to gain in competition? Stalin has Trotsky killed not for the sake of the revolution, but instead, power. The market provides a way of obtaining power that’s overt rather than covert. People need not hide their grasp for material value or influence behind notions of class consciousness and equality under a market system, they just grab at it overtly.
So, here we are again. The market is back, but not because the market is good, or the market is effective, like many boring right-wingers say, but instead because the market is a necessary expression of the human desire for power that does not contest with the more powerful violent monopoly. Violence is expensive, selling cakes is not. I can still win if I sell cakes rather than own an empire. My family will live off my income, and it’ll be a good deal for all.
But now, we’re mincing words. There are two definitions of market being used: a market of economy and a market of power. The former necessitates the latter, but the latter need not have the former. Maybe it’s about time we delve into this topic.
The Market of Power
The market of power consists of all avenues to power that are within a monopoly of violence that do not incur the monopoly of violence’s wrath. That is, these are methods of obtaining power that are not de jure illegal within a system. For example, making a lot of money (so long as you pay your legally required amount of taxes) is within the market of power, however, direct violence against another individual is not.
Let’s expand what is also banned in the market of power to include things that are de facto illegal. Within a market of power, there are moves so terrible that, if you make them, you’re bound to just categorically lose. These are actions that are completely punished, so much so, they might as well be considered de facto illegal. For example, at least in the contemporary west, outing yourself as any type of anti-Semite is a great way to lose a good chunk of your power. Funnily enough being light on dealing with child sexual abuse in your humanitarian agency and distribution of child pornography is not a way to lose power.
Some may object to this classification of a de facto illegalism as no single group, such as a government, is enforcing its illegality, however, this disregards the meaning of legality (and illegality). Legality pertains to rules, generally laws, but all rules can fall under this category. An illegal move in chess is not a crime, yet we still call it illegal. An illegal move in the market of power isn’t necessarily a crime, but the consequences of such a move could be worse than any criminal conviction. For this reason, I believe that, at least in consequence, de facto illegality should exist.
To draw another parallel, just for the sake of reinforcement, in economics it’s not against the law to sell a product below the cost of its own creation, however, doing so (long term that is), will kill your business due to a lack of funds. The move is illegal within the economic market and will be sanctioned heavily by the Darwinistic processes. Those who cannot fund themselves cannot create product, and if you cannot create product, you cannot sell product to continue creating product.
So, everything that doesn’t lead to you not being in power is a part of the market of power. That leaves a lot of room for things to be within the market of power. Business is obviously a part of that, but so is politics, education, media, religion, and, what you’ve been waiting for, labor unions!
The market of power is the truest interpretation of the market as a concept. Economics is only a small part of the entire system of exchanges and power that happens. You can redeem currency for social power, social power for cultural power, culture power for political power, etc. in a form of market-like exchange. Of course, when measuring something that isn’t material, you get into strange fuzziness that blurs what makes something valuable. If I pay for someone’s rent, and they provide me with an ins to a social club, how much value, numerically, am I getting in return? I don’t know, you don’t know, and nobody can likely quantify this, however, the exchange is still happening.
This concept even expands beyond the confines of our state’s monopoly on violence. States themselves play this game on a global scale, a global, free market of power if you will. This topic, thankfully, already has a name: Political Realism, so coining a new term to remember will not be necessary.
Everything discussed here is discussing the rules of the game we’re playing rather than instructions on how to play the game itself. It’s clear that markets of power exist on the interstate and intrastate level. To my knowledge, there is no better teleological explanation of our system than this that could pose as an alternative. The only thing I could think of would be an uncovering of more rules in a similar vain to the ones already discussed, but that would just mean that the concepts discussed here are subsumed within a bigger and similar concept, not a different one.
Unless you’re so pious you disregard the practical, or have some competing theory (and I’d love to hear it), then the market of power is legitimate, and the consequences of it must be legitimate too. Within the market of power, the institutions that have power are legitimate due to their ability to survive and slaughter competition. If we dismiss them because of these abilities, it’d be like dismissing disease, snakes, and bears as illegitimate because all of them can kill you. That’d be quite the blunder and that idea likely would die with you.
and finally: on Labor unions
So, because labor unions can broker for power in a meaningful way, and in some cases are powerful, I must recognize them as legitimate. However, this says nothing about my sympathy for them, if I have any at all, as that is a question of position within the world. If I am the worker, and the union was good to me, I would support an individual union. If I was a business owner, I would reject it unless it benefited me, or something greater than me I have sworn to protect (such as a personal morality).
Now, you may be disheartened. This answer is frankly boring and descriptive. It merely provides rules for finding an answer rather than an answer in itself. That’s on purpose, because Labor Unions, in my eyes, are not any special institution with intrinsic moral worth, but rather a brokering agency for a group. I see them as neutral parties that can swing for or against me, so, it all depends on if the labor union is my ally or not. This, bluntly, is the most pragmatic option and, to be pragmatic, is to survive. To survive, is something ultimately worth protecting.