[Marxism] Recommended Reading | Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Jul 3 13:23:56 MDT 2018

An excerpt from “Capitalism vs. Freedom: the Toll Road to Serfdom“:

Labor’s Loves Lost

Having reviewed the strong concentration of capital ownership, both in 
household fortunes as well as market consolidation, what about labor? 
The Right’s take on the freedom of the labor market is that it leaves us 
free to choose among multiple uses for our labor, protecting you from 
power plays by a tyrannical boss, as when Milton Friedman wrote:

The most reliable and effective protection for most workers is provided 
by the existence of many employers…The employers who protect a worker 
are those who would like to hire him. Their demand for his services 
makes it in the self-interest of his own employer to pay him the full 
value of his work. If his own employer doesn’t, someone else may be 
ready to do so. Competition for his services—that is the worker’s real 

The first serious problem with these rosy reviews of the market is that 
after the previous section, it must be admitted that the “many 
employers” the Friedmans are expecting may never arrive to the job fair. 
And they do quietly concede that “Two classes or workers are not 
protected by anyone: workers who have only one possible employer, and 
workers who have no possible employer,” which makes consolidation and 
outsourcing very relevant for freedom.

The second great problem is that, fundamentally, people are in fact not 
commodities. A seller of non-perishable goods can store them until 
market conditions are favorable. This patience is unavailable for owners 
of mere labor power, who stubbornly require food and water at regular 
intervals. The kid can’t skip eating this quarter and eat more next 
quarter instead. Treating labor as an asset priced by supply and demand, 
like toasters or toothbrushes, is a gross insult to the human spirit and 
indeed, is responsible for some of the gravest crimes committed against 
humanity in our history.

A further problem is that this traditional claim that the labor market 
is “free” is based on another assumption, that if you don’t find an 
employer you want to work for, you can just produce goods on your own. 
Friedman: “Since the household always has the alternative of producing 
directly for itself, it need not enter into any exchange unless it 
benefits from it. Hence, no exchange will take place unless both parties 
do benefit from it.” This would indeed grant a good deal of freedom to 
the man on the street, but “producing for itself” implies access to 
productive resources, including what we call “capital,” which as we’ve 
seen is so highly concentrated that a very large part of global society 
has essentially none. This means that since we have no “positive 
freedom” to use or decide on how to use the capital stock, the typical 
working person is also left with diminished “negative freedom,” since 
employers who own the concentrated capital have dramatic power over 
employees in the market.

Order book here

full: https://louisproyect.org/2018/07/03/recommended-reading/

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