A bit more on workplace freedom

You’ll find two responses from John Holbo and Henry Farrell to my initial post.  I recall also reading good posts from Modeled Behavior, Matt Yglesias, and here, and Miles Kimball, among others, on the topic.

In a sense, I don’t think Holbo and Farrell realize how “fundamental” my initial response was.  I don’t actually find “libertarianism and the workplace,” literally construed, to be a useful debate.  How about debating “the workplace”?  (I’ve declared my own allegiance to positive liberty some time ago, and I think this was even discussed on CT at the time.)  Or some specific proposed change to workplace law?  In general the CT blog, while overall excellent, suffers from the disease of spending way too much time on libertarianism as a target for not-so-empirical, mid-range conceptual blog posts which focus on doctrines and hypothetical philosophic comparisons rather than concrete results.  I view my own response as simply saying this: give me some (non-anecdotal) evidence, and give me some conceptual framework or model which implies something more definite than that we should maximize wealth, productivity, and move towards full employment, all good but uncontroversial ideas.  Give me something more than the time-honored arguments in favor of the civil rights movement.  Without those, in my view the initial complaint has not even been registered.  Reading the responses, I stick with my original sense, namely that a meaningful complaint has yet to be registered at all.

Comments

The responses to the CT post on libertarianism and the workplace just show how bankrupt libertarianism is "in action" -- it is a mere plaything, beautiful to look at, but one that has no real leverage in real situations

Funny, I think that it shows the reverse. The parade of horribles that the CT post imagines don't actually exist in the real world to a great degree, despite the existence of at-will employment. They don't exist in greater amounts than the similar horribles that are actually banned, simply because bans are not always obeyed.

To me, that demonstrates how CT liberalism has so little leverage in real situations. The history of legislation (on a variety of topics, starting at least with mandatory schooling, and including things like private racism and discrimination as well as overtime, pay, harassment) is that they can only be passed once a goal has largely been achieved (since both things are related to shifts in majority opinion). Legislation is primarily useful for forcing the recalcitrant minority to go along, and the smaller the problem gets, it becomes harder and harder to address the holdouts.

Ah, the standard "liberal policies aren't necessary because things were already changing" argument. What are you going to come up with next: that the Confederacy would have outlawed slavery within twenty years of winning the war?

Yes, the standard and factually correct argument. Sorry for dropping some truth on you.

So why did they destroy themselves fighting the war to defend slavery then? Ever heard of revealed preference?

Yes, the standard and factually correct argument. Sorry for dropping some truth on you.

You have a funny idea of what constitutes a "fact."

The history of legislation (on a variety of topics, starting at least with mandatory schooling, and including things like private racism and discrimination...) is that they can only be passed once a goal has largely been achieved

This is just plainly inaccurate as to private racism, at least. If you think the country, and especially the South, was a bastion of racil tolerance in 1964 you need to read a lot more history. One point you might reflect on is that the 1964 CRA was opposed almost unanimously by southern senators and representatives. That doesn't suggest that the goal had been largely achieved.

"One point you might reflect on is that the 1964 CRA was opposed almost unanimously by southern senators and representatives. That doesn’t suggest that the goal had been largely achieved."

Since the South represented less than one fourth of the country and the rest of the country had pretty much adopted a racially tolerant model, your own example fails. The goal had been largely achieved.

A majority of 3/4 of the population being racially tolerant and a minority of 1/4 of the population being racially tolerant is completely compatible with a majority of the population as a whole being racially intolerant.

But public opinion was in favor the CRA in 1964, so you've dodged the fallacy of composition bullet.

But you're not out of the woods, as it's not clear that the standard you are implying we use here is the same standard of being 'largely achieved' others would employ.

One might think that 1/4 of the US having a highly intolerant climate would be a rather clear sign that the goal of a racially tolerant United States had not been achieved. There are a lot of ways to formulate what, exactly, the goal is. Majority support across the population does not strike me as a a very good one.

Here is a very strong alternative: majority support for tolerance in every political community larger than a township. Weakened slightly: in every county. Weakened much more: in every state. Weakened even more: in each of the 4 geographic regions of the continental US (North East, South, Midwest, West). Surprise surprise, in 1964 we couldn't even claim to satisfy the weakest of those standards. So by that standard, racial tolerance remained largely unachieved. But hey, we satisfied 'in every country within the country', so I guess it was cool.

Honestly, what the hell are you talking about? Hundreds of thousands of people showed up for the March on Washington because the South, where a plurality of black people live(d), treated black people like shit at every instant since 1607 except at those times when coerced into an alternative policy by the armed forces of the Federal government of the United States. When you say "the Civil Rights Act was unnecessary; those goals were already achieved" you not only reveal your own gaping ignorance of real, as opposed to ideologically-convenient manufactured, American history, but you also spit on the monumental accomplishment and political courage of those who brought it about.

Moreover, the above historical analysis remains true in the present day, which is what makes the Law-and-Economics-generated assault on the Voting Rights Act either tragically misguided (generous interpretation) or a back-door strategy for re-establishing Jim Crow. Personally, I like the conclusion that an understanding of revealed preference leads me to draw.

Like gay marriage, for example.

I would make a comparison to free speech. Free speech (and restricting libel suits compared to, say, England) certainly allows lies to spread. The "guarantees of freedom" that Holbo and Farrell want in the workplace generally sound to me like the equivalent of asking that all newspaper articles about facts (and similarly, documentaries, etc.) be cleared through government fact-checking bureaus, etc. After all, no one is in favor of lying, right?

And yet liberals believe that as a practical matter, the contractual freedom of free speech works better than trying to guarantee truth directly. The marketplace of ideas generally works. Surely the CT folks can see that a same argument makes sense in the workplace?

(I will note that we do not extend free speech perfectly, however. For example, pharmaceutical companies and even General Mills in the case of Cheerios can be forbidden from pointed to independent scientific studies published in reputable journals, simply because that use of science has not been cleared through the FDA. There is no requirement to show anything like lying; it is illegal to simply mention the science if you're suspected of trying to sell something.)

And yet, free speech is limited by laws which make fraud, libel, slander, insider trading and other forms of speech, either tortious or criminal, justiciable. Counting these things as harms is, sometimes, a result of the evolution of common law doctrine, but is, in other instances, the result of statutory law (or both - see insider trading, where common law doctrine was strengthened and clarified by statutory law). None of these things necessarily rely upon a regulatory agency, but can also be, or often are, policed chiefly by private citizens.

And yet, for such a thing to occur, the state must nonetheless be relied upon, either through the legislature or the judiciary, in coming up with new legal doctrines, and then, through the judiciary, trying the relevant cases and awarding the appropriate damages and punishments. "Regulation" does not necessarily mean having to check everything with the FDA first. Rather, it can consist in merely creating new forms of liability and enforcing those liabilities.

An example of how one might do that is increasing and specifying the forms of liability one takes on when operating in a position of power over another (being their "boss.")

But, rather than advocate for the ability of workers to achieve compensation for harms done to them in the courts, the tendency is to assume that most harms which a worker undergoes in the course of their employment have simply been 'contracted away,' or implicitly consented to insofar as they don't quit when they are harmed or told to do something harmful.

This sort of implicit consent is not the same as, but is in analogy to, the consent one offers when, when held at gunpoint, one is asked to hand over their wallet. One *could* either hand over the wallet, or get shot, but, in principle, handing over the wallet does not mean you have implicitly consented to getting shot if you don't. Similarly, one *could* either stay at their station and piss themselves, or go to the bathroom and get fired, but pissing oneself does not necessarily mean you have implicitly consented to getting fired if you don't. That will depend upon a rather fraught debate about what counts as coercion and what counts as persuasion.

All excellent points GiT in replying to John.

Too often libertarians use sweeping claims that their rights are being violated in place of actually arguing the specifics of difficult cases. I do not see Tyler as doing that though. Maybe I'm wrong but I read him as simply claiming that cases like employers not allowing bathroom breaks are outliers that are too rare to need a legislative remedy.

People should not be physically assaulted for trying to urinate.

Are we done here?

> suffers from the disease of spending way too much time on libertarianism as a target for not-so-empirical, mid-range conceptual blog posts which focus on doctrines and hypothetical philosophic comparisons rather than concrete results

I think this is probably fair, but also applies pretty well to libertarianism itself as a political movement in the U.S. To oversimplify: libertarians tend to vote Republican, and modern-day Republicanism generally strikes me as almost the functional opposite of libertarianism: big-spending, militaristic and nationalistic, socially conservative, and frequently antagonistic to civil liberties. The affinity between libertarians and the Republican Party seem to be based much more on values, mood affiliation, and philosophical precepts than on any desired policy outcome.

Which is fine -- people can affiliate and vote however they want -- but it does tend to critics a bit crazy, even or especially when those critics might otherwise find much to admire in the libertarian value system. When libertarians themselves put such a strong emphasis on philosophy and have such little seeming interest in the political and social context as it actually exists, there is an overwhelming temptation to call bullshit on the entire enterprise.

"To oversimplify: libertarians tend to vote Republican...."

That seems to be a statement more about Democrats than libertarians.

"libertarians tend to vote Republican"

Government takes 40% of our economic freedom. You may like it, but that isn't individual freedom. Do they take 40% of our personal liberties? Aside from personal liberties being useless without resources, I doubt it. So, until those even out then the Republican bias.

It also takes 100% of other people's freedom via war, drones etc.

Are you suggesting that the Democrats act differently from the Republicans on this?

"To oversimplify: libertarians tend to vote Republican, and modern-day Republicanism generally strikes me as almost the functional opposite of libertarianism: big-spending, militaristic and nationalistic, socially conservative, and frequently antagonistic to civil liberties. "

Whereas Democrats are bigger spending, nearly as militaristic and nationalistic (in fact, more nationalistic and xenophobic in their protectionist impulses), and frequently hostile to civil liberties (Citizens United, which has send many Democrats into hysterics, was an enormous victory for free speech in the political arena--the most important arena). I goes without saying that Democrats are distinctly worse on economic freedom and nanny-statism. They talk a very slightly better game on the drug war--but this never has any positive effect when they are in power (federal marijuana dispensary raids have continued unabated under Obama -- and Biden, of course, is a major drug warrior who was responsible for ramming the 'RAVE act' through the senate). Democrats are better on gay rights, but are extremely timid in taking action (note Obama's preposterously slow 'evolving' opinions). And Democrats, unlike Republicans, often exhibit openly hostility toward libertarians -- the CT posts are good examples (and they are not outliers). Republicans think libertarians are eccentric -- Democrats think they're evil. But, in general, from a libertarian perspective, there are no good choices. Both parties suck -- it's just a question of which one sucks harder.

The more you libertarians write on this subject, the more you reveal how utterly unable your ideology is to deal with reality. You claim that the CT posters have not made the basic case that there's anything to be concerned about here--a conclusion that relies on a free-labor model where there can only be gains from a transaction both parties undertake voluntarily. But this ignores two fundamental facts about the world:

1. Voluntary participation does not entail that rights that should not be contractable are in reality contracted. Sexual harassment is the obviously relevant case here. People have a fundamental right not to be forced to have sexual relations with anyone against their will; that employees are put into that position is not defensible on the grounds that they're still better off than they would be as subsistence farmers. The same goes for ability to perform basic bodily functions, like urinating, or, say, breathing, which is why workplace safety regulations are sound policy. Anyone who takes rights seriously would see this--because they would have read and understood "The Impossibility of a Paretian Liberal."

2. The free-labor model also ignores coercion, where that means i. the ability of the employer or cartel of employers and their pawns who exercise state power to manipulate the outside option, and ii. the ability of the employer to punish those who leave or withhold their labor once a match is entered. If you're going to put so much weight on the bilateral optimality of the employer-employee relationship you need to take these possibilities seriously; instead, throughout this conversation the libertarian side has systematically ignored them, while blithely claiming that workplace manipulation does not occur in reality because this is not the ante-bellum south and that's all in the past. Not good enough.

And I haven't even mentioned the frictions and information asymmetries that make contracting over the entire workplace bargaining space infeasible.

In other words, you lost this highly consequential debate unless you can mount a stunning comeback. I look forward to reading it.

I think Tyler and co. are far ahead and I'm not a particular fan of libertarians. For most everything else the employer has the power to do whatever he wants because he's paying for performance. Laws against sexual harassment (anywhere) takes care of that case. I'm pretty sure libertarians are for laws against things like sexual harassment/assault and violence in general. Same for workplace safety, libertarians surely must support some law (endangering others or something) that covers that. Employees can slack off, cut corners, and hurt employers too so information asymmetries and whatnot are not a one-way street.

I do have some reservations and collusion is one of them. You see plenty of that even with all the regulations that exist, and that's what would be unfair in my opinion.

"Sexual harassment is the obviously relevant case here. People have a fundamental right not to be forced to have sexual relations with anyone against their will"

Prostitutes?

That, by the way, it seems to me, is very much not what 'sexual harassment' has been about for a while.

What about the concept of consent do you not understand? Or is the issue a fundamental discomfort with the fact that women (or blacks, or gays, or immigrants, or minimum-wage workers, or children, or the disabled, or the employees of companies owned by Bain Capital, or....) are people too?

WTF are you talking about?

If you could get a job anywhere you wanted the day after quitting a job where they asked you to have sex (again, that simply doesn't really happen to a great degree) where would consent enter in?

Consent "to permit, approve, or agree; comply or yield "
So, my boss comes and says "have sex with me or you are fired"
I don't consent: (A) I am raped (B) I get fired. (C) they were bluffing
I do consent (A) consensual sex (B) I still get fired (C) they were bluffing

You aren't talking about consent or coercion. What part of consent and coercion do you not understand? You are talking about threat of termination.

The question is whether sex, peeing, etc. different from other things your employer asks you for. You can do whatever you want, but people aren't generally going to pay you for that. So, who decides what is acceptable and what is not? Again, everyone claims CT isn't talking about regulation, but if not, then they are talking about nothing at all.

You have, literally, no idea what you're talking about. But I'll be sure to quote you when I need an example of a stunningly clueless libertarian.

you're missing the point, by just "assuming" what you think the libertarian position is. As BGR point out, libertarians have a very hard time coming up with a rationale on why anti-sexual harassment laws and workplace safety laws are legitimate - some of the libertarian comments here, such as Andrew' right below, seem to disagree that they are.

Once you accept those, though, it's actually quite hard to sustain a _principled_ argument against regulation, although, of course, it doesn't prevent your from making a pragmatic/empirical argument against any given piece of regulation - as I point out below, that position is far more common than libertarianism - it is often referred to as neoliberalism, a position taken by many policy advocates of the center-left (that's why, e.g., Obama has strengthened the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs).

I disagree. Libertarianism does not deny that coercion can exist at the workplace. The issue is how much coercion must exist before you have a violation of right, so that the government has to intervene to prevent the violation from happening.

The CT posters are unable to come up with any meaningful workers' rights that are currently unprotected. Employers cannot make rules or fire workers based on race, religion, sex, etc. Those limitations on employers are entirely consistent with libertarianism. They are clear violations of protected individual rights. Those categories are protected partly because they're inherent, and they generally have no rational connection to worker performance. But beyond those categories, it's hard to think of categories which should be protected by law because otherwise there would be a clear violation of employee rights.

The CT posters have yet to come up with a meaningful, articulable standard to regulate employer conduct beyond what is already protected. Beyond the obvious field of protections that are currently in place, you get into the murky area of regulating employee conduct that is rationally related to the employee's ability to do his job. You can come up with little instances of coercion, and indignities that workers must live through, but none of these examples rise to the level of a violation of a protected right that warrants the government to impose widespread regulations that affect not just the workers and employers, but also all prospective employees.

It's nice to read this ringing endorsement of the regulatory state on a libertarian blog. I suppose you supported the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act then, and abominated Ledbetter v. Goodyear?

It must be reassuring to have this argument always at one's disposal: "the status quo is precisely the optimal one for serving the interests you want to serve; any marginal movement in the direction you advocate would do more harm than good." In a way, it's the micro analog to the fallacy of the standard libertarian interpretation of the First Welfare Theorem: that the allocation that satisfies all the necessary criteria for individual freedom happens also to be the one that maximizes social welfare. Most people get over such grandiose wishful thinking by age eleven. Not here, apparently.

There are current workplace regulations that are unsupported by the argument (e.g. minimum wage), so it is hardly a statement that the status quo is optimal. Nor would I call it a "ringing endorsement of the regulatory state."

Also, I never said that the position maximizes social welfare. I was echoing Tyler's point that the CTers have yet to come up with any concrete, empirical examples of what exactly the problem is, what their proposal is to fix it, and by what standards this potential solution should be judged.

What are you talking about? The original CT post was chalk full of links to instances of workplace coercion--impermissible infringement of liberty--actually occurring in the contemporary workplace in the US. And it consisted of an argument that those abuses could be curtailed by a combination of regulation and workplace democracy, but that libertarianism has essentially no remedy to offer to such private tyranny. The libertarian response has essentially been "no biggie." And that just doesn't cut it--but it does lend credence to the claim that libertarians don't care about certain people.

Maybe an employer wants to search you because they want to make sure you haven't been stealing. Or an employer makes you wear X, or not wear Y. Or even tells you that you cannot do certain things out of the work place because it reflects poorly on the organization. Employers don't do this to be sadistic, they do this because there is some rational relationship between their rule and ensuring that the employee effectively carries out his or her job. When people contract for employment, they understand this and reasonably expect these types of things to happen and willingly contract with the employer to give up their freedom (i.e. it's voluntary). There might be a few extreme cases that do constitute coercion, but it is only coercion because it falls way outside the scope of what a reasonable person consents to do when they get hired. Not only are there legal remedies available for that, but these instances tend to be very, very rare as they hurt the employer - (1) they do little to make sure employees do their jobs more effectively, and (2) alienate potential talent. Enterprises that utilize such coercive rules is unlikely to be very successful. And those instances of employer misconduct are certainly not such a widespread phenomenon that they justify widespread reform. Maybe, I'm wrong and workplace coercion is a huge problem for people, but I have yet to see the evidence.

What widely-countenanced, utterly-factually-vacant libertarian shibboleth was missing from this thread before now? Oh yes, the myth of the self-regulating market. It would be against the employers' interest to commit fraud, breach contracts, or otherwise tyrannize their employees. Really, I swear!

Maybe the problem is libertarians trying to undermine, remove, and get rid of regulations on employer conduct.

And here we get to the crux of the matter.

The best freedom I can have is the freedom to choose whether I work for someone or not. That freedom comes from having skills, abilities, reputation, work ethic that put you in demand; you can choose to not work for an asshole. The second source is a vibrant economy where workers are in demand, giving them the choice to work for whom they want.

I would posit that the piling up of an even tighter regulatory structure in an attempt to create the perfect work environment is counterproductive. It raises the cost of labor, reducing the demand, thereby forcing people to do work in environments they would rather not. It also raises the demands of employers from their workers. The fixed costs are high, so more work has to be done to make hiring profitable, so less leeway can be allowed, taking away the freedoms that we may expect.

I have yet to see anyone in this discussion suggest that if we don't want to have to force people to pee in a cup, maybe we should change the regulations that force employers to force their employees to pee in a cup.

I would be pleased if there was a cease and desist order on issuing new regulations on top of the ones that already exist. That seems to make me a raving libertarian with no practical or empirical concepts, yearning for Somalia.

That's a fine rehashing of bloody obvious libertarian talking points. I'm not sure what it has to do with anything.

CG wrote this:

"Employers cannot make rules or fire workers based on race, religion, sex, etc. Those limitations on employers are entirely consistent with libertarianism. They are clear violations of protected individual rights. Those categories are protected partly because they’re inherent, and they generally have no rational connection to worker performance. But beyond those categories, it’s hard to think of categories which should be protected by law because otherwise there would be a clear violation of employee rights."

Such rights are under attack by libertarians (like yourself).

Ergo, I wrote that maybe part of what is being addressed is attacks on status quo rights which actually are seen as objectionable by libertarians. If that's the case than articulating *new standards* as CG demands, is not necessary. One need merely employ rearguard defenses.

*then articulating*, not *than articulating*

Well maybe I'm right and you are wrong. I seem to remember some discussion of outsourcing of jobs from the US. Could it be that we are getting exactly the response that is to be expected?

If you can call me a libertarian, can I call you a marxist?

Libertarianism does not deny that coercion can exist at the workplace.

Gee, you could have fooled me. It sure sounds like they do in fact deny it, with all the talk about "voluntary contracts," etc. In fact, I detect some rapid backpedaling on certain claims, especially relating to sex, because libertarians suddenly find that their fantasies about the workplace are just that - fantasies.

Are libertarians comfortable with laws that say, "employers cannot make rules or fire workers based on race, religion, sex, etc.?" I don't think so. They seem to regard such laws as intolerable infringements on individual liberty

A cunning demonstration of Poe's law. Well played, sir.

what an odd post. The whole debate started out with a post by three philosophers (one philosopher and two political theorists) using coercion at the workplace to critique the libertarian conception of freedom.
You don't have to respond to that post - you can say "I don't think philosophical debates on this are useful, I think we should talk about specific policy" and leave it at that. But that's not what you do. The phrase "I don’t actually find 'libertarianism and the workplace,' literally construed, to be a useful debate." Isn't in your initial post, nor is anything resembling it.
If you do want to claim to respond to an argument (which is what you call your initial post on this), you have to actually address the argument - an argument about libertarianism and private forms of coercion - and can't just make up what you want to talk about.

More generally - is an abstract debate about libertarianism relevant? Well, on an academic level it certainly is (and CT has always been, among other things, an academic blog) - while not hugely influential, libertarianism is an important strand in political philosophy, so it makes sense to deal with it.
I would also argue that it is on a broader societal level. Many people find libertarianism attractive because they see it as a coherent, rigorous philosophy. Many people are attracted to, e.g., the Libertarianism of Ron Paul because they find his strict adherence to a set of relatively simple rules attractive. For a political philosopher moonlighting as a public intellectual, addressing such a philosophy and its flaws is exactly what you'd expect and IMHO quite useful.

Once you take away the theoretical rigor from libertarianism, you're left with a somewhat skeptical attitude towards regulation and the state and a pragmatic view towards regulation. That stance is commonly referred to as neoliberalism.

I think this is a fair point.

Agreed. To enter the debate then withdraw, saying you thought it was not even a debate all along, is really just trolling.

Two things are quite separately immensely uninteresting and unimportant -- Crooked Timber and libertarianism.

It's not coercion, but whatever. And they aren't talking about regulation, supposedly, so it's kind of hard to figure out what they are talking about.

Has there ever been a single firm, ever whose policy was to sexually harass? Seems kind of far-fetched. I'm pretty sure that plenty of management is concerned enough with individual manager misbehavior to make it a rarity. The point is they are concerned and act individually. No problem. Of course undesired sexual advances happen plenty in prison and in the military and academia and probably in bureaucracies, but that's another discussion.

Their apparently central claim that libertarians are either liberals or don't like freedom is like telling the guy in the runaway trolley thought experiment that he is either a murderer or a mass murderer. Or your definitiof of murder is wrong. (1) our definition of freedom can be different: e.g., we put non-zero emphasis on the freedom of association of employers. Just because they are on the money side of the trade doesn't negate their rights. (2) Our definition of caring is different: once we care about something that doesn't mean it is right or appropriate to deal with it from the UN, or DC, or State Capital, or County Seat, or city council. One can care about a lot more than their limited capacity to act on it. (3) Participation is a big deal. I can disapprove of prostitution, and I can disapprove non-prostitutes being sexually propositioned for fear of termination, but I'm not on the hook for it. If I participate in regulation I am responsible for that. If I do, it is highly likely that the individual freedom of the employer, co-workers, or the relationship between employer and employee will be to some degree tread upon. (4) You certainly can contract yourself into slavery, but I think people are confusing contract. You can also break contracts. The government can refuse to enforce contracts.

James Fitzjames Stephen understood why this is such a silly and fundamentally unprofitable debate:
http://oll.libertyfund.org/?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=572&chapter=39280&layout=html&Itemid=27

"Discussions about liberty are in truth discussions about a negation. Attempts to solve the problems of government and society by such discussions are like attempts to discover the nature of light and heat by inquiries into darkness and cold. The phenomenon which requires and will repay study is the direction and nature of the various forces, individual and collective, which in their combination or collision with each other and with the outer world make up human life. If we want to know what ought to be the size and position of a hole in a water pipe, we must consider the nature of water, the nature of pipes, and the objects for which the water is wanted; but we shall learn very little by studying the nature of holes. Their shape is simply the shape of whatever bounds them. Their nature is merely to let the water pass, and it seems to me that enthusiasm about them is altogether thrown away."

"Give me something more than the time-honored arguments in favor of the civil rights movement."

That's a big one. It's a bit like saying "give me something more than the ultraviolet catastrophe as arguments against the naive application of classical physics to blackbody radiation".

The idea is basically the same (a de facto cartel in a position of power with state cooperation setting up rules, arbitrary or not) so of course the argument is going to be the same.

Roman law defined private property as total dominance over a thing (dominum) -- so much so that beyond that definition Roman property law is basically a series of exceptions to the definition of private property. Libertarianism strikes me the same way. Absolute freedom in the marketplace leads to a social optimum except when it doesn't (segregation, sexual harassment).

I am also always wary as a rule when someone says "Reading the responses, I stick with my original sense". It's a huge red flag. 'I've seen all the evidence and stick to my original conclusion' said the human with the cognitive biases.

"If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance to his instincts, he will accept it even on the slightest evidence."

Both sides (Henry vs Yglesias -- Cowen seems to have his mind made up in advance) have made excellent points. I for one have a hard time thinking how you could construe "monitoring" legally so as to avoid both your boss reading your email or standing over you and your boss measuring your hours worked vs the budget. With sticky prices, limited job changes and short lifespan of the typical business, I also don't see how bad work environments would be quickly priced into labor contracts. It's like an infrequently traded stock that's around for only a couple years. It's not going to be priced accurately. And that's without the sticky prices.

If you've been following this, remember Matt's example of $8 with searches vs $7/hour without? If they both started at $8, how would the other one drop to $7 with sticky prices except over years of inflation? If they both started at $7 and one raises its wages to $8 the other job would have to raise its prices to compete for labor during the period before people started to get sick of being searched. How does this price stay in equilibrium when one business or the other is going to have better years ... wage price signals workplace conditions as well as profitability of the company. You'd have to subtract out the history of profits from the companies to determine the wage as a price signal for workplace conditions. That defeats the purpose of the price mechanism!

"That’s a big one. It’s a bit like saying “give me something more than the ultraviolet catastrophe as arguments against the naive application of classical physics to blackbody radiation”."

Well that is like a liberal asking a conservative for something more than time-honored arguments in favor of constitution.

You can have even MORE workplace freedom than you ever imagined.

Just get an advanced degree in science: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/us-pushes-for-more-scientists-but-the-jobs-arent-there/2012/07/07/gJQAZJpQUW_story.html?hpid=z1

If there is no workplace, you have all the freedom in the world.

Tyler says: "Give me something more than the time-honored arguments in favor of the civil rights movement."

Heresy!

Didn't Mary Parker Follett deal with this point in Dynamic Administration? From page 59:

'the head of the sales department does not give orders to the head of the production department, or vice versa. Each studies the market and the final decision is made as the market demands. This is ideally what should take place between foreman and rank and file and between any head and his subordinates. One person should not give orders to another person but both should agree to take their orders from the situation. If orders are simply part of the situation, the question of someone giving and someone receiving does not come up. Both accept the orders given by the situation. Employers accept the orders given by the situation; employees accept the orders given by the situation. This gives, does it not, a slightly different aspect to the whole of business administration through the entire plant?'

46 comments and zero with scientifically sound empirical evidence around the subject (unless I missed something).

Politics isn't about policy.

The debate is between deontological libertarians like Rothbard and the folks at CT. It totally collapses when presented to real life consequentialist libertarians.

News flash! Deontological libertarians don't make sense to aome of us either. You can't argue us out of our pragmatic views based upon an assault of some belief in Platonic Liberty which leaves most of us scratching our heads too. Yes, uncle Murray is a little daffy. What of it?

DING! DING! We have a winner: +1000.

Working in a strenuous workplace is one of the worst places to be. Having a bit of freedom within he workplace is essential to make all the employees happy. I review products on anything to do with becoming a millionaire and our employer makes sure that we're happy in the workplace and we have a healthy relationship with our coworkers.

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