Smitten with Monopoly Privileges

by Don Boudreaux on June 23, 2011

in Competition, Myths and Fallacies, Not from the Onion, Seen and Unseen, Work

Here’s another letter to the Washington Post:

Applauding the NLRB’s attempt to stop Boeing from buying lower-priced labor in South Carolina, Kate Bronfenbrenner writes that “If the NLRB did not take on such cases, it would cede to employers unilateral control over a large swath of the U.S. workplace” (“A good case against Boeing,” June 23).


Does the absence of a government agency empowered to stop grocery shoppers from buying lower-priced groceries at competing supermarkets cede to grocery shoppers unilateral control over a large swath of U.S. supermarkets?  Of course not.

In a dynamic market with tens of thousands of employers competing for labor, the notion that even a large employer such as Boeing has “unilateral control” over the labor market unless reined in by government bureaucrats is ridiculous.

Donald J. Boudreaux

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John Papola June 23, 2011 at 10:42 am

The NLRB should obviously be dismantled. It’s a cartel-creating, anachronistic train-wreck.

Methinks1776 June 23, 2011 at 10:47 am

Which is exactly why it won’t be dismantled.

Don Boudreaux June 23, 2011 at 10:52 am

Correct. It’s very purpose is to bestow unwarranted privileges on groups who, in the market, could not earn the rewards of such privileges.

Gil June 23, 2011 at 11:20 am

Gee, isn’t that why union were initially banned when they first emerged?

kyle8 June 23, 2011 at 2:04 pm

perhaps, but you are once again in the fallacy of comparing a free association of individuals with a government agency.

indianajim June 23, 2011 at 11:02 am

Agreed; it should be dismantled. So should lots of other government agencies; here is another example written about today:

Scott A. Robinson June 23, 2011 at 11:09 am

It’s all part of the perfectly legal money laundering scheme. NLRB under Democrat administration supports ridiculous claim, attempts to increase union membership, union members pay dues, 95% (roughly) of union dues go to Democrats (not that Republicans don’t have their schemes too).

This is not capitalism.

Seth June 23, 2011 at 12:45 pm

It’s rent-seeking. Profits from capitalism and profits from rent-seeking, though, are often confused.

kyle8 June 23, 2011 at 2:06 pm

I wish there were a better, more concise word for cronyism, and rent seeking. Oh wait ! there is one; Graft.

Harold Cockerill June 24, 2011 at 7:29 am

I’ve never liked the phrase “crony capitalism” which is used a lot to describe what government and business combine to do to the rest of us. I think a much more descriptive phrase is “corporate socialism”. As “capital” is tied more closely to free enterprise and socialism more closely to the cronyism we see on display I think this works better.

Jim July 10, 2011 at 9:07 am

I think the word you are looking for is fascism.

Jordan June 26, 2011 at 10:16 pm

Wasn’t the NLRB declared unconstitutional in 1937, or do I remember wrongly?

Jay June 27, 2011 at 2:25 am

The National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 was deemed unconstitutional. Part of the NIRA was a National Labor Board. When the act was struck down the President Roosevelt issued an Executive Order creating the NLRB to handle the labor disputes created by the NIRA.

Observer_Guy1 June 23, 2011 at 11:44 am

Imagine the precedent the NLRB would set in actually stopping Boeing from moving its plant to South Carolina OR put another way, from making careful economic decisions about deploying the firm’s own capital and labor to its liking.

If Boeing is stopped, the signal sent to the market place is this: don’t invest in America unless you wish to have all your investment decisions second-guessed by government bureaucrats.

I’ve never seen a more hostile administration towards free enterprise.

I’ve never seen a more hostile administration towards free enterprise.

kyle8 June 23, 2011 at 2:08 pm

What sort of message does it send to low tax, low wage states, particularly in the South. These states are traditionally agricultural and have a higher than average number of poor minority citizens.

So they try to compete with wage and tax concessions and they are shot down by the administration.

This is where the real media outrage should be directed. Why do the liberals hate minorities?

Harold Cockerill June 24, 2011 at 7:31 am

I don’t think the hatred of liberals is limited to minorities. I think the really serious leftists hate everybody starting with themselves.

Jim July 10, 2011 at 9:13 am

This is one of the hypocrisies of progressive thought.

They support the ‘poor’ through subsidy, but decry how markets have dragged millions of Chinese out of poverty. It makes no sense.

The latest hoorah is a UN project in Africa spear headed by Jefferey Sachs (yes, the Goldman Sachs guy that is Gore’s friend) that spent 5x annual wages to ‘develop’ cities (insert 5 year plan snark here). They want to duplicate their success elsewhere at crushing cost. One problem; if you compare them to cities with no plan, it is difficult to say how they are any better.

EG June 23, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Its absolutely mind boggling that such a thing can happen in the US in 2011. Its like a story from the 1930s.

South Carolina should sue the NLRB

Dan H June 23, 2011 at 12:20 pm

Maybe it’s high time that the South rises again!

vikingvista June 23, 2011 at 1:16 pm

They should leave the Union.

Mikenshmirtz June 23, 2011 at 2:07 pm

“Its absolutely mind boggling that such a thing can happen in the US in 2011.”

This doesn’t boggle my mind one iota. This kind of government behavior is predictable and unsurprising in 2011. What *is* mind boggling is that, here in 2011, more Americans are not aggressively fighting our parasitic government.

Ken June 23, 2011 at 12:19 pm


It’s interesting that when consumers choose to shop at Wal-Mart instead of the local mom and pop stores, because consumers want to take advantage of the lower prices at Wal-Mart, no one decries the consumer having “unilateral control …a large swath of the U.S. workplace”. Instead, people beat up on Wal-Mart for offering lower prices, rather than talk about why lower prices are good for business – namely that consumers do in fact unilaterally control large swaths of the US work place and it’s they who want lower prices. Wal-Mart simply delivers this better than most.


kyle8 June 23, 2011 at 2:10 pm

Actually Ken, that is not true, there is a cottage industry on the left of Wal-Mart bashing.

Ken June 23, 2011 at 5:04 pm


I’m not sure what you think I said isn’t true. Your comment is in 100% agreement with mine.


kyle8 June 23, 2011 at 6:09 pm

yes, sorry I missed the part about “beat up on”.

Don Boudreaux June 23, 2011 at 2:11 pm

Nice point!

Harold Cockerill June 24, 2011 at 7:37 am

They hate that people choose Walmart but know they can’t get away with attacking the consumer so they go after the other half of the equation. Walmart is big business and as most of the elite aren’t shopping there a safe target. The bonus is if they can damage Walmart by extension they can hurt the rubes who shop there.

Josh S June 23, 2011 at 12:33 pm

The worst thing is that it’s not even a meaningful statement. She essentially said, “The NLRB cannot let Boeing do what it wants, because then Boeing would be able to do what it wants.”

David June 23, 2011 at 12:50 pm

I wonder how much Ms. Bronfenbrenner gets paid. I’m sure I could do her job for more money. If her employers choose not to hire me, I should take her advice and use the NLRB to force her employers to fire her and hire me. After all, we wouldn’t want her employer to have “unilateral control” over its employment decisions.

Libagno June 23, 2011 at 1:13 pm

What is so terribly sad is that this, along with the public education monopoly, are absolutely crushing the poor. These seekers of rent seem to know no mercy.

Harold Cockerill June 24, 2011 at 7:38 am

We’re from the government and we’re here to help.

nailheadtom June 24, 2011 at 8:35 am

The NLRB is occupied with more than Boeing:

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