Henry Hazlitt on Unions: Part II

By Baird, Charles W. | Freeman, March 2005 | Go to article overview

Henry Hazlitt on Unions: Part II


Baird, Charles W., Freeman


In my last column (November) I discussed Henry Hazlitt's views on the economic effects of unions, exclusive representation and mandatory bargaining, labor's alleged bargaining-power disadvantage, and the right to strike. Here I will discuss three other aspects of Hazlitt's views on American unionism: involuntary unionism, government-employee unionism, and what he called the "Grand Illusion" of labor solidarity.

Involuntary Unionism

Correctly understood, freedom of association is each person's right to affiliate with any group pursuing legal ends that is willing to associate with him. Logically, this implies that each person is free to abstain from affiliation even if the group is eager for him to join. American unionism under the National Labor Relations Act is not based on freedom of association because where there is a certified union, individual workers may not abstain from associating. Moreover, American union law violates employers' freedom of association by mandating goodfaith bargaining. American unionism is involuntary unionism. Hazlitt put it this way:

In accordance with the principle of freedom of peaceful association, the law should not prohibit unions, but neither should it go out of its way to encourage them. Certainly the government should not continue, as it does in the United States, to turn itself in effect into a union-organizing agency and to force employers to negotiate with unions.1

Voluntary unions would, according to Hazlitt, have legitimate functions to perform:

There are, no doubt, areas in which the activities of unions, wisely directed, could be on the whole beneficent-in negotiating with individual employers, for example, concerning hours of work and such conditions of work as light, air, sanitary arrangements, rest rooms, coffee breaks, shop rules, grievance machinery, and the like.2

In 1946 he stated that the legitimate functions of voluntary unions would include assuring "that all of their members get the true market value of their services."3 That is, any worker who felt that he wasn't being paid the full value of his services should be free to designate a willing union to bargain for him with an employer who was willing to bargain. He then went on to state that it is highly unlikely that most workers would be in such a situation because underpaid workers are a profit opportunity for other employers to bid wages up.

Government-Employee Unionism

Hazlitt thought that the principle of freedom of association also justified voluntary government-employee unions. However, he advocated strict limits to the scope of collective bargaining in the government sector.

They [civil servants], like private employees, should not be prohibited from joining unions. They, too, should enjoy the right to freedom of peaceable association. But no government unit for which these public employees work should be under any legal obligation whatever to recognize or negotiate with such unions. . . . It is . . . an absurdity for the public authorities to make agreements or "contracts" with these unions. The terms of employment should be set by the government directly with the individual employee.4

Hazlitt also held that third-party arbitration was never proper in the government sector.

If the government authorities "bargain collectively" with unions, and if the union leaders refuse to accept the final terms offered, must the authorities then turn to third parties and let them decide the terms? The elected representatives of the people have been elected to make these decisions. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Henry Hazlitt on Unions: Part II
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.