Wel, it really comes down to what you define as capitalism.
Myself, since the capitalist system is pretty much just keeping the fruits of your labor, and all the accretions that implies (banks, savings and loans, insurance companies etc), it could be argued that any sort of top-down or centrally organised wealth re-distribution is at root anti-capitalist, and I include in that tarriffs, protectionism, etc.
In short, any time competition is artificially limited by central or planned mechanisms, capitalism is limited. If there is no free trade, and no free market, there is no capitalism.
But as a logical purist, I fail to see how workers’ banding together to make a profit is any different philosophically from owners’ banding together to make a profit. What is bad about labor unions, so long as they’re non-violent?
Well, I would consider owners banding together to make a profit anti-capitalistic as well. Its just another restriction of the market, in this case a private restriction, but a restriction none the less.
This is one of the things I dont like about unions. While it is rightfully illegal for two competing grocery stores (or anything) to set prices together, and thus restrict the market, two union electricians competing in the same town allready have a floor beneath which they are not free to charge. And in states where it is impossible to work as an electrician without being in a union, this is uncapitalistic, as it is an artificial restriction on the market.
I say, if workers want to form their own “corporation” - the union - and sell their labor to another corporation, then that’s just good business. Whatever terms they want to negotiate (benefits, seniority, work rules, exclusivity, etc.) are between the two entities. Let the market provide the consequences.
And thats fine. Until that union starts to lobby government, at usually the state level, to enact legislation which effectively stiffles anyone but the union from being able to negotiate with that corporation. Or to enact legislation taking workers choice out of the matter, in effect granting unions a monopoly on labor.
Conversely, I fail to see how workers’ seeking government protection (e.g., minimum wage, overtime rules, occupational safety, etc.) is really any different from corporations’ seeking government protection (e.g., limited liability, subsidies, bailouts, etc.)
Well, companies seeking and getting subsidies, bailouts etc is anti-capitalistic as well, and shouldnt happen either. But the equivelant to that is not overtime rules, occupational safety etc, its welfare, unemployment insurance, etc.
So why do conservatives/libertarians paint labor unions black and “private enterprise” white?
As for myself, its because while private enterprise has largely learned and adapted to economic realities in the past 100 years, unions are pretty much the same as they were 100 years ago. Not all private enterprise is ‘white’; there are still many industries that were protected during the cold war that should no longer be getting the protection. Just because something is a private industry doesnt mean that there is a free market.
Unions came about as a result of lack of competition (lack of capitalism) in business; it was a time when government granted/protected monopolies were commonplace. Its one thing to say one doesnt need to unionize in a town of mutiple industries/companies; if you dont like the conditions where you work, you go somewhere else. But a town with one major industry, no place else to go to get work, is ripe for unionization.
Which is why the largest gains in union membership are in industries that dont really have competition, namely government workers. And the industries with big declines in union memberships are ones that used to be more protected but now are less so, such as the auto industry.
Workers have far more choices as to where they labor and for whom or what; when institutionalized protectionism declines, so does institutionalized protective reactions to it.
What am I missing here?
-Puzzled in the South **
No offense, but I think your confusing the theory of unions as you state it with the reality of unions as it is, and thats what youre missing.
If all unions were was ~workers’ banding together to make a profit~, negotiating contracts with companies etc, I wouldnt personally have a problem with them. But unfortunately unions are to a large extent just medieval trade guilds, existing not so much to have bargaining weight to their members but also to restrict the number of people able to get work in order to artificially increase their own gains. And yes, companies that do the same thing are just as wrong and just as anti-capitalistic.