Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Only 21 Million Choices? That's Not Competition!

Roderick Long contends that, if not for government, workers would be in control of the workplace. He notes that:

"free competition is neither working well nor working badly, but is simply not being allowed to work.

"Government regulations tend to increase the size and hierarchical nature of firms while reducing their numbers, thus constraining competition both among these corporate leviathans, and between them and smaller, flatter competitors."

I have no doubt that our current policy regime acts to reduce the number of firms and to favor larger firms. Even so, there are currently 21 million employers in the United States, and they all compete for workers. Why in the world would having instead 40 million employers, or 100 million, make any fundamental difference to the experience of workers in the workplace?

I can think of one answer: wishful thinking.

When "eliminate the state" is the only tool you've got, every fact looks like evidence for anarchism!


  1. Well, let's see. There are 21 million employers in the USA, and roughly 140 million working people (or at least in the ballpark). If we assume each worker has an employer (untrue, but irrelevant for now), that's an average of one employer per 6-7 employees. Increase the number of employers, and the effects of oligopsony are diminished, there's greater specialization and division of labor (as new businesses need to find their own niche to be competitive), which means the individual worker can have a relatively more significant personal input to how the workplace is run.

    This argument seems so obvious to me that you questioning it makes me feel stupid, as if I'm committing a big fallacy somewhere or missing something even more obvious. Maybe I am.

    1. Watoosh, yes, obviously increasing the number of employers will make *some* difference. The question is will going from 21 million to X-number-that-Long-thinks-there-will-be-on-the-true-free-market make the radical difference he seems to think it will make in worker empowerment?


Current review queue

Pearce: British Journal for the History of Philosophy Deneen: The American Conservative Chao-Reiss: Computing Reviews