Economic exploitation is possible only when competition from the possibility of self-employment is closed off and wage employment is the only game in town. Just as the British state colluded with employers in the Enclosures to obstruct access to natural opportunities, modern employers under corporate capitalism use the state to enclose natural opportunities as a source of rent. The overall effect is to increase the share of needs that must be met through wage employment rather than self-employment or the informal and household sector, and to inflate the number of people seeking employment relative to available jobs. Hence, workers are forced to compete for jobs in a buyer’s market.
In a freed market, with all these artificial property rights and artificial scarcities removed, the situation would be reversed. Many people on the margin would leave wage employment altogether, each household would require fewer wage-workers to bring in cash income, those engaged in wage employment would have to work fewer hours to supplement their self-provisioning in the informal economy, and millions of people would retire earlier. Employers would find themselves forced to compete for labor, instead of the other way around, and workers would have the material means to step away from the bargaining table and live off their own resources while awaiting offers more to their liking.
In short, the state is the friend of employers and the enemy of labor. A freed market means liberation from the wage system.
Something both sides of the spectrum can agree on.
I don’t know, Logan - I’m not sure if my side of the spectrum can quite completely agree. Although I of course concur with the idea that the state limits employment opportunities, especially of the entrepreneurial variety, I seriously doubt how necessarily predominant self-employment would be in a more libertarian society.
Acquiring, owning, and setting up the tools and capital to start businesses requires risk and start-up capital. Not all are equipped to take on that risk and provide the start-up costs - or have the capacity or willingness to execute it properly - which is why private property protections allow some to assume the risks (individually or in groups) and others to forgo the risk in favor of a simple wage.
Overall, the rhetoric sounds a little too mutualist for me (“freed market”), which means that behind the sentiment there is a shunning of anarcho-capitalist/libertarian understanding of private property in favor of a Marx-Proudhon distinction of personal property. And with the strong emphasis on self-employment over wage-earners (indeed, the outright abolition “of the wage system”), it seems to borrow from Agorist class theory (particularly the notion that “the state is the friend of employers and the enemy of labor,” since there are employers with whom the state is not friendly and there are laborers who belong to a state-favored group or work in a state-favored industry). Unsurprisingly, I agree with Rothbard on his critique here:
[T]here is a fatal flaw which not only vitiates Konkin’s agoric strategy but also permits him to evade the whole problem of organization (see below). This is Konkin’s astonishing view that working for wages is somehow nonmarket or antilibertarian, and would disappear in a free society. Konkin claims to be an Austrian free-market economist, and how he can say that a voluntary sale of one’s labor for money is somehow illegitimate or unlibertarian passeth understanding. Furthermore, it is simply absurd for him to think that, in the free market of the future, wage labor will disappear. Independent contracting, as lovable as some might see it, is simply grossly uneconomic for manufacturing activity. The transaction costs would be far too high. It is absurd, for example, to think of automobile manufacturing conducted by self-employed, independent contractors.
Furthermore, Konkin is clearly unfamiliar with the fact that the emergence of wage labor was an enormous boon for many thousands of poor workers and saved them from starvation. If there is no wage labor — as there was not in most production before the Industrial Revolution — then each worker must have enough money to purchase his own capital and tools. One of the great things about the emergence of the factory system and wage labor is that poor workers did not have to purchase their own capital equipment; this could be left to the capitalists. (Thus, see F.A. Hayek’s brilliant introduction in his Capitalism and the Historians.) …
Konkin’s entire theory speaks only to the interests and concerns of the marginal classes who are self-employed. The great bulk of the people are full-time wage workers; they are people with steady jobs. Konkinism has nothing whatsoever to say to these people. To adopt Konkin’s strategy, then, would on this ground alone, serve up a dead end for the libertarian movement. We cannot win if there is no possibility of speaking to the concerns of the great bulk of wage earners in this and other countries.
Update: Just noticed the original post came from C4SS, so my mutualist/agorist suspicions are at least confirmed.
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