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Do You Agree with Steve Horwitz or Milton Friedman?

Do you agree that people should not be permitted to work for capitalists?

Theodore Burczak (Socialism after Hayek, p. 112) writes:

It is unjust for people to sell their labor time: not only do the people have a natural right to the product of their labor, they also have an inalienable right to their labor time, a right that should not be transferred even with consent.

Workers should not be permitted to cede to a capitalist both the legal responsibility for the firm’s output and the liability for their labor time.

Steve Horwitz (Reconciling Hayek and Socialism, p. 9) writes:

Labor-managed firms themselves are not antagonistic to the market economy. Even if other forms of employment contract are not legally permitted, such firms still exist in a market context where competition and profit and loss determine their success or failure.

Or do you agree that people should be free to work for whomever they want to?

Milton Friedman (Free to Choose, p. 66) writes:

An essential part of economic freedom is freedom to use the resources we possess in accordance with our own values – freedom to enter any occupation, engage in any business enterprise, buy from and sell to anyone else, so long as we do so on a strictly voluntary basis and do not resort to force in order to coerce others.

In my Critique of Burczak Socialism after Hayek I write:

The classic example of property that people “own,” in the sense that their name is on the deed, but do not actually own, is rent-controlled apartment buildings.  The “owner” cannot rent it at a fair price but, under penalty of law, he must maintain it lest he be fined for safety violations.  Burczak would put common laborers in the same predicament.  They would “own” their labor ability but, under penalty of law, they cannot hire themselves out to capitalists.  Since they must maintain their labor ability (feed, clothe and house themselves), they are forced to work for one of Burczak’s labor-managed firms.  Basically, this is slavery.

Click here if you are not sure what Steve Horwitz means when he says, “other forms of employment contract are not legally permitted.”

Do you agree with Steve Horwitz or Milton Friedman?

   Horwitz: It is unjust for people to sell their labor time, even with consent. Not permitted!
   Friedman: Economic freedom is freedom to buy from and sell to anyone whom one chooses.

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Theodore Burczak (Socialism after Hayek, pp. 131-133) writes:

To address the inequality of opportunity produced by disparate wealth holding, Bruce Ackerman and Anne Alstott (1999) propose the establishment of what they call a “stakeholder society.”  A stakeholder society is one in which all citizens have a claim to a social inheritance.  Ackerman and Alstott suggest that this social inheritance should take the form of a large cash grant to all citizens when they reach the age of majority, a grant large enough to promote substantive equality of opportunity… which they calculate to be roughly eighty thousand dollars.

Ackerman and Alstott’s stakeholding proposal, if modified slightly, offers an attractive institutional structure to achieve socialist distributive justice while also promoting worker self-management and socialist appropriative justice.  While Ackerman and Alstott use possession of the means to attend college as the standard proxy for equality of opportunity, labor-managed market socialism might use possession of the means to purchase the average capital stock per worker as the standard measure of equal opportunity.  This would raise the amount of the stake to around one hundred thousand dollars.

Another modification to Ackerman and Alstott’s proposal follows from the capability approach to justice.  Ackerman and Alstott would place no limit on how people could use their social inheritance…  But using the stake to buy a car or to travel around the world – options permitted by Ackerman and Alstott’s liberal stakeholding proposal – would be prohibited by a socialist stakeholder society.

Steve Horwitz (Reconciling Hayek and Socialism, p. 2) writes:

Burczak wants to supplement the markets with redistributive policies—he would stake all citizens to a rather large hunk of tax-funded wealth upon reaching adulthood—and would mandate worker ownership and management of firms. These changes will, he argues, promote broader access to the marketplace and enhance the chances that people will live “choiceworthy” lives. Because Burczak's socialist vision gives great play to the market, and does so for the same reasons that Hayekians do, his critique must be taken seriously.

Great news!  Steve Horwitz has taken Theodore Burczak’s socialist vision so seriously that President Obama has made Horwitz his Czar of Wealth Redistribution!  George Mason University students will get first crack at the $100,000 Wealth Redistribution Grants.  But you have to show up at the meeting; November 13-15, 2009 in Arlington, VA.  Be there!

Don’t forget to bring a suitcase to carry away all your cash.  Wealth Redistribution Grants will be handed out in the form of small unmarked bills.  Contact Czar Horwitz for details.