Right-to-work is big government

So the Michigan lower house has decided to pass a right-to-work bill. This is a pretty standard right-wing maneuver over the last few decades. The idea is to make it impossible for unions to negotiate closed shops, which creates a free rider problem that will ultimately lead to their demise. That is good for owners and management who will have no countervailing workplace force to contend with and good for right-wing politicians who will have no countervailing political force to contend with.

It deserves mentioning that right-to-work laws are actually counter to the expressed philosophy of the right wing, and especially the libertarian sorts. Few seem to understand (or discuss) the mechanics of how right-to-work laws actually achieve their expressed aim. They do so by prohibiting freedom of contract. Specifically, the laws make it illegal for a union and a business to freely enter into a contract with one another over requiring that employees be union members. If these two actors want to enter into such a contract, it does not matter: the law says they cannot.

So it functions as an economic regulation that prohibits certain kinds of contracts. Naturally you would expect politicians that are vehemently against economic regulation and laws that restrict freedom of contract to be opposed to right-to-work. Right? Well, no. Because at the end of the day, those are simply shell arguments. Freedom of contract and less government regulation are principles to stand behind only as long as they flatter the needs of capital. When capital is better served by violating these principles, then the right is more than willing to do so.

On this blog, I like to entertain right-wing arguments on face value because I do not think they actually generate the kinds of conclusions right-wingers claim they do. But in reality it’s important to always keep in mind that that these arguments are purely objects of convenience and seek to obscure the true interests of the right. If you want a model that will predict how right-wingers will behave, the best one going is to just determine what behaviors best flatter capital and the rich. If you use a model that relies upon the principles they espouse, you will wind up looking as stupid as Dick Morris and confused as Karl Rove.