With technology enabling more peer-to-peer connections, the game changes. If you're a productive plumber, why join a company and work for a salary when you can work directly for the consumer and enjoy higher margins (and higher risk)? However, as time goes on, more plumbers will make the same decision and enter the market. This results in a more efficient economy: more people can get plumbing at lower prices, and more people can work as plumbers.
But what if some business owners cost structures (due to mismanagement, poor productivity) do not result in good wages? (eg, XYZ Plumbing struggles to stay in business while ABC is doing just fine). Or what if the market forces end up in a clearing price that's too low? In today's economy, it's considered normal for some businesses to shut down if they cannot make money (know of a restaurant that has closed due to COVID?). But do we as a society want individuals taking on that much risk? If not, how can we insure against that risk?
Overall, this means individuals are free to attempt different employment at market rates. That could even be below the guaranteed government wage, just there’ll be no subsidies that if individual can’t make the economics work out.
Hard to argue that the 1.2% employment rate in 1944 wasn’t helping drive the economy forward.
I have an image in my head of all my neighbors working at the same company. WTF would we be doing?
I’m a software engineer, my wife a reporter, my next door neighbor a nurse, the guy across the hall plays video games all day. His girlfriend is a cleaning lady.
This doesn’t include the sex offender down the street, the guys who shoot guns in the middle of the night, the drug addicted and mentally ill who hang out near the bus station, or any other “hard cases.”
So what would we be doing?
(Expanding on edit...) And really, infrastructure is about building the solid foundation on which the nation runs. Fix the digital infrastructure at all levels of government. Put out wild fires, and provide other emergency relief. You're already paying people; that's generally the expensive part...
We could certainly build a construction corps. But I don’t think many people in my neighborhood could be part of it.
Modern construction is far more technical than in the 1930s. Failure isn’t tolerated. Environmental impact statements are needed.
It’s insulting to the highly trained construction workers to say the average person could be conscripted into doing their job.
Most previous mass mobilizations focused on young men.
I still can’t imagine what sort of work my neighbors and I would be doing.
Not building roads, that’s for sure. Lots of bad backs.
Targeting 100% employment is a way of providing a UBI while also allowing the government to extra some value. It doesn’t particularly matter what they do, the government is just subsidising some economic activity (But the money is already spent, they just need a place to spend the labor, which is a good that is taxed by time itself). Works could be provided to companies or industries that are deemed a social good even. Maybe it is advantageous for a government to subsidise farms with labor instead of dollars due to the stability 100% employment could give to people.
I think you’re missing the overall point, though, which is that this is the default case. There’s nothing stopping a worker from getting hired at a private entity for whatever wage they want. You can still be a software engineer at your company, your wife still report. What it guards against is labor being priced below the government’s rate unless there is another reason to take the job.
The original commenter asked for a way to mitigate risk of people becoming independent contractors competing to a below market wage, this is one solution that seems to alleviate that risk by providing a minimum market wage.
Why not? Maybe we have fewer plumbers at higher prices, but we also have a saying: "you get what you pay for."
We insure against it by making sure there is always an alternative job they can go to in the local area paying the living wage.
A Job Guarantee.
Then people are encouraged to have a go and take the risk since there is little to lose. The Job Guarantee can be calibrated so that it will pay people setting up businesses their wage for a few months so they can get established - and they have access to that service once every, say, five years to stop Phoenix operations.
And of course having access to an alternative job paying the living wage means businesses have to pay the living wage to get any labour - and set their hours accordingly. No more trying to squeeze out profits by exploiting staff. Instead only businesses with genuine value add survive.
Having a powerful Federal automatic stabiliser isn't just good for the demand level in the economy. It ensures that bad businesses die, and the good ones survive. Just like thinning a forest.
They're made up and arbitrary. The best definition I have seen is that someone is a monopoly if they haven't made enough campaign contributions and weild enough political influence to appease government bureaucrats from shaking them down. The exception is for a monopoly created by the government itself by legislation/regulation giving someone special privileges or banning competitors.
I challenge a reply to this comment for a definition of monopoly that rational+reasonable people could use to unambiguously differentiate between business that are and are not a monopoly (asside from the one I gave above).
I like Walter Block's joke on monopolies. He starts with 3 prisoners in a gulag who are chatting amongst themselves about how they got there. First guy, "I was always late to work. I was accused of depriving the Soviet people of my labour, so was sent to the gulag." The second guy, "gosh, I was always early. They accused me of being selfish and ambitious: trying to brown-nose and get ahead of my fellow workers, so I got sent here too." The last guy, "I was always precisely on time. They said I must be a spy and accused me of having a western wristwatch."
The same joke applies to monopolies. Three businessmen are all accused of being monopolists and are sent to prison. First guy, "I was charging more than my peers. They accused me of price gauging." Second guy, "I was charging less than everybody else, they accused me of undercutting the competition." Last guy, "I charged exactly the same as my competitors: I got charged with collusion and participation in a cartel."
Does your water heater produce hot water? We can decide this unambiguously if you provide your required temperature and the actual temperature you are getting.
Despite the lack of a universal definition of "hot", we can unambiguously determine if your water is hot or not.
For your water heater, you probably set the threshold based on how much you enjoy your shower, how well your dishes get clean, and so on. For a monopoly, we can set the threshold at the point where there is an unacceptable amount of market control.
Measurement of market control is more difficult than measurement of water temperature, but that is no excuse to give up. We measure beauty, intelligence, bad driving, poverty, odor, and misery.
Perhaps you want to try again?
Define "reckless driving", so we know who the police should stop and who should be charged with that crime. (or we just give up on that concept?)
Define "nuisance odor", so we can fine or arrest people who make entire neighborhoods unlivable. (or we let a condo smell like a huge industrial pig farm?)
Define "mentally disabled", so that we can pursue rape charges (due to inability to consent) or appoint a financial caretaker. (or we just let the profoundly unintelligent get abused?)
Life and law are full of fuzzy judgement. Pretending otherwise is a terrible idea.
The corresponding concept in "market control" is a free market, where nobody gets to declare by fiat what the threshold is for an "unacceptable" level of market control.
So your analogy leads us to the conclusion that antitrust laws should be abolished.
Companies are rarely leaders, most boardrooms are execs asking what their competitors are doing so they can mimic it.
Specifically, actor 2, who charges less than the competitors. Unless actor 2 is both a) selling at less than cost and b) either a de-facto monopoly supplier or is acting in concert with most other significant suppliers, then there is no monopoly issue.
The issue is complicated if the low-cost supplier satisfies condition a by using its monopoly to strong-arm one or more of its suppliers into giving it preferential treatment, but the consequence of this is that not all valid cases are acted on.
 "strong-arming" is left undefined, but let's continue.
Plenty of businesses have run into problems without doing this. You also use circular reasoning when saying there's no monopoly issue unless there's a monopoly issue.
Your paraphrase is inaccurate. The point is that undercutting the opposition is not, in itself, monopolistic.
The latest attempt to patch the issue is to force reclassification of many independent contractors into employees. What unforeseen effects might this have? Does AB 5 have enough special cases to avoid making things even worse?
The reason? Lead water piping required more billable hours of maintenance. The result was that Chicagoans had to pay more money to continue drinking from a poisoned water supply, and the plumbers got richer at their expense.
In general, there is little evidence that cartels produce net benefits, whether they deal in oil or in labour or in anything else. I suppose the average person is sympathetic to unions both because they can see themselves as a plumber more easily than as an oil sheikh, and because the societal costs of labour unions are hidden and do not take shape in a very tangible form, be they high import tariffs, reduced R&D spending, bad water infrastructure, or more expensive and noncompetitive goods and services, among other things. Regardless, the economics of cartels will never be sound.
And let's not get into a semantic debate--the rules for forming corporations are designed to make it efficient for investors to organize; likewise the rules for forming unions are designed to make it efficient for laborers to organize. So if you argue that laborers should instead form a corporation if they want to organize, I'd rhetorically ask why not make investors use unions as their vehicle.
If a union wants the benefits of being a corporation, it should be a corporation. In other words, it should put its money where its mouth is and become a business, selling the service of organized labor in a competitive market. If unions really do know better how to organize labor, how to make sure workers are treated fairly, etc., etc., then they should prove it by making organized labor itself a profitable business.
A corporation doesn't provide such reduced friction for labor. A vehicle designed to make it easier for people to pool and bargain their labor requires a different structure. Labor is an intrinsically different kind of asset than money. In order to provide symmetry in how easy it is to collectively bargain labor as compared to collectively bargain capital, you need a legal vehicle tailored to the characteristics of the asset.
That's the answer to the rhetorical question I said I'd pose if anybody wanted to play semantic word games. A "corporation" is not a universal, platonic construct for promoting socially beneficial cooperative behavior.
Whether we should want to provide symmetry at all is a different question, an empirical question (is everybody better off on average if labor can organize as efficiently as capital?), not one we can answer based on abstract principles, which is what was implied by characterizing unions as cartels.
One particular type of corporation is, yes--the type that sells stock to passive investors. But that is not the only type of corporation. See below.
> A corporation doesn't provide such reduced friction for labor.
What you are calling "labor" is in fact a mixture of actual labor--meaning time that can potentially be devoted to productive work--and capital--the skills, training, and knowledge of the people doing the productive work. For most unionized workers, even the ones that are called "unskilled", most of their wages are actually return on capital. So even by your own logic, a corporation, in the narrow sense you are using the term (something that sells stock to passive investors), should be a fine vehicle for efficiently making use of this capital.
However, you seem to have missed the fact that what I was describing--a "union" that was actually a corporation, selling the service of organized labor in a competitive market--is not just theoretical; such entities actually exist. They are usually called "worker cooperatives" or something like that, not "corporations", but that's just a matter of choice of words. The point is that they are a way for workers to organize collectively to properly capture the value that is inherent in their ownership of their own skills, training, and knowledge as capital, by having joint collective ownership of a legal entity that provides that capital as a service. In other words, a corporation, in the general sense of that term--a legal entity jointly owned by multiple people.
> Labor is an intrinsically different kind of asset than money.
Capital is not the same thing as money. And, as above, what you are calling "labor" is in fact mostly capital--just not capital that exists in tangible form as money.
It is true that actual labor--a worker's time--is an intrinsically different kind of asset, not just than money, but than any other kind of asset. But a properly organized corporation owned by workers, selling their services in a competitive market, takes care of that asset too, because such a corporation does not sell the workers' time, it sells services, and it prices those services based on their value to the buyer, not how much time it takes its workers to perform them. And that is a much better way to ensure fair treatment of the workers than what labor unions currently do: allowing employers to treat workers as fungible commodities, hours of labor, and then trying to bargain about specifics of how the commodities are handled.
> That's the answer to the rhetorical question I said I'd pose if anybody wanted to play semantic word games.
It seems to me that you are the one playing semantic word games, not me.
Technically no labor is unskilled. Trying to characterize the distinction between bargaining your time & effort vs bargaining your knowledge is difficult. And whatever the distinction, they pale in comparison to the distinctions between any kind of labor vs property, and especially labor vs money. Nonetheless, admittedly there's clearly something there because, of course, there's little demand among so-called knowledge workers to unionize. But they could unionize. As you point out, not all investors choose to invest passively, or even choose to be investor-owners (as opposed to investor-creditors), it's merely an option. Simply having the option can be valuable for a variety of reasons, direct and indirect. Furthermore, the fact that it's easier to subclass different kinds of labor is precisely one of the characteristics that make it more difficult for labor to bargain. The fungibility of money is precisely one of the characteristics that make it easier for those bargaining capital, and it's a characteristic that we deliberately enhance through special legal rules.
I'll grant that "capital" vs "labor" is a socially constructed, artificial dichotomy. But all of human culture is based on artificial constructs, manifest only by our behaviors. That fact alone doesn't mean they don't exist in any normal meaning of the term. Everybody knows the distinction between an employer and employee--the employer has money, the employee has time (the value of which is a function of his skill, among other things), and they wish to exchange them. I don't think it's a sleight of hand to assume that the distinctions between employee & employer and money & labor are substantive.
> They are usually called "worker cooperatives" or something like that, not "corporations", but that's just a matter of choice of words. The point is that they are a way for workers to organize collectively to properly capture the value that is inherent in their ownership of their own skills, training, and knowledge as capital, by having joint collective ownership of a legal entity that provides that capital as a service.
Sure, a cooperative is a hybrid. But you do elide at least one very important conceptual distinction--ownership in a cooperative is not alienable. And of course there are technical problems with using them as a general purpose mechanism for collective bargaining of labor. So the mere fact that cooperatives exist doesn't mean they provide symmetry--not unless you restrict all investments to cooperatives or similarly restricted vehicles.
There's no need to get bogged down in the distinctions between shareholder corporations, LLCs, LLPs, partnerships, cooperatives, unions, fraternal organizations, churches, non-profits, etc. Part of my original point is that these types of organizations are different, each tailored to different purposes, but that if you stand back and look at the range of options, there are more numerous and more powerful vehicles for promoting and protecting the pooling of capital than the pooling and protection of labor. And if someone wants to argue that labor (whether all laborers, or only a subset--e.g. the U.S. system excludes managers, independent contractors, religious clerics, etc) doesn't deserve exceptional treatment, they should explain why investors do deserve exceptional treatment. At least in the context of political economics and social policy, it's only when we're forced to make and defend such disparate treatment that we're forced to descend from the realm of ideology into the realm of falsifiable and generally meaningful debate. To argue that the social conflict between labor and capital is a fictional narrative simply because those categories are artificial constructs is like arguing that racism doesn't exist and needn't be addressed because race is an artificial construct.
> Capital is not the same thing as money. And, as above, what you are calling "labor" is in fact mostly capital--just not capital that exists in tangible form as money
In traditional discourse capital would be property, specifically property that can be put to productive use. And capitalism, at least as we might distinguish it from mercantilism or other systems with substantial similarities, only emerges with a financial system that makes capital assets liquid and fungible, which is what money represents. If I'm using loose terminology it's because the ambiguities are irrelevant.
Labor isn't capital, at least not since we abolished slavery. And in any event, there are myriad other ways to distinguish labor from capital some of which I describe above--fungibility, alienability, etc. The popularity of the term knowledge capital, or the many similarities between property and labor (e.g. they're both things we can contract for), doesn't mean they don't have distinctive characteristics.
We live in a capitalist society. Just because Marxism is bunk and modern policy discourse is infected with often incoherent anti-corporatist sentiment doesn't mean capitalism doesn't exist or that the narrative of labor-capital tension is vacuous. Marxism as a movement arose precisely because that dichotomy and tension already existed, and it emerged from the very nature of our political-economic system, such as it has evolved in the past millennia. The precise outline of the tensions and how we describe them are different as between, e.g., hyper-individualist Anglo-American and collectivist East Asian (e.g. Japanese, Korean) capitalist societies. But the same tensions are clearly identifiable and similarly consequential. They're reflected in the political reform movement in Korea, and the social anxieties in Japan around the disappearance of the salary man, both of which involve the disproportionate powers, particularly powers to dictate the terms of employment and for controlling their nations capital assets, of very large corporations. The distinction between labor v capital is meaningful because the society in which we live makes it meaningful. That we can imagine systems where they wouldn't or needn't be meaningful is irrelevant. The degree to which they're meaningful and consequential, that's a different question, one more susceptible to empiricism.
 Unions are rare in Japan, but they're rare because Japan has alternative institutions that rebalance equities. The disappearance of some of these institutions, like Shūshin koyō, has had predictable consequences.
In the sense that such ownership is not represented in shares that can be traded on a market, sure. But there is nothing to prevent a particular worker from leaving a cooperative, or a new worker from joining one.
> Labor isn't capital, at least not since we abolished slavery
I didn't say labor was capital. I said the skills, training, and knowledge of a worker are capital. Abolishing slavery just means making it illegal for anyone else other than the worker themselves to own that capital.
However, the worker owning that capital is by no means the same as the worker understanding and making use of all of the advantages of that ownership. Most workers don't, which is why most workers find themselves in a poor bargaining position with respect to people who do understand the advantages of ownership of capital.
> We live in a capitalist society.
We live in a society where capitalism is a significant force, yes. But it's not the only one.
> the narrative of labor-capital tension
Is not vacuous, granted, since there are people who believe in it and act on those beliefs.
However, it is, IMO, a highly misleading and pernicious narrative, because it misleads workers into thinking that they don't own any capital themselves, and that their lack of capital ownership--rather than their failure to understand and take advantage of the capital they do own--is what puts them in a poor bargaining position, which then has to be compensated for somehow.
Other typical union goals include ensuring that every single hotel, conference center, etc in major cities make use only of their members' services at their fixed prices and ban exhibitors from doing any of those things themselves. If a company or group of companies did this, they'd be in huge legal hot water, but for unions it's fine.
An employee doesn't actually enjoy limited liability, but he doesn't need it because employees aren't jointly liable except if they directly cause an injury. If a UPS driver runs over a kid, both the driver and UPS are jointly liable, but other drivers wouldn't be liable regardless of limited liability laws. The point of limited liability is to shield passive investor-owners from joint liability. Without limited liability there would never be such a thing as passive investor-owners (e.g. shareholders) because anybody with money to lose would want to have a regular and direct management role to ensure the company didn't do something stupid, like hire inattentive drivers, that would put all of their other assets at stake. All their other assets would be at stake because owners are normally vicariously, jointly liable through the doctrine of respondeat superior. "Limited liability" means liability is limited to the investment.
Similarly, the rules for forming legal business entities in general (whether with limited liability or not) are not for their own sake. The point is to provide a prepackaged set of legal rules that reduce the transactional costs in organizing and running cooperative business ventures. The transactional costs of making constant, 1:1 contracts would often prohibit otherwise socially beneficial economic activity, especially when you consider that business entity rules don't merely complement and substitute 1:1 contracts as between members but also complement and substitute for the contracts and other legal relationships those members make with third parties (e.g. customers).
Abstractly, these are very much the same reasons why you might want to permit unions: collective bargaining overcomes the transactional costs of each employee negotiating 1:1 with the employer-owners. And those transaction costs disfavor employees precisely because the employer-owners already benefit from rules that make it cheaper to organize and manage the business.
Now, maybe there's much more value in optimizing investor cooperation than labor cooperation, and so you could absolutely make an argument for why we should have specialized legal vehicles for investor-owners but not for laborer-employees. But that would have to be an empirical argument to justify the asymmetry, unless for some reason you simply believed wealthy people (those with enough money to be investors) were inherently more worthy than others. You can't simply accuse a union alone of being a cartel, because it's just the flip side of the capitalist/laborer coin.
Note that the antitrust immunity enjoyed by unions is, at least theoretically, constrained to permitting individuals to "conspire" in the market for their labor. But that's no different than what investor-owners are doing in a corporation--"conspiring" in the market for capital in a way that increases the conspirators' profits as compared to if each conspirator had to be an active participant in each venture in which he wanted an ownership stake.
 A negligent UPS driver's liability isn't limited to the economic benefit (e.g. wages) derived from the particular economic activity he was engaged in. His $50k inheritance is at risk, too. Limited liability is the exception, not the rule.
Unions are simply labor using violence to achieve their aims, which is soaking the payer to enrich themselves. Nothing more and nothing less.
It's a massive, incredibly disingenuous leap to act like this is universal.
I did skip to the conclusion, typical ambiguous wrap-up, to say the least.
Owner-operator truckers are in the worst position, as that paper points out.