Posts tagged Karen De Coster

Credit where credit’s due

In my recent post on Rothbard’s position on children’s rights, I lodged a pretty broad complaint against paleolibertarian writing on the family, paternal authority over children, and parental violence against children. In particular I mentioned the paleo crew’s embrace of conservative ideas about child-rearing, their fevered praise for parental rights over their children (which is really nothing more than the states’ rights argument writ small), and their occasional supportive shout-outs to conservative child-beating advocacy. But here’s a couple of cointervailing points of light, in the interest of fairness.

First, I had some fairly harsh things to say about Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s writing on the so-called traditional family, and the internal layers and ranks of authority within it. Given that this was in the context of a discussion on the Rothbardian view on children’s rights, David K. was right to point out that the discussion needs a bit of complication — because Hoppe has actually defended the plumbline Rothbardian view on children’s rights to run away:

It is worth mentioning that the ownership right stemming from production finds its natural limitation only when, as in the case of children, the thing produced is itself another actor- producer. According to the natural theory of property, a child, once born, is just as much the owner of his own body as anyone else. Hence, not only can a child expect not to be physically aggressed against but as the owner of his body a child has the right, in particular, to abandon his parents once he is physically able to run away from them and say no to their possible attempts to recapture him. Parents only have special rights regarding their child—stemming from their unique status as the child’s producers—insofar as they (and no one else) can rightfully claim to be the child’s trustee as long as the child is physically unable to run away and say no. (A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism, ch. 2, fn. 9)

… which is worth noting in Hoppe’s favor. Hoppe’s problem — and it is a serious problem, worthy of exactly the sort of criticism I’ve directed against it and more — is not with his view on parental coercion but rather his views on parental authority — apparently to be defended by means bullheaded cause-I-say-so unilateralism, deliberate cruelty, withholding, browbeating, guilt-tripping, bullying, and so on, rather than by resort to physical violence or legal coercion. Which is an advance, no doubt, over efforts to enforce it by physical violence or legal coercion. But still not much in the way of civilization, and certainly not (as Hoppe would have it) a bulwark for resistance to governmentalism. However, it is worth noting that while Hoppe’s writing on parental authority is some of the worst that contemporary libertarianism has to offer, it is in an important respect different from someone like, say, Karen De Coster, who writes openly in favor of beating children in the name of discipline. (I’d offer a good link, but her recent post on the topic seems to have gotten shredded by her blog software.)

Secondly, in a far more positive note, I’d like to take notice of a fine post Ryan McMacken put up recently at the LewRockwell.com blog, against institutionalized schooling. Opposition to creeping authoritarianism in government schooling isn’t actually that exceptional — it’s one of the things that even fairly conservative homeschoolers tend to get right — but what I really appreciate here is where he mentions, inter alia:

It turns out that children are rational beings who should not be coerced and hounded every second of their waking lives. Indeed, children have an innate sense of the importance of learning and the importance of justice. Unfortunately, most adults beat these impulses out of children as soon as they can. Besides, a free spirited individualist of a child is harder to control, so it’s all the better that we ship them off to school where they can be taught to obey, and where they can be taught that learning is an onerous task that is to be completed when demanded by some unbearable schoolmarm.

… Incidentally, if you ever want to see me fly off the handle, just start in about how children don’t pay their elders enough respect or that kids these days are more rotten than during the good ‘ol days. I’m sure you’ll see that vein on the side of my forehead really get going. In my experience, most adults get all the respect they deserve: virtually none at all.

— Ryan McMacken, LewRockwell.com Blog (2009-06-14): The evils of preschooling

So, like I said: there’s a lot of awful stuff coming from paleos and more conventional conservatarians about parenting and children’s rights. But, hey, credit where credit’s due.

King Ludd’s throne

Over at LewRockwell.com Blog, Karen De Coster recently posted about Ford’s Camaçari assembly plant in Brazil, taking it as an opportunity to complain about the way union thugs [sic] run Ford’s business in Estadounidense assembly plants, and how Ford may have trouble introducing a similar manufacturing model in U.S. plants because the UAW is hesitant. Other than noting that the stories are little more than a couple of glorified Ford Motor Company press releases, passed off as journalism by the Detroit News, I don’t have anything in particular to say about the set-up Camaçari, or for that matter about Ford Motor Company or the UAW. (I consider the both of them to be brontosaurs of state capitalism — massive, slow, stupid, and probably doomed to extinction.) But I do want to mention De Coster’s boilerplate complaints against labor unions, and what they presuppose.

De Coster, like lots of other anti-union libertarians, claims that unions are economically harmful because they’re toxic to efficiency and flexibility. The idea is that organized workers will tend to use their organization to oppose advances like automation, technological upgrades, flexible job duties, and reorganization of processes for greater efficiency. Partly because union contracts tend to preserve old job descriptions in amber, to better mark off each worker’s turf, and partly because organized workers will use their coordinated bargaining power to oppose anything that reduces organized workers’ hours or introduces new, not-yet-unionized (or differently-unionized) jobs into the shop. I don’t necessarily find this complaint very persuasive. But. hell, let’s grant most of it, for the sake of argument. Suppose that a union like the UAW does tend to block upgrades for greater efficiency and flexibility. If that’s true, why is it true? Because the unionized workers don’t own the means of production.

It’s no surprise that there would be conflicts between the interests of the workers and the interests of the boss and board when it comes to innovation in shop-floor technology or processes. For a wage laborer, sometimes new technology and new processes mean easier and better work to do; often they mean that your hours will be cut or you’ll lose your job entirely. In any case they will be deployed and integrated into the flow of work according to what the boss finds most useful; they may very well result in you, as a wage laborer, getting stuck with speed-ups or harder work.

None of this is a decisive argument against innovations in shop-floor technology or processes; sometimes things have to change, and change can be hard. But it is a natural source of conflicts between labor and capital. When workers are organized — and when the goals of the organized workers are limited to eking out the highest hourly wages and benefits, the most reliable hours, and the easiest conditions, that they can get within the existing ownership structure and business model of the corporation, through stage-managed labor actions, back-room negotiations with the boss, and multiyear fixed contracts, while the boss and the board keep ahold of final control over conditions on the shop-floor and most or all of the residual profits from any efficiency improvements, what you’ll tend to see is a perpetual collision between a small but powerful coterie of managers and owners, who have every reason to try to shove new processes and technologies down their employees’ throats, to the extent that they can get away with it, and a consolidated mass of workers who have little reason to care about starving themselves lean in order to fatten profits that don’t go to them. Why should workers want to do more work faster, or to take on more flexible job descriptions, if they only stand to lose hours or subjected to speed-ups for their trouble? Both workers’ livelihoods and process efficiency get caught in the crossfire.

But the business model offered by that small coterie, and the union organizing model offered by that consolidated mass aren’t the only business models or union organizing models on offer, and the fact that they are so prevalent in American heavy industry today is the direct result of a series of political decisions and a system of government economic regimentation that allowed that business model and that organizing model to shove alternatives out of the way. Alternatives like that offered by the Industrial Workers of the World and other state-free wildcat unions, which called not for a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work, but rather for abolishing the wage system, and replacing it with worker ownership of the means of production, coordinated through decentralized, participatory unions.

If the workers themselves jointly own the means of production, then the union has no reason to sandbag efficiency upgrades: if organized workers keep most or all of the residual profits then they have every reason to want more flexible job descriptions, more efficient processes, and greater integration of labor-saving technology. Maybe it’ll mean fewer hours of labor; but since the worker keeps the increased profits, the reduction of hours is a net gain rather than an economic blow. And if workers make agreements amongst themselves as to the conditions of their own labor, they have little reason to want their specific role in the shop written on tablets of stone, and little reason to fear new processes or technology which they are free to take up or not to take up on their own terms and at their own pace, rather than as dictated by a chain of command.

De Coster trashes the UAW for responding to the incentives that the wage system presents for their workers; but rather than getting rid of the UAW, the better solution would be to quit the griping and change the incentives. There is no natural connection between labor organizing, on the one hand, and Luddism or labor-contract sclerosis, on the other. It’s a matter of the artificially rigidified economics of state-subsidized corporate capitalism, and the artificially narrowed vision of the state-patronized establishmentarian labor movement. The only reason that centralized, state capitalist corporations like Ford find themselves confronting top-heavy establishmentarian unions like the UAW over efficiency upgrades is that the both of them have conspired — with the active patronage and regulatory encouragement of the United States federal government — to sustain a business model in which the vast majority of workers have no stake in, and thus little or no natural interest in, the efficiency of the shop, and little or no control over how new processes or new technology, if implemented, will affect the hours and conditions of their labor.

The solution isn’t more ruthless corporate union busting; the solution is to strike at the root of the problem, by abolishing the government economic regimentation that sustains both establishmentarian unionism and state capitalism. If the UAW is cut free from the smothering patronage of the State, and becomes what union so often were before the Wagner/Taft-Hartley era — a wildcat industrial union, free to play hardball and free to set its sights not just on negotiated wage and benefits settlements, but on the unionized workers themselves owning the shop, the machine and the tools — then King Ludd’s throne will crumble out from under him, and you’ll soon start to see unions that not only accept, but champion innovations in technology and industrial processes. If workers own the shop, why wouldn’t they want to increase their own efficiency? After all, they get to keep the difference.

See also:

Oops. Our bad.

In Lawrenceburg, Indiana last week, Kayla Irwin, a young single mother, got served and protected by a paramilitary police attack squad:

A SWAT team raids the wrong home in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, now the homeowner wants some answers.

Police said they were led to the Village Apartments on the trail of fugitive Sean Deaton.

Convinced he was inside apartment 407G, the Lawrenceburg SWAT unit surrounded the building.

It looked like they were ready to go to war, one neighbor said. Some of the ones out here had AR15’s and shotguns.

Neighbors said police spent hours, ordering Deaton to surrender.

But when that didn’t work, they responded with tear gas and forced entry.

— NBC News: SWAT Team Mistake Leaves Woman’s Home Wrecked

Only one problem. It turns out that the reason he didn’t come out to surrender is because he was never fucking there in the first place. They had the wrong apartment.

It looked like my apartment was on fire. The smoke was just blowing out of my windows, Kayla Irwin, the tenant of 407G said.

Irwin, a single mother of two, said she is unable to live in her apartment and didn’t even know the man police were searching for.

Now, she said, she has been left with the mess and no apology.

It’s all covered with poison. I don’t know where to start over with two kids, said Irwin. How do you start with replacing the items that your kids have had since the day they were born?

— NBC News: SWAT Team Mistake Leaves Woman’s Home Wrecked

You can see what the assault squad left when they were done in the video news story. The windows are all boarded up. The inside looks like a disaster area. The reporter who did the story still couldn’t stay in the apartment for long before the lingering tear gas residues made it intolerable to stand inside. Ms. Irwin’s neighbor, Emanuel Brightwell, a soldier who had just come back from clearing landmines in Iraq, said that he’d never seen anything like it, and that while the cops were ransacking her place, it looked like they were enjoying what they were doing. They did not need to do all this.

Irwin said she appealed to the police, but hasn’t gotten anywhere.

They basically just said, sorry for the inconvenience. Go ahead and clean it up. Clean up our mess, Irwin said.

She said she’s had to borrow everything from family in the week since the incident.

She also said she can’t stay in the apartment because of the acrid gas residue.

An assistant chief and another officer were at the Village Apartments talking to Irwin telling her that they would try to get some money so she could clean her clothes and furnishing on her own.

This is the first time this has happened. I’m surprised the incident has not been remedied. We will take care of it the best we can, the assistant chief said.

— NBC News: SWAT Team Mistake Leaves Woman’s Home Wrecked

Note that the boss cops had refused to do this, and barely even offered an apology for the damage that their own employees had caused, until the local TV news got involved. Once a reporter called the police department for a statement, it took about 30 minutes for an assistant police chief to make his way down to her apartment complex and make some vague offers to try and rustle up some petty cash to help her get her clothes and furniture cleaned.

In the real world, outside of statist power trip la-la land, when you fuck up somebody’s life like that and trash their house, all due to a mistake, you pay for what you did. That’s how civilized people step up and try to make it right. At a minimum, that would mean paying her expenses and her rent for the time she was unable to live in her own home, paying for a professional cleaning of the apartment, paying to replace anything that their goon squad destroyed, and paying restitution for the family pet that they killed in the process. Also, in the real world, when you have make this kind of thing right, you pay for it; you don’t just get to send a bill to a bunch of unwilling third parties who never agreed to get involved. Here, the people who pay for it should be the cops who trashed her house and the police commanders who ordered them to do it. And I mean pay for it out of their own personal accounts. Of course, public servants that they are, they will instead pass along whatever costs their fuck-up may incur straight to a bunch of innocent taxpayers who had nothing to do with the raid.

If you want to know why cops keep forming heavily-armed elite goon squads, and keep on indulging in this sort of macho paramilitary dick-swinging exercise, no matter how many times they end up ruining, hurting, or killing innocent people in the process, well, that’s the reason right there.

(Story via Karen De Coster @ LewRockwell Blog 2007-11-21.)